Episode 5, Part 1
Queens Cross Pub
North Vancouver, B.C.
Matt, Jake and Arseman were perusing the menu at their patio table when a waitress came oot to take their drink orders.
“Peregrino with lemon, please.”
Arseman hesitated and furrowed her brow as she scanned the beverage list prompting the waitress to launch into an unsolicited lecture on the Queens Cross premier seasonal wines and the four-star entrees they compliment. After a few moments, Arseman interrupted.
“I’ll have an Aranciata San Pellegrino, no ice.”
The server turned to Matt.
“Tanqueray and tonic, no rocks.”
The sound of a pin dropping several blocks away was audible in the awkward silence that followed. Arseman nervously cleared her throat while Jake fidgeted with his hands.
“Um, Matt…I know it’s not really any of my business, but are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“What? Oh, the drink? Relax, Guys. I figured oot how to keep this under control a long time ago. You don’t become one of the most sought-after realtors in Toronto withoot indulging in a little liquid courage from time to time.”
Feeling obligated though not quite sure why, Jake proffered his two cents on the matter.
“When we were talking on the phone last month, you told me you were still active in A.A. Right?”
“That was the truth. A.A. is a great place to network…and it keeps me grounded, you know? It’s fine, Jake. Honest. I haven’t given anyone a black eye in weeks.”
Matt’s attempt at a strangely nostalgic joke fell flat and the friends once again found themselves negotiating the tangible discomfort. Finally, Jake threw in the towel and gestured at the waitress.
“Can I get you something, Sir?”
“Yeah, you can shit can the sparkling water and the fancy Italian soda pop and just bring us three Tanqueray and tonics, please. And keep ‘em coming.”
Matt smiled and gave Jake a playful punch on the shoulder.
“It is so fucking awesome to see you guys!”
The Venue – Downtown
Ashley and Jerry sat at a small table in front of the stage as Dylan finished up his audition consisting of a few cover tunes on acoustic guitar with an electric pickup clipped to the body. As he performed, Jerry sat stone faced, but Dylan noticed with satisfaction that his foot was tapping in rhythm beneath the table. He finished his set and Ashley clapped wildly as Jerry rubbed his chin.
“Not bad, Dylan. You’ve come a long way since high school, I’ll say that.”
“Yeah, thanks. But um…what aboot Wednesday nights?”
“Forget it, Dylan.”
Dylan slumped off the stage as Ashley shook her head in disbelief.
“Come on, Ashley. Let’s get the hell oot of here.”
Ashley grabbed her purse and followed Dylan to the door when Jerry bellowed oot from the back of the establishment.
“Forget Wednesdays, Dylan! I want you to open for The New Pornographers next month. And get a fucking haircut and some clothes that didn’t come off a thrift store rack – you’re gonna be on TV.”
Dylan’s eyes nearly popped oot of his head as Ashley squealed and threw her arms around his shoulders.
“congratulations, baby! i told you it would work oot!”
“Thanks, Ashley…and thanks for believing in me! I love you!”
Their affectionate celebration was interrupted by another bellicose shout from the stage area.
“Both of you – get the fuck oot of here before you make me puke. Dylan, be here tomorrow night at 8:00. Some session musicians I have on retainer are gonna back you up, so you’re gonna need to rehearse with them and get up to speed…fast. And don’t make me regret this.”
Kelly poured three packets of sugar into her cup of blonde roast and joined Brooke and Stacy at a corner booth.
“So…let me see if I have this straight. You have cancer and you discovered that your husband’s been cheating on you and that’s what prompted this little homecoming?”
“More or less. Listen, Kel…there comes a time in everyone’s life when a little introspection is in order. For me, that time is now, obviously. I wasn’t always very nice to you and I just thought—”
“Brooke, we were in high school. Are you honestly trying to tell me that you’ve been harboring guilt aboot that shit all of these years?”
“No, not at all. In fact, until recently, I hadn’t given it as much as a thought.”
“But now you’re facing your mortality and trying to get right with God or something?”
“I don’t believe in God, Kel. I’m trying to get right with myself.”
“Okay. So you’re sorry for being a high school bitch. Big deal. I could say the same thing, you know.”
“This isn’t aboot you, Kelly, and it’s not aboot settling scores. My daughter is starting high school next year. Naturally, she gets a bit anxious aboot it sometimes, so I try to give her guidance…and that’s when I remember that I’m the last person in the world who should be advising a child on the best way to deal with peer pressure and unrequited crushes. I may not be religious, but I do believe in karma…and setting a good example for Tabitha.”
“Well, you know, that’s all very inspiring, Brooke, but let me fill you in on the last 20 years of my life. I married a drug dealer who beat the shit oot of me on a daily basis, knocked me up and split. In order to keep a roof over our heads, I schlep tables at a shitty bar while drunks leer at me and smack me on the ass. My reward for all this was to get evicted from my apartment for being a week late on the rent, so now my daughter and I live on my sister’s couch. What kind of example do you think I’m setting for my daughter, Brooke? Is it time for me to engage in some introspection? Do I need to work on my karma?”
“I wasn’t saying—”
“Forgive me if I’m not exactly in the mood to indulge your belatedly guilty conscience, Brooke. I’m sorry all this shit happened to you. I am. But some of us don’t have the luxury of traveling across the country to redeem ourselves at the drop of a hat. Some of us are too worried aboot how the fuck we’re gonna manage to feed our kids for another day.”
Brooke stared silently at her folded hands while Stacy nervously picked at the plastic lid on her coffee.
“You’re right, Kel. I hadn’t thought aboot any of that, as usual. Can we at least keep in touch?”
Kelly sighed as she got up from the booth.
“Sure, Brooke. Maybe we can get together again after I get my shit together and figure oot what me and Nia are gonna do. Take care of yourself.”
“You, too, Kel.”
A cold wind rushed through the door as Kelly exited, blowing a pile of napkins from the table.
“That was a little harsh, don’t you think?”
“No, Stacy. She was right. What good did I think an apology was going to do? But I got what I needed.”
“What you needed?”
“Just enough information to make things right. Finish up your coffee, Stace. We’ve got work to do.”
Courtney’s anxiety had finally dissipated when Billy and Isabelle returned from Australia last night, the house once again filled with activity and friendly voices. They sat at the kitchen table drinking wine and catching up.
“I’m so jealous of you guys – I would die to be able to just hop a plane Down Under whenever I want!”
“Really? Great, then next month when I have to go back and spend 15 hour days filming scenes in the fucking bush before telling the associate producer that he’s fired for being an incompetent boob, I’ll send you as my proxy.”
“If you’re trying to make it sound like a drag, you’re not succeeding, Billy.”
“Enough aboot that…let’s talk aboot your decision to get back on the horse, eh?”
“Back on the horse?”
“Didn’t you say you’re gonna meet up with Matt tomorrow night?”
“Well, yeah, but—”
“But nothing. I saw the way you were looking at him ootside of the church.”
“Come on, Billy. We haven’t seen each other in over 20 years.”
“You saw each other three weeks ago.”
“You know what I mean. I’m not exactly ready to pursue a romance, Billy, I spent the last two decades as a nun!”
“I fail to see your point. Wait…oh shit, now I get it! You’re afraid you won’t know what to do, right? Sheesh, Sis, I leave you alone in my house for two weeks and you didn’t even sniff oot my porn collection?”
“That’s not funny, Billy. Mostly because it’s not too far off the mark, I guess.”
“Courtney, Matt knows your story and it was pretty clear that he was excited to see you, too. If you can just relax and cut yourself some slack, I think you’ll find that the secular life is a fucking blast. If you wanna get laid, you gotta act like a lay person.”
Courtney chuckled and smiled warmly at her brother.
“One thing at a time, Billy. Let’s see if I can actually manage to pull off a dinner date first, okay?”