24. Pete is a stupid twat, Patrick is sad, Tom is a raging fox. That last part is true in real life, too.
"Yes, Lexi, for the eight billionth time, I know I am a stupid twat. Didn't you berate me enough at the hospital?"
"No, you stupid twat. I should beat you with a metal spatula for scaring me like that."
"Well, hey. At least I've got some new writing material now."
I groan and grab the nearest thing to throw at him, which just happens to be Patrick's hat.
"Hey!" both boys whine in unison.
"Can't you ever take anything seriously?"
"Nope," he replies as he tosses the hat back to Patrick. "Plus, you're home! I'm alive, you're moving back, my mom's gonna do all my laundry for free. All is well!"
Lucy rolls her eyes at him. "Your mom did all your laundry for free when you lived with me, jackass."
"Okay, that's true. Oooh Andy's here!" Pete claps his hands together excitedly, clearly grateful for the distraction.
I jump up quickly to hug him before he can tackle me. It's nice to know that all my friends are happy I'm coming back, but I'm starting to think I should wear pads when I give them good news in the future. Behind Andy is a pretty, green-eyed girl with bright red hair and partial sleeves.
"You must be Tyra. It's great to finally meet you!" I stick my hand out and she gives me a funny look. Oh great, not again. Why do girlfriends hate me? But then she smiles and wraps me up in a hug. She may be little, but she is strong.
"I've heard way too much about you to shake hands. The way these guys talk sometimes, I'd think you were the second coming."
"Nah, that's Andy." I smile and we all sit down, laughing and talking like nothing had changed. I am so glad to be home.
A few hours later I'm driving back downtown, laughing as Patrick tries to pretend the smoke from my cigarette isn't annoying him.
"What's so freaking funny?"
"You." He glares at me and I laugh harder. "You could just ask me to put it out, you know."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he mumbles while waving his hand in front of his face.
"Sure." I sigh and toss the butt out the window. "Better?"
"No problem. So... are you okay?"
"Uh, yeah. Smoke doesn't bother me that much."
"That's not what I mean, dummy. What I meant was, how are you dealing with Sir Pete's greatest display of ineptitude to date?"
"Oh, that. Uhm, I'm okay, I guess."
"Good call." He bites his lip and looks out the window. "I guess, I don't know. I maybe feel responsible. I mean, not responsible like I did anything to make it happen. More like I didn't do anything to prevent it."
"It's not as if he told you he was going to OD on us or anything. You're not a mind reader, Trick."
"I know, I know. But I read his lyrics almost every day. Almost every second, now that we've been working on the album. I get the equivalent of a diary handed to me and I didn't see anything. I just feel like I should've known something was wrong."
I nod and bite my lip, thinking this over. "I can't tell you not to feel like that, because I understand it. If I were you, I'd feel the same way. But I know that there was nothing you could do, and I know Pete wouldn't want you to feel responsible." I pull into the parking lot behind my apartment and turn to him. "Pete is a big boy, he makes his own decisions, and he decided not to ask for help. But he's okay now, and I think you should go easy on yourself."
He gets out of the car and hugs me before pulling out his car keys and walking away.
"Hey, Lunchbox?" He turns and raises his eyebrows. "Call me if you need me. I'll always be there." He just nods and keeps walking.
I climb the stairs to my apartment, flip the switch, and sigh into the emptiness. I miss my damn furniture. Due to a complete lack of foresight, I drove up here without a single personal item, meaning I had to buy about two weeks worth of clothes and a new bed, plus I had to drop an exorbitant amount of money to get my old house packed up and shipped out. The movers gave me some crap about legal issues, me not being there to supervise, liability, blah blah blah. I roll my eyes at the memory, then spot my phone on the floor and laugh. I use the thing so infrequently that I didn't even notice it was missing. I pick it up and glance at the screen, smiling when I notice two missed calls from Tom. I hit the "call" button and walk up to my bedroom, plopping on the edge of the bed and kicking off my shoes.
"Hey, Tom! How are you?"
"Good, good. How are you? How's work, all that? I haven't talked to you in weeks!"
"I know, I'm a jerk. I'm doing okay, not counting some silly drama that you'll undoubtedly hear about but I really don't want to talk about right now. Work's great, I actually just got transferred and quasi-promoted."
"Awesome, congratulations. Where are you moving to?"
"Whoa, seriously? When?"
"Uh, I guess I'm here already. I had to come back for the aforementioned drama and Adam and John told me just to stay. Sweet home Chicago and all that. Actually, that's kind of why I'm calling. See, I'm starving, I need to do some serious shopping, I'm back in town, and my evening is free. Wanna hang?"
We spend the rest of the night wandering around downtown, hitting up the Alley stores and heading down to Michigan Avenue, getting Chinese food, buying the most hideous velvet poster ever for my living room, getting my lip pierced, and finally raiding the local grocery store. We stumble up the stairs to my door, weighed down with bags and laughing hysterically.
"And nobody even tried to catch him! He just bit concrete!"
"Seriously, stop! I can't even breathe!" I drop my bags on the living room floor and try to catch my breath.
"Where do you want all this stuff?"
"Uhh. I don't really have anywhere to put it, so I guess just leave it there." I haul my groceries and shiny new plastic dishes (Tom called them retro kitsch, I call them good for people who drop things a lot) into the kitchen and start stocking the cabinets. "Want anything to drink?"
"Nah, but that ice cream looks great right now." I toss the rocky road over my shoulder and go back to alphabetizing my spice rack. "You're a little crazy, you know that?"
"Yeah, but I'm really cute." I hop up on the counter next to him and he hands me the ice cream carton. "So. Day after tomorrow, my furniture ships in. Wanna come hang out when I have somewhere to sit?"
"You need guys to move your heavy stuff, huh?"
"Of course not. Yes."
He laughs and snatches the carton from me. "Definitely. What about Pete and them?"
"They'll be here too. Well maybe not Pete. But I get the feeling Andy's the only one who'll be useful, so he'll need some backup." I carefully scoop a spoonful into my mouth, trying not to bump my new piercing. "This is almost as hard as when I first got my tongue pierced. Tell me again why I got this done?"
"Hey, I tried to talk you out of it. It does look good though."
"Thanks. But next time I try to do anything that might impede my food intake, remind me of this."
"I'll keep that in mind." He slides off the counter and puts the ice cream in the freezer, laughing at my pouty face. "Sadly, Lex, some of us have lame jobs that don't let us take a month and a half off. So I'll call you tomorrow?"
"Definitely. I promise to answer." He laughs and I poke him in the shoulder. "Really. I swear on my left foot. Thanks for coming with me today."
"Anytime." He smiles and leans in, kissing me lightly. I try hard not to wince, but he just laughs. "Sorry, I forgot it was still sore." He gives me a little kiss on the cheek and heads out.
I wave as he walks down the back stairs, then lock the door and rinse off our spoons, humming the whole time. I grab my cigarettes and my phone, scrolling down to Lucy's name. It is definitely time for some girl talk.
Chapter Title from "Thanks For The Venom" by My Chemical Romance.