Today was a 'write from bed' day.
I've cut my sick day loss down to 1,291, and I'm going to try to absorb a significant part of that this weekend.
My computer has also started glitching out whenever I try to post the entirety of my novel in a blog post draft, so today you're just getting the most recent chapter. Feel free to take a look at the rest in posts prior.
“How was it last night?” Connor asked, taking a large bite out of an omelet.
Jon did not respond. The bed that Liza provided had been the most comfortable sleep of his life, but he was too mad at his brother and his brother’s friends to express any kind of joy in that moment in that Denny’s.
Connor and Bailey had met up with Jon that next morning for breakfast. Both Connor and Bailey were drinking water to cure the night prior’s dehydration, but Jon sipped on black coffee.
“We got home safely, thanks for asking,” Bailey said, slicing the edge of her fork into a waffle. “Anything happen while we were gone?”
“No,” Jon said, taking another sip and wincing; the coffee was hot. “I fell asleep.”
“Well,” Connor started, unsure where to go with the sentence but trying to fill the sullen silence with something.
He poked at Bailey’s waffle with his fork. Bailey smacked it away with her own fork. That was her waffle.
“What’re the plans for the rest of the weekend?” he asked.
Jon reluctantly informed his two friends that Liza offered for them to stay for the weekend too, citing the usual worry about drunk driving.
“Homegurl really doesn’t get Uber,” Bailey said, laughing. “I’d love to stay. Are there any planned activities?”
Jon didn’t respond. Bailey knew there were no planned activities.
Connor looked over at Bailey with a ‘he’s bothered about Chris and Heather still, isn’t he’ look. Bailey looked back with a ‘I’m not here for Jon’s negativity, but I also want to support him as a friend and as a person’ look. The two turned to Jon as he spoke.
“I have a better plan,” he said. “And it’ll work better than the last one.”
Connor laughed. They hadn’t had much of plan the night prior. Jon gave him an angry look, and Connor returned to his plate of pancakes.
“You two are still banging, right?” Jon asked, pointing at the two of them in turn with his fork.
The two nodded, munching.
“We’re going to use that to our advantage.”
More munching, but confused munching.
“How comfortable are you two with loud sex?” he asked.
They both voiced affirmation, Bailey louder than Connor.
“Bailey, do you think you can imitate Heather’s vocal tone convincingly?” he asked.
“Like this?” she said, as Heather.
She sounded more like Melissa Altro, voice of Muffy Crosswire on PBS’s Arthur than Heather, but someone listening through a wall might be convinced.
“What’s the plan?” Connor asked.
Jon took a long drink of his coffee and explained.
“Liza, come with us,” Paul said, motioning with his hand.
Liza, deep in a morning coffee haze looked around confused.
“I’m sorry, what? What’s going on.”
“We need you,” Paul said.
“Does Heather need anything?” Liza said, sipping her coffee.
Paul turned to Chris and sighed.
“Let’s get Andy, she’ll probably be just if not more helpful.”
The two started to walk away. Liza, offended, jumped off her seat and followed after, her robe flowing as she walked.
“I will not be played like this,” she said. “What do you need me for.”
“Ben’s out in the garden,” Chris said.
Liza picked up her pace. The two men were walking briskly.
“Which one is that?” Liza asked. “And come to think of it, which are you?”
She pointed to Paul. She was well aware of Chris’s role at this point.
“Friend of Billy and Heather’s,” Paul said.
“You or this Benjamin?”
“Me,” Paul said. “Ben used to date your nephew.”
“Ah yes,” Liza said, shaking her head.
She was never alert in the mornings. She tried to take a sip from her cup, but it sloshed around in the cup with the speed they were moving. She was actually surprised at how well the two seemed to navigate the house. Even Liza got lost from time to time if it was dark and she was drunk and alone and on cold meds and it was that one time in April of 2016.
The approached the door to the back yard garden. It was a sight plucked straight from Princess Diaries 2, plants of every shape and color, an elaborate series of hedges, a large water feature at the center, Anne Hathaway was there (in spirit). Paul put out a hand to stop them. In the distance they could the backs of Heather and Ben. In agreement with Chris and Paul, Heather had lured him out earlier that morning for coffee.
“You’ve gone and confused me again,” Liza said.
She was staring through the window with a pair of binoculars plucked from nonbeing.
“Why is the one with the moustache with my daughter. I thought this one was.”
She slapped her arm outward and mistakenly hit Paul in the chest. The motion concerned Chris.
Paul pulled waved his hand in front of the lenses, and Liza lowered the binoculars from her face. She offered them to Paul.
“See for yourself!”
“No no no,” Paul said. “We set this whole thing up. Now come with us and follow our lead.”
Paul opened the door and strode out. It was a comfortable morning, slightly chilly in the shade, but not enough to need a jacket. Chris handed Paul an empty ceramic mug, held one himself, and the three strode into the garden. ‘To stride’ may not be the appropriate word. They definitely moved with direction and confidence, but there was a significant amount of performative clomping on the behalf of Paul and Chris, much to the confusion of Liza. They aimed to be as noisy as possible.
“If you ruin my grass the gardeners will have your heads,” Liza whispered.
Paul laughed. A chill ran down Chris’s spine.
They continued until they were positioned two hedges and fifty feet away from Heather and Ben, unsure if they had yet been noticed by the two.
“The hell is that,” Ben said, swiveling around in his seat, nearly spilling his coffee. “Do you keep horses here?”
Paul leaned against a tall lamp post that marked the corner of the hedge, and Chris and Liza stood next to him, Chris excited, Liza still confused.
“So did you hear Billy last night?” Paul said loudly.
“During the party, or after the party once most everyone had gone to bed?” Chris said, matching Paul’s volume.
Liza gave a confused stare to the two and sipped her coffee.
“Once everyone had gone to bed,” Chris said. “When he was drunk and bemoaning his lost relationship with Ben.”
Ben heard his name and his ears perked up.
“Who else is in this garden,” Ben said, straightening his back. “Why did I hear my name.”
“We own all forty acres behind this house,” Heather said, pointing across the garden, the fields behind it, and a small patch of trees. “Could be anyone. No please, continue telling me about how you’re sad and alone.”
Ben did not respond. He kept his mouth shut and ears open.
“Oh yeah, it was obnoxious,” Paul said. “He just kept whining.”
“Nobody’s out there for me. I’m so sad,” Chris replied.
“I should have never broken up with Ben, and I’m still madly in love with him,” the two said in unison.
“Why don’t we walk around for a bit,” Heather said.
Leave it to Paul and Chris to position themselves poorly. She could barely make out their words save ‘Billy’ and for some reason ‘bemoan.’
“I’m not done with my coffee,” Ben said, pointing to his still full cup.
“Your moustache is stupid,” Heather said, yanking the cup out of his hands and pouring into the grass.
The gardeners weren’t going to like that.
“Let’s go look at some fucking flowers.”
She grabbed Ben by the arm and began clomp tromping through the garden.
“The hell is that,” Chris said, turning around to Liza nearly spilling her coffee with a blunt elbow to her arm. “Do you keep horses here?”
Liza took a moment to think.
“Not here,” she said slowly. “But I do believe I own horses on another property. Heather used to ride in elementary school but stopped after getting thrown like once.”
Chris nodded, the horse-girl energy finally explained, the tromp clomping not so much.
“They’re on the move,” Paul whispered. “Move.”
On Paul’s command the three unplanted themselves and rotated through the garden, Paul and Chris making as much noise as possible as a warning to Heather, Liza imitating the two, unsure why but beginning to enjoy herself.
“You know, what you’re talking about is pretty old news,” Liza shouted out unexpectedly.
Paul stopped immediately. Chris bumped into him.
Heather stopped immediately. Ben bumped into her. Heather had heard her mother’s voice. Liza wasn’t part of the plan originally.
“Was that your mom?” Ben asked.
Paul stared wide-eyed at Chris. Chris stared back just as wide-eyed. Liza imitated the two and smiled.
“I said, it’s all really old news!” she shouted. “As an aunt I can tell you that Billy has been pining for Ben this entire month.
Paul and Chris’s eyes widened. This was news to them.
“Correct me if I’m using the word wrong, but I would might describe him as thirsty for Ben.”
Chris covered his mouth with a hand to stop from laughing.
“You got it right!” Paul replied, louder than ever. “Thirsty is the perfect word to describe Billy and his ongoing lust for Ben.”
Ben and Heather’s jaws dropped simultaneously. Either her mother was really good at improv, or Billy had been spilling more to his aunt than his cousin, Heather thought. For the record, Liza was quite adept at improv, her all-female college improv group one several regional tournaments, but none of that was relevant for what she shouted bluntly into the garden was entirely true.
“Are they lying?” Ben asked.
It was very clear to him now that Liza, Paul, and Chris were somewhere else in the garden.
“I don’t know,” Heather said, legitimately unsure herself at this point. “I don’t see any reason they would have to lie.”
“True,” Ben replied.
He was still not entirely convinced.
“And I hear he really has a thing for Ben’s moustache,” Chris shouted.
Ben peed a little.
“Oh don’t get me started on that moustache,” Liza shouted. “Billy made some moustache-ride comment that no aunt wants to hear from her nephew.”
Paul and Chris stared at one another. Paul’s eyes said ‘I hope to god that isn’t true, but it also really sounds like Billy’. Chris’s eyes said ‘I know the exact episode of Parks and Recreation he stole that joke from’ and also ‘do I need to grow a moustache now?’. Liza stared at the two with a ‘do we leave now?’ look.
Words unspoken, the three strode, quietly this time, back to the house. As they reentered they encountered a robe-clad Billy holding a coffee cup of his own.
“Up so early?” Liza laughed.
“We do have guests,” Billy replied. “And this morning feels like a ‘coffee outside’ morning.”
He put in his earbuds and exited the house.
“Wow,” Ben said, taking seat on a bench.
“Wow,” Heather replied.
“It’s so sad,” he said.
Heather turned to Ben. This was not the reaction she was hoping for.
“That poor thing must be obsessed with me.”
This really wasn’t the reaction she was hoping for.
“Or maybe it’s cute?” Heather said, unsure what her expression to make.
Ben sighed loudly.
“I guess I might have to take him back,” he said in an overly-verbose manner. “You know, in a sort of charity way.”
Heather smiled, nodding.
“Yes, yes, I agree,” she said. “Just sixty-three cents a day. Perfect. Sarah McLachlan is shook.”
Ben wasn’t sure what to make of Heather’s reply, but was stopped short in his thought by the arrival of Billy.
“Heather, why would you taint morning garden coffee with this one,” Billy said, popping his earbuds out.
The bench was only fit for two, so Billy hovered. Ben turned his face to make his moustache as prominent as possible.
“Strong words from someone who doesn’t live here,” Ben replied.
“I might say the same to you. At least I have a familial relation,” Billy said.
“Familial or famil-evil.”
“That was terrible.”
“I accept that criticism,” Ben said. “And if you’re gonna sport boxers in the open you really should invest in a safety pin for the fly.”
Billy looked down in horror, closed his robe and left back to the house.
“Oh my god, he’s so into me,” Ben said, stroking the ends of his moustache.