The day after Gabriel’s set, Lennon was in no shape to do anything. She woke up early that morning, feeling icky. That later turned into full-on nausea. She rolled over into the fetal position, hoping that her knees against her torso would keep her stomach from feeling like it was roiling in a storm, about to roll itself out of her body. It didn’t work.
Lennon padded out to the kitchen around ten in the morning for a glass of much-needed water, eyes still shut. Her tongue felt dry. She and Stacey rarely closed the kitchen blinds, so the sun was streaming in and right now, Lennon felt a searing ache in her temples. It extended to around the eyes and her neck.
She heard a door open, then Stacey’s footsteps coming into the kitchen. Len glanced up, opening one eye to see a blurry Stacey holding a bottle of aspirin. She put it on the counter. Though Lennon couldn’t make out details, she saw Stacey’s stooped posture and smelled alcohol on Stacey’s breath as she began to speak.
“Nick called. The bastard. He had the audacity to yell at me for getting drunk with you yesterday. He’s just pissed off because he’s at home and his family fights all the time.”
Lennon reached for the aspirin. She popped two quickly.
“Can someone turn the goddamn sun off?” Stacey muttered grouchily, closing her eyes and shutting the blinds until they were enclosed in moody, gray lighting. Lennon felt able to open both her eyes a little wider. She blinked. Stacey blinked, too. They stared at one another for a few minutes.
“I would say food…” Stacey began. Lennon shuddered. “Yeah. So maybe water instead.” She reached for a glass and filled it with water.
“Chug, chug, chug,” Len said sleepily.
Stacey snickered. “Uh. So. You never told me about Gabriel and the kiss.”
“Tornado day. In the little hall in the theater.”
“Ooh,” Stacey said. She took a sip. “Is he a good kisser? He looks like he would be. He’s got nice lips.”
“Not that I have a basis for comparison,” Lennon said, two fingers rubbing her right temple. “But, yeah, it was a good kiss. I didn’t freak too badly. It’s kind of weird, though. I’ve been dreaming about it.”
“But it’s never gone further than kissing, even in my dreams. The one place that I can safely dream all my tawdry…dreams and I can’t even do that!”
She reached for a glass and filled it from the tap. The nausea was passing, but the thirst was not and her body still felt vertiginous. Shaking her head lightly, Len said, “I’m not going to overanalyze it.”
“The dreams or the real kiss?” Stacey asked.
Len bit her lip. “Both. I’m too damn hangover.”
“I hear ya,” Stacey muttered. “Kissing during a tornado. That’s very you, Lennon. It’s weird.”
Lennon was able to chuckle.
Like a repeat of Tornado Day, as Lennon finished work the day after, she found a black-clad Gabriel sitting up on the hill. He waved to her, so she walked up and sat beside him.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” she replied. “I’ve meant to ask you—if you’ve never been to New York, how did you come by this always wearing black thing?”
“Um. I have no sense of fashion and black is easy?”
“True as that may be…” She teased. “Stacey used to forbid me from buying black clothes whenever we went shopping back in college.”
“You’re not wearing black today.”
“I’m not in New York. Besides, I look like Elvira in black.” She pointed to her head, where her long hair was fastened up into a bun. “The hair.”
He nodded, lying back on the grass. “I’ve made a few decisions about my life.”
“Like what?” she asked, leaning back on her elbows. She stared at the horizon, reassured that the sky was blue and not pea green.
“I called my college roommate. He was the lead guitarist in the band. He’s my best friend. Or was, at any rate. It doesn’t seem right to not talk to him, despite...everything. He’s got tracks. I’ve got tracks. We worked a few more songs out over the phone. So,” he paused. “Looks like I’m going to head back to Chicago sometime soon. We’re going to hammer out a few more songs. Get some gigs.”
Len flashed him a smile.
“Getting the band back together? Or just you two?”
“We haven’t worked out all the details yet,” he said, crinkling his nose. “I was actually considering doing what I got my college degree in…”
“Education.” His eyes met hers.
Lennon laughed. “You? A teacher?” She fell onto her back, still laughing.
“At least my college degree’s useful, Lucy,” he replied. He nudged her side with an elbow, then flipped onto his side, crowding into her personal space. She felt a reflexive city urge to slide away, but clamped it down. This was Gabriel, for God’s sake. And they were on a fucking hill in full view of the theatre.
She snickered to cover up her momentary discomfort. “Lucy. Nice.” In a softer, kinder tone, she said, “That was a great cover, by the way, the other night.”
“Thank you,” he said. “Do you actually have nicknames?”
“Beyond the many variations of Lennon and occasionally being called something truly annoying like ‘Shorty’ or ‘Little One’, not really,” she replied. “Why?”
“Will it bug you if I call you Lucy?”
“Only if I get to call you Ricky,” Len shot back. “Fair is fair.” She shrugged, saying to herself, “It’s better than what I call Stacey and Nick. Edward and Bella.” He looked clueless. “Forgot that you don’t read chick lit. Although, strictly speaking, it’s young adult and about vampires.”
“Oh, dear God,” Gabriel muttered, practically into her ear. Len wiggled, but didn’t move away. “What are you going to do?” He asked, emphasizing the “you” by puckering his lips out. “Where’s the Great American Novel?”
She let out a cynical snort.
“It’s more like the Great American Fragmentary Nightmare,” she replied.
“I thought we covered the ‘Lennon has trouble finishing stories because she can’t finish anything’ thing,” she said. “Or maybe that wasn’t you, but your brother.”
“Oh, right, duh,” he answered, rolling his blue eyes in blatant imitation of her. She shook her head, heedless of the grass that was probably now twisting into her hair. Even his scoff was exactly like hers. “Why can’t you end things?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I have trouble letting go. Maybe I bite off more than I can chew in terms of scope or plot. Maybe I lack the basic technique of endings.” She shrugged. “Maybe the stories don’t work. Maybe I’m a hack.”
“You’re not a hack.”
“How would you know? You’ve never read anything of mine.” Her eyebrows came together as she furrowed her brow. Gabriel reached out and touched her forehead gently, smoothing out the worry lines that she knew were there. Her mother always told her not to do that; wrinkles would appear, she’d said, but Lennon was frequently worried about something or other and did it anyway.
“You’re not a hack. Not after all the advice you’ve given my brother,” he said. “It’s occurred to me that you have an appalling lack of self-esteem.”
Lennon’s eyes tipped away from him, prepared to roll again.
“No, don’t do that,” he said. “How can you not have confidence in yourself, especially with something that means so much to you?”
“I do have confidence in my writing,” she protested.
“Just not enough to carry you through to the end.”
She moved to sit up. He stayed lolling on his side. They stared at each other for a few long seconds. Gabriel’s eyes slid away from hers downward, toward the ground, and he shifted himself up to sit.
Lennon wasn’t taken by surprise when he leaned in to kiss her again, perhaps trying to soothe away the bluntness of his words. And when he pulled away, she pursued him and kissed him, lips mashing together. Her tongue brushed against his lower lip and he opened his mouth, his tongue rubbing against hers.
When the kiss ended, her hair was streaming down her back and her hand was buried in the thick hair on the back of his head.