A Four-Edged Square – Part 2
The four of us sat together in Jess’s living room, slouching on the sofas, drinking cold beer. It was a Saturday. We’d been here all day discussing how things were going to work, and crafting contingency plans in case they didn’t.
Outside, night had fallen, and with it the sense of professionalism we’d been clinging to for most of the day. With the beers in hand, and the fire roaring, keeping the cold winter breeze at bay, we were nothing more than four lifelong friends. Four people with great aspirations.
After numerous hours, and a few too many drinks we decided to stay the night at Jess’s, realising none of us were in a state to drive safely.
Sam had taken the spare room. For some reason, he always seemed to garner the privilege of those things. Maybe he thought the two years he had over us provided him with some leverage. Though, we didn’t mind. Things come around eventually.
Allie and I were sleeping in the living room, on the sofas. They were almost as good as a bed anyway, so there was, in reality, little to complain about.
I switched off the lights, and turned on a dimmer, smaller table lamp. And after putting more wood on the fire, I crept onto the sofa, pulling a duvet around me. As far as I could tell, Allie was already asleep. I envied her ability to do that, to just lay down, shut her eyes, and will sleep on as if there wasn’t a worry in the world. Ever since I knew her, she’d been like that. I, on the other hand, tossed and turned, eternally trying to find some comfort in what was already comfortable.
Just as I was beginning to doze off, Allie’s voice broke the silence. “What do you really think of all this?” She asked.
I thought for a second, without moving. She knew I was awake. I suppose my habits were as obvious to her as hers were to me.
“I think it will be good for us.” I said, without moving from under the cosy duvet.
“Did you ever really think it would happen.” She asked.
“No, of course not…” I said. “Did you?”
“You always were a dreamer. Conjuring things up on the spot, creating things out of nothing. It’s a decent quality to have. I wish I could follow suit.”
She laughed. “It’s a shared dream. I don’t own it.”
“No, but you probably influenced it the most.”
“Maybe… maybe,” she said slowly.
There was a still silence for a few moments, before she spoke again. “How long have we all known each other now?”
“Perhaps going on twenty years,” I replied. “It sounds like an endless amount of time said like that, when in reality it barely felt like a second.
“Time flies when you’re having fun.”
“There wasn’t always fun to be had…”
“Ah, shit of course…” Allie giggled. “You mean the time you threw Sam through a window?”
“Eh, what about the time you and Jess almost scalped each other over that assignment?”
“Well, she always was a fickle bitch!”
“You couldn’t be more right,” I laughed.
Allie shuffled loudly, and something struck me on the side of the face. I picked it up and strained to read the title in the dim light. It was Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. “Mark fucking Twain!” I shouted a little too loudly.
“What? It’s classic…”
“You certainly could call it that…” I said, throwing it right back at her.
I sat up, but kept the duvet huddled around myself. It was late… or very early, and the fire had almost burned out. Allie was doing the same. She sat crossed legged, staring at me, smiling, Mark Twain on her lap. “What?” I asked.
“Nothing in particular,” she said, avoiding my eyes.
“No, go on. I’ve known you long enough to know when something’s bursting from your seams. Your eyes dance all over the place…”
She seemed to consider this, before bringing her eyes up to my own. “You’ve always liked me, right?” She asked, stumbling over a few of the words.
“Of course… why would-” she cut me off.
“No, no. I mean liked, really liked. You know what I mean, don’t make me actually say it.”
I was lost for words – Allie, saying this? I didn’t know what to make of it, nor how to feel. All I could do for the moment was stare into the dwindling embers of the fire, awash in a sea of contemplation. “Jake…?” She said after a few minutes.
“Yeah, Allie, just give me a moment.” I said.
What was there to say? She knew it, of course she did, I suppose the others did too. There was little to hide. I wasn’t even trying to hide it, because as far as I knew, it meant nothing. Sure, I felt it. And I couldn’t help myself for that. But could I attribute anything more to it? Should I have?
It was hard to transcribe everything into words, no matter how much I owed it to Allie and myself. “Okay, sure I do. I wouldn’t have thought it was something you needed to ask?” I said.
“I just wanted to know for certain,” she said.
“Why? It doesn’t change anything.”
“No, maybe not, but it sets something at ease in my mind, that’s all.”
I inhaled deeply. “Allie, we can’t…”
“Oh, I know we can’t. I know that,” she said. I detected a hint of sadness in her voice. “Though, would it really be so bad. Would it really… matter?”
“We couldn’t risk it.”
“Not even after twenty years. I know the four of us have something special, but there always seems to be this void lurking in and between our relationships. Even outside of that, with other people, nothing can come close.”
“I know what you mean.”
“You’re girlfriends, Maria, Jules, Immy – what about them?” She asked.
“Fleeting, insufficient… you?”
“Exactly the same.”
I stood up and put a log on the fire, in the hope of reviving its life. I figured we might be here a while, and even if we weren’t, the room would be kept warm.
I liked talking with Allie. This unnameable thing connected us in a different way than it did with Sam and Jess. This bond, this closeness that was subtle, but nevertheless always there. Lurking, making me feel warm inside. Something I had felt since we were young-ish kids when we first met. But even back then, the unspoken rules still applied.
Just as I was hustling back under my duvet, Allie called. “Hey, come over here.”
My heartbeat jumped. I froze. “Shit, Jake. I’m not suddenly going to jump on you, and bang one out right here!” I laughed. Allie never stopped being Allie. At least the air between us had become somewhat thinner.
I slumped onto the sofa beside her, grabbing some of her duvet and pulling it around myself. “Yeah, what?” I asked.
“I don’t know… I don’t know. My thoughts are muddled, and with everything, with everything coming in the near future. All of our dreams coming true, it feels like I’m floating in a void of maybes,” she said, shuffling a little closer.
“What’s in question?”
“This, us, the ‘plan,’ everything that the four of us are, and everything we aren’t, the things we do, and the things we prevent ourselves from doing…”
“Maybe, but it makes us no different to any other people.”
“Exactly, we’re just like everyone else. I thought we were special, that we had something unique, something impossibly hard to create. But we don’t, we’re just as normal as any person we pass on the street.”
“So… I want something to happen. I want to be immersed within something meaningful. I want to kiss a person and feel something but emptiness. I want to sleep with someone and not utterly resent myself afterwards.”
“You really feel like that?” I asked her.
“On some days, sure.”
“So, talk about it. Tell me everything. I’m not going anywhere.”