Krista and Quinn cuddled under the blanket on the couch while the TV show’s opening credits started to roll. Krista, not a tiny woman, by any means, appeared minuscule next to Quinn’s bulk. Their friendship had led them down a winding path of laughter and tears and red wine. When they were together they were always prepared for a good time.
Except this time, they weren’t so sure. The last time Krista had come to visit, Quinn had reluctantly told her about his new housemate: Tony. Tony was the last man Krista had let break her heart. She’d cut off contact with him pretty effectively and mentioned him rarely. When she had discovered he’d started seeing someone new three weeks after he’d dumped her, Krista had fallen to pieces. Thankfully Quinn had been there to hold her up and assure her of her awesomeness.
The new girlfriend was one of Quinn’s housemates and when the man who owned the building where Tony and his bandmates were squatting discovered them, they needed a new place to live. Two rooms in Quinn’s house opened up around that time and the band moved in. Krista claimed she didn’t care, but Quinn suspected she was annoyed at the idea of Tony and Michelle living together when he’d told her repeatedly he didn’t want a serious relationship, or even a girlfriend for that matter.
Krista and Quinn were settled in what the housemates called The Parlor. It was a large room, one of two sitting rooms in the house; the other room was The Den. The rest of the housemates were meant to be out for the evening, which Quinn was grateful for. Tony’s new girlfriend was slightly oblivious to Krista’s position in the group and often, in her naivete, acted inappropriately when Krista was around. The other guys were working and Tatiana and Noel, who shared the attic room, where gone to Vermont for the weekend with some friends. The only danger Quinn could foresee would be Tony and his new girlfriend coming home earlier than expected.
Which, as the episode was starting, they did.
“Shit,” muttered Quinn and poured them more wine.
“Heeeyyyyy!” cried the New Girlfriend.
“Hi,” said Quinn curtly.
Krista gave Tony a grimace that may have been meant to be a smile and ignored the New Girlfriend. Tony smiled in return.
“How’s it going?” he asked.
“Peachy,” said Krista. “How’ve you been?”
“Not bad. We’ve got a gig tomorrow night. You still going to be here?”
“I don’t know.”
“You should stay and come to the gig.”
“Yes, you should!” cried the New Girlfriend.
“We’ll see,” said Krista. Tony closed his eyes as New Girlfriend bounced around still trying to convince Krista to stay for another night.
“She’ll stay if she wants to, babe,” said Tony, taking her by the arm and stopping the incessant bouncing. Quinn heaved a big sigh.
“What are you guys up to? You must be busy.”
“No. We just had dinner and now we’re home,” said New Girlfriend, still oblivious to Quinn and Tony’s attempts to get them out of the Parlor. “What are you guys watching?”
“Hey, babe, you said you wanted to make hot chocolate, right? You still want to do that?” asked Tony.
“Oh, yeah,” she cried bouncing up again. “Do you guys want some?”
“No,” said Quinn, raising his wine glass. “We’re all set.”
“OK,” she said, smiling brightly and sailed out of the room.
“Sorry about that,” said Tony.
“You should be,” muttered Krista into her wineglass. Quinn stifled a snort.
“What’d you say?”
“So,” started Tony awkwardly. Krista stared at him waiting for him to continue. Tony shuffled his feet on the carpet. He hated that she hated him so much. The problem was Tony still really cared for Krista. Not romantically, but as her friend. He loved her as a person and wanted to be friends with her, but was also acutely aware that he had probably killed any possibility of that when he waited so long to break up with her. If he hadn’t ignored his instincts and broke it off after a couple of months they could have become really good friends instead of her becoming more attached as he became less. This action had led to Krista essentially hating Tony’s guts and writing him off as yet another douchey dude she’d mistakenly let into her life.
“Yes?” prompted Krista.
“Um, so, I heard a rumor about you recently.”
Krista pointed to herself. “Me?” Krista’s eyes grew wide as she looked back and forth between Tony and Quinn. “I haven’t done anything remotely embarrassing in a couple of years. More.”
“It’s not an embarrassing rumor.”
“I heard that you’re dating Sam.”
“You heard that.” Krista’s eyes darted back to Quinn for a moment. “From whom?”
Quinn shook his head, “It wasn’t me,” he said quickly.
“I don’t remember who it was; it was at a party last week or the week before. I, um, wanted to say I was glad to hear it. Sam’s a great guy.”
“You don’t know Sammy all that well. You have my word for it and the five days you spent with him a year ago to tell you he’s a great guy.”
Tony shifted awkwardly. “I suppose you’re probably right.”
“Anyway, I think it’s great. I think you and Sam would be great.”
Krista turned her attention back to the TV. Quinn retrieved the wine bottled from the floor. Tony shuffled his feet again, then silently walked out of the room. Quinn poured more wine into his glass and offered it to Krista.
“I’m not dating Sammy,” she said slowly.
“I was wondering.”
“You’d know if we were.”
“I thought I would.”
“We did fool around once.”
“Sorry. But we’re not dating.”
“Let me guess, Tony doesn’t need to know that?”
“Tony doesn’t need to know shit.”
“I can get behind that.”
Krista and Quinn settled back down to watch the TV show. They didn’t mention the interaction again, but they laughed and made fun of the TV show and reminded each other of old stories and muted the show at one point and made up the dialogue, each playing a different character. They drank their wine and laughed all night long.
In the morning, Krista packed up her things, said goodbye to Quinn and told him she’d call him when she got to her destination. They hugged and she got in the car and drove away.
The New Girlfriend came out on the porch as she drove away. “You like her, don’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Krista. You’re different when she’s here.”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“You’re more jolly when she’s here. It’s like when you drink Phil’s homemade whiskey.”
“That’s just how she and I are together. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“What if I told you I think she likes you.”
“I’d say you don’t know her. Ask Tony.”
“Why should I ask Tony?”
“Because Tony knows her better than either of us.”
“But she and Tony don’t speak.”
“Yeah, now they don’t, but you wouldn’t either if he broke your heart.”
“Are you kidding me!” cried Quinn. “TONY!” he cried.
“He’s still asleep. Tell me what you mean by that.”
“No. TONY! Come get your girlfriend!”
“What are you shouting about!” came Tony’s voice from the upstairs window.
“Come tell your girlfriend why you know Krista better than I do!”
Silence wafted down from Tony’s New Girlfriend’s window.
“Oh,” he said finally. “Let me put some pants on.”
“He and Krista…” New Girlfriend let the sentence hang.
“I thought you knew.”
“Is that why he gets weird every time she comes around here.”
“Talk to him about it.”
“I don’t know that I want to.”
“Is that why she doesn’t like me.”
“She doesn’t know you. She’s neutral about you. It’s him she’s still pissed at.”
“I thought she was with that Sammy guy.”
Tony emerged from the house.
“I guess we should talk.”
“You guess right.”
“Ok, bye,” said Quinn getting up and walking into the house.
Inside Quinn’s cell phone started ringing. It was Krista.
“I forgot my phone charger.”
“I’ll bring it to you.”
“I’m already back. Do you see it anywhere?”
“What’s up with Tony and the New Girlfriend?”
“What do you mean?”
“I think she’s crying.”
“Are you outside?”
“I just pulled up. She’s going inside.”
Sure enough, Quinn heard the front door slam and New Girlfriend storm upstairs.
“I’ll talk to you in a second,” said Krista and hung up on him.
She got out of the car and walked slowly toward the house.
“You ok?” she asked Tony.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I don’t know.” He glanced up at the window above them. It was shut and the curtain was closed. “She didn’t know about us.”
“She feels like I betrayed her trust by never telling her about you.”
“Especially since I come around here so often because I’m friends with Quinn, Tati, and Noel.”
“Yeah. She’s not very happy about that.”
“You gonna tell me everything I’ve done wrong?”
“If you want me to, I can.”
“She’s pissed that I didn’t tell her I was seeing someone when I went out with her the first time.”
“Are you going to be like that?”
“Probably, but for now I’ll tone it down.”
“She’s angry that I hadn’t broken up with you yet when I started seeing her.”
“Well, you sort of lied to her.”
“Fuck you. You let her believe you were single. She assumed, you never corrected her. Then you never told her. Not only that, you never told her that we used to date. Even if you hadn’t been a douchebag and broken up with me before you asked her out, you still ought to have told her that your ex is her housemates’ friend.”
“I should have, huh?”
“Yes! You friggin idiot.”
“She’s dumped me.”
“Good. I hope she’s smart enough not to take you back.”
“Do you really want to be in a relationship with this woman? In the long term?”
“I don’t know. Probably not.”
“Then why are you wasting her time?”
“You are wasting her time by being with her. You’re letting her get attached, just like you let me get attached and we both know that you don’t want to be anyone’s boyfriend. You want a girlfriend, but you don’t want to be a boyfriend. You’re only sticking around because of the convenience. If you weren’t living here, would you still be with her?”
“There you go. You’re officially a piece of shit.”
“Isn’t that a little harsh?”
“No, hopefully it’s eye-opening. This is how you operate, sweetheart, and it’s time you acknowledged it. I know I’m less annoyed with you now that I’ve figured it out. You meet a girl, you like her, you date her out of the convenience, but at the end of the season, when the work is done and you have to move out and go somewhere else in order to be employed you don’t want to maintain the relationship, so you end it. Because long distance sucks and you don’t think it works anyway. Case in point: us. We fell apart because of the distance. Which tells me our connection wasn’t all that fucking strong to begin with. You’re ‘connection’ with this girl isn’t any stronger than ours was and the only reason you’re still with her is because you live here. You’re really good at paying attention to things that are right in front of you, dude. But that doesn’t always mean it’s real.”
Tony let her words sink in a little bit.
“My sister was right about you from the beginning.”
“What did she say?” he snapped.
“She said you were a ‘love the one your with’ sort of guy; and, you are. I need to find my phone charger and get the hell out of here. I’m going to be late as it is.”
“Hey,” said Tony, stopping her as she was entering the house. “Thanks? I think?”
“Look, I don’t want to get back together with you, and I don’t necessarily want to see you all that much, but if you ever need someone to talk to, give me a call. If I can find my phone charger.”
Krista was hardly in the house before she was back out, phone charger in hand, calling her goodbyes to Quinn.
“Hey.” Tony stopped her again. “Why are you being so nice to me? I thought you hated me.”
“I did. I don’t anymore. Like you said when you broke up with me ‘of course you’re going to be ok’. I’m fine, dude. I don’t hate you anymore. I don’t want to date you, nor would I recommend any of my friends date you, not while you’re operating like this, but we were friends once; that doesn’t just go away because you don’t love me.”
Tony nodded. “You’re too nice for me.”
“That’s true. Don’t you forget it.”
With that Krista hopped in her car and drove away. Moments later a box of Tony’s things fell out of the window and landed at his feet.