Chapter 21 – The One Who Got Away

In her jeep, Quinn taps her fingers against the hard leather of the steering wheel.  She grabs her phone and dials for the third time since leaving the hospital. She waits while the phone on the other end rings. And rings. And rings. There’s a click as the voicemail activates: “Leave a messages, bitches. Or, if this is the parental units, kindly leave a message. Please and thank you.”

“Ellie, please call me back. I really need to talk to you and figure this out. Call me. Please.” She throws the phone onto the seat and for the second time that day puts the car in gear and drives aimlessly away from the hospital. The snow is much heavier now, making driving not just difficult but dangerous. But she doesn’t want to go home until she can talk to Ellie.

As she turns down the main street, she sees a familiar frame walking out of the convenience store, a bag hanging from his arm. She jerks the wheel, pulls the jeep up beside him, and leans over to throw the door open.

“Get in, dumbass.” She calls to Geoff.

“Thank you! It is like fucking Hoth out there.” He directs the hot air vents at his hands.

“I’m your way less gross, big fluffy animal thing.”

“You mean a Tauntaun?” Geoff shoots a judging glance in her direction.

“Sure… Is that the thing they climb inside?” Quinn shrugs.

“Quinn, what’s the point in me making you watch them if you can’t even remember the most basic pop culture references?”

“Hey, I knew what Hoth was, although, I would have sworn it was Toth. And I know all about Ewoks. Those things are pretty iconic.” She teases him. This is an age old argument between them.

“Ewoks do not count! And you remember them because of those terrible Ewok movies.”

“And the super adorable cartoon.” She grins a real grin for the first time since that morning’s meeting. Falling back into her routine with Geoff feels easy. It’s so familiar, she doesn’t even have to think about it.

“How are we even friends?” He shoots her a glance and pulls a bottle of pop from his bag.

She chuckles and pulls up in front of his house. “Why were you walking in this?”

“It’s only a few blocks from my house.” He shrugs. “Driving seemed like more of a hassle. You wanna come in? Tell me how your talk went?”

“I’ll come inside.” Quinn turns off the vehicle and hurries after Geoff into the warm entryway of the house. She follows him into the family room, where he scoops up the remote and flips in the television.

“I see how you avoided saying you would talk about your talk with Terry.” He flops on the couch and throws her a pack of licorice. “I’m guessing that means it didn’t go well?”

“It did not.” She agrees and digs her teeth into the red candy.

“More details?”

Quinn shivers, remembering Terry’s face when he’d said the same phrase. “Not right now. It’s still too fresh.” She shifts in her seat, still able to feel the sting of the abrasions left by his hand, rubbing absentmindedly at the bruise forming around her wrist. “And I’d prefer if you didn’t go asking him about it either.”

“Did he hurt you, Quinn?” Geoff sits up straighter in his chair.

“Just a little bit. It’s been a very long day.”

“I will murder him.” Geoff growls.

“Enough, Geoff. Just enough. For right now, I just need you to be my friend and let me sit here and not drown in feeling awful for a little bit.”

Geoff doesn’t respond. Instead, he stands up and walks over to her seat and pushes her to the side. He slides in beside her and wraps his arm around her shoulder. She leans into him and inhales the familiar, comfortable, smell of the soap his mom makes for her store. This is the way he’s always smelled. It is as soothing to her as the feel of her teddy bear or the scratch of her father’s beard in her hair when he hugs her. He points the remote at the tv and zooms through a list of digital files. He’s selected one before she can read the title. She hears the opening bars of ‘Kids in America” and sees the telltale colour of the screen. A grin erupts across her face. This is her favourite movie.

She pulls out another string of licorice and hands the bag to Geoff as the girl on the screen begins to sort through her computerized closet. She mouths along with the dialogue until Geoff pokes her in the ribs.

“Do you want me to let you keep watching this?” He chuckles.

“You could pick up the other lines. Ellie usually does that part.” She sighs, remembering the other terrible part of her day.

“She’s mad, ‘eh?” He dips his hand into the bag of chips in his lap, trying to appear casual.

“Furious.” Quinn blinked her eyes dry. “I told her about Stevie and I and she just left. Just walked out of my house without a word. She hasn’t answered a call or a text since. Maybe her phone is dead.”

“It’s not.” Geoff grimaces. “She’s messaged me a couple times.”

“So she’s actively ignoring me then.” Quinn nods to herself. “Great. Perfect. Exactly perfect.”

“She hasn’t talked to me about it, but you know what she’s like.” He scoots backwards and looks down at her. “Ellie always needs time to process. She has a gut, over the top reaction to everything she disagrees with, and then you give her a little while and she eventually moderates her feelings to something more realistic.”

“But that usually takes days. Sometimes weeks. And that can be about something as simple as a tv show. Remember when you told her you don’t like Buffy?”

“She couldn’t make eye contact with me for week.” Geoff laughs. “But we eventually got over it.”

“Yeah, but I can’t wait that long, and this is a much bigger admission.” Quinn crosses her legs and turns to stare at him. “I need her to get through this. I going to need both my best friends to get through my girlfriend being in the hospital. To get through turning one of my oldest friends into someone who hates me for lying to him. I slept with him Geoff! I had sex with him. Knowing what I did. Knowing that I would never love him. Not the way I love her. That we have no future. I did it anyway. And now I have to tell my parents. How can I get through that without you and Ellie by my side?”

“You have me. You know that.” He brushed back a strand of her purple hair. “I can’t support what you did with Terry, but I knew the whole story, and I let you keep doing it. I wish I hadn’t known, but I did. So we carry that. That’s why I want to know how he reacted. If he did something to hurt you, I need to know. I feel responsible for how that went. I should have told him to back off. He would have if I’d asked. I should have told him that you needed time. I could have lied and said it was about me. But I didn’t. I colluded with you, Quinn. We deceived him together, and that doesn’t make us great people.”

“I know.” Quinn hangs her head, letting her hair fall forward to cover her face. “I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have brought you into it. But I can’t focus on the should’ves right now. I need to think about the right now. What do I do now? How do I make everything right again?” Her favourite line from the movie catches her ear and she glances over at the screen. She can’t help but smile. She and Ellie quote it so often, it feels more theirs than the movie’s. “How do I fix this, Geoff?”

“Stop being so damn afraid of pissing people off. If you want Ellie to talk to you, go fucking talk to her, Quinn. You have a key to her house. I know she’s at home. Just go.”

“No more pussyfooting?” She stares up at him, more a brother than a friend, and knows he’s right.

“Get out of my house so I can turn this damn thing off before my sister gets home and wants to watch it from the beginning.” He laughs and drags her off the couch. “Go.” He smacks her butt and flops back onto the couch.

Quinn hurries up the stairs without a word. She knows Geoff is right. If she wants Ellie to talk to her, the best way is to do it face to face. She barrels forward through the thickening snow, turns on her vehicle, and starts the horrible task of brushing off the snow that’s accumulated in the short time they’ve been inside. The automatic action gives her time to think about what she’s going to say.

Chapter 22

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