Turning 30, Chapter 25

Feliz, Cera, Will, Lavena, Ashlynn, and Tadd sat a table in a large chain restaurant. The restaurant was busy and full of happy people. Even though their table had balloons, party hats, and noise makers, the six friends looked pretty morose. Feliz asked the group, “Should we sing Happy Birthday?”

They all replied, “Nah.”

Ashlynn apologized to Tadd, “I’m sorry I didn’t plan a more exciting party. We all got wrapped up in issues-ours and everyone else’s. It’s funny how when someone reaches a milestone how you start evaluating your own life. What kind of birthday could I possibly have with no job and still living with mom and dad?”

Feliz sniffed a little. “You think your birthday will be a bummer? At least your family supports you. Mine disowned me. I can finally start dating who I want, but I will probably still be single when my thirtieth comes ’cause what guy’ll wanna enter that family drama?”

“You think you’ll still be single on your birthday?” Will put in. “I work in an arcade and live with a crazy cat lady-I know I’ll be single! What are the odds I’ll have my shit together in two months?”

“At least you have some dignity!” Cera opinionated. “I’ll be a thirty year old virgin! Probably. I mean, who would sleep with me? I live with my parents too, but it’s worse ’cause I’ve never even had a real job. I’m like a kid, and my birthday party will probably get treated like that too!”

Lavena lamented, “My birthday will probably be an actual kid’s party! I turn thirty the same day as Mrs. Hollingsworth, so who would babysit them? If I had a husband, we could celebrate as a family. Being a single mom is so hard, ad it’s just gonna keep getting worse as I get older.”

Everyone except for Tadd had a glum look on their face. Tadd observed his friends in surprise. He had been so obsessed with his own woes that he didn’t think about their issues. He was there through all of this and saw everything, but he didn’t have the confidence to say anything…until now. “Wow. Look at the effect I had on you. You all think your life is over and that you’re failures. You’re wrong! There’s nothing wrong with us! When you turn thirty, everyone has all these expectations for how your life should look. Your parents, your religion, your family, neighbors, random community members-everyone expects us to have our life totally together. We’re supposed to have a good job, a happy marriage, a perfect body, et cetera. It was okay to not have it all figured out when we were in our twenties; we still had time to go wild and crazy and figure out this whole ‘adult’ thing. Suddenly, thirty hits and at the drop of a hat, we’re supposed to just have it all figured out. There’s still a lot of things we’re figuring out. We’re only human, and we’ve gone through a lot, probably more than most people. Excuse me if our life isn’t put together yet. I’m sure we’d all like to be there, and we tried our best to make it happen, but the things we want are gonna take a little more time than we thought to come to fruition. What, suddenly we have a deadline ’cause other people are judging us? Screw them! We’ll get there at our own pace!

“Feliz, if your family won’t accept you for who you are, fuck ’em! You deserve to be happy, and if being with a man will give you that, then you should find a good guy! Don’t rush it though-the right man will come around when you least expect it.

“Lavena, you ever wonder why so many skeezy guys hit on you? It’s cause you’re desperate, and men can sense that. The right man gets turned off by that and it turns the wrong guy on. If you want Mister Right, be Mrs. Right. Be the strong, confident woman we both know you are! Enjoy single life, and your prince charming will come around!

“Will, if you don’t like your house or job, then do something about it! Find a new place and a new job. Take classes to get a good job so you can afford a better place. That bartender, Leon, seemed to really enjoy his job, and I can totally see you doing that! Be proactive!

“Cera, you can’t follow every rule in the Bible, it’s impossible! You can still be a good Christian and do more adult things. If you don’t wanna follow your parents’ lifestyle, then don’t. Get a job and move out. I’m sure your church has a dating group, and there’s plenty of online religious dating sites. This is how you find a middle ground between being overly devout and being a deviant: go on dates, find a nice guy, and hey, what happens between you is between you and God. Virgin or not, it’s none of our business!

“Ashlynn, no one cares if you’re broke. You’ve done so much good with your time off, and that’s worth more to society than wasting away at some dead-end job. You turned something very negative into something positive. You brought us together, and your saint-like patience changed my life! I’ll be forever grateful!”

Feliz, Lavena, Will, Cera, and Ashlynn beamed. They went from feeling lousy to almost glowing. Tadd made them feel so good about themselves, and it was such a relief to let go of some of their self, and society’s, criticisms. Ashlynn exclaimed, “This is the Tadd we remember! You’re amazing! Thank you so much for that!”

“Yeah, thanks man!” Will added. “You guys think I’d be a good bartender?”

“You’d be a great one,” Feliz told him. “And I don’t want you to worry about paying for bartending school on your arcade salary-I’m paying for it! Just promise me when you get your own bar that my future boyfriend and I get free drinks!”

“You got it!” Will happily agreed. They bumped fists.

Lavena remarked, “You know, I think I’ll go back to school too. I can squeeze in an online class with my schedule. I wanna set a good example for my kids by going to college and going for a career versus a job!”

“I’m gonna get my first real job!” Cera stated, excited by the idea. “Just something to get me experience and pay for an apartment. And I shouldn’t be ashamed for what I do or don’t do behind closed doors. I don’t know when I’ll lose my virginity, but I’d rather take my time and do it right.”

“Let me know when you find a job,” Will said to Cera. “We can find an apartment together-split the costs and be roommates.”

“Okay!” Cera looked elated. They bumped fists too.

Feliz got a text message, and when he looked at his phone, his heart melted. “Nonna said she knew all along and loves me anyways! She’ll accept my future husband, but he can’t know the family’s cannoli recipe. Oh Nonna!” He wiped away a tear.

Ashlynn was so happy that her friends were planting seeds that would grow into something that would make their life grow into something that would make their life better. Now she just needed to figure out where she wanted to work so she could move out too. She wished that she could find an answer as easily as her friends did. As if the universe read her thoughts, Tadd got an email. He read it immediately, and then he breathed a sigh of relief. “I got approved for a small business loan! I haven’t took a gig in so long that I’m a little behind the finances of it all. I got that loan so I could hire someone to do my bookkeeping. So Ashlynn, that was part of your duties at your old job right? Do you think we’d work well together?”

Ashlynn felt thunderstruck. “Are you offering me a job?”

“Yes.” Tadd grinned. “Would you accept it?”

Ashlynn’s heart practically danced. “Oh Tadd! Of course I’ll accept it! You don’t know how much this means to me!”

Tadd shrugged but smiled knowing how happy this gesture made her. “It’s the least I could do!”

They gave each other a hug. Cera, Feliz, and Will also smiled, but it was more of a knowing way. Lavena looked like she was about to burst if she didn’t say something! Feliz, Cera, and Will silently urged her not to do it, but Lavena blurted out, “Kiss her already!”

Ashlynn and Tadd stopped hugging because they felt shocked by the outburst. “What?” Tadd reacted.

“Why would we kiss?” Ashlynn felt like she knew why she would say that but also felt a denial, like she did not want to jump to conclusions.

“Oh come on!” Lavena commented excitedly. “You know how it was so obvious to us all that Feliz was gay? Well, we’ve all known for, like, forever that you two have feelings for each other. Why did it take so long to admit the truth? Quit lying to yourself! You two have a romance budding; you are long overdue for your first kiss together!”

Tadd and Ashlynn gave each other a look of disbelief. When they looked back at their friends, they all seemed to agree more with Lavena. It could not be true. How could she have suppressed feelings like that for so long? She held Tadd in the highest regard, he was the most amazing person that she ever met, but to have romantic feelings? Furthermore, even if she did find a fleeting feeling, she shook that notion because she never felt good enough for a guy like him. Wait, that thought sounded like it agreed with them. It just could not be true! Ashlynn stammered, “I just…it can’t be…I…”

Tadd was on the same page as her. “But I…”

Cera, Lavena, Will, and Feliz now all started to chant, “Kiss her! Kiss her! Kiss her!”

Ashlynn turned to Tadd for answers. Tadd suggested, “We could humor them…”

Ashlynn felt totally awkward but complied. They gave each other a quick peck, but then they lingered. They felt something-electricity. The truth flooded Ashlynn like a dam suddenly sprung a leak. There was feelings-strong ones. Tadd was everything she ever wanted, and she could not believe it took her this long to wake her heart up. Tadd obviously felt the same way too. They kissed each other again, but this time it was longer and more passionate. There was no denying it now-she was in love! They broke apart from their embrace, but they kept their heads close. Ashlynn told him sweetly, “What d’ya know, they were right!”

“How did I get so lucky?” Tadd beamed and grabbed her hand, caressing it gently. Ashlynn blushed-he felt like the lucky one?

Cera and Lavena reacted with, “Awwww!” while Feliz and Will reacted with “Finally!”

Cera raised her glass to make a toast, “Here’s to new beginnings!”

“To the end of blaming society and to the realization that we are society, so we can change it for the better!” Feliz added while raising his glass.

“To our generation, not quite millennials but not generation x-the bridge generation! To generation xy!” Will added while raising his glass.

“To choosing happiness above anything else!” Lavena added while raising her glass.

“To good friends!” Tadd added while raising his glass.

“To a happy thirtieth birthday!” Ashlynn added while raising her glass.

They clinked their glasses together and drank. Tadd smiled from ear to ear. “This turned out to be a great party after all!”

“Happy birthday, Tadd!” Ashlynn exclaimed.

Everyone gave him a hug. They all had a flashback to twelve years ago when Tadd turned eighteen and they hugged him the same way but in their high school’s quad. They came back to this moment and cherished it. It took them a long time to notice a waiter tapping his pen and impatiently waiting for them. “So…are you gonna order or what?” They happily sat and decided what they wanted to order.

It’s funny how ordinary moments become the greatest memories. No one knew what exactly the next chapter of their life held, but they were too happy to care. It took them many years to gain the wisdom that there was no point in worrying about the future-happiness came from enjoying the little moments in life happening right now.

 

The End

Turning 30, Chapter 24

Lavena, Feliz, Ashlynn, and Will sat a park’s picnic table while Michael and Hannah ran around the grass area beside it. The park area had a trail against a high hill. The grass had started to yellow, and the leaves on the tree were starting to change color. Feliz slumped on the table with a glum look on his face. Lavena conversed with Feliz, “Why did she destroy your car? Was she punishing you for your sexuality?”

“No,” Feliz answered. “She was punishing me for making her angry. Of course she was hurt-I broke up with her, and that’s always a hurtful experience. Some people react inwardly for emotions, and some people channel it out. I read that in a Cosmo a long time ago. One time, I got her a workout DVD for her birthday. She thought I was calling her fat and tore up my Sex and the City posters.”

Will commented, “I can’t believe she didn’t know you were gay!”

Michael and Hannah overheard this part of the conversation, and Michael asked his mother, “What’s gay?”

Lavena was not sure how to explain it, so she tried to find the easiest way to appease them, “Uh, it means you’re happy.”

Hannah observed, “He doesn’t look very happy.”

“Okay.” Lavena knew the time had come to explain this concept to the children. “So, you know how men and women fall in love? Sometimes women fall in love with other women, and men can fall in love with other men. It’s probably hard for you to understand…”

“Nope,” Michael replied. “Makes sense to me.”

“Me too,” Hannah agreed. They went back to playing, totally unfazed. Lavena blinked. She could not believe how accepting they were to this kind of thing.

Will complimented Lavena, “You’re kids are awesome! Weird, but totally awesome”

Ashlynn commented, “It’s funny how some people never grow out of that!” They all laughed.

Cera and Tadd came into the vicinity. Cera was holding Tadd to guide him in the right direction. Tadd looked totally lost while he held a flower stem. Cera revealed to them, “I found him sobbing by the tennis courts. Apparently he played the ‘She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not’ game…”

“She loves me not!” he moaned. No one responded except to shake their heads.

Ashlynn talked to him in a cheery tone, “Your birthday is this weekend! What do you wanna do?” Tadd shrugged. “My parents offered to go out for the night if you wanted to have a party. Did you wanna do that? Or something more quiet?” Tadd shrugged again. Ashlynn got depressed. Tadd’s thirtieth birthday was practically upon them, and she had not succeeded in cheering him up.

They all heard some cheerful whistling in the distance. Tears welled up in Tadd’s eyes, and he ran off. Cera volunteered, “I’m already up, I’ll get him.” She ran in his direction.

“I thought he was past this stage.” Ashlynn hung her head, feeling like a failure.

Lavena wondered, “How is it that over two months later he still looks like hell and Feliz has been broken up for a couple days and is in way better shape than he is?” The whistling slowly grew louder and louder as the perpetrator grew closer and closer.

They turned to Feliz, who thought about what she said for a moment. “I had been mentally prepared for this for a long time, and I think Tadd got blindsided. He just needs closure.”

It was uncanny. The person who had been whistling came into view, and it was Brie! Everyone stopped what they were doing and watched her like a ghost appeared. She walked on the sidewalk outside the grass area to a small, white car. She appeared very happy. Her looks had not changed much since high school except for the wear and tear stemming from her hardcore party lifestyle. Even Hannah and Michael stopped playing to watch this moment that froze everyone. Between Lavena, Feliz, and Will, so many mixed emotions stirred up, and they did not know how to react. The were not sure if they wanted Tadd to find her or not. Ashlynn’s blood was boiling. She felt so much hate for that woman. She was half tempted to run over and rip Brie to shreds. She despised her for what she did to Tadd. She did not want Tadd to see her because she was afraid this meeting would make him even more crazy. She also worried that she would lure Tadd away. Tadd could not be happy with Brie, and Ashlynn could not stand the idea of Tadd getting ensnared by her poisonous trance again.

Brie got to her car and appeared to be searching for something. “Where did I put you?” She checked inside and out of her car for whatever she was missing. “Oh wait, I remember!” She went to the trunk and found what she thought she lost. “Ah, there you are!” She pulled out a small baby. Lavena, as a mother, could not hide her disgust at this and made a disapproving noise. Brie heard this, and she finally noticed them. “Oh my gawd, hi!” Brie seemed oblivious to the negative emotions of everyone present and approached them happily, “Do you remember me?”

“We can never forget you.” Ashlynn’s tone was pure ice.

Brie either did not notice her attitude or did not care. She merrily filled them in, “Oh, awesome! I got married, but I think we’re getting a divorce. Married life is so boring! Oh, this is Brandy. I named her that ’cause that’s what I was drunk on when she was conceived!” She had a very obnoxious laugh, which made them cringe. Will stared at her in total confusion, and she finally started to notice the collective mood. “What?”

Will continued to stare at her incredulously. “I don’t get it. Why would Tadd go so nuts over you?”

Brie questioned, “Tadd? Tadd who?”

“Oi!” Lavena exclaimed.

Ashlynn felt compelled to yell at her, to completely tear her apart. How dare she have such utter disrespect for such a good man! However, she did not act on those impulses. Cera had come back, leading Tadd by the arm. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw what was taking place. Tadd did not notice her for a moment. Everyone stood on edge, waiting for an explosion, not knowing how he would react.

When Tadd looked up and saw her, he froze completely. He barely even blinked. He went totally blank, like her presence had removed all sense of reality. His friends could practically hear his heart racing. His mind could not fathom this moment. Cera, Lavena, Will, Feliz, Hannah, and Michael all stood still, again, not knowing how to react. Ashlynn could not move either. She did not know whether to rescue Tadd or let the inevitable unfold. This was really happening, they all thought.

Brie nimbly approached Tadd. “Oh yeah, Tadd! Hi Tadd!” He continued to look at her in utter surprise. There was a long, heavy pause. Brie broke the tension, “Did you miss me?”

Without thinking, Tadd answered, “No.”

“Lies!”

“Untrue!”

Feliz and Feliz could not suppress themselves from saying that. Lavena and Cera concurred.

Tadd finally asked her, “What are you doing here?”

Brie answered, “I took Brandy to the park.”

“Oh, you’re drinking in public again?” he questioned.

Brie laughed, “No! I wish! I get lots of dirty looks when I drink with the baby for some reason.” The more she talked, the more disgusted they all became with her. “I’m in town to sign some legal papers. I’m divorcing Jose.”

Everyone dreading her saying that to him. They all wondered how Tadd would react to hearing that she was single again. Tadd looked as thought he could not process anything that was happening. He asked her, in an accusing tone, “Did you cheat on him too?”

Brie giggled. “Yeah, but he doesn’t know that. Gosh, being back in this town brings back so many many memories! But this town is all used up. As soon as the divorce papers are signed, we’re going to Me-ahm-me!”

“Where?” Tadd’s thoughts were clearly swimming, and he continuously tried to get a handle on this moment.

“Miami!” Brie smiled. Impulsively, she invited him, “You should come with me.”

The dreaded moment had arrived. No one wanted their friend to go with this awful woman. Ashlynn’s head was screaming, but she was too horrified to move. No one could. They silently prayed that he would do the right thing. Tadd’s mixed emotions were agonizing him. He could not process anything. He asked her, “You want me to go with you? What, so you wanna get back together?”

“Well, I’m not a one man can of girl, but we can live together in paradise. You and me, side by side on the beach, going on adventures! Sure, we’ll screw each other, but there will be threesomes, orges, just everything our bodies desire. And you can help me take care of Brandy!” She went up to him and purred, “So, what do you say?”

Tadd mulled over everything. Everyone else was paralyzed. They could not believe this was happening. Ashlynn’s heart thumped hard, and she could not breathe. Everyone worried that they were going to lose him. Tadd agonized over how he felt, and suddenly, it clicked. Everyone saw the light bulb go off in his head, and the anticipation was palpable. Tadd realized he knew how he felt and what he wanted. He cut through the mounting tension and spoke softly, “Brie?”

“Yes, Tadd, baby?” Brie cooed.

Tadd stated honestly, “I’ve been waiting to hear those words since you left. I’ve been going crazy wishing things could go back to the way things were. But my answer is…” Everyone’s pulse climaxed. They watched like their friend was about to get killed. Ashlynn felt faint. Brie smiled victoriously. Tadd concluded with, “…Fuck you!”

Time stood still. Relief slowly flooded their bodies. They could not believe what they were hearing. Ashlynn was practically shaking. Could this be real? After everything Tadd went through lately, they could not believe that he was actually doing the right thing. Ashlynn’s adrenaline was still up as if she survived a collision. This was real. Tadd, for once, felt angry, and it showed. Brie backed up, and she felt like she got slapped in the face. “What?”

Tadd’s body surged with rage, and he unloaded on Brie, “You think you can put me through hell and come back like nothing happened? You’re a manipulative bitch! You know how to charm people to serve your selfish needs, and then you through people away like they’re nothing just ’cause you’re bored? You made me believe that I was something special, and I spent the last couple of months believing that I lost someone that made my life magical. None of it was real. You got what you wanted from me and destroyed me without a hint of guilt! How dare you! Do you even care how much of a crazy person you turned me into? You’re like an animal drifting from one place to the next, living hedonistically. And, what, I’m supposed to follow you and be your little bitch, let you use me and throw me away? I’m not falling for it!”

Brie seethed, “Do you know how many boys would kill to just screw around with no commitment?”

“Yeah, boys do that!” Tadd bellowed. “I’m no boy-I’m a man!”

Brie laughed derisively. “You, a man? You’re a loser! You and your friends were always losers! You grew up to be handsome, so you had potential. So, what, you’re saying that instead of living a life of pure pleasure with me, you wanna be buddies with a bunch of thirty-year-olds with no lives?”

Feliz, Cera, Lavena, Will, and Ashlynn all got offended by that, but Tadd reacted before they could. “They’re not losers! They’re true friends! They stuck by my side even when I acted insane, and they sacrificed most of their free time to help me. So, they encountered some obstacles, but they have goals, and they won’t give up ’til they achieve them. That makes them amazing people. And you-you call them losers?You’re like a hooker without the pay! They’ll make something out of their life, but you, you don’t know where you’re going! You’re the loser!”

“Hmpf! Well, congratulations, you just got dumped by a loser!” Brie stomped to her car and drove off. She quickly reversed, grabbed her baby, stomped back, and peeled off. It was over. Everyone took a moment to let this sink in.

“He’s back!” Ashlynn exclaimed. Everyone gave him a hug. Tadd appeared winded but the sadness and insanity that he displayed before had clearly vanished. He seemed a little depressed, but he clearly had way more thought than he had before. Ashlynn looked him in the eye and told him, “I’m so proud of you!”

Everyone agreed. Tadd felt a little disoriented, like he was coming out of a trance. He blankly asked, “So, now what?”

Cera replied, “We gotta watch over you ’cause now you’re in the rebound stage.”

“Nah,” Tadd stated, “I don’t need to replace her. Not when I have friends like you!” Everyone beamed and gave him another hug.

Turning 30, Chapter 23

Cera cried her eyes out on Feliz’s couch. Feliz and Ashlynn sat by her to comfort her. Cera wailed, “I can’t believe I did that! I just abandoned my faith like it was…nothing! For what? Some uncomfortable, awkward interaction with a stranger in a dive bar parking lot! I’m a sinner!”

Feliz tried to reassure her, “Don’t beat yourself up! You didn’t actually do anything wrong. You’re still a virgin.”

Cera refuted, “I interacted with his…manhood! Even thinking about a man that way is a sin! I’m a terrible person!”

“No you’re not,” Ashlynn expressed, “You just had terrible sex!”

“But…but I…I…!” Cera stammered.

Davida came out of their bedroom in her pajamas. “What’s going on?”

Feliz explained, “Cera is drunk.”

“I’m not drunk!” Cera argued. “I’m sad!”

Feliz told Davida, “She is VERY sad.”

“Oh I see. Well, I can make her some coffee then.” Davida went into the kitchen.

Ashlynn stated to Cera, “Look, no one is perfect. It’s impossible to follow every single rule, and you should chastise yourself for not obeying every minute detail and technicality. The most important thing is to treat people with kindness, and as long as I’ve known you, you have always loved to help others. You can’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. All you can do is try your best to be a decent person.”

Feliz added, “I consider myself to be a good Catholic, but I am not perfect. Like, last Friday, I had some steak, but we’re not supposed to have meat that day. Does that mean I’m doomed? I won’t get into Heaven for that? The little things won’t ultimately matter in the end, so I don’t fret about them. God forgives mistakes as long as the list of good you do for the world is bigger than anything else.”

Cera sniffed. “I feel like such a whore!”

“Mary Magdalene was an actual whore,” Ashlynn pointed out, “and she was one of Jesus’ best friends. She wasn’t perfect, but she was forgiven, and no one judged her. They moved on and did greater things. I”m not a Catholic. I had premarital sex. Do you think I’m going to Hell?”

“No!” Cera saw her point. “And Feliz, our religion is not kind to your people, but I won’t stop being your friend!”

“What do you mean by ‘your people?'” Davida probed. No one saw her come back into the living room with the mug of coffee, and when they realized she was there and that she heard that part of the conversation, they jumped out of their skins. Ashlynn looked nervous, Cera felt guilty, and Feliz trembled in fear. Davida noticed their reactions. “What are you hiding from me? I’m your wife, you owe me the truth! Be honest! Tell me, please! Why won’t you say anything? Speak to me!” Feliz tried to speak but could not get the words out. An email notification went off on his phone. Feliz tried to grab it, but Davida reached it first. She saw the title of the email and read outloud, “In response to Need Help Coing Out. Coming out where?” Feliz could not say it. She asked Ashlynn and Cera, “Do you know what this means?”

Ashlynn shook her head, refusing to be a part of that argument. Cera, because of her lack of sobriety, honestly said, “We all figured it out, even before he did! You know! We don’t need to say anything. You know!”

Davida just looked angry, like she wanted to yell but didn’t know why, so she held it in. Feliz stepped up to her and softly said, “This isn’t how I wanted you to find out…” Davida had a look of denial on her face. She knew what was coming, and she knew she didn’t want to hear it but had to. Feliz took a deep breath and confessed, “I’m gay.”

“No!” All of the fight got drained from Davida. “I can’t believe it! Don’t you love me?”

“I do love you, but I’m not attracted to you,” Feliz told her.

Davida started to cry. “My husband isn’t attracted to me!” She sobbed, but when Feliz touched her arm to comfort her, she shrieked, “Don’t touch me, you pervert!”

“Pervert? I haven’t slept with any men yet!”

“You’re a pervert, and you will soon have to answer for your sin! What did your family say?”

“I…”

“When they find out, they will disown you!”

“I hope they will love me no matter what.”

Davida laughed derisively. “If I can’t stand to look at you, I don’t see how they could want you in their life still. I’m leaving, and they won’t be here for you either, so I hope you’ll be happy with these perverted thoughts because you’ll be all alone with them”

Ashlynn stood up and defended him, “He’s not gonna be alone! He has us! We’ve known this all along, but we never cared! He’s a loving, sweet man, and if you don’t want a friendship with him, it’s your loss! We don’t need your narrow-minded ass around!”

Davida gave her a dirty look and stomped into the bedroom to pack her bags. Feliz sank onto his love seat and cried. Ashlynn put an arm around him to comfort him. Cera stepped towards him, but her legs felt too heavy to move because the alcohol kicked in full swing at this point. She slurred, “You’re not a pervert, I am!” She pased out onto the couch.

That momentarily distracted Feliz, but after a moment, he buried his head in his hands. “I knew this would be horrible.”

Ashlynn responded, “How much longer were you planning to sacrifice your happiness for hers?”

“I wasn’t ready!” he lamented.

“No one is ever really ready. Life happens unexpectedly, and when the universe wants you to open up a new chapter whether you’re ready or not!” Ashlynn exclaimed. “When you get to that pivotal point in your life, you have two choices-drown in the ocean or surf with the tide. That thing you were dreading to tell her is out now. You’re free! You can stop worrying and move on!”

Feliz seemed somewhat appeased by her words. Davida came out with a suitcase. “I’ll be back for the rest of my things when you’re at work. Do your coworkers know?”

“No,” Feliz answered.

Ashlynn corrected him, “Yes, trust me, it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain!” Davida glared at her and left without saying goodbye. Feliz looked relieved that she did not have a stronger response. Ashlynn told him, “You don’t recognize a storm brewing, do you?”

Feliz shrugged. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

“Are you sure? You probably shouldn’t be alone.”

“Cera will be here all night probably.”

They turned their heads to Cera, who was still passed out. Ashlynn gave Feliz a supportive hug. After a moment, she gathered her things so they could leave. She asked again, “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

He answered, “It’s gonna be weird, but I’ll be okay. I think the hardest part will be letting go of that loving feeling towards her.”

As they left, Ashlynn looked over the balcony and saw something alarming. “Uh, Davida is smashing your car with a golf club!”

“WHAT?” Feliz ran to the balcony and perched, glaring towards the direction where he was parked. “That bitch! I’ll kill her!” He grabbed his phone and called the police. While he was on hold, he observed, “Oh, hey! The loving feelings are gone!” Ashlynn laughed, and Feliz grinned a little.

Turning 30, Chapter 17

Ashlynn sat at a table in a small bar. It was dimly lit but still fairly classy. The table tops were granite, and the chairs were metal and tall. The walls were decorated with grape vines, fairy lights, and empty, vintage wine bottles. A couple of men sat by the bar, and a few people were sprinkled around the tables, but the bar was pretty empty. Ashlynn still felt shocked from what she learned about her parents’ history. Despite their seedy past, they both still made something out of their life. They accomplished so much in their twenties. Ashlynn looked at a baby picture that she had saved on her phone. Her mother dressed so conservatively, and her dad had on his work clothes. They looked so normal! There was a date on the corner of the photo, and Ashlynn figured out that her mother was twenty-seven and her dad was almost thirty. That took her a moment to process-she was now the age her dad was when she was born! It felt so weird because none of that lifestyle felt possible for her yet. She wondered when she would feel like a real adult.

Ashlynn’s eyes wandered to an old man that entered the bar. He wore a khaki raincoat with a matching fedora. He put his coat on a rack by the door, but there was no room for his hat, so he carried it to the bar. He sat at a stool at the corner of the bar. The bartender went up to him and inquired, “The usual, Herb?”

“Myrtle’s favorite, thirty years and counting.” The bartender handed him a glass of wine, which he had already ready under the bar counter. “Oh Myrtle!” He started crying on the bar. Ashlynn’s heart sank. Not only did she feel sorry for the old man, but it made her think of Tadd. Herb lost Myrtle right when they were born, and he still had not gotten over it. Tadd’s progress had been going so slow. Could this be his future? No, she was determined not to let that happen.

This thought distracted her so much that she did not see a man approach her table. He appeared to be in his forties, but he didn’t have a wedding ring. He wore suit pants with an oxford shirt, whose sleeves were rolled up and the top button popped open. He smelt strongly of whiskey, and he had a lopsided grin. Ashlynn cringed. He greeted her with, “How you doin’, doll?” Ashlynn did not answer. “Mind if I join you?”

“Please don’t,” she pleaded.

He sat down next to her anyways. “I love this bar! So quiet and classy. It’s great for people our age!”

Our age?” This association caught Ashlynn off guard.

“Yeah,” he replied. “You’re what? Thirty five?”

Ashlynn told him, “I’m almost thirty.”

He laughed, “You’re just a baby!”

“Baby? A moment ago you thought we were the same age!”

“You’re only twelve years younger me. Twelve years isn’t much, but it feels different, you know?” He winked at her, and Ashlynn felt grossed out. He asked her, “So, what do you do?”

Ashlynn almost answered with her old job title out of habit, but she remembered she didn’t do that anymore. So much had changed in the last three weeks! She tried to think of the sophisticated answer to unemployment, but she could not think of the proper euphemism. She sat for a second, trying to come up with something. Just then, Feliz came up to the table. “Hey buddy, take a hike!” The man looked like a deer in the headlights and shuffled away. Feliz took his spot and smiled Ashlynn. “Rough day?”

“You must be psychic,” she said sardonically.

“So, you’re mom was a…?”

“Yes.”

“And your dad has a big-?”

“Yes!”

“Basically, you had a conversation about your life choices, and it turned into a chat about your parents’ genitals?”

“Yes.”

Ashlynn put her head on the table out of embarrassment. Cera came up at this moment. “You’re so lucky, Ashlynn!” Ashlynn held her head up and gave her a look of the deepest confusion. “My parents’ story is so boring. They met at Catholic school, got married at eighteen, and only have sex for procreation. You can learn so much from your mom! And she’s a teacher now!”

“Oh my god!” She buried her head in her hands again.

Feliz observed, “Cera, I don’t think you are grasping how awkward this is for her. She’s done things, so she can picture her parents’…Well, you don’t have any concept of the subject. Have you ever seen a penis?”

Cera blushed at the word penis, but then she thought of something. “Wait, you just figured out you’re gay! How many penises could you possibly have seen?”

Ashlynn picked her head up at that question. The girls looked at him curiously. Feliz confessed, “Well, nothing in person, besides my own. But I put this ad on Craigslist…”

“Noooo!” Ashlynn grinned.

Cera frowned. “But you’re not divorced or even separated yet! You won’t cheat on your wife, will you?”

“No!” Feliz explained, “I put an ad in the strictly platonic section. I just wanted to find a friend who was in my position, people I could relate to, like group therapy. I don’t think men know what platonic means. Half my responses were dick pix!”

“Wait, gay guys have that problem too?” Ashlynn reacted.

“Ashlynn, they’re gay, but they’re also men,” Feliz told her. Ashlynn nodded like he had a point.

“Maybe I should put an ad out like that…” Cera mused.

Ashlynn commented, “You don’t need to put up an ad to see penises on the internet.”

“That’s not what I had in mind,” Cera said. “It doesn’t seem like it would be hard for Feliz to find a guy to hook up, and an ad worked well for your mom..”

“Don’t remind me!” Ashlynn shuddered.

Cera concluded, “If I wanna lose my virginity quickly, maybe I should put up an ad!”

Feliz advised her, “Honey, you don’t wanna meet strangers off the internet; it could be dangerous if you aren’t careful, and you’re way too inexperienced to stay out of trouble. For you, find a guy in person so you can really read them. And don’t you tell me that it sounds too hard. You’re attractive enough where you don’t gotta work for it!”

Ashlynn agreed, “We don’t gotta try at all. Men are easier to turn on than computers! You don’t gotta push a button to turn them on, they’re already turned on!”

“But how do you know when they’re in the mood?” Cera looked confused.

Feliz revealed to her, “Because they’re a man. Men are horny and ready to go one hundred percent of the time!”

Cera asked, “But you’re a guy…Does that mean you’re horny all the time?”

“Hell yeah!” he answered enthusiastically. Cera seemed a little surprised and awkward.

Ashlynn advised her, “If you want a man right here, right now, find someone right here, right now! All you have to do is find a guy you like, stand next to them, and say the two magic words-I’m drunk!”

Feliz disagreed, “You don’t need to be that clever. Be straightforward. Just say  ‘Let’s have sex.’ If he’s straight, he’ll go for it.”

Cera got nervous. “I don’t know if I could be that bold!”

“You can do it!” Ashlynn encouraged her. “Trust us, you don’t gotta work hard for it if you want some strange.”

Feliz nodded. They saw a cute guy sitting a few seats away from Herb, and Cera steels herself up to go for it. Before she left the table, Feliz grabbed her arm. “Wait, you look like a total nun. Show off a little skin, it adds cream to coffee!” He loosened a couple of buttons on her blouse and hiked up her skirt a little. He pat her shoulders encouragingly.

Cera stiffly walked over to the man and sat next to him. He raised an eyebrow since she emitted a lot of anxious energy. She quietly mumbled, “Do you wanna have sex?”

The man genuinely couldn’t hear her. “I’m sorry?”

A little louder but still very shaky, Cera sputtered, “Sex! Sex! You want…?”

The man thought he was catching on to her message but still seemed a little confused. “What?”

In life, once in a while, there’s a weird moment when the whole room gets quiet at the same time for no real reason. All at once, the song changed and therefore, the music stopped for a moment. Everyone’s conversation came to a standstill. Cera, who did not realize any of this shouted, “You wanna have sex with me?” The whole room stared at her. Cera turned completely red and ran out of the bar.

Ashlynn and Feliz gathered their things to make a quick getaway. Feliz opinionated, “We just drove her straight into the arms of a therapist!”

Ashlynn said seriously, “That gives me a brilliant idea!”

“You got any stroke of brilliance out of all this?”

“Tadd will be thirty soon, and I’ll be damned if he spends his sixieth birthday in this state. If we ant him to make progress, he needs therapy!”

Feliz agreed. They were about to leave the bar when Feliz stopped them. “Wait, we didn’t pay for our drinks.”

Ashlynn admitted, “I have a tab.” Feliz looked quelled, and they ran after Cera.

Turning 30, Chapter 6

Ashlynn sat at a coffee shop with a glass of water. She chose the table outside and enjoyed the scenery. The plaza had an old world feel with light stone walls and a cobblestone floor. The windows were made of a heavy metal with fake ivy on the sides. Ashlynn waited, feeling a little awkward. Back first, Feliz came out. Clearly, his hands were full. When he turned around, it was confirmed. Clearly, he was on a lunch break from work because he still wore a nice suit. Out of all of her old friends, Ashlynn had thought he aged the most, but he still looked very handsome. As he handed her a cup of coffee, she felt a little embarrassed. “Thanks for the coffee! I spent the last of my money on a soda.”

He had a croissant with a slice of cheese on a plate, and he pushed it over to her. “This is for you too.”

Ashlynn looked surprised. “I didn’t say I was hungry.”

“You didn’t have to,” Feliz said, “I’m Italian-we’ve got a sixth sense about who hasn’t eaten enough. We get it from our mothers, making sure our family is fed.”

Ashlynn seemed impressed. “So, we haven’t seen each other in twelve years, you take one look at me and first thing you notice is that I haven’t been eating enough?”

“Mama would be so proud!” he half joked. They laughed. “I missed you Ashlynn. I wish I had more time to travel to Manhattan when you were there!”

Ashlynn commented, “I could’ve visited you too, but I got too wrapped up in trying to build a life out there. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t get forced to stop.”

Feliz took a sip of his cappuccino. “Yes, I heard about everything that went down at your old job. Did they ever catch him?”

“Catch him?” Ashlynn inquired.

“Your old boss, the so called Real Estate King.” Feliz explained, “After they caught him embezzling funds, he went into the middle of Times Square, stripped off his clothes, stole a police car, and ran for Canada. You did not know this?”

Ashlynn shook her head. “I was too busy feeling sorry for myself that I didn’t try to understand what happened. I was so mad that I didn’t wanna hear anything about the company’s news. But I could go on for a while about that. I know your lunch break is only an hour. Well, an hour is a long break, I mean…”

“I understand what you mean,” Feliz responded. “I had the option of taking a shorter lunch break in order to go home earlier, but I like to give my brain a break. Don’t tell my wife that. She often complains that I work too much.”

Ashlynn had forgotten that he got married, and it surprised her in their previous correspondence  every time he mentioned her. “How is Davida doing?”

Feliz got uncomfortable about the subject. “Oh, fine.” He suddenly looked really nervous. “Ashlynn, I’m glad we met in person. There’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time.” Ashlynn sat up, intrigued. Feliz took a deep breath. “I’m gay.” Ashlynn did not look surprised. In fact, she kept watching him, expecting to hear more. “That’s it.”

Ashlynn smiled warmly. “I thought you said you had news.”

Feliz felt surprised by her response. “That was my news! I thought I wanted a wife and to make babies with her, you now, everything my Catholic family expects me to do. But, I’m not happy, and I am done lying to myself.”

Ashlynn agreed vehemently. “It’s about time!”

Feliz inquired, “You knew? How did you know? I didn’t even know until recently!”

“How could you not know?” Ashlynn responded. “You dress girlier than I do! And, not to stereotype, but you loved musical theater way too much. I thought it was obvious. I mean, you said you liked girls, but it always seemed so fake.”

Feliz got an extremely guilty look on his face. “My wife doesn’t think it’s fake. She really loves me. It will break her heart to tell her.”

Ashlynn commented, “There’s a lot of heartbreak going on right now. Did you hear about Tadd?”

Feliz replied, “Yes, his Facebook page makes it seem like he is…disturbed…”

“Yeah, he kind of had a breakdown. And he turns thirty in a month. In school, I remember he was the happiest guy I knew, and he made other people feel good justby being around and soaking in his positive vibes. Tadd just isn’t himself right now! We can’t let him hit a milestone in a state like that. So, on Friday I was going to get our old group together for dinner. We could plan out his birthday and cheer him up. Can you come?”

“Well, Davida won’t like it, so I’ll do it! Maybe I’ll get lucky and she’ll dump me so I don’t gotta be the bad guy!”

“Coward!”

They laughed and continued on their catching up session.