A Scary Friend to Have

Posted: July 17, 2014 by writingsprint in Between Lee and Erica
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Part Two of “Between Lee and Erica”

Grass sprouted up through cracks in the walk that led to the porch, and paint cracked and peeled from the door. The lamp posts closest to the house were hazed with dim morning vapor. The porch showed welcome signs of home: a few empty cans of beer sat on the wall and on an old, rusting table. A pack of cigarettes sat next to one of them.

I sat on the porch in sneakers, sweatshirt and an old pair of white shorts. The neighborhood was slowly waking up with the sun. I wore sunglasses so I could watch it rise. I put my feet up on the wall and leaned my head back, taking in the cool, wet breeze on my face. I was looking forward to summer mornings in Pittsburgh again. No matter how stifling the day would get, the air would cool out by dawn.

I got a better look at the living room on my way outside. It was a mess, beer bottles and ashtrays here and there. The floor was covered with a spotty, patched rug. Sprawled on the couch, dead to the world, Lee must have made his way down sometime after I went to sleep. A long-dead Marlboro butt was suspended between his sleeping fingers over an ashtray on the floor. The ashes threatened to drop into the carpet. Not that it bothered me; it was his turn to clean downstairs.

I frowned. Who told me that, Erica or Lee?

The woman of the house walked outside. She always woke up early too, and we had originally met over an early-morning raid of the fraternity house refrigerator. She pawed at rebellious strands of hair that refused to go the way she wanted to. She gave up and dragged over a chair to sit down. Erica was barefoot, tanned legs reaching down past cutoff jeans and the baggy plaid shirt that she slept in.

“Look who’s alive,” I said.

She smiled. “Hi.” She put her bare feet up on the wall next to mine. A bracelet hung around her ankle, just below the little tattoo of a tiger. “You disappeared last night.”

I shook my head. “I didn’t go anywhere. You passed out.”

She rubbed her temples. “Man, do I feel rocky.” She held up her hands for my coffee. I shrugged and gave it to her. “Thanks,” she said. She drank, and her mouth curled down in distaste.

“Don’t drink coffee?” I asked. Erica shook her head. I hadn’t thought so. “Why’d you ask for it?”

“Just something to drink.” She shrugged and smiled mischievously. I shook my head. Erica held the mug in both hands, to warm them up. She looked back inside the house, to where Lee slumbered.

“He’s a wild one,” I said.

“I’m surprised that you guys got along so well.” She held the mug against her cheek. “I thought you’d be ready to move back out after you saw the dummy in the living room.”

I shook my head. I had to admit that the dummy looked even more frightening in the daytime. “Nah. Vince was crazier than that. Remember him?”

She laughed. Vince was my first roommate at the fraternity. He liked to punch trees and used salt to sterilize the cuts it gave him. I looked back at Lee. He showed signs of stirring. “He’s all right. A lot of it’s show.”

“A lot of it’s not.”

“Why did you live here then?” I countered. Erica always used to enjoy a good fight.

“Walt,” she replied. She nodded towards the living room window. “It was all right until he started becoming an jerk. I’m already looking for someplace else to live.”

I remembered seeing the classifieds on the floor of her bedroom on the way to drop off my bags. The one thing not to like about winning a good fight, whoever did, was the silence that came afterwards. I fidgeted. The morning was too good not to enjoy, but I needed something else to say. Erica handed me back my coffee and yawned. “He’s like…the kind of friend who’s good to have…who you’d rather not have. Know what I mean?”

She cut off. Lee walked outside, stretching. I looked up and asked him how he felt. “Fine,” he said. “No creaks.” He almost tried to puff on the butt, which he’d forgotten to drop, then flicked it into a bucket of sand. He looked around, then found the unfinished pack on the table. “Y’got a light? That’s right, you don’t smoke. I’ll find one.” He looked at Erica. She made a tired, sighing sound and dropped lower in her chair. I looked away.

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