1999 goals: Get a life, get real… and get a room.
No one ever said I was the brightest bulb on the tree, but a near-death experience finally knocks some sense into my thick head.
Luckily, my jerk of an ex washes his hands of me, but I’m left with so many burnt bridges to re-build. Landing a job on any movie or TV show that’ll have me has to be my #1 priority. Thankfully, my life-long friends still love me enough to help.
When the one I always wished could be more than a friend shows up on my doorstep, however, all my good intentions go right out the window. Before I know it, I’ve convinced him that an out-of-town, friends-with-benefits deal will be the perfect way to get over each other.
Is it another in a long line of bad decisions, or a move that'll turn things around? 110 percent, I hope he can handle the truth.
Fans of 90’s TV shows, from Friends to Freaks and Geeks, will love this second chance, friends-to-lovers, retro romance, where a grumpy cinnamon roll hero and a wounded bird heroine vie for a happy-ever-after despite interference from meddling found-family friends.
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I swear I can still feel Whitney’s limp body in my arms.
After the EMTs finally showed up, they whisked her away. Dani got to ride in the ambulance with Whit, while I followed in my car. Now, the nurse in charge of the ER can’t or won’t tell me anything. Fumbling through my suit jacket pockets for my cell phone, it takes me a few moments to remember that Wallington’s service is still so bad that I left it at home.
Thankfully, I’ve only paced the length of the waiting room a few times when Dani walks through the swinging doors leading back to the exam rooms.
After a quick scan of the waiting area, she heads for me. “Anybody else here yet?”
“I didn’t tell Vi. Whit wouldn’t want her wedding totally ruined.”
Dani’s eyes brighten when they flick over my shoulder. Seconds later, Lukas Keith slips past me to envelop her in a hug.
I just stare, my mouth gaping. I haven’t had the bandwidth to keep track of the status of their relationship, but I swear I’ve never seen Dani look like she does right now.
Like she’s finally handing a burden over to someone else.
Well, good for her. A real relationship may not be in the cards for me, but I can still be glad for my friend.
But right now, I need info, so I clear my throat. “What happened? Is she okay?”
Dani turns out of Luke’s embrace to face me, but I can’t help but notice how she leans into him. “I only got, like, two seconds with her before they wheeled her away.”
“The ICU. They were yelling something about her being septic and going into shock.”
Sully appears from behind me. “What does that mean?”
“Pretty sure septic means a full body infection,” his girlfriend Helen adds.
“Hey, guys.” I step back to let the two of them into our circle. I wonder momentarily how often a bunch of people in formal attire end up in the ER waiting room. A wedding party minus the bride and groom. And the bridesmaid currently fighting for her life.
“They asked if she’d been pregnant,” Dani says.
“Was she?” Helen asks.
Dani just shakes her head. “I wish I knew. We’ve barely seen Whit since she got married. I could hardly believe she came to the wedding.”
“Been pregnant?” Sully asks. “Like she was and isn’t anymore?”
Dani winces as she nods. “It seemed like they really wanted to know if she’d miscarried. Or had an abortion.”
“Same thing,” Helen says. “An abortion and a miscarriage are the same as far as your body is concerned. If either of them isn’t complete, you can get an infection.”
“So, what now?” I ask Dani. “Can we see her?”
“They said once she’s stable we can go in one at a time. But that might be a while.”
“Is it just me, or is something fucked up here?” Sully asks.
“You mean other than the fact that she’s sick as a dog?” I shoot back.
“I know what you mean,” Dani says. “It’s kind of weird that she didn’t want us to call her husband. Or her parents.”
“Maybe she didn’t want them to know that she was slumming it by going to Violet’s wedding.” I suggest.
“They’ve been friends since kindergarten,” Dani counters.
“But her parents never approved of us. And Hardy’s the same,” I argue.
“We were never good enough for any of them, that’s for sure,” Sully says, shaking his head.
“I never will understand why she said yes to that guy in the first place.”
“You don’t think we pushed her into his arms with our ultimatums?” The awful confrontation stirred up in the wake of Hurricane Beverly roils my stomach even now. Not only did Sully and I ask Whit to choose between us, but when she refused, I blamed her for ruining the friendships the five of us had maintained since childhood.
“I don’t know. It’s all water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned.” Sully adjusts his ball cap with the Lawson’s Reach logo, and I wonder for the umpteenth time if I should’ve given up booming on a regular gig with excellent union pay, to take one small job after another as a sound mixer.
And to get out of town so I wouldn’t have to run into Whitney. Or her asshole husband.
“Looks like we might be here awhile,” Helen says into the silence. “I’ll get coffee.”
“I’ll go with you.” Sully follows her. Since we all developed our coffee preferences side by side, the same way we grew up, he doesn’t bother taking our orders.
Luke puts a comforting arm around Dani and leads her to a bank of chairs, where she collapses, resting her head on his shoulder like it belongs there. Also, something I’ve never seen her do.
Left to myself, memories from the past couple of hours return. Whitney’s always been petite, the easiest to sling up on your shoulders for a game of Chicken in the ocean, but when I carried her down the hotel hallway tonight, she was feather-light, her bones poking through her skin.
As she clung to me, her scent filled my nostrils. The coconut sunscreen I always associate with Whit was gone, replaced by a perfume that didn’t suit her, underlaid with something rotten. Like Hardy literally got under her skin and festered there.
As if my thoughts conjure him, the man himself blasts into the room. They grant his wish when he demands to see Whitney.
Which is just wrong.
But he is her husband. You are not husband material. It was made clear to you a year ago, and experience has confirmed it ever since. You’re a good time, a nice roll in the hay, a fun guy to have on your arm for a night, maybe two. But that’s it. Your work takes you all over the country, sometimes having to leave at the drop of a hat. You don’t have a home and you don’t need one.
Success in the movie business is hard-won. Not worth risking for something you’re obviously not good at. So just shut up, be happy for your coupled-up friends, ensure that the girl who got away is going to live, and then get out of town again.
Where you belong.