But the night of the party it all came rushing back. She was so cute after the kissed me, she started to apologise but I kissed her back to shut her up.
Escher applied her lipstick with a steady hand as Laz sipped a coffee on her bed beside Sarah – in her kimono – who was chainsmoking as usual.
“Why are you doing this?” Sarah asked slowly.
Escher didn’t reply immediately, taking time to finish applying her lipstick and fluff her hair.
“Do you know how long it is since I had a holiday?” Escher asked them through her reflection.
“Ten years, I was fourteen, my mother and I spent a week at a B and B in Maine”
Sarah made a face.
“Exactly,” Escher continued, “I have been working more than most people since I left home six years ago, I’ve been working two jobs for the past four years and studying for two of those years and now I’m in a position to take some time off. And I think that after landing in hospital twice in a month, I deserve some time off”
“Of course you are love, but you’re not exactly taking time off, are you?” Laz asked lazily, lounging back on her bed.
“Close enough,” Escher muttered, “Everything is taken care of, as long as you two agree to look after this old place”
“You…you mean we can stay?” Sarah asked incredulously.
Escher stared at her through the mirror in surprise.
“Of course, it’s your home”
Hours later she found herself perched on the edge of Warren Greyfern’s desk.
“Warren I can’t do it in person, you know if I do it in person I’ll buckle, I love those guys”
Warren Greyfern sighed heavily and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“Fine, you may as well go home Escher, I’ll break the news”
Warren closed the office door as Brian followed the guys in. He sat down behind his desk and sighed heavily.
“What’s this about Warren?” Brian asked worriedly.
“I am sad to say that Escher Drake has just handed in her notice, effective immediately”
“What?” Gerard exclaimed. “She quit?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so”
“Where is she?” Frank asked, “Why didn’t she tell us herself?”
“She’s just left the office, she requested that I tell you the news”
Frank heard none of the sentence except that Escher had just left before a roar like the sea crashing over itself filled his ears. Standing up without announcing where he was going, he leaped out the door and took off towards the exit.
By the time he got to the street there was no sign of her, and her car was gone. He swore loudly, not even considering calling her – he knew she’d most likely not answer. He hailed a taxi and directed it to The Canary. When he got to the bar Sarah was behind the counter. Her smile faltered when she saw him.
“She’s not here, is she?” He asked defeatedly as he fell into a bar stool.
Sarah shook her head regretfully.
“No, I haven’t seen her since this morning”
“You know she quit though?” Frank asked, smiling in thanks when Sarah passed him a beer.
“Yeah, she told us a couple of days ago”
“Does it seem sudden to you?”
“Uh…” Sarah didn’t know what to say, it felt disloyal to be talking about Escher to this man, to Frank.
“It’s so sudden” Frank mused to himself, “do you know why she’s going?”
“She says she hasn’t had a holiday in ten years” Sarah managed to choke out.
“Has something happened with JB? Is that the reason?” He stared up at Sarah who stared back at him. “You wouldn’t tell me even if you knew, would you?”
Sarah smiled apologetically. Frank sighed and took a swig of his beer, lighting a cigarette when he put it down.
“So what’s gonna happen to this place?” He asked, scanning the bar.
“Laz and I are going to manage it, and of course there’s the silent partner, we’ll deal with him I guesss”
“What about the apartment?”
“Laz and I are going to keep living there”
“Do you know where she intends to go?” He asked Sarah, almost pleadingly.
Sarah shook her head sadly, and she was being honest, Escher hadn’t shared her plans past handing in her (short) notice at Reprise.
“Has she ever told you about us? I don’t even know why I’m bothering to ask, you’re not gonna tell me”
“She told me she knew you in high school, that you were friends. She told me that you guys had a…thing”
“We slept together” Frank said quietly, “Could I get another beer?” He asked and Sarah reached into the fridge to hand him another bottle.
“We’d been at a party” He said, “the night it happened. We hadn’t gone together but we ran into each other there. We were friends back then, sort of, we spent some time together anyway”
Sarah uncapped the beer and he ran his finger down the neck of the bottle to clear away the condensation.
“She stood up for me that night. I was bullied at school and one of them was this guy…Brad” Frank spat the name out from between pursed lips. “Escher dated him on and off throughout high school. He had a go at me that night and Escher was brilliant, she tore shreds off him. Afterwards we walked home together. She kissed me. I’d just broken up with my girlfriend but it was…amazing. I’d had a crush on Escher for years until I met Jamia.”
Sarah tried to control her facial muscles, knowing that her eyebrow was disgustingly tempted to quirk unbearably.
“You liked her?” she asked, trying to keep her voice steady.
Frank eyes snapped up to meet hers and a grin spread across his face.
“God yeah. She was cute, smart, popular and she was nice to me, which was better than most of the kids at school. I remember we became friends because she visited me in hospital when I was really sick in middle school. We didn’t really know each other before then. But she never gave me a second glance as anything more than a friend and then one day, in high school I met Jamia and I stopped feeling that way for Escher. But the night of the party it all came rushing back. She was so cute after the kissed me, she started to apologise but I kissed her back to shut her up. We walked through the park holding hands and by that point just couldn’t keep our hands off each other.” A blush was rising in Frank’s cheeks and he trailed off. “It was one of the best nights of my life,” He said quietly. “But then, when we got back to school on Monday she was so cold, so cruel. She started taunting me with her popular friends”
“Escher? That doesn’t sound like her,” Sarah broke in.
Frank glanced away sheepishly.
“Well she didn’t actively bully me, but she stood by where she wouldn’t have before. And then, a few weeks later she was gone, no calls, no letters, nothing. She never came back to jersey”
“And you never got over it?” Sarah asked, before slapping her hand over her mouth in horror.
Frankie glanced up at her sharply.
“Well I never got over the way she treated me”
Sarah leaned forward on the bar, deciding that for this, she could be disloyal to Escher for a moment.
“Frank, have you ever asked Escher why she ignored you afterwards?”
“She said it was because she had lost her virginity to me…that it was awkward”
Sarah nodded understandingly.
“Are you sure that’s the real reason?”
He slowly looked at her, trying to decipher what she was saying.
“You know,” Sarah said quietly, “She’d probably be home by now”
Frank nodded slowly, his eyes showing understanding.
“Right, well, thanks for the beers”
The thing, Frank thought; that sucked about Escher living in the penthouse of her apartment block was that he couldn’t just arrive, he had to speak with the doorman and be allowed in.
The receptionist in the apartment foyer rang through until Escher answered.
“Hello?” Came her tired voice, Frank could faintly hear it.
“Hello Mrs. Drake, there is a Mr. Frank Iero here to see you” The receptionist smiled at Frank as there was a pause on the other of the line.
“Right, thank you Natarsha, send him up”
The elevator doors to Escher’s apartment pinged open, revealing her in a long-sleeved black and white striped, hooded shirt worn over obscenely short shorts with her feet shoved into knee-high sheep-skin boots. Frank leaned up against the doorway of the elevator and cocked his head.
“Can I come in?” He asked.