Alright, I know it's been awhile. In my defense, this was a really hard chapter to write. I've tried three different versions and this is the one I felt even HALFWAY okay about. The developments seem a little unexplainable from this perspective, but of course dots will be connected when the main two are back to telling the story. Other than that, you guys have been so incredibly wonderful. I've gotten so many incredible messages and reviews-even on tumblr. And I've got to tell you, every time I read one that was particularly inspiring, I would pull up this story's file and write. So yeah, your words do help. I'm so, so honored. Other than that, I'm feeling like with this chapter, it might actually be time to wrap things up. I know I said it would have three parts, but it's making more sense to me as it's developing now. I don't know. We'll see, and of course, you'll be warned. Thanks again!
I don't like to involve myself in the lives of…well, I don't like to involve myself at all, really. I prefer to become the wallpaper. I close in, blend in, exist in. I match the furniture. But I never unglue myself, never unfurl, never begin to interact with the rug, the coffee table, the telephone. This has never been my way.
I am present merely as a compliment to your own dumb decisions.
But that isn't true, is it? That's not true at all. Because if it were true, I wouldn't be sitting beside Spencer Carlin, drinking the room temperature water she offered me as I wait for my best friend to run in and expose me as the desperate liar I truly am.
Yet, this is their design! If I am floral, or polka dot, or paisley, it is because they have made me this way.
I am meant to be a sidekick. I'm good at it. I say clever things and I speak the truth. Sometimes I'm promiscuous with men you never see. Occasionally I have too much to drink and admit that I used to be a little jealous of you in college. Most times I am the humanized well of subtle wisdom.
My kind has been the comic relief of every awkward situation since the beginning of time—though we admittedly had our heyday in the '80s (and here and there in biblical times). We're necessary, mildly attractive, never taller than our best friends, never interested in improving the quality of our own mysterious lives.
I am the Kathryn Hahn, and you have no idea who that is. That's okay because you're not supposed to know. Use your smart phone and do a quick search. Make sure you spell "Kathryn" correctly. Okay, you see her? You know her now, right? Of course you do. She takes baths in her sidekick millions and her various childhood insecurities and complexes. She is our fearless leader.
So you see, I'm not supposed to be buried six feet deep in sexy, romantic dog shit and lies with Ashley and Spencer. I am supposed to be on the outskirts with binoculars and a bullhorn attempting to warn them about said dog shit. But Ashley has forgotten her lines again and though Spencer has been the queen of improv for years, she is no help. Mostly because she only recently found out she is actually onstage at all—though she's been under heavy lighting ever since Ashley first saw her.
I've somehow managed to tell Ashley that I'm pregnant (cue the lighthearted pop music) as a means of helping her reconnect with the true love of her life. How selfless of me. How noble. If Kathryn Hahn knew, she would tip her slightly-worn Yankees cap to me and give me an adorable shrug before running off to tend to the every need of Kate Hudson. But she's not here—Spencer is. She's looking fearfully back and forth between me and the door like we're in the most apathetic horror movie ever.
"Oh, sorry. It's nothing. Just nerves," she says quickly, waving them off with her hand.
"Don't be nervous. She's a small human female, not a natural disaster—though admittedly, the similarities are endless."
She laughs, "You're so funny, Kat."
"It's my job."
"Well, you're very good at your job I'll have you know."
"Spencer, may I ask you an important question?"
"Do you know who Kathryn Hahn is?"
She frowns a little, resting her chin on her fist as she racks her brain for a point of reference.
"Um…wasn't she on 'The Office' or something?"
"Then no, I don't think so. Why do you ask?"
"I can look her up, do a Google search or something."
She smiles at me, but then she sighs and the sound contradicts everything that she's attempting. It alerts me to other things. Her foot is tapping worriedly against the floor, her fingers pull at the loose fibers of the couch.
"What will you say?" I ask, taking a sip of water, "have you thought about what's next?"
"I mean…things are so weird between us. It's not like this is the most complex piece. Yeah, it doesn't exactly make things any less weird, but we slept together. Where does that fit in here?"
"I guess I—"
"No, really, Kat. This is Ashley we're talking about. She's not going to want to do this. She's not going to want to have a conversation about what this means to our relationship."
"What do you think it means to your relationship?"
"I think it means we need to talk about what we want."
I didn't have time to respond because the front door was being thrown open with unnecessary force and a red-faced Ashley Davies was suddenly in my line of sight.
"Hey, sorry I took so long. There was a lot of traffic downtown," she says, unwrapping the scarf from around her neck in a dizzying circular motion, "are you okay?"
I imagine the question was directed at me, but her eyes were on Spencer.
I stand up, clearing my throat and preparing for the speech I had practiced in my head during those three minutes spent in their product-ridden bathroom, "Ash, before you say lovely and supportive shit that you'll live to regret, I must confess something."
She sighs deeply, "Kat, is this really the right time for one of your monologues?"
"Ashley, I'm going to need you to take a pregnant pause, get it? Alright?"
She sighs again, but nods.
"Thank you. Now where was I? Oh, yes," I clear my throat again, "while I'm sure all of my lady parts are solidly ready to be used much like the narrow end of a mustard bottle for the transport of a baby mutant child, it is simply not time. Right now I prefer to use them for meaningless, mediocre sex acts with strangers I meet on various forms of public transit and for monthly tampon retrieval. That's it."
"My vagina—or as I like to call it, the cockpit—will not be used as a slip n' slide for an infant baby child anytime in the near future."
"What I'm saying here, my friend, is that while I may often be knocked down, I am not presently knocked up."
Spencer shakes her head as if to confirm my announcement. She's standing up as well, rocking backward and forward on the balls of her feet.
"You're not pregnant?" Ashley asks, still glancing at Spencer.
I shake my head, reaching down to take another sip of water.
"Why would you tell me that, Kat? Why would you lie?"
"Who does anyone lie? Why do sleeping dogs lie? I needed something."
"And what did you need exactly?" she asks, her signature angry smirk darkening her features further.
"I may not be pregnant, but I'm still surrounded by babies," I reply, pointing at both she and Spencer.
"Wait, how am I a baby?" Spencer asks, looking at me as though she's been betrayed.
"You two need to get this shit together. Seriously. Granted, Ashley, you are a much larger baby than your roommate but you're both being ridiculous. Use your big girl words and figure this out. I'm not kidding. I didn't ask to be placed in the middle of this, but if I've got my first-born sleeping on my couch some nights so she can avoid my second-born who's called me over today…yeah, I can't help that shit. I'm five seconds away from calling Brad and Angelina to come get you kids."
"Oh, please. Like you don't enjoy all the juicy tidbits," Ashley says, throwing her bag on the floor before perching herself on the armrest of the couch, "if you don't want to admit it yet, that's fine."
"Feeling my neck hairs raise as you slowly rake over the scandalous details of your dramatic existence is wonderful. Let me be 100% clear about that—I love it. But I don't love having to lie about my womb in order to help you both."
"Sorry, Kat," Spencer says quietly.
It's slightly heartbreaking and she looks so goddamn sad that for a minute I consider shutting my mouth. However, there's no need. She does it for me.
"If it's okay with you, I'm going to ask you for one more thing," she says, looking at me, "will you just stay while we talk about this? You don't have to say anything. You don't have to do anything. I just want to know that someone is here to stop her from running."
Ashley sighs, shaking her head.
"If you will fill my cup with more of your precious tap water, I will go and sit at the kitchen table and read my book while you two mud wrestle."
She smiles and grabs my cup, "Okay."
With Spencer's back turned to retrieve the water, Ashley uses the opportunity to glare at me from where she's seated.
"This is ridiculous, Kat. Absolutely ridiculous and you know it. You know it," she hisses.
I simply point at the coffee table, wanting to avoid her accusations as quickly as possible. Her gaze follows my finger to where the yearbook sits, mocking her like a forgotten enemy.
It does the trick. Her eyes widen and her jaw hangs slack as her brain begins to process what this means. When she finally looks up, I can recognize the fearful expression. Despite its evolution over the years, it remains much the same from the first moment we met.
"Yeah…" I whisper, pulling my current choice of novels out of my oversized messenger bag, "so it's time, okay? This is it."
She doesn't say anything. She looks at Spencer's back as she makes good on our deal and fills my glass. Her eyes travel her length and width. They're either reliving something undesirable or they're accepting something undesirable. It's hard to tell from where I'm sitting.
"Alright, Kat," Spencer says, crossing the room to hand me my water, "here you go. And um…yeah, thanks for staying."
I quickly move to the kitchen table, wanting their conversation to happen ten years ago or at the very least, as soon as it possibly can. I choose the seat that faces them and plop my book down. It's indulgent, I know. But I had been waiting for the impact of this for as long as anyone else. I don't walk out of movies as soon as the main character realizes that he or she is actually a superhero and I have no plans to throw my novel out as soon as it reaches its climax. However, I have been known to throw men out before they reach theirs. There are always exceptions.
"I got the yearbook finally," Spencer says quietly, pointing to it just as I had.
"Yeah, I see that."
"I also…I found what you wrote."
"It was a lot," Ashley says, finally meeting Spencer's eyes.
"It was, yeah."
"So I guess you want some sort of explanation or something, right?"
"I mean, I guess I want to know why you—"
"I had a crush. It was innocent and I was a teenager. I was deep in the closet and you were out and older and you know…you were crush-worthy. And I was…I wasn't myself then, you know?"
I bite my tongue. It's not my turn.
"I was crush-worthy," Spencer repeats with a smile, "it's nice to know that my glory days have passed, huh? I was crush-worthy."
What she fails to know is that Ashley isn't ready to smile about this. She's not ready to believe the words she's saying. So she doesn't. She doesn't smile. Her shoulders drop like a child learning embarrassment for the very first time. Only, this isn't anywhere near her first time, she's nowhere near her childhood, and the emotions that have been validated and discarded are crawling up from the dirt like mummies.
"I really needed something then. I needed a goal. I needed something to go to school for. I needed someone who represented what I could have if I was willing to change."
"And look at that, Ash. You had me," Spencer answers with a surprising amount of bitterness, "was I everything you hoped I would be? Can you check me off as a goal completed?"
Past had met present.
"It's not like that at all."
"That's why you moved in here, right? You moved in so you could make me believe that you're a decent human being before you slept with me. Mission accomplished and now I have to worry that you've been strangled to death by some other girl you've fucked over because you never come home."
"You selfish bitch," the blonde spits, her arms crossed so tight across her chest that it almost concerns me more than the direction of her words, "you're so obsessed with making sure no one expects anything from you that you never even stop to think about what your absence means. Do you get that I've been by myself, Ashley? Do you get that I've been by my fucking self?"
Ashley shakes her head, tears threatening to fall, "Spencer, I—"
"I was crush-worthy. Now that's your title, I guess. That's what it is. Girls think you're crush-worthy. I want you to know something, okay? It means nothing."
"I know that."
"You're crush-worthy and I'm just worthy of being crushed."
Spencer laughs loudly—manically.
I expect those insistent tears to collapse. I expect Ashley to acknowledge and repent. Instead, she chooses to engage in the present as well. Her timing is impeccable.
"You still want Robin! What do you want me to do?"
"You're not even over her, but I'm supposed to swoop in and overlook that. No, no I couldn't. I can't," Ashley says, staring out the closed window.
"You know that's not true."
"You haven't said anything, Spencer! You've said nothing. I don't even know where this is coming from."
"Because we can't work. I need someone who values consistency. I need someone who's here when I wake up. I don't want to wake up to emptiness anymore."
"I've been trying to give us space so we can figure this shit out."
"No, you're giving yourself space because you don't want to figure this shit out."
Ashley sighs loudly. It echoes off the walls as Spencer collapses onto the couch. I consider making a joke, lightening the mood a bit. But so much has been said that there's nothing to add. I can only subtract or add zero. I've made Spencer a promise to stay so zero it is.
"Tell me you want to try."
Ashley and I both whip our heads towards her voice. She looks defeated, but hopeful that she can still recover something from the rubble that surrounds their warzone.
"Yes, tell me you want to try and make this work. I don't care about ten years ago and you shouldn't either. I wouldn't even care about yesterday if you would just look at me and tell me that you've got the balls to be with me. I don't want to be your ten years ago anymore. I want to be your now—maybe even your ten years from now, I don't know. But I want to try."
Ashley hesitates, shuffles around on the edge of the couch. For a second she appears to smile and shake her head, but my vision isn't exactly what it was ten years ago. Things change.
"Think about it, Ash," Spencer says, standing suddenly, "if I wake up alone tomorrow, then okay. I get it. Your stripes have to change pretty drastically, I know. But you've done it once, so…"
She nods once at me before walking down the hallway towards her room. Her footsteps echo even louder than Ashley's sigh. When her door clicks shut, I feel that I'm being watched.
"What?" I ask, closing the book that I had never begun to read.
"I can do this, right? I mean, I want to, Kat. I won't hurt her, right?"
"It's not my job to answer that."
"Fine, okay. Then tell me, what would you do?"
I considered it. As the resident sidekick, I wasn't used to such inquiries. After all, you don't drive from the passenger's seat. The dog doesn't toss the Frisbee. The spoon doesn't eat the soup. But Kathryn Hahn has offered enough advice in the last twenty-two minutes of movies over the years—advice that you know her character longed to have relevant in her own less important life.
"I would do it, Ashley. I would go for it."