Markko and Langston sat in their sun-drenched Santa Monica apartment, side by side on their white couch typing nervously at their laptops. They were both excited, their friend Starr was on her way, but threads of darkness interrupted their happy feelings. Starr and Hope were moving to LA. Starr was starting a signing career. It would be great. BUT, Cole their friend from way back was dead, killed during the prison break in Llanview, PA, their hometown. The doorbell suddenly rang and both Markko and Langston leapt up. Langston opened the door with Markko right behind her. There stood Starr, Hope and their suitcases.
"Starr!" Langston squealed, happiness flooding her whole body. The old friends hugged and Markko put his arms around them all.
"Welcome to LA! We're so glad to see both of you!" he said. "You must be exhausted, come on in." Markko grabbed their bags as Starr walked into the beautifully decorated modern apartment, Hope on her hip.
"Wow, it's so good to see you guys! And you've done so well. Thanks so much for letting Hope and I stay with you," she said.
"We wouldn't have it any other way," Langston replied. "Do you want anything to eat, or do you just want to rest?"
"We ate on the plane and Hope was awake most of the time! So if you could give her some milk and crackers; that would be great. I think she'll take a nap."
Thirty minutes later, Starr came out of the guest bedroom/home office saying, "You can hear the ocean from in there! Phew she finally fell asleep! Markko are you ready to be awoken at night by Hope?"
"I thought you said she didn't do that anymore? Markko quipped. Langston swatted his arm.
"We're not worried, it's just so great having you here," she said. Starr noticed an open scrapbook on the table.
What are you guys looking at?" she asked.
Langston replied, "oh we should have put that away, so sorry," as she rapidly closed the book labeled,"Llanview Memories".
"We were reminding ourselves about all the good times but we don't want to make it worse for you, " Markko added.
"Well I've got something very important to tell you both," Starr paused and then took in a deep breath. Cole isn't dead." Marrko and Langston's eyes both widened. "Todd helped fake his death and now he's gone to find his parents. I'm so happy he's alive but so sad I may never see him again," Starr said as tears formed in her eyes. Langston hugged her. Markko's phone buzzed.
"Sorry I need to take this", he said as he went into the bedroom.
Langston hugged Starr and encouraged her saying, "I know you'll be together again. You're young, there's time to work it out."
"I haven't lost hope," Starr answered and then she peered into Langston's eyes, "you can talk to me about it you know."
"What?" Langston asked.
Langston sat down with sadness in her eyes. "My feelings for him were real you know but we just didn't work," she said.
"Not like you and Markko," Starr said grinning. Langston smiled, glancing at the bedroom. She continued,
"But at least he found a family with Jessica and Ryder, I'm glad for that." Starr held her hand as Markko came in the room.
"What's going on?" he asked.
Langston gave him a quick hug, "oh nothing, Starr and I were just thinking about all the sadness in Llanview." Suddenly the doorbell rang. They all looked up in surprise. Starr moved toward the door saying,
"Let me answer it since I now live here!" The door opened to a stiff man she had never seen before,
"Miss Manning? I have a message from Mr. Manning and a body guard."
"I don't need a body guard," Starr shouted. And then from behind the doorway, Cole popped his head into view. "Cole! Cole" Starr rushed into his arms oblivious to everything else. Markko and Langston walked to the door as Langston said,
"Who is it Starr? We're waiting for some scripts from the studio-oh my God, Cole!" Langston gasped as she leaned on Markko's shoulders.
"It's me!" he replied. "Todd arranged it all and I'm here for good! I've seen both my parents, they're together and well; but now I need to be with Starr and Hope!" Markko felt Langston stiffen as she leaned on him and wondered what was going on.
A wave of paradoxical sadness flooded through Langston as she briefly frowned. Cole was once someone she could connect with since he had lost his parents too. Now magically they were found. She knew she should be happy for him, and she was; but her own loss, her parents' sudden deaths in Viet Nam rushed back at her. She gripped Markko and took a deep breath and raised her head in a smile,
"Cole that's so wonderful. Come in, so good to see you," she said. Markko looked at her, his brow briefly furrowed. But Langston put on a happy face and asked Cole if he was hungry.
"Yes, but first I've got to see my little girl!" he replied. Starr took him by the hand and led him towards the bedroom.
Markko turned to Langston, "what's going on babe? Are you OK?"
Langston replied, "of course I'm fine," as she turned away from him.
"Not so easy Lang," he said as he grabbed her hand and led her outside onto their small outdoor patio, slightly chilly in the January air. "Talk to me." Langston signed.
"I don't know Markko. I'm so happy for Starr and Cole; but I'm also remembering that my parents never came back. They always left me to help other children and then one day that was it. I never saw them again." A tear dripped down her cheeks. "I'm so happy we're together Markko, you make me feel loved; but sometimes I worry that I'm not good for you." Markko frowned. "I've got this loneliness in me that comes out at the worst times." Markko put his arm around her shoulders and touched her cheek with his forehead.
"Lang, I know you feel lonely sometimes. Losing your parents at any age is rough but you were so young and so alone. You tried to keep everything going as if nothing had happened. To me, that showed your amazing strength. You do what needs to be done. You're incredibly courageous." He tightened his arm, drawing her closer. "And, you've got me, Dorian, Starr and even crazy David. You're not alone." Langston smiled, feeling a bit better. "So how about we walk down to the market and buy some food for dinner? What do you think Hope will eat?"
"Lord only knows", Langston answered. "She's definitely picky, but a I guess spaghetti and meat sauce should do it. But Markko don't you have work to do, emails to answer?"
"That can wait love. Let's go."
Langston, Markko, Starr, Cole and Hope later had a fun evening together. Hope made a mess of her spaghetti but seemed to enjoy it. The friends talked, smiled and enjoyed each other's company; and Hope perched herself on Cole's lap and entertained the adults with stories.
Later that night, Langston lay in bed and the sadness returned. A little while later, Markko slipped into bed beside her and drew her to him.
"Lang, it's OK, I'm here."
"Markko, I've just been thinking about how I was lonely even before my parents died. I was an only child and they left me with babysitters while they travelled the world. I think that was why I was such a brat. I was mean to you in Mrs. Finch's music class back in elementary school, remember?"
"How could I forget, but you know I didn't care. I liked you anyway- Your spunk. You seemed so confident and strong while I felt like a little momma's boy."
"Really, you thought I was strong?"
"Yes, and pretty very pretty." He interjected with a wink. "But Langston. Maybe this is a good time to see a therapist, talk out this stuff."
"Well, it's the thing in LA." He quipped. But seriously, talking to a professional might help you feel less lonely. Or write about it. Get your emotions out through your awesome creativity."
"Markko maybe you're right. I guess I'll start with the writing and think about the shrink part."
"That's fine babe"
"Before when you asked if everything was OK, Starr and I had been talking about Ford. I feel sad about his death. But you need to know that you were and are the person I love. Ford used me badly and then I developed feelings for him I think because I saw him as a wounded lonely person like myself. Or something like that. I still feel bad about hurting you."
"Langston, I surely hated Ford, I won't lie. But I didn't want him dead. He didn't deserve that. And I do get why you were attracted to him. I've forgiven you and it's OK. It might not be the way I'd choose to do it, but the whole thing really has made our relationship stronger. We were tested big time and found our way back to each other."
"Markko, I guess the Ford chapter is literally waiting to be written or talked about on a shrink's couch."
"I guess so, all in good time Lang."
Langston relaxed and yawned, whispering, "Markko you always make me feel better. I love you."
"Love you too babe." He kissed her cheek and spooned his body around her.
As they drifted off to sleep, they suddenly opened their eyes to the sounds of lovemaking in the next room. Langston whispered, "Starr better be careful."
"Don't worry Lang, Cole asked me for condoms and I gave him all the ones I had left after you went on the pill."
"What a nice friend!" Langston whispered just before she fell into a sweet sleep.
The next morning, Starr drowsily came out of the bedroom smiling and saw Hope busy coloring while watching Doria on TV. The smell of bacon and maple syrup wafted in the air. She found Langston in the kitchen. "Hey sleephead. It's about time you got up. Busy night?" Langston asked with a huge grin. Starr simply smiled dreamily without embarrassment.
"It was….. just great. I'm on a cloud and can't believe I have my whole little family together again," Starr answered. "But where are the guys?"
"Sit down, have some breakfast. Markko took Cole down to the studio. It think they're going to have one of the makeup people change his appearance a bit. Seems safer given he's supposed to be dead! And….. if you're interested, I'd be glad to give you the name of my gyn doctor. She's the best and can get you going on some pills or an IUD." Langston answered. Starr smiled.
"I guess we weren't as quiet as we were trying to be last night? But sure, what are you on?"
"The pill. It's easy to take and makes Markko and me, of course, very happy," Langston chuckled.
"Well give me the number, time's a wasting," Starr laughed.
Later that afternoon, Markko and Cole came home.
"Cole! What have you done to yourself?" Starr shrieked.
"Starr, Cole needed a change. Can't have him recognized when he's with you and Hope. Eduardo, one of the studio makeup people gave him a new haircut and lightened up the color a bit. We even came up with a new name; and you need to call Todd to get new ID. Meet Patrick Coleman!"
"Patrick Coleman?" Starr looked at Cole.
"We've got to do this Starr. It's the safest way. Plus, I've got a job! Markko connected me with the studio people and recommended me as a production assistant. It's entry level, but definitely a start." Starr threw her arms around him and kissed him on the lips.
"Patrick Coleman, I love you."
"And I love you Starr Manning."
"OK guys enough with the PDA. Let's start working on dinner," Langston interjected.
"Langston and Markko, you guys should just relax. Do whatever work you need to do, Patrick and I, she grinned, will cook dinner."
"Thanks!" Langston said as she sat down on the couch and opened her computer. Markko plopped down next to her and began to read his emails.
"You know babe, I've got the trip up to Monterey starting tomorrow to scout locations for the new movie. And I have a quick commercial to shoot in San Diego next week. How about you come with me. It will give Starr, Cole and Hope some time alone. And even better, we can be together. You can work on your new script while I'm working during the day. Whatta you say?"
"Markko, I'd love it and I love you."
After dinner Langston opened the conversation. "Markko has to travel for the next 2 weeks and I'm going to go with him. We were thinking that would give you all time together. You can figure out what your next steps are and then just spend time together; time you've been robbed of for so long." Starr looked at Cole and Hope, smiling deeply.
"Langston are you sure that's OK?" she asked.
The four friends and little Hope all sat together, sharing memories and new plans. Starr looked Cole in the eye, telling him wordlessly how much she loved him. Langston smiled at Markko. Her dark thoughts had flown away. She had friends. She loved and was loved.