I continued to speed the entire way to Selena’s apartment complex. By the time I pulled into the parking lot behind her building, I was sweaty with a racing heartbeat. I parked my Honda even more crookedly than I normally would have and raced up the stairway that led to the back entrance of her apartment.
I quickly skimmed my key ring for the tarnished gold spare key she’d given me the day she moved in, during the first trimester of her pregnancy with Stephan. At that time, her then beloved-boyfriend-now-strictly- baby-daddy Thomas was living with her part time. By part time, I mean he was there from seven p.m to about eleven thirty on most week nights, excluding Friday and sometimes including the occasional Saturday sleepover. He was forty seven years old, a criminal lawyer with twin daughters in high school. Selena had been practically walking around with hearts in her eyes instead of pupils over him. I’ll admit that he was attractive. He reminded me of George Clooney- if George Clooney were slimey and morally repulsive, that is. I was hardly shocked when he broke her heart via text message. He told her that he wanted to end their romantic relationship and go back to his wife on a full time basis. Selena was beyond devastated. I literally had to move in for about a month and a half to take care of her. What hurt her the most was that Thomas hadn’t wanted to meet Stephan at all, claiming that he didn’t want to “get attached” to his infant son. The only slightly redeeming thing about him was the fact that he sent Selena a big fat check every month for child support, rent, and keeping her mouth shut. To my knowledge, his wife and family knew nothing at all about the affair, never mind his secret love child.
I spotted my key, turned it in the lock, and pushed open the door. I found my best friend perched on the living room couch, smoking her Marlboro Lights. She was slouched over, which caused her to appear even shorter and smaller than usual. Her curly black hair and skin the color of coffee with a ton of cream in it made her an exotic beauty, even in her current state. Her eyes were almond shaped like her Puerto Rican father, and deep blue thanks to her Irish mother. Tonight,they were also swollen and red. “Hi,” she said quietly. I watched her crush the remaining cigarette butt in the ashtray on the coffee table in front of her, and immediately light up another. “Sit down.”
“I don’t want to sit,” I said, standing in front of her with my hands balled into fists at my sides. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Selena took a deep breathe, and offered me the pack of cigarettes. “You want one of these first?”
I exhaled heavily. “Yeah..that’s probably a good idea.” Some people consider themselves to be social smokers. I was a long-established, Selena smoker. She never failed to test my nerves. I helped myself to the pack, bending over so that she could give me a light.
“Speak,” I said, taking a drag of my cigarette.
“So,” She began. “ There’s this guy…”
“Selena, are you serious?” I sputtered. “Am I really here right now because ‘there’s this guy’?”
“Just listen to me,” she pleaded. “I need you to listen.”
“Whatever,” I mumbled.
“There’s this guy,” She tried again. “His name is Alex. I met him on Facebook. We’ve been hanging out for a few months…”
“What’s a few months?” I interrupted.
She gulped. “Two and a half months…he’s kind of sort of my boyfriend, actually…”
“ Your boyfriend?! Selena, you promised!” I exclaimed. “Your therapist said it wasn’t a good idea for you to be in a relationship right now. You promised you’d listen!”
“Yeah, well..f*ck my therapist, I guess, right?” She tried to force a giggle.
“It’s not funny, you’re not even really laughing.” I shook my head and sighed. I wanted to feel disbelief, but the truth was that nothing surprised me anymore, not when it came to her. “I don’t know,man. What’s he like? What does he do? How old is he?
“He’s nice,” she said,slowly. “Really nice. He’s twenty-four like us, a manager at the Stop & Shop. He’s in law school right now.”
“Oh, another man of the law,” I snorted. “Beautiful.”
“You don’t have to be so negative.” Her tone was defensive.
“Whatever, do what you want. I know you will anyway,” I shot back at her.
“Well, there’s more to the story, actually…” She paused. “I don’t actually know what I want.”
I flicked the ash from my cigarette into the sparkly, purple ash tray on the coffee table. “Keep going.”
“There’s this other guy,” she continued. “That I think I may really like.”
“You’re upset over that? It’s been two and a half months, it’s not like you’re married. You’re allowed to change your mind,” I said. “Tell me about this other guy-what’s his deal?”
“His name is Michael,” she said, blushing at the sound of her own voice saying his name. “He’s thirty-one, and he works downtown as a paralegal.”
“So when did you start only f*cking attorneys?” I replied.
She smiled as best as she could. “Yeah, yeah…that’s not funny, either.”
“It’s true,” I replied.
“There’s just one more thing.” Selena began to shake, and I saw her crystal blue eyes fill up with tears. “It’s…it’s a bad, bad thing.”
“Oh, jeez,” I said. “And the waterworks come on in three, two, one…Seriously, what’s the matter? Why are you crying?”
“I can’ say it, ” she cried. “You’re going to think I’m terrible.”
“I already think you’re terrible,” I said, trying to half-joke. This only made her cry harder. I took a deep breathe, assumed what I’d long ago dubbed “the position”; I rested one hand on her back, and used my other hand to gently stroke her hair away from her face. “I’m just teasing. Come on, you know you can tell me anything.”
“Alex and Michael…they know each other,” she managed to say.
“So?” I shrugged. “It’s a small world.”
“No, like they know each other really well. Like really, really well.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “What are they, best friends or something?”
“No…worse” I watched Selena tremble as she tried to keep her emotions from overtaking her. She swallowed the tears that were building up in her throat. “Brothers…”