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Jun. 10th, 2006 | 02:55 pm
location: carroll st. cafe
mood: happyhappy
music: sounds totally barbershop

by: alan fay

it was just another sunday afternoon there in the east village. kellyann stretched out casually on the bench and watched the cars drive slow, one right after the other. she was fascinated by the random dings and dents every car on this side of town seemed to carry. it baffled her how people could drive around like that.

she ashed carefully behind the bench. it was windy. she turned her head and pulled her hair back. it was interesting the neighborhood still celebrated its ghetto upbringing. even the stores seemed to embrace the graffiti like their owners and patrons sported their tattoos. it was her favorite spot in the city to people-watch. everyone seemed to ignore her and go about their rough business, and she enjoyed her unique invisibility. they probably thought she had nothing interested to say because her body was an empty canvas. no picture, no story to tell.

she was expecting them any minute now, and was preparing herself mentally. her old girlfriends from high school had twice called for directions even though it was a clearly marked exit off the freeway. soon, she saw julia's black land cruiser shimmering in the sun and roll into the parking lot. she dropped her cigarette behind the bench and stood up in a smooth motion. the wind made her dress cling to her.

"hey, you made it!" julia beamed a quick smile at her as she rolled up the window, and then fumbled with the door for a second before unlocking it and stepping out.
"kellyann! long time no see! you look great!" julia gave her a weak hug. she looked past her shoulder and saw penelope step out the passenger's side.
"penny! i'm so glad you made it, too!" penny ran around the front of the car and threw a big hug that she met with a strong embrace.
"kellyann, it's so lonely out there without you! how have you been?" penny let go of her hands and let hers drop lazily by her sides.
"fine, just fine. look at you two!" julia was wearing a tight blouse with tighter capris, and strappy heels. penny was a little less racy in her summer dress and sneakers, but still beautiful.
"you both look fantastic! those shoes are killer, girl!"
"yes, i got them yesterday," julia said as she admired them. "i love that dress, too. so where is this place?
do we have to walk far?"
"no, it's right up there." kellyann pointed yonder.
"lead the way!" penny moved over to her left side and they walked down the sidewalk in tandem, with linked arms and purpose. they turned to each other and laughed, and broke up and went inside one by one. julia stopped and stood in front of them and looked around. june carter sang baby it's cold outside from the jukebox, and a couple of biker types turned around and looked at them. julia lifted her sunglasses up on top of her hair with the palms of her hands, fingers out.

"julia, i think we can sit where we want." kellyann waited for her to turn around.
"oh...ok. hmm...how about over there in that corner table?" julia pointed at it like she was casting a spell and stood there with her purse by her side.
"that works," penny chimed in and strolled over to it, and julia followed her. penny sat with her back against the wall, and julia sat next to her, with her back to the bar. kellyann sat next to penny, but they were all pretty close. there was a moment of akward silence.

"so, do you guys still hang out by the lake?" kellyann could think of nothing else.
"oh my god! they've filled it all in! didn't you know?" julia moved her hands frantically and kept her mouth open.
"no! why?" she slapped the table.
"they're building apartments. can you believe that? we're practically out in the country and bradley's dad bought it up and is building apartments." julia put her palm to her chest.
"that's...terrible," she remembered the lake vividly. it was behind the academy. penny and her used to have picnics out there. they would drive out there and lay out in the sun, making gossip and painting their nails.
"penny, why didn't you tell me?" she watched penny retreat into her shy moment.
"i didn't know until today...i've been busy with exams." she looked nervously around the bar. she needed a drink. that always helped.
"that makes me so sad," kellyann looked at the mustard, which was missing its cap.
"me too," penny sighed and stared around the bar.

"is there any service here? waiter, waiter - " julia turned around and motioned to the tall guy with jet black hair. he was wearing an apron and his entire arm was covered in black stripes. kellyann wondered how much it hurt to get a tattoo.
"i'm a cook," he said, and pulled hard on his cigarette and then threw it on the ground. "but i'll get your server for you." he walked over to the bar and said something to one of the biker types sitting up there and then disappeared into the kitchen.

"penny, how's your mom doing?"
"she's fine. she's going to get a new job out west, which means i'll be out here on my own."
"oh, that’s wonderful!”
"oh yes. she's excited. a small animation studio finally accepted her portfolio and gave her an offer."
“are you thinking about getting a place?"
“well, mom’s selling the house to pay for moving expenses – i’ve posted some ads for roomates.”
“you should move up here! then we could hang out all the time!”
“kellyann, it’s probably easier for me to stay back home. i’m still working at the coffee place back home…” penny looked down and fidgeted with a sweet-and-low packet.
“oh…yeah, i’m sorry…i just think it’s exiciting you’re going to be on your own!”

penny smiled at her weakly and then looked up. the waiter put down three waters in front of them and pulled out his pad. he was much more attractive than the cook, and had no visible tattoos on him, but he was shorter.

"what are you drinking?" he asked curtly.
"mimosas all around!" julia burst out, drawing a circle in front of them.
"alright. can i see some ids?" julia sat there for a second and then fumbled through her purse. they all showed him what they looked like in high school. he had to pick each one up and think to himself for a minute. he left without saying a word.

he came back after a few minutes. he juggled the drinks and water carefully.
"were any of you interested in food? we have some specials…" he put down the drinks and water one by one, and looked at julia for approval.
"no," julia cut in quickly. "i think we're good."
"sure," he shot back. "you sure you don't want the shrimp? it's the best in town."
"no, we don't want the shrimp. this is an inland city." julia watched him indignantly.
"well, we have chicken fingers, too, if that interests you." he pulled out his pad and pen again.
"i don't think my friends want chicken fingers. why don't you just leave a menu, and then we'll think about eating maybe a little bit later?" julia crossed her legs and faced him intently. “how does that sound?”
"sure thing," he put the pad and pen in his back pocket. "just holler. my name's jim. i'd be more than happy to accomodate."
"that's good for now, jim," julia touched her glasses again and rubbed her fingers on the moisture the mimosa left on the table. "we'll let you know if we want anything."
"sure thing." he walked off and left them to their own devices.

julia let out a sigh and leaned back in her chair. they pushed the glasses to the center of the table where they clanked with the others. everyone let out a little laugh. it was a good way to spend the afternoon.

"so julia, what's theo been up to? you haven't mentioned him at all." kellyann leaned in with her elbows on the table and her hands under her chin. penny quickly leaned forward and took a sip of her water. she looked at julia intently.
"theo." julia paused for a minute and stared at the table.
"they broke up, kellyann." penny said quietly.
"oh, girl, i'm so sorry to hear that." julia was silent. "i mean, what happened? who broke up with who?"
"it's a little more complicated than that, kellyann. it's nothing like you and franklin."
"oh, now don't be mad at me. i didn't know. and don't bring him up. that was high school."
"why, because it's going to make penny jealous all over again?"
"julia, i have nothing to do with that. what are you talking about?" penny shook her head and glared at her.
"everybody knows, penny. it's not like it's a big secret."
"julia, leave penny and franklin out of this. that was high school."
"yes, lots of things happen in high school, don't they?" julia leaned back her chair and laughed.

"i can't believe you penny! you really think nobody has figured it out?"
"julia, stop."
"everybody has been talking about it for years."
"is that so? did you ever think maybe people are going to talk about you for years?"
"what could they possibly say?"
"everyone knows about your little trip downtown."
"what, when theo took me to the westin and we danced under the stars?" she made a flourish with her hand.
"the reverend's daughter was there, and she saw you." julia gasped and turned white. her hand started shaking. they were all silent for a while. the waiter had arrived suddenly, and left the check face up in the middle of the table without saying a word. they all stared at it for a few moments.
"...i'll be right back. order me another mimosa if that lazy waiter comes back." julia stood up slowly and stumbled down the wrong hallway.

"annie, i'm sorry." penny's big eyes shimmered with tears.
"why?" annie reached under the table and grabbed her hand.
"when jules told me about the lake i broke down and cried. i wanted nothing more than to see you and tell you. of course, jules figured it all out when i cried. i'm sorry..."
"no, it's ok. look, let's ditch her. just like old times."
"annie, no. we can't."
she leant over and whispered in her ear, "why not?"
"annie, she's coming back." she let her hand slip away, and didn't say a word.

julia waved at them. she looked distraught. her arms were akimbo and she was definitely annoyed. when she exhaled, her bangs rose and fell. kellyann half stood up from the table and leaned as she mouthed the words, "next to the jukebox!"
julia nodded in approval and then made her way to the lady's room. the biker types watched julia's journey with interested eyes.

penny reached out quickly and grabbed annie's hand. she smiled at her. annie understood her every nuance. they looked at each other knowingly.

"annie, i've missed you so. it's empty out there without you."
"it's been strange out here, penny. i think about you still."
"franklin was just a distraction right?" she teased her hair with the free hand.
"no, penny. franklin was neccessary. people started to talk, you know?"
"i know. i'm glad you never actually slept with him."
"he understood. he went to new college, remember?"
"yeah, that was odd," she rubbed annie's fingers. "still, it seems fitting."
"i thought it was a good fit."
"stop..." penny giggled to herself.
"you stop! you know what i mean." annie picked up her water and took a quick sip.

"anything else?" they both looked up suddenly, and looked up at the server.
"well, i think our friend wanted another round, but just bring us a couple of shots of..." annie looked at penny for the answer.
"...hmm...a couple of strawberry vodka shots." she smiled at annie.
"we don't have that," he said. "but i'll get you some grey goose and bring out strawberries. did you friend want anything?"
"get her a really weak screwdriver with a hint of high life..." penny smiled at him and handed him a hamilton. "i doubt she'll hold it against you..." and pressed the bill in his hands.
"done and done, ladies. by the way, my name is eric."
"a pleasure, eric," penny smiled at him.
"not a problem. i'll bring your drinks out first." he darted towards the bar and brought out their shots double-quick.
"hers is coming in a minute."
"i'm sure it is, eric." penny said as she shifted around in her seat and beamed back at him. he nodded and wandered back to the bar. she turned and smiled at annie.
"bottoms up, girlfriend." penny lifted her shot in little semi-circles.
"bottoms up..." they downed the shots quickly and penny stacked the paper cups and hid them in her purse quickly. they leaned back and watched each other. annie reached for her water and looked up as jules swung open the door and stumbled out.

julia stepped out of the bathroom and shook her hips as she came back to the table. she sat down and crossed her legs, putting her elbow on the table and stared at both penny and kellyann. it was evident she had re-applied all her makeup. she picked up the check and put down her plastic.

"i want to apologize, for ruining the afternoon."
"i'm sorry, too, julia. i shouldn't have brought that up."
"kellyann, i'm sorry about bringing franklin up."
"it's ok, julia. you didn't ruin the afternoon."

"is that a shoe store up there?" penny turned and asked kellyann.
"yes, yes it is. shoes."
"i want to look at some shoes." julia looked up at the both of them. everyone laughed. it was a good way to spend the afternoon.

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