The phone started to ring. Edison rolled over and put the pillow over his head but he could still hear when the answering machine picked up. "Edison, Tiffany talked with me last night. What's this about you going straight? You couldn't say that to my face, boy? We're supposed to be buddies. Since high school man and you just blow me off like that! Who do you think you are! Ain't nobody in your life been there for you like me and Tiffany! Nobody!" Noelle has been there for me more than you've been there in years. "I got mess in my life too, but you don't see me forgetting where I come from." Edison grabbed the phone.
"You owe me an apology Eddie."
"You know we aren't doin' right. We got ourselves into bad stuff man. And we don't have to. I'm tired man. I can't live like this anymore! This ain't some party anymore. This is real life! Don't you understand that? I know you understand that!" There was silence on Paulie's end. Edison hung up the phone and went back to bed.
"Nelson, it's pretty slow in here and Jessica already owes me a favor. Is it okay if Jessica comes in early so that I can end my shift early?"
"Yeah, whatever," Nelson grumbled.
"Thanks." The entire day Noelle had been worrying. It had been four days and she'd heard nothing from Edison. Every one of those days she had to fight her urge to call him. He needed some space. But now she was getting concerned. Her woman's intuition was telling her something wasn't right. It wouldn't hurt to just go over to Edison's house and check up on him and be sure everything was alright. She didn't have the patience to go home and change out of her pink waitressing uniform so it would have to do. She walked hurriedly through the park. The bird songs were lost in the sea of questions in her mind. Her pink converses struck the stairs of the house. She raised her hand to ring the doorbell but hesitated when she heard loud music and a lot of jumbled talking coming from inside the house. He might not be able to hear it over the music but she rang the bell anyway. Nothing. She rang again. Still nothing. She tried the door. It was locked. Why would he leave the house with the stereo blaring? Even if he was actually in the house, he would never blast it so incredibly loud. He was mostly a quiet person. Something's wrong. Noelle hopped down the steps and around to the side of the house to where the kitchen window would be. She peered through. No one was in the kitchen but the kitchen door and the window were pretty much aligned so she could see across the house and into the living room. No one was in there either. She saw that the television was on. That explained the talking she had heard. Without much hesitation, Noelle pressed her hands to the window frame and pushed upward with all her strength. The window slid up and open and the noise hit her. She climbed in.
Now inside, Noelle tip-toed out of the kitchen, heading across to the living room. On her way across the foyer she stopped to turn off a radio sitting on the ground. One radio was off and it sounded like there were three or four other radios on, all on different stations, and two or three televison sets were also going. She started to walk across to the living room to turn off the televison. As she walked she glanced over at the front door. What she saw stopped her in her tracks. Two by fours nailed onto the door. She stopped breathing. Oh my God. This is serious. She started breathing again and started sprinting across the house calling his name. She ran into the living room and turned off the tv and radio in there. Then she bolted up the stairs, all the while calling out to him. She ran across the upstairs hall to his room but when she pushed open the door the bed was empty. "Noelle?" She heard his voice coming from down the hall. She ran out and over to his Grandad's room. He was standing there at the foot of the bed. His hair was messy and he stood there wearing boxers alone. He looked disorientated. Noelle walked up to him out of breath.
"What's going on Edison?"
He shook his head. "You're not supposed to be here"
"Tell me what's going on so we can figure this out."
"No. You can't know right now. Leave." It took all the strength he had to look into her beautiful brown eyes and tell her to go. Noelle got angry.
"Tell me you didn't get yourself into deep trouble with Gene and he has people lookin' to get you! Is that why you nailed the door shut? It would have been a little smarter to not have every damn appliance in the house going so it would appear that you weren't home!"
"Noelle, no I'm not in any...I'm not in that kind of trouble."
"Then what the hell, Eddie?" Edison's eyes scanned all across her face, to her mouth and to her eyes and her cheek and back to her mouth. Noelle wasn't sure he'd even heard what she had said. He looked so out of it. Suddenly his mouth was on hers. Noelle's hand flew onto his shoulder to catch the balance she lost because of shock and because her knees were weak. He savored the taste of her lips. She didn't want to stop him but she needed an answer. She broke away determined. But then he whispered, "I love you." Her mind went blank and she went numb. Then all of a sudden hot anger burst up out of her. "Why are you doing this to me!" She screeched. "Tell me what is going on! You're scaring me!"
"I'm trying to detox, Noelle. From...cocaine." Noelle put up both hands and pushed him backwards. He fell seated at the end of the bed.
"Why didn't you tell me!"
"I can't depend on you for everything, okay! I have to do this alone now, without your help!"
"You have been doing this alone ever since I met you! I never helped you! You never gave me the chance to help you 'cause you never told me!" Edison stood up from the bed.
"You would have helped me if I told you? Huh? The first day we started talking I should have just told you what was going on and you wouldn't have left? How would you have ever really known me if you knew about this! You would have left me! It was the only way you would have even given me a chance."
"Well dammit I would have atleast had a choice in the matter, wouldn't I!" Noelle ran out of the room and out of the house. Edison stood there dizzy. Then he slammed the door of his Grandad's room shut and collapsed onto the bed.
All Noelle did that entire night was cry uncontrollably. Her sides hurt from the strain of bawling. Besides crying, she drank cup after cup of chamomile tea and soaked in a lavendar bubble bath. It's calming effect was lost on her. She replayed the entire thing in her head. The entire timeline of Edison and Noelle's relationship.
I really really cared about him as a friend. He is or was my best friend. I thought we were so close and comfortable. He told me he felt like he could tell me everything. I have to rethink every single thing he's ever told me, then? It's true, I told him he should work on whatever it was that was bothering him. But I never would have guessed it was so serious. We are, were so good together. We were on the same level. We could joke around and be ourselves, I thought. But the whole time he was holding onto this secret. And today he yelled at me. I know it was because I yelled at him but I've never had him that frustrated with me. It scared me. Maybe it had something to do with the withdrawal. I can't believe it. He's going through withdrawals from...He told me he couldn't depend on me. How was he ever dependent on me? He could have told me. I would have gotten him help. He was right, you know. If he had told me this straight off there would have been a distance between us. It would have been hard to separate him from the bad he was doing. But if he had just told me after I got to know him I know I wouldn't have seen him any different. What made him think it would be better for me to find out this way? I can't believe he kissed me. Said he loved me. So this whole friendship thing was a sham? He was just biding his time until he could get more from me? He was the only guy in all my life that I felt comfortable around and now he's taken that away. All I feel now is pressure. He put me on the spot, under all that pressure to make a decision. How could I give him an answer right then, on whether or not I could accept that he'd lied and on whether I loved him in that way. I can't love someone that's a liar! Truthfully, even though I am scared out of my mind, I think maybe I could give a serious relationship with him a chance. If only I could trust that he wouldn't be dishonest again. Being honest with myself, thinking about that kiss makes my whole body tingle. He is everything I wanted in a guy except for that one issue of how he's a liar and a drug abuser! Then I think of how he ripped me up right after the kiss. Why would he be so cruel as to build me up just to tear me back down? He probably thought that if I knew he cared about me that deeply I would be more likely to forgive. He thought wrong. I don't know what to do or if I could ever really love him and ever really forgive. Usually I would've turned to my best friend for advice on the matter. Now that's out of the question because the matter is my best friend.
The next morning Noelle got up and got ready for work. She bent down, sore all over, gathered up the wet tissues that littered the floor and tossed them out. She wanted to stay home in bed but the bills that needed to be paid didn't care about her heartache. In the mirror she looked into her own bloodshot eyes. She put a headband on her curly hair because it was the easiest thing to do and got into her pink waitressing uniform and pink Converses. It was the same routine she had been doing for over a year. It was boring but it was comfortable. She knew what to expect. Unlike in a relationship when you never know if that person is getting ready to rip your heart out. Noelle shook her head. She didn't want to think about that today. Or any day. Walking to the diner everything around her seemed assaulting. The sidewalk felt painfully hard against the soles of her feet, the birds were squawking rather than singing and the sun beat down on her.
"You don't look so good, Noelle. It's that guy isn't it? I tried to warn you about him. He was no good for you. He got you crying didn't he? He's a dirtbag, Noelle, I told you that!" Tired, Noelle just nodded. "You look real tired, Noelle. I don't know, how 'bout you take the day off or something. Paid vacation."
"Thanks Nelson." Noelle grabbed her purse and started out of the diner. She could hear him complaining to himself in the kitchen.
"Now the scum ends up hurting me too! Messin' with my business."
Noelle headed home thinking about how strange it was for Nelson to appear to be concerned about her feelings. It was sweet in a still very disturbing way. Just looking at Nelson made her queasy mostly because he was always disrespectful to her. Incredibly perverted. But he didn't rub it in her face that Edison was gone. Noelle unwillingly admitted that Nelson had some good in him. She realized that his rudeness had been a reaction to rejection. When she first started working he made some passes at her. All of which were promptly shot down. She understood he would be hurt. And rejection or the fear of rejection leads people to do some desperate things. But Nelson had really taken it too far when he made it a race thing. Despite that, he was being friendly now. Unfortunately, the good things did not yet outweigh the bad. That reminded her of something Edison had said once, that time he spent the night. The thing about the balance and symmetry. If she looked at all the things she knew about Edison and all the things she felt, she had to conclude that the good outweighed the bad. She figured that with him was the only time she sensed a real presence in the world. And that meant a lot. Enough that she should be there to help him out even though he thought he didn't need it. It was going to be hard because...she didn't know if she could be friends with him anymore. Just friends. It didn't seem like enough and she felt guilty for it. Even just being his friend, the good would outweigh the bad and that's all one ever wants out of life.
She rang the doorbell but no one answered. She tried the doorknob. It was open so she went in. "Edison?"
"Come on up! I'm in the shower. Wait for me in my room!" She went up the stairs slowly, carrying some things for him to eat and drink that would help him through his...symptoms. She sat on his bed and waited. She heard the sound of the running water and then the faucet turning off. The hardwood floor made little noises as he walked around in the bathrooom. He stepped out of the steamy bathroom and walked into his room. She stood up with the bag in her hand and he stood in the doorway. His hair was dark, dampened with water. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt; the black one with the white growling tiger on it that Noelle had given him as a birthday present. A lazy drop of water ran down his temple over the little freckle he had there. He walked over to her and took her into his arms. The bag fell out of her hand and she buried her face in his chest and just cried. For a second she thought he wouldn't want to speak to her ever again. "I'm sorry," she mumbled.
"Me more," Edison replied. They both found themselves in Edison's bed snuggling together.
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling better now that you're here."
"I bought you some things. I wasn't sure how the withdrawals were affecting you so I basically just brought everything I could think of."
"Thank you." He kissed her on the forehead and sighed.
"I forgive you," Noelle breathed.
"That's all I ever wanted." Edison grew misty eyed and hugged her closer. "I didn't know if I would ever get my friend back."
The word reverberated in her head. Friend. Edison spoke again.
"I've wanted to ask you to come live with me. To get you out of that motel 'cause I don't like you living over there. It's seedy. You could have the spare room here." Noelle slowly sat up.
"I don't want the spare room."
"You're right it's a bit small. You should have Grandad's old room. I could finally clean the place out and we'll paint it up and fill it with all of your things. Hang up all those pretty little glass pieces you have on your wall."
"That's not the room I want to be in, either." Edison looked into her big brown eyes. She was trying to tell him something without actually saying it.
"Well, I understand if you don't want to move in with me. It's a really big st--" Edison was interrupted with her lips against his. Her lips were as he'd remembered them: sweet, soft and yielding. He placed a hand behind her neck and pulled her deeper into the kiss. When she pulled away Edison's indigo eyes were bright with anticipation. "So you...?"
"I want to be in this room. With you." Noelle smiled sweetly.
"Okay" Edison smiled in awe. "We can do this, right?" He said worried.
"I hope so," she said, giving a small smile. Edison gave her a quick kiss and said "We'll be fine. We'll be together so maybe it won't be so bad."