A Week in the Lives
On Saturdays the Hatch Gallery opens at noon. Jason likes to show up early to turn on the lights and check the voicemail and generally make sure the place is ready to be seen. Sasha, the receptionist, comes in on time, and she's usually so reliable that Jason is surprised to get a voicemail from her saying that her car broke down ten minutes after she left her house, and she doesn't know when she'll be in, if at all.
"I'm so sorry," the message goes on. "I don't know what's wrong with it. A tow truck's coming. I'll call later."
Don't you have my cell number? Jason thinks at the office phone as he deletes the message. Why didn't you call me at 11:30? By now he would have called someone to take her place, and he'd have more time to get his own work done in the back office. He has a busy couple of weeks coming up and he doesn't want to start today by having to find a replacement receptionist.
Tonight, he's meeting Jennie for dinner with drinks afterwards, and then he's going non-stop until Friday, which will end at Micah's house with Micah making him dinner (or, more accurately, with Micah serving him dinner, as the chances of Abe doing the actual cooking are pretty high). They'll sit on the couch and watch a movie or two, and if anyone tries to disturb them, Jason will sic the dogs on them. The dogs like him. The dogs will do what he asks, especially if there's food involved.
Dogs are easy. Jason only wishes people were too.
Well, right now what he really wishes is that Sasha's car hadn't broken down before she got to work. He wishes he could just tell her to take a cab. He wishes he had another coffee and minions to make his phone calls and do all his correspondence and sit in front and watch the gallery. He thinks. He's supposed to be meeting Jennie for dinner tonight anyway, and he knows she owns appropriate clothes. And her car won't die on the freeway. He calls her.
She tells him she has her own work to do and she can't do it sitting in front of the Hatch Gallery and why didn't Sasha call him instead of the gallery? And no, she can't be his receptionist for the day, but she'll buy him a drink later, and right now she has stuff to do, so goodbye.
Fine, Jason thinks. Plan B.
Plan B is his friend Winter, who also owns appropriate clothes, and who says she'll be Sasha for the day if he'll pay her and take her out for dinner someday. It takes her forty minutes to get there, at which point Jason kisses her on the cheek in thanks and goes out for coffee. He still has too much to do, but at least he doesn't have to worry about Sasha's job.
Jennie loves Sundays, and has for as long as she can remember. Sundays are her day off. She has a leisurely breakfast, reads the paper, walks her roommate's dog, teases her roommate's boyfriend if he spent the night. She talks to her friends on the phone, she goes grocery shopping. Sometimes she drops by Hannah Says, the little boutique store she co-owns with a friend, to see how everything is going.
Today she just wants to say hi to the girls on shift and then find someplace to sit outside and read the trashy romance novel her roommate loaned her, so they can mock it together.
"We decorated the tree and it was just so disappointing," one of the salesgirls is telling a customer when Jennie walks in. "That's when I knew it was over."
"That's so sad," the customer says. She makes a sympathetic face.
"Hi girls," Jennie says, pretending that she's not butting into the conversation. "How's things?"
"Not too bad," the salesgirl says. She's new and for a minute Jennie can't remember her name. Mary, Maura, Marci, what?
"My friend just broke up with her boyfriend," the customer confides. "I want to get her something girly and silly."
"A tub of ice cream always works for me," Jennie tells her. "We have girly and silly, though."
"Oh, Jennie," Mary-Maura-Marci says, "some guy came by and left an envelope for you. He was cute." She leaves Jennie and the customer to retrieve a manila envelope from behind the counter and hand it over.
Oh, that's right. Last night she and Jason had a conversation about some friend of his boyfriend's who makes jewelry. He was wearing a bracelet the girl had made and wondered if it was the kind of thing Hannah Says would sell. Jennie offered to take a look at the rest of the collection, and while she has forgotten that conversation, Jason apparently hasn't.
She opens the envelope, which contains a bunch of photos and the bracelet Jason was wearing. This isn't what she had in mind - she has to see the pieces in person, because she can't tell from a photo how well something is made. But at first glance, the designs are creative and wearable and she thinks they'll sell.
There's a business card paper-clipped to one of the photos with "Lainey Hardin, Pike Goes South Jewelry" and a web site URL for Lainey's Etsy shop printed on it. If nothing else, Jennie can see how much Lainey thinks her jewelry is worth.
She'll call tomorrow. Right now she has an appointment with a café table, a nice lunch, and a cheesy romance novel.
Lainey loves shoe-shopping. This is why she goes with her roommate Irina, who is six feet tall and sometimes needs encouragement finding shoes she likes that fit.
"Am I going to have to resort to drag queen shoes?" Irina asks, as yet another salesgirl has gone to look for high heels in her size. "I make a lousy drag queen."
"Your boobs are very convincing," Lainey offers.
"We have blue in your size," the salesgirl says, reappearing with a shoebox, "but no pink."
"Drag shoes, here I come," Irina sighs. She takes the shoebox, pulls out an open-toe pump, and tries it on.
While Irina's testing the shoes, Lainey's cell phone rings. It's Citgo, former boyfriend and current just-friend, who wants to tell her... well, she's not really sure.
"You know I hate talking to you when you're stoned," she says. "Call me later." She hangs up. "He's fun when he's not baked," she explains to Irina, who has made a circuit of the store and now just looks at her quizzically. "Never mind. Do they fit?"
"They're not pink," Irina says. She toes them off and slips her sandals back on.
"We'll try - " Her phone goes off again. " - Hubba Hubba. Hang on. Hello?"
"Lainey Hardin?" an unfamiliar female voice says. "This is Jennie Nolan. I own the boutique Hannah Says. I've seen some of your jewelry, and I think we can sell it. I'd like to see it in person. Can you come in sometime this week?"
"Oh. Wow. Seriously?" Lainey waves at Irina to sit down, trying to tell her they're not leaving yet. Irina cocks an eyebrow but sits anyway. "How did you find me? Where did you see my stuff?"
"Jason Parks. He said you're a friend of his boyfriend's."
"Micah, yeah. Jason told you about me. Wow."
"What about Wednesday at three?" Jennie suggests. "Bring in some bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Bear in mind this isn't a done deal. Think of it like an interview."
"That's ok, that's fine. Wednesday at three. I've got great stuff to show you. Thank you so much."
"Do you know where we are?"
"Hannah Says. Yeah, I'll find you. Thank you, thank you."
"Don't thank me yet. Thank Jason. I'll see you then. Bye." She hangs up. Lainey closes her phone and stares at Irina, who looks curious.
"I have an appointment on Wednesday to show my jewelry to someone who owns a store and might want to sell it," Lainey says, still stunned. She has an Etsy shop and does an ok business online, but getting her jewelry in a store would be amazing. And Jason mentioned her. She has to thank him.
"That's so cool," Irina says.
"It really is. This definitely calls for new shoes."
Today is one of those days when Citgo is sure the world is coming to an end. (As opposed to the occasional day when he just wishes it would.) The world cannot possibly keep spinning when he feels this terrible. Maybe it's the pizza he had last night. Maybe he's coming down with something. Maybe it's just the end of the world.
Today is one of those days that he really wishes he was still dating Lainey. She'd come over and sit with him and talk to him and make him chicken soup and -
Ok, dude, he tells himself five minutes later, his head hanging over the toilet bowl and the tiles comfortingly cool under his knees, no thinking about food. You can totally think about Lainey, though.
He goes back to bed. He needs to clean his room - there are clothes and flip-flops and bits and pieces of things everywhere. Bicycle chain, pieces of driftwood, a couple of old radios, someone's baseball hat. He needs to buy more rolling papers. He might have to do his laundry.
His phone goes off and he rolls over again to answer it. He gets shit for leaving it places, and he's a little concerned that someday he'll forget its his and take it apart, so now if it isn't in his pocket, it's on his nightstand.
"Hi honey," a female voice drawls on the other end. "You ready?"
"Ready?" he croaks. He clears his throat. "Ready for what?"
"Flea marketing. Don't tell me you forgot."
It takes him a minute to remember what he was supposed to do today and with whom, and then "Shit, Caralee, I totally did. I can't, I'm dying, I'm so sick."
"You gotta lay off the weed, Citgo, honey."
"I had a pizza." He flops onto his back. "I gotta pass. I can't go. But if you find, like, old watches or a Princess phone, I'll pay you back."
"You want a pink one?" He can hear her grin. Caralee has very loud facial expressions.
"I just want the guts. I'm gonna pass out now, okay?"
"You want me to come over?" Caralee asks. "I'll make you tea and toast."
Citgo's stomach mounts a weak protest. "I'll just puke it right back up. I'm gonna go. G'bye." He ends the call, not particularly caring if he sounds rude, drops his phone on the nightstand, and stretches out again. Sleep would be nice, although he really would not mind if the earth swallowed him up right now. He really wouldn't.
Of all the things Caralee likes about living in LA, "driving" is probably the most unexpected. She likes the freeway. She doesn't like to walk more than five minutes to get anywhere if she can help it. Besides, she grew up in Texas, and at least LA drivers don't tailgate so much.
She rolls the windows down and sings along with the CD in her car stereo and cheerfully swears at slow drivers and other idiots. Caralee is by nature a cheerful person, more so when her evening plans include her brother Abe, his crazy friends, barbeque, and beer.
Any night is a good night for barbecue, and tonight looks especially fine.
There is a surprisingly small crowd at Abe's house when Caralee gets there, just him and three guys on the patio. Something is already smoking on the grill. She must be late.
"You're not late," Abe reassures her, giving her a big hug and a cold beer. "We're just hungry. Where's your roommate?"
"He's got big plans for the weekend," she says.
"So big he can't eat my food? What weekend? It's Wednesday."
"He's going out of town. Packing will take him all week." Caralee and her roommate both understand that sometimes you need a huge suitcase for a weekend trip. She knows Abe thinks they're crazy.
"Citgo called me today looking for you," Abe goes on, leading Caralee over to the grill so she can admire dinner. He's always been very proud of his way with meat. "Talked to me for twenty minutes about I don't even know what. There's something wrong with that boy."
"Be kind," Caralee says. "He was really sick yesterday. He didn't want me to come over and feed him."
"See? Somethin' wrong. Go sit. Eat my cornbread. Talk to Hector - he misses you."
"Well, then he needs to aim better." She ruffles Abe's hair, giggling as he ducks away, and takes a seat with the three guys already ranged around the table. They're clearly having an R-rated conversation, because it stops when she sits. She grins at them, amused that it still hasn't sunk in that she really does love a good off-color story.
But in twenty minutes they've forgotten they ever thought she'd be offended, and only Abe cares that her delicate sensibilities might be upset.
"You watch your language in front of my sister," he tells Hector, mock-stern. "Where I come from, we don't talk like that around a lady."
"That'd be fine if I was a lady," Caralee cackles, blowing her brother a kiss across the table. He is her most favorite of all the things she likes about LA.
Abe has learned a number of useful skills from his mother - how to drive a stick shift, how to sew a button back on a shirt, how to get gum out of hair without cutting it off (he is always surprised when that knowledge comes in handy), and how to feed a mob. His father taught him how to change the oil in his car and how to restring a guitar and how to cook turkey with a can of beer, but nothing has been as helpful as how to plan and prepare food for a crowd.
Because Abe's good friend Micah always has people wandering in and out of his house, and none of them have the first idea how to feed themselves, and it gives Abe pleasure to do it for them.
What does not give him pleasure, however, is the sorry state of Micah's fridge. All the hours Abe has spent in this kitchen, you'd think he'd be used to it by now. He's pretty sure none of the residents of Micah Connolly's Home for Wayward Children (as his friends refer to his place) are currently working on any science projects, but he can't think of another reason for why half the things in here seem on the verge of achieving sentience.
"I don't recognize a damn thing in this fridge," he mutters to himself. He was just here a couple days ago - has a plague of locusts descended upon the house since?
Knowing Micah's friends and acquaintences - some of whom are also Abe's friends and acquaintences - yes, it probably has. Well, at least most of the things he needs to make chili come from cans, and he learned a long time ago to bring his own chile peppers.
(Another thing Abe's mother taught him was how to garden. The soil outside Austin is a little different from the soil around LA, but he's managed a pretty impressive plot, if he does say so himself. Caralee comes over every so often to take advantage of it.)
At least Micah is well-stocked in terms of pots and pans, even if the ones Abe needs are inevitably dirty. He chats with a couple of musician friends while he does the dishes and starts browning the meat, and he can't help but laugh when one of the musicians says, appalled, "That's cow!"
"'Course it is," Abe tells him. "Real chili's got meat in it."
"But... I'm a vegetarian."
"Not if you want my chili, you ain't."
Since coming to LA, Abe has learned, at his mother's suggestion, that sometimes he can make his point more effectively if he pushes his accent a little.
But no one had to teach him that vegetarians are crazy. He's always known that.
Micah and his house both smell like baked goods. They don't smell like the right baked goods, but it beats smelling like oil paint and turpentine when your boyfriend is coming up the front steps and you don't have time to take a shower.
Jason is on time. Why does Micah always forget that Jason is always on time?
"I tried to make dinner perfect," is the first thing Micah says.
"Hi to you too," Jason says in response. He looks a little dubious. "What do you mean?"
"I screwed up dessert." He should've bought ice cream or some cookies when he was out earlier. He knows he's going to miss ending the meal with something sweet, even if Jason doesn't care.
"That's it? You know, you haven't even kissed me hello. I can leave and come back in and we can start over." But he's grinning.
"Hello," Micah says obediently, leaning in to give Jason a kiss. They're interrupted by Jason's stomach growling, which makes both of them laugh. "Maybe we should eat first and smooch later."
Jason is impressed that Micah set the dining room table instead of the kitchen table, even though there are only two of them. Micah thinks Jason is easily impressed. Jason is also surprised that Micah got someone to take the dogs for the night.
"Do you want Dodge jumping on the bed while we're in it?" Micah asks. It's an easy question with an obvious answer.
After dinner Jason brings his dishes into the kitchen and notices the square baking pan containing Micah's failed dessert. "What's this?" he asks. "Is this the dessert you fucked up?"
"It's supposed to be a honey cake," Micah explains, "but it came out more of a honey bread." He's a little embarrassed, although it's funny now. "I thought the recipe said eight cups of flour. It really says three. I had to see what it tasted like."
Jason laughs. "You dork," he says. "Why were you making me a honey cake in the first place? What's wrong with a chocolate cake?"
"It was Abe's idea. He said I should make something different. And it sounded good. It has raisins in it."
"I'll try it. It looks good."
So Micah finds a knife and cuts two pieces, and Jason eats his and pronounces it good - not quite what he was expecting, but still tasty.
"So are you," Micah says, kissing him on the mouth. Jason tastes like honey and allspice and raisins, like the perfect end of one week and the perfect beginning of the next.