Authors: Denyse Cohen
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2012 by Denyse Cohen
Previously published by F+W Media
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by AmazonEncore, Seattle
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This title was previously published by F+W Media; this version has been reproduced from F+W Media archive files.
For Janny and Sarah,
whose light will shine in my heart
Thanks to my husband, Scott, for standing by me.
To my son, Shay, for inspiring me.
To my sister, Dylene, for laughing with me.
To my best friend, Lea, for believing in me.
And to the amazing Jennifer Lawler, for saying yes.
I also want to thank family and friends who, at some point in my journey, have given me words of encouragement and support.
I praise all of you because you’ve made the choice to reach out and, selflessly, give something positive to someone else. If more people did that the world would be so very different.
Oh, holy mother of God!
Audrey lifted both hands to her temples and tried to squeeze her head together. It felt like her skull had been opened with a dull handsaw, her brain removed, chopped, and deep-fried.
She struggled to unglue her eyelids and it took her thirty minutes to strain herself out of bed and walk toward the bathroom as upright as a caveman. The pain in her stomach was so intense she had to squeeze her abdomen with one hand while holding her head with the other.
I’ve never got this sick from vodka, she thought. Then she saw an empty bottle on her bathroom sink. I guess I’ve never drunk a whole bottle before. She threw the bottle in the trash bin beside the sink, dumped the pitcher of bloody marys that already started to smell like rotten tomatoes down the drain, and splashed cold water on her face.
After slowly making her way to the kitchen, she placed a kettle filled with water on the stove. The sun coming through the window made the bisque-colored countertop glisten as if infused with gold. Chamomile tea seemed gentler than coffee on her battered stomach, and the lack of caffeine was amended by a couple of aspirins and orange juice.
“Good morning,” she said when her roommate walked in the kitchen. She could tell when Steve had gone partying the night before, because his hairdo would meld into a rubber-sole helmet the next morning. He religiously spent a good deal of money on styling products to mold his thin hair into the spiked look he seemed to like so much.
“Mornin’.” He walked straight to the coffee maker and, noticing it hadn’t been touched, let out a groan of unhappiness.
“Sorry. I’m drinking tea. Want some?” She was leaning against the counter with her favorite mug, a panda bear and bamboo leaves hand-painted by a giggly Japanese seven-year-old.
He made a face of disgust, started the coffee pot and, sitting down at the table, said, “Rough night, huh?”
Instinctively she straightened her back and smoothed her hair. Is it obvious?
Steve glanced at her and smiled. The coffee maker burbled away as he pressed the buttons on his Blackberry.
“You got loads of sympathizers on Facebook,” he said without looking away from the phone.
“Yep, twenty-three comments and seventeen likes.”
“Oh, shit.” She had completely forgotten about it. Last night, after she’d arrived home with vodka and bloody mary mix for dinner, she had updated her Facebook: I was laid-off from the worst job ever, so why does it still feels like a kick in the gut?
“It grants you top news status. More than likely, every time anyone you know logs in, it will be the first thing they see.” He seemed proud of himself.
“Fantastic!” She scratched her head and her long hair went wild.
“Did you go see your friend’s band yesterday?”
“They’re playing tonight.”
“You stayed home and got hammered by yourself?” Steve shook his head. “Bummer.”
“Hey, I don’t need your sympathy. I like to be alone.”
He was fixing himself a cup of coffee when a woman emerged from the hall and stood on the threshold of the kitchen. Blonde and tanned, she looked like a cast-off from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Audrey wasn’t surprised; Steve’s specialty was hooking up with older woman who turned out to be jealous-going-on-possessive, like toddlers unable to share their toys. He had his back to the woman, turning only when Audrey had said hello and received a thin-lipped smile in response.
“Good morning, Rebecca,” he said, walking toward the woman and giving her a peck on the lips.
Rebecca grunted a good morning that sounded a lot like you son of a bitch.
“This is my roommate. Audrey, Rebecca. Rebecca, Audrey.”
“You didn’t tell me your roommate was a girl.”
Steve looked at Audrey with an apologetic expression.
Okay now, just because you’re old doesn’t make me a “girl.”
Audrey flipped her hair to the side and stretched her arms above her head, revealing a sliver of midriff.
“Sure am,” she intoned, adjusting the hem of her shorts and slowly sliding her hands down her thighs, strong from playing soccer every year from second grade through high school. The hint of worry in Steve’s eyes filled her with satisfaction, as it indicated Rebecca fitted the profile.
“I’m going to take a long hot bath. Stevie, we’ll finish this later, okay?” Audrey said, sliding her fingers down his arm as she squeezed herself between them and walked away. Midway to her bedroom, she peeked over her shoulder and saw Steve chugging his coffee as Rebecca stared him down furiously.
On the bed, she opened her laptop and discovered he wasn’t just messing with her. Facebook indeed had twenty-three comments of condolences for her lost job. Some people shared similar stories, which didn’t make her feel any better. She wondered if it had been a good idea to make her situation known. She was venting, not probing for pity. What was there to “like”? she wondered as she puzzled over the number next to the thumbs-up icon. Her mood scurried from irritation to sadness to misery, and she let out a big breath; pushing the hot air out until her belly stuck to her back, then went into the shower to sulk.
Childhood friends, Audrey and Matt had lost contact after junior high. Now that they were Facebook friends, she found it hard to associate the man on Matt’s profile picture with the boy she used to know. He had become a husky guy, a bearded grizzly bear with kind eyes. They shared snapshots of life that often became long threads of conversation about bits of the past, punctuated by lonesome interjections from other people who’d soon fall back into silence as if laughing at a joke without understanding the punch line.
The coming night would be the first time they had seen each other in person in three years and only the second time since he moved away. Timing couldn’t be more perfect. She needed to remember life was once as straightforward and clear as a shot of vodka. She was happy to reencounter a friend from her preadolescent years; it meant their relationship remained untainted by the sexual intricacies of opposite-sex friendships. In the steam of the shower, she pondered about the benefits and detriments of sex and money in her life; for a while now, she had neither.
• • •
“Audrey, I can’t believe you’ve made it!” Matt walked toward her with his arms open.
It had taken him a few minutes to make his way to the bar, but she enjoyed watching the band talking to their fans, because as artists became famous they also became inaccessible to the people who had made them so.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Meeting a beloved friend who played in a rock band seemed to be a treacherous plot. Her last relationship had sunk like a hollowed ship, and the messy break-up with the angered boyfriend made her vow to stay away from all matters of the heart until she drafted an internal map from which she could navigate through love. Thus, her celibacy had gone on for close to half of a year. In that time, she hadn’t met anyone who had substance or was not only trying to get inside her pants.
“Let me look at you.” Matt twirled her around. “You still look good.” She was wearing a sweater dress that hugged her body, a jean jacket, scarf, and knee-high black boots. Not her most original ensemble, but a comfortable yet dressy option to her favorite — Levi’s.
“You, too.” She grabbed his black-bearded cheeks and gave them a squeeze in an elderly-aunt fashion. “You look so cute,” she said, as if talking to a five-year-old.
“Cute? You know what cute really means, don’t you? Ugly dressed up. Three rungs below handsome.”
“No, it doesn’t. You goof.”
The rest of the band joined them at bar. “You remember the guys, don’t you?” Matt asked.
“Absolutely.” She shook hands with Tyler, John, and Kevin.
“And here’s our latest addition. Rob the grip man. Rob, Audrey. Audrey, Rob.”
“Nice to meet you.” She extended her hand to Rob while Matt turned to the bartender and ordered a round of tequila shots.
He handed each a glass. “To the next gig and friendships.”
Clearly, she wasn’t the only friend the band had in town; they had occupied an entire corner of the pub, having several tables joined together.
Matt gulped his shot and nodded toward his bandmates. “What do you think of coming with us?”