There was a loud, rapid knock on the door. Laverne sighed loudly and didn't even look up from the crust she was cutting off her sandwich.
“Come in!” she yelled.
“Oh, hey, Laverne.” Lenny said shyly, as though he were surprised to see her. “Shirl’s not home?” he asked, looking around.
“How'd you know?” Laverne asked, licking peanut butter off her thumb.
“Door was unlocked.” he said, shuffling in.
Laverne sat down at the table. “Whaddya want, Len? Come by to borrow more stuff you don't need?”
“Well, I was gonna ask for a cup of sugar and a light bulb, but you seemed so bothered about the eggs yesterday,” he said, looking nervously at his shoes. “Thought I'd skip askin’ today.”
“Well, shut the door and come on in, then.” Laverne said, sitting down and pouring Pepsi in her glass of milk.
Lenny sat next to her at the table and sighed, slumping forward.
“You look miserable…” Laverne said, slightly muffled by her sandwich. “You want a Scooter Pie or something?” she said, trying to comfort him in the only way that sprang to mind.
“Nah…” Lenny said, despondently.
“I think we got some fudgsicles.”
Lenny straightened up a bit in his seat. “Yeah, that'd be great, Vernie! I love fudgicles.”
“I know you do, Len.” Laverne said, patting him on the shoulder on her way to the freezer.
“So why have you been bummin’ around down here after work, Lenny?”
Lenny shrugged and unwrapped his fudgicle. “Just been a little tense up stairs, that's all.”
“You guys been fightin’ for a whole week?” Laverne asked in disbelief as she took her seat.
Lenny shrugged again. “Ah, you know how it is. I mean you live with anybody, you're gonna fight with ‘em a bit. Only I don't really…” he paused and licked his fudgeicle “I only ever lived with girls, so I only know how girls fight.” he said, laughing. “I mean I guess I lived with my brother-in-law for a while, but I never really talked to him, it was mostly just me and Mary.”
“You really never lived with any other guys before?”
“Well, I had a brother, but I didn't really get along with him neither.”
“What do ya mean, ‘had’ a brother? Either you do or you don't.” Laverne said, nibbling on her sandwich.
Lenny licked melting fudge off his fingers. “Well, he's dead, Laverne.” he said, as if it were the most boring thing in the world. Laverne was horrified at her mistake.
“Oh, Lenny,” she said sadly, putting her hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it, he was a real slimeball. Never liked him.” he said, still
enamored with his ice cream.
“Well, how come I never knew you had a brother, Len?”
“Ah, he was a lot older than me and Mary, he didn't live with us no more when we moved in next to you.”
Laverne played with her napkin. Usually, she could squash her curiosity for the sake of being polite, but since Lenny didn't seem too bothered about it, she let herself ask a question Shirley would have gasped to hear.
“How'd he die?”
“Motorcycle accident. That's why you'll never catch me on a motorcycle, Laverne. Cars, trucks, I'll get in anything else, but I won't drive a motorcycle. Heck, I'll even get in a sidecar.”
Laverne laughed. “Lenny, I don't think you could fit in a sidecar.”
“I did once, Laverne! I mean my knees were up to my chest, but I had to cos Squiggy-” Lenny trailed off and looked down. Laverne sighed.
“Lenny, what's goin on with you and Squiggy? You seem real upset, and it's not like you two to fight. Well, not like this , anyway…”
Lenny finished his ice cream and played with the stick, twirling it around in his fingers.
“Well it's kinda hard to explain, Laverne, I mean- I don't know…” he snapped the stick and stared at it in his hands.
“Hey, I helped you out last time you were fightin’, maybe I can help again.”
“Okay. Okay, Laverne. Okay.” Lenny squirmed in his seat, adjusting his jacket nervously. He sighed. “No, I dunno Laverne.” He said, shaking his head.
“Come on, it can't be that embarrassing… Len, I've known you a long time, I've seen you do some pretty embarrassing stuff.”
“Okay, Laverne, I guess…” he huffed and laid his head down on the table.
“So, me and Squiggy have this… We've got sort of um… An arrangement.” He said, voice slightly muffled.
“What, like a business thing?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Alright, and?” Laverne asked, reaching for her drink. She was getting a bit irritated at Lenny’s hesitation.
“Well, we have this kind of arrangement, and Squiggy found out that I used to have a sorta similar arrangement with Carmine.” Lenny shot up and looked at Laverne very seriously. “Only you gotta know, Laverne, it was before me and Squiggy had an arrangement!” he ran his hand over his hair anxiously. “I mean I didn't even know Squiggy would even have an arrangement with me then and-and, I mean it wasn't even the same, it wasn't nearly serious or nothin’-”
Laverne put up her hand to stop him. “Lenny, slow down. What on earth are you talkin’ about?”
Lenny made a pained face and let out a small squeaky noise. “Laverne…”
“What kind of business arrangement are you talking about, Len?”
Lenny dropped the popsicle stick pieces and let them clatter onto the table. He looked down for a long moment, trying to decide how to proceed. Trying to decide how to choose his words. His mind was drawing blank in panic.
“You’re not talkin’ about business, are ya, Len?”
Lenny shook his head.
“What's going on?”
Lenny chewed on his lip for a moment before replying. “I don't want you to stop being my friend, Laverne…”
“Oh, Lenny.” Laverne said, putting her hand on his shoulder. “No, you don't have to worry about that, Lenny. If I was gonna stop being your friend, that woulda been three kitchen fires ago.” she said with a small laugh.
“You promise you're still gonna be my friend?” Lenny said, meeting her gaze.
“Promise.” Laverne said, heart beating in her ears. The moment felt heavy and still while Lenny mulled over what he was going to say.
“Well, me and Squiggy are… We're a thing, yanno?”
“Yeah like...Steady.” Lenny said, voice shaking a bit.
Laverne’s hand flew to her face. “Like, steady, steady? Going steady?”
“For how long?” Laverne asked loudly, almost shrilly.
“Shh, keep it down, Laverne!” Lenny said, looking around as though someone was going to jump out of a cabinet and grab him.
“Sorry, sorry!” she whispered. “How-h-how long?”
“Eh, about a month before we moved in here.”
“Yeah, Laverne, but you can't tell nobody, not even Shirley. She'll write it in her little diary and Lord knows Ms. Babish reads that thing.”
“Ms. Babish reads Shirley’s diary?”
“Yeah, me and Squiggy have read it too. What, you don't read that thing?”
“No, I've never- wait, Lenny...did you say Carmine earlier? Like Carmine Ragusa ?”
Lenny shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah.”
“You used to go with Carmine?!” Laverne asked, eyes wide as dinner plates.
“Not-not really, I mean we just… We sorta… I dunno, it was a while ago.”
Laverne grounded herself a bit, remembering that she was trying to help Lenny, and that she could digest all this news later. Though it would definitely be hard not to blab to Shirley. But Shirley would probably be more scandalized by the news than she herself was. Especially considering that at least part of it concerned Carmine.
“So why's Squiggy mad about all of this, if it was such a long time ago?”
“Well, I only just told him about it, cos he asked, you know, and he's mad cos he thinks I still have a thing for him… I mean it sort of started cos the other night, I didn't get home ‘til late, and I figured Squiggy would be asleep cos he was sick, but he was awake, and,”
Lenny stopped and hung his head.
“Well, he saw that Carmine had walked me home.”
“Why'd Carmine walk you home?”
“I was a bit drunk and apparently I started walkin’ the wrong way when I left.”
“And how'd Carmine know about that?”
“Cos I was out bowling with him.” Lenny said, sheepishly. “I don't got no feelings like that for Carmine, Laverne, he's just my friend is all, but it was bad timing, I guess.”
Laverne looked down at the table and tried to think. Tried to imagine what she'd do in Squiggy’s place. She figured she'd be pretty upset, too.
“I mean I'd only just told him the day before and I probably should have been at home taking care of him instead of going out bowling, anyway, but-” he picked up one of the pieces of the stick and swirled it around on the table like he was writing something. “I mean, Squiggy and I are both new at this, we've never really gone steady with anyone before, and like I said, it's hard not to fight with someone when you live with them, anyway.” he said, sadly propping his face up on his hand.
Laverne looked up at him. “Well, if it was me, you know what I'd want?”
“I'd want my guy to come bring me some flowers and tell me how he really felt.”
“What am I supposed to say, Laverne?”
“Just tell him what you told me, Lenny. Tell him that Carmine is just your friend, tell him how you feel about him, tell him you'll try harder. You and Squiggy have been friends as long as I've known you, I'm sure he'll forgive you. I can't imagine you two apart.”
Lenny smiled. “Me neither, Laverne.”
Lenny stood and adjusted his jacket. “Well, I guess I need to go get some flowers or somthin’.” he said, scratching his head. “I dunno what kinda flowers Squiggy likes, though, you think a comic book would work?”
“I'm sure it'd work just fine, Lenny.”
“Thanks, Vernie.” he said, kissing her on the forehead. “And thanks for bein’ my friend.”
“Oh, Lenny, of course.”
“I'll see you later!” Lenny said, heading for the door.
“Lenny, one more thing!” Laverne called after him.
“Yeah?” he asked, turning.
Laverne ventured to ask yet another question Shirley would hate.
“Did Carmine ever call you ‘angel face’?”
Lenny blushed a little and grinned goofily at her. “I don't kiss and tell, Laverne.”