Copyright © 2011 by Lux Zakari
Many thanks to my editor, Char, for cracking me up and finding those pesky word gremlins.
To those who are in love with their best friend, whether they know it or not.
“You won’t believe what Dane did this time.” Kimber shook her head as she poured a dash of sweet vermouth in the rocks glass.
“I bet I will.” Jay didn’t look up from the book he was reading on the floor behind the casino’s downstairs bar. His knees to his chest, he stretched Proust’s
“Smart ass.” Kimber sidestepped her friend and added a cherry to the Manhattan, which she placed before the customer on the sleek gold-and-mahogany surface of the bar and flashed a brilliant smile. Although her teeth were slightly crooked and her lips might’ve been considered too large, she knew her mouth was her best asset and used it to her advantage. As if proving her point, the customer-a white-haired gentleman in a neatly pressed suit-gave her a wink, raised his glass, and walked away, leaving her an impressive tip.
The money improved her mood only marginally. The slow pace of Airy Peak Racetrack and Casino on a Tuesday afternoon did nothing to distract her from Dane-centric thoughts. She leaned against the counter, crossed her arms and ankles, and sighed. When Jay failed to react, she released another sigh, then another, each deliberately louder and more melodramatic than the one before.
Jay lifted his gaze toward her and closed his book with a roll of his eyes. “So what did Dane do?”
“Well, you know we were planning on living together.”
“Living together was his idea.”
“Was he stoned when he suggested it?”
“That isn’t the issue.” Kimber bristled and lifted her gaze toward the Tiffany-style ceiling made of amber glass and a filigree network of stars, butterflies, and leaves. “The point is, we had a plan to live together, so I found us a place and signed the lease. All I needed was his signature next to mine. But during the two seconds we were broken up last week, his old lease expired and he had nowhere else to go, so he moved in with Sam and Wendy.”
“The two girls who hate you?”
“All his friends hate me. They think I suppress all his fun Dane-ness.” She leaned against the counter with her chin in her hand and remembered how Dane had cried when he’d told her about his new living arrangement. He’d said he hadn’t known what else to do, he’d had no other choice, he hadn’t thought she’d ever talk to him again, he couldn’t afford anything else, and if he’d known it would jeopardize their relationship, he wouldn’t have done it. The memory of his tearful excuses-and how she forgave him and took him back all the same-roiled in her stomach.
“But now you’re back together so…”
“So he’s still living with those other girls because he thinks it’d be wrong to back out on their lease and screw them over. Meanwhile, tomorrow I’m moving into the apartment I was meant to share with Dane, only now I’ll have to live in it myself, wondering what the hell he’s up to all the time. What am I gonna do?”
“Call Dane and dump him for the hundredth time, and make it stick for once.” Jay lifted his shoulders. “He’s a dumb fuck. I’ve told you this before.”
“You never told me that.”
“I thought it was heavily implied every time you complain about him and I tell you to dump him. It’s time to move on.”
“Yeah…” Kimber raked her teeth over her lower lip and looked toward the stretch of jangling slot machines and fast-paced table games. Move on wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear, especially when it concerned her six-year relationship, no matter how tumultuous it was. “You used to like Dane though. You were the one who set us up.”
“I introduced you. That’s not the same thing as setting you up. And it’s not like Dane’s a bad person or anything. He’s nice enough, a great guitar player.” Jay shrugged. “But he’s not the guy for you if he’s not coming through with what you want.”
Kimber snatched a damp rag and wiped the counter, more for the need to distract herself from her panic than to tidy up the bar. “That’s what Ferney said, too.”
“Right, and it’s not often your sister and I have the same viewpoint, so maybe this is a real sign if we’re saying the same thing.” Jay pushed himself to his full height of six feet, two inches, and stretched with a yawn. “Well, that’s that.”
“‘That’s that’? That’s all you can say?”
Jay wrapped his arm around Kimber’s neck and pulled her close, messing up her blonde ponytail with his knuckles. “I meant that’s that, as in I have to get to class now. But yes, the same goes for you and Dane. As shitty as that is, sometimes that’s just the way things are. Some things work out, some things don’t, and that’s the score.”
“Hmph.” Kimber shoved him away and tore the elastic band from her hair, trying to comb out the tangles with her fingers. “Are you coming back to pick me up after my shift tonight? My car’s still in the shop.”
“Kim, your car’s been in the shop for like, three weeks. Face it-it’s been stripped and sold for parts by now.”
“Just be here by eight. We need to iron out the details for my move tomorrow.”
“Oh shit.” He winced. “That’s tomorrow?”
Her eyes widened in alarm. “Jay! I just told you-”
“Kidding.” He laughed and gave her shoulder a light punch. “I’ll see you tonight, okay? We’ll talk all the strategy you want.” He ducked under the bar counter and gave it a slap as he sauntered away, book in one hand, his crumpled dealer’s uniform over his shoulder.
Kimber watched him leave with amused affection. If Jay wasn’t her best friend, she didn’t know what she’d do.
Jay slid into the driver’s seat of his rusty white Monte Carlo and tossed his uniform and book in the back seat to