Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 30 of 61

I went home one afternoon clutching a sheaf of hardcopy and burst into the living room, gabbling a mile-a-minute about a wrinkle on my original plan that would add a third walk-through segment to the ride, increasing the number of telepresence rigs we could use without decreasing throughput.

I was mid-babble when my systems came back online. The public chatter in the room sprang up on my HUD.

And then I’m going to tear off every stitch of clothing and jump you.

And then what?

I’m going to bang you till you limp.

Jesus, Lil, you are one rangy cowgirl.

My eyes closed, shutting out everything except for the glowing letters. Quickly, they vanished. I opened my eyes again, looking at Lil, who was flushed and distracted. Dan looked scared.

“What’s going on, Dan?” I asked quietly. My heart hammered in my chest, but I felt calm and detached.

“Jules,” he began, then gave up and looked at Lil.

Lil had, by that time, figured out that I was back online, that their secret messaging had been discovered.

“Having fun, Lil?” I asked.

Lil shook her head and glared at me. “Just go, Julius. I’ll send your stuff to the hotel.”

“You want me to go, huh? So you can bang him till he limps?”

“This is my house, Julius. I’m asking you to get out of it. I’ll see you at work tomorrow — we’re having a general ad-hoc meeting to vote on the rehab.”

It was her house.

“Lil, Julius –” Dan began.

“This is between me and him,” Lil said. “Stay out of it.”

I dropped my papers — I wanted to throw them, but I dropped them, flump, and I turned on my heel and walked out, not bothering to close the door behind me.

Dan showed up at the hotel ten minutes after I did and rapped on my door. I was all-over numb as I opened the door. He had a bottle of tequila — my tequila, brought over from the house that I’d shared with Lil.

He sat down on the bed and stared at the logo-marked wallpaper. I took the bottle from him, got a couple glasses from the bathroom and poured.

“It’s my fault,” he said.

“I’m sure it is,” I said.

“We got to drinking a couple nights ago. She was really upset. Hadn’t seen you in days, and when she did see you, you freaked her out. Snapping at her. Arguing. Insulting her.”

“So you made her,” I said.

He shook his head, then nodded, took a drink. “I did. It’s been a long time since I. . .”

“You had sex with my girlfriend, in my house, while I was away, working.”

“Jules, I’m sorry. I did it, and I kept on doing it. I’m not much of a friend to either of you.

“She’s pretty broken up. She wanted me to come out here and tell you it was all a mistake, that you were just being paranoid.”

We sat in silence for a long time. I refilled his glass, then my own.

“I couldn’t do that,” he said. “I’m worried about you. You haven’t been right, not for months. I don’t know what it is, but you should get to a doctor.”

“I don’t need a doctor,” I snapped. The liquor had melted the numbness and left burning anger and bile, my constant companions. “I need a friend who doesn’t fuck my girlfriend when my back is turned.”

I threw my glass at the wall. It bounced off, leaving tequila-stains on the wallpaper, and rolled under the bed. Dan started, but stayed seated. If he’d stood up, I would’ve hit him. Dan’s good at crises.

“If it’s any consolation, I expect to be dead pretty soon,” he said. He gave me a wry grin. “My Whuffie’s doing good. This rehab should take it up over the top. I’ll be ready to go.”

That stopped me. I’d somehow managed to forget that Dan, my good friend Dan, was going to kill himself.

“You’re going to do it,” I said, sitting down next to him. It hurt to think about it. I really liked the bastard. He might’ve been my best friend.

There was a knock at the door. I opened it without checking the peephole. It was Lil.

She looked younger than ever. Young and small and miserable. A snide remark died in my throat. I wanted to hold her.

She brushed past me and went to Dan, who squirmed out of her embrace.

“No,” he said, and stood up and sat on the windowsill, staring down at the Seven Seas Lagoon.

“Dan’s just been explaining to me that he plans on being dead in a couple months,” I said. “Puts a damper on the long-term plans, doesn’t it, Lil?”

Tears streamed down her face and she seemed to fold in on herself. “I’ll take what I can get,” she said.

I choked on a knob of misery, and I realized that it was Dan, not Lil, whose loss upset me the most.

Lil took Dan’s hand and led him out of the room.

I guess I’ll take what I can get, too, I thought.

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