That same silver grey flooded the wooden floor when George walked through the front door of Kristen’s Victorian. His posh leathered shoes clapped against the floorboards as he walked in, shutting the door behind him and placing his duffle bag, along with his laptop bag slung around his shoulder, down to those floorboards. Thomas got up while Kristen remained seated on the couch.
“George, hey man,” Thomas said. He covertly dried his sweaty palms against his sweatpants before approaching him with one hand extending to shake his hand.
“Thomas! What a surprise,” he said with his eyebrows jolting passed the frame of his glasses. He walked passed Thomas without recognizing his open hand and approached Kristen on the couch. She stood up and they hugged. Thomas slightly followed him by turning but then subtly turned away, scratching his left eyebrow as Kristen and George embraced each other.
“How was your flight?” Kristen said.
“Good, good . . . hmm,” George glanced at Thomas and Thomas perked a half smile, “Can we huh talk in the kitchen,” he said turning back to Kristen.
“Yeah,” Kristen smiled at Thomas and then they both walked into the kitchen passed where the fridge was. Thomas could only see George’s back in the reflection of that kitchen window. His smile immediately faded while listening to their incoherent whispers. George’s were sometimes louder than Kristen’s, but Kristen’s trumped them periodically. Thomas was about to just leave, but when he heard them stop talking, his decision changed. They came back out with George leading.
“So, what brings you here Thomas?” he said.
“Oh ahh,” Thomas let his words dribble through his lips as if he couldn’t control how they exited his mouth, “umm, I . . . I just wanted to see Kristen uh, I wasn’t doing so good today and needed to see a familiar face to be around,” he said while rubbing his face here and there.
“Like old times huh,” George said.
“Well, yeah but not so much, I was having an off day and decided to take the bus in . . . after calling Kristen of course,” he said.
“He did call me,” Kristen said looking at George, “I told him he could come over.”
George looked at Kristen then at Thomas, “So your depression isn’t doing so well,” he said and Thomas nodded while still staring down at the floor. Thomas raised his head to him after nodding, seemingly discontent with eyes winced. George walked over to him and as his shoes clapped against the wooden floor, he put his hands into his pockets. “Thomas, I understand what you are going through . . . my sister has the same thing and she sees her therapist,” he took one hand out of his pocket and swayed it toward the couch, “take a seat, I was actually thinking about you earlier today.”
Thomas threw a glance at Kristen and it flew right by George as he started to walk toward the couch. Kristen ignored Thomas’s glance and made her way to the lazy boy adjacent to the couch, facing the window that was to the right of the front door of the Victorian. She landed on its cushion as Thomas turned for the couch to sit next to George. He sat down and George threw a friendly slap onto his knee.
“Thomas, how long have we known each other, a few years now right?” His eyes did not leave the coffee table until a few moments after his hand landed on Thomas’s knee. Thomas only moved his eyes to George’s hand, then at his face. They locked eyes.
“Since our last year at Rutgers,” Thomas said.
“Yeah,” George said with a smile, “that last year really solidified our friendship. Remember I was hurting over Sonya and you came over and we just day drank and shot the shit?”
“How could I forget man, that really got my head out of my ass,” Thomas chuckled a bit and Kristen chimed in.
“You never told me about that George,” she said. George looked over to her.
“Sonya, of course I did,” he said as he lifted his hand off Thomas’s knee.
“No, day drinking with Thomas,” she said with her head jutting toward Thomas while lifting a hand in the same direction.
“It was before dating you Kristen and it was only one time,” Thomas said with his eyes rolling off George and onto her. He drew them back to George.
“Wait, was it that time Sonya and I arrived for dinner at your mother’s and,” Kristen’s facial expression delved into a deep recalling look that Thomas studied after switching glances from George, and back to her, “and you were supposed to be there, but . . .” George turned his head back to Thomas.
“Thomas disappeared before you got there,” George’s smile slanted into a weary angle, “and since then I had a clue of what you were dealing with . . . isolating yourself is never good Thomas, but returning to why you isolate yourself is even worse,” he said.
“You let him drive home drunk George?!” Kristen’s voice cracked.
Thomas immediately rose to his feet as soon as George’s words left his mouth. They both followed him somewhat startled. Then, George looked at Kristen.
“He left before I had the chance to stop him. He said he was going to the bathroom.” George sustained a calming voice, “but I am not trying to make Thomas look like the bad guy here,” he drew his eyes back at Thomas, now standing, “I am just trying to help,” he said.
“I . . . I,” Thomas shook his head, “I mean, you’re right George, you’re right,” he let out an elongated sigh, “I need to see a therapist; and I will,” he said and looked around the room, then at Kristen and George.
“Kristen stood up. “Thomas why did you drink and drive?!”
“Kristen, I don’t do that anymore, none of it,” he said. George looked back at his wife.
“Dear, it’s a part of the past and we are here to overlook it and focus on what we can do for Thomas now,” George’s voice slightly rose.
“It’s ok guys – really – I should just go,” and Thomas started to turn toward the door, but George stood up. Kristen collapsed her face into her hands and sighed.
“Non-sense Thomas,” he said and shook his head with his chin hanging low, “I am mentioning this not because I want you to leave, but because I want you to seek the help that you need,” he lifted his arm and placed his hand on Thomas’s shoulder, “I also want to rekindle that friendship in a way, I – we can’t just ignore a friend,” he looked back at Kristen, “right honey,” he said and returned his calm expression to Thomas. “Please, stay for dinner at least.” Kristen lifted her head out of her palms and looked at Thomas.
“Sure, stay for dinner,” she said and she turned toward the kitchen, “I’ll get your jeans.”
George glanced at the sweat pants Thomas was wearing, and then turned toward Kristen.
“Jeans?” he said.
“I’ll uh, tell you during dinner,” Thomas said, scratching the back of his neck with a light smile beginning to crack on his face, “it’s not what you think.” Thomas followed with a half-hearted laugh and George just raised an eyebrow, then shared the laugh with a quick chuckle.
“Well, what happened? You didn’t have an accident did you?” George said.
“Nah, no . . . um there was this guy at the bus stop, he was drunk and just spewed all over me, I uh came to close to see if he was alright and out came his vomit,” Thomas shot his hands up in a subtle way with his eyes widening, but his voice stayed level.
“Ha, you were always the Good Samaritan type Thomas,” George said while moving into the kitchen, “could you help me set the table?”
“Yes, of course,” Thomas said and he started to follow George around the fridge. George opened the cabinet and started to hand him a series of plates.
“I hope you don’t mind steak, I just bought a few slabs of this tender sirloin before I left to see my parents. Kinda the only thing that got me through visiting them – you know what I mean,” George jabbed him in the side and he almost dropped the plates.
“Oh, careful,” he followed up saying.
“Thomas nodded with a smile, “no I don’t think I do,” he said.
“My parents drive me nuts,” George said.
“Right on,” Thomas let out a slight laugh then gestured the plates toward the dining room, “uh out to the table?”
“Yes, please,” George said with a nod. Thomas carried them out and placed them next to the pottery that Kristen’s mother had made. They were still collecting dust.
“Uh, George, what should I do with the pottery here?” Thomas asked. He listened to George opening the freezer and before he responded, he cursed. Thomas remained still and continued to listen. In a matter of seconds Kristen returned from the basement.
“What’s going on?” she asked. Thomas carefully walked closer to the kitchen, but remained unseen.
“I just have to thaw them out, I forgot about that . . . it’s going to take awhile,” George said.
“Well here, let’s get ’em started,” Thomas heard Kristen say. He followed the noises of them moving from the fridge to the sink. It turned on and the water crashed against the hollow metal of the sink’s base. Thomas moved to the wall between the dining room and the kitchen, peaking over its edge and he saw Kristen comforting George by the sink with his jeans draped over her forearm. She had her arms wrapped around his waist and her chin snug into his neck. They seemed to be two flamingos, relying on each other to stay standing and Thomas backed off from the wall’s edge. He found himself not breathing and soon after inhaled while finding a sense of composure. He gliding back to the dining room table, grabbed the pottery and placed them on the hutch against the far wall of the room, then he started to set the plates with two at each head of the table and one in the middle. Kristen entered the dining room when he placed his plate down.
“Here’s your jeans,” she said while walking to him with them in her hand. He grabbed them from her.
“Thanks uh, where can I change?” He lowered them in his hand, bringing them to his side.
“You can go up stairs, any room is fine,” she said, subtly pointing up to the ceiling. Thomas began to walk toward the stairs and when he placed his hand on the railing, he looked up to the second floor.
“When you get back down, I’m sure the steaks will be grilling,” Kristen said. Thomas didn’t look at her, but down and nodded, then he ascended the steps.