“Say you had a tougher love to give, Maeve. Would you do it? Or would you never risk dancing that close to trauma’s border?”

“Hmmm” – Maeve

“Ah”, he said, pre-empting those non-verbal cues he thought he read so well. “But what if you didn’t?” He was in full steam now, having triggered that cognitive latch that it seemed only ever showed it’s key hole with Maeve in the cut.

But, no, he hadn’t pre-empted the non-verbals after all. She was… Tired.

What the fuck? “Baby? Are you even listening?”

“Yes, Eli. But I also popped 2 5s an hour ago. I don’t know that it matters that I am because I can’t engage.”

Eli, 25, disappointed. A real pull-yourself-up-by-the-ankle-tats sort. Dreamer. Finisher. Seed. All this tremendous potential buried in the weeds.

Maeve, 29, satiated. A life already well spent basking on the well-grazed lawns of epicurean tenets. Ethereal, rebel, stud. One stop shop for, “all of the above”.

“Say this is an elaborate ploy for me to get in your pants?”

“Then it would succeed on no fronts. It isn’t a ploy, it isn’t elaborate, and it most certainly will not end with you actually in my pants.

Besides, I never wear pants. I am not modeling an aesthetic that would portray me as sartorially challenged.

And what the fuck did I say about calling me baby?!”

And she was supposed to be having an off evening, Eli thought. This was not going as planned, not at all… ugh, retreat.

“Ayve, my bad, man. I was just in that sweet spot and you know how light I get when I let it carry me away.” He smiled. She relented. All was unwound.

Sort of.

She walked to the fridge and pulled out a PBR. He knew damn well that beer was warm. He’d put the whole 6 pack in the fridge not 12 minutes ago, several minutes after he’d walked in, only two after she’d asked if they were drinking urine for their nightcap.

“I’m really sleepy, Eli”, she said, stifling a yawn as she plopped herself back on to the couch. “We can dive into it another time. Right now, all I wanna do is stay awake long enough to drink this beer and stare comatose at a screen.”

She started up quickly, catching herself, “And before you go there, no, we aren’t diving into whatever you’re thinking. Your name isn’t Sean and your latest hit isn’t an ode to my amazing V.” Her eyes danced in the pale blue light emanating from the TV screen. She set those twinkling orbs on him.

“Alright then, so why am I here tonight if its not that and we’re not engaging in meaningful debate? What do you suggest we do to pass the time till we both fall asleep?”

Shrug.

“Settle in?”

“Eli.” She said his name like a punch. He could feel the dent.

“You came over so we could chill, drink a couple cold ones,” she eyed her PBR suspiciously, “eat a bunch of girl scout cookies, and waste away like two morons who have a deep appreciation and understanding for each other’s moronic tendencies.”

‘I was also hoping to get some of your witty banter, my bon mot tossing friend.” He wasn’t pleased with her plans, but he was mollified that she thought of him when she thought of base comfort. There were no layers she needed to keep on with him around. That was it’s own sort of reward. He guessed.

“Not tonight. It’s been a long week. Maybe tomorrow.” She put her feet on the ottoman and slid forward till she was at a weird 30 degree angle, neck wedged firmly on the couch’s backrest. “Besides, we’re all tiny balls of trauma anyway, just waiting to be triggered. That’s the saddest Friday night topic ever.”

He sighed, still disappointed.

“Alright, I’m picking the movie. And I am not sleeping on the floor. So you’re going to have to drag yourself…”

The doorbell rang, biting off what would have been a chunky yet unappetizing rant around his sleeping patterns and needs. Maeve glanced in the door’s general direction non-committally. He looked at her then followed her gaze. The doorbell rang again.

“Soooo, are you gonna get that?”

She shrugged.

What had she eaten anyway? Straight indica? Damn. Zombie.

“I’m gonna answer it.” He uncrossed his legs.

She was already back to her previous position; chin leaning on her sternum. She nodded. “But I’m not expecting anyone so you could also give it a rest and let whoever that is give us a rest too.”

But he was already up and moving *somewhat* purposefully towards the door.

The damn doorbell went off again.

“Ayy chill man, it’s been all of 14 seconds and you’re not Grubhub.”

Through the peephole was a man that couldn’t be much older than Eli was. Or maybe he could be 35. Age is such a trippy social construct anyway. He was looking a little sweaty (“she’s only three floors up and there’s an elevator, dumbass”), and he’d never seen the face before. He continued studying the face, unsure now.

“Hello? I can hear you breathing on the other side of the door. Maeve? Please. Open the door. Your dad gave me your address.”

Her dad? Maeve hadn’t spoken to her father for the better part of 15 years. And the man had been in jail for most of those years. Who was this dude? How did her dad know where she lived?

The apartment went quiet. She had hit the pause button on Netflix. Oh wait, she was also standing beside him. How had she got here so fast?

She looked through the peephole, familiar mask of studied indifference cloaking all her actions now. No look of recognition, no signs of surprise. He had moved out of her way, immediately, of course. She undid the lock and opened the door a crack, “You better not be a fucking reporter and he better have told you this address with his dying breath – What do you want?”

“My name is T. All other personal details are unimportant. But, when Marcus went to jail, we had an agreement. I’ve been playing mega millions everyday to fulfill that agreement.”

Sooo, not 35 either. Age, man.

“I had the winning numbers 2 weeks ago and I’ve been trying to find you ever since to give them to you.”

Maeve shut the door. Same mask on, no shock, no disbelief, nothing. She locked the door and walked back to the couch.

Eli staggered a step in her direction then turned back, taking a step towards the door. He was utterly flabbergasted. ” B-b-b-butt-t-t, hold up, Ayve. Hold up!” He ran in front of her, hands held out in front of him to slow her momentum, just in case she decided to keep moving and crashed into him. “Let’s think this through, now. There is a man – yes, a sketchy man with an initial for a name, but there is A MAN AT THE DOOR WHO IS TRYING TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE!”

What he did not say, and didn’t think he needed to, was that his life would change too, even if it was only through the happy coincidence of being her friend.

“Get out of my way, Eli. I already told you about my plans for this evening.”

Eli, surprisingly, did not budge. The possibilities for the millions ahead making him bold. “Just listen to what the nice, sketchy man has to say in full. That can’t hurt.”

Maeve was staring at him, unblinking. When she got this way, it was terrifying. You could never tell if she was planning your very detailed homicide, or if she was about to gift you a travel companion ticket to Kauai, like that one time last summer. #travelbestie.

She blinked, once. Slowly.

He moved out of her way. Quickly.

“Yep, you’re not in the mood right now. Totally get it. Plus the 2 5s, I haven’t forgotten. I’ll tell him to come back tomorrow, if he’s legit.” She shot him a sidelong look. “I’ll tell him to meet you … us”, another look, “at the coffee shop on the corner tomorrow morning.”

Netflix was already back on now and he was definitely talking to himself.

He half ran, half slid to the door, slowing down only enough to stop himself ramming into it. Only, now that he was here, he wasn’t sure he wanted T seeing his face or knowing his name. He said loudly, through the closed door, “thanks for stopping by! Please come by at 11 tomorrow morning. We’ll meet you at Cheaper by the Baker’s Dozen, then. It’s around the corner. Goodnight.”

He looked through the peephole to see if T had heard him. There was no one there. Could he have just dreamt up the last 10 minutes? Possibly. This was exactly the sort of thing that had his therapist telling him to lay off the recreational drugs.

He walked back to the couch in a daze. Maeve was staring half lidded at the latest episode of “Sex Education”. He dropped in a heap beside her, stretching his legs out on  the rug, eyes dead centre. He didn’t need any non-verbal cues telling him to STFU till the next morning. Damn, he should have picked up the PBRs from the fridge.

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