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Chapter 23...the last one

*Hey y'all. This is the last chapter (see? It's not the Ongoing Saga). I like this ending better than the short story version of this that I wrote...but I still feel like there's something missing from it. I'm not sure what. Anyway, enjoy.*

“Cell phone, keys, wallet, ID, cash,” Lennon recited aloud from her spot on the couch. “Cover-up. Chapstick. Lotion.”

“Got it, got it, got it, got it,” Stacey said from the other side of the main room of their new apartment, head buried in the large purse she carried everywhere.

“Metrocard?” Lennon asked.

“In my wallet,” Stacey sang out.

“Debit card?”

“Got it! All right, I think I’m good. See ya, kids!”

“’Bye,” Lennon and her sister Hikari, who was visiting their apartment for the weekend, called as Stacey ran out of the door. Lennon grabbed the remote and hit the play button.

She’d let Hikari choose the movie, so they were watching Enchanted, which seemed to be her sister’s movie of the moment. Len watched Hikari frown when the girl and th…

Chapter 22

As far as her bespectacled eyes could see, there was mud: sticky, brown, mucky mud.
After swishing mouthwash around her gums and teeth, combing her hair, washing off the makeup she’d forgotten she had on last night and reapplying eyeliner and coverall, she’d gotten back into last night’s jeans and underwear, took a T-shirt that was definitely too small for Gabe and wore it, leaving her blouse open over it. After swiping on some of Gabe’s deodorant and tying her chaotic hair up tightly, Len joined Gabriel on the front porch.

“Can you get out of that?” She asked him, looking pointedly at his SUV, the wheels stuck.

“I can try,” Gabriel said. He glanced once at her feet. She wore boots, but they were not the mud-walking kind. “Come here.” With one swoop, he picked her up off the wood planks. One arm was under her knees, the other around her shoulders. He stepped off the porch steps, which squeaked under their weight.

Lennon heard Gabe’s boots slush in the mud, a squelching wet sound emanati…

Chapter 21 (2 left)

Once up in Gabriel’s room, he rooted through a dresser drawer and threw her a scrunched-up T-shirt. Ironing it out on the bed with her hands, Lennon let out a laugh.

It was a black shirt and while it probably fit Gabriel fine, it would cover Lennon down to her thighs. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper cover was on the front, in all its insane mish-mash of faces and colors.

Gabriel passed by her, saying, “Let me get the losers settled down and make sure Gerry’s handling his liquor.” He closed the door on his way out.

His room was half-empty, but she could still see relics of Gabriel’s past in there. His high school and college diplomas were prominently displayed on a bookshelf, along with a trophy and a photo of him when he played Little League. She found a framed baby picture of him, crying or yawning, and stored the memory away to tease him about later. The frame had his full name, Gabriel Robert Harris, engraved in intricate cursive. His birthday, which was in April, making him a year, a month…

Chapter 20

Lennon didn’t expect Landslide to change at all when she drove into the town in the second week of the following January. Stacey’s last performance at the Tallis was coming up in a few days; after that, Stace was moving on to a job in New Jersey.

There was some snow on the ground. Stacey had said there’d been a storm last week and there was no such thing as snow removal in Pettis County. Len drove past the Black Kettle, with its lights on, cars parked out front. A string of Christmas lights—every third bulb seemed to be blown out—hung over the door and fringed the roof of the building.

Lennon turned off the Paved Road onto the narrower, dirt road that led to Stacey’s apartment. Thank goodness no one was behind her because Lennon slowed down to a walking speed. She’d gotten her driver’s license in November, but driving on still iced-over dirt roads in the middle of Missouri was not her forte.

Stacey’s apartment was littered with boxes, half packed in with her possessions. The bigge…

Chapter 19

“Why did you walk away from him?”

Lennon glanced across the small table to see the aghast expression on Mady’s face—eyes bulging out, mouth formed into a perfect ‘o’ of shock. Alexandra, who was sitting on Lennon’s right, raised her eyebrows, but didn’t look shocked. Nadine was stirring her drink. Etta’s attention was wavering, although she was the one who’d asked the question in the first place.

Lennon grabbed for her cranberry and vodka. Apparently, she was going to need it.

“Do you want another one, Lennon?” Mady asked.

“Yeah. In a sec,” Len replied, downing the one she had in her hand.

The five of them were sitting around a table at the latest chic eatery in Forest Hills, a rare gathering. The dinner was a manifold occasion. It was December, which meant Etta’s birthday was coming around. Christmas was next week and this counted as a holiday gathering. Lennon had completed her certificate program after a hellish finals week. And instead of having to buy each other gifts, a few of th…

Chapter 18 (5 more to go!)

Lennon heard Hikari above the din of the airport before she spotted her younger sister, who was jumping up and down behind taller people, trying to get her big sister’s attention.

“Hikari-chan!” Lennon called, picking her sister up for a brief moment before putting the preteen down. She was too heavy to lift and her legs dragged and bumped into Lennon’s own.

Jack stood behind Hikari. Under the glare of airport lighting, Jack shone pale, freckles standing out on his face.

“You did not get taller,” Len said to him rudely, looking at him up and down. He seemed taller than what she remembered. His hair even looked more orange-tinged than what she remembered.

“Maybe you shrunk,” he replied, equally rude. “Now Hikari has to get out of your room.”

“Welcome home!” Their parents said, engulfing their eldest in strong hugs.

When the family arrived home, Lennon stood at the doorway to her room and stared into it. Her posters were still on the wall. The picture frames were each in their places. He…

Chapter 17

“How’s everyone doing tonight?”

And with that, Gabriel kicked off his set. He was alone on stage, standing behind the front center microphone. His electric acoustic guitar was plugged in, the wires pulled out of the way of his feet. A drum kit stood in the darkened background behind him.

It wasn’t terribly crowded in the club, but it wasn’t empty either. Sam, Stacey, Jim and Len sat around a small table. Gerry and Mary stood closer to the stage.

Gabriel strummed out an introduction. It was slow; the chords were low and dark. Sam recognized the song from the first chord and turned to the others, saying, “This is one of his old band’s songs.”

Gabriel had a flexible voice; he slid easily between his upper and lower registers. She’d noticed it at his gig in Landslide. The song was soft and his voice was smooth and deep, with its undercurrent of grit, a hint of a country twang in his inflections. She closed her eyes, listening and absorbing.

The second song started out deliberately quiet, bu…

Mizzou Columns

Image
A visual companion to Chapter 16:

Chapter 16

It didn’t escape Gabriel’s attention that Lennon slid away from him slightly. She couldn’t escape him completely; they were in the last row of the van and only had a few inches separating them. Her head was turned to the right, staring blankly out at I-70 as they whizzed by. The highway swung through the entire state of Missouri. Out here, it was only two lanes on either side.

“Len?”

“Hmm?” She turned her head to look at him. “Yeah?”

“When was the last time you were in KC?”

She blew some air out of her mouth, making her loose forelocks blow up into the air for a millisecond. “When I got here. Can’t say I really saw much except the airport and the train station.”

“Columbia’s smaller, but still, it’s a city. Gerry and our sister and I grew up there.”

“Oh, yeah?” Len replied. Her eyes glimmered with some interest and the sides of her mouth relaxed. “I didn’t know that.”

“You never asked,” he replied. “Sam’s in college in CoMo. She’s working.”

“What’s her major?”

“Psych,” Gabriel said. “She’s ob…

15.3

Three days later, when Lennon was working, Gabriel strode into the theatre’s office. She glanced up from her desk, where she was on the phone, at the sound of his footsteps. Covering the phone’s mouthpiece with a hand, she said, “Hi. What’s up?”

“I finished reading your story,” he said, taking a seat. “You look busy.”

“I’m on hold,” she replied. “Nice elevator music playing. It’d be better if it was the Beatles or the Ramones or you or something.”

He chuckled.

“So you finished it? Questions, comments, complaints?”

Gabriel bit his lip. “Is Mark really the guy she should be with?”

“He came out of the blue,” Len answered. “I thought it might be a good harkening back to Amanda’s struggling performer days. Did it feel too…rebound to you?”

“A little. But it’s not really about the relationship. I liked Jake, though. Felt sorry for him.”

“So did my best friend,” Len remarked.

Gabriel smiled, briefly. “The thing is…I sort of feel like Amanda wanted stability. And Jake’s steady. But Mark? Eh.” He st…