Chapter 7

“Hey, Mer.”

The familiar voice froze me mid-step as I approached my apartment’s stoop.  A grin spread slowly across my face as I turned toward the visitor.  “Hey, Brian.”

“Did you have a good Christmas this year?”

“Yeah, it was okay.  How was yours?” I returned, attempting to remember the last time I had spoken with my childhood friend.

“Too short,” he answered sadly.  The bulky blue jacket he wore nearly swallowed his thin frame.  He reminded me of a ripe blueberry.

“How’s the semester looking?”
Brian shrugged.  “Nothing too scary.  I have Cellular Biology though.”

The course title sent shivers down by back.  There were classes I had enjoyed, mostly those in the graphic-design department, and some I had loathed.  Cellular Biology sounded like the latter.  “Sounds… fun?”

“Boatloads.”  His thin lips pulled into a hard line.

“Good luck with that,” I teased.  Why anyone would put themselves through such torture was beyond me.

“How’s Holden doing?”

“He’s great.  He’s in the management trainee program at CSX in Jacksonville.”

“Florida.  Nice,” he said, his voice sounding whimsical.

That’s what most people thought. Unfortunately, working in Florida was very different from vacationing in Florida.  “It would be if he ever had free time to enjoy the beaches and sunshine.  But he seems to like his job which is a plus.”

“At least that’s something.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“So do you have any big plans for tonight?”

Brian and I had been enrolled in the same pre-school, had attended the same church, and had survived every class together in elementary, middle, and high school.  I knew I could tell him almost anything.

It was a gift to be close to a guy on an unromantic level; only a man had the capacity to decipher what another man was thinking.  There had been numerous occasions when I had needed Brian’s translating abilities to figure out my boyfriend.

“No, I don’t have any plans yet.”  Yet being the formidable word.  After all, it was Thursday again.  It’s funny how the day kept creeping up on me week after week.

“Why do you sound angry when you say that?”

“Because I’m sure Lena’s plans ultimately involve me.”

“Uh oh.  Is she dragging you around to play chaperone again?” he teased, unaware of how correct he was.


“I thought she had grown out of that after Halloween.”

Halloween had been a costume-filled train wreck no sober person should have been subjected to.  Just thinking of the holiday made me sick to my stomach.  If I ever saw another sailor costume I would probably get sick.

“Didn’t we all?”

“She started awfully early this semester.”

In the fall, Lena hadn’t bothered me until after September.  “Yeah.  I think she’s finally realized that this is her last semester at FSU.”

Brian chuckled.  “You know you could always tell her, ‘no.’”

“Easier said than done.”  I’d be more likely to accurately predict the winning lottery numbers twice than to overthrow Lena’s plans.

“I guess.  Maybe if you made other plans then she would be easier to thwart.”

Why hadn’t I thought of that?  Probably because if I did anything outside of the salon it was with either Lena or my boyfriend.  As I had said to Brian, Holden was currently working in Jacksonville so that left my energetic, unthwartable best friend.


As if Brian had heard the direction of my errant thoughts, he made and offer that was hard to refuse.  “If you ever need someone to make plans with, I’m free.”

“What if you’re not free?” I joked.  Cellular Biology sounded like the type of class where hours of focused study was required to obtain a passing grade.

“Then I’ll become free.”

Brian was a great friend; I could always count on him to be my back-up for just about any situation.  When my date had dumped me the week before our junior prom, Brian had swooped in at the last second to escort me to the dance.  There were at least a dozen similar examples that proved the extent of Brian’s chivalry.

Since I had started dating Holden, Brian and I hadn’t hung out as much as we used to.  Even so, I knew he would be there if I needed him.

“Hey, Mer!”  Lena trudged up the sidewalk through the snow.  This had been one of the mildest winters Frostburg had seen this decade.  Even so, the ground was constantly dressed in at least an inch of snowy lace.

I groaned low enough that only Brian could hear.

He laughed then whispered, “Let me know if you need me.”  He waved to Lena before stomping through the ice-crusted snow on the path to his apartment, just around the corner from ours.

“What did Brian want?”

“Nice to see you too, Lena.  My day at work went well.  How was yours?”

“Are you finished?”

I crossed my arms.  “Yeah.”

“So, what did he want?” she persisted.

“To say ‘hi.’”

“And to tell you that he wants to make babies with you?” she said, shoving past me to unlock the door.  Heat bellowed from the entrance, urging me to follow her inside.

My mouth opened and closed before I could formulate a reply to her crude statement.  “Yes, of course.  After all, it’s a rare day when someone doesn’t come up to me to offer their much-needed stud services.”

“Feisty today,” she said appreciatively.

“I haven’t had dinner yet.”  To reiterate my excuse, my stomach moaned loud enough that Lena let out a low whistle.

“That explains everything.  You’re cranky when you haven’t eaten, or had a nap, or if your diaper is dirty.”


“You know he sweats you, right?” Lena offered as she stripped off her winter layers.

“Who?” I asked, delaying her opinions for as long as possible.  I picked up her coat from the floor and hung it beside mine on the rack in the corner.

“The one offering his stud services.”

“Come on, Lena!”

“Your words, not mine,” she reminded.

“Brian sweats me?”  That was a new one.
“He crushes on you, loves you, wants to be with you.”  She made a rude choking sound and feigned vomiting on the couch.

“He’s just a good friend,” I explained needlessly.

Lena knew that’s all Brian was and all he would ever be.  I had never found anything attractive about him.  No, wait.  That was a lie.  When we had been in the first grade I’d had a tiny crush on Brian.  He’d had a bowl cut back then, and I’d had a thing for the “Dutch Boy” look.  A small part of me silently wished the puppy love had lasted.  Life would be easier if I could like someone like Brian.  I would be married if I could like someone like him—if I could love someone like him.

“Doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like to sleep with you,” Lena interrupted my reminiscing.

“Stop being vulgar.”

“That was far from vulgar.  But if you want explicit then I could always say—”

“Just stop it then!” I ground between my teeth.

“I speak only the truth.”

“Then lie to me.”

“He’s happy with being your buddy?”

“Thanks,” I muttered.  I was happy with that, too.

“You do know that denial isn’t healthy, right?”

“Are you a therapist now?”

She wrinkled her nose against the thought.  “No way.  I’m just a concerned friend.”

“What good would it do to agree with you on the subject?”  It would only make things more awkward for the next time I saw Brian.

“I suppose you have a valid point.”

“You say that like you’re surprised.”

She ignored my jibe.  “I used to have a crush on him.”

“Who?  Brian?”  The thought was laughable.  When we were little, Brian had been one of the tallest kids in school.  Unfortunately, his growth-spurt had struck early; he hadn’t grown an inch since he was fifteen.  Although Brian was almost my height, Lena towered above him like an Amazonian princess next to the Keebler Elf.

“Oh, yeah.  Do you remember those sexy glasses he used to wear?”
“He was like seven years old and they were to correct his lazy eye.”

“Huh,” she muttered dismissively.  “So, are we on for tonight?”
Once again I had no excuse to employ so I could cop out.  Holden had planned to fly in this weekend but had found out at the last minute that he had to stay and work.  I had already taken the time off in anticipation of his arrival.

Unfortunately, Lena had been privy to all of these insignificant details.

“I guess so.”

“Why do you always sound so miserable when you agree to come out with me?  Thursdays are a night you should be looking forward to!”

“I do look forward to them.”

The admission stopped her.  “You… you do?”

“Yes.  I look forward to their end.  Then I know I can enjoy six days free of your incessant harassment.”

“You only wish I harassed you.”

“Yeah, yeah.  So, what’s the plan tonight?”  Which of the four bars in Frostburg would we be going to?

“No plan, really,” she said vaguely.

“So we’re planless?”
“Planless,” she agreed.

Planless was how Lena spent most of her life.  “We’ll play it by ear” was her motto, her creed.  But this was Thursday night we were discussing.  Lena always had a plan for Thursday night.

“Why is it we’re planless?”

“Because no one has called to tell me what we’re doing,” she explained, as if the question was harder than it should have been.

“Is someone supposed to call?”


“Is there any chance that they will forget to call, and I’ll be off the hook?”  My bed’s call would grow louder as the evening progressed.

“Not even a slim one,” she said with a hard smile.

“And whose call are you waiting on?” I prodded.

She grinned at me, and I knew exactly whose call our plans were hinged upon.  I don’t know how it was possible, but Lena was allowing a guy to call the shots for her.  The epiphany was monumental.

“I bet I know who he is.”

I bet I know who he is,” she mimicked in a nasal voice.

I ignored the childish attempt to deter me.  “You know, it’s a good thing the age on your ID doesn’t reflect your maturity level.  If it did you wouldn’t be allowed to drink for another nineteen years.”

“And you’d be too old to get into the hot spots.”

“Touché.  Okay, let’s get back to the issue at hand,” I said, redirecting our focus.  “Just so I know I have this straight: you want to do something tonight and have lived in Frostburg your entire life so you know what this town has to offer, and yet you still don’t know what you want to do.”


“No?”  Where had I missed the mark?

“I know what I want to do.”

“You do?”

“Yes.  I want to go out.”

“You have a total of like four choices unless you include the five bars in Cumberland,” I pointed out.  “And I’m not driving you to Cumberland.”  Although it was only fifteen minutes away, the drive felt as though it doubled when I was tired.

“I don’t want you to drive me to Cumberland.  My choice depends on who will be where in Frostburg.”

Just as I had suspected.  Lena was too smart to admit it outright, but this was huge!   “Couldn’t you just make the plan then call Alec and tell him where we’re going?”
She stuck out her tongue but didn’t correct me.  “What are you planning on wearing tonight?”

“Does it really matter?”  I tended to rotate my slim “going-out” wardrobe between four different tops.

“Of course it does!” she gasped, appalled by my negligent attitude toward my wardrobe.

“But why does it matter?”

“Because if you’re hanging out with me then you have to look good.”

“Are our conversations going to mirror this one every week?”  We weren’t even halfway through the semester and this exchange was already getting tedious.

“That depends.”

“On what?  Whether or not I agree to go shopping every Thursday?”
“No.  It depends on whether or not you are going to come out with me everyThursday.”

“And if I don’t?  Does that mean we can stop talking about plans and outfits?”  I sincerely hoped so because both topics were irrelevant to me.

“First, may I point out that you were the one to ask about our plans?  And to answer your question: no.”


“No.  If you don’t come out with me then our conversations would be about plans, outfits, and how I’m going to convince you to join me.”

“You mean nag me?”  She was too good at nagging.  Come to think of it, was there anything Lena wasn’t good at?

“Same difference.  They all end up with my favorite result: Meredith and Lena out on the town.”

“You’re awfully confident in your ability to persuade me to come out with you.  There are still a lot of weeks between now and the end of the semester.”  Yet somehow the end seemed to be rapidly approaching.


Click HERE to continue reading…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: