#15

Olivia Gardner tapped lightly window of Tom Gibson’s garage apartment. He pulled back the curtain and grinned at her through the glass, and then slid it upward, ushering her inside. She could already smell the skunky stench of pot, and she could tell that Tom was a little more than dazed and confused.

“Glad you could make it,” he said, looking past her.

“It’s not like I had anything better to do,” she said, trying to seem like she didn’t care. That’s what her Cosmo had told her to do, anyway.

“You want some?” he said, holding up a smoking roll of brown paper. He took a long drag and smiled back at her.

Olivia sat down beside him on the stained couch. He leaned in close to her and put his arm around her. “I never thought I’d be hanging out with a nerdy chick,” he said.

Something turned in Olivia’s stomach.

“You kind of got that sexy librarian thing going,” he continued.

A part of her wanted to slap the joint out his mouth and throw a drink in his face. Another part of her wanted to make out with him for an hour and a half. She tried to compromise.

“For future reference, don’t call a girl a ‘nerdy chick’ or a ‘sexy librarian.’ If you want call me pretty, fine, I’d like that. I’m not a thing.” She heard her mother’s voice booming in her brain.

Tom’s face soured. The girls he dated never said anything like that to him. Was he dating Olivia Gardner?

Olivia smirked at him, feeling that she made some kind of dent. She took the joint from Tom and took a long drag. She felt light-headed and a little dizzy, but Tom put his arm around her, and it all seemed to stop. They passed the joint back and forth, getting closer each time. Olivia laid her head on Tom’s chest, and he let his head rest on top of her soft, brown hair. It was new for Olivia, and she felt silly for being happy at that moment. She never thought she’d be verging on the status of a Katherine Heigl movie.

While Olivia closed her eyes, Tom grinned. He was feeling pretty lucky himself.

***

Louise Falcone walked around her kitchen as she held the phone to her ear, waiting for her aunt to answer. She twisted the cord around her fingers, bored. She could have used her cell, but calling Aunt Magnolia from anything but a land line somehow seemed improper. She finally answered.

“Hi Aunt Magnolia, it’s Louise.”

“Louise, darling, how are you?” she said in her slow Southern drawl.

“I’m doing just fine. I wanted to tell you that, if you’re free, Michael and I would like to come down to see you and Uncle Vinton sometime next week maybe? We were thinking of leaving Friday afternoon. I’m not sure what Annette has planned yet, but I know I’d love to see you!” Louise felt a small, very small, stab of guilt for lying.

“Oh honey, that sounds just wonderful, just divine! I haven’t seen you girls in so long, and those husbands of yours! Oh, and Olivia, I just can’t wait. I’ll have the old place up and running again just like I used to, at least as good as I can get it!”

“I don’t want you to go to any trouble! Just be there with your arms ready for a big ol’ hug!” Louise almost gagged on her words.

“I can’t tell you what it means to me that y’all are coming down for a visit. I need my family around more than ever, and you girls are just going to be a blessing. I’ll call you soon, honey. Bye, bye!”

Louise felt nauseous, but not from guilt. She stared at the pile of envelopes on the desk. It seemed to get higher with each passing day. She considered taking the phone of the hook just to make the phone calls stop, at least temporarily. If getting back on her feet meant making an old woman happy for a few days, so be it. It would be good for everyone, right?

Louise leaned on the sink and looked out the window that sat above it. She smiled to herself. No matter what she had to do, she was going to make sure that she landed on top. Sometimes, people had to get hurt. Pain, she thought, is only temporary.

END

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