Emily, it’s been months since New York. Come out tonight. It’ll be fun. That’s what Emily’s friend, Penny, told her a few days ago. Emily had been living in New York City for four years with her boyfriend—now ex. The relationship wasn’t healthy, but Emily was desperate to make it work. Her parents’ marriage didn’t work out, so she wanted to make this work, even if it seemed impossible. She wanted to prove people wrong that she could do it, but after a black eye, twisted ankle and couple of broken fingers and emotional bruising, enough was enough.
Emily decided after that it was time to leave. She packed a backpack and small suitcase of some of her things and bought a plane ticket home to Colorado. She had stolen the money from her ex-boyfriend’s hidden stash and left while he was away at work. Now he never stopped calling it seemed like, even when she tried to block his number he always found a way to contact her.
Tonight, though, Emily was taking her friend’s advice and getting out of her low income based apartment. She had been keeping herself cooped up in her apartment with little contact besides a few people. As she stepped out of the shower and dried her body off with one towel and then her hair with a second towel, she wiped the foggy mirror down with her hand and looked at her eye. It was no longer black and purple, but she still felt the need to check.
Penny’s voice echoed in her head: I have a friend I want you to meet. Her name is Relena. She recently got married and I think it would be good for you to get out and make new friends. Make new friends, Emily thought. I have all the friends I need; which was about two people. Emily left behind all her “friends” in New York. Okay, she thought, how bad can tonight be?
Duo’s phone started ringing, waking him with a jolt. He fumbled around for a bit, trying to free himself from the bed sheets. Finally, he reached out his arm to grab his phone only to knock it off the dresser. He grumbled and slid his body half way off the bed and answered his phone. “Hello?” he said in a groggy voice.
“Oh good, you answered,” said the female voice.
“Did you just wake, Duo? It’s noon.” Relena said. When Duo didn’t say anything Relena continued on. “I wanted to know if you were still living in that camper on the outskirts of town.”
“Yeah, why what’s up?” he asked.
“Heero and I are meeting up with an old friend of mine tonight at that one Irish pub down town. You should come with.”
Duo was a bit surprised. “You want me to come with?”
“Oh come on. It’ll be fun. Besides, when was the last time you got out?”
Duo laughed at this. “I get out all the time.”
Relena clicked her tongue at him. “Duo…Hey, I know Heero might not say anything, but I can tell he worries about you. Come one, it’ll be fun.” She tried to sound chipper.
Duo thought about it for a few seconds and then said, “Sure, why not?”
“Great,” said Relena. “Meet us at the pub at seven then.”
Duo put his phone down and rubbed his tired face. He sat up slowly and swung his legs over the side of his bed and yawned. He had been living in his camper for almost two years, traveling around the U.S. and living off of his pension from the Military while doing road work on the side.
He sighed, standing up and getting ready for the day. He dragged his feet to his small shower and washed the sleep from his face. Heero’s worried about me? Duo thought. He laughed a bit to himself. Yeah right, Relena’s just being nice. Still, maybe she was right; maybe getting out and having real social interaction would be good for him.
Duo knew the real reason why Relena had asked him to join them tonight: Hilde had been gone for two years. It was a subject he didn’t like to talk about and he wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to talk about it.
Once he finished his shower he walked back to his room and opened his closet to get dressed. Underneath his hanging clothes sat a box sitting in the far back filled with some of Hilde’s belongings. He didn’t know why he kept those things around, it just brought him pain, but he couldn’t bring himself to toss them out either. “Let’s get today over with…” He mumbled.
It was five minutes before seven; Duo made it just in time as he pulled into a parking spot when he saw Relena, Heero and someone else walking with them. “Hey, guys!” Duo got out of his truck and pressed the lock button twice, just to make sure it really did lock.
“Oh Duo, I’m so glad you could make it.” Relena said.
Heero nodded to him.
“How’s the happy couple?” Duo asked, smirking at them. He then noticed the giant rock on Relena’s finger. “Wow! Look at that!” He lifted Relena’s hand to get a better look.
“I wish you could have made it to the wedding.” Heero finally said.
Duo was going to say something but Relena beat him to it. “Duo, I want you to meet my friend, Penny. Penny, this is Duo.”
Duo smiled at her and shook her hand. “Nice to meetcha, Penny.”
Penny blushed. “It’s nice to meet you, too.”
Heero put his arm around Relena and started pulling her along. “It’s cold out here, let’s head inside.”
As they were heading inside Penny said, “I invited a friend, Relena. I hope you don’t mind.”
Relena smiled. “Oh, not at all.”
Penny beamed, relieved. “Good. Her name is Emily. We’ve known each other since we were kids. She recently moved back here from New York and hasn’t been out much.”
Relena glanced back at Duo for a second and then walked through the door Heero held open for her. “Sounds like somebody I know.” Of course she meant it in a playful way, but Duo knew it was strictly directed towards him.
Dinner went on as planned, but Emily hadn’t shown up yet…that was fifteen minutes ago. Finally, in the middle of a conversation Penny stopped half way through a sentence and glanced up and over her friends’ shoulders. “Emily!” She said waving her down.
It was at that moment Duo looked over and saw an overly dressed girl making her way over to the table. It was chilly out, but Duo didn’t think it was that cold.
When she reached the table, taking a seat on the opposite side of Duo and joining Penny, she took off her brown jacket but kept her black sweater on over what appeared to be a white blouse. Duo looked her up and down, liking her black simple skirt that stopped half way down her thighs. With that she had on black tights and wore low heel black boots. Her hair was a dark brown and her eyes the color of amber. The length of it was to about her shoulders, curling at the ends.
“Sorry I’m late.” Said the girl.
Penny didn’t seem bothered, though, she was just glad her friend showed up. “It’s okay.” She then turned to Relena, Heero and Duo. “Everyone, meet Emily. Emily, meet Relena, Heero and Duo.”
Emily smiled shyly at them. “Hi,”
Penny handed her friend a menu. “We’ve already ordered but take all the time you want. There’s a lot to choose from.”
Some drinks were set down for them and that’s when Relena took a sip of her ice water with lemon and said, “Penny tells me you’ve recently moved back from New York.”
Emily nodded to this as she looked up from her menu and closed it, already deciding on what to eat. “Yeah, I did.”
Relena took another sip. “What made you move back?”
There was a small pause before Emily finally answered. “Boyfriend issues.” She answered honestly. “Well…ex-boyfriend now.”
Heero could sense that she didn’t want to talk about it and changed the subject. “I wonder when our food will get here.”
“Don’t be so impatient, Heero,” Said Relena. “We ordered our food less than ten minutes ago.”
Just then someone came by to take Emily’s order.
“I’ll have the double burger with bacon that comes with the fries. Oh, and I’ll just have water for the drink.”
“Hungry?” asked Duo.
Emily looked at him and said, “I’m starving,”
“You’ve always had a big appetite,” said Penny. “How do you stay so skinny?”
“Give it time,” said Emily. “I’ll blow up eventually.” She joked.
Duo and Penny laughed at this while Heero smirked; Relena didn’t get the joke but she smiled anyway.
The evening went on smoothly and everyone enjoyed their meals and the conversations that followed, but then it came time to leave before it got too late. They stood just outside the pub and exchanged goodbyes.
“Tonight was really nice.” Said Relena. “Thanks for the invite, Penny.”
“Of course,” said Penny. “We should do it again. Let’s say…next weekend, my place. Same time as tonight?”
Relena looked to Heero. “I think Heero and I could stay another week. What do you say, dear?”
Heero nodded. “I don’t mind being near the mountains a bit longer. Sure.”
Relena then looked to Duo. “How about it, Duo? Will you join us next weekend again?”
Duo knew he’d never hear the end of it if he didn’t, so he agreed to it. “Yeah, sure,”
Penny looked at Emily now. “And you, Emily? Will you come, too?”
Emily nodded and gave her friend a small smile. “Sure, okay; as long as I don’t have to cook anything.” She half joked.
It was decided then: everyone would meet up at Penny’s house next weekend. But in the back of Emily’s mind she wasn’t so sure she was up for another social meet up. Most days she just wanted to lounge around her apartment after getting home from work. Making coffee for a living wasn't exactly the best job in the world, but it got her by, plus she was happier now that she was away from her ex…and safer.
After getting into her car she turned the radio on low volume and blasted the heat, thinking about how tonight went. Relena was really sweet, Heero didn’t talk much and Duo seemed like a really funny guy. Emily had been friends with Penny since forever and never had she heard of Relena, Heero or Duo. She wasn’t even expecting to meet Duo, so that threw her off a bit, but he seemed nice and not totally overbearing like some of the other men in town. Tomorrow was another day though, and it started for her at four in the morning. Waking up early nearly every day to help open up the coffee shop was really starting to annoy her, but she knew she had to stick with it until she found something better.
As for Duo, he sat in his truck with it running while everyone else had gone and stared at his phone. There was one saved voicemail in his box and he opened it, listening to it. His hands shook some as he brought the phone up to his ear and the voicemail started:
Hey, Duo, it’s your Hilde! Just calling to let you know I am on my way home. I’m sorry about our argument. It was stupid. Let me make it up to you tonight. I have something really special planned for you. Oh, and Duo…try not to burn the house down while I’m gone (she laughed and Duo smiled sadly at this). And Duo…I lov—
The message ended there and Duo continued to sit there in silence. He looked down at his phone and the option to delete the voicemail appeared. His finger hovered above it, but he couldn’t bring himself to delete it and closed out of everything and shut his phone off. He put his seat belt on and drove out of the parking lot and started his lonely way back to his camper.