THIS IS A WORK OF ORIGINAL FICTION
It will be serialized over the next several days…the ending will be marked in the classic styling…
Over the next several months, Gail and Kendall went from a mostly superficial but amicable working relationship to widely recognized, nearly inseparable, obvious best friends. They never had another ‘slumber party’ after Gail’s birthday, but Gail did care for Kendall’s dog when she went to visit her family for the holidays. (Gail hosted her family for Christmas. Her parents and brothers and sisters-in-law, and especially her nieces and nephews thought swimming on Christmas was a novelty.)
Kendall rented a house about four miles from Gail’s, and right after Independence Day, her landlord informed her he planned to sell and was terminating her lease at the end of September. She had a few weeks to find a new place, but with her dog, she began fretting she wouldn’t find a pet-friendly place in time.
“I have two extra bedrooms. Dash already knows it here. He knows the yard and the pool and everything from when he stays with me when you’re at your folks’ house. Why don’t you just move in here? Plenty of room.”
“Omigosh, Gail! Seriously?!”
“No. I’m kidding around offering that. So you won’t look around anymore and you and Dash can end up homeless,” Gail sarcastically kidded.
“That would be so great! But I mean…aren’t we supposed to be too mature for roommates?”
“I’m totally immature,” Gail teased again. “I dunno. Who cares? Weren’t Janet and Chrissy thirty-ish on Three’s Company? They were roommates.”
“Are we gonna get a Jack?” Kendall giggled.
“Don’t need one. We’ve got a Dash!”
Gail and Kendall sat opposite one another at the kitchen two-seater bar table, eating cold cereal and chugging coffee. Theirs was probably the only home in Florida with two coffee makers. One pot just wasn’t enough for two hardcore addicts. They each stared down at their phones, getting passively updated on the lives of high school friends and second cousins. Gail looked up from her screen at Kendall and smiled. The past six months of living with her were the happiest Gail remembered living. It was pretty comforting and fun living with her best friend.
Gail’s luggage sat stacked at the garage door, ready for her trip north to ski in the Smokys, again alone. When she finished leisurely Saturday breakfast, she’d commence her latest in solo excursions.
“Hey. Be safe,” Kendall absentmindedly but sincerely impressed as Gail slammed the trunk shut on her skis and suitcases. February in middle Tennessee was almost a different country than Florida if one judged on weather patterns.
“No worries! See ya in a week,” Gail cheerfully replied, adding, ‘Don’t eat anything weird,’ to Dash before backing out of the driveway.
Gail drove about thirty miles when a song on the radio prompted thoughts of Kendall. ‘Wow, her smile is like sunshine. It lights up her face. It lights up the room. It lights up my day. It lights up life. She’s gorgeous.’ Her eyes teared up. She blinked the tears back, thinking, ‘What was THAT all about?’ to herself. ‘Like…of course I think Kendall’s pretty. She’s beautiful. But that doesn’t mean I’m attracted…’ Again, she shook her head at herself and continued driving. But just a few moments later, she began crying harder. So powerfully, in fact, she had to pull the car off the road at the next exit and hang out at the back of a Panera Bread parking lot, struggling to contain herself.
‘What is WRONG with you, Gail?!’ she asked herself. ‘You’re going on vacation. What the hell are you crying for? Are you having some kind of allergic reaction or mental breakdown? I mean, there is literally nothing to cry about. Your life is awesome…’ And that’s when it came to her. Finally. After years of close confidence and easy support and sharing a house without really fighting about anything, it hit her. She felt strangely compelled to look at herself, so she pulled down the visor mirror, and stared hard into her own eyes; the first time she’d wholly seen herself with nothing to cloud her view since her arrival in Florida. The fog had lifted, and her heart, mind, and intentions came into sharp, undeniable focus. “I can’t leave her,” she said out loud to the unoccupied interior of the car. She continued sniffling, but now had a smile on her face. “I don’t wanna leave her. I can’t leave her,” she repeated. “I love her,” she whispered. “This is what love feels like. This is what love is,” she murmured. She wiped her eyes with the palms of her hands, then fished for a tissue in her glove box, and once she’d adequately composed herself from the most serious bout of delayed self awareness of her life, got back on the freeway. Heading South.