Chapter 5

Tree in the sky

Alex sat quietly at the dining table set for three at Nick and Kim’s. The couples’ spacious apartment in the Village put Alex’s shoe-box living space to shame. The décor was sleek and modern. Everything had its place, including their pet goldfish Bubble, who’s bowl resembled a studio loft on the upper west side.

Nick was sat restlessly to the left of her, busying himself with his phone and answering emails. Kim had yet to seat herself, she was too busy scurrying around her sparkling clean kitchen gathering napkins and utensils for dinner.

Thankfully, Nick looked up from his phone long enough to notice the bustle of his girlfriend. “Will we be eating anytime tonight Kim?”

“Hello! I’m getting it ready.”

“Getting what ready? We ordered Chinese.”

“And what do you plan on eating the Chinese food off of…Or with?” She came out of the kitchen flailing forks and spoons.

“We have these,” Nick held up a pair of chopsticks from the restaurant they’d ordered from. “We also have to-go boxes, what more do we need?”

Kim set down a place setting in front of Nick and Alex, then plopped down in the chair across from Alex and laid out a set of her own. “Well excuse me if I happen to enjoy eating like a human being, we don’t all come equipped with the sophistication of a bridge troll.”

Nick rolled his eyes and began to dig into each container of food with vigor.

Alex timidly reached over and picked up a container of pot stickers and set a few on her plate, “Oh how I’ve missed family dinner. It’s just like I’m back at home.”

Nick looked up from his now very full plate and smirked at Alex, “You too?”

Kim frowned at her friend and her boyfriend, “Could we please refrain from talking about our collectively screwed up childhoods, please? You’re going to make me lose my appetite.”

Alex giggled, “But that’s what we always talk about.”

Nick quickly chimed in, “Yeah Kim, if you’re not yapping away about your dad’s gambling habit I’m whining about my pill-popping mother. . . And then there’s Alex’s family…”

“Nick!” Kim looked to Alex and apologized, “My boyfriend has a problem with tact.”

Alex slouched back in her chair and crossed her arms protectively over herself. “Oh it’s fine, really Kim, we all know when it comes to dysfunction my family is the winner among us.”

Nick blushed with embarrassment at his insensitive comment, “I’m sorry Al, I just mean that ya know, we all have that in common.”

“I know, it’s not a problem. I like having you guys to talk to about that kind of stuff.”

Kim let out a long drone of a sigh and quickly changed the subject. “Anyway, Alex how did your meeting with Channing go?”

“Pretty good actually, she might have gotten me a part in this new film.”

“That’s great,” Nick applauded. “When’s the premiere?”

“Calm down bub, she hasn’t even auditioned yet, right Al?” Kim had firmly planted both hands on her hips and was staring back at Alex, waiting for a rational reply.

Alex swallowed loudly and rubbed the palm of her hand against the top side of her thigh. “Well yeah, I mean nothing is set in stone.”

Nick looked back and forth between his girlfriend and Alex mid-chew, “Way to kill a dream, Kimmy.”

Kim gaped at Nick and dropped her fork which clattered loudly on her dinner plate. She looked as if she were about to really let him have it when suddenly a strange look came across her face. Her hands flew to her stomach and then changed course to meet and cover her mouth. “Excuse me,” she

mumbled from behind her fingers, and scurried towards the hall bathroom.

Alex was on her way to wearing a hole into the thigh of her pant leg.

Nick starred in the direction of the bathroom for a brief moment, then turned back to Alex, “My girlfriend keeps getting weirder and weirder.” After his declaration, he picked up his fork and continued joyously eating.

“Yep.” Alex laughed quietly to herself. “She’s a real loon,” she rolled her eyes and picked up her own fork. Just as she was about to take a bite out of her pot sticker, a faint gurgling moan rolled through the house.

Nick looked up from his plate with a very concerned look on his face, “Maybe I should check on her.” He started to get up from his chair.

Alex panicked and shot up from her seat at the table. “No, you eat, I’ll make sure she’s okay.”

“Are you sure,” he asked, mid get-up.

“Of course! What if it’s a…Lady problem?”

Nick sat back down, now fully convinced eating was his better option. “You’re right, I’d just be lost in that area.”

“Right,” Alex scurried over to the bathroom door and gently knocked twice. “Kim, it’s me.”

After a short while the door clicked open for Alex to let herself in. Before she did, she looked back towards the dinning room to make sure Nick was still in a food-thoughts-only zone. He clearly was, so she swiftly opened the door to rush in, and closed it behind her.

The sight before her was nothing new. Kim was mostly curled up on her fluffy, green bath mat, with one arm outstretched reaching for the toilet. The reasoning for this particular behavior was a drastic change.

“That pesky fetus giving you grief?” Alex kept her voice down to a hushed tone and handed her friend the box of tissues that sat atop her vanity sink.

“You know it,” Kim attempted a small smile and gratefully reached for the box.

Alex ran some cold water and passed a washcloth through the stream a few times. “So I’m guessing your boyfriend still has no clue,” she said as she wrung out the damp cloth and bent over to place it on the back of Kim’s neck.

“You guessed right. I have no idea what to do,” she whispered.

Alex sat down, cross legged next to her friend and patted her knee. “At least you won’t have to worry about him figuring it out before you decide what to do. I love Nicky and all, but he’s living in the city of oblivion.”

Kim Chuckled and shrugged her shoulders, “He’s just distracted with food at the moment.”

“I’d say ‘distracted’ is a severe understatement. He’s out there practically having a love affair with a spring roll.”

“Hmm, I know. I was thinking of cooking him a stake before I tell him what’s up.”

“That could work…If you could cook that is.” Alex smirked

Kim groaned and carefully peeled herself off the floor. “We better get back out there, I’m not sure how long the food will hold him.”

“By the look of him, from when I came in here, probably at least a week.”

Kim swayed from one foot to the other as she came to a full, upright position. Alex’s hand sprung from her side to help steady her friend’s balance.

“It’s okay, I’m okay.” Kim protested, but she still took her friend’s hand in hers for extra support.

“Let’s get back in there. God forbid Nick runs out of food on his own plate, he might start skimming from ours…And I wanted to at least taste the shrimp and asparagus.”

Kim laughed and grabbed the door handle, “We’d better hurry then.”

Back at the dining table, the girls found their dinner companion dumping more food onto his now cleared plate.

As Nick acknowledged their presence approaching, he looked up at them with a sheepish grin and replaced the food container from which he was filling his plate with copious amounts of lo mien.

“Hey babe, are you feeling alright?”

“Yeah,” Kim replied quietly as she sat next to him.

Nick gave her an understanding shrug and reached over to give her hand a loving squeeze. “Lady problems, huh?”

Alex sat back down as well and couldn’t resist teasing her friend. “Actually, we think it might have been some kind of food poisoning,” She said with a completely straight face.

Nick looked from Alex to the plate of food in front of him, “EW! You mean this food?”

“Probably.” But Alex could no longer resist cracking a smirk.

Nick took in a deep sigh of relief, “Oh thank God!”

Alex suddenly looked back at her friends like her hand had been caught in the fortune cookie jar, “What?”

Kim giggled softly and patted Nick’s hand, “You, my friend, are a terrible liar.”

Alex’s hand fluttered to her heart in mock indignation, “I am not.”

Nick had only taken a short brake from stuffing his face, and now he was right back at it. Both women paused for a moment to stare at him with pure amusement shining in their eyes.

“Are too.” Kim interjected, tearing her eyes off the spectacle that was her boyfriend. “You can barely hold a straight face with a little white lie.”

Alex frowned, “Well that was just a silly fib, nothing serious. Maybe I’m just so good with mammoth sized lies, that I simply can’t be bothered with tiny fibs.”

“So, you’re really a man?” Nick perked up.

Both women squeaked out a simultaneous, “WHAT?”

Nick smiled broadly, “It’s the biggest lie I could think of.”

Alex looked from Nick to Kim, “Please tell your boyfriend to stop calling me a man.”

Kim lifted her butter knife towards him in a menacing manner, “Stop calling our friend a man, or I’ll have to cut you.”

“With the butter knife?”

“Please remember that I’m having a lady’s week, Nickolas if I have to, I’ll saw something off.”

Alex almost spit out a gulp of lemon water she had just taken, when her friends began to bicker. “You guys are into some weird shit.”

“You know it,” Nick said with a wink.

All three of them erupted into a fit of giggles, Alex waved her hands, “I don’t want to know anymore.”

Nick’s plate was once again cleaned after a few minutes of mindless banter.

“So how’s the play going Nick?” Alex asked

“Pretty good. The lead actress is a real bitch though. She’s been almost fifteen minutes late for the past three nights.”

“I know how that goes, Devon thinks he’s the second coming of O’Toole most days.” Alex shifted in her seat.

Nick laughed. “Channing is definitely on a roll this week though. I’m waiting for her to call me back about this audition she got me this morning.”

“How do you think you did?”

“Honestly? I feel like I nailed it…And it seemed like they liked me.”

“Well, that’s half the battle. At least none of the producers feel asleep during your audition.”

“Oh, Alex that was one time, and you know he had to have suffered from some kind of narcolepsy or something,” Kim scoffed.

“He didn’t have narcolepsy, Kim. He was just very old and very sleepy.” Alex began to rub her palm against her thigh again. She turned to Nick and gave him a reassuring smile, “I’m sure they loved you.”

“I hope so.”

The house phone rang, breaking the momentary silence that had fallen over the room.

“That’s funny, Channing never calls the house line.” Nick said as he got up from his place at the

table and headed to the kitchen to pick it up.

“Maybe I should tell him now,” Kim whispered over to Alex.

“Now, while I’m here?” She asked back in a squeak of a whisper, panic glittering in her eyes.

“He’s in a good mood right now, and I’m sure that’s Channing on the phone telling him he’s got the part.”

Alex sighed and searched through all the reasons why her friend was crazy. Luckily, she picked the most rational and ran with it.

“Kim, you know how Nick is about me getting in between the two of you…I want to stay neutral on this one.”

“Are you saying you’d agree with him if he freaked out on me?” Kim hissed.

Alex adamantly shook her head. “No, I’m just saying, this is between the two of you. The last thing you need is for me to look like the third party weighing in on your relationship.”

Kim sat back in her chair, quietly fuming and mulling things over in her head, while Alex stared back at her bewildered. Nick could be heard from the other room, talking animatedly about a subject neither of the girls had caught the tail end of.

Alex was sat stock still, waiting for something to happen. She hoped, before Kim could muster up the nerve to tell her boyfriend her fertile news, he’d be off the phone and her courage would deflate.

Kim suddenly let out a heavy burst of air, she had been holding in for what seemed like eons. “Oh, fine. I won’t tell him while you’re here.”

Alex looked down at her hands that she had kept clenched in her lap, “Thank you.”

“I am going to tell him though, and you better be there for me when I do.” Kim’s eyes began to red rim and watered slightly.

Alex switched her seat for Nick’s and patted Kim’s shoulder reassuringly. “Of course I’ll be there…I mean really, where else would I be?”

The two stared at each other for a moment, and simultaneously started to laugh in each others faces.

“When did my life become such a soap opera?” Kim said as she brushed away some tears that had escaped.

“You have been injecting the ‘Queen’ into drama lately.”

Alex returned to her original seat just as Nick came back into the dining room with the cordless in his hand. He stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed his girlfriend’s puffy red face and tear streaked cheeks.

“What happened?” He asked in an alarmed tone.

“Lady problems,” Both women spoke out in unison.

“You chicks worry me.” Nick shook his head and took his vacated seat once again.

“Yep, we’re crazy.” Kim said

Alex turned her attention to Nick. “So, what did Channing say? Did you get the part?”

Nick frowned, “Well it wasn’t Chan, so I’m not sure yet.” His frown quickly morphed into a smile. “It was Jeff.”

“Oh, how is he?” Kim seemed vaguely interested.

“He’s doing good. He’s leading the security team at that new club downtown.” Nick looked over at Alex and smirked. “You remember Jeff, don’t you Al?”

Alex rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yes, I remember him.”

“I honestly have no idea why my lunk of a life partner ever set you up with that meat head.” Kim chimed in.

“What’s wrong with Jeff? He makes a good living, he’s in the city, and you share the same gym.”

“He also has bad manners, smells like a meatball sub, and stares at me from a far at the gym we share.” Alex countered.

“I think you might be too picky Alex. You can’t have it all, you know.”

“Oh, please! Alex, don’t listen to him. He has no idea what he’s talking about. You deserve way better.”

Alex smiled apologetically at Nick. “Sorry dude, but I’d at least like to get through a dinner without my date belching out his words. . . I’m just that kind of girl.”

Before Nick could get his mouth open to retort, Kim interjected. “Any way, what did Jeff have to say?”

“Well, what I was going to tell you two snoots before I was so rudely interrupted…”

“To be fair, you were kind of asking for it.” Alex shot in.

“Can I talk?” Nick huffed.

“Sorry, go ahead.”

Before he proceeded, he turned to his girlfriend to be sure she had nothing to add. Kim held up her hands in quiet surrendered and gestured that he had the floor.

“Jeff invited us to a concert at that club tomorrow night. He said he can get us backstage passes.”

“That was surprisingly nice of him. Who’s playing?” Kim asked

Nick went on to list off several band names as both women stared back at him with confused looks on their faces.

Alex raised her hand and waited to be picked on. When Nick gave her the go-ahead, she asked in a small voice, “I’m sorry, but who are these people?”

Nick looked back at her like she had two heads. “Rock bands from overseas woman! Jeez. . . Uncultured much?”