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Common Ground

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“Son of a--!” You’ve been deleting this draft for the fourth time, unable to find the right words. You think the keyboard might break if you keep on hitting the delete key so hard.

“Hey, hey, there little nerd.” Your coworker calls from behind you. “What’s going on? Still working on that corruption story?”

“Yeah, I…” You sigh. “Nevermind Kirsch, I don’t want to bore you with those details.” You turn your chair to face him and give him a small smile. Kirsch is a 6.2 feet tall of a puppy man, impressive at first sight but you soon understood that he was completely harmless. You’ve been working with him for quite a while now, so you are used to his interruptions. “What’s up? What brings you to this small cubicle of mine?”

“Don’t say that! You have plenty of space in here, look.” Your friend starts moving things around, making a mess of your files.

“Kirsch, please don’t — “

“See? You could totally put a fridge in here! I have one in my cubicle, I swear it’s like the best idea I’ve ever had!”

“Seriously?” You stare at him, confused. “Why would I need a fridge in my cubicle? And… Why do you even have one?” You close your eyes and put one hand on your forehead. “No, you know what? I’m too tired for this. I’m guessing you didn’t come here to talk spacing.”

“Right, right. I wanted to invite you to come with us to the bar tonight.” You open your mouth to speak but he doesn’t let you. “I know what you’re gonna say, you’re too tired and you have too much work. But pleaaase, it’s Friday night, come on! I know for a fact that you have until Monday to send your story, and you can catch up on your sleep tomorrow. Everybody’s coming! We don’t see you anymore…” And when he looks at you with those sad puppy dog eyes, you already know what your answer is going to be. Wait, is his lower lip quivering?!

“All right Kirsch! You know I can’t resist when you make this face.” You fake scowl and hold up one finger at him. “But don’t overuse it!” As if he was ever going to listen to you anyway.

“Yes!” He pumps his fist in a victory gesture, then starts to walk backwards, still addressing you. “We’ll talk details over texts, it’ll be easier. See you tonight Laura, and don’t be late!” He then gives you an overexcited grin and turns around.

 

You turn to your computer and sigh. You know you work too hard. It’s been this way since you got hired at this newspaper. But what can you do? Tell them they give you too much work and that you don’t have time to see your friends? That’s ridiculous, the best way to get you fired. Plus, you kinda like it. This job has been your constant for the past few years, and the amount of work doesn’t even bother you that much anymore. Sure, you miss your friends, your dad, and your bed. But you have to earn money somehow, right? You have a job that you like, and you think that’s enough; everybody doesn’t have that chance.

You look at your watch. 5 p.m. You still have some time left to make some progress (or not) with your story.

 


 

It’s 7 p.m. when you leave work, earlier than usual, which is a little bit sad when you think about it. We don’t see you anymore. Your friend’s words echo in your head. Are you really that absent? The last time you got drunk with them wasn’t that long ago, it was like what, one or two… months ago? Okay, you’ve really got to go out more. You take out your phone and start typing as you walk toward the subway.

 

[Group messaging]

Laura [7:08 p.m.]: Soooo… What do you wanna do tonight?

LaF [7:09 p.m.]: SO IT IS TRUE!

Laura [7:09 p.m.]: What is?

LaF [7:11 p.m.]: SHE’S COMING!

Danny [7:15 p.m.]: No way! I thought Kirsch was messing with us.

Kirsch [7:18 p.m.]: Hey! I would never joke about that!

Laura [7:22 p.m.]: Calm down guys, it’s not a big deal

LaF [7:23 p.m.]: BUT IT IS!

Laura [7:24 p.m.]: Okay, is your caps lock broken?

Perry [7:29 p.m.]: Sweetie, I’m sorry to tell you that, but they are right.

LaF [7:29 p.m.]: Wooooooh

Laura [7:30 p.m.]: Shut up LaF!

Danny [7:31 p.m.]: Hahaha

Laura [7:31 p.m.]: Guuuuys what are we doing tonight?

Danny [7:33 p.m.]: Kirsch wanted to try this new bar, on the 28th. Apparently the music’s nice and it’s pretty cheap.

Kirsch [7:35 p.m.]: Yup! One of my buddies went there the other night. Said it was crazy!

Laura [7:35 p.m.]: Okay, I’m in!

LaF [7:36 p.m.]: It’s like a dream come true…

Laura [7:37 p.m.]: I’m not talking to you tonight.

 


 

“Let’s party bitches!” LaF walks in your apartment, kicking the door open only for the show, because you know they have the key to your place. Why did it ever occur to you to give it to them? You’re still wondering to this day. Choosing to live in the same building maaaybe wasn’t the best idea. Their little show makes you jump off the couch where you were putting your shoes on.

“What the fuck?!”

“Language sweetie.” The redhead retorts, in their best Perry impression, with a giant grin on their face. “I brought some party flavors!” You see them holding up a bag half-full of pills. You squint at the bag.

“Are those… drugs?”

They seem confuse and look at it. “What? No! Of course not. These,” they say pointing at the bag, “are completely inoffensive. I might have done some experiments in the labs.” You gasp. “But don’t worry! I tested it. I mean, not me, I haven’t tried the pills yet but the subjects were positively responsive! Let me break it down for you.” They take a seat next to you on the couch and put on their most serious face. “Look, we all work hard. Life’s a bitch and we’re all exhausted. But does it really have to be this way? We’re all so tired all the time that we have to make appointments to hang out, and when we do we only last a few hours before becoming basically walking zombies. I say no! Enough of that. I’m bringing you today…” They stand up and hold up the bag right in your face. “Laf 3000! The only pill keeping you awake for 48 hours straight! And no side-effect. I’m not sure about the name though, it might need some more thinking.” They mutter at the end of what sounded like a business speech.

“I… don’t know what to say. Does Perry know you have this?”

“Stop acting like she’s my mother!” They pause. “But please don’t tell her.”

You smile at them and try to sound as encouraging as you can. “I love the concept. Really. A pill that enables you to see your friends more often? I think that’s actually cute.”

“It’s not only for--”

“But honestly? That can’t be good. I know you said no side-effects, but I’m not taking this. And neither should you. And also, I love to sleep. I’m not taking a pill that will keep me away from my bed for 48 hours!”

“But Lauuraaa!” LaF whines and looks at you intensely, hoping you will cave. “Fine, suit yourself. I made it, I’m trying it.” Without warning and in one quick motion, they unzip the bag and throw one pill in their mouth.

“There, done!” They blink several times and seem to be unsteady on their legs for one second. “Whoo! That was a kick. Let’s go frosh! What are we waiting for?!”

 


 

Approximatively thirty minutes and one very awkward Uber ride later, you both arrive at the bar. The front reads “Silas” and it seems to be very packed, judging by the number of people standing on the sidewalk. You make your way through the crowd, with a very exasperating redhead at your side.

“Look at all these people! Do you think we’ll be able to get in? Where are the others? Oh I think I see Danny! No, wait… Nevermind it was a lamppost.” You hold in a snort at that comment; drugged LaF is annoying but hilarious. “You know, when I was little I used to crawl my way through crowds like these. My mom would run after me screaming ‘Susaaaan!’, and I would go farther just to annoy her. Man… good times. Why am I telling this again?” You purse your lips and look at them in an understanding way. “Oh, right. Perry is going to kill me isn’t she?”

“Yup!” You jump a little to see past the crowd. “Oh, I think I see Kirsch!” You scream after him, and unbelievingly enough, even with all the noise, he still manages to hear you and you see him turning around to scream and wave in your direction.

“Yo little nerd and mad scientist! Come here! We were just about to get in.” You see his big grin when you finally arrive next to him and the rest of the gang, meaning Perry and Danny.

“Took you long enough.” Danny says, eyeing LaF suspiciously.

“Yeah,” you say, fixing your gaze on the redhead who is currently looking around them in a daze. “We got… sidetracked.”

Kirsch nods and turns his back to you to talk to the bouncer. “We’re ready to come in!” The bouncer gives a quick nod and lets you in.

When you enter what seems more like a club than a bar, you can’t help but being impressed by the size of the place. It appears like there’s more than one room, judging by the disposition and the set of stairs you see next to the bar, situated in the middle of the room. There are tables on your right, and a dancefloor in the back. Just like you expected, the place is crowded.

“Wow! This is… I don’t have any words to express how glad I am to be here. I think I’m about to cry.” LaF says, standing in the middle, gaping at everything they see.

Perry puts a hand on their shoulder and whispers to them worryingly. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing! Everything is perfect, I love this place! Let’s dance!”

“No, wait,” you say, “we need to find us a table first. And get some drinks. I could really use a drink right now.”

“Word!” Kirsch interjects excitedly. “I’m gonna get us drinks, go find us a table while I’m at it. Beer?” Everyone nods. “Then beer it is!” He then saunters toward the bar and you see him disappear in the crowd.

 


 

“So, Hollis, how have you been?” Danny asks you when you’re finally sitting at a table.

You’ve always had a thing for her. You flirted a bit when you met in college, but that hasn’t really gone any further than that. You were too shy to make the first move, and she confessed to you later on that she was too insecure to ask you out. Like, really? You would have said yes! But maybe you shouldn’t be talking since you were too much of a coward yourself to do anything about it. Now you are friends, and you think it’s better this way. But you can’t help wondering what would have happened if you had made a move. Would you still be together today? Would you still be friends?

“Good! I’m actually in the middle of writing a story on this corruption thing. You know, the one involving the illegal funding of--”

“Laura, I’m not asking about your job. I’m asking about you. How have YOU been? You know, we worry.”

“Worry? Why would you worry? I’m perfectly fine, thank you very much.” You tell her, a little bit annoyed by her ever present overprotective attitude. “I know you all feel like you don’t see me anymore, but can’t you just give me a break? I have a job that I love, and I’m sorry if it gets in your plans of partying, but there’s not much I can do about it.”

"Come on, you know I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just saying, it hasn’t always been like that, and you know it. You used to have the right balance between your friends, your work, and your love life, but since--”

“Oh no don’t say it.” You cut her off, because you really don’t want to talk about this. But she does not seem fazed by your interruption.

“… Your last relationship,” she continues, “--and I’m not even saying her name by the way-- you drowned yourself in work. And now, all we hear is ‘I’m too tired’, ‘I have too much work’, I swear you even told me once that your dog was sick and that you had to take care of him. When you don’t even own one!”

"That was… in a bad moment.” You mumble sheepishly. You have been neglecting your friends lately, you are perfectly aware of that but you just don’t like being reminded of your mistakes. She’s right, you have to tell her. “You’re wrong.” …Stupid contradictory brain. “No, I mean yes, I know. It’s just hard, you know? And maybe now is not the time and place to talk about it. So what do you say? We drink till we can’t stand?” You punch her lightly on the shoulder, smiling up at her.

“Oh it’s on Hollis!” She gives you that beautiful grin you used to be so crazy about. “Speaking of which, have you seen Kirsch?” She looks around for a moment. “Shouldn’t he be back with our drinks already?”

 

“Oh Kirsch is not our problem here.” A wild Perry appears at your side. “Laura, what is wrong with them?” She points at something and your gaze follows the direction and ends up on… Yup. A crazy LaFontaine dancing like a maniac and… Are they dabbing? Oh no. You have to put an end to this. “They fell at least twice in the past five minutes and they keep yelling ‘It’s the night of our lives! Keep dancing till your limbs fall off!’ And I don’t know about you, but I think we are a little bit past the ‘crazy lab scientist’ behavior they usually sport. So, do you have anything to say about that?” She looks at you and you squirm under her gaze.

“Hum… They might have taken some pills…” The curly redhead gasps. “But I told them not to! And they only took one. They said it was inoffensive and didn’t have any side-effect. And why do I feel like I’m being scolded by my father?”

“LAURA EILEEN--”

“Okay, that’s why.”

“Did they ask you not to tell me?”

“…Maybe? I’m sorry Perr! I swear I tried to talk them out of it, but they were just too stubborn and too fast. I’m sorry.”

“Well,” she begins, sitting down on the available spot next to you, “I guess you are not the one to blame here. They are just so reckless!”

"I know,” you say, “it’s unnerving. But hey, it only lasts forty-eight hours, right?”

“FORTY-EIGHT--” Perry pushes herself off the table with both hands flat on the surface.

“So I guess I forgot to tell you that part, uh?... I’m gonna see what Kirsch is up to, yeah?” When you hear no response, you look up to see Perry’s gaze burning a hole into your skull. “Oookay.” You run out of there as fast as you can.

 


 

“Kirsch, finally! What is taking you so long?” You sigh when you finally make your way through the maze of people to find your friend leaning on the counter.

“Apparently, I’m not tall enough. They don’t seem to notice me. Hey dude,” He waves at the bartender, “I’m right here! Been here for a while.” He then turns to you. “Maybe you should try. He only seems to notice girls.”

“Well, I guess if it’s the only way… Okay, I’ll handle this. Oh, Kirsch?” You call out before he leaves. “Don’t go anywhere near the table yet, Perry… She is in a mood. Maybe you should check on LaF who’s going crazy on the dancefloor.”

“Sure, will do! See you later little hottie!”

 

You are now alone at the bar, leaning on the counter waiting for the bartender to notice you. You are certainly not going to use your… feminine assets to get him to see you. You don’t want to lower your self-esteem for a drink. While you’re waiting, you let your gaze wander around, to this couple dancing, to this guy flirting with this blonde, to this… girl on top of the stairs who just got in the club.

 

A dark-haired girl with loose curls falling on her shoulders. She is wearing biker boots combined with black tight jeans with holes showing her knees, a black top slightly cropped, and a black leather jacket. Your breath hitches just looking at her figure, but it doesn’t even compare to the feeling you get when she finishes descending the stairs and raises her head. Your throat is starting to get really dry and you could really use that drink right about now. You think she is the most beautiful woman you have ever seen, and by far. Now that she is close enough, you can study the masterpiece that is her sharp jawline, and how her perfectly shaped eyebrows arch when she raises one while she looks at her surroundings. Her black eyes and red lips stand out on her porcelain skin, and you can see a faint smirk forming on them as she realizes she is being watched. And not only by you, you realize when you finally stop staring. Time seems to have stopped when she entered the room, and you feel like everybody has just watched Cinderella arriving at the ball. Even though, well, she looks nothing like Cinderella. Or maybe like the decadent version of the princess.

Your eyes find her face again, and you see she’s making her way toward you. Well, toward the bar. You quickly avert your gaze; you don’t want to look like a creep. You are really hoping she’s gonna talk to you, even though you don’t know how you would react if she did. Probably ramble to death and scare her away. You feel her getting close and you hold your breath. You even find yourself closing your eyes as you wait... And you wait. Nothing. You open your eyes again and look behind you. Yup, surely enough, she walked right past you without even a glance in your direction. Who were you kidding? Of course this sexy goddess wouldn’t be interested in you. You don’t find yourself unattractive, in fact, you were quite a catch when you were younger and a little bit more fun. But this, this is another level. Or maybe she’s not gay? You used to make good guesses, but maybe you’re a little rusty now.

 

“Excuse me? Miss?” A voice startles you and pulls you out of your thoughts. The bartender is talking to you, and if you refer to his tone, it hasn’t been his first try. “Do you want anything?”

“Yes, sorry! Five Stellas please.”

 


 

You find yourself sitting at the table again, half-listening to Danny and Kirsch banter about… sports? Yeah, you can stop pretending, you’re not listening at all. You didn’t think this night would turn out this way. You thought you would laugh and dance with your friends, but instead you find yourself thinking about that mysterious stranger you saw earlier. Seriously, what is wrong with you? You see an attractive girl and suddenly she’s all you can think about? Get yourself together Hollis! Maybe celibacy isn’t your thing; you should have listened to LaF’s advice and give in to one-night stands. That would have solved your neediness. But now, you really need to see her again. Just one look. Couldn’t hurt, right?

“I’m getting another beer. Who wants one?” You ask while standing up.

“Read my mind Hollis!”

“Let’s get wasted!” The two giants respond at the same time. Cute.

You look around a bit, searching for Perry and LaF because you haven’t seen them in a while. You think Perry might be scolding the other redhead somewhere. Ah, those two. You’ll never understand how their dynamic works; they are so different and yet inseparable. Is this what true friendship is about? Two very different people completing each other? Probably.

 

You’re at the bar again, waiting, again. But this time, you’re on a mission. Leaning on the counter, you check your surroundings as discreetly as you can, looking for a certain someone. Unfortunately, you can’t seem to find her, and you can’t stop the wave of disappointment that’s building in your chest. You huff internally and take the beers the bartender just handed you, before turning around to go back to the table.

 

*CLASH*

“Motherfucker!”

 

Everything happens in a second. One moment you’re holding your beers, the next you see them shattered on the floor. The proximity of a body tells you that you might have ran into somebody -- and that you spilled your beers all over them, of course. Aah, remembrance of your waitress days… good old times. The violent reaction of your new friend shows you they are a little bit unhappy about the situation. You look up at them, ready to spill a thousand apologies, but instead, you find yourself speechless. In the millions of people present in the club, why did you have to run into the sexiest girl in the universe herself? Of course you would humiliate yourself on your first encounter, did you really think things could happen any other way? You’ve been quiet for a while now, and she’s still looking at you expectantly, waiting for you to say something. Come on, say something, anything! That can’t be worse than your staring. Oh god, you’re staring. And gaping. And still not saying anything. This is the longest that anyone has not talked, ever! Talk, damn it!

“I, uh… Haven’t met anyone new in a long time.”

What?

“What?” Yeah, you really shouldn’t have said anything. “Okay, I’m going to assume you’re an idiot and that you meant that as an apology.” She says rudely and you can’t believe your ears. “Is it too difficult for you to hold your drinks and walk at the same time?”

“Wh- Hey! What gives you the right to talk to me like that? I’m sorry I spilled my drinks on you and I’m sorry I upset you, but you have no right to insult me!” You hear a snort and realize then there’s a blonde girl standing next to the other woman. And she just snorted at you.

“Oh I’m sorry, do you think this is funny?” You direct at the blonde.

“I like her,” Paris Hilton’s doppelganger says to the brunette while sipping at her drink, her wicked smile closing around the straw, “she’s like a little fighter, with tiny fists. She’s cute. I want to take her home and put her in my sister’s doll house.”

The brunette lets out a laugh at the comment. But you, oh you are really trying to stay calm and not hit them right in the face or say something that would add fuel to the fire.

“Since I want to keep enjoying my night, I won’t address your comment and pretend it was just white noise… Just like what you seem to have going on in your brain.” At least you tried.

The dark-haired girl bursts into laughter while struggling to keep the blonde – who has instantly lost her smile-- from getting to you. After a few seconds, the blonde seems to calm down and the brunette lets go of her. You hear the former huff a “whatever” before turning her back to you.

“Well this was an interesting apology,” the brunette says to you.

“Excuse me? Your little Barbie here makes fun of me and you expect me to apologize? Wow, you are even more of an asshole than I originally thought!” Yeah, you lost your temper at this point.

“Who’s insulting who now?” She smirks. She honest-to-god smirks, like really?! “You should just be appreciative that I’m not making you pay for the outfit you ruined.”

“Appre-- You know what? I’m gonna go see my friends now. You’re rude, and impolite, and I don’t need to be talking to you any more than I already have.” You start to leave. “Sorry about your outfit,” you mutter when you walk past her.

 

 

You’re still fuming when you get back to your friends. At least now you won’t be distracted by the dark beauty anymore. You don’t even see her beauty now; it is clouded by her rudeness. A mask entirely made of rudeness is covering her face. Okay, that doesn’t make any sense, but you’re angry and you cannot think clearly. And you can’t even drink yourself to numbness because well, it’s pretty obvious why.

“Wow, what happened to you?!” Kirsch practically yells at you.

“What do you mean?”

"Well, you look pretty angry and… Your hands are bleeding, dude.” He says, pointing at your hands to prove his point.

“What?” You look at your hands. Oh. You must have somehow cut yourself when you broke those bottles, the adrenaline rush covering the pain. “Oh. It’s nothing, don’t worry. I’m just gonna go to the bathroom to clean that up. I’ll be right back.”

 

 

You make your way to said bathroom. You open the door and—oh no. Not her again. You walk in and see the dark-haired girl trying to clean her outfit by the sink. You don’t say a word and go to the farthest sink, hoping she will be too busy to notice you. Fortunately, she doesn’t seem to. So you start washing your hands, wincing a little at the burning sensation.

“You didn’t give me the time to tell you you were bleeding.” Her voice startles you. You turn your head to look at the brunette, but she is still focused on what she is doing. You start wondering if you hallucinated her voice.

“I’m sorry, what?”

She turns off the tap and turns to you. “Your hands,” she says, nodding in your direction, “you ran so fast that I didn’t get to tell you you had cuts on them.”

“Well maybe,” you turn off the water, feeling your anger coming back, “if you hadn’t been so rude to me, I wouldn’t have felt the need to run.”

She snorts, “you are unbelievable. You’re the one who crashes into me and doesn’t apologize, and I’m rude? You must be joking.”

“You insulted me!” You huff unbelievingly. “And I did apologize.” You take a step closer to her.

“When? In your head when you stood like a dummy for five minutes without saying anything?” She takes a step closer too. “And right, I’m the one who called you an asshole.” You are both getting closer to one another.

“You called me an idiot!” Closer.

“Because you acted like an idiot.”

“Will you stop insulting me? I don’t even know you!” You’re practically toe to toe at this point.

“Oh no, this is far too amusing.” She says, her voice full of sarcasm.

“You are SO infuriating!”

You are so close to her now that you can feel the ghost of her breath on you. The tension between you is almost palpable. Her chest is rising and falling fast, indicating that she is breathing, hard. You are yourself so angry and frustrated by her attitude, that your heartbeat is going crazy. There’s a pause and the tension between you shifts. You feel her huff more than you hear it and you can’t keep your eyes from wandering from her dilated pupils to her slightly parted lips. You see her eyes doing the same. You stay like that for what feels like hours, and you think you’re about to do something very stupid when-- 

 

*BANG*

“WHERE IS SHE?!”

 

The door bursts open making you both jump back from where you were standing, as you see a panicked LaFontaine running to you. They crash into you to give you a bone-crushing hug.

“LAURA! You’re here! They said you were hurt, so I went looking for you, but then I couldn’t find you, and Perry suggested you’d be in the bathroom and here you are! I’m so glad you’re alive!” They muffle in your shoulder before leaning back while keeping both hands on your upper arms. “How are you? What happened? Who is that?” They ask nodding toward the other girl. “Can she hear us?” They whisper and you let out a short laugh.

“Yes, she can hear us, and we… just met.” Your face could not get any redder. “Don’t worry about me though, I’m not hurt or anything, see?” You say and show them your hands. “Just some little cuts here and there, so nothing to worry about.” They let out a sigh of relief and bow their head. “But how are you LaF? You were talking about Perry, isn’t she with you?”

 

*BANG*

The door.

“LAFONTAINE!”

 

“Oh no, not again.” You hear and turn to the dark-haired girl in time to see her rolling her eyes.

“Perry,” you say, “I was just asking LaF about you. What’s going on?”

“What’s—What’s going on? Are you being serious right now, Laura?” Oh she’s mad. “THEY,” she yells pointing at LaF, “are driving me crazy. They can’t stand still for two minutes, they keep asking questions, and they keep disappearing when I turn my head for one second. It’s like I’m baby-sitting a toddler hooked on cocaine, it’s too much, I can’t!” She walks toward a sink and leans her back to it before saying in a more calming voice: “I am so tired. I didn’t even want to go out in the first place, but since you were coming I thought ‘I don’t see her often, maybe I can make the effort just this time’. Instead, I end up running around all night. And I know it’s not your fault, but I didn’t see you trying to calm them down.”

“I’m sorry… I know I should’ve helped, I was just… preoccupied tonight and ended up being selfish, I’m really sorry about that Perr.” The curly red-haired girl nods and turns to the stranger who has been silent for a while.

“Hi, you look familiar, have I seen you somewhere?”

“I think I’d remember that.” Mystery girl retorts and starts moving. “Now, as touching as this little family reunion has been, I have some place to be. Carrot tops,” she bows her head in a salutation movement before turning to you, “and you…” she snarls, “if we ever meet again, try not to insult me and watch where you’re going.”

 

You open your mouth to respond but she is already out the door. You grit your teeth.

 

“Bitch.”