Carynne, it turned out, had been talking to Christian a lot. And Lacey. After her collapse in LA, Lacey had gone through a rehab almost as intense at Ziggy’s, but at a less famous place, because–get this–her mother didn’t like how many paparazzi photos she saw in the tabloids of other celebrities leaving Betty Ford. Apparently it was a thing. I suppose if I had ever read a tabloid paper maybe I might’ve known. I wondered if someone out there had photos of me and Digger arguing.
Chris, meanwhile, had started therapy and long-term abuse counseling at a center nearby. At the time I didn’t understand the difference between the crash-course type of rehab and getting into a longer term relationship with a counselor, because at the time I didn’t have to. All that mattered to me was that he was taking care of himself. He met with his guy every week, Carynne said, and had him on call in case of emergency.
“Emergency?” I asked as we parked in front of the house.
“You know, like someone offers him drugs at a party and he needs the moral support to say no.”
“Ahh, I see.” I climbed out of the car. I didn’t even have a suitcase with me, since I had a ton of clothes here. As I walked up the driveway I noticed the bushes had been trimmed and someone had put planter boxes of flowers on the stairs. My money was on Courtney or Lacey. “Is Lacey here?”
“She might be. I’ve lost track of when she’s here and when she’s not. She’s got a lot of gigs she flies off to, and then she shows up again.” Carynne shrugged. “She’s redecorated the living room, you know.”
“Yeah, we talked about her doing that.” It had been one of the halfway normal conversations Christian and I had in recent months. I put my key in the lock and opened the door, not sure what to expect.
Okay, yes, there was new furniture that didn’t look like it had been trash-picked or come from Good Will like our old stuff. But what looked different to me was how large the room looked. I had forgotten the ceiling was so high? The walls had been painted and the crappy carpets were gone. The hardwood floor looked shiny like something from a TV commercial for floor wax. The former junk room that Chris had turned into a workout room had plants in the windowsills.
Plants are one of those things, like pets, that are hard to keep care of when you may be gone for months at a time.
Anyway, the fireplace had been re-pointed and the mantelpiece polished and refurbished, and someone had framed a set of photos taken on the tour and set them up there. The TV was the same–it was the humongous one Chris had bought back when we bought the house in the first place. The furniture around it was new, though, and there was an actual coffee table now. A magazine with our photo on it sat atop a small stack, and I had a feeling they were all ones that had a band article or something in them.
The stairwell had been refurbished at the same time they did the floors, so now the treads were shiny rather than grimy-looking, and the banister gleamed.
I was taking all of this in when Lacey came stomping halfway down the stairs. “Daron Moondog Marks, don’t you dare lay a hand on him.”
“What, me? Who?” I glanced at Carynne who just gave a microshrug. “Nice to see you, too, Lacey. Care to let me in on what you’re talking about?”
She came down the rest of the way and then past me to the kitchen. I followed her. The kitchen hadn’t changed at all, really. Same appliances, cabinets, etc. The linoleum had been scrubbed so clean it looked like a new floor and countertops but I knew it wasn’t. Only the table and chairs were new. She pulled a bottle of club soda out of the fridge, then poured herself some and drank it before she went on. “He’s in a state, knowing you’re coming home.”
“I do live here,” I said, trying not to sound annoyed.
“He’s convinced you’re going to kick the living shit out of him,” she said, pointing at me with the water glass like that proved something.
“Why the hell would I do that?”
“Maybe you should be asking yourself that!” Lacey was still one of the prettiest faces you can imagine, so when she looked angry it was honestly kind of difficult to take her seriously. Well, especially when she wasn’t making any sense.
“No, I mean, what the hell makes Christian think I would do that? When have I ever kicked the shit out of anybody, for that matter?”
“Nobody is kicking any shit out of anybody, you get me? I’m not even mad at him.”
“I’m lying? How about you tell me why I’m mad at him, then?”
“I don’t know. You just are. Look how upset you are.”
“I’m upset because you’re not talking sense, Lacey!”
She didn’t answer because instead she looked behind me at the doorway to the living room at whoever was there.
I turned and saw Christian. You know how the ceiling looked higher? Chris looked taller. Maybe I’d just forgotten how tall he was.
He looked good. Just… surprised. “Daron, man, you look like crap.” He put his hand on the side of my shoulder. To translate for those of you who see things the way Lacey does, that was as good as a hug.
“I feel like it, too. How are you, though, man?”
“Doing all right. Doing all right. You want to go grab a beer or something?”
I know, I just ate, but let me explain something. When guys who don’t talk or express their feelings are trying to make up, when that type of guy asks another guy who doesn’t talk or express his feelings to go grab a beer, well, if you’re the guy getting asked you have a choice. Say yes, and admit that you’re okay with talking, or say no, in which case you’re not okay with it. Of course, there’s two kinds of not-okay. One is that you don’t want to talk but you don’t have to because really everything’s okay, or at least you’re hoping it’s going to be if you just don’t talk about it. You know that’s the kind of guy I used to be. Then there’s the not-okay where everything is messed up but you’re refusing to talk about it. Now that I think about it, maybe in reality those last two things are actually the same.
Doesn’t matter anyway because I said, “Sure. You driving?”
“If we’re both drinking, let’s walk.”
“I’ll grab my wallet.” He ducked out of the kitchen to get his jacket, and I looked back at Lacey who said nothing, but kind of stared at me with her special brand of skeptical ire.
“Call me tomorrow,” Carynne said, and gave me a peck on the cheek. “I’ll call that lawyer.”
“Okay. Bye.” I checked that my own wallet was still in my pocket. It was. Christian said goodbye to Lacey, and the two of us went out the door before we could lose momentum.
(P.S. The paperback of my BDSM romance novel, Slow Surrender, launched on Tuesday! Tonight — Thursday August 8th, 6:30 – 8:30 pm eastern time, I’ll be doing a video chat via uStream and Google hangout! If you’re online tonight, please join me! If you want to actually be a participant in the Google hangout, let me know in advance so I know to loop you in! Otherwise, please send me questions you want me to answer in the chat! My uStream link is: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cecilia-tan)