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.

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Turning 30, Chapter 8

Ashlynn sat alone at a table for six in a busy pizza parlor. She anxiously watched the doors and glanced at anyone who passed by. A young, bubbly girl in a sorority sweatshirt came up to her and whispered, “If you’re getting stood up, you should move to a smaller table. This big, empty table makes it super obvious that you’re all alone!”

“I’m waiting for my friends, not a date!” Ashlynn could tell she sounded harsher than she meant to portray.

The girl looked slightly offended and went back to her table, which had a bunch of college students. Ashlynn heard her say, “God, I hope I’m not that cranky when I’m that age!” Her friends all laughed. Ashlynn rolled her eyes, but it made her think-was she really that far apart from the new generation?

She got so distracted by her train of thought that she did not notice Lavena had arrived. She sat down, looking lost. “I got here so quick! It feels a little weird to come where without the kids!”

Ashlynn laughed. Feliz tapped Lavena’s shoulder. Lavena let out an excited little shrie and they hugged. Ashlynn forgot that she met up with everyone this week, but they hadn’t seen each other in twelve years. Cera arrived next and looked a little intimidated to be ambushed by Lavena and Feliz. While they reacquainted, Ashlynn turned to the sorority girl and said indignantly, “See! I have friends!” The girl rolled her eyes and whispered to her friends, who all laughed. Ashlynn said to herself, “Young people are so rude!”

Lavena, Cera, and Feliz sat down, chatting excitedly. When Will arrived, he hopped in front of the table with his hands in the air showing the “rock on” sign. Lavena, Cera, and Feliz all joyfully got up and gave him a hug. Cera exclaimed, “This is awesome! I can’t believe we haven’t seen each other in over a decade!”

Lavena responded, “Well, I didn’t go to the reunion…”

“I don’t think I got the ten year reunion thing in the mail,” Will commented. “Don’t they usually mail it to you?”

Feliz replied, “Our parents got it in the mail. We got an event invite on Facebook. I went and was rather bored. The only person that recognized me was Tadd. Well, Brie did too, but she thought I was Enrique Iglesias.”

Ashlynn piped in, “Speaking of Tadd, he should be here soon. I gotta warn ya, he’s beyond hot mess status. Don’t expect him to be super excited, but let’s stay excited. Maybe it’ll be infectious. At least, I hope it prevents any kind of screaming fits…”

“If he’s such a killjoy, why’s he gonna help plan a party?” Will inquired.

Cera answered, “I think it’s a great idea. After twelve years, we don’t know what he likes and doesn’t like. But how do you know he’s even gonna show up?”

Ashlynn smiled mischievously. “I forced his aunt to bring him here. She’s also paying for dinner for everyone. Now we’ll be even for five hours of babysitting!”

Feliz asked, “Aren’t her kids all adults?”

“Yup,” she answered.

Lavena put in, “Don’t ask.”
Feliz looked confused but he decided to change the subject. “Well, while we’re here to get to the new us and catch up on how things changed, I should start with an important discovery that I made about myself. Guys, this is difficult to tell you, but…”

Will interrupted, “You’re gay. We know.”

Feliz gave Ashlynn a look. “You told them?”

Ashlynn bemusedly informed him, “No. We all knew. We figured it out ages ago!” Cera, Will, and Lavena all nodded in agreement.

Feliz looked a little confused. “But I dated women in high school! I never revealed my secret feelings!”

“Look,” Will said to him, “You were in closet, but that closet was covered in sparkles and rainbows!”

Lavena added, “Yeah, you were in the closet…with a naked man!”

Everyone laughed heartily. Tadd arrived with a very somber look. his posture was somewhat slumped as he moped over to the table. Cera, Will, and Feliz had not seen him in the state yet, so they had a horrified look on their face. Lavena’s motherly instincts prompted her to wrap an arm around him and guide him to his chair. Ashlynn evaluated him. So far, he didn’t seem like he would rave like a lunatic. She wasn’t sure what to expect from him and kept an eye on his every move. Tadd forced himself to look at the group and say, “Hi.”

No one could respond for a second. Clearly, like Ashlynn, they were stunned to see their once happy-go-lucky friend in a state like this. Eventually, Will chimed, “Hey Tadd! How ya doin’, buddy?”

Tadd looked at an empty plate on the table as he responded listlessly, “I am only half here because my other half is gone. I gave her my heart, but she didn’t want it. So now I’m left with is a life a pain!”

Again, no one knew had to respond. Feliz decided to joke, “You sound like a bad country song!”

Everyone but Tadd laughed. At this point, the waiter came over with a large, New York style pizza. He put it on the table and left. Everyone but Tadd picked up a slice and put it on their plate. Automatically, Lavena picked up a fork and knife and attempted to use them on her pizza. Ashlynn, Will, Cera, and Feliz all stop her by saying, “Woah, woah, woah!”

Will probed, “You’ve lived in New York for how long?”

Lavena just realized what she almost did and tossed away her utensils. “Sorry, force of habit! I’m used to splitting a slice for the kids.”

Ashlynn asked, “You don’t get out without the kids much, do you?”

Lavena admitted, “I really don’t! No wonder I can’t find a man! How am I supposed to get married before thirty at this rate?”

Cera unexpectedly interjected, “I don’t care if I ever get married…I just wanna find a guy to screw!” Feliz, Lavena, Ashlynn, and Will looked at her in disbelief. Cera looked shocked at her bravery and burried her head in her hands.

Tadd, who still stared at his plate, bemoaned, “Brie found a guy to screw! Several actually. And a girl.”

Tadd started to bawl, making everyone immediately uncomfortable. Once again, no one knew how to react. Ashlynn knew that this behavior could be ignored and held her pizza up, “Here’s to our old friends!”

Will exclaimed, “Here, here!” Ashlynn, Will, Lavena, Cera, and Feliz clinked their pizzas together like a toast. Everyone then began to eat.

After a moment of eating, it felt awkward again. Feliz cut the tension with, “So, Tadd, where do you work nowadays?”

Tadd wiped away some tears and stopped crying momentarily. “I own a catering business.”

Everyone looked impressed. Lavena complimented, “That’s great!”

Tadd woefully said, “I wish I never learned to cook! It was what brought us together one fateful day. She tempted me to her evil love with a kind word about my cooking. How can I be so fucking stupid!”

Tadd stared blankly ahead. Everyone else just looked surprised that he didn’t start crying again, but they did stare at him in a stunned silence. Will reacted, “Jesus Christ, Tadd!”

Cera scolded him, “Don’t say the Lord’s name in…” She paused. “Wait, that’s not me anymore. If I’m committed to breaking the rules, I gotta start now. Time for freedom…dammit!”

Everyone but Tadd smiled at her awkward courage. Ashlynn conversed, “My idea of freedom is to start making enough money to support myself. My parents are kind for for helping me out like this, but I can tell living with them again is gonna drive me insane! Earlier today, they found my box of liquor and now they think I have a drinking problem!”

Lavena asked, “Do you?”

Ashlynn blushed. “I don’t think it’s a problem!”

Lavena, Feliz, Cera, and Will laughed heartily again. At that moment, a frat boy walked past their table, clearly lost and looking for his friends’ table. One of the sorority girl’s friends stood up and shouted, “Hey Tony!” He gave him a wolf whistle, and Tadd immediately went into tantrum mode.

Ashlynn’s heart dropped, but she took action right away. “Shit! Well, time to go!” She grabbed his flailing his arms and turned to her friends. “Remember how Brie used to constantly whistle? Every time he hears a whistle…well, you can probably guess.” He fought her grip, but Ashlynn gained control. As she pushed him towards the exit, she told her friends, “We need to take turns trying to cheer him up, ‘kay?” She pushed him out the door.

Cera, Feliz, and Lavena all gave each other a a look that said non-verbally how impossible they thought the task would be. They hear chewing, and they turn to see Will eating the pizza. They gave him a “how could you?” look, and he responded with his mouthful, “What? Am I supposed to waste a perfectly good pie?” They all agreed that he had a point and grabbed another slice.

 

Turning 30, Chapter 7

Ashlynn came to  large, wooden doors with ornate, metal handles. She had a hard time opening the door because of its weight. When it finally loosened up and opened, she almost fell. She was entering a dignified place, so she straightened herself up. She closed the door behind her and looked around. It was a very large cathedral with old, wooden pews. There were two aisles with a red carpet which led up to an altar. The altar had a podium, and candles surround the altar and aisles. The church was pretty empty except for a few scattered people praying.

Ashlynn saw some long, dark hair on the left. She was looking down, and Ashlynn assumed she caught her in the middle of a prayer, so she approached very quietly. As she got closer, she saw that the woman was smiling at her phone. Ashlynn still didn’t want to interrupt and studied her for a moment. After all, she had not seen her in twelve years! Cera did not age the most, in fact, she looked the youngest, but she had the looks that changed the most. She obviously spent more time on her appearance than she used to, and perhaps living life got her more experience that may have altered her physique. She remember how sheltered Cera was before, and she maintained an adamant attitude towards staying that way. Hopefully she broke out of her shell a little, Ashlynn thought.

Suddenly, Cera noticed someone staring at her out of the corner of her eye, and she became very nervous. She quickly changed what she had been doing on her phone, feeling embarrassed but trying not to let it show. “Just looking up a scripture!” She glanced over and did not expect to see Ashlynn. “Oh my goodness! I thought you were a priest or my parents, but it’s you! Wow, I didn’t recognize you at first!”

They gave each other a hug, and Ashlynn sat next to her. “Do I really look that different?”

“Well, last time I saw you, you were skinny and brunette. Now you’re blonde and..” She blushed, not wanting to finish that sentence.

“Thanks,” Ashlynn said dryly. “You look great! But you act the same as ever. Do you work here or something?”

“No, I just…” Cera looked around to see if anyone besides Ashlynn could hear her. When she saw that no one was close enough to catch wind of their conversation, she said quietly, “Honestly, I’m tired of it. Trying to be perfect is exhausting! I feel like there’s so much of life that I haven’t experienced. Actually, just now, I was being a little naughty on my phone-looking at pictures of men!”

Ashlynn responded, “That’s not naughty, it’s normal. I mean, come on, everyone looks at porn once in a while!”

Cera got really uncomfortable. “Porn? Oh no, I was just looking at boys on a dating site. I’m such a sinner!”

Ashlynn stared blankly. “How is that a sin?”

“Well,” Cera explained, “in my religion, thoughts are considered actions, and I’m sinning at the the thought of what I want those boys to do to me!”

Ashlynn looked a little confused, but decided not to press the issue since she was also pretty amused. “Whatever you’re imagining can’t be that bad if you’ve never seen porn or actual action!”

Cera had not considered this before. She mulled it over for a second and changed the subject. “What are you doing here?”

Ashlynn told her, “Well, I’m back in my hometown-unemployed and living with my parents, just like in high school! One redeeming factor is I have a mission to complete. Tadd had a meltdown and his birthday is in a month. I want him to feel happy again ’cause deep down he is still the same guy and shouldn’t celebrate a milestone like this. Tomorrow, we’re all having dinner together to cheer him up a bit and start planning. I hope you can come!”

“Yes, I hope I can ‘come’ too!” Cera laughed and immediately felt guilty. “I have to go to confession!”

Cera ran down the aisle towards the door that Ashlynn came in and went into a curtained booth. Ashlynn followed her. “So, will you be there?” Cera stuck a thumbs up out the curtain. Ashlynn laughed and left.

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.

Forgotten Society, Part 8

INT. PAWN SHOP. AFTERNOON.

Renee and Curtis enter the shop. A gruff looking man stands behind the counter. The only other person in the store is an old lady riffling through some VHS’s.

CLERK:
What do you like?

RENEE:
Show us the swords.

He brings out two swords. One is a small, Japanese sword. The other is a medieval-looking sword. Renee hands Curtis the longer sword.

RENEE:
How does that feel?

Curtis holds it in awe. He pulls out the sword from the sheath and swings it around a little.

CURTIS:
I love it! But how will we hide it
walking around the streets?

RENEE:
This isn’t for every day. You’re getting
Smith’s old dagger too.

Renee pulls out a credit card. While she pays, Curtis swings the sword a little. The old lady comes over with an armful of videos. Curtis almost hits her, which makes her drop the videos. Renee hits her forehead and shakes her head.

CURTIS:
I’m sorry, ma’am!

He picks up the videos. Renee finishes paying and comes over to help.

RENEE:
Sorry, he’s still in training.

OLD LADY:
What would two nice young people
need with weapons training? God
should be your answer.

RENEE:
That’s a nice idea, but it’s not very
practical, especially if someone
evil is trying to kill us!

OLD LADY:
The way of the wicked shall perish!

CURTIS:
That’s good, I guess. We have to-

OLD LADY:
The Lord shall show you the light!

RENEE:
Aw, but darkness is my closest friend!
Come on, Curtis.

Renee grabs Curtis’s shirt and leads him out.

INT. REBEL HIDEOUT. AFTERNOON.

Renee and Curtis enter with the weapons. Renee hands the weapons over to Miguel for approval. He looks at the Japanese sword first.

MIGUEL:
It’s a replica, but it’s a good replica.
It’s a good size for you.

He hands it over to Tiffany, who takes it calmly.

TIFFANY:
You know, I’ve always wanted a sword.
My father said it didn’t fit well with my
doll collection. My brother has a fencing
sword. I was so jealous! But look at me
now! I may not have any of the comforts
of home, but I like it this way! I wanted to
be a reporter, and they thought I was crazy
for wanting a real career. Money is fun, but
there are some things in this world that are
just more important. Thank you for this
opportunity! If we survive, I’ll make sure
my father rewards you!

Miguel responds by smiling and then turns his attention to Curtis’s sword.

MIGUEL:
Again, another replica, but it’s totally
what I pictured for you. Here you
go, Sir Curtis Stevens.

Curtis grins as he takes the sword.

RENEE:
Sir Stevens?

MIGUEL:
Yes. Go show them what you know,
Lady Warner.

Renee shakes her head but is half amused. She goes to the back and gets her own sword. She holds it in front of them.

RENEE:
This is how you hold a sword. Wow,
you’re a fast learner, uh…

TIFFANY:
Cartwright. Thanks!

RENEE:
Stevens, don’t hold it like a baseball
bat. Put your fingers like this.

Renee moves his hands for him.

RENEE:
Wow, you have soft hands!

CURTIS:
Thanks!

She lingers for a split second. She shakes her head and continues.

RENEE:
Okay, first way you can use your sword…