Into the Hollow
“OK,” she agreed and began nibbling at a slice. We ate in silence and I tried hard to concentrate on the wonderful goat cheese in the pizza. I failed.
“Oh and I’m telepathic now,” I spoke up between chews. “People can hear my thoughts.”
She didn’t miss a beat. “Anything else?”
“Don’t tell me you can hear what I’m thinking.”
She shook her head and smiled. “No, I can’t. I just don’t think you can surprise me anymore, Perry Palomino.”
I took in a deep breath. “Can you recommend a gynecologist? I’d like to get an IUD put in.”
She coughed on her food and quickly gulped down some water. “All right, that was surprising. What brought that up?”
I shrugged. “Considering I have no desire to get pregnant again, I think it’s the smart thing to do. I never did well on birth control pills anyway.”
“Makes sense,” she said slowly, her eyes glinting suspiciously. “You’re not thinking of, er, shagging anyone in particular, are you?”
I frowned for a second before my slow brain caught on. “What? You mean Dex?”
She bit her lip, trying to suppress a smile. “Don’t get so defensive.”
“How could you think that after everything I just told you?”
“Look, darling, we all have our rough patches. I told you, you’d pull through.”
“With life,” I said adamantly. “Not with Dex.”
“Dex is part of your life, whether you like it or not. You had the chance to cut him out.”
“I did cut him out! I cut everyone out!”
“And yet here you are, having lunch with me, down the street from your new roommate.”
My muscles tensed along my back. “That’s not fair. I had no choice.”
“You always have a choice. Besides, I almost had to wipe up the pile of drool you left on the floor earlier.”
Oh God. Was I that obvious?
“He’s looking good Perry. And I think he’d be good for you.”
“You’re singing a different tune now,” I said thinking back to our last lunch together.
“You’re different people now. He’s changed. Quite a bit. And so have you. Maybe the new you will give him a second chance.”
“The new me will give him nothing,” I retorted, pushing the rest of my food away. “I owe him nothing.”
She snorted and a subtle flash of malice crossed over her eyes. It made me sink a little inside.
“He only risked his own life to save yours, he only brought you back here so you could be safe, and live free of charge,” she said in a flinty voice.
I didn’t want to back down. “Well too little, too late. Where was he then when I was dying inside? Huh? You came and saw me. Where was he? Where was he when I needed him?”
She exhaled slowly through her nose and leaned back in her chair, folding the napkin in her lap. “He was scared. And he was in no position to be anywhere, let alone trying to win you back. He wouldn’t have survived that.”
“It’s true, Perry. He’s not this strong, invincible asshole that you think he is. He has issues.”
“We all have issues.”
“And sometimes those issues hold us back. You practically threw me out of your house. What would you have done to him?”
“Exactly. Of course he knew that. Should he have tried anyway? Maybe. But at least he did try and when you needed him the most.”
“I needed him when my heart was breaking,” I cried softly, jabbing a finger at my chest.
“But maybe you needed to put those pieces back together by yourself.”
She reached over and grabbed my hand.
“Look, I’m not here to argue with you. I know you’re angry and you’re hurt and confused and a whole mess of shite. But that funny man is one of my best friends. You’re not the only one who is hurt and angry and confused. I just want you both to be happy. And if you think you can shag your way there, I am not judging. It might be good for you.”
I rolled my eyes as my heart rate began to calm down. “If I remember correctly, it was sex with Dex that started this whole mess to begin with.”
Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully and I swallowed hard, ready for the rebuttal I knew I deserved. But she didn’t say that. She didn’t bring up my lie. Instead she said, “Life has a funny way of drawing a circle. Well, I do happen to have a good gynecologist. I can’t give you advice on IUD’s or pills or anything like that, another bonus of being a lesbian, but I’m sure I could get you in right away.”
After our rather volatile lunch was over, I thanked her profusely, feeling bad for once again turning the conversation onto myself. She didn’t mind at all, saying she needed the distraction and that my problems looked a lot easier to solve than her own.
Obviously I didn’t agree.
She ended up walking me back to the apartment. Outside the lobby, she placed the spare keys in my hand.
“These are yours now,” she said, closing my hand over them. “Try and hold onto them for a while. Give this a chance.”
“Being his roommate?”
“Being his everything.”
Well, that was never going to happen. I glanced around me at the cold, grey street. “I was thinking of getting a job, like, now. And moving out as soon as I got that.”
I frowned. “So you can hear my thoughts?”
“No, you twit. You’re just very easy to read sometimes.”
She gave me a quick hug, said goodbye and walked elegantly back to her car. I hoped she and Em would work things out. She deserved to be happy.
As for me, well, I thought I deserved to happy too. I just didn’t know what that meant.
I looked up at the apartment building, steadied myself, and stepped inside.
When I walked into the apartment, Fat Rabbit came bounding toward me on chubby little legs and I could hear Dex in his bedroom talking on the phone to someone. It reminded me that I needed to face the music and call my parents at some point. I’d rather get teeth pulled.
I decided to make myself busy and settle in, in case I ended up staying here for a little while. Deep down, I did appreciate what Dex was doing for me, even if this was a way to ease his guilty conscience. But I didn’t trust my increasingly raging hormones and the way they clouded my logic from time to time. I knew moving out would help immensely with salvaging whatever was left of our relationship. Staying would only complicate it.
Still, I lifted the boxes into my den and started unpacking things and tidying up the place so it was less like Dex’s messy office and more like Perry temporary hidey hole.
While I was doing so, I kept hearing snippets of Dex’s conversation. He sounded passionately engaged with someone and as his voice kept rising, I kept easing myself closer and closer to my open door, hoping to hear more and not get caught while I was at it. Eavesdropping wasn’t cool, but hey, it’s what roommates do.
“Jimmy, forget it. She’s not doing it!” he yelled, voice muffled by his door.
If they could, my ears would have perked up. I stepped out into the hall, trying to hear better. Jimmy? Were they talking about me?
I held my breath and strained my head.
“No, I told you,” Dex growled on the other side. “You get me, you don’t get her. No. She’s not going through that again. The whole Riverside deal almost killed her. Get someone else on the show, I don’t really care. But I’m not putting Perry in danger again. And there’s no way she’d want to do it anyway. She quit, remember. And she still hates my guts. I’m just waiting for her to chop my head off in my sleep.” Pause. “Yeah, or my balls. She probably would go for those first.”
My mouth dropped open. That kind of hurt, even though it was partly true.
“I know you need the money. Just get someone else, that’s all. No, she won’t do it for more money. She can’t be bought like that.”
That did it. I straightened up and knocked rapidly on his door.
“Oh fuck,” I heard him say. “Listen, can you hold for a second.”
The door opened and Dex poked his head out, smiling nervously when he saw my determined face on the other side.
“Hi roomie,” he said with forced cheer. “How was lunch?”
“Why are you talking to Jimmy about me?”
His smile fell. “You heard all that?”
“Yeah, it’s easy when you’re eavesdropping,” I said unapologetically.
He rubbed at his chin. “I think we’re going to have to add a no eavesdropping clause to the house rules. We might have to take out the no sex thing though.”
“Dex,” I cried out and pushed his door open. Thank God he was fully clothed in grey t-shirt and black jeans, otherwise I wouldn’t have protested so loudly.
He backed away from me, clutching the phone to his chest. “What?”
“Gimme the phone,” I commanded, holding out my hand.
His head dropped solemnly. “I am on a very important call.”
“Yes, about me,” I said, reaching for it. “Now give it.”
He shrank away and eyed the room anxiously. “Damn, I knew I should have kept a spare roll of duct tape somewhere.”
I could hear Jimmy squawking on the other line.
Dex sighed and put the phone to his ear. “Sorry, sir, a rabid animal burst into my room. No, she’s not taking questions right now.”
With a final attempt, I lunged at him, but not to take the phone outright. Judging from the taut tendons on his forearms, I would have lost that battle.
Instead I played dirty and a hunch. I went for the sides of his stomach and tickled him.
“Holy shit!” he yelped, staggering backward and dropping the phone. I kept my fingers going until he was pinned against his wall. I should have picked up the phone but the feeling of his rigid stomach and soft, thin shirt underneath my hands was addicting. So was the fact that I was making him double over from unwanted laughter.
“Stop it!” he tried to plead during giggles. “You evil genius!”
I reluctantly stopped, our bodies up against each other, breathing and smiling hard. He raised his head, face pink and eyes pinched and I backed off before I started up again. I quickly snatched up the phone from the carpet.
“Hi, is this Jimmy?” I asked into it, keeping my eyes on Dex. He made a move to come forward but I wiggled my fingers as a threat. He frowned but stayed put.
“Well, well, well,” came Jimmy Kwan’s voice through the line. “Perry Palomino. You know, you have to learn how to write a better resignation letter than just, fuck you Dex, I quit. Though, I’ve heard that one quite a bit.”
I smiled despite myself. “Well, he didn’t leave me much choice.”
Dex quickly looked up at the ceiling then made his way over to his bed, plunking down on it in defeat.
“I understand. I was just talking to Dex about bringing you back on the show, if you were interested, and he was quite adamant that you wouldn’t be interested. He’s quite concerned for your safety.”