November 22, 2014

"Hey, Lex," Tamara shot out when her friend entered the spa. "Give me a minute. I'm just finishing up this paperwork."

"Sure. No rush."

" What are you girls up to tonight?" Zoey asked.

"We're gonna grab a quick bite and then get beautified to hit the Edge," Tamara answered.

"Well, I'm getting beautified," Lexie countered. "This bitch could get out of bed, don a potato sack and still look ready to walk the red carpet," she said with a tinge of envy in her voice.

Tamara waved off the inaccurate description of her morning look. "Your perception is clearly flawed, Lex. You have no idea how long it takes me to brush through this mop."

"Oh boo-hoo. You know how many girls would kill for that hair?" Lexie cried.

"According to my mom and sister, a lot," Tamara admitted. "But those girls only see the finished product, not the massive, tangled mess I have to deal with first. It's actually quite stressful."

"Oh goodness gracious," Zoey piped up. "If that's all I had to stress over, I'd be one happy girl. Try running a business, paying a mortgage, raising a family, and dealing with a husband."

Tamara and Lexie shared an amused, sheepish glance. "Oops, my bad," Tamara joked.

"Uh huh," Zoey agreed. "But I forgive you because I get to relive my younger years through you and this Brent character."

Tamara laughed. "What does that mean?"

"Oh, don't play dumb with me, little girl," Zoey teased. "I presume you're going to the Edge to see if he's there, just like you did last week, and just like I used to do with Jeff."

"You got it, girlfriend," Lexie confirmed.

"Wait, I thought you said Jeff pursued you," Tamara pointed out.

"Oh honey, he did. But I may have made it easier for him by showing up at places I knew he'd be."

"Very clever," Tamara said with a chuckle. "And sneaky."

"Ain't it?" Zoey gloated. "To this day he thinks all his chasing finally won me over. He has no idea he had me at 'did it hurt when you fell from heaven?'."

"You fell for that line?" Tamara asked with a quirked brow. "It's so lame and unoriginal. No offence to Jeff." She was actually very fond of Zoey's hubby. He was friendly, down to earth, and he treated Zoey like a queen.

"It wasn't the line per say that got me," Zoey said. "It was him. Like you and your Brent. Except whereas I got called an 'angel', you're referred to as, what is it again? Doghouse Girl?"

"Ha, she's got you there, Tam. Brent could definitely use a sweeter nickname for you," Lexie stated with amusement.

"Well, actually, Brent calls me Cutie. It's Josh who calls me Doghouse Girl because of Brent's heckle about building me a house and I said doghouse and ever since then..."

Both Zoey and Lexie had heard this explanation several times by now, but even so, they let Tamara go on.

"I just hope he's there this weekend," Tamara finished. "Unlike last weekend."

"If not, we can still have fun without him," Lexie reasoned. "Just like last weekend."

"Yeah," Tamara agreed. She had enjoyed herself despite his absence.

"And he's bound to show up sometime," Lexie pointed out.

"I suppose," Tamara said. "God, I don't even know what to say to him if I see him."

"An apology would be a good start," Lexie replied.

"Really?" Tamara asked doubtfully. "Because I'm still not convinced I technically did anything wrong."

"Well, he definitely didn't," Lexie argued. "I thought we'd established that, at least."

"Yeah, we did," Tamara gave her, though still unsure. "But that doesn't mean I owe him anything, much less an apology. I don't know. I still feel like he disrespected me in some way."

"Then why go after him if you feel that way?" Lexie questioned.

"Because I like him," Tamara answered truthfully. "And I think maybe his intent wasn't to disrespect me, since he wanted me to stay. I don't know. I feel like I'm all over the map on this. What do you think, Zoey? Do you think I should be more remorseful?"

"Remorseful? No," Zoey answered. "He did what he did, and you did what you did, and there's nothing you can do about it besides get over it or keep over thinking it until you drive yourself bonkers."

"You're calling me crazy?"

Zoey ignored the question and instead gave Tamara her two cents. "If you run into your beau like you're hoping, I say start with 'hello' and see where that takes you. Use the KISS method, 'keep it simple stupid'."

"So now I'm stupid."

"Precisely, but in a good way."

"Thanks. Aren't you the best," Tamara returned sarcastically.

"Anytime," Zoey responded in amusement. "On another note," she went on, turning to Lexie. "Tam told me someone spray painted your windshield. Ever find out who?"

Lexie shook her head. "No, but I chalk it up to a jealous girlfriend."

"Or wife," Tamara indicated.

"Yeah," Lexie brushed off with a careless shrug. "Either or. Like it's my fault they can't keep their man happy. You know what they say about keeping a man well fed at home and all that. He won't want to eat out."

Tamara laughed. "Who says that?"

"Well, you know," Lexie responded, making a roundabout gesture in the air, "they."

"You just made that up," Tamara replied with a giggle.

"No, I heard that," Lexie defended.

"If you say so," Tamara teased.

Unlike Tamara, Zoey didn't find the concept quite so humorous. She believed even the strongest, most faithful of men had a breaking point and could give in if provoked beyond the brink of basic temptation. If some persistent little hussy had nerve to get up on her man, the tramp would have more than just her windshield to worry about. But since Lexie hadn't gone after her man, she kept her tone light. "Well, let's lock up, shall we? I gotta go home and feed my man and all that," she said with a wink.

Just as they were walking out the door, Tamara's phone buzzed, signaling a text.

"Change of plans," she said, as she read Amanda's message out loud. 'FYI Alex just showed up.' "Looks like we're getting ready at your place, Lex."

Lexie shrugged. "Fine by me."

Tamara nodded and then sent her sister a reply, thanking her for the heads up and then stating she was going out with Lexie and wouldn't be back until late.


"Put the phone down," Julie said with exasperation. "He's fine."

"Just checking in," Matt responded.

"He's a big boy and doesn't need nor appreciate his little brother checking in every five seconds. That's why we're here in this beautiful resort, hundreds of miles away, so let's just enjoy our weekend."

"I'm not an imbecile," Matt retorted. "He might have presented this whole trip as my birthday gift, but his purpose was to get rid of me."

"Yeah, cause you're always in his face," Julie shot back, not bothering to sugar coat it. "Calling him every hour on the hour is probably just as annoying. You're acknowledging his reason and yet, you still won't back off."

"You don't get it, Jules."

"I do get it," she argued. "But you're smothering him and all you're doing is irritating him by not giving him space. He told you straight out to back off, and you didn't. So he hit you. And you still didn't. Now he sent you away, and you still aren't. What lengths does he have to go to for you to finally hear him?"

Almost too quiet for her to hear, Matt spoke somberly, "He said he can't live without her."

"He didn't mean it literally."

"You can't know that for sure. Everyone thought Lynda just needed space too, and she's dead."

"First of all, Brent is not Lynda. Second, it's a different situation altogether."

"Yeah, but..."

"I'm not finished," she interrupted his interruption. "Third, he is still pissed at Lynda for what she did. Do you honestly believe he's gonna turn around and do it too?"

"I don't know, but I know he's down, and no matter what the reason, depressed is depressed, and I'm not taking any chances."

"Which is why you put Josh on Brent duty this weekend," she reminded him.

He didn't need the reminder. He pulled a face. "You make it sound like a bad thing. Josh is his best friend. He should be there for him without having to be asked."

"You know as well as I do that he has been," Julie pointed out. "Who do you think Brent's been talking to? Me and Josh. Because, unlike you, we can listen without criticizing and we know when to step back and let him breathe."

"Unlike you and Josh," Matt countered irately, "I tell Brent what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear."

"Whatever. Make your call. I'll be at the pool in my new bikini that you're too preoccupied to notice." With that she stormed out.

He followed her to the door and called out to her. "You get a new bathing suit every week. And I did notice, by the way. You wore that one yesterday."

She flipped around on him and shouted back. "Like I said, preoccupied. Yesterday's was flamingo. This one is clearly hot pink," she screamed, continuing on her way.

"Oh," Matt mumbled to himself and snarled at the nearby bystander who watched what just went down. "What are you looking at?" he asked before slamming the door shut and picking up his phone to dial.


He was sitting on his bed scrolling through his phone at the various pictures of Sarah, some of which included himself. They were happy, he reflected. What happened?

Over the last two weeks he'd almost called her a dozen times, but then he would always remember back to her phone call to the police. More so, her comment to the 9-1-1 dispatcher; 'Yes, hi, there's an intruder in my apartment.'

Intruder. That's what she'd called him. That, and the cold stare she'd given him as she'd said it was what had prevented him from calling her to work things out, as he normally would have done. Every time he replayed that scene, it would sting all over again and the depth of the fury that would instantly ignite within him would burn so hot, its grip so tight, he thought it might rip his soul right out of his chest.

It was a cruel and vicious cycle. The pain fed the anger. The anger fed the pain. There was no escape from either, only distraction.

He threw his phone down hard and growled irritably. He had to find something else to do before he went mad.


"Hey, Mr. and Mrs. M," Josh said after being let in by the doorman. "Looking good, as always," he flattered Helen with a flamboyant salute.

Waving off the compliment that Josh always bestowed upon her, Helen smiled at the boy who had once gotten under her skin with his outlandish mannerisms, but had somehow managed to crawl right into the tight confinement of her heart. Nobody was more surprised than her that there had been room there to love another child. "Hello there, Joshua," she greeted pleasantly. "Go on up. Brent's in his room."

"Gracious, Madame," Josh returned, already climbing the staircase.

Frank shook his head and chuckled. "Only that boy would mix two languages in a two-word sentence," he said fondly. He too had come to appreciate Josh's uniqueness. He was one of a kind, though he did have some semblances to their eldest son, particularly his sense of humour and quirkiness that they seldom saw from Brent anymore. And from what they could see, Josh did not have Brent's short fuse. The floppy haired boy didn't go instigating fights like both of their boys did, not that were aware of anyway. How wrong they were. How could they know that, like Matt, he had no filter, but unlike Matt, he couldn't back it up.


"What!?" Brent barked at the knock on his bedroom door, already irritated by Matt's call. It was the sixth call of the day, and guaranteed it wouldn't be the last. His mom wasn't any better. She'd come knocking at every meal and twice between each, finding any excuse to check up on him. What now? Time for bedtime snack? Soon she'd be offering to tuck him in. If he had his way, he would have sent her, instead of Julie, off with Matt to the resort. What did he have to do to get those two off his back? Disappear?

"Avon calling."

A small chuckle escaped him. "Come on in, Josh," he said with relief.

"Hey, buddy, what's up?" Josh asked upon entry.

"Nothing," Brent answered, glancing up from his laptop.

Josh glanced over at the screen. "Don't tell me that's...? Nah, it can't be," he answered his own incomplete questions. "Wait. Is it?"

Brent looked up at him and just smiled.

"No way, not possible. That's English Lit," he said, his tone accusing. "And that assignment isn't due till next week."

"I'm getting it done early," Brent stated matter-of-factly.

Josh reached out to feel his best friend's forehead and backed up in a dramatic fashion. "Holay jumping jelly beans!" he exclaimed. "You're burning up. Lay down, buddy, lay down. Let me go get you a cold cloth."

Brent gave him the look. "You 'bout done?"

"Sorry. You just caught me off guard there. You're the procrastinator. I don't believe I've ever seen you do homework that wasn't due next class."

Again, Brent just smiled, a silent admission that Josh was right and he couldn't deny it.

"There's something seriously wrong when Brent Malek spends his Saturday night doing homework. And here Matt said you were moping."

Brent rolled his eyes. "He send you here to make sure I'm not hanging from a noose?"

"Uh, man, why you gotta be so morbid?" Josh threw back. "He's worried about you, man."

"Yeah, I got that," Brent returned stiffly. "He doesn't leave me alone. He's like my fucking shadow."

"Hence why you sent him away for the weekend."

"That was a birthday gift," Brent excused.

"Riiiiight," Josh mocked. "Happy Birthday to me," he broke into song, causing Brent to laugh. "See, I know you. You didn't give him that out of the goodness of your heart," he said. "You're not that selfless. It was a calculated move on your part to cut the apron strings."

"Do you even know what that means?" Brent questioned doubtfully.

"Of course I do, I heard it on TV the other day. And you do too. Tell me I'm wrong."

"I admit nothing," Brent replied. "I plead the fifth."

"Ok, if you're not gonna talk, then let's hit the Edge and go drink. Let's blow this popsicle stick ."

"Stand," Brent corrected.

"Whatever. It comes on a stick," Josh blew off. "Let's go."

"Nah, I'm not up for it," Brent told him.

"Ahh, come on," Josh whined. "What else do you have to do on a Saturday night? And if you say homework, I'm calling 911."

No sooner had the words come out did Josh want to recant them. "Ahh, geez," he said regretfully with a slap to his own head. "Sorry, my friend. That was a really poorly timed joke. I'm sorry."

"It's cool," Brent assured his best friend even though the remark had hit a nerve.

"Know what else is cool?" Josh persisted. "Alcohol. Come on, I'm buying."

"I told you I don't feel like socializing."

"You don't have to," Josh returned. "Let's just go shoot some pool or throw some darts, just you and me. No girls tonight. They're nothing but headaches anyway."

Picking up on Josh's sudden and uncharacteristic dismissal of girls, Brent seized the opportunity to change the subject from himself to Josh. "Liz still hounding you?"

Josh nodded in confirmation. "Apparently, I'm a dog, so hounding would be fitting," he said. "Between her and my parents, they don't let up, at all."

Sounded familiar. "Easy solution," Brent began. "When she calls again, hit the red button."

"Oh please, you think I haven't tried that? I've tried everything I can think of. One day I hung up 35 times in a row. She called 36."

"Get a new number," Brent suggested blandly.

"That doesn't work," Josh lamented. "I didn't give her this number. My parents did. Come on, better advice. You're the king at blowing off girls. What's your secret?" Just as he asked the question, his phone went off. "Speak of the devil," he said as he showed Brent the caller ID.

Brent held out his hand. "Give it. Let me answer it."

Josh easily relinquished his phone.

Brent took it and hit the answer button before putting it on speaker so that Josh could hear.

"Hey, Liz."

"Elizabeth," she instantly corrected.

"Oh, sorry, Eliiiiiiiiiizabeth," Brent purposely elongated the name, as he looked at Josh who was nodding knowingly.

"Who is this?" Liz asked, now realizing she wasn't speaking to the right person.

"Brent. Guess you're looking for Josh."

"You mean Xavier?"

"Sure," he said dully.

"Can you put him on the phone?"

"I could, but see, here's the thing. He doesn't want to talk to you, which I think he's made obvious, at least from what he tells me, but just in case it's not clear, let me idiot-proof it for you. He doesn't want to marry you. So don't call him. Don't text him. Get off his back and stop harassing him."

"Who do you think you are?" she huffed, not used to being spoken to in such a crude manner.

"I'm that dog's best friend," he answered, making it clear to her that he knew the full story. "So put your tail between your legs and go bark up another tree. Bitch." With that final word, he hung up to look up at the astounded expression on Josh's face.

"Oh, that's how you do it," Josh said. "I never tried that. You know, that last bit might have been a bit harsh. She's actually a pretty decent person."

Brent shrugged carelessly. "My bad."

"My parents are gonna kill me. Ahh, what the hell, they're halfway to disowning me anyway."

"I'm sure mine would adopt you," Brent responded caustically. "I think my mom likes you better than she likes me."

"Probably cause I'm nicer to her," Josh pointed out.

"Yeah, yeah," Brent came back with. "You wouldn't be so high on her pedestal if she knew you skipped town to dodge your responsibilities."

Josh grabbed his chest in a theatrical show of excruciating pain. "Ahh, buddy, that hurt. You're lucky you're a karate master or I'd kick your ass for that comment."

With a chuckle, Brent replied, "So, it's my black belt saving me."

"That's my story," Josh jibed. "So, let's back up. The Edge?" he asked again. Matt, who'd made it clear he didn't trust Josh to keep an eye on his brother, would be proud of his relentlessness.

"Yeah, why not?" Brent conceded, more for Josh's sake than his own. "You're still buying."

"Yes!" Josh hoorayed. "But remember, no girls."

Hands up in surrender, Brent agreed. "No girls."


"From the gentlemen at the bar," the waitress said, setting down two drinks in front of the girls right next to the other two full ones they already had waiting.

They glanced over at the two men lifting their glasses to them and waved their appreciation.

"I could get used to this," Lexie said happily. "If you keep coming out with me, I'll never have to buy drinks again."

"You get free drinks on your own," Tamara countered.

"Not for just sitting there looking pretty. I have to work my shit and sometimes that works. I haven't had as many free drinks in a year of clubbing as we've had in the last two weekends."

"Maybe you were going to the wrong bars."

"Yeah, I was going to the wrong bars, the ones you weren't at."

"Hmm, too bad the drinks didn't come from Brent."

"Kinda hard to send a drink when he's not even here."

"Yeah. Second weekend in a row he's a no show."

"Maybe next week we can try Friday night," Lexie suggested. "You said the first time you saw him here, it was a Friday, and when he asked you out, it was for a Friday, so I'm thinking Friday's his party night," she reasoned.

"Could be," Tamara eagerly accepted Lexie's logic. "Which would suck since II usually work late on Fridays."

"So you come out later. It's not so late that you're missing anything."

Tamara nodded. "Ok, next Friday then."

"It's a date. I'll leave my wallet at home," Lexie joked.

"At least take your ID. We did get carded every time we've come together."

"Good point."

"Excuse me, ladies, do you care to dance?" one of the men who'd just sent drinks interrupted their conversation to ask. The other stood beside him, looking hopeful.

Feeling obligated after accepting their generosity, Tamara answered. "Umm, sure." She stood up and made her way to the floor, Lexie following suit.


"Remember, no girls," Josh stressed.

Brent rolled his eyes and sighed loudly. "How many times are you gonna tell me this? I know."

"Yeah, you say that, but like I said earlier, I know you. Some hot little flirty thing's gonna be all up in your face and the next thing you know, I'm talking to myself cause you're MIA."

"And that would be different than when?"

"Exactly my point," Josh iterated. "Cause this," he continued, demonstrating an hour-glass figure, "trumps this," he said, indicating his own physique, "every time."

Brent couldn't deny the truth of it, but that didn't stop him from laughing it offand coming back with a dig of his own. "Remember, you're buying. How many times did you say that and "accidently" forget your wallet at home?"

"Touché," Josh returned and then pulled his wallet out to pay for the drinks they'd just ordered.

As the drinks were given, Mitch commented lightly to Brent. "Glad to see you've recuperated since last I saw you."

Brent nodded in response and then he and Josh headed over to the dart board.


"Oh My God! Oh My God! Oh My God!," Tamara blurted excitedly as she grabbed hold of Lexie's arm and her stomach did a triple somersault. It was a good thing she was sitting again or her weak knees would have buckled beneath her. "He's here, Lex!"


"Hey!" Josh yelled as they weaved between tables to the playing area. "It's Sexy Lexie and Doghouse Girl!"

"Super," Brent returned flatly.