Courtney and I haven’t spoken in over three days, and you’d think after a while the pain of cutting off such a close friend would slow, but it actually grows sharper with every passing hour. I see things she left at my house; a sweatshirt that matches the one I bought with her in Florida last summer, two CD’s, a blanket she brought one time so she wouldn’t be cold… there’s a pair of her earrings on my dresser and several bracelets in my sock drawer. Every time I turn around or look up or glance down, there’s a piece of someone who, if all signs keep pointing the same way, may be gone from my life forever, at least gone in the way I used to know her. I spend my evenings with Lorraine, who asked for my address after she called me at three am and, in a moment of what I can only assume was desperation, demanded I hand over the ice cream in my fridge. She rang the doorbell, woke up my grandma, sat in the living room and ate the last half of peanut butter delight crunchy kill ice cream, and then fell asleep watching reruns of Project Runway. The next night, I called her instead, semi-explained what had happened with Courtney and Delaney and Adrian, and, though I didn’t quite mean to, I also ended up telling her about my grandparents and what I was on the verge of discovering.
“So you think your grandmother only got together with your granddad because she ruined his previous and seemingly very happy relationship? Like, your whole existence could be based on a conniving teenager’s jealousy and some weird dude in a cult’s plan?”
“Well. He’s not in a cult, no, and I don’t think my grandma ruined it, per se-”
Lorraine put a hand on my head and shook her own in the way you would do to a small, upset, possibly bed-wetting young toddler. “Capri. She did. I mean, if what we think is in that file is in that file, this is totally what happened. Man, why do all the exciting things happen to you?”
“I wouldn’t consider losing my best friend and accidentally exposing a family secret the good kind of exciting, but okay.” I put Lorraine’s hand back in her own lap and smoothed down my hair. “I guess you, though, you’d be considered the good kind of exciting.”
“Really? You think so? I love that. We’re going to be great together, don’t you think?”
“I’m not sure what you mean-”
“Every good criminal has a partner. And you’re out one, so I’ll fill in. That’s what I mean.”
I handed her the ice cream spoon and smiled, agreeing with her that she’d make a great new Courtney. Not that she was replacing Courtney, because Lorraine is her own kind of friend, but the point is, she’s filling in when I need someone, and for that I’m grateful. So grateful, in fact, that when she asks to come over again tonight, I call her and clarify that yeah, she’s welcome here anytime.
“And besides,” I add, leaning against the counter to better stir the tea I’m making, “I have to tell you about what I found inside that file. The Matchbreaker’s been hounding me for days about reading it because he’s so eager to get it back, but I haven’t had the heart to do it. And now I have and, well, I’ll tell you when you get here. Just, um, hurry?”
Lorraine doesn’t answer, but the last thing I hear before she hangs up is the jingle of her car keys and the slam of the kitchen door. I pick up the file from my desk and smack it lightly against the side of my head. I have not, despite what I told Lorraine, opened this file yet. I put the file down and pick up my phone again, this time to text The Matchbreaker. I’ve been avoiding his incessant messages, but I guess now would be a good time to respond. He never seems to be offline, I realize, a fact I find amusing for a guy so intent on secrecy. I thought he only worked one case at a time, but if that’s true, I find it hard to believe he’s scrolling through cat videos all day. He’s talking to someone else, but who?
you are a terrible communicator
why do you not answer??
ur paying me for this so
if you don’t want to plan that’s great
free time for me
this was going to be a fun assignment
I type out a few different responses, but the one I send is probably best, if not a little long around the edges. I was never great at summaries though, so I’ll let it slide. I hit send on the screen.
you shouldn’t text so much, people might think (gasp) you actually like talking to me or something. really though. just call me if you need something that badly.
Not even two whole minutes pass before my phone is ringing, the caller ID showing only as Anti-Romeo, a nickname I find more grating than endearing, but then again, isn’t that fitting? There’s not a whole lot that’s endearing about this dude, no matter what he might say otherwise.
“Hi, this is Capri.”
“Well, I know that. That’s precisely why I called.”
I can imagine him at his desk in the basement, feet propped up and fingers laced behind his head like he’s someone important and not just important to me. I imagine he will be one day, too important to care about the petty crimes he’s committing now, but that bubble is soon popped by his voice, sharp as cheddar and cracked as a hatter.
“Okay, well, why did you call?”
“You told me to.”
“I said to call over text if there was an important situation.”
“And? This is a very important situation.”
“Then tell me what’s going on, I don’t have time for chatting with you.”
There’s a pause and a sigh on the other end of the line. “I know you don’t have time for chatting, or at least you think you don’t. You’re so choosy with your time. Anyway, I’m coming over.”
“What?” I can’t be processing this correctly. “You can’t.”
“Yeah, I can. And I’m going to, as soon as you give me your address. If you keep throwing off our meetings during the school day, well, I guess I’ll bring them to you.”
“I already have someone coming over tonight. Can’t we just talk at school?”
“Someone’s coming over? Who?”
“A friend. Her name’s Lorraine, she’s very nice, she won’t like you.”
“Ah ha! You said she won’t like me. That means I’m meeting her. Which means, despite your adamant denial, I’m coming over, Capri.”
“I’ll text you the address.”
I send him my address and click the phone off. About five minutes later, the doorbell rings and sure enough, The Matchbreaker is leaning over the railing of my front porch, yelling down to an old lady who lives on my street. I wave to her and grab his arm, pulling him into the house before he can accost the elderly any more than he already has. Before I shut the door, he waves to the lady and she smiles holding out one of her freshly cut roses to him.
“I have to go get that,” The Matchbreaker slips away from me and skips down the stairs to take the flower from his new friend. “Thank you, Mrs. Luttikan!” He bounds back up the steps and slides into the living room like he’s been there a million times. Once he settles on the couch and kicks his legs up on the table, he looks over at me and grins. “Care to join me? This is your couch, after all.”
“Oh, is it? The way you act, it’s hard to tell what’s mine at all. Do you walk into everyone’s house like this?”
He shakes his head, feigning offense, and says, “No, of course not. You’re just that special. And also you’re paying me. So.”
“Ah, I see how this is. Um, anyway, what did you want? Not to kick you out of anything but Lorraine-”
“Lorraine this, Lorraine that. You know, I’m really starting to wonder what it is about this girl that’s so wonderful. You won’t stop talking about her.”
“I’ve mentioned her to you like max of two times.”
The Matchbreaker blinks. “That’s a lot of times. Now, before we get down to business, I’d like to ask you something and please, don’t think me rude, I do have an excellent set of manners despite what you may think.”
“What? Do you need food?”
“Ah, bingo! You’re so smart. I can cook something if you want, I’m just hungry. And also, it’s come to my attention that you don’t know my name.”
I nod, “Yeah, isn’t that the point of you being all mysterious and hiding in the basement? For people not to know who you are?”
“Lorraine doesn’t go to our school and if you tell anyone who I am, you’ll ruin a relationship that, to me at least, already seems pretty on the rocks. So. Call me Dimas.”
“Yeah, as in, ‘Di mas, me gusta lo que estás diciendo.’”
Spanish? Thank goodness for my high school counselor’s decision to pop me in that class at the beginning of ninth grade. Di mas was like, say more, but in a funny way that made The Matchbreaker sound witty and tactful in his pun choices. “That was funny.”
“Are you surprised?”
“No. Not really. Anyway, Dimas, Lorraine’s at the door. I heard her walk up the stairs.”
“I see, I see, are you going to let her in or does she own a spare copy of your house key?”
I kick his feet off the table and stand up, shaking my head. “She doesn’t. I’ll be right back. If you’re still hungry the kitchen is,” I gesture towards the end of the hall, “That way. Follow your nose.”
“And you follow your heart.”
I stop walking to the door. “What?”
“Nothing,” Dimas waves a hand at me and slides into the kitchen, his shoes left at the front door, “I said nothing.”
The door swings open and a very overjoyed Lorraine wraps me in a tight hug, the fringe on her leather jacket brushing against my arms and her now braided hair smelling a bit more like smoke than its usual sushiney state. “I missed you, Capri! I’m so glad you invited me over again, even if it’s only because you’re lonely.” She steps into the house and starts to take her own shoes off, but then she stops abruptly and turns towards me with one hand extended in the universal sign of complete and total disbelief. “This,” she says, picking up one of the shoes Dimas took off before crashing the couches, “Is not a girl shoe.”
Before I can explain, or at least come up with a plausible excuse, The infamous Matchbreaker himself comes swinging out of the kitchen, holding a tottering tray of sandwiches and a large glass of milk. “Are we giving shoes a gender now too? I think that’s rather unnecessary, but in this case, yes, that would be my shoe. And I’m not a girl, though, if I was, I’d be a lot prettier than you.”
“That’s rude-” I jump between Dimas and Lorraine, ready to intervene the clash of two worlds, but neither of them seem upset to the point of fighting. In fact, they seem like they may be doing the opposite of fighting. Like kissing. Or, well, I don’t know, but they don’t seem ready to kill each other and knowing both of them semi-well, I’d have thought Lorraine would take more offense to being called less pretty than this random fellow with a meat tray and big, according to his shoes, feet.
“Carpi. Honey. Dear girl. Who is that.”
“That’s The Matchbreaker, um, Dimas.” I wave from Lorraine to Dimas. “This is Lorraine.”
“I can see why you won’t stop talking about her. And by the way,” he puts his snack down on the table and steps towards Lorraine, “I didn’t mean what I said about being prettier than you if I was a girl.”
“You’re prettier than me just as you are, no matter who you are.”
“Have you two met before?”
“No,” Dimas shakes his head but doesn’t stop looking at Lorraine, “But I don’t think I’ll forget meeting her this time, not at all. Come sit with us, Lorraine, we were just talking about something you love. A favorite song, or fruit. Do you play the piano? Your hands are excellent.”
“Thank you. You have nice hands too. And I love your hair. What color are your eyes?”
“I don’t know. You’d better come look closer.”
“Would you guys stop?” I say this louder than I mean to, and both of my guests look at me, snapped out of whatever weird zone they both fell into. “I don’t mean to be rude and I’m glad you’re so obviously attracted to each other but this is exactly what made me ask this guy,” I point at Dimas, “For help. My friends were ignoring me because they were too interested in each other to pay attention to me. And that’s not nice! I hate that. So stop. Or at least don’t do it in my living room, gosh. Eat a sandwich already.” I sit down and grab the glass of milk. I don’t think of anything as I gulp it down, cold and fresh from the fridge, except that things got a lot more complicated, at least, they seem to be from the way Lorraine and Dimas are still talking to each other, staring at one another like they might have hung the moon, shot the sheriff, and sprinkled the icing on the cake. What a dilemma indeed.