Two weeks before Christmas, I came home from the garage, to find two of my roommates at the kitchen table. Rose was holding Laurie’s hand.
They looked so serious – as if someone had died. I was about to say something stupid, then changed my mind at the last second.
– “What happened?” I asked.
Rose looked up at me. “Ronnie moved out.” she said.
Laurie seemed to finally realize that I was there.
– “Hey, Joe. Your cousin left me. He moved in with another girl.”
“I’m sorry that things didn’t work out for you and Barb.” said Laurie.
– “I liked her – a lot. We just didn’t …”
– “I know. But I really thought you two would be good together.”
Amazing. My dickhead cousin Ronnie had just left her, three weeks before Christmas, and yet Laurie was thinking about me. She got on with business, and worried about my love life.
I went over and gave her a hug.
– “What’s that for?” she asked.
I told her.
“What am I supposed to do? Curl up in the fetal position, and eat a box of chocolates?” Laurie pushed me away. “I’m a big girl, Joe.”
– “Listen, Laurie … I want to tell you something.”
– “Go ahead.”
– “I’m going to go to Ronnie’s Christmas party.” I said. “But I want you to know why.”
– “It’s a free country.” she said. “You don’t need my permission.”
– “Listen.” I said. It was important to me that she understand my reasons. “First of all, I want to tell Ronnie, to his face, that he’s an asshole.”
Laurie just nodded. That was a given.
“And second .. I sort of promised Eli that I’d take him. I must have made it sound like a big deal – he thinks that he’s going to meet the future Mrs. Eli there.”
That got me the ghost of a smile from her.
– “Go ahead, Joe. I understand.” she said.
So we went.
Ronnie must have known that I wasn’t thrilled with him: he didn’t come to the door to greet us. Instead, I found him in the kitchen with a couple of his douchebag friends.
– “Joe!” he said, coming toward me with outstretched arms and a beer in each hand. I let him come close, and awkwardly put his arms around me. He couldn’t actually hug me, because his hands were full. But he was close enough for me to say what was on my mind.
– “Not cool, Ron. Laurie didn’t deserve that. But you also took off on Rose and me – and left us with your share of the rent. Not cool at all.”
– “Hey – come on, Joe. It’s more complicated than that.” he said.
– “Not to me it isn’t.”
I left him standing there.
Eli followed me into the living room. Thankfully, he hadn’t felt the need to add his own obvious truths to what I’d said to Ron.
We met Christina, the girl Ronnie had moved in with. She was dark, with curly hair, and – I hate to admit it – much more attractive than Laurie. She seemed nice. I was polite, but no more. I didn’t expect to be seeing much of her after this.
Eli was scoping the room, looking for Ms. Right, or Ms. CloseEnough, when I felt the pressure of a very female body against my back. Then a cool hand covered my eyes.
– “Guess who.” said a voice.
– “Sid Vicious.” I said.
– “Close.” she said, with a laugh. I turned around, to find Tanya smiling at me.
Sam’s sister was about the same height, but where Sam was slender – almost skinny – Tanya was … full-bodied. She had really blossomed, and the flannel shirt she wore, with three buttons undone, made it abundantly clear. She was, as the Germans might say, all Titzenbum.
– “Eli, this is Sam’s sister – Tanya.” I said. I had been about to say ‘younger sister’, which I doubt she would have appreciated. “Tee – my friend Eli.”
Eli barely managed not to drool on her. “Very pleased to meet you.” he said. “If, for some reason, my friend Joe here doesn’t want to have sex with you, I would be very happy if you’d accept me as a substitute.”
Tanya laughed her ass off. “Oh – he’s awesome! Where’d you find him, Joe?”
– “Circus sideshow.” I said. “I lost a bet.”
– “I’ll be right over there.” Eli said to her. “If you need a change of scene, or someone with a sense of humor …”
– “I’ll get your number from Joe.” said Tanya.
Eli was already a good friend, but he won my eternal gratitude by making himself scarce at that point.
– “So … hey.” said Tanya, with a little toss of her head. She must have been mowing them down in the halls of her high school with that particular move.
In terms of facial features, Sam was prettier. But Tanya had a certain look. It’s hard to describe. She was still in her teens, but had mastered the sidelong glance, the smoldering look, the suggestive lip … and she had the voluptuous body to back them all up.
She had one thing in common with Sam: away from home, Tanya was quite different.
– “Hey back.” I said. “Nice to see you here. Ronnie invited you?”
– “How’d you know?”
– “Telepathic powers.” I said. I had to play it cool: as long as I’d known her, Tanya had little tolerance for earnestness or sincerity. Guys probably fawned all over all the time. This girl liked witty banter, and would chew me up and spit me out if I couldn’t keep up.
She just grinned.
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