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Love Song
Chapter One

Today is Tuesday. I’m not really that fond of Tuesdays. They're quite

annoying actually. It feels like a Monday, nowhere near Friday, just preceding hump-day,

which if you ask me is an over-rated day of the week anyhow. So it’s a rainy Tuesday

afternoon and I'm meeting a friend for coffee at noon. She's ten years my senior but we

compliment each other well. I enjoy her tired outlook on life as she reveals my

exaggerated shortcomings. We laugh, we cry, it passes the time.

Her name is Eleanora. She hates her name. I think I would too. Nothing goes

well with the name Eleanora and people always end up calling you Ellie or Elena. It’s

unflattering. But I tell her, it’s just a name. I can be a bit less than comforting at times.

Nora, as she first introduced herself, and I met three years ago at a coffee shop

on 5th and Main, the same one we’ve been meeting at every Tuesday. And again, why

Tuesday’s I’ll never know. But it seems to fit- Coffee with Nora on Tuesdays. See?

Anyhow, the day we met, I was sitting alone of course, minding my own damn business

and reading Sense and Sensibility for the third time because in Graduate School they have

this preconceived notion that you haven’t read anything of substance until now. I was

intently immersed in the novel when she walked over to my table and asked to borrow the

empty chair next to me. I nodded yes without even looking up. Twenty minutes must’ve

passed before I raised my head and noticed she took the chair to her table, but no one was

sitting with her. I found it odd; however it was clearly my ignorance. She was trying to

get my attention. We shared glances maybe two or three times, then a smile. Then a “Hey

come over and say hi” nod. So with my annoyed, let’s-just-get-this-over-with mentality I

walked over and we began talking. In all of three minutes I learned she’s a Professor of

English at the University I was attending, mistakenly married once in her early 20's for

two years, has no children, blah blah blah, and just broke things off with her girlfriend of

eight months. That’s when I decided to start paying attention.

I wasn’t attracted to her at first. She bore the obvious look of a professor,
wearing conservative black pants and a white blouse. Her chocolate colored hair waved

with precise form as it rolled just past her shoulders. I did notice her lips at a rather

alarming rate. Guilty pleasure. She was way out of my league, plus I wasn’t looking for

anyone. I liked my little world, surrounded by high walls, lined with books and

exclusiveness. She was a talker too, instant turn off. Of course I enjoy listening, but at

some point I wanted to return to my world and forget ever meeting anyone. I’ve been told

this makes me look like a bitch, but oh well.

I proceed to tell her how I’m in my second year of Grad School and currently

reading this cardinal novel, again. We discuss the book for a bit then she turns the

conversation onto me. A topic I don’t carry well. But I continue by saying, twenty-five,

never been married, no kids, blah blah blah, and I can’t seem to keep a girlfriend for more

than 30 days. Consequently, we’ve been friends ever since.

So its noon on Tuesday and I walk inside the café to see her sitting at the bar

sipping on herbal tea. She’s on a no coffee kick. It annoys me. I walk over and joke how

she can never wait for me to order, then the waiter brings my coffee. Nora smirks.

I often think about the time we first kissed. It was a mere month after meeting

and one night we flirted with the idea of kissing. I must’ve looked at her lips a thousand

times before ours met. I simply admired the way she curved her words and the roll of her

tongue each time she said “love” or “later”. I would often make a point to get her a straw

each time she ordered an iced tea to-go so I could intentionally watch her pucker. I admit

it was an unhealthy obsession. Our first kiss wasn’t a complete mistake but awkward

nonetheless. The lighting wasn’t right, or perhaps the moon hung a tad lower in the night

sky this particular night. We didn’t speak for a week afterwards then met the preceding

Tuesday at the coffee shop. Without hesitation, the tension instantly ended. Seeing her

face again set my nerves at ease. She just has this look about her that feasibly resisted

confined anger. Hers soft lips, warm brown hair, hazel eyes and Italian blood with a

witch mother who named her beauty Eleanora.


I say we’re friends but we’re more than that. She’s such a confidante. My ex’s

have always been severely jealous of our relationship, hence the word “ex”. I compare

women unfairly, but everyone needs standards and Nora has set mine. Our minor

acquaintances constantly question why we’re not a couple. It gives us an excuse to share

the teased thought, but we continue our separate dating lives. One of her colleagues once

pointed out, “You know what they say, opposites attract.” I quickly retorted, “But never

last.” Though I pondered over what he said for a while. As everyone at the University is

aware of her sexual preference and makes no mind of it thanks to the liberal surroundings

I like to call reality. He often made reference to how natural we looked together despite

our obvious disparities. As if all matches made in heaven were brought together by

middle-aged math Professors.

Back to our habitual Tuesday, it’s a tad past noon as we sip on our respective

beverages. Nora is dressed in her usual power suit and me in my three year old jeans and

cardigan sweater. We never meshed aesthetically so I don’t know how people assumed

we were “together”. I loved being seen around her during school hours, her aurora always

made me feel important, even if I was just a lowly college student with big aspirations

she’s already succeeded times ten.

Although I’d never admit it, I secretly decided to stay in grad school because

of Nora. I loved school and only went because it was the only thing I could do well. But I

was beginning to realize the burden student loans were going to weigh on me. After

meeting Nora, it gave me even more of a reason to stay. I wanted to be interesting and

connected to Nora. I always had a fear she’d get bored with me. After all, I had a degree

but I chose to work as a waitress so I could focus on my pathetic music career. Ever since

I could remember, I dreamed of becoming a songwriter. Of course when you’re young,

anything seems possible. But after a few too many rejections, the dream started to fade

and music became a hobby.

Nora and I sat in silence for a few minutes, exchanging grins. But as usual, it
didn’t take long for her to float upon the topic of my new girlfriend, Lauren. “She’s

nice.”, I reluctantly offered with a smirk. I continued sipping on my coffee and tried to

change the subject.

“I want you to read my Ethics paper, I really want an A”.

“What’s wrong with this one, double jointed, webbed feet? You always avoid

talking about her.” Nora quipped.

“It’s about the glass ceiling. I wrote like fifteen pages and had to edit it down

to ten. I had no idea I was so passionate about feminism.” I quickly interrupted, assuming

she knew why I avoided talking about Lauren.

“You’re not…” Nora said and then paused before reading deeper into my

passiveness. “Oh my God, you told her...”

“Told her what?” I asked.

“You said the L word. Jesus, Avery!” she said.

“What! Give me a break. No I didn’t. Well, I almost did. And not after sex

either. We were at dinner and she did something cute, then the words just fell out. Well,

half of ‘em at least, enough for her to know what I meant.”

“Well, do you love her? Better yet, what was so damn cute it moved you from

‘She’s nice’ to ‘I love you?’

“Never mind.”

Nora began sipping on her stupid tea faster and faster. I could hear her

mumbling laughs in between gulps. I was frustrated and annoyed with my love life, as it

was always comical and never romantic.

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry. Seriously, I want to meet her at least.” She said.

“Um... No.” I stammered at the thought. I hated when Nora met my new

girlfriends, if they ever made it to that status. Nora is so intimidating at times its unreal.

She secretly revels at the thought of belittling my subordinate love interests. I find her

callousness enduring, must be the bitch in me because it runs everyone else off. Nora is

like meeting the parents for the first time. You dread it and then when it’s over you

wonder why you’re even with this person.

“C’mon Avery. I mean it. I’ll behave, especially since you love her. I can’t

help being protective, but I’ll behave. So tell me please, I have to know, what was so

cute?” She insisted.

“Alright, okay. We picked up pizza the other night from that insanely greasy

Italian joint down the street because I had too much to study and can’t exactly afford a

restaurant with plastic menu’s.”

”Anyways.” She pushed.

“Anyways, were were sitting around my coffee table eating our pizza and I

noticed she had picked up one of my notebooks and started drawing on the front of it. So

I asked her what she was doing. Well, when I looked down at the notebook she had

drawn little hearts with our initials in it. Before I knew it I blurted out with an ‘awe’, and

then I said it”.

“Wow” She said.


“That’s very ninth grade of you.”

“No its not! Well, yeah it is. Damnit Nora.”

She grinned, showing off her hidden dimple and all was forgiven. I’m so

weak, I thought. Here I am saying I love you to a ninth grader and one grin from Nora

wins my heart. I drank the last bit of my coffee and sighed aloud. It’s going to be a long

Chapter Two

It’s fall in Dallas and I couldn’t be in a better mood. No, not because I’m in

love, which I wouldn’t admit to even characterizing as viable reason to be happy. But

there’s just something about fall in Dallas. The city gives off a particular vibe when the

weather changes. Perhaps it’s just relief from the scorching summer’s we’re known for.

I was actually born in Oklahoma, and if you’ve ever been there, you’ll

understand why I moved to the city. Wide open spaces are just not for me. I left home

right after high school to go to college in Dallas. It was the best decision I ever made. My

mind was actually allowed to expand itself.

For what ever reason, this city and the newborn air brought out the best in me,

if that’s at all possible. Nora and I spent a lot of our time outside, which she hates

because the wind blows her oh-so-perfect hair out of place. She had a habit of

complaining about everything I enjoyed doing, reluctantly dragging her along. Yet,

underneath her disagreeable words, there laid an obvious expression of delight. She

would never let me know it, but I could see through her need to be mature, as she

shamelessly enjoyed sharing the mind of a self-indulgent girl in her twenties.

It’s Friday night, and Lauren and I are on our way to dinner at Nora’s house.

Nora offered to cook, which I quickly changed to ordering pizza because first of all, sit

down dinners are a death wish and secondly, Nora can’t cook. She thinks she can, which

is worse than being a bad cook and knowing it, sparing your house guests with

indescribably distasteful food. Actually, she can cook some things. Water if it needs to be

boiled, microwaveable items, which to her apparently means that everything from cheese

to steak can cook right at two minutes. I try to encourage her to read the box, but no, she

insists, “Two minutes should do it”.

We arrive around 7 pm. Lauren looks amazing in a silky black dress, which

enhanced her curly blonde hair. Nora knows I really don’t like blondes, so I expected to

get a look. I clinched Lauren’s hand and she quickly pries it loose. She’s nervous as well,
knowing I’m not a social person so this Nora chick must be something. Once we

approached the door I could hear music playing from inside.

“She loves classic rock. It’s an illness really.” I joke.

“Avery.” Lauren says as she leans in to kiss me. We share a moment locked

together. I feel better for a few seconds. The door opens before I can even reach for the

knob. I thought about knocking, but I didn’t want to act any different than I would

normally act if I were coming alone.

“This must be Lauren.” Nora said as she extends her hand. “It’s nice to finally

meet you”.

We begin to walk inside and I immediately smell pizza. I try to make a B-line

for the kitchen, but I’m quickly halted by Nora’s assertiveness.

“Wow, you are pretty.” Nora said to Lauren.

“Thank you”. Lauren replied.

“Don’t worry I’m not hitting on you.” she jokingly adds.

“Not yet…” I caustically remarked.

Nora gave me a ‘go to hell’ look and quickly turned her attention back to

Lauren. She figured playing nice was revenge enough.

“Avery!” Lauren loudly whispered at me, embarrassed by my evil sarcasm.

“Don’t mind her. She gets jealous sometimes.” Nora whispered as she reached

over to slide her hand down my face.

I immediately backed away. I don’t know why I was so annoyed at that

moment. I was acting like a thirteen year old girl, giving the brush off with my arms


“I hope you don’t mind take-out.” Nora said to Lauren as they both headed to

the kitchen. I wandered off to set the stereo to something more pleasing.

“Hell no. I’m so hungry. I was in four back-to-back meetings today and

couldn’t find time to grab anything to eat.” Lauren said.


“Avery tells me you work for a law firm?” She asked, pouring Lauren a glass

of red wine.

“Yeah I hate it but it pays well. Seeing as I was an art major, I can’t


“Oh yeah? Why art?”

“I was one of those idealistic kids fresh out of art school with dreams of

traveling to Rome. I’d paint at night. Sleep all day. Live off inspiration.”

“So what happened?”


I could hear them chatting and sharing stupid little laughs as if they really

enjoyed talking to each other. I went over to the stereo found a CD Nora despised and put

it on.

“Avery! I hate that CD!” Nora yelled from the kitchen.

I just smirked and headed pass the kitchen to the back porch.

“Come out here Lauren.” I gestured, continuing to ignore Nora.

We walked outside and she handed me a vodka seven. My new drink of


“You are acting like a little baby! But it’s cute.” Lauren said as she leaned in

to kiss me. I held on a little longer just to smell her neck. She wore the most amazing

perfume I never remembered the name of, though I’d seen the bottle a hundred times.

The aroma reminded me of fresh linen. Odd I know, but I couldn’t get enough of its taste

on her skin.

“Ouch! Avery, don’t bite!” she giggled.

“Sorry, you’re just irresistible tonight.” I said, moving my lips down the side

of her neck to her shoulder line.

“I better be irresistible every night.” said Lauren.

“Well I’m something because you love-“

I quickly interrupted those words as I saw Nora heading toward us from the

corner of my eye.

“Here, eat.” said Nora, handing me a plate of sliced cheese pizza.

She hates plain cheese pizza, but orders it for me. Nora loves everything super

sized and fully loaded. Pizza has to be topped with everything, women have to achieve

everything, you get the idea. We sat around the wooden table on the porch and ate in

silence for a few minutes. I took a moment to indulge the brisk fall air as I nibbled on my

pizza and watched Lauren rapidly pick at hers with a fork. I found it a bit dainty for a

lesbian, but cute. Apparently, it was a constant theme in our courtship.

I could tell Lauren was thinking about something though. She kept looking at

me as I ate, then at Nora with these squinty little eyes. Out of nervousness I would try not

to look at Nora, as she chewed on her folded slice.

“So are drawing hearts your specialty or do you dabble in anything?” Nora

asked with a leering grin.

“Nora!” I yelled.

“You told her that!” Lauren said with shock.

“I- Yeah, I told her that.” I said, knowing there was no way around it.

“It’s cool Lauren. I think its cute too.” said Nora.

Lauren sat there for a second, as if she were soaking it all in. I couldn’t tell by

the way she looked if it was shear embarrassment or rage provoking in her head. That is,

until she spoke.

“I get it. You bring girls here and taunt them for your pleasure. Not cool

Avery.” She said.

Lauren started to get up but stammered a bit. I could tell the wine was getting

the best of her. We’ve drank together before but I’ve never seen her get as riled up. She’s

usually a sleepy drunk.


“Wait!” I yelled, trying to stop her at the door. “That’s not it! You’re the first

woman I’ve brought here. Nora is a bitch, always trying push my buttons. It’s stupid. I’ll

ask her to stop. Please don’t go.”

I reached out to grab her by the shoulder but she shrugged me off. Nora got up

and met us in the kitchen.

“Lauren I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I can be a bitch

sometimes. I’m sure Avery warned you of my shortcomings.” She apologized.

Lauren took a deep sigh and began shaking her head. At this point I wanted to

give in. I’m not sure to what exactly, but it felt as though a moment was occurring where

I needed to confess. Again, to what, I didn’t know. Luckily, Lauren accepted Nora’s

terms and we resumed drinking our respective alcoholic beverages inside the living room.

Dinner was clearly over.

I grabbed Lauren’s hand and sat her down on the sofa next to me. We flirted

like little schoolgirls to the sound of Nora’s most hated CD, which she only owns

because of me.

“Why you insist on listening to this shit I’ll never know.” Nora sassed as she

joined us in the room with a fresh glass of wine.

“I might have to agree.” Lauren added.

“Oh what, it’s not cute?” I teased.

Lauren gave me the most beautiful look, as if I couldn’t do anything repulsive.

She obviously didn’t know me very well yet.

“This would be the perfect time to list Avery’s flaws, but I’ll be nice.” said


“Oh no-no, I wouldn’t mind hearing a few.” said Lauren.

“I don’t think so!” I interjected. “Boundaries Nora”.

“Well I think you two are cute together. Avery is so picky. I admire her

choice.” Nora said with a slight slur.

I returned Nora with a ‘what-the-hell?’ look. I had never seen her bounce

around topics so much. Usually she’s either bitchy or uninterested in the selectively few

women I’ve allowed her to meet.

“Thanks.” Lauren said. “Avery is different from the other women I’ve dated. I

can’t put my finger on it exactly. Maybe it’s because she hangs around you so much. She

has this mature flare. It’s attractive.”

“Thanks, I think.” Nora said.

Feeling oddly uncomfortable, I got up from the sofa to freshen my drink. The

moment called for indefinite alcohol consumption. Here I was giving in to the idea of

love and Lauren, yet this night continued to highly irritate me. I wanted to leave.

I watched Lauren and Nora talk from across the room and couldn’t help but

admire Lauren’s unforgivable beauty and forthcoming personality. She turned me on, as

she ran her hands down her crossed legs while she spoke. I watcher her lips each time

they reached her glass. I wanted to make love to her right then.

“Avery, are you going to join us tonight?” Nora yelled.

I could hear her whisper to Lauren afterwards that I, “...liked to drift off to

another room and hide when more than two people are present”.

“That’s not true.” I said, arranging myself dangerously close to Lauren.

“Yes it is.” Nora said. “You’re a hermit. Lauren has to sense that much.”

“Not in bed.” Lauren mumbled.

At that moment Nora rose from her seat and headed into the kitchen. Lauren

was trying her best to get my attention with succulent kisses on my neck, but I was

suddenly distracted by Nora’s actions. More so because I hate how every move she

makes draws my curiosity. Why did she leave the room? We’re we making her

uncomfortable? Did she just want more wine? I bounced around these thoughts as Lauren

made contact with my mouth.

“Let’s go.” She moaned in my ear.


I grinned widely and suggested we stay at bit longer. Lauren and I continued

taunting our need to submerse in a bout of love making until I realized a good amount of

time had passed since I last saw Nora. Granted, I was a bit tipsy and totally into Lauren,

but it wasn’t like Nora to disappear. Just then, Nora abnormally waltzed into the room.

Lauren giggled from beneath the hair by my neck and excused herself to the bathroom.

Nora was also undoubtedly buzzed.

I just sat there, darting peculiar looks, as she starred back. I started to get up to

change the CD to something more of her taste, but she abruptly stopped me with her hand

around my arm.

“Don’t.” She said in a soft, yet stern voice.

“Don’t what?” I asked.

I moved right past her and made my way to the stereo. As I flipped through

her retro CD collection I could suddenly feel someone very close to behind me. I thought

for a second it was Lauren, until I turned around.

Nora’s breath reeked of red wine and I could tell she drank too much, too fast.

Nora wasn’t really known for drinking a lot as she often made the claim it would ‘compel

her to speak the truth’. As our eyes met I began to feel an awkward dizziness. It turned

me on. Her eyes were red and seemed to have conjured some sort of liquid within them.

“I think I’m in love with you.” She said with a noticeable slur.

I could literally feel my heart sink then take a giant leap into my throat. I

couldn’t speak. Nora may have been drunk, but I sensed a hint of passion and

unprecedented confidence. As I looked into her bleeding eyes I sensed she couldn’t

believe she just uttered those very words. As love was such a strong yet gentle word that

can forever change one’s life. Just four little letters. Readily spoken by poets and literate

sorts or women of substance, and men whose fathers taught them to hug and carry a

feminine ease.

I stood before her in silence for a moment, almost waiting for her to burst into
laughter and say “Gotcha!” Instead, she kept speaking.

“I think I’ve always been in love with you. Seeing you with her, here… Oh

God, I need to sit down.” She said.

Just then, Lauren walked back into the room. All she could see was me at the

stereo holding a CD and Nora sitting on the sofa with her head in her hands.

“Is she okay?” asked Lauren.

I didn’t answer, but then Nora raised her head in an awkward pose and said, “I

think perhaps I’ve had too much to drink. I should probably go to bed.”

She rose from her seat and extended her hand to Lauren once again.

“Nice meeting you.” said Nora.

Lauren replied graciously and we grabbed hands to head out the front door. I

tried to give Nora one last look into her eyes as we left the doorway but she just wasn’t

having it. Her head was bowed down, broken almost, in a drunken state.

Not one word exited my mouth the rest of the night. Lauren spoke wildly the

whole ride home about random things I couldn’t begin to recall. The second we reached

inside my place, I grabbed her by the waist and proceeded to block out the evenings

events with foreplay and loud music. But my mind was on Nora. As my body

rhythmically moved against Lauren, tiny images of Nora popped into my head. I kept

thinking, what the hell just happened? Was it a joke? Was she just drunk? Guilt rose

within me as I realized where I was and who I was with. I quickly centered my attention

back on Lauren as she grew weary from intoxication and soon fell asleep across my


Chapter Three
Saturday morning came without warning. I wish I had a hangover. At least

then the proceeding night would be a blur. However it was not. It was as clear as the

awfully bright sunrise. I could feel Lauren breathing heavy next to me. Thankfully not

one part of her body was touching mine and I found this a perfect time to make my

escape. But to where? The fact that I wanted to escape meant something. I glanced over

at the clock. 6:52.am. Damn it was early. Course it would be a great time to grab some

coffee and fresh air. I slid out of bed to find no clothes around. I suppose we were

unearthed before even reaching the bedroom. I walked into the other room and there lied

my jeans and a crumpled brown t-shirt. It smelled of pizza and vodka but I didn’t care. I

dressed and proceeded into my tiny kitchenette to write Lauren a note- Gone for coffee

and bagels, be back A.S.A.P.

Where was I going? I knew where I wanted to go, but first, coffee. I grabbed a

small cup at the closest convenience store and then headed straight to Nora’s. As a sipped

on the strong brew, I could still hear Nora’s voice in my head from last night. “I think

I’m in love with you.”

Driving down her street, I still didn’t know what I was going to say. I didn’t

even know why I wanted to address it. I thought back at the time we once kissed on shear

curiosity and obvious driven emotions. I didn’t think twice about its mistake then, and we

moved on without ill-sorted feelings.

I’ll go ahead and admit it. I’ve been known to occasionally stare at her lips,

her eyes, the shape of her torso as she walks into a room, but it’s purely an animalistic

thing men do as well. Eye candy. She never looks at me that way, at least not to my

knowledge. I’m just a kid with mild ambitions that would never match her standards. I’m

a damn musician for God’s sake. No one as sophisticated as her would fall for a broke

musician. We think outside lines and reason.

I reached her front door and took out my key to open it. It was silent and

empty. I sensed Nora was no where in the house and headed toward the back porch. I

immediately noticed a familiar image sitting at the round wooden table. It was Nora. Her

legs were folded up as she rested her head upon her knees. A small cup of steaming tea

sat beside her on the table. I softly said her name but she didn’t respond.

“Nora?” I repeated.

She looked up at me with incredibly swollen eyes and made a slight attempt to

grin. I smiled back and searched for the right thing to say, or do. Nora looked back down

at the ground then began to stand up.

“Avery, I’m-.” She began to speak with a shaky voice.

At that moment, I don’t know what overcame me. There was just something

in her voice and the gentle October wind as it brushed wildly against her hair. Or maybe

it was the smell of familiar tea and her presence which always brought me such ease.

Whatever the reason, I rushed toward Nora and kissed her.

It wasn’t like our kiss before. It wasn’t like anything I had ever experienced.

She wasn’t sorry for what she’d said. Her lips revealed the truth. I took a deep breath as I

felt her taste my lower lip with her tongue. Nothing I had ever experienced with a woman

was nearly as sensual as this moment. Her hands slowly began to move and touch the

back of my neck. I could feel the chills rise as I began to lower my arms to her waist.

Before I realized it, we were moving into the house. I kept kissing her, never letting my

lips leave hers. I wanted her on the bed.

We finally made our way into the bedroom. It was barely lit due to her forest

green drapes across the window. I could still smell the aroma of tea. For a moment, while

at the foot of her bed, we looked into each others eyes. I had never been so shaken in all

my life. There we were- kissing, with passion and honesty. My heart wanted to hear the

words again. “I think I’m in love with you.” Only I didn’t hear them. I felt them.

The only thing I could muster up enough strength to say was, “Are you sure?”

Nora didn’t answer. Instead she took her thumb and brushed it against my

lips. We fell onto the bed and began to find ourselves inside each other’s body. She made
love to me in a way I’ll never be able to forget. Each time she would thrust within my

legs, tears would form. I never felt so good. It almost seemed sin to lust for her touch, her


An hour must’ve passed as we endlessly tried to avoid the silent seconds

following sex. However the moment inevitably came. We lied naked across each other in

her once perfectly arranged bed. I glanced over at Nora to notice her looking back at me

with an inflamed face. She wanted more. Though I wasn’t sure I had more to give. I took

a second to glance over at the glowing clock by her bed. 9 am. Shit.

“Lauren.” I mumbled.

“No, it’s Nora.” she said.

I began to rise from the bed to once again, find no clothes around me. I

grabbed the white sheet torn from her mattress and walked across the bedroom.

“I told her I went to get coffee.”

Nora laughed at my embarrassment and lies.

“I should get back.”

Nora laid there and watched as I rapidly dressed. Her demeanor soon changed

into shock as she watched me dress with agitation. I didn’t want to leave, but I couldn’t

stay. And even if I did stay, there was too much reality to face. I’ve never dealt well with


Nora could tell I wanted to say something as I walked out of her bedroom, but

I didn’t. I just left. Driving away from her house I thought about where I should go. But

before I could come up with something I ended up in the parking lot of my apartment.

As I entered my apartment, it was just as I had left it. Lauren was still asleep

in bed. Thank God, I thought. I didn’t even want to begin conjuring up a lie to explain

where I had been for so long. I quickly ran into the kitchenette to crumple up the note I

had left her. My mind was numb, unlike my body which felt on fire. I grabbed the coffee

pot from the counter and filled it to the brim with water. Then I reached above me into

the cabinet to obtain a can of coffee beans when I heard footsteps. It was Lauren.

Suddenly I became overwhelmed that my life was no longer few and far

between moments. They backed into each other like uneasy customers at a grocery check

out lane. I felt claustrophobic. Chaos never suited me. Though I claimed to be an artist,

free from form and symmetry, I highly regarded order and perfection. And right now,

neither Lauren nor Nora complimented those assets.

Lauren joined me at the kitchen table. Her body looked disheveled and hung

over. Perhaps she would want to leave. I grabbed an old newspaper to avoid looking at

her right away.

“Good morning.” I said, hiding behind the paper.

Lauren got up and walked behind me, brushing the hair away from my neck. I

could feel her breath as she leaned over to kiss my shoulder. I immediately jumped up. A

subconscious reaction nonetheless, yet lacking great discretion.

“What the…” She said.

“Coffee?” I asked, trying to steer her confusion.

“I’d rather have a kiss first.” Lauren said, as she walked over toward me.

Her lips tasted unusually sweet considering the whiff of morning breath I

caught before leaving earlier. As we kissed, I wanted to pull away. Perhaps it was only

the spoils and surfaced pleasures that kept me interested.

“Mmm.” She moaned. “I love this.”

“Love what?” I foolishly asked.

“Waking up to you.”

My thoughts instantly jumped to the lesbian tradition of ‘first date roses,

second date u-haul’. Call me old- fashioned, but I think you should get to know someone

first before committing to mutual living quarters. Hell, I’d even go as far to bring up the

forbidden marriage vows. A novel thought, but still ingenious.

I had to change the subject. “I’ve got the worst headache. Nora and her cheap
ass vodka. I think I’m gonna lie down for a while.”

“Okay baby. Let me know if you need anything.” She said.

Space would be nice, I thought. Though I did have a headache. An

excruciating one the size of Texas with two overzealous women occupying the county

line. I went over to the bare sofa and plopped down. Insane ideas began entering my

head, such as the thought that I should be enjoying this. Who wouldn’t? Two beautiful

women soliciting for my attention, isn’t there enough of me to go around? Yeah right. I

could only dream of being an easygoing playboy. It’s simply not in my nature to cheat.

Although technically, I just did. My headache worsened.

Lost in a sea of irrational thoughts, I completely disregarded the sound of the

telephone ringing. Lauren picked up. I jumped up from the sofa only seconds after

focusing in on Lauren holding the phone.

“Shit.” I whispered. “Who is it?”

“Nora.” She said.

Oh God, it’s over. She’ll tell Lauren and my ass is grass. Just then I noticed

her smiling.

“Thanks Nora.” She said to her. “Bye.”

“Well?” I asked.

“She was just thanking us for coming over last night. Nora’s pretty cool.”

“Yeah.” I faintly replied.

What in God’s name did Nora just call here for? And what if I picked up the

phone instead of Lauren? Was she really calling for that reason? I was starting to lose it.

“Feeling any better?” asked Lauren.

“I need some air. You want anything while I’m out?”

Here I go, leaving again. Only I didn’t want to go to Nora’s. And I didn’t want

to be at my apartment, especially with Lauren. Hell I didn’t even want to be in my own

skin right now. Lauren looked a bit confused, but nodded no as I walked out the door.

Right now I didn’t want anything near my body, as it felt tainted and abused. I knew it

was mostly done by myself, which disturbed me even more. I hated such imperfections

around me. Tattoos, piercing, scars, inflictions. Nora and I.

When I was ten, my father up and disappeared from my life. We were very

close and I looked up to him. But I was young and just innocent enough to fall subject to

the complications of selfish behaviors in adults. He left me and my mother to pursue his

own freedom. Subsequently, it explains why I’m so hell bent on being reliable and

consistent. Still, he was mine. His blood, his daughter, but that didn’t seem to matter. My

mother never spoke of his disappearance. I was raised not to ask why he left and to

simply believe his departure was answer enough and that was okay.

Lately I’ve noticed I leave anytime I sense heat or discomfort. I leave when a

crowd anticipates. I leave women, I leave ambition. I leave my own emotions from time

to time. I was an angry child after my father left. I was angry he left me without any

explanation. My mom thinks that’s why I’m gay. No male figure equals lesbian daughter.

I wish it were that simple.

One night, about two months after he left I decided to cut myself. The goth

girls in my math class were doing it all the time in the bathroom. They always looked like

they were suffering emotionally and the cutting was a way to release. So I went home and

locked myself in my room and cut myself with the tab of a coke can. I kept digging

deeper and deeper until I could feel something. By the time I did there was blood

dripping onto my bed.

I still have the scar. Its ugly and I hate looking at it. It just reminds me of how

stupid I was and how angry the very thought of my father made me. I never cut myself

again. I still refuse to have anything pierced or tattooed on my body. I hate imperfection.

It’s equivalent to chaos. Much like the situation I’ve found myself in with Lauren and

Nora. Chaos.

Hours passed and I refused to return to my apartment. I called though, from a

payphone just to see if Lauren was still waiting for me. She answered after only one ring.

“Where the hell are you?” She asked.

“I don’t know.” I said.

“What? How can you not know? Have you been drinking? Tell me where you

are and I’ll come get you.”

I hadn’t been drinking. I found myself aimlessly wandering around town and

truthfully I did know where I was, I just didn’t feel like divulging myself to Lauren.

Selfish, I know. I hung up the phone, leaving Lauren pissed and shaken. It was the most

disturbing thing I’ve done to her.

I desperately wanted to see Nora but the thought of our relationship changing

sparked distaste. That bitch, I thought. Trampling into my love life with such cocky

assurance, as if she knew I’d be hers at the end of the day. But I did have feelings for her.

Unmistakable feelings now that we’ve made love.


Chapter Four
I decided to let two days pass by. Allowing our sacred Tuesday’s to speak for

itself. When the morning arrived she was a no show at the coffee shop. I waited a while

then went across the street to see if she’d ever show. And she did. Nora paraded into the

place, absolutely confident I would be there. But I wasn’t. Yet, she waited, for almost two

hours. Wearing her best black pant suit as her hair delicately swept around her neck. It

was hard to resist the temptation to run across the street and into her arms.

This game of Lauren or Nora felt absurd. Like a trite box office romantic

comedy. Will she choose the free- willing former art major or the well versed English

professor? Easy, right? Of course she chooses the professor. They have history and

Lauren seems a tad one-dimensional. However, romance would change the dynamics of

her friendship with Nora. No longer can they innocently flirt or allow ‘what ifs’ to drive

momentum. It becomes the real thing and there’s no turning back. When did my life

become so trite?

Obviously I knew Nora waited for me for two hours because that’s how long I

sat across the street watching her until she finally left the café. At this point I had to run

after her. I missed her. I missed what we had. Didn’t she know this would happen? Don’t

they teach you this in college? If you tell your best friend you love her, it’s probably

gonna freak her out!

Ultimately I decided to leave well enough alone and head back to my

apartment only to find Lauren had left roses on my doorstep. Cute, I thought. I grabbed

the bouquet and went inside. When I went into the kitchen I could see the light on my

answering machine flashing. I pressed play and walked over to the cabinet to retrieve a

vase. No vase. An old oversized Styrofoam cup will have to do.

“Avery it’s me. Look, I don’t know what’s up with you. I told you a long time

ago I don’t play games.” Lauren said on my machine. “I hope you’re alright. Bye.”

Two more messages followed with the same roundabout words. Then the last

message played.

“Avery, it’s Jack. Mom’s in the hospital. She’s been in an accident. You need

to come home. Call me as at this number as soon as you get this.”

I dropped the cup of roses and stood stunned as the water from my faucet ran

uncontrollably hard. I didn’t hear the number my brother left. All I could recall was that

mom was in an accident. And even as I heard the very words aloud, my first thought was

that it couldn’t be true. She’s a mom. My mom. Mom’s don’t get in accidents. They live

forever, right?

I turned off the water and went over to my machine to get the number Jack left

and immediately called him. The phone didn’t ring long.

“Jack? It’s Avery.”

“Thank God Avery. Where have you been? I left that message yesterday.

Mom was in a car accident, you need to come home. She’s not doing well-“

I cut him off before he could say anything more. I couldn’t handle hearing

anything bad about mom. Jack has always been able to handle tragedies better than I.

He’s the rock in our family. I’m the lesbian and he’s the rock.

“I’m on my way.” I replied with urgency.

An hour and a half bus ride later I found myself back home. Norman,

Oklahoma. The home I ran from to find reality. Now reality was starring me straight in

the face. Jack was waiting outside the station in his precious BMW. I hated that car and

everything it stood for, but it’s not his fault he’s good with money and I’m good, without

so much money.

I slipped inside his car without saying a word. He looked awful, rugged

almost with a three o’ clock shadow and wrinkled attire. About half way down the

freeway he finally spoke.

“It’s good you came.”

“Of course I would, its mom.”

“No, I mean its pretty serious Avery.”

“Don’t... Let me just see her first.”

We pulled up in the hospital parking lot and found a spot near the Emergency

Door. As we got out of the car, Jack tried to prepare me for the worst. But I blocked him

out as I began to recall how much I loathed hospitals. I hated the sterile smell and gloom

of illnesses. I’ve been very fortunate to have never broken any bones or undergone any

major surgeries, which is probably why I’ve conjured up such a stigma about hospitals.

We walked down several long hallways before reaching her room. When we

finally arrived at her door, my throat began to close up. As we entered I could see my

step-dad, Joe, standing at the foot of her bed. I immediately walked over to look at mom.

Her eyes were closed and she was hooked up to several beeping machines. I didn’t want

to ask how serious it was or what even caused this to happen.

“Is she conscious?” I asked.

“At times. And she’s asked for you.” said Jack.

“And a cigarette too.” My step-dad Joe added.

Those damn cigarettes. I hated the smell, not to mention the taste. Like every

other curious pre-teen, I too tried my hand at a Marlboro red. I sucked in, coughed it out

and that was that. Mom, on the other hand love to drag till the butt ran dry. It followed

heavy with her laid back personality and sinister commentary.

I grabbed her hand and began to uncontrollably cry. I could feel Jack behind

me, touching my shoulders in comfort. We stayed in this position for what felt like an

eternity. Flashes of Christmas dinners and random childhood memories came rushing

back. My thoughts were quickly interrupted by the sound of my step-dad’s deep voice.

He abruptly excused himself to get some rest, as he had been with mom non-stop for two

days. Jack tended to walk him out.

“Will you be alright?” Jack asked.

I nodded and stood up for a moment.

“Talk to her.” He said and then walked out of the room.


I thought about what to say aloud. I wanted to tell her I was sorry for leaving

home. I should’ve never been selfish in wanting to pursue my dreams. I felt so small and

helpless, as the only thing she ever wanted to do was love me, but I ran and rebelled.

“I love you mom.” I whispered through tears and a broken voice. “It’s funny a

few days ago I was stressing over a stupid class paper and walking around like my

problems were the worst thing in the world.”

I stopped to catch my breath. I couldn’t even tell her in an unconscious state

what was truthfully mulling around inside my mind.

“I don’t want to lose you mom.”

Suddenly I felt her hand move as I continued to embrace it.


Jack entered the room about the time she made a faint move.

“Jack she’s moving!” I said.

“I’ll call for a nurse.” he said.

He reached above her bed and pushed a button which apparently summoned a

nurse’s assistance.

“Avery here’s your cell phone. It was in the passenger’s seat, you must’ve

dropped it.” He said, handing me the phone.

I didn’t even know I had it on me. I must’ve put it in my pocket this morning.

I glanced at the screen to see if it was on, but it wasn’t. Oh God, I thought and said aloud.


“What is it?” asked Jack.


The nurse walked in as mom started to open her eyes. Jack began speaking to

the nurse as she checked on mom. I didn’t want to listen to them ramble on about her

condition. I know it was shear denial working overtime, but it protected my heart. I

starred at mom, watching her slowly come into focus with her surroundings. I continued
to grasp her hand. The only thing I heard the nurse say was “Let her rest”, and then she

left the room.

Mom didn’t make any more conscious movements that night. She fell back

into a slumbered state. I sat beside her for hours with Jack as we watched her breathe. It

was comfort enough. As the sun rose, we both craved for some sort of a stimulant. Jack

encouraged me to get some coffee and a bite to eat so I could stretch my legs a bit. I

wasn’t too keen on the idea of leaving mom or walking around the hospital, but I listened

to my brother without arguing for once and stepped outside the room. I walked down the

well lit hallway and reached my hands in my back pocket for cash, but felt my cell phone

instead. I turned it on, with the intention to call work and explain what’s going on. A

voice mail icon immediately popped up, so I checked my mailbox first. There were four

messages from Lauren, one hang up and none from Nora. I deleted each one before

Lauren could finish saying “Hi it’s me” and promptly called work. My boss naturally

understood, and then I turned off my phone. To even think about Lauren or Nora felt


I finally reached the lounge and ordered two coffees. As the cashier handed

me the change, I glanced over my shoulder and noticed how incredibly quiet it was in the

lounge. Doctor’s, visitors, the janitor, all pierced with silence as they checked their

pagers and turned magazine pages. My mind shifted to school. I should probably leave a

message with my professors as well. Hopefully they’ll understand. I began to make my

way back to the room and just as I opened the door, I heard Jack’s voice. Mom’s eyes

were open.

“Come here Avery” He motioned.

I put the cups down on the small table by her bed and raced over to see her


“Mom?” I whispered.

“Mom, Avery’s here.” Jack softly spoke.


She slowly rolled her eyes over in my direction. I could see them filling up

with tears, as were mine. A faint grin appeared on her face. It wasn’t what I was

expecting. Mom was frail, immobile. The pain appeared to assail her body as she let out

tiny moans and sighs. Then her eyes shut.

“It’s okay now, she knows you’re here.” Jack said

Hours passed and we didn’t really talk much. For comfort, I watched mom’s

chest slowly rise and fall. Then Jack finally let out a question that was obviously brewing

inside him for hours.

“Don’t you even wanna know what happened?”

I looked into his eyes as he stood up from the chair and walked over to the


“It was a fucking drunk driver. Only nineteen years old. Can you believe that?

If I had seen the bastard there I would’ve killed him.

“Seen him where?”

“It wasn’t but a few blocks from her house. She was on her way back from the

grocery store- to buy cigarettes. God damn cigarettes. How is this anyway to-“

I quickly stopped him from saying “die”.

“She’s not going to Jack.”

“Avery… Fuck, I don’t know.” He said, starting to break down.

I walked over to him and grabbed his arms to hug me. We embraced for a

moment and I could feel my big brother cry on my shoulder for the first time in our lives.



“You curse too much.”

“Shit, I know.”

We shared a teary smile and I turned my attention back to mom’s breathing.

“So how’s your love life?” He surprisingly asked.



“I don’t think this is the time for that.” I loudly whispered.

“Oh come on. My life is boring. Plus you know how mom loves hearing about

your little lesbian dramas.”

“I don’t have lesbian dramas.” I said in an agitated tone.

“Yeah but everyone around you seems to have them.”

“Oh you mean like threesomes or a ménage a trois?”

“Yeah, like that.”

“Jack, they mean the same thing.”

“Well at least tell me how Nora is doing. I’m surprised she didn’t come…”

“Hey, could you hand me my coffee please?” I asked, trying to change the


“Well?” Jack probed as he handed me the cup.

“I don’t want to talk about that right now.”

“Why? You always want to talk about Nora. Did you two have a little tiff or


“Something like that.”

“Oh, wait, aren’t you dating some new chick?”

“Jack I swear. You need a girlfriend.”

He raised an eyebrow at my factual comment and took a sip of coffee. Jack

said nothing more, sensing my apprehension to talk about such meaningless things. He

then grabbed a chair and slid next to the bed. I leaned back in my chair and unknowingly

closed my eyes.

Nora, I thought, I missed her. I began to think about making love to her. I

thought about her face as we consumed the bed with gasps and moans. Her eyes haunted

me, as they would squint with each thrust of my hand inside her thighs. God, I’m terrible,

thinking about sex at a time like this.

Why did this have to happen with Nora now? Right when I needed her, as a

friend. I didn’t need this lingering thought of her. Especially of wanting her, to grab the

back of her neck, pulling her insanely close and tasting her tongue, her mouth. Damnit

God, make it stop. I’m in a hospital room with my ailing mother thinking about Nora’s

skin. As always, she consumes me.

“Mom?” Jack said, interrupting my thoughts.

I shot up from the seat to see her eyes open, starring at me. She smiled and so

did I.

“Jack, go get someone!” I said in a dramatic fashion.

However, just then a nurse entered the room. She casually moved around the

bed, checked the machines, then spoke a few ritual words and left.

“The doctor will be in soon.” The nurse said, as if we were waiting for the all

mighty presence of Jesus to appear and perform a miracle.

Mom made a few tiny adjustments then cleared her throat.

“Don’t try to talk mom.” Jack said.

“Jackie.” Mom said in a raspy tone. “Shut up”.

We both smiled. Seconds later the doctor entered the room. He made an

obvious entrance, clad in a white coat and clipboard. I swore I heard angels chime as a

bright light shone down on him from the heavens. I must’ve subconsciously rolled my

eyes because I could see Jack out of the corner of my eye giving me this bewildered look.

“How are we feeling Mrs. Roberts?” The doctor loudly roared.

“I need a cigarette.” She mumbled.

“Not a good idea.” He said, checking her vitals.

The doctor turned his back to mom and asked which one of us he should talk

to about her condition. Jack spoke up and they quickly walked outside the room. I found

it disturbing but I was too distracted by mom’s alertness to care. I walked over to her and
sat down on the bed.

“Where’s Nora?” She promptly asked.

“Not here.” I quipped.

“Drama.” She sassed back.

I smirked at her humor, as she always reminded me where I got my jaded


“Avery, I need to tell you something.” Mom grabbed by arm then continued.

“I want to tell you how proud I am of you.”

“Mom.” I said trying to stop her.

“You’ve always been special Avery. I never tell you that. And don’t be like

Jackie. God love him but he’s such a –“, mom paused for a moment and let out a long

moaning sigh.


“Quit being so scared Avery.” She said in between sighs.

What mom said startled me. I was scared, but for more reasons than she

realized. I had no idea where it came from but it was as if she could hear my lifelong

internal battle ticking away. It was as if God was speaking through her to me, reaching

out for some reason, perhaps to bring us closer. It gave me hope.

I smiled at mom as we held hands. Then I heard the door open behind me, but

I didn’t turn around, assuming it was only Jack. Yet I noticed mom was making a

peculiar face at the person behind me so I turned around. It was Nora.

“Jack called me.” She stuttered.

Nora wouldn’t move away from the door. She looked frozen. My eyes were

fixated on her, until I heard mom’s voice.

“Go.” I unmistakably heard mom say, as I looked at her with awe.

Mom always knew she was just different than any other woman in my life.

Something in her eyes, she would say, something honest. But I always ignored her,

believing she was just trying to get someone older to tame me.

“I’m not leaving mom!” I stated with tears gathering in my eyes.

“I should go.” said Nora.

I didn’t try to stop her. I couldn’t think about this right now. It was bad timing

on her part. I needed her, but it instantly hurt inside to see her right now. Nora walked out

just as Jack walked back in.

“Why did you call her?” I asked Jack.

“Why not, it’s Nora.” He innocently replied, and then his attention was

quickly diverted to mom.

“Hi mom.” Jack lovingly spoke as he walked over to her side to sit down.

I rose from my place by her to let him in. Then I walked clear across the

room, allowing them to have a moment.

“I’m thirsty.” Mom stated as she motioned her hand to her mouth.

I nodded then noticed there wasn’t an empty cup around so I headed out of

the room. However I didn’t make it far. Nora was standing against the wall by the door. I

didn’t notice her sullen look when she first entered the room. Nora’s eyes were swollen

with dark enveloping circles surrounding them and her hair was pulled back in an

unflattering ponytail.

We stood there starring at each other for a moment. She looked worse than I

felt, but something still radiated in her eyes. Something I could never resist since the day

we met. Nora knew me. She knew my will and strength, and she knew I had neither to

rely on right now. It’s a powerful thing to have someone know you more than you know

yourself at times.

“Come here.” Nora said as she reached in to hug me.

I fell into her embrace and completely broke down. She held me, wiping my

tears as they uncontrollably fell onto her cheek and neck. She smelled amazing, dripping

of lavender and familiar green tea. It delightfully offset the horrible hospital aroma.
Granted, I never really liked the smell or purpose of lavender, but today it gave new

meaning. It stirred emotions I wasn’t ready for, yet couldn’t ignore.

“You know I had to come.” She softly spoke near my ear.

Her love felt good. It felt right in this moment, but I pulled away.

“Water.” I said. “Mom wants some water”.

I walked off in a trance. When it rains it pours, I thought. I found security in

my goal to obtain a drink for mom. Perhaps if I focused on the small things I wouldn’t

get lost in the big picture. As I walked down the hallway I could hear mom’s words

lingering in my head. “Quit being scared.” I hated that she was right. It felt as if she saw

me for the first time. Suddenly, I wanted more from her. More words of wisdom, so to

speak. I wanted to give her my thoughts and heart felt words as well.

Racing back from the lounge with a bottled water I formed a stable smile as I

reached her door. Jack, Joe and Nora were all standing around mom’s bed. I walked over

to her and raised the cup to her lips. She sighed with relief. The sensation of cold must

have momentarily awakened her senses.

“Mom I want to tell you that…” I paused, looking around the room. “Um, can

I have a moment alone?”

They began to walk out of the room but for some reason unknown to me, just

as mom grabbed my hand, I stopped Nora from leaving.

“Nora, stay. Please.” I asked, as mom tightened her grip around my fingers.

She nodded and walked over to the window. I looked back over at mom and she

whispered the words “water”. I raised the cup again, but this time she didn’t appear so

enthralled by the taste.

“Mom, I love you.” I managed to say with a quiver in my voice. “I don’t think

we tell each other that enough. And I know how much your going to make fun of me later

for this but-“

“Quit being afraid.” She said again.


“What do you mean?” I asked, wondering why she kept repeating herself.

We both paused for a moment. I could hear her hesitating to speak, as her

breathing began to rapidly decrease. I knew I should probably get attendance for her, but

I didn’t want to leave her side.

“Where’s Jackie?” Mom asked, but I didn’t hear her words.

Nora walked over to me and placed her hand on my shoulder. “Avery, she

asked for Jack.”

I jumped up and quietly excused myself out the door to retrieve Jack. He was

patiently waiting with my step dad, sipping on what smelled like tea.

“Jack she wants to see you.” I said. “I’ll wait out here”.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

I nodded yes and watched as Jack and Nora passed each other at the doorway.

“Are you okay?” Nora asked, apparently not hearing Jack ask me the same


I nodded again then slid my back down the wall, hitting the hard tile with a

dull thump. Seconds later I began to hear a faint ringing in my ear. However it was

quickly interrupted by Jack swinging the door open and dashing down the hall. The

ringing in my ear soon became obviously known, as it was clearly coming from mom’s

room. I stood up and turned to look inside. A familiar doctor nearly pushed me out of the

way to get to her bed. Two nurses then met up with the doctor with a cart of gadgets.

I am not witnessing this. This is not happening. She is not going to –, my

thoughts were soon interrupted. Everything slowed down all at once. It felt like I had

entered a scene in a movie. Mere seconds later, the room was silent. The doctor turned

toward Jack and softly stated, “I’m sorry”. The nurses placed a sheet across mom’s chest

then verbalized a request from us for time before they take her away.

This is when I wake up. At least that’s what I kept thinking. She can’t be

gone; she was just talking to me. As the doctor left we stood around her bed like statues.
A religious figure shortly entered the room, a priest perhaps. He walked over and spoke

to Jack.

I raised my eyes to see Nora in shock. At first I thought she dare not come

near me. She dare not try to touch me. However, to my surprise, her eyes swelled to tears

in a matter of seconds and she slowly backed out of the room, allowing a nurse to walk


My step dad reached over and gently led me to mom’s side. She wasn’t cold,

or purple, or stiff. She looked asleep, peaceful. She was gone. Jack’s predictions

remained to be true. Maybe he knew something I didn’t know. I grabbed her limp hand

and placed it across her stomach.

Tears began to pour down my cheek and onto her bed. I collapsed on her

chest, sobbing like a fitted child. I felt someone’s hands on my back, but there was

nothing left of me to console. I lied on her lifeless body until a nurse came in to take her


I never said goodbye. It was almost as if I wasn’t supposed to let her go. I’m

sure it never feels right to let go of a loved one. But I wasn’t supposed to let her go that

night, at least not in that way.


Chapter Five
One year later.

The day after her funeral I took a bus back to Dallas. When I walked into my

apartment, the phone was ringing. It was Lauren. I didn’t tell her anything that happened,

but I did break up with her. She wanted an explanation but I couldn’t give her one. I just

didn’t need that in my life right now.

A few days went by before I clearly realized I hadn’t heard or seen Nora since

the night at the hospital. I wanted to call her but I simply didn’t have the energy to reach

out. Besides, wasn’t she supposed to be consoling me or was that too presumptuous?

Still, I didn’t call her or try to find out what was going on. I just figured eventually she’d

call or come by.

A week later I still hadn’t heard a word from her. Then two weeks. My

depression quickly turned to anger. Where the hell is she and why hasn’t she called me?

It didn’t seem in her character to just disappear. So I went to her house, but she wasn’t

there. I went to the coffee shop, still no sight of her. That’s when I began to worry. I

figured if anyone had seen Nora it would be someone at the university. But after talking

to one of her students who recognized me, I was informed she just left the school a few

hours ago.

What the hell? My head was literally spinning. Fuck her, I thought. I decided

this was the perfect time to make irrational decisions. People always make terrible

decisions after a crisis occurs. Why did I have to be the exception? So after two weeks of

losing my mother, not hearing or seeing Nora, I decided I needed to get away from this

place, and fast. So I did the most illogical thing I could of at the moment. In a matter of

two days I quit Grad school and my job then bought a one way ticket to New York City.

Only two people in my life knew I wanted to live there one day, my mom and Nora. They

both used buy me maps and tour guides to the city, perhaps knowing it was probably the

closest I’d ever get.

The thing no one knew was that I had been secretly saving up money since

high school. I always had this thought in the back of my head that if anything ever went

haywire in my life, I’d move to New York. Why not? Of course I never thought that

would happen. The craziest thing I ever did, according to my mom, was move to Dallas, a

mere hour and a half away from home. And still, everything felt about the same. I went to

school in the day and worked on my music at night. Even after meeting Nora, my life still

felt ordinary. Nothing was truly drastic or life altering. But perhaps it was because I never

allowed it to become anything bigger. I liked routine and scheduled occurrences. It

worked for me, until now.

Along with the actual money to move to New York, the motivation came after

selling three of my songs to a popular recording artist. After mom’s death, I dove

relentlessly into a creative stint. Our last conversation constantly rang in my

subconscious, driving me to follow my heart and not my head. Consequently, I lost my

mind, quitting Grad School and every other rational responsibility I owned before her

death. But I did gain a new lease of life. I think.

So its one year later, Tuesday night, and I’m starring at the keys on my

upright piano. It barely fits into the tight corners of the loft I share with two Wall Street

conservatives, Michael and Robert. They reluctantly rented me the space, knowing a

musician wouldn’t fit their suit and tie persona, but I convinced them with a simple trade-

a room in exchange for home cooked meals and constant fresh coffee. Proving once again

my theory that a college degree still couldn’t hold a candle to the years I worked as a

lowly waitress.

I’ve been trying to write a new song for a few hours now, but nothing is

coming together right. I wanted to get up, but I knew if I did I’d never make it back to the

piano, at least not tonight. But I got up anyway and headed out the door. There was a

billboard just down the street from my building that always caught my eye as I passed it.

It read: When no one’s home and the lights are on. New York Electric Co. I had

absolutely no idea what it meant, which drove me crazy as much as it intrigued me. As I
looked down from starring at the billboard, I saw Michael and Bobby walking toward me.

“Hey you!” Michael said.

I nodded and smiled.

“We’re headed to the Roadhouse, wanna come?” Bobby said.

“Yeah, sure.”

“Good because we were coming to drag you away from that piano anyway.”

Bobby said.

We walked a few more blocks then entered our local hotspot and sat at the

bar. They ordered drinks for themselves, knowing I hate it when someone orders for me.

So I call up for a beer.

“Avery, you know we love you, but were concerned about something.”

Michael started.

“We’re afraid you’ve become one of us.” Bobby said.

I looked at them with shear confusion as I sipped on my drink.

“You’re boring honey.” Michael continues, “You’re a twenty-eight year old

successful songwriter…”

“Lesbian…” Bobby interjects.

“Twenty-eight year old lesbian songwriter, who lives in the most eclectic city

in the world and you’re boring.” Michael said.

“We’ve known you for about a year now, and I think it’s time we intervene.

Now don’t kill us, but I know this chick…” Bobby said.

I quickly interrupted by spewing what little drink I had left in my mouth onto

Bobby’s tie.

“Chick?” I raged.

“Girl.” Bobby said.

“Woman.” Michael corrected. “And she’ll be here any minute”.

“You’re fucking kidding me.” I began to delightfully tear into them.


“There she is!” Bobby said, pointing across the room.

I began to rise from the barstool to leave, but Michael quickly apprehended


“Wait, just meet her. Please? You don’t have to marry her, just talk to the girl.

And I promise we won’t ask you to make out for us.” He joked.

I sighed and sat back down. Michael had such a gentle way of putting things.

Besides, I rather I appreciated his twisted humor.

“So who is she anyway?” I asked.

“She’s a singer.” Bobby said.

“Really? Wait, how do you know a singer?” I asked.

Just then an intriguing figure entered our presence. She greeted Bobby first,

with a warm hug and kiss on the cheek. I initially fought back my interest or attraction

rather, to her. There was no other way to describe her but to say that she looked like a

movie star. A starlet glow surrounded her appeal.

“Avery, this is Lisa. The girl I’m seeing.” Bobby said, leaning in toward me.

Ah, what heartache, I thought. I was already mad crushing on this mysterious

Lisa. We shook hands and my apparent disappoint must of lit the dim bar. Moments later,

another woman walked up to our growing party. Bobby introduced us and intentionally

sat her next to met, even though I was standing up out of shear discomfort. I’m sure it

seemed rude, but I kept starring at Lisa.

“This is Sydney. Sydney, Avery. Avery, Sydney.” Bobby casually introduced.

I graciously nodded and shook her hand. She wasn’t my type or maybe I was

just being a jerk. She was short with choppy hair like a wannabe rock star and messy

clothes. Come to think of it, I probably didn’t care much for her appearance because she

looked too much like me at the time. I couldn’t tell from the lowlights if her eyes were

pretty or her teeth were straight, but as we caught awkward glances of each other I could

tell she was squinting to find out the same things about me.
“So, do you know why your really here?” I whispered to her.

“Blind date.” She immediately responded. Her attitude of agitation appeared

to mirror mine.

“So I’m sure there are about twenty other things you’d rather be doing right

now.” I said.

“Yeah.” She said with a laugh. “Well, it’s just that I don’t date”.

“Oh yeah? Then why are you here?”

“Well of course Robert didn’t mention a girl, but then I saw you and…”

“Put the two and two together.” I said, completing her sentence.

She let out a tiny giggle and I starred at her features for a moment. She was

wearing this faded blue jean jacket, covering some bluish graphic tee and baggy jeans.

She could have easily been mistaken for a young boy, but I’m not one to talk. There was

a time during my early teens that I experimented with short hair. People didn’t know

whether to call me sir or hand me crayons and a kids menu.

Sydney seemed nervous, it was kind of cute. She kept rubbing her hands

together and glancing over at me to see if I was looking at her.

“So, Robert tells me you wrote that song playing on the radio a hundred times

a day.” She asked.

“Yeah.” I sheepishly answered.

“Wow. I thought maybe it was something he made up to interest me.”

“Why’s that?”

“I’m a singer, at a nightclub down the street”.

“Funny. I thought that was something he made up to interest me. So what kind

of music do you sing?”

“Anything really. I take a lot of requests so it’s mostly cheesy 70’s stuff. The

owner likes to hear Jazz standards, but when he goes on break I’ll slip in something

original or Madonna, just to throw everyone off. It’s fun, and it pays the rent.”

“Wow, I would’ve never guessed…” I continued to look at her with this

baffled face.

“Well you don’t exactly look like a songwriter.” She smirked.

“What does a songwriter look like?”

We shared a laugh, as she curiously didn’t answer my question. She was

interesting, I thought. I’d love to hear her sing, but I wasn’t about to go there. So,

naturally I changed the subject.

“So how do you know Bobby?” I asked.

“He’s my brother.” Sydney said.

She completely caught me off guard with that answer. Hearing her say the

word brother made me think of Jack. And thinking of him instantly sent me into an

alternate state. My mind shot through images of mom. This usually only happens when I

tap into writing music. It’s as if she grabs me into her world. A world where I am led by

something I can’t control. I shut everything and everyone out then begin to write and lose

reality. But I never had this happen while I was with someone. Why was she reaching out

now? Maybe I’m supposed to leave. Women are drama. She was always right about that

and I finally decided to listen.

“Avery?” She asked, wondering why I looked as if I’d left the planet.

“I need to go.” I said, getting up from my seat. “It was nice meeting you.”

I patted Bobby on the back and he whipped around with a puzzled look. I

could faintly hear his voice call out my name as I walked away. I went home that night

and finished the song I started writing hours ago. A week later my agent called saying

some up and coming singer was interested in my music. I gave him the one I’d written

that night.
Chapter Six

“I’ve decided to forgive you for ditching my sister last week.” Bobby said

over the phone. He played with my emotions for as long as he could get away with it on

this one.

“Whatever Bobby.” I retorted. “Go back to work. I’ll see you tonight”.

“Dinner?” He innocently asked.

“Yes, I’ll cook.”

“Cool. Love you.”

“Uh-huh. Bye.”

He meant well, as men always do. Besides, I was in a forgiving mood; Jack

was coming to town for a few days to visit. We stayed in touch more often since mom’s


Eight o’ clock rolled around fast. Michael came home first and I gave him the

message Lisa would be here for dinner as well in about an hour. I was a bit enthralled she

was coming to dinner. Eye candy. Even as raw at that sounds, I can still look right?

Thirty minutes later I heard a knock at the door. It was Jack. We shared a hug and a few

girlish screams for laughs. I missed him a lot. We walked into the kitchen and chit-

chatted as I finished cooking dinner. It wasn’t but five minutes into our conversation

before a very loud Bobby walked into the door. Following him was none other than

Sydney. This night would go down as the night I became the biggest asshole anyone had

ever seen.

“Shit.” I whispered, throwing a marinara soaked spoon into the sink.

“What is it?” asked Jack.

Bobby and Sydney rolled in and greeted Jack. I ignored them both. Syd tried

to say hi but I just nodded. We sat down for dinner just as Lisa entered. I purposely gave

undivided attention to her, which also gave me an excuse to indecently flirt. She was

sweet about my advances, such as leading her with my hand on her back and pulling out

her chair before Bobby could do it. Over dinner, several conversations ensued, none of
which I engaged. However I chimed in when the moment allotted time for me to throw

out a few derivative comments.

When everyone finished eating, I started to clear the table. For some reason,

even after my obvious attempts to shun her, Sydney felt obliged to help.

“I got it.” I said, grabbing the plates from her hands.

She quietly surrendered and walked off into the other room.

“Quit being such a bitch.” Jack said as he took the plates out of my hands.

“Go talk to her.”

“I don’t want to!” I groaned like a child.

“Quit pouting. I know what you’re doing.” He said.


I raced past everyone socially in the living room I walked out on to the

balcony. Stashed behind a potted plant were a pack of cigarettes. I started occasionally

smoking after mom died. The smell of tobacco eased my mind more than the nicotine

did. As I lit it the cigarette, I sensed a female figure standing opposite of me.

“I didn’t know you smoked.” Syd said through the white haze of her own


“I don’t.” I said.

“So did you come out here for help?”

“Help with what?” I asked.

“Help to pull that stick out of your ass.” Syd mocked.

I coughed out of shock while exhaling the smoke. Brassy, I thought, I like


“It’s okay. I know you’re not interested. Neither am I. Plus, I told you, I don’t

date.” She reiterated.

“Yeah, I remember that.”

“Besides, you’re not my type.”


“What’s your type?”

“Well its certainly not sarcastic songwriters who can cook.”

“Well aren’t you just on a roll tonight.”

She smirked then took another drag. I didn’t know what to think of this girl,

but I liked talking to her, though I’d never admit it.

“You know, you ran out last week before I could ask you something.” Syd


“What’s that?” I asked.

“I was wondering if you’d write a song for me.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No. What do you care? It’s business.”

She had a point. Yet something kept agitating me about the whole situation.

Or maybe it was just her, I couldn’t tell. I reached over and smashed my cigarette against

the brick wall. She walked toward me and did the same. As she passed me, I caught a

trace of vanilla amongst the tapered smoke. It was refreshing, almost sensual, catching

me off guard. God I’m so weak.

“You smell nice.” I murmured.

“Thanks.” She authentically replied.

“Anyways, you better go back inside.” I said.

“Why do I have to go back in? You’re the host.”

“No I just cooked and I live here so I can do what I want. You’re the guest so

you have to make your presence known.”

“Are you always this full of shit?”

I nodded and turned up a little grin. She was delightfully on to my idiotic

mannerisms. It bothered me a bit that I didn’t know much about this lesbian lounge

singer. But then again, it bothered me I wanted to know more about her. So I did what

immaturity ensues and continued to ignore and pick on her.

The rest of the evening was a blur. In fact, I retreated early to my room,

leaving the slow drunkards to mindlessly mingle. Jack was already passed out on the

couch after only two glasses of wine. He was never much of a drinker, despite mom’s

efforts to introduce him to it early in life. I on the other hand took a more advanced liking

to alcohol.

I sat down at my piano and thought about writing a song, for Syd. Just as I

started to play, I stopped for a second, feeling the moment called for few lit candles.

“I like that.” Syd said, as she stood listening in at my doorway. “I was

wondering where you were hiding.”

I said nothing. My signals to “go away” didn’t seem to register with her as she

drew closer. “Could I steal you away for another smoke?”

She walked over to me at the piano with a curious look on her face as I

wouldn’t answer.

“Who’s that?” She asked, pointing to a picture frame I kept atop my piano.

“That’s my mom.” I reluctantly answered. “She died about a year ago.” I

strangely revealed, beginning to gather a lump in my throat.

“I’m sorry.” Syd said then pointed toward the balcony.

She followed me into the living room, passing three grown men, each

arranged on a sofa, loveseat, and chair, completely oblivious to the conscious world. We

reached the balcony and she handed me one of her cigarettes.

“You know, I listened to some of your songs after meeting you the other

night. I initially just wanted to hear it out of curiosity but I actually really like them.”

“Thanks.” I smirked.

“I’m serious! I wish I could write lyrics like that.” She generously implied.

“You’re too kind.” I smirked.

“No really, I wish I could get inspiration like that.”

“So are you going to write something for me?”


“Sure.” I gave in.

“So Robert tells me you actually came here to get away from some woman?”

She pried.

I looked at her with awe and disgust. Did I look like a fucking open book? She

just waltzes in here with her compliments and sass, thinking all doors are open. I could

kill Bobby for telling her that, even if he had spent months coaxing my alcohol- driven


“That’s not really up for discussion.” I stated with fierce intent.

She puffed on her cigarette and then gave me a delightful grin.

“Okay, okay. I’ll stop acting interested. We’ll just talk about music and bad

vices.” She mocked, raising her cigarette.

“Sounds good.” I said.

“You remind me of my girlfriend.”

“Girlfriend? I thought you don’t date. Plus Bobby set us up on a-“

“Yeah, he’s an idiot.” She interrupted.

We shared a laugh then I grew quiet for the rest of our smoke. As we put our

cigarettes out, I asked why her girlfriend didn’t come along tonight.

“We had this huge fight on the way over here because she didn’t realize we

were going to the immensely talented Avery Adam’s house. So she proceeded to jump out

of the cab at a stoplight, yelling ‘Were through!’ then took off.

I returned her sarcastic joke with disdain.

“No girlfriend. The last girl I was seeing is a bartender at a night club I sing at

sometimes, but mainly I sing at this Blues bar just down the street from you.”

We walked back inside, ignoring the three stooges and headed toward my

room. I immediately noticed my candles were extremely low, as the hot wax drained

along the sides of each arbor. The metal plate they stood on gathered an array of dried

wax. I walked over and blew each one out, darkening the room. Seconds later a bright
light flashed on.

“Ah, turn that off!” I shouted. “I hate that light. It’s too bright.”

She turned it off and we stood next to each other in the darkness for a

moment. I could smell her vanilla aroma once again and it oddly confused me.



“Are we just going to stand here in the dark?”

“Oh, sorry.” I said, walking over to turn on a tiny lamp. “I just hate bright


“Yeah I know what you mean. I can hardly stand going out in the day.

Working at night clubs will turn you into a hermit.”

“I imagine so. I don’t have an excuse. I’m just a hermit.”

“I bet I’m really pissing you off then, huh?”

I laughed but didn’t answer. She had me there. I would normally shy away

from this sort of interaction.

“So I know you don’t want to, but I really want you to come hear me sing

tomorrow night. Then you can tell me how much you hate it and I can hate you for it,

then we can move pass this thing.” She said.

“What thing?”

“Well it’s obvious so we should probably just get it over with.”

“Get what over with?” I asked.

“The sexual tension.” She whispered.

“Oh right. I can hardly keep my pants on.” I returned her intended


Just then, she did something I will forever remember as one of the most

seductive acts I have ever witnessed. Syd proceeded to walk out of my room and into the

kitchen. I followed her, of course, not saying a word. She continued to walk around to the

bar, then reached above the counter and grabbed a Tom Collins glass out of the shelf. She

turned around and opened the icebox, delicately grabbing two ice cubes and slid them

gently down into the glass. As she came around the other side of the bar, grabbing a

bottle of Jack Daniels on her way, stood dangerously close to me. Syd held out her glass,

tilting it and ever so slowly poured the caramel colored liquor into the glass. She shoved

the bottle at me and drew in even closer. It was then, before she raised the glass to her

lips that I felt drawn into an insinuating sex scene. Her eloquent, yet obvious seduction

reared its brave façade.

In that moment I forgot about my mom and Nora. I forgot about my drunken

brother and roommates. I forgot about music and purpose. I couldn’t help but stare at her

lips as they brushed against the glass. As she drank, the ice cubes cut against the glass,

luring an incisive sound each time she moved her hand. I never wanted to kiss someone

so bad in my life.

“Play for me.” She said.

“No.” I whispered.

“Play. I’ll sing.”

“You’re drunk.”

“I’ve had three sips. Gimme the bottle, I’ll show you drunk.” She said,

purposely touching my torso as she tried to grab the bottle.

I quickly moved backward, fighting the impulse to give her the bottle. She

promptly ignored my stubbornness by taking my hand and leading me back into the

bedroom. Before I sat down at the piano, I took a rather large gulp of Jack. Syd laughed

at my obvious nervousness. I began to press down on the keys. That first chord always

hits straight into my gut. It felt mind altering, much like coke or heroin would I suppose.

I dabbled a bit around the keys then started to play a familiar song. I played for a good

thirty second before I heard her voice chime in with the lyrics. Syd’s voice, it was

unbelievable. I was beyond impressed. It almost struck my hands away from the keys, but
I kept playing so she would keep singing. Syd’s voice led me into the chorus, before

naturally ending in a soft, low key. I quickly jerked around in my chair and gave her a

dumbfounded expression.

“Such a great song.” She remarked between sips on her tapering drink.

“Holy shit.” I said.


“Your voice, it’s amazing. I had no idea. I mean, you don’t look like you

could sing like that.” I oddly complimented her and walked over to sit by her on the bed.

She just looked at me with a face I’ve probably been giving her all night- one

of annoyance and distance.

“Thanks. I actually didn’t believe you could really play until now.”

She rightfully mocked my constant lack of sensitivity. I found myself growing

angry at the fact I suddenly cared about her state of mind. It reminded me of Nora. She

was the only woman who made me second guess everything. Now this big city lounge

singer was turning my head. It pissed me off.

She quietly finished off her drink then lied back on the bed, meeting gently

with a pillow. I was resting my head against the headboard as she turned her body toward

mine. I scooted down to meet with her face to face.

“You’re buzzed.” I said.

“Yep.” She chirped. “But not drunk or we’d be kissing by now.”

“Kissing?” I laughed.

“Yeah, sure. Why not?”

“What about you’re whole not dating spiel?”

“You’re such a tight ass.”

“Fuck you.” I raged, bolting from the bed.

“Wait.” Syd said, as she leisurely pulled her body up to see where I was


“What.” I remarked, standing at the doorway.

“Sorry.” She said.

I turned around and left the room, then the apartment. I walked around the city

all night. It was my favorite thing about living here. I could be a faceless, nameless

nobody who roamed the streets. It cleared my head, allowing me to think of mom, of

childhood and substance.

Chapter Seven

The next morning I returned to find my brother in the kitchen sipping on

orange juice and rubbing his forehead. I walked past him and grinned. He just gave me a

smirk and continued clinching his head. As I entered my room, I immediately noticed a

delicately placed sheet of paper on my bed. It read: I’m an asshole. Then again, so are

you. Please come tonight.

Her sharp words grazed my attention. So of course, out of curiosity, I would

go, to hear her voice and face foolish games. I started thinking about mom and how she is

probably looking down on me and loving this banter with Syd. I can just see her dangling

that cigarette in her mouth, groaning about those “God damn drama queens”. She’s

referring to my ex’s of course.

Focus Avery, I thought. What’s important, what’s stable? Not women. Just

then, Jack came in the room and plopped down on the bed. He let out a few grunts as I

began to massage his temples.

“Did you ever make nice with what’s her face?” He asked.

I raised my eyebrow indicating a seductive act took place.

“Ew.” He noised.

I hit him on the shoulder, reassuring my whorish tendencies were still in tact.

“I want you to come with me tonight to hear her sing.”

He sat up on the bed with me, and then sighed. “Oh Avery, I can’t. I got a call

this morning. I have to leave for Chicago tonight. I’m sorry hon.”

“It’s okay.” I told him, but it wasn’t okay. I needed Jack with me. I needed

him to keep me straight and focused. Or maybe I just needed my brother.

“I need to talk to you before I leave.” Jack said as he reached down to tie his

black Prada shoes.

“About what?” I asked, crawling into the sheets.

“Mom’s will.”
“Her will?”

“It’s been a year now and I figured this should be as good a time as any to tell


“What Jack.” I hesitated to ask.

“She left Nora some money.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “How much?”

“Three thousand dollars.”

“What the…? You’re kidding.” I said with a smirk.

“I couldn’t believe it either when I saw it. But I knew I couldn’t tell you then.

Hell, you didn’t even want the money mom left for you.”

“So you gave it to her?” I asked, still in disbelief.

“Yeah I gave it to her. I had to, you know?”

“Did you hear anything from her?”

“She called me and tried to give it back, but I wouldn’t take it. So I just

assumed she tore the check up. But I found out she didn’t.” He said, putting his hand on


“That’s insane Jack.” I said, quickly making my way out of the bed. “What

the hell did she do with it then? No telling with her selfish ass… I can’t believe this.”

Jack quietly watched me rant and pace around the room. Then he carefully


“I ran into her a few weeks ago.”


“Yeah, at that little place you used to get coffee.”

“Wait, what day was it?”

“I don’t know, why?”

“Nothing. Anyway so what, did you talk to her?”

“Yeah I did actually. It was funny because I’m sure she noticed me walking

in, but I had to say hello first. I think she didn’t want to approach me, probably because

of what happened, and then the money.”

“Did you talk to her?” I asked in a frantic voice.

“Now I remember. It was a Tuesday. Yeah, because I noticed the sign for the

day’s specials read Italian cream cake and you know how much I love…”

He kept blabbering about the cake as my mind stopped short of any

controllable logic. Tuesday, I wondered. Maybe it was coincidence. Or maybe she’s been

going to that fucking café ever since I left home a year ago. Maybe she’s been going for

nostalgia’s sake or just the simple love of a good Italian cream cake.

“So as I was telling her about your latest ventures…” He continued as I

chimed back into his ramblings.

“You told her what?”

“About your songwriting. She genuinely seemed interested Avery. But as I

was saying, I started telling her about how you’ve sold all these hit songs and as I was

talking she walked around the bar to answer the phone. She owns the place Avery, can

you believe that? She told me she quit teaching and bought the café. With the money

from mom. I mean, I’m sure she was banking it as a professor and to give it all up to own

a stupid coffee bar? Ouch.”

I didn’t respond. What could I say to that? Besides, I didn’t want to hear

anymore. This was too much to take right now. I tried to tell myself I shouldn’t even be

caring about this. I went back over to the bed and dug under the sheets.

“I’m really tired Jackie. Call me when you land, okay?”

He proceeded to tuck me in the bed, giving an odd, unjustified look.

“You okay?” He asked.

I simply nodded at his concerned inquisition. If anyone knew me, it was Jack.

And he knew when I wanted to be left alone.

“Love you.” He whispered.

“Love you too.”

I managed to wake up promptly at 6pm- not my style. Last time I routinely

slept all day was when I worked night shift at a twenty-four/seven convenience store back

in high school. Syd’s show was in three hours. I laid there pondering whether to go or

not. I couldn’t escape thoughts of Nora. Then mom popped into my head for a showing.

What was she trying to tell me? And what was with that will? Her way of a joke I

suppose. Mom knew I didn’t give a shit about monetary value. Fuck it, forget it, I told

myself. Nothing a bottle of vodka couldn’t erase for the time being.

I fumbled out of bed, still wearing the clothes I’ve been in for two days now.

Yet I had that fashionably wrinkled look going for me. Surprisingly my apartment looked

immaculate. Michael and Bobby wouldn’t dare lift a finger. That’s why they had me after


I reached under my bed and pulled out a small bottle of love. The first shot

always burned, but after two or three more, my throat seemed to conveniently numb

itself. I used to prefer a chaser, but at some point it just feels demeaning. I sat on the floor

until I could fuse a good buzz with thoughts of Nora. The two combined well. Getting

buzzed kept Nora from being the bitch that walked out on me the night my mother died.

Nothing else worked out that ration quite like liquor.

Somehow I managed to shower and find clean clothes. Usually I would wait

until after I was dressed to prep a drink, being the obsessive compulsive I am. I still must

have looked like shit. But I didn’t care. It was just a night club. And it was just Syd. That

asshole. Explains why I like her.

My little vodka buzz wore off by the time I reached the club. A walk in the

freezing cold will do that. So my first move was to hit the bar, however I was abruptly

interrupted by a projected voice onstage yelling, “There she is!” It was a rather small

venue as I felt a breeze rush past from everyone’s head whipping toward my direction. I

immediately waved my hands to indicate, “No!” and turned about fifteen shade of red.

Syd proceeded to jump down from the stage and encounter me face to face.

“You came.” she said.

“Yes and now everyone else knows that too.”

“Sorry about that, I’m just excited you came. But hey, um, about last night...”

“It’s fine. We’re assholes.”

Syd raised her eyebrow at my remark and I followed her over to the stage. The

mood forced its way into a sultry ease, created intensely by low lighting and smoky

patrons. I watched as Syd jumped back onstage and reached out for my hand. I shook my

head “No.”, but she continued to tug outwards until I grabbed her hand.

“Just play. I’ll sing.” She said.

I agreed and jumped on the stage. A small applause started as Syd began

speaking at the mic. I hated being on stage. The spotlight was not my thing. But Syd did

have a way of making it feel different, more comfortable. I don’t know what it was

exactly, but her presence allowed my fears to subside. It must be a mutual asshole quality

we share- the ability to humble one another. Syd cued me to start playing a familiar Carol

King song, and I started to play with rattling nerves.

My hands wouldn’t stop shaking and I couldn’t find the damper pedal to save

my life. “Relax.”, Syd mouthed at my lack of rhythm. I returned her simplicity of the

situation with a “Fuck you.” expression. It was just enough fuel to kick myself into gear.

As I tried the whole “Imagine the audience naked.” bit, I found myself drawn into Syd’s

voice. The song was over before I knew it and we were covered in sweat. Me out of

nervousness and her, well, I wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t hot, or even remotely warm. The

crowd roared as Syd jumped off stage. I stayed at the piano for a moment, soaking it all

in, yet my eyes couldn’t help but follow Syd as she made her way through the crowd.

Where the hell was she going?

The MC jumped onstage and said something in the mic I didn’t bother paying

attention to as I proceeded to make my exit. I pushed through the crowd, ignoring the
eyes on me. I don’t know why, but I found myself drawn into the ladies room. I walked

over to the sink and caught a glimpse of my beet red face in the mirror. God I’m such a

loser, I thought aloud. There’s not enough medication in the world to subside my

unnatural social anxiety disorder. As I wiped my eyes I could see a figure out of the

corner of the mirror. It appeared to be a person crouched down against the toilet in a stall

without doors. I turned around to get a better look. At first, I was hesitant to approach the

person. Yet the closer I looked it became obvious who it was- Syd. I raced over to her

and knelt down at her side.

“Syd?” I softly called out.

She didn’t answer. I lifted her head but it was limp. As I heard someone enter

the restroom I promptly called out for help. I tried to pry open her eye lids, but couldn’t

find her pupils, as they were rolled back in its sockets. I didn’t think to check for a pulse,

I just knew something was eerily wrong. Then I saw the small speck of blood on her left

arm and what appeared to be a large rubber band fastened above her left elbow. Shit. I

couldn’t stop cursing and crying out for help.

In a panic, I wiped off the blood and broke off the rubber band. She lied limp

as I rapidly brushed her hair away from her forehead and blew into her face. Should I slap

her? Shake her? Minutes later, two large men carrying medical supplies busted through

the door. They eased me aside as I watched them try to revive her. They checked her

pulse, but I couldn’t tell if they found one or not. I followed them outside the restroom

but quickly lost sight as a crowd ensued outside the bar.

I followed as close as I could to the paramedics outside, but before I could see

through the crowd, the ambulance was pulling away. “Party’s over”, I heard someone

joke behind me. I looked around for someone might know her or where she went. I didn’t

know who to ask or where to go. Just as I was about to head back inside, a car pulled

beside me.

“They took her to St. Mary’s. Hop in. I’ll give you a ride.” A man resembling

the MC said from inside his vehicle.

I immediately jumped inside his large, black SUV without asking any


“I’m the owner. This isn’t the first time this has happened.” He loosely


“What happened?” I naively asked.

“She OD’ed, again.”


“Syd’s a fucking junkie. You didn’t know?”


“I normally don’t like that shit in my bar, but Syd brings in the crowds, ya’


I sat silent for the rest of the ride. As we grew closer to the hospital I began to

focus in on the large Emergency sign. Then it hit me. Here I am once again, to watch

someone die, or already dead. Either way things didn’t look promising. I leave an entire

life behind to start a new one, only to have it mock me. Mom always told me growing up

that you can never run from your problems. I didn’t get that until now.

We got out of the car, but I motioned for him to go on inside as I stood by the

sliding doors. I paced for a good five minutes before turning toward the doors and

charging inside. I walked to the nearest nurse’s station and simply asked where I could

find Sydney Barrett. The nurse hesitantly gave me directions to her location and I was


I marched down the cold hallway, emotionally charged. I soon found the room

she was in and walked inside. She was there, along with the uncompassionate bar owner.

“She’s fine. I was just leaving.” He emphatically remarked then left the room.

Syd’s eyes were slightly cocked open as I walked toward her bed. I could tell

she saw me as her fingers wiggled as I grew closer.

I slowly walked toward her, unaware if she really knew I was there. But the

closer I got, the more I felt the need to leave. So I walked away, out of the room and

hopefully out of her life.

I can’t remember how I got home that night. By cab or foot, it was all a blur.

When I walked into my apartment, everything appeared still and unearthed by the

moonlight. I walked into the kitchen and noticed a note on the table for Bobby. It read for

him to go to St. Mary’s. Michael was apparently home when the club called looking for

her brother. At least someone’s there with her, I thought.

I stumbled into my room and sat down at the piano. I didn’t want to play, but

sitting in front on the keys somehow brought comfort. Soon I found my fingers drifting

across the black and white ivories in a wistful sway. I played what has now become the

first song I wrote for Sydney. I ended just shy of reaching the chorus and plopped over to

my bed. I began to crave the taste of a certain elixir lying under my bed. I quickly rescued

the bottle and peeled off the cap. Yet, just as I began to smell the alcoholic aroma, anger

sparked in my gut. I thought about Syd and her helplessness. I hated her for putting me in

that situation. I hated her for luring me into false hope. I hated myself for wanting this

bottle so damn bad. Before I knew it, I was pouring the vodka into my sink. I threw away

the bottle and walked back into my bedroom. The night was over.

Chapter Eight
Three days later you would think I took out a new lease on life, but I already

started the day with shot or three of vodka. Just as I was about to down another, my agent

called to inform me an artist I worked with before was interested in another song. I didn’t

bother much to sober myself up before heading out around noon to meet with the artist

and her people. By the time I got back home, the buzz was gone and a headache emerged.

I pushed on, knowing I may forget what was said in the meeting altogether and went to

my bedroom to mull over the ideas they had in mind for their song. They didn’t want a

ballad, or anything too edgy. I was informed the song needed to be colorful, catchy to try

not and forget a techno beat or two. Okay. I tried to refrain from rolling my eyes, as this

is my choice of livelihood. At least that’s what I tell myself as I’m trying to write such

insanity. But don’t get me wrong, I love the process of writing, no matter what kind of

music. Nevertheless, I preferred writing ballads, as they are honest and from the heart.

I sat on my bed, covered with note cards and sheet music, and thought

intensely about the song. I became so engrossed in brainstorming that I didn’t even

realize a few candles had burned out until my eyes began to hurt from squinting in the

dim light. I got up from my bed and walked over to the small bookcase where the candles

had given way. As I started to pick one up, I felt a presence behind me. In an instant, it

forced me to whip around toward the doorway. My eyes took more than a few seconds to

focus on the image in front of me.

“Hey. Robert let me in.” Syd said.

I didn’t answer.

“Vince, the bar owner, he told me you were the one who, you know. I guess I

just wanted to thank you.”

The second she said “thank you” I lost it.

“Are you fucking kidding me? You’re thanking me? Get the fuck out of here.”

“Avery, I know okay. I’m getting help.”

“Good for you.”


Ever so slowly, tears began to swell in the corner of my eyes, but I didn’t want

her to see. She didn’t deserve emotion from me, but I still felt it brewing, no matter how

hard I tried to push it away.

“This has happened before, about a year ago after I lost my best friend in a car

accident. I started using. And you know, I thought I would be one of those people who

could say ‘You don’t have to tell me twice’, but things just got out of hand.”

“Syd you don’t owe me an explanation.”

“Yes, I do.”

She started to walk toward me, noticing my swollen eyes. I think it caught her

off guard. As if she wasn’t expecting anything from me. On the other hand, I was still in

shock to see her alive. Just the sight of her immersed pupils caused a lump to form in my

throat. It was a far cry from their state a few days ago.

“Sorry about your friend.”

“Yeah, I uh, don’t really talk about it. But I just wanted to say I understand if

you don’t want to have anything to do with me now.”

“Honestly? No I don’t. Syd you have no idea what you looked like.”

“I know.”

“No, you don’t know!”

As I moved closer to her, uncontrollable tears started to stream down my face.

I could no longer hide the fury I’ve been avoiding these past three days.

“One minute you’re pulling me onstage then the next you disappear…”

“Avery.” She says, reaching out to touch my arm.

“No.” I jerked away. “The next thing I know your half dead in my arms. Why

would you do that to yourself? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Avery.” She repeats, this time successfully clinching my arm with her hand,

and then offering herself to envelop my shaken state.

I could feel her hands brushing the back of my neck. Slowly, I raised my arms
to meet at her waist. She pulled away from me just as I started to exhale and looked

intensely into my eyes. In a move I have yet to define as soft or swift, we drowned in a

passionate kiss. I impelled her lips with a force brought on by confusion and attraction. I

think part of me was so relieved to see her alive and standing in front of me, it

strengthened any faith I had left in the sanctity of love.

We continued exchanging unbroken kisses until I hit the edge of the bed with

my heel. Syd let out small tones with her sighs each time I clinched and tugged at her

waist. As we found ourselves at the side of the bed, I took my hand to her back and

leaned forward. Once on the bed, I pulled her arms above her head in one swift move.

With one hand holding them firmly in place, I traveled down her neck, inhaling her warm

scent. I could tell she didn’t like me being in control, as her head constantly peered up to

see what I was doing and where. But I wasn’t going to stop. We conversed with moans

and still breaths as I grabbed her shirt, clad with irritating buttons. Clutching her collar, I

moved up to look her straight in the eyes as I tore away the cloth from her chest.

At some point Syd must’ve realized I had not been with a woman in a very,

long time. Believe me, I definitely realized this as my lips fervently tasted every inch of

her perfectly shaped torso. I held her breasts in my hands, allowing my mouth to caress

the sweat that formed across her stomach.

I wanted her now. Syd continued to give in to my dominance, allowing me to

unbutton her jeans and pull them off at the ankles. I began to kiss her fragile toes, one by

one, smiling as she giggled. My hands traveled along her legs, and I took note of each

freckle, each tiny mark that made up the olive tone of her skin.

Syd let out a loud moan as I caught her off guard with a quick, abrasive

gesture. Once again, we were face to face, watching each other react to the next move.

Our mouths slightly opened, just enough to taste and touch tongues. As we kissed, I

motioned my fingers inside her thighs. Syd grabbed the small of my back, pushing me

further inside her. We stayed in this position for as long as she would allow. Next thing I

knew Syd leaned forward and began to bury her head in my neck, tenderly biting at my

shoulder as she came. Between breathes and the cloud we strode upon, Syd collapsed

back onto the bed, breathing deep and fast. I fell along side of her, catching my breath as


We didn’t speak. In fact, we fell asleep for a few hours. When I woke up and

found myself lying next to Syd, I froze. I watched carefully as her pulse forced visible

vibrations at the base of her neck. It was an amazing sight, to witness her next to me,

breathing, sleeping, at peace. I didn’t want to wake her, but something moved me to ever

so gently slide my fingertips down the bridge of her nose.

I don’t think I realized how beautiful she was until then. Her small frame

folded perfectly within the white sheets. I continued tracing my fingers along her face

until she naturally began to open her eyes. I just starred at her fresh facial expressions.

“Hi.” She mumbled. “I guess I fell asleep.”

I watched Syd’s lips move, but failed to hear the words she spoke. I wanted to

kiss her again. To be drawn inside her. The gentle caress she exposed, her amazing way

of touching grasping, tasting. Something I missed truly missed about women- their true


“Did you fall asleep too?” She asked, as I continued to unwaveringly stare.

“No? Did you just lie there looking at me like that then?”

I couldn’t take it anymore. I leaned into her and stole my coveted kiss.

“Mmm. I take it you’ve forgiven me?” She bravely asked.

“No.” I plainly stated.

“No?” She puzzled.

“No.” I repeated.

“Then, what just happened?” Syd asked.

I couldn’t help but break and give her a grin.

“Ah, see you like me.” She affirmed.

“No, I don’t like you. I don’t have to like you to have sex.” I taunted.

“Sex?” Syd questioned.

“Fuck?” I returned.

“Okay, sex.” She settled.

Syd grabbed my shirt and found my lips while holding onto the sheets which

covered her bare chest. I enjoyed a brief kiss then pulled away entirely from her grasp.

“I haven’t been honest with you.” I began to divulge.

Syd mumbled something I couldn’t understand as she turned around in the

bed and began to look for her clothes.

“What?” I asked.

“Her name is Nora, right? I know the reason. Its funny, my brother was all up

in arms about you- saying how much I’d like you- but then he pulled me to the side and

said to “Be careful, she’s got baggage.” Well no shit, who doesn’t? Look at me, I’m a

fucking wreck. I haven’t felt like this in a long time, until I met you. I know that sounds

stupid, and what I did the other night was beyond stupid. But I won’t make excuses for

myself Avery. And I won’t be a game you play.”

“Where the hell do you get off?” I said, with growing anger.

“I’m just saying, I know I’m not her and I might be inconvenient. But she’s

not here, I am. Robert told me how she broke your heart and I know I haven’t known you

very long…”

“Exactly. You don’t know me.” I interrupted, breaking away from her

interrogation. “Who are you to tell me about Nora? All of the sudden I owe you this big

explanation because we fucked.”

Syd starred silently into my eyes. They pierced right through me as I watched

for her next move.

“Fuck this.” Syd said walking out of the room.

I shook as she slammed the apartment door. What have I done? And why?

Does Nora really still have such a hold on my heart? Why would I allow Syd so close to

me? Or was I just submerged in subconscious guilt for her apparent baggage? A million

other questions raced through my mind. I had to figure this out. I liked Syd, a lot. She

affected me in the oddest ways. She made me feel alive again. It was then I knew what I

had to do and it weighed on me without hesitation- I had to talk to Nora.

Chapter Nine

The next day I called Jack’s cell. I told him I was coming to Dallas to find

Nora. He oddly took the news without shock and offered a few suggestions. I ignored

them of course.

I packed a small backpack with one pair of semi clean jeans and an empty

notebook then headed to the airport. My intentions were grand, but not my stay, as I’ve

never been particularly fond of traveling, but I loved airports. Everyone rushing around to

wait, it gave me a sense of importance.

On the flight, I took out my notebook and wrote during the entire flight. It was

the only way I could sort out my feelings and impulses without going insane. As the

plane began to land, I sat tight with a clear conscious. Nora was in for a rude awakening,

but no longer would I have to bear her cross.

It was 2:30pm and raining on this awkward day in Dallas. I found a cab

outside the airport and asked the driver to take me to the Stop Café on Royal Street. The

words rolled off my tongue with familiar ease. As we drove through the city I smiled at

each passing of nostalgic memories- The University where we met, my old apartment

building, then, the Café. I paid the driver and stepped out of the cab. He drove off in a

hurry as I stood frozen out in the street. Several songs entered my mind as I looked

inside. It was busy as usual. My heart began to race with anxiety. What am I doing?

No time to overanalyze now, this is about closure. I walked up to the glass

door and starred inside. Just then a couple exited and held the door so I could walk in. I

hesitantly entered as I felt the door swoosh behind me. My instincts prevailed as I walked

over to the counter to find an empty barstool. I tried to conceal my face by flipped up the

collar of my black pea coat, but I knew it wasn’t enough. Minutes passed like hours as I

peeked around for any sight of Nora. Then I heard a voice from behind the counter.

“Can I get you something to drink?”

I looked up at the voice and nodded yes. I ordered a coffee from the young
waitress and continued with my back against the crowd. The waitress quickly served my

order and I began to sip on the soothing brew. I slowly started to look around the room

for Nora.

“Excuse me, I know this is a strange question but do you know if Nora is

here? I asked the waitress.

“Yeah she’s in the back.”

The waitress gave me a baffled look as I didn’t reply and shortly returned to

taking an order from the occupant beside me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She

really does own this place now? How insane of her. I couldn’t bring myself to turn my

heard away from the counter. So I sat there sipping on my coffee until it was all gone.

“Can I get you another?” A different voice said from behind the counter.

I answered yes without looking up. I watched as a hand slowly poured the

coffee into my cup, then I tilted my head to say thank you. As I raised my head, a familiar

form came into focus. It was Nora. There we were, face to face. Her expression of shock

must have mirrored mine.

“Hi.” I said.

Nora took a few moments to gather the reality of this situation then remarked

with a silent “Wow”.

“Hi…” I said again, at a lost for words.

“Hi…” She returned.

We stood for a moment in the midst of an overcrowded diner, drawing in the

sounds of tables being bused and customers growing irked.

“Let’s go out back.” Nora said, as she walked out from behind the counter

toward the side door.

I reached in my back pocket as we walked toward the door and proceeded to

take out a cigarette. Once outside, I lit up before even glancing at her.

“Smoking now?” She inquired with irritation.


“Owner now?” I returned.

She shrugged with defeat. Everything I wanted to say to her suddenly escaped

my mind. And I remembered thinking if I lose focus I’ll end up just telling her ass off and

leave. But standing there with her, well, I couldn’t even do that.

“How are you?” Nora stammered out the awkward words.

“I’m fine.” I answered.

“Really?” She genuinely queried.

“No.” I said, now smoking with vigorous speed. “I’m sure you know why I’m

here though.”

“I can’t really talk now.” She said, loosely pointing to the café. “Will you

come back tonight?”


“Around ten?”

I nodded and walked off. I could feel her eyes watch me leave. They drove a

stake into my heart as I tried to keep some sort of composure. Seeing Nora was

exhilarating. She looked the same with her hesitant grin and drilling eyes. I found myself

still attracted to her feverish complexion and inventive gestures. I think expected her to

be different. And why not? I certainly was.

Walking away I suddenly realized I never made any hotel reservations.

Perhaps I overestimated my intentions. So I roamed the streets, oddly enough, thinking

about Syd. Thoughts of her tended to be a bit more refreshing and familiar then that of


God I missed this city. I hated how much I actually missed this place and how

much I missed Nora. The Nora I knew who taught English and smelled of hot tea. Not

this Nora who puts up with diet soda drinking customers who smell of mustard. Maybe I

could get used to the smell of mustard… No, no I must stay focused.

I walked around until the sky began to turn odd shades of indigo and salmon.
Fuck it, I thought. Who is she to make me wait until ten? I almost began running back to

the Café. When I reached the glass doors of the restaurant I meekly peered inside. There

she was, wiping down the countertops. I noticed the time on a clock just above the bar:

8:48pm. I was beyond early and surely didn’t want to look eager in any way. The thought

created an anxiety, as I had just reckoned with myself that Nora can’t make me wait for


I watched as she brushed the towel along the bar, one seductive move after

another. I hated myself at this moment. Starring at Nora like a love-sick school girl.

Wanting someone I have no business being with, especially considering the

circumstances. We were friends for God’s sake, nothing more or less. Then less became

more, and more lead into less. She fucked with my head, plain and simple. I should turn

around and leave right now. I lost my mother and the one person I should’ve been able to

count on suddenly bolted from my life. I should turn around and leave right now.

But I didn’t leave. I tapped on the glass door. Nora looked up and saw me.

Her face dropped with mine. I had no clue if she was thinking what I was thinking. I

wanted to take her on that bar right then and there. I wanted that woman in my arms, in

all of me, now.

Nora walked over to the door and let me in. I walked in and passed her. She

followed me over to a barstool and we sat down. Words, I thought, I need to say words.

But I couldn’t speak. I just leered at her and raised an eyebrow hoping to encourage


“I was afraid you wouldn’t come back,” She said

“Well I’m here.” I said. My anger toward her rose as she spoke.

“Do you want something to drink?” She asked, starting to get up from her


I nodded no. Nora proceeded to pour herself a cup of hot tea then walk back

around the bar to sit next to me.


“That night at the hospital, after I left the room, I went to down to the lobby.

But then I went outside, I guess to get some air. But the longer I stayed down there

thinking about what just happened, the more I didn’t want to go back up there and face

you. Especially considering…” She paused.

“Wait, so you just left?” I asked.

“I started to go back inside, but I just couldn’t do it Avery.”

“Do what?” I asked with rage.

“I got scared and left. I didn’t want to disappoint you. Then I let a few days go

by, and the days turned to a few weeks. I didn’t know what to say, or do.”

“You didn’t know what to say? Are you kidding me? Bullshit.” I said, starting

to walk away.

Nora cleared her throat and wiped a tear from her cheek. I instantly realized

my eyes were full of tears as well.

“I know it was a mistake!” She yelled.

“You have no idea what that mistake has done to me.” I stated, turning around

to face her.

“You would’ve needed more from me. I was afraid I couldn’t give that to

you.” Nora said with desperation.

“All I needed was you.” I said in a softer tone.

We both looked at each other with equal sadness as our eyes were noticeably

filled with tears. The truth was finally revealed and neither of us could handle its

presence. At this moment, I didn’t have anything else to say to her. I walked out of the

café and headed down the street with tears streaming down my face.

I replayed her words over and over in my mind. My heart and head refused to

wrap itself around the pure selfishness of her leaving. As I approached the end of the

street, I looked up at the blaringly red stoplight. My eyes filled with alarming color as I

looked away for a clear focus.

I clearly began to hear a ringing tone, but ignored it and continued walked.

But the sound seemed to follow me. I finally realized it was my cell phone. I looked at

the number and didn’t recognize it but decided to answer anyway.

“Hello?” I said aloud.

“Hey. Can you talk?” Syd asked.

I didn’t answer back.

“I want to apologize for the other night. I was wrong to say those things… I

guess I got jealous. But I want you in my life and if you need space or closure I

understand. I want to be there for you. I need to be there for someone else for a change,

instead of everyone saving me from myself.”

Syd’s profound statement caught me off guard. Yet it almost seemed

appropriate, to be in such a predicament.

“Syd…” I sighed.

“You don’t have to say anything. I’m probably a zit compared to Nora. I know

this sounds corny but you make me not want to be, a zit. Just thinking about you gives

me a reason to wake up in the morning.” Syd paused for a moment. “I just thought you

should know that.”

I still didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I cared too much for Sydney to drag her

into my mess anymore.

“Listen, I’m in Fort Worth right now. I finally landed a gig here at the

Magnolia. Can you believe it?”

“Oh my God.” I whispered. “Me too.”

“What? You’re where?” She asked.

“I really don’t want to talk about this now.” I stated.

“I’m staying at the Plaza, okay? If you want to talk…”

“I will.”

“Alright. Bye then.”


We hung up the phone, feeling extremely rattled by everything. I stood for a

moment collecting my thoughts amidst the cloud of chaos. I suddenly became aware of

the fact that I stood between the past and the future, Nora and the café a few blocks

behind me and Syd.

With Sydney, there was a chance, a hope, a promise of change and moving

away from my sorted past. Yet with Nora I couldn’t allow myself to make such

comparisons. I couldn’t mull over the pro’s and con’s like I could with Syd. At least I

thought she reined such dominance in my world.

Then I turned around and found myself looking down the street toward the

café doors. Yet, I didn’t want to go back inside. I just felt a need to be near her. The

contention of anger and forgiveness quickly released from my mind as I absorbed only

one thought, one feeling. Saddness. How could I not forgive her? How could I not go to

her? I don’t know if I should.

I cared for Sydney. In spite of her baggage, she is an amazing woman and I

wanted to get to know her more. I can’t keep blowing off people, like I did with Lauren,

or Nora, when she left me. Yet, how can I not have a relationship with Nora? I’ve

obviously done so thus far. Or maybe not, as I found myself back in front of the café.

My eyes must’ve momentarily glazed over because I didn’t even realize Nora

was still inside the café. Once they came into focus I watched as she caressingly held a

cup of tea then sat in stool by the bar. God I missed her. I missed her mannerisms, her

sleek style and intellectual wit. I missed her remarkable maturity, as it complimented my

childish mentality. I missed the way we just fit.

Now, as we stood between a glass door, our lives had forever changed. She

forcefully moved on as I resisted each passing day. The only question that remained is if

she even wanted me back in her life? It wouldn’t be like our relationship before, and if I

recall, she didn’t mention wanting to be with me. Perhaps my deep love for her remained

and hers never arose.

Clarity. This is what I felt as I watched Nora delicately sip on her tea. Never

in my life, before or after her, have I felt clarity. Yet, I needed more of this through my

own vices than by someone else. I imagined myself running through the door, grabbing

Nora at the waist and embracing her with the passion of a thousand kisses all in one. The

act would resolve everything, past and present, and we could begin a lifelong romance.

But I didn’t run through the door. I didn’t embrace her. I just walked away.

Groves of wandering people bumped into me as I slowly made my way down the street

and I thought about the lack of poetic reality I had in my life.


Chapter Eleven
Sydney was my only salvation. I tried to tell myself she was far from what I

needed and I was certainly not what she needed. Our lives were only brought together by

default. In fact, my current existence was brought together by default. And thanks to

Nora, I grew an affliction to booze and bitterness.

I was a mere hour cab ride away to the Plaza and knew that’s where I would

end up. Even if it was just to make matters worse. As fate, luck or just dumb ass

coincidence would have it, I stumbled just blocks away from a parked cab and asked for a

ride. As I walked into the lobby, I thought about what I was going to say to her. Maybe

she had more to say to me. Maybe I just needed to learn how to listen. Hell, I’ve only

been suffering from a broken heart. She’s been suffering with heroin.

After finding out her room number, I entered the first available elevator and

pushed the button for floor ten. At this moment, Sydney felt more familiar than anything

else in my life. A smile grew intensely on my face as I thought about seeing her again.

Upon reaching the tenth floor, I stepped into the hallway and looked for her

room number. Then there it was- room 1028. I paused for a few second before knocking

so I could wipe off the childish grin on my face.

I knocked three times before she opened the door. I could tell by her

expression that she wasn’t too terribly surprised to see me.

“Hey you.” She said.


“Come in.” She motioned.

I walked inside and looked around the small, yet eloquent room. I nearly

knocked into a large room service tray by the door and nervously laughed at my

clumsiness. It took me a moment to realize she was only wearing a robe.

“Did I interrupt you?” I asked.


“No! I just got out of the shower.” Syd said, and then paused to towel off her

damp hair. “Really…” I remarked with genuine interest and surprise.

“So can you believe I actually got a gig at the Magnolia?”

“When is it?” I asked.

“Tomorrow night. I got the call right after I left you…”

“Oh…” I remarked, almost forgetting what she said to me the other night.

“Look, I’m sorry. I had no right…”

“Don’t be, you were right.” I said, realizing I had to tell her about Nora.

“So you wanna talk about it?” She asked.

I nodded as she went back into the bathroom.

“Let me put something on first okay?” She said.

I stood for a few moments then sat down on the queen sized bed. I thought

about how to phrase things, but nothing felt right. I knew I just had to come out with it

and take her reaction. The more I began to analyze it, the more I realized how much I

must care for Sydney.

Syd came out of the bathroom wearing a familiar pair of jeans and white tee

shirt. I reacted with a subconscious smile, prompting her to return with an inquiring


“You should probably sit down.” I suggested.

“Okay. Are you alright?”

“I’m not really sure what I am.”

“So what’s going on?” She inquired.

“I went to see her, at this café we used to go to all the time. She owns the

damn place now, can you believe that?”


“Yeah, um, I know… I’m not really sure what that’s about. But I didn’t care

really. She knew why I was there. So she started to explain why she left. And she said she
just couldn’t handle it.”

Syd made an awkward gesture, suggesting the comment I just made didn’t

settle well with her. I waited a moment to see if she’d respond, but she didn’t.

“She said she didn’t know if she could be the person I needed at a time like

that. Something about because we were growing closer, she didn’t want to disappoint

me.” I said.

“What did you say to her?” She asked.

I paused for a moment and raised my eyebrow at Syd. I was expecting a

different response from her. I expected her to say “That’s bullshit” or “How could she do

that to you?” But she almost had a look of understanding for Nora.

“There wasn’t really much for me to say. I don’t understand her. She was

never afraid of anything before, so why me and why then?”

“Maybe she thought that leaving you cold like that would’ve been better than

disappointing you.” Syd announced.

“I don’t know Syd. I mean, could you see yourself doing something like that?

I know I couldn’t.”

“I have done that. I’ve walked out on almost everyone who I felt was getting

to close. You’re really the only one…” Syd paused. “But I regret what I did everyday. I

made drugs more important and never wanted anyone to see that side of me. Or even

when I was clean, I was too afraid of losing them and having an excuse to use again.”

Syd revealed.

“But Nora’s not hiding anything, as far as I know. You had more of a reason

to keep your guard up.” I reasoned.

“Then maybe it’s just what she said…” Syd returned.

“That she would rather leave than disappoint me.” I said. “It’s still a fucked up

thing to do.”

Syd walked back over to the bed and sat next to me. I could tell she was about

to say something sincere. I loved watching her sensuality unfold. .It reminded me of the

night we shared cigarettes on my balcony.

“I think this is one of those times in your life Avery, where doesn’t make

sense now, but maybe later on you’ll look back and it’ll all come together.”

I thought about saying something sarcastic, but I secretly wanted to believe in

what she said.

“It’s late. You can sleep out here on the couch tonight.” Syd insinuated as she

pointed to the pull out sofa.

Syd and I talked for a while longer, mostly about her gig the next night. She

wanted me to come, and of course I couldn’t miss it. The next morning I told Syd there

was something I needed to do before her show. I took off rather quickly, but ended up

turning around and apologizing to Syd for my quick exit. She remarked on how I should

show the softer side of me more often. I couldn’t argue that.

Chapter Twelve

Since deciding to come back home, I knew there was someone other than

Nora that I needed to see. My mother. I hadn’t been to her grave since the funeral and a

visit was long overdue. There was so much I needed to say to her, aloud.

When I reached the cemetery, I was surprised to find that I couldn’t remember

where she was buried. As I searched amongst the tombstones for her name, it left an

uneasy feeling in my gut. I’ve been such a horrible daughter.

I walked slowly by each gravesite, passing rows of flowers and cards. In the

near distance there was an oversized elm tree with drooping limps that appeared to hug a

tombstone below it. There she is, I thought. It was a perfect place for her.

I starred at her name on the grave with great intent and my eyes began to swell

with tears. As I started to wipe them from my cheek I noticed a bundle of fresh flowers

lying next to her headstone. I immediately thought it was odd she’d have fresh flowers.

My brother has been out of town on business for the past two weeks and we didn’t have

any family who lived in the city. Our step-dad moved back to his hometown of Florida

after mom died. But maybe someone did come to see her. For some reason it just seemed

odd. Sad, but odd.

“Mom…” I said aloud with a shaky voice. “I did everything you said but I

know you’re ashamed of me… But things are gonna change… God I wish you were here

right now! I need you… I have no idea what to do. If you were here you’d know just

what to say to me. You always knew what to say. I always hated that! But in the end, you

were always right. With everything I’ve done since you died, I question myself. I wonder

if there are signs you’re sending me and I constantly hear your voice in my head. Even as

hard as I try to silence it, they just get louder… I really miss you mom.”

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed two people walking near me. I decided

now would be a good time to end my babbling rant and come back another time. Besides,
no one wants to watch a daughter talk to her dead mother. Walking away from her grave,

I felt relieved. She’s always been with me, but I haven’t been there for her.

As wandered my way back into Dallas, I decided to call Jack again. I had to

know who had been to mom’s grave and left flowers. After a few minutes of endless

rings, he finally answered. And just as I presumed, he assured me that no one had been to

mom’s grave since he last visited over two months ago. My mind immediately turned to

the thought of the only other person I imagined would have done such a noble deed. A

person I didn’t want to think about doing such a thing- Nora.

I raced over to the café and rushed inside the crowded room. Nora was behind

the bar, immensely busy, but I motioned for her to meet me out back. I was hoping she

could read the sense of urgency and intense expression on my face.

“What’s going on?” Nora nearly yelled at me.

“Did you…” I paused.

“Did I what?”

“Did you leave flowers at my mom’s grave?” I asked, holding back tears of


She didn’t answer at first. I’m sure she thought if I found out it was her, I

would be pissed. But I wasn’t. I felt guilty for not being there. Other than Jack, mom had

no one here.

“Yes.” She answered.

I wanted to walk away. The chain of events leading up to my present situation

seemed unreal. How could I possibly carry any anger toward Nora after hearing this?

While I was off fulfilling selfish acts, she was here, and visiting my dead mother. I didn’t

say anything for a few seconds, as I tried to collect in my mind how I should convey

honest gratitude.

“Thank you…” I said in a soft voice.

“Why don’t you come in for a bit? I’ll make you some lunch.” Nora asked.

“No, no I can’t. I have somewhere to be in a few hours.”

I waved then dashed away in a Superman fashion. As I made my way to the

venue, I felt this was a poignant point in my life. Here I stand, as the past, present and

future stare me in eye and force me to make a decision. It’s true what they say, you can’t

go back. And you certainly can’t go forward until you’ve resolved the past. None of

which can be done other than in the present.

Random thoughts continued to invade my brain, such as what songs Sydney

will sing tonight. I prayed it would be nothing I’ve written, but something told me she

might go there, even though she knows I hate hearing anything I’ve done in a live setting.

Yet, I found her disregard for my wishes somewhat charming.

I was quite shocked Syd landed a gig at the Magnolia. It was a rather large

venue and incredibly hard to book on one of the most popular nights of the week. I was

actually proud of her for taking such a huge risk, especially after her “experience” at the

last gig. But of course I understood why she couldn’t let the opportunity pass her by.

I was about three hours early, but I knew Syd would be inside rehearsing. As I

made my way down the long aisle, I took a moment to absorb the beauty and magnitude

of the Magnolia Theater. I’ve been in it before, but never empty and never with someone

have I known performing onstage.

Syd looked amazing onstage. I’m not quite sure she realized I was walking

toward the stage as she rehearsed, so I took advantage of it and snuck into a seat to watch.

Just as I began to sit, I heard a familiar chord on the piano. Then another familiar chord

followed until I realized what song she was about to rehearse. Mine.

I started feeling incredibly uncomfortable, but not because she was

performing my song, because it made me think of Nora. As it should, I wrote it about her,

but this time it took on a whole new meaning. I watched intently as Syd swayed and

belted out all the right notes in all the right ways. She was so amazing and watching her

reminded me why I was so attracted. Suddenly Syd stopped singing even as the band
continued playing.

“Avery!” She screamed then jumped off stage and ran up the aisle. “You


“Of course I’d come.”

“Good. I want you to play with me tonight.” She said.

“Oh. No, no, no.” I shunned from the idea.

“Why not? You have to! This is your hometown. People would get a kick out

of it.”

“Yes, my huge fan base.” I mocked.

“Well then do it for me.”

“I can’t Syd. I know what song you want to play. I just can’t.” I said, starting

to walk away.

“Wait! Okay. I understand. Will you still come though?” She reasoned.

“Yeah I’m here for the night.”

“Really? Come here, there are some people I want you to meet.” She

motioned me toward the stage.

I wasn’t quite sure why I refused her offer. As much as I hate performing, for

some reason, I loved it with Syd. She had a way of making me feel safe onstage. I think it

was just too overwhelming to play a song or two I had written about Nora, with Syd.

We spent about an hour meeting with her band and crew. A few people knew

who I was and we struck up small conversations about songwriting. Personally, I had my

eye on the beautiful white grand piano tucked in a corner on stage. Apparently I wasn’t

hiding it well.

“Avery.” Syd said.

“Yeah?” I responded without breaking eye contact with the piano.

“You can go play it.”

“Oh, no that’s okay. I just think it’s so beautiful.”


“It is. It is.” Syd teased. “Okay, if you’re not going to play with me tonight,

how about just for rehearsals.”

“Ah, fine.” I sighed, but I wasn’t completely put out by the idea. “When?”

“Now.” Syd grabbed the mic stand and motioned me toward the piano.

I slowly sat down on the bench and starred at the keys. It felt like a flawless

moment, one where I was about to be apart of something amazing. Looking back, I think

it was the moment I realized all my dreams had come true. All but one anyway.

“Whenever you’re ready.” Syd said.

I placed my fingers on the keys and slid them up and down, feeling the ivory

softness. Then I began to play. And Syd began to sing. We exchanged smiles throughout

the song, as we knew who it was really about, and the shear perfection of this moment.

When we ended, everyone applauded. It felt strange, but I toyed with the idea of not

completely disliking it. Syd came over to me at the piano, knowing I probably wouldn’t

immediately get up.

“Felt good, right?” She said.

“Oh yeah.” I overstated.

“Hey, so, what are you going to do about…?”

“I don’t know.” I interrupted. “I went to my mom’s grave this morning. Since

then I’ve just been thinking about what you said last night. All of these things that define

us. Change us. And of course, there’s you.”


“Well, yeah. We have something Syd. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I

can’t walk away from it. I don’t want to walk away from it.”

“Then let me because despite everything that happened with her, you haven’t

stopped loving her. And I’m pretty sure she feels the same way. Even if we were to try, I

don’t think I’d ever feel like you were mine. You know?”

Syd was right. And the truth scared me. I couldn’t give all of me to her. I gave
myself away to Nora a long time ago and apparently never got it back.

“Besides, my sponsor says I shouldn’t date for at least a year.” She joked, but

knew the truth to that statement.

“You’re an amazing person Syd.”

“Don’t get all mushy on me.”

“Too late.” I rose from the bench and grabbed Syd for a hug. We both laughed

at our lameness, then walked back stage.

As Syd lead me to her dressing room, I began to let what Syd said sink in.

This was my chance to take back my destiny. And even as much as it hurt, I had to be

with Nora. Syd was right, I would be worthless to her or anyone else unless I tried again

with Nora.

Syd and I spent the next hour in her dressing room. I watched everyone rally

around her, prepping her, giving her high fives and “break a leg’s”. I felt as if I was on

the outside looking into something amazing. Hell, I based my whole career on that

theory. I wanted to be an outsider. Because the last time I was on the inside, I got

crushed. And I didn’t move on. I didn’t let go. I didn’t reach out. I just stayed out.

It was about half an hour before the show was to begin and I looked over at

Syd as she was standing just offstage, listening to the crowd as they filled in the theater,

and she knew. She knew I had to leave. I didn’t want to, she didn’t want me to, but I did.

And I’ll never forget what she said to me.

“I knew the moment I met you, you’d break my heart. But it was worth it.”

Then she walked on stage and I walked away. That is, until I reached the

street, then I ran. It was like a scene from a romantic movie until it began to feel awkward

running down the street in the midst of people starring and unbelievable traffic. What the

hell was I running for? I stopped short and laughed at my overly dramatic fashion.

Embarrassing I walked back toward the concert hall and grabbed one of many taxi’s

parked along the entrance. During the ride I prayed she would be at the café, so my

moment could be complete and perfect.

When I arrived, a raced inside and frantically looked around for Nora. I

couldn’t find her anywhere so I asked one of the waiter’s. He told me she’d left for the

day. That’s when I realized I didn’t even know where she lived now. And I’m sure none

of these fools would give me her address. So I asked for a phone book and looked it up.

There was an address, but it was her old one.

Fuck it, I thought. I’ll just go there. Maybe she does still live there. Besides,

I’m writing my destiny now, it has to work. I caught a cab and rode there. It was the

longest car ride of my life. All fifteen minutes of it. Once we reached the house I

graciously paid the driver and stepped out of the cab. I must’ve stood in her driveway for

eternity before working up the nerve to go to her door.

I had it all planned out in my head. I’d knock, she’d answer, and without

saying a word, I’d kiss her. Anything that happened afterward was fate. So I walked up to

her door and I knocked. Then she answered. We both looked at each other as if we hadn’t

seen each other in years. I couldn’t work up the nerve to kiss her either. Even as I could

see myself doing it in my mind as I stood there in front of her.

She didn’t say a word at first, which allowed me too much time to start

thinking. So instead of being romantic, I starting talking.

“I’ve been thinking and I know this sounds crazy but I want to be with you.

We’re meant for each other! You know it and I know it. I don’t care about the past or

what happened. It happened and we can’t change it. But I never stopped… I never

stopped thinking about you. Nora, I’m in-“

Before I could get the long awaited words out, I was interrupted. And no, not

by her kissing me, not even by her stopping me to say something, but by the sight of

another woman suddenly standing next to Nora.

“Hon, who is this?” The woman said to Nora.

“This-is-Avery.” She said with hesitation.

“Oh. Wow. You’re…Avery.” The woman said with hesitating shock.

I wondered what this woman knows about me, or if Nora kept it all a secret

and I’m a mere friend passing through with a shaded past. Who ever it was, Nora didn’t

bother telling me about her. The thought of that alone instantly pissed me off.

“Can you give me a minute?” Nora whispered to the woman then stepped

outside, shutting the door behind her.

“Before you start yelling at me, let me explain.” Nora begged to ration.

“You let me stand there and make a fool out of myself!” I began to yell.

“Wait!” Nora interrupted.” I couldn’t tell you about her because seeing


“So you lie to me! Who is she Nora?”

“We’ve only been dating a month. And I didn’t lie to you! She doesn’t live

with me if that’s what you think.” Nora started to explain.

“And how the hell does she know about me?”

“We were talking one night about soul mates and I told her you were mine.”

Nora said.


“You were. You are. You know what I mean!”

“I was, or I still am?” I asked with pure sincerity.

Nora began to back away from me and look off in several different directions.

I could tell she didn’t want to answer my question. But now she clearly knew how I feel

about her, and I had a pretty good idea how she feels about me.

“I can’t do this right now!” She loudly whispered.

“That’s just great Nora. How about I check in with you a year from now, see

if you’re single then. As long as it’s convenient for you.” I raged then walked away.

Chapter Thirteen
It wasn’t supposed to end that way. Of course, I certainly didn’t feel like it

was over. But it sure as hell was for now. I had to try and move on with my life

somehow. She was beginning to become more of an obsession, an addiction. Or maybe it

was just love. Painstaking, heart-wrenching, torrid, honest love. Even so, I walked away

from her. I walked away from us. At least for now.

I decided to go back to the theater and talk to Syd, my only lifeline. I wish I

had just stayed for her show. It would’ve been the greater highlight of this whole trip.

When I arrived at the theater there were only a few fans waiting outside the back door.

They sneered and pointed as I walked right inside. I think one of them actually yelled

something at me but I was too absorbed in my thoughts to hear anything.

Syd immediately noticed something went wrong. The somber gloom of

rejection that settled in my eyes spoke a thousand words.

“Oh Avery…” Syd softly sighed then walked over to hug me. “Wanna talk

about it?”

Of course I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to scream about it, drink about it,

throw something at it. But that wouldn’t change anything.

“She’s seeing someone.” I said as I sat down allowing my head to sink into

my hands.

“What?” Syd asked in shock.

“I don’t understand Sydney. The timing is never right. You know, this is so

stupid. This whole thing just needs to be over. I think seeing her tonight, especially with

someone else, it made me realize I just need to move on.”

“Are you sure about Avery? You two obviously have a connection.” Syd


“Connections break. Just like people move on when a loved one die. I can’t

waste any more of my life on this shit!”


“I wouldn’t say you’ve wasted anything Avery. You went from being an

unknown musician to one of the most sought out songwriters in the industry. And mostly

because of her!”

“And my mom.” I said under my breath.

Syd nodded in compliance and gave me another hug. As she was about to pull

away a strange wave of intimacy came over me. I suddenly found myself not recognizing

the Sydney I once knew. She was spouting words of wisdom and insightful proverbs.

“Would you do something for me?” I asked.


“When you get back to New York, could you tell Sydney I said hello because

I don’t know who the hell you are.” I partially joked.

“What do you mean?”

“Since when did you become so insightful?” I asked without tact.

“AA…” She blatantly stated.

“That’s all it took to give you clarity?” I joked.

Syd smirked at my lame jokes and we continued throwing around loose

conversations all night. I don’t think either one of us wanted to delve into anything

deeper. Once she wrapped things up at the theater we decided to grab some coffee. We

were both wired from the outrageous events that occurred earlier. Somehow, during our

walk to the nearest place serving coffee at 2am, we got onto the topic of the other night.

The night we slept together.

“We can’t avoid it.” I said.

“I’m not trying to avoid it, I just think it was…”

“A mistake?” I angrily interrupted.

“No! I just think it was inevitable.”

“Inevitable.” I questioned.

“We like each other Avery. We like each other. And we wanted to see where
it would go. It wasn’t like we set out to be just friends. At least that wasn’t the vibe I was

putting out there.”

“I don’t regret it.” I mumbled.

“You better not.” She said with a grin.

“Well you’re being one hell of a friend now, listening to all my selfish shit.”

“You’re not the only one with selfish shit.” She reassured me.

After walking a few blocks we finally found a restaurant open. Once inside we

found a small table in the back and sat down. Oddly, I wanted to keep talking about that

night. I think I was actually trying to flirt with her, but knew it probably wasn’t the best

thing to do. I remembered her telling me what her sponsor recommended about not dating

for a while. I had to respect that. But I felt closer to Syd than ever before. It was almost as

if we opened up our hearts and didn’t care if something jeopardized it from getting hurt.

“Two coffees. Black.” I told the waitress.

“You’ve got this funny little grin on your face. What is that?” Syd queried.

“I do not!” Yelling back, though I knew I did.

“Yes you do! It’s that same look you gave me… Oh my lord you’re flirting

with me!” She figured out.

“Why would I do that?” I asked, hoping she’d drop it so I could actually stop

flirting with her and have a reason to get mad.

“It’s okay. I’d flirt with me too, trying to get on my good side before I hit it


“Yeah that’s it. I want to be apart of your entourage.”

I gave her an odd look, wondering where she was going with this one. Perhaps

she was still playing along with my candid conversation, but I had a feeling she wasn’t.

As much as I wanted to find out what she meant, I changed the subject with further


“You’re cute when you get serious.”


She snuffed me off at first, as we were distracted by the waitress bringing our

coffees. We sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping away, each of us trying to think of

the wittier to say. Then I did something remarkably stupid, but thought at the time it

would be appealing.

“I never noticed before…” I paused, and then brushed my fingers across her

knuckles as she gripped her coffee cup. “You have beautiful hands.”

She quickly jolted back and loudly sighed.


“Alright! I’ll stop.”

“What are you doing? I know you’re not…”

“I’m not.” I interrupted. “It just kinda feels weird. Us. Here. I came here to

deal with Nora and here I am at 2am having coffee with you.”

“Not everything has to be so poignant Avery.”

Her statement totally took me off guard. I found myself growing angry, which

made me realize she was right. Maybe I was looking too deep into everything. Maybe

sometimes things just are the way they are for no reason at all. Maybe it’s just life

throwing you a break. I certainly needed one.

Syd and I agreed to go back to New York together the next morning. It

seemed like the logical thing for me to do at this point. I actually wanted to go back to my

life, my apartment, my music. It’s what I became accustomed to and because of the

unwanted resolution with Nora, everything felt different. I felt as if I could go back and

start over. I had let her go and be happy.

The rest of the night I still acted a fool and flirted with Syd. And she refused

me every time. I think I just wanted some attention, any way I could get it. When

morning arrived we packed up what little we brought along and flew home together. Syd

had a full schedule ahead of her and I of course had nothing planned for a while, which

would give me plenty of time to relax and write.

Driving into the city from the airport I found it hard not to smile. Everything

felt right. I knew I hadn’t completely dealt with Nora, but it wasn’t weighing me down

anymore. If anything, the whole experience gave me good song material.

My apartment was a mess. As I knew it would be, leaving two grown men

alone for a few days. They were both at work when I arrived home so it gave me a chance

to tidy up. I spent the next few hours cleaning and trying to get settled back into my

home. Once everything looked semi-decent I went into my room and started to play on

the piano for a while. Nothing felt better. I almost forgot how good it felt to be alone in a

room with my piano.

About an hour or so later the phone rang. I almost didn’t recognize the sound.

When I picked up it was Syd. We had parted at the airport and she wanted to see how I

was doing.

“When are you coming over?” I asked with a hint of desperation.

“I’m recording all night. You come here.”

“Where is here?” I asked as I grabbed a pen and paper.

She gave me the address and I headed to the recording studio. If there was

anywhere else I felt more comfortable it was in a studio. I loved the small enclosed space

with padded walls and dim lighting. It fit my personality well.

I spent the next two months in the studio with Syd recording her first album.

It’s funny because she never actually approached me about working on her album

together. She just sort of lured me in subconsciously. I think she wanted me to know she

wasn’t trying to use me.

The time I spent working with Syd ended up being great therapy for both of

us. She couldn’t have timed it any better. Syd never relapsed during the whole ordeal,

despite the constant stress and beer guzzling engineers.

I found myself enwrapped in something new- living a happy life. Syd and I

grew insanely close as friends. We often joke about her one year vow of celibacy and

how it was really the only thing keeping me from trying to sleep with her. I can’t say

that’s entirely false. So of course, I joined her vow and remained unattached. We hoped it

would bring us clarity. I think the only thing it brought was sheer frustration and

motivation to work.

I rarely thought about Nora, but when I did I chose to think about our

Tuesdays as the café. I secretly wished she’d try to reach me, or show up at my door one

day. But I knew that would be a mistake. On Syd’s album, we recorded one song about

her. Syd knew it was about Nora and actually wanted to record it. She thought it would

give me a sense of closure.

Recording the song I wrote about Nora did give me resolution. And I loved

the fact that Syd sang it. I told her we should push that song to radio first. Pop fans love a

sappy ballad. But she took offense to the fact I was labeling her music as pop and we

didn’t speak for three days. Celibacy tends to make you edgy as well.

Of course we resolved our tiff and pressed on. An independent label ended up

releasing her album and she immediately went on tour. I was able to help her out a bit

with press connections and a skilled manager. She wanted me to manage her tour but I

quickly reminded her how horrible I am with people and she eagerly agreed.

When Syd first left, I had an incredibly difficult time being alone. Something I

was very used to and liked, but I was surprised how close I allowed myself to get to

another person. Even when Nora was in my life I was able to detach. A month went by

before I steadily got back on my feet and established a new routine. Then Syd calls me

from Oklahoma of all places, panicking over the crazy life of touring and I rushed to her


The choice to continue the tour with her proved to be a wise decision. I knew

a bit more insight about the business and didn’t allow anyone else to run her over. The

opportunity allowed me as well to make new artist connections. Besides Syd, I hadn’t

written or sold any music for quite a while. But on the tour I met a two female singers
interested in my style of writing and we set up a later date to record.

Things were going pretty great on the tour and I couldn’t have been happier. It

was the life I always wanted to lead. The route to get there was odd, but I was learning

that you can’t always choose the path, just the desired destination. And it didn’t hurt to

have your dead mother constantly ringing idioms in your head.

One night in some city I can’t remember the name of, Syd and I shared a hotel

room, as we normally did. Only that night for some reason we were both wide awake

after one of her shows. Normally, Syd crashes and I watch TV. But that night, since we

were so bright eyed, we started an array of conversations once we reached our room.

“How do you think it went tonight?” Syd yelled from the bathroom.

“Well, from where I stood, pretty well.” I remarked as I slipped into some


“It’s funny. The crowd always seems to applaud louder after your song than

any of the others.” She said, emerging from the bathroom.

I didn’t say anything to her odd comment and watched as she tediously


“You know, you’re supposed to stop once your gums start bleeding.” I


She smirked at my nit-picking and threw the floss in the trash.


“Hum.” I replied.

“Do you still think about Nora?” She shockingly asked.

“What?” I sassed.

“Do you ever still wonder about…”

“Syd, we are not going there tonight.” I interrupted.

“It’s just that I know things are better, I know you’re happier, but I think if it

were me, I’d always wonder, ya know?”


“What’s there to wonder Sydney?” I said with growing anger. “She was with

someone. I told her I was in love with her. She told me I was her soul mate. Then I

walked away. And she chose to stay with some fucking woman she’s been dating for a


“You’re right.” She said softly.

“I know I’m right. I just had to let go Syd. And I got lucky. Look where we

are, look what happened to both of us. I can’t say I wonder because this is better.” I stated

as I began to calm down.

“Hell yeah it’s better. And I’m the lucky one.”

“Don’t start getting all sappy Syd.”

Syd walked across the room with a childlike gesture and reached her arms out

for a hug. I returned it with two quick back slaps and we retreated to our respected beds.

Syd was often random in her thought process, and even more so in speaking, but it was

the first time she candidly brought up the subject of Nora. Thinking of our conversation

nearly kept me up all night. I hadn’t really wanted to think about Nora and the choices

she made. After a few hours of trying to sneak her out of my conscious, I finally fell

asleep and dreamt of Nora. Nothing specific, just the image of us. It was enough to piss

me off the next morning and I gladly took it out on Syd until she caught on.

By mid afternoon I let go of my foulness and resumed to better ways.

Thinking about Nora was like remembering your parents divorce from childhood or a bad

car accident. The memory is always there, it hurts, and no matter how hard you try, you

always hold on to a little piece of it for no other reason than to remember it happened to

Chapter Fourteen

Three days later I went home. I had set up a meeting to work on a song for a

new artist named Sarah Andrews. She was very eager to get started so I dove right into

the songwriting process. I spent two straight days in my room writing and playing until I

thought I had something semi-audible. Around the forty-ninth hour and fifteen cup of

coffee I decided to emerge onto the balcony for some fresh air. My roommates, who I

hadn’t spent virtually any time with, were on a ski trip in Colorado. I missed having them

around, the apartment felt funny without their man stench lingering in the air.

I stepped out onto my balcony and took a deep breath. As the fresh air filled

my lungs I took in my familiar surroundings and smiled. I noticed the sky looked an odd

shade of grey and just then, a few drops of rain began to fall. When I’m not submerged in

writing, I’m usually the one who can tell you the five day forecast. I stood outside until a

steady pour began to fall then I walked inside. I thought about taking a shower or

changing my clothes but my lazy Sunday attitude kicked in and I decided it was time for

a nap.

Just as I plopped down on the sofa, there was a knock at the door. I shot up

into a sitting position but didn’t answer at first. Most of the time I only thought some one

was knocking on my door, but I’d answer and it would be someone at the apartment

across the hall. But then I heard the knock again and it was clearly on my door. I really

didn’t want to answer dressed in sweats and unwashed hair in a pony tail, so I started to

lie back down on the sofa.

A few seconds went by and I’d heard the knock again. Reluctantly, I decided

to get up and answer. “This better be something important.” I uttered loud enough to send

a message to the person knocking. I took my time unlocking the door, and for some

reason, I didn’t look in the peephole.

I opened the door and focused my eyes on the person standing in front of me.

It was Nora. At first I thought I was hallucinating. Surely it wasn’t Nora standing in front

of me at my apartment door. But it was. And I couldn’t speak. Nora took a small step
back after we spent a good twenty seconds starring at each other.

“Wow… You look, horrible.” Nora said with a grin.

“I’ve been writing.” I managed to say.

“I take it you still lock yourself up for days to write.”

I slowly nodded and eyeballed Nora’s stance from head to toe. I knew my

facial expressions screamed of shock, but Nora seemed oddly phased.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m here.” She said.

I nodded again.

“Can I come in?”

I moved to the side as she walked inside and took a quick glance around the


“It’s just as I imagined.” She said slightly under her breath. Nora took a seat

on my sofa and loudly exhaled. I walked slowly toward her with my arms crossed tightly

around my chest. I found my body stiffening up as I tried to move in closer. Instead, I

began to back away a bit, with my arms still crossed and bewildered eyes.

“The thing is Avery- I want you in my life. I don’t know how or even if I

stand a chance, but I need you back in my life. Not that it matters, but that woman I was

seeing, I ended it that night. She asked me if I was still in love with you. It’s funny, I

couldn’t tell you that, but I told her. I told her that I’ve always been in love with you.”

Nora paused and looked up at me. “So I’ve spent months in agony over what to do. Then

one day I was flipping through the newspaper and saw Sydney Barrett was performing

nearby. The name stuck out for some reason then I remembered your brother told me you

knew or worked with a singer named Sydney. So I went to her show in Baton Rouge of

all places, and there you were. I watched you all night, standing by the stage watching her

perform. You never left that spot. I could sense you two had an unspoken bond. Like the

one we used to have…” Nora rose from the sofa. Her eyes began to grow red with the

intense onset of tears. “Avery, I have nothing else to lose. That’s why I’m here. To tell

you, I’m in love with you.”

I remained frozen and speechless. There we were, inches apart, face to face, as

she professed her love for me. I began to think about everything she had just said. Certain

words ringed in my ears- I need you, I want you, I’m in love with you. Everything I

wanted to hear from Nora, perhaps since the first day we met. But with Nora it was more

than a need or want. We did have a bond, an unbreakable connection. And yet, the

thought her bad timing began to boil resentment inside, allowing me to break my silence.

“I’ve moved on Nora. My life here is good. And yes, Syd and I, we’ve

become close, as friends. But I’m different now. I just don’t think I could have you in my

life. The thought of it, it would hurt too much. And it would push me backwards. Nora,

you know I…”

“Just stop.” She interrupted. “Don’t say it. You’ve said enough.” Nora began

walking toward the door.

“Nora, wait! Let me say this… You know I love you. I just don’t think you’re

in love with the same person anymore. I’ve changed.”

“You’ve changed…” She said mockingly under her breath. “Bullshit! So

maybe you have changed, but you’re still Avery. You’re still the girl I met that day in the

coffee shop, ignoring me. You’re still the girl who came to my door three months ago…

Maybe you have changed, but I know this hasn’t changed.” Nora put her hand to her


She was right, my feelings haven’t changed. Everything outside of me has, but

the one thing I couldn’t let go of, no matter how hard I tried to bury it, was how I felt

about Nora. Just as I was about to give in to her, the phone rang. But I didn’t answer. I

still couldn’t allow myself to move. Nora and I both starred at the phone as my answering

machine picked it up.

“A-v-e-r-y…” She said in an elongated tone. “Where-are-you? Pick-up-the-

phone… You-know-you-miss-me! Pick up, pick up, pick up!”

It was Sydney. I could tell by Nora’s reaction that she knew it was her. I

quickly picked up the phone.

“I’m here.”

“Avery! God, I miss you. You better be writing.”

“I am.” I said in a monotone voice.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t really talk right now.”

“Why the hell not?” She sassed.

“Just call me back tonight, okay?”

“Alright.” Sydney sighed then hung up.

I hung up the phone and looked back at Nora. I could sense jealously from her

expression and wanted immediately to validate myself.

“That was Syd. I’ve been touring with her so...” I explained.

“It’s okay.”

I stepped away from the phone and drew myself closer toward Nora. I knew

exactly what I wanted to say to her. And I knew exactly how to say it in a way that would

get her attention, as only she would know my true mannerisms.

“Where are you staying tonight?” I asked, standing jarringly close to Nora.

“At the hotel down the street.” She muttered, drawing even closer toward me.

“Give me some time to think.” I said with a delicate imposition.

I watched her face instantly soften in front of me. I wanted to kiss her, as we

stood familiarly close. The moment reminded me of the first time we made love. I could

smell her flower infused perfume and it suddenly drew me back to that night. When Nora

began to back away, I could see in her eyes that she knew what I was thinking.

I walked up beside her and held the doorknob. Nora gave me a lasting grin

then began to turn and walk out the door. I had a fleeing thought of wanting to stop her,

but before I could, she turned around.




“Do you know what day it is?” She asked.

I paused for a moment, trying to think of what day it was as I had lost such

track of time while writing. But then it came to me.

“It’s… Tuesday.” I said.

She widely smiled at me then walked away. There was no doubt in my mind

that Nora calculated seeing me this day. It was our day. And I’m sure she thought that

would affect me even more. She was right, it did.

I closed my door and immediately went to the phone to call Syd. As I finished

dialing I suddenly began to feel guilty and selfish. So I hung up then phone. But

apparently I allowed it to ring enough that it my number came up on her cell phone and

she called back. I picked up the phone and sighed before saying anything.

“Hey.” I said.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

I couldn’t speak after that. I wanted to tell her but something kept me from

saying the name Nora to Syd.


“Nora was here.” I confessed.

“Just now?”

“Yes.” I answered.

“It’s okay. Talk to me.”

“God, Sydney. She just, showed up here! I’ve been writing for two days

straight and then heard this knock at the door. And there she was, I couldn’t believe it.”

“So what happened? Where is she?

“She started saying all this stuff, about how she left that woman and she’s still

in love with me. How she wanted to be in my life. Then, she left. ”

“And what?” I stated with anger.

“What did you say to her?”

“What the hell do you think I said Syd?”

“I would think you’d tell her how you felt.”

“I did! I told her I’ve changed and I don’t have room for her in my life

anymore. I told her that she doesn’t know who I am now. That I’ve changed.”

“Avery.” Syd paused for a moment. “Go to her.”

“What?” I exclaimed out of shock.

“Yes you’ve changed, we both know that. But Avery, Nora is your soul mate.

I know that, you know that, she knows that. Just go to her.”

“But Sydney…”

“No buts Avery. What have you got to lose?” She ironically asked.

“That’s just what she said.”

“I know you’re worried what I think or you wouldn’t have called me. You

know I love you Avery. No matter what happens. I want you to be happy. She can make

you happy. I know that.”

“I don’t want to lose you.” I whispered, trying to hide the fact that I was

starting to cry.

“You won’t lose me! Just promise you’ll call me afterwards.” She said with a

relieving tone.

“I will.” I said with a sniffle and smiled. “Bye Avery.”

“Bye hon.”

I hung up the phone and wiped the tears from my eyes. As much as I imagined

it, I never dreamed I’d find myself in this situation. Yet, I still wasn’t sure if I should do

what Syd said and go to her. As stood by the phone, completely wrapped up in the

moment, the phone rang. I let my machine pick it up.


“Avery, this is Sarah, are you there? Well I just wanted to see how you were

coming along with the song. You said to give you about two days to write it, so I just

thought I’d call to see…”

“Sarah, hey I’m here.” I picked up, remembering I had a job to do.

“How are things coming along?” She asked.

“I’m finished actually. Are you still in town, do you want to meet at the studio

tomorrow morning?”

“Yes, that would be great. I’ll be here for two more days. Oh wait.” She

paused. “I can’t tomorrow, how about you drop the tape off at the studio and I’ll get my

manager to pick it up. I’ll just call you from the road and we’ll talk about it then.”

“That sounds fine. I’ll have it ready around noon?” I cautiously asked.

“Perfect. Talk to you soon then!” She said with excitement.


I was honestly less than thrilled to get back to work on the song. I told her I

was finished, which I was, but I hadn’t recorded it yet. Maybe that’s what I needed to

focus on though, instead of Nora. Maybe it would give me clarity on a decision. Wishful

thinking, I thought.

So I went back in my room, shut the door, and began the tedious process of

recording. I don’t know why, but even alone I get nervous when I see that red button light

up. Just knowing what I’m playing live will be final gives me a sense of uncertainty and

my fingers start shaking. That’s not exactly helpful when you’re playing piano.

Less than three hours later, I was finished. I decided to just record music and

not the lyrics, as I’m sure Sarah would want to change a few things around. I burned the

CD and labeled it, then popped it into a case. Done, I said aloud. I slouched over my

keyboard and took a long, deep breath. I had no idea what time it was, and I almost forgot

the day, until I remembered Nora asking me earlier.

There was nothing left for me to do. I had no reason to call Syd and playing
piano for therapeutic reasons seemed absurd at this point. It all came down to me. I could

hear my mother’s voice in my head, telling me to stop being so stubborn. Then I thought

about how perfect and happily-ever-after the moment would be if I showed up at her

hotel right now, knocked on the door and immediately raced into her arms. We’d kiss as

though it were the first time and make love without hesitation. Sounds perfect, right?

Well it just didn’t make any sense to me how that could happen. Nothing has been perfect

when it came to Nora and I. Sure we shared one amazing night, but it was over before it

began. The events that followed forever changed my image of a perfect moment. Mainly

that it doesn’t exist. And maybe it shouldn’t exist, even as much as I wanted it. I knew I

lived in an idealistic world. I can’t expect so much of what I see in my head to actually

come true.

Nevertheless, I did tell Nora I’d come there. She’s expecting me. I even teased

the thought of trying to just be friends. That’s how we began, why can’t be how we end?

The thought was fleeing. I wanted all of her or nothing. I couldn’t watch her with

someone else. And the truth is I didn’t want anyone else but her.

Still at a loss for the right answer, I hopped into the shower. I was going to

her, either way. Once I was finished a long over due cleansing, I looked at the clock for

the first time in two days. It was 7pm. I peeked around my bathroom door to look out the

window. There was no light in sight, but I could hear the sounds of water dripping on the

balcony. I almost forgot the rain began to fall earlier when I was out getting some fresh

air. Only now, the rain was steadily coming down. I really hated the thought of getting

out in that mess. No one looks good wet. But I continued to get dressed and dry my hair.

What outfit do you wear to meet your long time best friend, one time lover?

What color shirt says, I forgive you for bailing on me the night my mother died. Are

jeans more approachable than khakis? Maybe I was overanalyzing a bit. I settled on

something simple. It was more me than anything else, just a plain white tee shirt and

jeans. I grabbed a hooded sweatshirt on the way out of my room, hoping it would shield

me from the damn rain.

Once I was fully dressed and dried my hair, I gave myself a once over in the

mirror then dashed toward the front door, grabbing my license and a few dollars that laid

on an end table by my couch. I nearly flew down the stairs and out into the miserable

rain. It was wildly humid, yet cold. I couldn’t spot a star in the sky, nor the moon. It was

less than inspiring.

I knew exactly where she was staying. There was only one hotel down the

street from me. It was a rather expensive hotel, but I assumed she stayed there for

proximity rather than saving a few dollars. I began to walk toward the hotel, clutching the

hood of my sweatshirt tightly around my face. But the rain still beaded down on me

relentlessly. I wanted to run but the act seemed futile. I’d rather arrive wet than wet and


Less than a block away I could finally see the door to the hotel. At this point I

was rather drenched, but hoping there was a bathroom in the lobby so I could look half

way presentable. I’m not sure why I cared so much about how I looked, as it was only

Nora, the woman who knew all my faults and imperfections. I suppose part of me wanted

to impress her.

When I finally reached the lobby, I madly searched for a restroom. Luckily,

within inches, there was a ladies room. I made a frenzied dash inside and pulled down my

hood. I looked absolutely horrible. There was no salvaging any attracting features at this

point. Fuck it, I blurted aloud, even less to lose. I slowly walked out of the ladies room

and headed toward the front desk.

“Can I have the room number for Nora Evans?” I asked the attendant.

“Let me see… She’s in room 806. Do you want me to ring her first?” He


“No, no that’s okay. Thanks.” I said then headed toward the elevator.

This was it, I thought. I was oddly alone in the elevator and had plenty of time
to bale out, especially considering my rag doll look. But once I heard the elevator ding

and the doors open wide to her floor, there was no turning back. I stepped out onto the

hallway and looked down right toward her room number. Then, there I was, at her door,

room 806. I hesitated before knocking at first, then stepped back a bit and let out a full on

three knocks. I looked a mess and felt a mess, but I didn’t care. I was about to tell Nora I

was in love with her. I must’ve been so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I didn’t

realize quite a bit of time had passed since I knocked on her door. So I knocked again.

Strangely, there was still no answer. I had no choice but to walk away. I secretly hoped as

I walked down the hallway she would open her door and see me, but it didn’t happen.

I stepped onto the elevator and steadily made my way to the lobby. I couldn’t

stand the thought of not exhausting every measure, so I went back to the front desk and

asked the attendant to ring her room. There was no answer. At this point I had no choice

but to walk away.

Once I stepped outside, I off took my damp sweatshirt and began to walk

home. The rain poured intently upon my face and clothes, but I didn’t care. I immediately

drew the assumption she left me, once again. But this time there couldn’t possibly be a

good enough excuse. Thus, I continued my walk home, soaked in chilled rain, completely

saddened and angered by my own will of wanting her true love.

By the time I reached my apartment lobby, I looked as if I had stepped straight

out of the shower and onto the street. It was less than flattering. Luckily, no one was

around to see my dismay. I willingly decided to take the stairs to my third floor

apartment, as I was too impatient for the damn elevator. Once I reached my floor I began

to walk head down toward my apartment door. It wasn’t until I was inches away that I

realized there was a person standing in front of my door. I dawdling lifted my head to see

who was there. Without a doubt, I instantly realized it was Nora. I suddenly became very

conscious of my image. I knew how horrid I looked and automatically sensed she knew

where I had just been.


“I couldn’t wait.” She said.

I walked up to her and pulled the apartment key out of my pocket. Once the

door became unlocked, I grabbed Nora’s arm and pulled her inside. Without letting go I

slammed the door shut and pressed my body against hers. Then, without falter, I kissed

her. I’m not sure if she saw or thought it was coming, but I kissed her. And I didn’t stop.

I tried to keep my concentration on her lips, but my hands moved wildly

around her body. The more I touched her, the more I realized what was actually

happening. And I didn’t want it to stop. I didn’t care where this was going, but it was

going to happen, and it was going to happen now.

The moment wasn’t ideal and romantic. We literally ravaged into sex, leaving

no room for foreplay, but thankfully ended up on the sofa. I listened as Nora breathed

shallow and slow, almost as if air was of no necessity. We never smiled at each other or

showed any signs of a break in mutual thoughts. The moment was intense, as was the sex.

But now it was over and someone at some point had to speak.

“We can’t do this.” I bravely worded.

“I know.” She replied.

“Why can’t we do this?” I questioned myself, turning toward her flushed


“You remember, a few years ago, you and I were leaving the school after class

when we ran into Professor Collins?”

“Yeah.” I answered, wondering where the hell she was going with this.

“When he told us, opposites attract, but never last.”

“He was right.” I said.

I started pacing around the room, as if I truly had a reason to be angry or

upset, but I was actually just trying to think of something clever to say.

“This thing between us, can you actually imagine it becoming real? We have

these moments, but that’s all they are, moments. I know I have to lose my best friend
over these damn moments, but we can’t live our whole life this way.” I declared.

“So what now?” She asked as I sat back down next to her.

“You know what.” I said as I rose from the sofa.

Nora stood before me, buttoning her jeans in a rather casual fashion then

delicately ran her fingers through the uneven balance of her hair. She looked sexed. I

spent that “moment” imagining myself being with her. I imagined making love on

Sunday mornings, arguing at the grocery store or making Tuesday’s our movie night. I

imagined being in a relationship with this woman, the only woman I have ever loved.

Nora walked toward the front door and I unwillingly followed her lead.

“What, you don’t feel closure?” I asked, standing at the doorway.

“I don’t.” She responded in a broken tone.

“I don’t think we will ever have closure.”

And just like that, it was over. Without a hint of glamour, Nora walked out the

door and out of my life. I chose to stay in my world and she ran back to hers. A part of

me always had this insane vision she would end up settling down somewhere out west

with a rancher named Susan. They would spend their days tending to horses and enjoy

chilly autumn nights out on a big wooden deck. I’m sure that’s not where she’d really end


Chapter Fifteen
Two years later and oddly enough it’s a Tuesday. It’s around nine o’clock in

the morning and I’m dressing for a funeral. I actually went out and bought a large black

pea coat because I couldn’t find anything entirely black or entirely appropriate to wear. I

found myself thinking of my mom all morning, praying she’d get me through this.

Two days ago I got a phone call from my manager telling me Sydney

overdosed, again. It seemed her brief enlightenment only lasted through the glory days.

As he was telling me when it happened and that she didn’t make it I fell to the floor in

complete shock. I kept thinking about our last conversation, which was only about forty-

eight hours ago. I still could hear her voice with such clarity in my mind. The sound of it

would not go away, neither did my tears.

I finished dressing, ultimately deciding on a pair of dark blue jeans, grey

sweater, and of course, the large pea coat to cover up my mess of an outfit. I knew

Sydney wouldn’t care what I wore, but everyone else would. In my own stubborn

fashion, I insisted on not riding with everyone in a limo, feeling the pretentiousness

would be insulting.

As the cab dropped me off in front of the cemetery I looked around at the

mounds of gravesites. Groves of people, all dressed better than I, walked around in a

lulled state, almost looking lost. I realized I didn’t really recognize anyone, except my

manager, so I walked over to him. He hugged me and we barely spoke.

There must’ve been over fifty people amongst the gravesite. As we made our

way toward the front, I immediately caught site of Sydney’s tombstone. It read all too


Sydney Barrett

1980 - 2005

I felt a wave of emptiness exhume within me as I read it and joined everyone

else in silent tears. The preacher began talking but I choose to ignore everything he was

saying. Words for her were not enough. I’m not sure anything could be enough for


As I blocked out the noise around me I began thinking for the first time how I

should have been there to stop her. I should of known she was using again. How could I

not? What kind of fucking friend am I if I can’t even tell my best friend is shooting up?

Of course I quickly refrained from this mentality as I knew there was really nothing I

could have done. Whether I knew or not, Sydney would still be dead.

I think on some level I always had this inkling Syd would go out this way. It

wasn’t at all like some dramatic rock star display of glamorized death. Syd had a real

problem with real consequences and a job that required endless talent at unrealistic

extremes. But it’s still no excuse and she made headlines just like any other dead young


I wasn’t at all ready to believe she was dead. It helped that I hadn’t seen her in

months and we only talked on the phone, everyday. Yet her voice deemed to haunt me

more than I imagined. The need to listen to one of her songs or even play back her

messages on my machine grew excessively tempting. Maybe that way, she isn’t dead.

The preacher wrapped up his spiel with a prayer and everyone began to walk

away. A few people I vaguely recognized came up to me and gave their condolences. I

was polite and let them do the required gesture but after they all left I stayed and watched

as two middle-aged men in gray jumpsuits lowered her mahogany casket into the ground.

The moment was unforgettable. I couldn’t imagine a darker setting than the day I

watched my mother die.

The two men looked at me with strange observation then asked me if I needed

a moment before they finished. I wanted to stay, but I was afraid if did, I wouldn’t leave.

I nodded at the two men then began to walk away. I knew I could always come back, and

that gave me peace of mind for the time being.

As I walked toward a road leading out of the cemetery I could faintly make

out a familiar figure in the distance leaning against a tree. At first I thought it was just
someone I recognized from Syd’s entourage but the closer I walked toward the image, the

more I became aware it was not anyone Syd knew. I decided at this point to stop walking

and look more intently into this distant mystery. I wasn’t sure if this person was even

looking at me, but the odd lump in my throat told me otherwise.

We stood for at least a minute, both frozen in equal stances, starring each

other down. I began to feel the earth move all around me. The wind slurred above me,

nudging my instincts to sharp alertness. As a wave of nausea anxiously embodied me, the

image instantly became clear and I felt as if I was going to join the immediate company.

It was Nora.

We started walking toward each other in a rapid motion. Then there we were,

standing in the middle of a dirt road on cemetery grounds at Sydney’s funeral. Nora’s

eyes were drastically different, aged almost, starring at me with an equally nauseating

glare. We nearly grabbed each other for a hug and I felt for the first time what defines

salvation. We embraced much longer than needed then pulled apart and continued our

intense eye lock.

“I heard. I had to come.” Nora said in a very soft tone.

“I thought I’d never see you again.” I reacted, speaking from my heart instead

of my head.

“Are you okay?” She asked.

I just looked at her with obviousness and nodded. What is it with Nora and

people dying? I almost wanted to say that aloud, but I answered myself all too quickly.

My mother used to always tell me that in troubled waters, God will keep sending a damn

boat until you decide get onboard. I never understood that, until today.

For me, it all came down to love. I chose everything in life but love. God kept

trying to send it, but I’d let it pass right by me. I could’ve been with Nora two years ago

when she came to my door and poured out her heart, but I chose my detached career. I

chose a selfish fulfillment that required emotionless effort. Sydney used to ask me how I

could write about love without ever experiencing it. I would always comeback with the

clichéd ‘those who can’t do, teach’.

Nora and I walked back toward Syd’s gravesite and watched the two grey

jumpsuit men clear out the grounds. I had so much to say but I really didn’t want to talk. I

felt too comfortable standing next to Nora, almost as if I didn’t need words to

communicate with her.

“I almost didn’t come.” Nora spoke with a shaky voice. “But then I thought

about your mom. I thought about that night.”

Nora and I continued starring straight ahead, feeling the absorption of

decease. I had no clue if she was involved or still owned the coffee shop. Then I realized

she didn’t know anything about my life right now either.

“I didn’t want you to be alone.” She continued.

“I’m not.” I erroneously mislead her.

“Oh.” Nora sighed.

“Well I wasn’t, but I am now.”

We looked at each other in this awkward moment and nervously smiled. The

comfort of familiarity was quite tempting, but I tried to keep perspective. Besides,

knowing Nora, I’m sure she won’t stick around too long.

“So this is weird.” I tried to break the uneasiness.

Nora didn’t smile or laugh along with my short chuckle. I feared the worst

was about to surface. She was going to revisit our past. But this time something struck a

different nerve. I feared talking about us, but I almost didn’t want to doom the idea of

being open.

“We should talk Avery.” Nora said as she looked down at the ground.

“Come on, let’s go.” I placed my hand on her arm, suggesting we leave.

Nora and I walked out of the cemetery and took a cab to the nearest coffee

shop. I was completely ready for this, whatever she had to say. I knew the moment was
almost inappropriate, yet I felt Syd’s presence loom inside my heart. A feeling quite

different than the way she would normally make me feel. Our friendship had grown

physically distant, but emotionally she was always there. Even as I often meddled into

Syd’s love life, she never bothered me on topic of love after the last incident with Nora

two years ago. But today I felt as if she was screaming louder than ever. Of course mom

gave me the same blaring rants. All of which I tried to delicately ignore.

Nora and I came upon a small diner and decided it would be a good place to

talk. The place was rather empty so we chose a table near the front by the window. A

good distraction, I thought. We watched as our frazzled waitress made her way from the

back to take our order. I ordered a coffee, while she chose unsweetened tea. I wildly

grinned at her choice of beverage. She grinned back, knowing why.

“So…” I began.

“I hope this is okay.” She carefully asked.

“Depends on what this is.” I encouraged her to continue.

Nora cleared her throat. “It’s been two years Avery.”

“I know.” I said, starring out the window at a rather dull landscape. “So are

you still running the café?”

“Oh. Yeah I am. How about you?”

“About the same. Actually I just got back from London. It was my first time


“Oh wow. You always wanted to go there.” Nora perked up.

“Yeah, you were supposed to take me.” I slipped.

“Well maybe next time.” She smiled.

I looked up at Nora and tended to roll my eyes. “Next time.” I mumbled and

then returned to my coffee.

“I’m not saying anything Avery.” She remarked with a bit of anger in her


“Maybe you should.” I encouraged, trying to stay open for once.

“What should I say? That I miss you and I think about you all the time. And I

know you miss me.” Nora paused and put her hand on mine. “It’s been two years.”

“I know. Of course I miss you.” I started to break.

“Are you happy?” She asked.

“I’m, happy.” I stated with great hesitation. “I know I’ve made some

questionable decisions.”

“I like that. Questionable.” She mocked. “You know, I keep telling myself,

probably what you’ve been telling yourself. That I should move on, I’m smarter than this

mess. But really, I fear one day I’ll turn around and be eighty years old still thinking

about you the same way I do now.”

I had no idea what to say to that. This woman, who I’ve always looked up to

with deep admiration and grew to love on a level I obviously wasn’t ready for, left me

speechless. Things were getting all too real, much like the night she kissed me with her

wine soaked lips, or the morning after when we made love. In both instances I ran. Nora

had her fair share of running from me as well. So how is it that two runners, obviously

not ready for anything real, but constantly agonize ourselves with the possibly of an

eternal love, still want to be together? We should be torturing other poor souls who don’t

see us coming a mile away.

I continued to sit in silence, starring out the window and sipping on my now

cold coffee. Nora needed a response from me. Her expression almost shouted for relief

that I was not giving. My head suddenly began to swirl with the thoughts of our past and

present. What am I fighting? What am I afraid of? At this point there’s no friendship to

ruin. Neither of our hearts could break any harder, as they’ve already been through

enough. So the pivotal question- Is Nora the boat I’ve continually let pass by?

“You’re the boat.” I mumbled.

“I’m what?” Nora asked with puzzlement.

“You’re the boat, and I just keep letting you pass me by.” I continued this

verbal realization.

“Avery, help me out here, what are you talking about?”

“My mom, she always used to tell me that when you’re drowning in life, God

will keep sending a boat until you decide get on. I never understood until now. ”

“Oh I know that story. Didn't she ever tell you the story?"

I nodded my head no and she proceeded to tell me the background behind my

mother's profound rationale.

"There's a man who gets stuck on his roof after a huge flood and he has a

chance to get rescued by three different boats that pass by him but he tells them all to

leave him because God is going to save him. But the man ends up drowning in the flood

and when he gets to Heaven he asks God why he didn’t save him. God tells him, ‘What

do you mean? I sent you three boats.’”

I starred at Nora’s lips as she told me the story and felt a string of revelations

wrap itself around me. How could I not know this story! And why didn’t my mother

bother explaining herself for once! Maybe then I wouldn’t be sitting in this drabbed

restaurant dressed in black for Sydney’s funeral and discussing the obvious disregard of

love with my soul mate.

“I can't believe she never told you the whole story.” Nora asked between sips

of her tea.

“Typical of her.” I muttered, baffled by my own ignorance. “You know, my

mom, she always wanted us together. She used to say how there was something about

you, something in your eyes.”

“My eyes?” She asked.

“Yeah, that they were honest.” I continued.

“Well don’t you think she’s probably looking down at us and a little miffed at

the fact that we’re not together?” Nora resourcefully commented.


“You’re the boat.” I mumbled again, this time with more assurance.

“I’m the boat.” Nora confirmed, looking dead into my eyes.

It was then, for the first time, I saw something in her eyes. Before today, they

were simply the eyes I always adored and could never break a smile upon contact. But

now, I saw what mom saw. I felt how scared she was about unveiling the truth in love.

As miraculous as it sounds, Mom actually performed her proverb, on me. She

must’ve known my stubbornness would take a while to clue into her insight, but better

late than never. Something else she always used to say. I obviously didn't listen to that

one much either.

Chapter Sixteen

Three months after Syd's funeral I decided it was time to take my life back to

Texas. To take it back to Nora. For some reason, when I got back to my apartment after

Sydney’s funeral, I couldn't write or play. I had three deadlines to meet and never in my

life had I experienced such a deafening block. And at that insanely took-the-long-road-to-

get-here moment, I knew it was all over. My life in New York as a whimsical songwriter

was over. Sure, it only took my mother's death, a friend's overdose, and an excessively

egotistical lifestyle, but I finally got on one of those damn boats and went home.

I wasn't lying to Nora that day I told her I had changed. I had changed. I

changed into an asshole. I put up a front and believed everything else in the world was

more important than love. My career was important, and remains to be, but it wasn’t

everything. It's not what keeps me and the people around me alive, as I had to learn the

hard way.

For so much of my life I tried to plan. It always felt safe to have a plan. But

not this time around. I had no idea what I was going to say or do when I saw Nora. She

left for home right after our talk in the diner. We parted with typical bittersweet

uncertainty, but I could sense she felt an awakening on my part. That perhaps I finally

‘got it’, yet she still had to leave.

Being the elaborate daydreamer that I am, I acquired quite a few suggestive

scenarios upon permanently returning to Nora. There was the hopeful arm-in-arm reunion

followed with tears of joy and endless kisses. Or there was the speechless I-know-that-

you-know look and we smile with relief. Of course there was always the realistic

probability that nothing will happen and I’ll just have to live content with the fact I gave

it all up for love and moved back home to start over, only without Nora.

I was in Dallas a full day before I worked up the nerve to see her. It’s not like

we hadn’t been down this familiar road a few times before though, but this time was

different. It was all or nothing.

While waiting for my courage to announce itself, I received about twenty calls
from my agent freaking out over my irrational choices. She made quite a few enticing

offers but I didn’t care. I would be okay without that life right now. I still had two hands

to play and write and that was all I needed.

The hour finally came for me to go to Nora. I’d put it off far too long and

simply knew it was time. Of course the particular day of week wasn’t a coincidence. I

needed Tuesday to lean on for support. It was our nostalgic day.

The café looked the same, but quite crowded for a Tuesday morning. I peered

into the window at a safe distance to see if I could see her, always assuming she’d be

there. I guess I banked too heavily on the fact that people spend more time at work than

at home. I looked in a good minute before seeing her emerge from the kitchen and walk

to the bar. My heart sank. This was it, my last chance. I suppose part of me knew I would

be okay if she rejected me. Of course I had just I left everything behind, but deep down I

had to tell myself if anything it had to be ultimately for me.

Nora looked as she always did- stunning. Her hair was pulled up and her

white apron was covered with grease stains. Only I would find that sexy. I watched from

the window far too long before she discovered me. Our eyes locked and I felt raw, naked

almost, as if she were seeing me for the first time.

I didn’t go inside, mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t bear to move. I had

nothing planned to say, as there were no perfect words or gestures. I had nothing. Nora

starred at me, waiting for me to come inside and eventually motioning for me to come in,

but I didn’t. Her eyes changed from a tone of shock to concern as she walked toward the

front door.

“What are you doing here?” She asked.

“I left.”

“New York?”

“For good.” I tried to get the fated words out.

“What?” She shouted.


“I want to be with you.” I blurted out. “I left because I don’t want that life

anymore. I want you. I’ve always wanted you. And I’m sorry I choose everything but

you. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long…”

Nora stood speechless and literally jaw-dropped. I didn’t know what else to

say and frankly, I didn’t want to say anything else. Now I simply had to wait for a

response. But she didn’t respond, at least not with words. Nora’s next gesture became the

greatest moment of my life. It surpassed the night Syd seduced me with ice cubes and

Jack. It surpassed the day Nora and I had it out on my apartment sofa. It even surpassed

writing a love song.

I never saw it coming. She rushed toward me and fervently we kissed. It was

one of those kisses that aren’t exactly pleasurably by any means, as she mistakenly bit my

lip several times and pressed against me a bit too aggressively. But the moment didn’t

call for butterfly kisses. The kiss was perfect. The kiss said everything. And just when I

thought the moment couldn’t be any more wonderful, it began to lightly drizzle rain.

Once again, perfect.

So there we were, standing outside our café on a rainy Tuesday afternoon

kissing. I’d love to say it was happily ever after but that’s not how reality works. Believe

me I’ve been fighting it for years. Despite my agents plea’s for me to come back, I stood

by my word, which left me jobless. I had no other skills but as a waitress, so that’s what I

did. It was awkward taking a job back at the café now that Nora owns it, but it paid and I

had to make something fast so I could find some place to live.

Nora immediately insisted I move in with her but I refused. I had to take

things slow and she eventually agreed. Luckily I had just enough money saved to get by

at a hotel but it was depleting fast, hence, working at the café. Nora and I did move in

together six months later and three months after that I was dying to move out.

I didn’t move out, but a year later we broke up. She was convinced I resented

her for leaving my music career and I was always trying to convince her otherwise. I
suppose there were just too many nights she saw me sitting at my piano staring at the

keys, unable to play.

After a month of breaking up, I seriously considered going back to New York.

But I didn’t. Instead one night I found myself screaming outside Nora’s house. I stood

out there for two hours holding a huge sign that said “Honk if you’re in love”. It was

cheesy and trite, but I hoped it brought a touch of my unoriginal charm. Or annoyed her

enough by all the cars honking until she agreed to talk to me. Two hours and thirty honks

later, she opened the door.

“You’re impossible.” She sighed with a grin.

I just smiled and walked inside. That was the last time we broke up. We’ve

been together now for about twelve years and I couldn’t ask for a better life. I never

thought I’d be able to appreciate love and everything that comes with it, but I learned, the

hard way.

Three years ago we adopted a four year old girl. She brought more joy in our

life than I could imagine. She’s seven now and the questions never stop. A few nights ago

I was about to begin reading our nighttime story when she asked me the most amazing


“What does love mean?” Chloe asked in her tiny rasp voice.

I was speechless. Is there really a way to define love? And if there was, did I

know it? Just then Nora walked by and stood in the door way. I whispered to Nora, “Did

you hear what she asked!”

With all her withstanding grace, Nora smiled and walked over to our daughter

and sat on the bed. She leaned in and kissed her on the forehead then looked over at me

and kissed me on the cheek.

“This is what love means.” Nora said.

Chloe snuggled up to the both of us and displayed a comforting grin. I began

telling her favorite bedtime story. Chloe calls it “mommy’s boat story”. I just knew my

mom was looking down on me with immeasurable delight as she knew I wasn’t going to

let my daughter miss out on that particular life lesson. As I read the familiar fable, I

thought of how Nora gave the perfect answer. Love cannot be defined in words, or even

to a delightful tune, only in actions. I only hoped that one day my daughter learns this

lesson far earlier in life than I did.