"Where are we going?"
"We're going to see my friend."
"Is your friend nice?"
"She's super nice," her voice sounded nervous even to her.
"Is she going to help us move?"
"That's what we're going to see."
"If she's super nice she'll want to help us move right?"
"Um yeah," deep breath, "If she's not busy." She looked from the paper in her hand to the door in front of her. This was it.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
It feels like someone cut off the top of your head and is knocking on your brain with an ice pick. You groan and pull your blanket over your head, hoping that it'll go away.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
You wonder who was at the door at…this time where the sun is up in the morning. All of your friends are still asleep. You suddenly wonder if you paid the rent because if you were even an hour late, the landlord was all over you ass. You grabbed a shirt and pull it over your head. Pants are too much work at the moment so you just forget about them, of course tripping over the ones you took off before getting into bed
You leave the chain on the door when you open it because you're still in fucking New York City and there are creepers everywhere. You push your hair out of your face to see what was going on. At first the only person you see is a little girl standing there, her long blonde hair in braided pigtails, looking up at you. You quickly close the door wondering if this kid is alone or lost or something. You take the chain off and open the door all the way. You finally see who is standing with the little girl and you can't hear anything, but a whirling in your ears.
Brittany nervously shifts her weight from one foot to the other, the little girl's hand in her own, "Um, hi Santana."
You blink. Then you blink again. What the…you can't even…why is she…and the kid…Brittany?
The little girl looks up at Brittany and then to you. She lets out a bright smile, "Hi."
"What's going on?" your eyes dart from Brittany to the little girl and back up to Brittany. You can't even comprehend what's happening. If Brittany was alone maybe you could understand what was happening. Even if there was a random little girl at your door it may make more sense.
Brittany's eyes dropped to the ground. She looks nervous. She bites her lip before she asks you, "Can we talk?"
Still completely bewildered, you open the door wider to let them in. What else could you do? When you close the door, you lead the way into the small efficiency. Your bed is a mess in the corner farthest from the door and the couch is covered in clothes. The TV is sitting on one end of a coffee table, you have no idea why. On the other end of the coffee table is an open bottle of 360 Vodka, a pack of cigarettes with a lighter and a baggie with.. oh shit. You quickly grab the baggie and shove it into your pocket, hoping that Brittany or the kid didn't see it.
Brittany opens her purse and pulls out a coloring book with a handful of crayons. She sets it on the small bar that separates your kitchenette from the rest of the room. The little girl automatically sits on the barstool and starts to color, not noticing the tension throughout the room. You can feel it crawling all the way through you.
You need to do something to keep from having to find something to say because it's obvious Brittany is having trouble finding words. You close the bottle of vodka and stick it in the freezer, trying to subtly place the little indiscretion from your pocket into the freezer. Then you nervously run your fingers through your hair trying to figure out what was going on. Brittany looks around at the messy apartment and you feel self-conscious about it. It's a shit apartment and you haven't spent a while lot of money on furniture or anything remotely decorative.
After a moment of trying to regroup next to the refrigerator, you walk to the couch and fall back on it. You look up at Brittany, "How did you find me?"
"Your mom," the blonde sits down next to you, "I asked her not to tell you though."
"Why not?" you look around before picking up a water bottle off of the floor, "You like surprise attacks?" That's how this is starting to feel. You feel blitzkrieged.
Brittany folds her hands, "I didn't know if we were actually going to come."
She looks scared and you feel your protective instinct jumpstart. You bite your lip and look away, trying to make it stop. You look over at the little girl that is coloring. She looks a little old to be Brittany's, but you're not sure. It's not like you spend a whole lot of time with kids. Brittany looks exactly like she did the last time you saw her but that doesn't mean she didn't have a kid and get her body back. "How old is she?"
"Five," Brittany stats, glancing back at the little girl.
"If she's five then..." You squint from Brittany to the girl. If your memory serves you right, you and Brittany were actually dating five years ago. "You'd have had to-"
"I didn't have her," Brittany clarifies. Her eyes meet yours fully for the first time. You can see that she knows what you really asked. No she didn't cheat on you and somehow miraculously hid it from you before your breakup.
So how did she get this kid? "So, you…stole her?"
Brittany smiles, "No. I was…dating this guy and he was her dad," she pauses looking nervously at you. With good reason though because every time you even think of someone touching Brittany like you used to…you get nauseas and angry. Even though you're not really allowed to anymore. Especially after what happened.
She waits for you to nod, affirming that she has your attention again. She continues, less sure than before, "Her mom left her with Richie and never came back and one night Richie just left. He left a note that said we were better off without him. We could have the house and everything but I couldn't afford the mortgage by myself working at the studio in Lima so I sold the house and took a job here. But my job doesn't start for another week. We can't afford a hotel or anything until I start working. I don't have the money from the house yet either."
You bite your lip and roll the water bottle in your hand. "So you need somewhere to stay?"
She nods. She's starting to look terrified. Your hand twitches, wanting to comfort her, but you can't. It's not your job anymore.
You look around and shrug. You really just sleep in this shithole. You're out at night and if you can help it most of the day. You guess they can have the bed and you'll sleep on the couch. It's not like you're ever home at night anyway, "Are you sure you don't know anyone else that lives somewhere nicer?"
She gives you a sweet, grateful smile. But when she looks back at you, you can see it in her eyes. There's more. You can't handle this without some help. Drinking this early in the...whatever time it was, is out of the question so you grab a cigarette and walk to the window. After heaving it open, you sit sideways on the sill and prop your foot up. After lighting up and taking a drag, you look back at Brittany whose eyes are trained on you. You blow the smoke out the window and nod to her, giving her the go ahead.
She moves to your bed, which is closer to the window. You rest your head on the wall behind you. Tears unexpectedly well up in Brittany's eyes. She blinks them back and glances at the girl "We need... I-I don't know what I'm doing. I'm scared and you're the only person I've ever... I need help."
You feel your eyes get wide. You were not expecting that. Shit at this point you can barely help yourself, much less Brittany and a kid. "Britt I-"
"I just need a friend," Brittany sniffles and shakes her head, "It's hard and she needs someone smarter than me ask questions to." Brittany rubs her arm and looks at you, "I just... You're the first person- the only person I thought of."
"I'm- I'm a different person," you sigh, "Not the kind of person that should be around kids...or other people." This is so out of the blue. You have no idea what to make of it. You're still tired and you don't remember the last time you actually ate.
"Please just be my friend. At least for a week. She's a good kid and she's smart," Brittany pleads. You can see the fear and pleading in the blue eyes. She's clenching her jaw and you know she's trying not to cry. "She's like you were when we were little."
You take another drag of your cigarette, feeling the slight burn travel down your throat. You look outside and down at the alley below. Can you really be Brittany's friend? After everything, can you be her friend? You don't know how Brittany got into this situation, but…but you can't let her be alone. Especially in this city. Especially with a kid. "Then I guess we're in trouble."
She lets out a relieved smile, "Thank you so much ."
You put your cigarette out on the windowsill and drop it into the dumpster below. You stand and close the window. The little girl stands up and walks over to Brittany. She's contently swaying next to the bed, "I'm hungry."
Brittany brushes the bangs out of the child's face.
"I don't have like... Food or anything," you say. The closest semblance you have to food is a box of takeout that's been there for the month.
"We'll go get something okay?" Brittany smiles at her. She stands up and looks at you, "Are you hungry?"
You think about it for a moment. You're actually really hungry and you need to show them around and give Brittany a crash course in living in New York. "Sure."
After Brittany brings up a few bags from her car and you and the kid have a painfully awkward staring contest, you take them to your favorite café down the street. The short order cook behind the counter smiles at you when you walk in, "You're early."
You just nod and instead of sitting at the counter, you slide into a booth. The little girl and Brittany sit on the other side. When Brittany rubs the little girl's back you can't help, but smile. When she looks up at you, she sees your smile and smiles back. "So what have you been up to?"
You exhale and wish that you had a cigarette. You start to twirl your phone on the table. This is just so much to handle right now. You're still having a hard time believing that Brittany is sitting across from you. You shrug, "Work." You hope she'll just leave it at that. You don't really want her knowing what you do for a living. Not yet anyway.
The look on her face is a soft contentment that comes with knowing you and your cryptic answers for years. She accepts your answer and turns to the little girl, "What do you want to eat?"
The girl looks at you suspiciously and then tells Brittany, "Eggs."
Brittany nods and kisses the top of her head, "Okay." You are touched by the small action and smile a little because of it. They're cute together.
"What about you? You taught dance in Lima?"
She nods. "For a couple years. I don't know what happened. I think Mike had something to do with it, but a guy that managed a dance studio and company here went to the studio and watched the class and asked me to join."
"So you're going to dance and teach?" you ask.
She nods, "But mostly dance. I'll have one class on Tuesdays and Thursdays with high school kids."
You're impressed. Then your eyes flicker to the little girl leaning on Brittany. If they'll be living with you for a week, you feel like you need to at least know her name. "What's your name?"
"Emily," she smiles, "You're Santana."
You nod. You wonder how much Brittany actually told her about you. Does this kid know the extent of your relationship? Former relationship?
You scratch your head and nod. After a sip of your water, your eyes find Brittany again. "Do you have any plans for the next week?"
Brittany shakes her head, "We were just going to look around. Go see some things."
That makes sense. "Statue of Liberty? The Met? Yankee Stadium?"
Your ex nods with a smile on her face, "Everything we can fit into a week."
"Awesome," you nod. "Where are you going today?"
Brittany looks to Emily who smiles, "The one with all the lights and the signs."
"Times Square," Brittany states, "But we have to go after it gets dark."
You don't like Brittany and a kid out at Times Square at night. Sure it looks a lot cooler at night, but bad things happen at night. Of course this being New York bad things happen during the day too, but at night it's harder to see them coming. You probably need to get home and get some sleep before your shift starts tonight, but you really can't let them wander around alone.
Fuck it. You'll just have to have a little pick me up before you go in. If something happens to Brittany or that kid, you'll hate yourself more than you do right now.
"How about we hit Central Park first?" you offer.
Brittany look surprised. "We?"
You nod, "We have to talk about living here." You're trying to remain serious and not look at her for too long. She definitely looks different that you remember. She looks exhausted, but managed to keep her optimism. Maybe she's a little wiser. Maybe she's becoming the independent woman that you always felt you were stifling. But in her eyes. Deep, deep in her eyes you know she's the same girl you've loved your whole life and looking at her for too long is dangerous.
"Careful, these plates are hot."
After a hearty breakfast that Brittany pays for, you all head to the park. You keep your hands in your pockets so they don't accidentally brush Brittany's. She's your roommate for a few days and that's it. When she's gone, she's gone and that's it. No more Brittany. No more kid. The end.
"I wanted to thank you again," Brittany says, as Emily looks around wide eyed at the ducks and trees.
You shrug, "No problem. I'm not even home at night so it's not a big deal."
"You're at work?" she asks.
You watch the pavement rush by your feet and nod.
She's quiet so you finally look up at her. Her eyes are still trained on you. Watching you, studying you. It's a little intimidating. Especially because she knows you so well. After a moment, she licks her lips and looks away, "Have you been here the whole time?"
There's more to that question that is unspoken, but luckily you two are fluent in non-words. "Yeah. Right after… the day after. I moved here."
She nods accepting that the day after your breakup you hightailed it out of Ohio. She looks at you with the silent question of why and you look away with the answer of I don't want to talk about it.
It's scary how easily you both fall back into the routine of being around each other. When she moves, your body knows how to move to accommodate her. Words are just a formality at this point. You're pretty convinced that you two could have a complete conversation without words. You don't want to get used to this, but your body has already found a contentment in being around her again. It's bad. It sucks and you know in the end it's going to hurt like hell.
After hours of playing around at the park, eating pizza, and a walk through of Times Square in the twilight, the kid falls asleep as Brittany carries her up the stairs to your apartment. You walk behind them, making sure that Brittany doesn't fall backwards because no matter how much you wished that you'd laid your feeling to rest in a watertight grave twelve feet under, it's apparent that they've returned from the dead.
She lays Emily on your bed after you pushed all of the clothes off of it into a pile on the floor. Brittany covers the little girl in one of the two blankets in the apartment. When Brittany kisses her head you feel your throat constrict. It's all the feelings you're trying to hold back. When Brittany does things like that, incredibly sweet things you just…
You grab your gym bag out from under the bed where you usually kick it after work. You walk to the closet and throw a track jacket into it along with some pants. You can't remember if it's supposed to be cold tonight. Then you glance behind you at Brittany who is straightening out the second blanket to put on top of Emily. Quickly you open the freezer and grab the baggy, throwing it into your bag.
"Are you going to work?" Brittany asks.
Her voice is so close to you that you jump and when you turn around she's leaning on the counter behind you. You smooth out your hair, "Yeah."
"Well thanks again for today and for letting us stay," she offers you a tentative smile and her eyes flicker to your bag, revealing that she just saw what you did.
You try to shake it off, "No problem. I'll be back in a few hours."
She nods. Her eyes are questioning, but her mouth is silent. You decide to ignore her eyes and grab your keys. As you walk out the door, you stop. Then you walk back inside and grab a pen out of the drawer than look around.
"What are you looking for?" Brittany asks, opening one of the bags she brought up from her car.
"Paper," you tell her, "I'm going to write my number down in case you think of anything you need."
She looks around for a few seconds before saying, "Here." When you look up, her hand is extended toward you.
You hesitate. You haven't touched her for a reason. You're treading on a minefield here and touching her is like breaking out a jump rope and skipping in zigzag patterns all over the place. But you do it anyway, because you need to leave and you need her to have your number.
You take her hand in your right hand and hold it flat so you can write on her palm. You talk to you don't focus on how warm or soft her hand is. "Lock both of the deadbolts okay? And if some fat ass guy comes knocking asking where his rent is, ignore him. He'll leave after a few minutes."
She nods, "Thanks San."
You release her hand after you've written your number on it. "There are like four channels on the TV and my laptop's on the shelf in the closet. There's pretty much nothing here, but if you find something you're welcome to it."
She gives you a warm smile and quickly pulls you into a hug. You can't escape it. You can just try to keep your hands in innocent places on her back while she squeezes you. When she let's go you awkwardly smile before bolting.
As you walk toward the train you shake your head. How the fuck do you get yourself into these things?