Attention Readers: the free version of my novel, which I posted a chapter at a time on my blog, is no longer available. However…you can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, Createspace, and eBay. So please, check it out and spread the word!!!
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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.”
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.
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?”
“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.
Ashlynn,wearing glasses, sat in the driver’s seat of a beat up, twenty year old SUV while Will sat in the passenger’s seat. They drove down a two lane freeway. Nothing seemed to be around them except for brush. Ashlynn drove well, but she still had a nervous look on her face. Will pointed out, “See, this is easy!”
Ashlynn only half-heartily agreed, “Easy, yeah. I kinda hate this though. I didn’t know I had to wear glasses for long distances! When did that happen?”
“So, you didn’t drive ‘casue of a vanity thing?” Will kidded.
“It’s all just weird, very foreign feeling!” Ashlynn admitted, “But I also feel like it’s pointless. Even if someone gave me a car, I couldn’t afford to pay for gas or insurance.”
Will suggested, “I bet your parents would help you for a while.”
“Yeah,” she opinionated, “But there’s only so long I can go taking their money before-”
Suddenly, an animal ran out onto the road. Will and Ashlynn shouted, and Ashlynn slammed on the brakes. They heard and felt a loud thump, so Ashlynn turned off the car. “Oh god, I killed an animal!”
Will tried to reassure her, “Maybe it’s still alive.” Ashlynn gave him a disbelieving look. He directed, “Come on! Let’s take a look.”
They got out of the car and nervously approached the front end. There was a long furred, orange cat there. Its body was limp, and it did not move. Ashlynn cried, “Oh, poor kitty!”
Will gazed at its face and realized, “Oh no! That’s Furby! That’s one of Miss Constantine’s cats!”
“Is it dead?” She touched its neck to check its pulse. “Yeah, its dead. Ew! I touched a dead animal!”
Will lamented, “Aw man! Miss Constantine is gonna flip out!”
Ashlynn remarked, “Are you sure? I mean, she’d be sad, but she has sixteen cats, well fifteen, so how could she get that upset about one?”
Later that day, Miss Constantine stood outside stood outside her house wearing all black. She stood by a bare, very dry tree. Her house was old and very dilapidated. The quality of wood and paint made it surprising that anyone lived there. The tree seemed to be the only plant life besides the overgrown grass. The faded, pink paint with the purple shutters made it give the feel of a house once fit for a princess but had since been neglected. Miss Constantine gazed at a tiny grave that read “Furby-beloved friend.” Ashlynn, Will, Cera, Lavena, Feliz, and Tadd also stood looking at the little tombstone. They seemed serious but felt awkward attending a funeral for a cat especially one they didn’t know. Miss Constantine sobbed, “Goodbye, my sweet baby! Mama will always love you!” She paused to cry a little. “Would anyone else like to say something?”
Everyone hesitated. No one knew what to say. Miss Constantine grew more upset when no one would give a eulogy for an animal she cared about. Ashlynn stepped up. She awkwardly talked to the grave, “Hey Furby! Sorry I killed you…” She shifted guiltily as she felt some anger brewing from Miss Constantine. She decided to recover by saying, “May you serve as a reminder to other cats to use caution and look both ways before crossing the highway!”
Will stepped up too. “Goodbye Furby! It’ll be weird only feeding fifteen cats!”
“Thank you for attending Furby’s funeral! Excuse me!” Miss Constantine went inside her house to mourn.
Feliz complained, “I can’t believe I took a day off work for a cat funeral!”
Lavena glanced at the time on her cell phone. “Well, I have the sitter for a couple more hours. Who’s up for a drink?” Everyone but Tadd reacted enthusiastically about that idea.
Lavena, Ashlynn, Tadd, Will, Feliz, and Cera all walked into a dive bar. The lighting was dim, but a ray of sunlight peaked through, exposing the dust in the air. Everything was made of old wood like a person would find on a pirate ship. A few grubby patrons were scattered throughout the place. The bartender looked old but hearty. He had a salt and pepper beard and wore a name tag that read “Leon.” Leon came up to them as they took their seats at a table, and Will ordered, “Six beers, please.”
Leon studied their outfits particularly. “Who died?”
“My soul!” Tadd commented pathetically.
Lavena remarked, “Oh, shut up! We went to a cat lady’s pet’s funeral.”
“Y’all need a drink!” He went back to the bar and brought six bottles of beer. “First round is on me!”
Cera, Will, Feliz, Ashlynn, and Lavena all thanked him. Will asked Leon, “Hey, would you ever take the day off of work for something like this?”
Leon answered, “Not me. I love my job! I’ve worked here forty years, and the only day off I took were for two weddings and a divorce-all of them mine!”
Leon and everyone but Tadd laughed. Leon went back to the bar. As they took a moment to guzzle their beer to decompress from their unusual day, Lavena noticed a perverted-looking man eyeing them at the other end of the room. He wore an outdated, cheap suit and definitely needed a haircut. Lavena mumbled, “Oh god!”
“What?” Ashlynn turned to look, but Lavena stopped her.
“Don’t make eye contact!” Lavena warned. Ashlynn understood and looked in the opposite direction as did Lavena. Cera seemed confused and searched the bar to see what they were talking about. Lavena hissed, “Cera! Don’t look at him! You’ll encourage him to…”
It was too late. The man came up to their table and put his hands on Lavena and Ashlynn’s chairs. He talked to Lavena first, “Hey-!”
“No!” Lavena cut him off.
He reacted silkily, “You don’t even know what I was gonna say!”
Lavena rolled her eyes. “You strolled over with more confidence than you deserve and you spoke in a smooth but forceful tone, like a used car salesman. We know what you were gonna say, it doesn’t take a genius!”
The man blinked. “How did you know I’m a used car salesman?”
Ashlynn voiced, “Hey, in case you didn’t catch the drift, you’re selling something we’re not buying!”
Cera raised her hand. “I’ll buy!”
Ashlynn advised, “Cera, don’t!”
The man half shrugged. “Just like my job, I’ll take what I can get! Let’s go!”
Cera looked in disbelief. “Wow, this is really happening!”
“Cera, you don’t have to do it this way!” Feliz told her.
“This may be my only shot!” she argued.
“No it won’t!” Will said wisely, “You have plenty of time! Don’t you want your first time to be special?”
The strange man reacted, “You’re a virgin? Sweet!”
Cera told her friends, “I’m not gonna bear the shame of being a thirty year old virgin! I’m gonna get it over with, and then I can start dating like a normal person. This huge burden of keeping that a secret will be gone. I’ll have my real first time with someone who matters. This will take away the awkwardness, and I don’t have to feel embarrassed anymore! I’m doing this!” She turned to the man. “Let’s go!”
Lavena, Ashlynn, Will, and Feliz all begged her not to go. Tadd looked more sad than usual but said nothing. They all felt helpless as they watched her leave the bar with that man’s arm around her waist.
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…?”
“And your dad has a big-?”
“Basically, you had a conversation about your life choices, and it turned into a chat about your parents’ genitals?”
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.