SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2:00 AM
I find my boyfriend standing over my best friend’s lifeless body with a gun in his hand. I don’t even have time to panic, because he has our bags packed in the car and tells me to immediately get out of the house. He has matches in his hand, it smells like gasoline in here now that I think about it. Thirty seconds later, the lake house is in flames behind me and he and I are in the car going anywhere but here.
If you had told me two years ago that taking two hundred bucks from my best friend to go talk to him would lead me to this moment, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. But maybe that’s me – out of my goddamn mind.
TWO YEARS PRIOR
I was going to go with a casual outfit tonight, jeans and a tank top, but the more I think about it, I don’t get out much. I should dress it up a little bit. I decide on a slinky dark purple dress and put on some lipstick to match. It’s summer, but that doesn’t mean I have to wear bright colors just because everyone else does.
I uber over to the bar and immediately am assaulted by a bear hug from my best friend, Clara. She knows I hate hugs, but has decided it’s more fun when I’m not expecting them and can’t refuse.
“VALERIE WHAT THE HELL IS UP!!! YOU’RE TEN MINUTES LATE AND I NEEDED TO START DRINKING YESTERDAY, LET’S GO!” she exclaims as she drags me into the bar I needed some serious convincing to go to.
We sit at the bar and three hours later are on drink number five and can’t stop laughing at a story we just found out about regarding a friend from college and his idiotic tendencies to gamble. While we’re mulling over the latest news on all of the people we will never talk to again but will follow on social media forever, the most interesting man walks into the bar.
He’s tall, chiseled jawline, deep brown hair with the brightest blue eyes, and a side smile that has trouble written all over it. He’s built well, and his shirt is just tight enough on his shoulders to notice. He sits at the opposite end of the bar, directly in view of us. Of course, I’m sweating, but I’d never go up to him. I’m way too awkward for that.
Glass number six goes down quicker than the fifth and Clara is noticing the stolen glances between me and Mr. Muscles. She’s nearly begging me, “Go up and talk to him, Val. You’ve got nothing to lose, except maybe your panties at the end of the night if you’re lucky!” I brush her off and roll my eyes, but she knows that’s all I’m thinking about. Clara pulls out her wallet and hands me a wad of cash, “I will give you two hundred bucks to go up to him right now and introduce yourself”.
So I do it. I walk over with my emotional support wine glass (that I should have replaced with water at this point) and sweat through a handshake and introduction. His name is Evan, he works in finance, he’s new in town, and in fact, is looking for some new friends. Perfect, I’m your girl!
Evan joins us at our seats, and we have incredible chemistry. We can’t stop talking, he can talk effortlessly to Clara while also focusing most all his attention on me. The way he looks at me I feel like he is looking effortlessly into my soul, and I am fully a shell of myself. I am barely present besides in his attention. He’s got the charisma of JFK with the subtle danger of an undercover FBI agent. I’m a lost cause at this point, he’s got me wrapped around his finger and I already know I will forever be his.
ONE YEAR LATER
I’ve been with Evan for a year now, and he is one of the most multidimensional people I have ever met. He is well-versed in literature, world history, world religions, science, everything. If you asked him something he would probably know it. He’s kind, but rough when he needs to be. He’s got a great work ethic and when he wants something done he gets it done; something about his determination turns me on like nothing else. He comes to my place three days a week and I go to his place three days a week, and we always have one day apart. It’s perfect.
I have this tendency to get very private about my relationships and kind of cut off my friends while I’m in the process of building a relationship with a man, and this one is no different. I haven’t spoken to Clara in three months, partially because I’ve been busy with work and Evan, but also because they got into a big fight a while back. I’m not sure what it was about, but all of a sudden she was storming out and telling me, “Maybe you should rethink who you’re so in loveeee with, Val”. Evan says she claimed he was a misogynist, and I wouldn’t be surprised – Clara thinks all men are assholes and misogynists.
Nonetheless, I’ve never been happier. I don’t need anything else in this life, just him. Sure, if we fight, it can get ugly, but he always makes up for it and I think that’s what counts. He knows he’s in the wrong and takes the steps to apologize.
FRIDAY AUGUST 31st, 7 AM
Hey Clara, it’s me. I know it’s been a long time but I wanted to give you your space to breathe and do your own thing and hopefully lose the hatred for Evan (and me?). Give me a call, because I wanted to invite you up to the lake house with us this weekend. We’re leaving tonight at 8. Let me know.
I leave Clara a voicemail early in the morning in hopes that she will respond. I want her to come on vacation with us; it’s been way too long since we’ve been in touch and I miss her dearly. I really want to know what happened so long ago with her and Evan, but I guess I’ll never know what was said.
She calls back two hours later with an enthusiastic “YES! Duh, of COURSE I’ll go! I miss you like CRAZY and have SO much to update you on”. Now THIS will be a fun weekend.
FRIDAY AUGUST 31st, 10 PM
We’ve officially arrived, and I forgot how much I loved this place. The lake house is quaint, exactly what you envision when you think of a Vermont lake house. It was my grandfather’s house and he left it to me when he passed a long time ago, so Evan and I have been up here a few times making it our little home away from home. We’ve got a little book nook for the nights he’s too deep in thought to talk and just wants to do his own thing, a giant fireplace with the quintessential antlers tacked to the wall above it, all the card games and board games you could ever imagine, and of course a room fully dedicated to my art supplies and half-finished canvases.
Clara has already made herself at home in the guest room and comes downstairs with a box of wine she was given by one of her customers as a thank-you gift. She’s ready to party, yelling “HEY ALEXA, PLAY POP TOP FIFTY”. She’s pouring three generous glasses as Evan and I start a fire in the living room.
Evan apparently had a bad week at work, although he never likes to talk about work with me. I’m still not sure what specifically he does. I know he works in finance, but I’m not sure what he does or who he works for. Sometimes it feels weird, but honestly, whatever. It’s not like he’s a serial killer, so who cares what he does so long as he’s making money and likes what he’s doing? He does work some seemingly weird hours, either super early in the morning or super late, but that’s none of my business. So long as he comes home to me, I’m happy. He, on the other hand, is not the happiest camper right now. He’s got that look on his face that makes me want to jump on top of him but I know would result in a blowout fight about why he sometimes needs space to deal with his own issues.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 1st, 12:15 AM
Clara and I are drinking and having our time to talk about girly things and all of the gossip we haven’t been able to share with each other in ages, and Evan is sitting in the corner with wine and a book in hand. Clara gets louder as she drinks, and I try to calm her down because the one thing I don’t need is these two getting into an argument like the one from a year ago. Clara tells me, “I have to tell you something. I got a HUGE promotion and I’m moving to LA to my old bosses’ penthouse to take over for her on the West Coast. Can you BELIEVE it? I mean I know I’m amazing, duh, but like, a penthouse? All these big businessmen out here pretending they’ve got their shit together meanwhile I’m about to be out on Hollywood Boulevard with all the stars living it up every night!!”.
Evan whips his head around and stares at Clara as if she just said that the Knicks lost the championship. He says nothing, just gets up and walks upstairs.
“What’s his deal, Val? Seriously, this whole brooding mysterious vibe is way too much for me right now,” Clara says.
“I don’t know, he had a bad week at work and is probably upset to hear you talking about a big promotion. But I am SO happy for you!! We have to throw the biggest going-away party for you before you leave,” I respond.
We spend some time planning what has now been named CLARA IN THE CITY OF ANGELS: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN, and I decide to take a break and head upstairs to check on Evan. He’s been up there a while, anyways.
I find him laying in bed staring out the window, and I ask him if everything is okay.
“I told you, Val. I don’t want to talk about work with you ever. I had a bad week, that’s it, okay? Let it go. I love you, I’ll be down in a few,” he responds.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 1ST, 1 AM
I head back downstairs to see Clara on the couch with snacks and wine set up on the coffee table, all set for the cozy evening we had planned in the first place. She’s got plenty to say about Evan, and I’m at the point where I need to just say something.
“Clara, what’s your deal with him? You told me to talk to him that first night, you seemed to like him that night, what’s the fucking problem? What happened last year when you guys got into that blowout fight? I can’t understand why you hate him so much. He treats me well, I love him, you’re my best friend and should be supporting me through this. What’s the issue?” I ask.
“Val, that’s a loaded question,” she responds hesitantly.
“What, then? Spill. Now” I say.
“Fine, but quickly before he comes downstairs. Don’t hold this against me, you asked for this just to remind you,” Val begins, “Long story short, I didn’t realize when you two first met that I actually knew him. Well, knew OF him. He was my brother’s drug dealer. Like, serious shit, Val. Cocaine, heroin, and I once I realized that was the connection, I couldn’t shake it. I called him out a year ago because he caused my brother a lot of harm and fueled his self-destruction so much that he lost his job and had to move home with our parents at 39. And he still owes Evan thousands of dollars, and I told Evan a year ago that he can take it and shove it up his ass. I hate him for putting my brother and I in a situation like that, and I will never forgive it. I don’t even know if he has a real job, Val, but he’s like the biggest dealer in New York. And nobody has any idea because he plays it off like he’s this dapper guy who works in finance”.
I’m stunned. I don’t believe her. I don’t want to believe her. I can’t. This can’t be happening.
“Clara I – I don’t even know what to say. How could you have kept this from me for so long? Why are you just telling me now? I mean it makes so much about him make sense, but I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell me,” I fight back tears as I say this, “You know what, I need to take a walk I’ll be back. He will probably be coming down soon anyway so you won’t have to fake a smile around me when he decides to show up to the party”.
I nearly run out of the house, away from everything. I don’t know what to think. I am madly in love with the biggest and most sophisticated drug dealer to the wealthy in New York? And I never caught on? And Clara never told me, even when she knew? I just need a minute, so I go all the way down to the lake and cry. I cry for myself, for the idiot I am (in what way, I’m not quite sure yet), for the awful things Clara’s brother went through, and for the fact that apparently Evan was the catalyst of it all. And for the fact that, despite all of this, I am still, definitely madly, in love with him.
I decide that I’m stable enough to go back inside. So in I go.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2:30 AM
I just witnessed my boyfriend standing over my best friend’s body with a gun in his hand. And she was bleeding from her head. And he did it. And I didn’t even scream. And I let him torch the house. And I got into the car with him to drive far away from it all. And now I am in the car with him, somehow happy I can finally be with him and only him. And I feel free of something, of what I am not sure. But I am happy. No more drama.
I decide not to ask Evan about the things Clara told me because, well, he knows I am aware of that darker side of his personality now. Maybe he will share, maybe he won’t, but I don’t need to risk my life trying to pry open his Pandora’s box of secrets. I may never know why he shot Clara, or torched the house, but what I do know is that somehow, someway, I feel like I need to be with him forever.
I want to be with him forever. I still love him, after it all. And I’m out of my goddamn mind.