This is the first thing that even vaguely resembles a real story that I've posted here. My original idea was a one-shot, but when I wrote it, I got this, which seems very open-ended and begs to be continued. Feedback, concrit and the like would really be appreciated
Inspired by the song by Lifetime.
Now it's time they know But she keeps crying,
They don't take a step
Line keeps on pushing
They won't stop kissing,
The airport is racing
The smokers are pacing
It just started raining
Soon I'll have to go
And they keep kissing,
And I just hang about and listen.
But she keeps crying,
Secretly, I've been waiting for this moment for months – so why is it that here and now, all I can do is stand around looking awkward?
Standing around looking awkward seems to be something of a specialty of mine, to be honest. It's taken all kinds of forms in the past: shoving my hands in my pockets and staring at the floor as my first ever steady girlfriend breaks up with me, leaning against a wall and grasping a beer with sweaty hands at my first ever college party three weeks later, biting my lip later that night as I try to look and not look at the same time at the first boy who has ever undressed for me...
Now, the first time I've ever fallen for my best friend, I pretend to study the display of tabloid magazines in the window of the airport bookstore when really I'm watching Dexter's reflection as he holds his sobbing girlfriend.
"Jen," he says softly, rubbing circles on her back. "Jen, it's all right, I promise. You can call whenever you want. I'll come see you. You know I'd do anything for you, baby."
Speaking as someone who has never known the right time to say those words, I recognize them as meaningless. Dexter doesn't seem to, though, and he keeps murmuring them in her ear.
We've gone through this cycle at least three times already. Dexter says generically comforting things to a borderline-hysterical Jenna; she accepts them as the truth and gradually calms down enough to lift her head from his sodden shoulder; she takes one look at his face and starts wailing again.
On any other occasion, I would find this sort of funny and point out to Dexter that his face makes people cry. At present, though, it would probably be spectacularly bad form to laugh at Jenna's pain. She's not that bad a girl, really, Jenna. She's cute enough, and she's got a good sense of humor – it's just the whole dating Dexter thing that makes it really hard for me to warm up to her.
And anyway, I'm standing close enough to the couple for Dexter to see me when he needs a ride home – if he ever gets out of here, that is – but far enough away for them to have some sort of private moment, inasmuch as it's possible to have a private moment in the middle of an airport foyer. (We made it as far as the check-in counter before Jenna decompensated; I would've at least tried for the security line, for God's sakes.) Given how I could easily just be standing by myself and killing time, I'd probably scare the tourists as well if I started laughing, and then they'd cower and be run over by a suit with a rolling briefcase and I'd probably feel bad.
I'm considering going and buying a box of Altoids or something from the bookstore so the employees don't find me excessively creepy. We've been here for nearly an hour, after all, and I've been (for all intents and purposes) staring at this window for the better part of that time.
I don't really like Altoids, though, so instead I walk a little way down the concourse to a place that's apparently called the Smoothie Shack. I order some sort of banana thing, halfway hoping the cashier will pick up on my sideways glances back to Dexter and Jenna and ask me what's going on. He looks like the type who would know what to do when one has an absurd gay crush on one's best friend, whose girlfriend is leaving for who-knows-how long to go to college.
All he does is say in a monotone voice, "That'll be 2.25."
Not so much with the advice, then. I dig around in my pocket, making a face when I discover that I only have two ones, a dime, and a penny. I hand him the money, hoping he won't notice. He looks down as he's about to put the money in the till, and I see it register on his face that I'm 14 cents short. He looks inquiringly up at me, I attempt to smile winningly-helplessly, and he wordlessly hands me my smoothie.
"Thanks, man," I say carefully.
"No problem," says the cashier with a tilt of his chin. I reflect that this probably isn't a prime moment to ask for more favors in the form of advice, so my banana smoothie and I go back to lurk in front of the book shop.
Jenna is drawing deep, shaky breaths against the fabric of Dexter's shirt; she looks to be in the gradual recovery stage. As Dexter pats her on the back (I note that he's starting to look weary, but am not sure what to do with this information), I catch his eye over the top of her head and look pointedly at my watch. He looks at his in turn, then raises his eyebrows.
"Jen," he murmurs, "you've got less than half an hour to get through security and be at your gate."
"If I don't – don't get there – will they leave without me?" she chokes out.
That's a stupid thing to ask, I think at first. Why would they wait for her? Then I realize that she's going into a bout of exclamations about how she can't possibly leeeave him, and I know somebody has to head this off.
"Look. Jenna," I say bracingly, prying her gently off her boyfriend. "You have to go. College is just as important as Dexter." I know better than to suggest that anything could possibly be more important. "I swear I won't let him forget you." And top this all off with my trademark awkward smile.
"Really?" she says, hiccoughing a little.
"Really," I answer. I immediately feel terrible for this response, since of course I want him to forget her and everyone else in favor of me as soon as possible. This is for the good of everyone involved, right? ...well, except Jenna.
"Thanks, Joel," she says, trying to smile and only serving to make me feel worse.
Dexter doesn't seem to notice my attack of conscience; he takes advantage of his arms being free to hand Jenna her purse and pick up her carry-on bag. He shepherds her gently to the back of the nearest security line, and they hold hands until she gets to the front of it. The security guard (who has Katie Holmes's face superimposed on top of his own, since I'm watching all this via reflection and the magazines are interfering a little bit) looks mildly chagrined when they kiss directly in front of him, but then Jenna is through the metal detector and isn't coming back.
She isn't coming back.
She can't come back.
I'm fully aware that things can't end this neatly, and I watch as she waves to Dexter until she can't possibly stay in his line of sight any longer. I can, though, and I will.
When Dexter walks back to my side, a burdened silence falls between us. We head down the concourse and through the revolving doors, back to where I've parked – probably illegally – right outside the terminal. The cashier at the Smoothie Shack waves at me. Maybe he isn't so bad after all.
"Hey Joel?" Dexter asks me tentatively once we're in the car.
"Do you think we could go to your place for a while? I'm... not sure I'm ready to be alone again right away."
What I say is "No problem," but what I'm thinking is that if I have my way, he won't ever have to worry about being alone.