Charlotte was already a drink and a half in when Lauren finally arrived. The wet redness of Charlotte’s face told her that this was an emergency and she instantly felt bad for being late. She also felt the anxiety rise into her throat, as she hadn’t seen Charlotte in three years. Their friendship had fizzled after high school, mostly due to Lauren choosing a different crowd to run with, and it took her some time to realize that she had missed her friend. All it took was a quick text a few nights ago, a simple apology, and Charlotte was quick to forgive and excited to make up for lost time. But seeing Charlotte’s face, Lauren wondered if she had really forgiven her at all.
She approached the bar where Charlotte sat, texting angrily to someone.
“Hey, sorry I’m late,” Lauren apologized, opening her arms for a hug to greet Charlotte and hoping she would reciprocate. “I hope you weren’t waiting that long.”
Charlotte just shook her head. She tried to compose herself, but when she saw the look of concern in her friend’s face, she couldn’t help it.
“D… Dawson broooke up with meeeeeee”. She stammered through her tears and snotty nose. She grabbed a drink napkin and wiped her nose, but it wasn’t quite enough for the job, so she reached over behind the bar where there was a small stack.
“Oh, Charlotte, I’m so sorry, “ was all Lauren could manage to say. She wasn’t any good at this. She was good at partying, making people laugh, hitting on older men and making wives jealous. She didn’t know how to console her old friend. Dawson and Charlotte had been together most of high school and college. If anyone had a shot at marriage, it would have been them.
“He told me that he couldn’t get anywhere in life because I enabled him. Can you believe that?, “ Charlotte wiped the last bit of moisture from her face. “He said that I enabled him -he literally broke up with me because I did too much…was too good…”
They sat at that divey sports bar for three hours, catching up on the last few years, reminiscing about high school. Lauren even managed to make Charlotte laugh a few times. By the time they had paid their tabs and gathered their purses, Charlotte began to feel a little better. She may have lost her boyfriend, but rekindling her friendship with Lauren made it sting a bit less.
She arrived back at her new place, a old double-wide trailer that she rented on an improvisatory decision. She and Dawson had been living in an expensive, luxury apartment in the heart of the city, complete with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. His dad had been paying the rent with the understanding that Dawson would eventually get a job. When that never happened and the fear of losing his father’s generosity, Dawson had panicked and changed the only thing he knew how to alter. Charlotte didn’t mind her new place, however dingy and modest, the mismatched furniture and avocado walls didn’t matter too much to her. She wasn’t one for flashy things, that was always Dawsons preference anyways. She ultimately picked this spot for one reason; Sounder- her 25 pound Beagle rescue. Unlike her previous dwelling, this place, although not the most aesthetically pleasing, had a large backyard area and a dog door that allowed Sounder the freedom to go outside when she wasn’t home.
The first week by herself was eerie. A few years ago, she moved right out of her parents house to live with Dawson, so for the first time in her life, she was living on her own. She missed the comfort of Dawson, missed rolling over and finding him next to her in bed. She longed to sit and watch movies with him on their couch or telling him about her work day. It only took a happy couple on an commercial or a sappy country song to make her eyes well. She couldn’t sleep at night, which was new to her. She had never known insomnia before but often she would welcome it, using it to go over what exactly went wrong and how they might be able to make it right. Sounder curled up next to her every night, staying up with her whenever she couldn’t sleep. She found herself conversing with him and strangely, she always felt better afterwards.
“I should pay you”, she whispered to him one night, rubbing in between his eyes, “you are way better than any therapist”.
“You have to get out, Charlotte”. Lauren decided, letting herself into Charlotte’s tiny home, stepping over some piles laundry, “Are these all dirty?” She asked, pointing to the heaps.
“Umm, I’m actually not sure”. Charlotte admitted. She picked up a tee shirt out of the pile, sniffed it, and threw it back into the pile. “Yes. Dirty”.
“You have got to let him go, I get it, you’re sad. But you aren’t going to get any happier in here with your dirty laundry and your dog”. She motioned at Sounder, asleep on her zebra-print couch she found at a consignment store. All four of his legs were sticking straight into the air, his head hanging to the side and his pink tongue escaping his mouth. Charlotte smirked. Lauren didn’t understand him, but that was ok.
“I don’t want to go out. I’m not ready. Do you just want to hang out here or go to a movie or something?” Charlotte suggested.
“Listen here,” Lauren said, taking Charlotte by the forearm and dragging her into the bedroom,”You are going to go into that closet, put on you nicest bra, your sexiest dress, your highest heels and WE. ARE. GOING. OUT.”
Charlotte finally conceded and by the end of the night, she was glad she had. It resulted in her meeting Brian a tall, muscular, blonde police officer. He also happened to be the second guy she had ever kissed in her life. A few nights later, she added Steven’s number to her phone, a college student who drove a fancy sports car of some sort. The following weekend, she met three more- Aaron, Michael, and Adam. Each guy offered just a little more superficial comfort to Charlotte’s numb heart. Each guy kept her interest for a week or maybe a month, but they would fizzle and she would replace their numbers with a new one. Most of these guys taught her a little something on their short tours, however. Some, like Wyatt and Jason, introduced her to Crossfit and ballroom dance, while others, like Scott and Ryan made her feel sexier than she ever had before. She also started exploring things on her own, taking Sounder on new hiking tails and neighborhood runs, resulting in weight loss for both. She took a healthy cooking classes at the nearby community college, and built a strong adult relationship with her mom, something she wished she had done sooner.
“Why do you think we ever stopped being friends?” Charlotte tiredly asked Lauren after a night of Long Islands.
“Because I suck”, Lauren replied. “ I’m not a good friend like you. You…” she pointed clumsily to Charlotte, “are a **** good friend.”
“You are my favorite person ever”, Charlotte said, right before her eyes gave into the alcohol induced slumber.
Over the course of the next year, the pair only become closer, sharing everything from laughs and secrets to late-night pizzas. When Lauren’s lease was up in July, both girls were ecstatic that Lauren could move into Charlotte’s spare bedroom in her (now much cleaner) trailer. They made plans to paint the walls, re-decorate and even replace the older carpeting throughout. They discussed closet space and clothes sharing, possibly carpooling to work and even rules for when either of the girls had guests over. They buzzed with excitement as moving day approached.
That was until Lauren met Chris.
Chris was a bartender at a trendy new place they had been wanting to try, and when they finally made it there, he caught Lauren’s attention immediately. Charlotte was used to Lauren disappearing for most of the night, but she always returned before they went home. By two-thirty in the morning, Charlotte began to worry, sending Lauren a string of unanswered text messages and phone calls. Charlotte got a ride home, and by four in the morning, her phone finally buzzed.
Hey, sorry. I’m cool. Went home with hot bartender Chris. You home?
****** LAUREN. I was so scared. What the Hell?
I know, I’m sorry. Talk tomorrow. Xo
Charlotte, whose worry was replaced by annoyance, shut off her lights, scooted Sounder over on the bed, and went to sleep. She didn’t get out of bed until noon the next day. She checked her phone, but didn’t have any messages. She had no reason to get up, no one that needed her, so she laid there and let the loneliness take over once again. All the guys she had met didn’t mean anything to her, nor did she to them. They were all an anesthetic. She looked over at Sounder. “Breakfast?” She asked. His head popped up and he wagged his tail.
Lauren didn’t text until the following evening, and when Charlotte suggested they meet for dinner, Lauren already had plans. Charlotte hung up her phone, and almost simultaneously it buzzed.
It was Dawson. She thought it was better not to reply, so she didn’t right away. But he was persistent.
Wanna meet? Grab some food?
Look I know you are mad, but I really just want to see you.
Maybe it was the rejection from Lauren or the use of her old pet name, but all she found that she couldn’t help but give in.
At a little after 10pm, she found herself at the all night diner that they used to frequent together. He was already sitting at the both-…the same both where they had shared so many late night laughs and milkshakes…their booth. He stood up and gave her a hug without saying anything. He felt strong and familiar.
“Hi.” He said.
“Thanks for meeting me.”
“Look,” he stammered,” I know you are mad at me, but I really miss you.” She felt a smile begin to form on her face. This was the moment she had been waiting for! He continued, “I want you to come home. I miss having you there. I miss you cooking, I miss the way you always made the apartment look so nice, and too be honest, I am really having a hard time paying the rent by myself now that my dad cut me off. I don’t know what I am going to do.”
And then she felt it. The smile that had been forming on her face lowered and her eyes scrutinized his face.
“You’re kidding me.”
“No, Charbar, I’m not. Come home.”
“You know what?” she said, “That’s exactly what I’m going to do.” With that, she got up, left the diner, got into her car, and went home and curled in bed with the only guy that she knew would never let her down.
She tried to call Lauren the next day, but her friend couldn’t talk, so they made lunch plans for the following Tuesday at the same bar they had met at over a year ago.
Charlotte couldn’t wait to tell Lauren what happened with Dawson, but her friend had news to share first.
“You should see his place, Charlotte. HUGE. Like, vaulted ceilings, 6 bedrooms with fireplaces, and an olympic-sized swimming pool huge. Apparently he just bartends for fun. His parents are loaded.” Lauren went on, “ but you’ll never guess the best part!”
Charlotte found it difficult to be as excited as Lauren was about vaulted ceilings, but she played along.
“He’s asked you to do something stupid and marry him?” she joked.
Lauren stopped and looked at Charlotte, lifted up her left hand and revealed a ginormous rock. “Actually, yes.”
Charlotte couldn’t believe it. “Lauren, you can’t be serious. You’ve only known him for like, what? A week?”
“Two weeks actually, but that doesn’t matter. He’s the one, Charlotte. I just know it”
“Ok, Lauren, I am happy for you, really, but as your friend you know that I have to tell you that this is a terrible idea, right?” Charlotte said.
“Well, you know what, Charlotte?” Lauren snapped, “ I don’t know why I thought you would understand. You think that you are the only one who can settle down and get married? Well, I didn’t see Dawson ever put a ring on your finger. And that was after what, 6, 7, years? It only took me 2 weeks. I should have known you would be jealous.”
Lauren got up, turned around and without saying anything, walked out of Charlotte’s life for a second time. But this time, Charlotte was surprisingly okay. She would miss her friend, she knew that, but maybe she would only miss the idea of her friend, In reality, Lauren was right, she did kinda suck as a friend. But that was okay, because now Charlotte had discovered her new favorite person. She did not need another person to make her feel happy or give her life meaning. She just needed herself, and that was enough for her.