His neighborhood was extremely quiet that night
when he heard the solid knock on the door. He wasn't expecting anyone;
as far as he could tell, no one knew that he was even there. His father
had gone over to the Harless house for dinner and to talk to Justin's dad
about something other than golf and their son's careers, but Lance had declined,
telling his father that he needed some space since he'd be the only kid over
there since Meredith and Justin were probably over at their new house settling
more things while he was in town.
Everyone knew he was in town, after all he'd been in contact with Justin that day, but he hadn't seen any cars at the corner to his neighborhood and hadn't expected to have anyone over considering that he had only planned to be home for two days.
It took him a moment to pushing himself up from the lazy boy he'd plopped down into when he'd arrived home from playing golf earlier that night. He grabbed up the empty coke can he'd had when he arrived and shook it then sighed and went to go find out who was at the door. There seemed to be no rush to get the door that night. If it had been one of his friends they would have called to make plans and if it was his father he would have used the backdoor instead, knowing that he would be sleeping or out that night. He stood on his tiptoes and looked through the glass at the top of the door then slowly lowered himself so he was flat-footed again. Lexi had found her way over from where the neighbors were keeping track of her next door through the hole in the gate and was now sitting near his foot panting and wagging her tail waiting to see who was on the other side of the door.
He leaned against the door without opening it, taking deep breaths to calm himself as he realized who it was. He wanted to jump for joy and he knew this was a sign for their friendship if she was standing on the other side of the door waiting for him to open up.
Carrah stood with her hands behind her back waiting for him to open up for her, waiting patiently like a child waiting for a trip to the principal's office. There was no expression on her face, nothing that would tell him if there was good news coming or bad news coming, but that didn't matter, she was there and that's all that mattered.. He had thought that she would still be at the hotel working like she said she'd needed to be and he hadn't prepared himself to see her. After their last run in and the confusion of the nights he'd spent with Collen, he wasn't sure what he should say to her.
When the knock sounded again he stepped back a little from the door and pulled it open. He immediately leaned against the door, taking the weight of his fatigued body off his legs. He was in the midst of a terrible bout of jet lag and wasn't at all himself that night. The caffeine that he'd had earlier hadn't helped and he was struggling to keep his focus. He wasn't getting sick, but he had all the symptoms, other than vomiting, that a flu sufferer would show. He ached all over and would have rather kept the door closed and go back to bed, but he knew that he couldn't get away with that with her.
"We need to talk," Her voice came out when she tipped her head back and looked up at where he was standing in the threshold he could see the stress showing on her face. Her eyes were dull, the circles slowly becoming darker and her lips were slightly turned downward as if she was holding back a bout of crying.
"Sure," he said moving away from the door. He knew that she wouldn't slide by him like normal this time. If things had been different she would have slid into the house and started babbling at him like a little manic, but it wasn't going to be that way this time. "Come on in."
Her eyes darted passed him for a moment searching the lighted entryway then went back to make eye contact with him. "Can we take a walk?"
Not knowing why she didn't want to come in Lance decided to give into her suggestion instead of fighting it. He knew better than anyone that they had things to discuss and he wasn't about to start a fight over the venue for which they spoke in. The fact that they were speaking at all was something to be glad of. If she hadn't come there that night he probably wouldn't have been the one to call and ask her about what was going on.
"Let me grab some shoes," he said wiggling his sock-covered toes when her chin turned down to look at his feet. "Come on in."
"I'll stay on the porch." The haunted look in her eyes started to scare him.
He let his eyes stay on her for a little longer than normal watching the way she was already walking away from the door rather than towards it. He shrugged off the uncomfortable way that she was acting towards him, squared his shoulders and let out a sigh He tried not to be too sarcastic, but it didn't work well. "Ok," he sighed out. "Wait right here. I'll be right back." He the door open while he slipped into the living room and found some Nike sports sandals to wear on their walk then grabbed a blue baseball hat from the top of the coat rack behind the door and slid it on.
He grabbed his keys from the table on the far side of the tiny entryway and locked the door as they left. Locking his doors in Orlando was habit. He wasn't at all worried about the people in his neighborhood getting into his house, but he worried that his fans might get a few ideas if he left the door wide open. He wasn't looking forward to finding his things being auctioned off on EBay for much more money than he paid for them just because they belonged in his house.
The walk from the door to the curb was marked only by the sounds of his shoes scraping against the bricks of the walkway. It wasn't until they silently turned to the right to head up the street towards the high school and the church that she finally took her hands out of her pockets and spoke. "We need to talk."
"You already said that--" He went to reach for her arm to link it through his and she stepped away from him. He didn't like the feeling that came between them then. She didn't want him to touch her and he hated that. "I'm here, now what do you want to talk about?"
"About us--" He watched her shake her head as if she was trying to erase what she had just said. "I mean you and me, not being an us."
The pavement seemed to shift under his feet and he felt his knee give away a little as he pressed his next footstep to the concrete. He'd never really thought of them as an "us" but then again he'd never thought of them ever getting to the point where they'd be standing on that street not knowing what to say to each other. He turned his shoulders towards her hoping that she would stop walking and talk to him, but she didn't so he was speaking to her back as she walked further down the street. "What are you talking about Carrah?"
Her eyes stayed on their feet as they crossed first street. "You and me. I mean we're friends right?"
He slipped his hat off his head and ran his hand through his hair then replaced the hat and moved his feet faster to meet up with her. "I'd hope so." He was hesitant to continue the discussion if it was going to start out like that. This tension between them now was far higher than anything he'd ever experienced before. "I didn't get any memo otherwise."
Her head turned to the side a little and she got this concerned look on her face. He loved that about her. She was probably going to tell him something that he didn't want to hear, but she was still worried about him and his feelings. "You know we'll always be friends right?"
"What are you getting at Carrah?" He moved to straighten his back and looked down at her. Her eyes looked even more haunted than before. "You've never held back with me in the past. I would hate for you to start now."
Her feet slowed some and they began to stroll again instead of speed walking down to the far end of the street from his house. "I can't be bold and brash about this." Her eyes didn't make contact with his. They turned down to the pavement and their shoes. "There's not a good way to say this to you and it kills me to do it--"
"You know what?" he said with a sigh. He could imagine what it would be. He'd had more than a few conversations like this. It didn't matter now that she was his best friend. She'd started the conversation and they didn't need to end it. "If it's that bad then I think that I know what it is. Don't worry about telling me. I can see it in your eyes what you want to say." He stepped in front of her and made her stop and look up at him. He finally made eye contact with her and could see that he was right. The sadness was there, but at this point it didn't matter. She was gone already and there wasn't enough patience in the world to wait for her to come back
As he began to turn and walk towards his house again he kept his eyes on the stop sign in front of him and let his eyes blur. He knew his way home with them closed and found himself finding even pavement to walk on as he moved away from her and more towards home.
"Lance wait," she said.
He didn't give her the satisfaction of stopping or even looking back at her. It was too much effort to put into a person who was clearly not going to put effort in for him. "No."
"Lance, come on, wait up for me," she said behind him.
"NO," he repeated and tried to make his strides a little longer so that he could escape her as she came after him.
"Please don't leave it like this," she pleaded.
"Leave it like what?" he asked turning and walking backwards as he spoke to her. "How were you going to leave it Carrah?" He stopped and glared at her. "Don't drop this shit on me and walk away thinking that the next time I see you that I could act normal. Maybe that was the deal with us in the past, but it's different now."
"I knew this would happen." She huffed at him. .
When she didn't speak again he took a deep breath. "You seemed like you were having fun so I guess that it doesn't make much difference anyway. All those parties, all that dancing, all the everything just gets chalked up to wasted time. Sorry to have taken you away from more important things."
"Why are you acting like this?" She started to seem to understand what her words meant to him, but he knew there was so much more that she could never understand.
"I can't believe--" His throat closed up with emotions as they finally stopped and stared at each other.
Mr. Kingsbury was standing in the window of his house listening to them argue. The man came out on the porch. "You two kids ok?"
Lance stared at her and kept eye contact with her as she started to cry. His eyes never left her, but he spoke to the man to calm his fears. The last thing that he needed was to have this get around town. He didn't need to be at the bottom of some local scandal. "Yeah Mr. Kingsbury, we're fine."
"I hope you can make it to church one of these weekends." The older man tipped back a glass of what was probably iced tea and turned back towards his door. Mr. Kingsbury seemed to see that they weren't done with their conversation and went back towards the house. "You two have a nice night. I'll see you in church."
He took a breath and this time started with a lower voice. The drop in volume would actually make the conversation seem a little less heated, something that he needed if he didn't want to end up in jail that night. "You don't need to explain it to me. I get it. I've been through it before--" He broke off his thoughts and glared at her. "I know what's coming. Hell, you probably know what's coming."
"It's the job. It's the traveling." His voice was a higher pitch for a moment then it lowered and he almost growled at her. "It's the I'm-here-and-you're-there speech. I could tell this was coming, but I had prayed to God that you'd have the guts--the freaking balls--to fight off the urge to do this and actually go against the crowd and be my friend."
"I am your friend," she protested, her voice cracking with emotion. Her eyes were watery now and the tears started to flow down her cheeks.
He slapped his hands against his pockets. "Where's my camera? I need to find one so I can take a picture of the last of a dying breed." He put his hand up when she started to talk. "I've heard it all before so don't waste your breath on it." He pulled in a lungful of air as he started to get dizzy and glared at her. "Thank you, it was a nice ride. Hope you have a good life." He saluted her and turned his back and started across First Street, choosing to cut across the grass to his door.
Lance found his cell
phone and dialed Joey's number.
"Are you back in town?" She sounded like she was walking around the house.
"Yeah," he said, "I've been back for almost a week now, but I'm due to head out again. I was wondering if Joe was around."
"He's at his parents, but I can give him a message if you want. He should be home in a little while."
"I know this sounds strange," he asked, "But can I come over and play with the kids for a while?"
"Carrah and I stopped talking. Or rather I stopped talking to her for a while."
"You sound half dead."
"I haven't slept in about four days. I need to run around and I figured Colton and Brianna would run me around in circles and tire me out. Joey always jokes around about how they're worse than running through eighteen hours of rehearsals."
"You've been awake for four days?"
"I know I know. I need to get to sleep, but I've got insomnia or whatever."
"You really did fight with her didn't you?" Kelly said.
"Yeah," he said, "Its really complicated. I don't know."
"Well you're always welcome over here. I can always use the babysitting help. Trey and Brianna are down for a nap right now and Colton is down the street at his friend Brian's house, but you can come over and hang out anyway."
"Thanks Kelly." He was going to hang up. "You don't need any food or anything at the store, do you?"
"No," she said, "Joe is picking up stuff for me on his way home so I should be fine."
"See you in a few minutes then."
The house line rang again as he grabbed his keys and left the house. He knew he'd check his messages later, but for the moment he was leaving so he wouldn't have to hear the phone ring and he turned off his cell phone so he wouldn't have to answer that one either.
"I tawk like Didi!" Brianna said with a laugh
and ran over to where Lance's phone was on the table. She picked it up, flipped
it open and walked back over to where Joey was sitting at the patio table
talking on the phone.
Joey had gotten home from hanging out with his father and had had an early dinner with them before he'd had to take a phone call. There were more plans being worked on for a movie that Joey was slated to do so he'd sat out on the porch with them while he talked. Lance didn't mind. He was used to the talk, but Brianna had gotten bored with the idea that her father wasn't paying attention and had taken the Fatone family approach of getting attention. First there had been a song that she'd sung, then a little dance, and now she was imitating her father by pretending to talk on the phone.
Lance stared at his beer bottle for a long time letting it go all blurry before he heard his ringer go off. It wasn't uncommon for someone to hit buttons on it and set the thing off. He'd done it a million times himself. He figured that Brianna had just pressed the wrong button or something on the phone to set it off. If she'd hit the volume button it would have set it off.
"Hewwo?" She took the phone away from her ear and looked at it then put it to her ear again. "Hewwo?" She looked at Lance. If she'd been older he would have pictured her in a little business suit making business deals. She seemed to be able to listen and look around as if doing two things at once was no problem at all for her. "I no no Kawwa."
His eyes rolled automatically up into his head and reached for the phone. Brianna wouldn't let him have it and kept talking. "Laase isa sieey. He cow." She laughed a contagious laugh then plopped down on the decking to pull at her shoelace. A moment later she looked up at Lance. "A mad?"
"What?" Lance asked.
"Kawwa isa mad?"
"Brianna give me the phone," Lance said. He held his hand out and moved it to motion her towards him. He knew that Carrah was trying to talk to Brianna and talk her into talking to him, but she wasn't going to make her plan work. He wasn't ready to talk to her again. He was trying to avoid her.
"Uh Oh," Brianna said into the phone. She set the phone down and pushed herself up so that she could stand up then she leaned and grabbed the phone to talk again. "Laase a mad."
She brought the phone to him and he hung up the phone.
"I tawk." Brianna said reaching for the phone. She must not have understood that he'd hung up. She was wondering why he wasn't giving her the phone back.
"I hung up," Lance said and shoved the phone in his t-shirt chest pocket.
Brianna started to crawl up in Lance's lap and reached for the phone. "I tawk."
"The phone is off," Lance said and flipped it open again to make sure that it wouldn't ring. He set it on the patio table out of reach from her.
"What was that all about?" Joey asked. He had gotten off the phone and was staring at the phone and then up at him.
Lance turned Brianna around in his lap and sat her on his knee and played pony, bouncing her a little up and down. "Nothing."
"Isa hosee," Brianna said, "Look Didi. Laase is a hosee."
"Be careful with her," Joey said. He reached for his drink then leaned back. "Are you gonna tell me what's going on between you and Carrah or am I gonna have to have Brianna call her back and get the info from her?"
"Carrah and I got into a fight. That's all," Lance said. He shrugged and bounced Brianna a little more. "We've fought before. It's nothing."
Joey rubbed his face a little then reached for the pack of cigarettes that had been sitting in the middle of the table between their beer bottles and cell phones. "The last time you guys fought was a real long time ago."
"When did you start smoking again?" Lance asked.
"Shhh," he said and looked towards the house. "She lets me have one or two a day."
"What number is this?" Lance asked eyeing the almost empty pack.
"Five," he said.
Brianna moved away from Lance and came over to Joey. "Didi, isa no." She reached for the cigarette that was now in his mouth and he held onto her hand and moved it away.
"I need to spend more time with you," Joey sighed, "You've been hanging out with Mommy too much."
Brianna smiled proudly. "I hep Mommy."
Joey made a face at his daughter then removed the newly smoking cigarette from his mouth and kissed her then put the cigarette back in his mouth and reached to pick her up and put her on his lap. "You helped Mommy do what?"
Brianna's hand came from his and she reached for the cigarette. "I hep Mommy a no smok."
Joey laughed and set her back down. "Brianna go tell your Uncle Lance that fighting isn't nice and he should call Carrah back."
Brianna looked at her father then back at him.
"No fight," Brianna said coming across back to Lance. She reached for his phone and opened it then put it to her ear. "Kawwa. Kawwa? Laase a no fight." She put her arm out and handed Lance the phone.
"It's not that easy," Lance said, feeling his heart break with those words.
"What's the deal?"
Joey paused to blow smoke out of his mouth. He
grabbed up his beer and took a drink. "When did you fight?"
"A few days ago," Lance said, "And then today we had words."
Joey sat up all of a sudden. "You guys didn't end up sleeping together did you?"
Lance lowered his head. "She and I have something that neither of us can deny, but we never can seem to get things clicking anymore."
"Is she with another guy?" Joey asked simply.
"She moved and is happy and stuff. I guess."
Lance's eyes went to where Brianna was now sitting next to Joey's chair putting her fingers in the holes of the bolts in his chair. He smiled at her and waved at her then looked up. "Mommy!"
Kelly seemed to hear this like it was a fire
alarm and came out of the house in a hurry. Her hand grabbed up his pack of
cigarettes and she frowned at him then looked at Brianna. "Did you tell Daddy
not to play with these?"
"Uh oh," Brianna said. "He not listen. Didi say Laase nota fight a Kawwa."
"What are you and Carrah fighting about?" Kelly asked moving to take Joey's cigarette away from him. She put it out in the ashtray then took a seat and sat on Joey's lap.
"It's nothing," Lance said.
Kelly didn't seem to take his word for it and looked at Joey for his reaction.
"You don't want to know Kelly," Joey said and hugged her protectively.
"You finally slept with her didn't you," Kelly said with an easy tone.
"Why does everyone ask me that?" he asked. "Of course I didn't sleep with her. Maybe I should have because at least I'd have a reason for her being so fucking upset at me." He looked at Brianna and frowned when he saw her mouth form into an o shape.
"Laase say no no."
"Thank you Brianna for reminding Lance of his manners." Kelly shrugged. "You guys have been friends for so long and no one has seen you with anyone else."
Lance sighed and sipped his beer.
"She's got a boyfriend?" Kelly said just looking at him. Kelly frowned.
"LAASEE!" Brianna mimicked her mother. "Uh
"I don't know, but I guess that's what it is. I mean who could blame her." Lance swirled his bottle around a little. "I should be celebrating for her because really she and I would kill each other if we ever dated--"
"What does she say about it?" Kelly asked.
"I'm not talking to her."
"I can't--" He sighed. "I know. I know. It's horrible."
"You're going to have to talk to her sooner or
"Later seems better to me."