Lennon sat in her room and glanced at a calendar. This was July 4th weekend; by late August, Lennon would have to return to New York. It was frightening to think about, but impossible to force from her mind. She still hadn’t decided what direction to take her life in. And though she felt as if she belonged in Landslide, it was an illusion, really. Theater people accepted everyone.
Lennon opened a Word document on her computer and re-read random, disconnected sentences and scenes she’d been writing. She tried for a way to connect them, but found the potential narrative exhausting—a woman married a man who cheated on her with another woman who had a baby who grew up to be the girl in the first scene, who was arguing with her brother, who was actually her half-brother…
She always did have the talent of thinking up plots that surpassed her writing ability.
“Ugh,” she mumbled, tipping her head back until she was staring at the blank white ceiling. “Write what you know. Write what you know. What do I know? How about all of the things I haven’t done yet? You know, boyfriend, Europe…”
“Lenny?” Stacey’s voice filtered through her open door. “You on the phone?”
“No. Sorry. I’m talking to myself.”
Stacey smiled. “That’s the first sign of…”
“I thought we figured out years ago that I’m insane,” Lennon replied.
“Hey, you work at a theater. Don’t feel so bad. Do you want to go to the Kettle now? You drive.”
Something I’m getting done, Lennon thought with satisfaction as she braked the car, slowing it down and then parking it. Even she had to admit, as nervous as she still was about driving, she felt better for just doing it. And she’d discovered that she was a perfect parker.
Inside, the girls grabbed their customary rum and cokes and a table. The tornado hadn’t caused damage, save for knocking over a few trees, and July 4th weekend was not dimmed. It was a July 4th unlike any Lennon had ever experienced in her life. The entire town—all 900 of ‘em—celebrated. Len and Stacey had stood alongside the main drag for the half-hour-long parade. They saw little American flags sticking up out of the cemetery and churchyard grounds and bigger flags waving outside of houses.
Back in the city, it would’ve largely been business as usual. Shopping. Barbecues. Macy’s Fireworks. Lennon wouldn’t have described herself as patriotic. If pressed, she would’ve verbally wondered if she really was American; oh, sure, she’d been born and raised in the United States, but she was a New Yorker. That place was an entity unto itself. But she found that she wasn’t immune to patriotic pride as she listened to familiar, lilting American songs sung by people decked out in red, white and blue.
The Black Kettle had a small platform on one end that acted as a stage, though despite the many times Len and Stacey had been in there, neither of them remembered the platform being used for anything other than a place to pile up extra chairs. The TVs were turned off. There were even some makeshift spotlights shining onto the stage.
“I’m sad that Nick went back East,” Stacey said. “I miss him.”
Lennon drank. “He’s coming back next week, Stace.”
“I know. But I still miss him.”
They heard a guitar being strummed, tuned, and it seemed to momentarily distract Stacey. Gabriel had his head bent down and then raised his head up and stepped to the microphone.
“Hey, you guys. Happy Fourth of July,” he began. There was applause. Lennon glanced around and found that the bar had filled in some. She realized that she recognized most of the locals. She spotted Gerry and his girlfriend sitting at a table. Gerry cheered.
“Thanks, Gerry. It’s been a while since I’ve sang here. So, I’m going to start out with a song I used to do a lot. If you know the words, sing along.”
“He’s really good. Big, strong voice,” Stacey said another round later. “Why’s he still playing bars?”
“Band broke up,” Len answered. “Life interrupted.”
Stacey flashed Lennon an affectionate rum-induced smile. “You’re so drunk.”
“No,” Len replied, shaking her head. She stopped, blinked, feeling a little dizzy. She had clarity. She knew where she was. She knew the people she was with, but her head felt cloudy. “Maybe a little,” she conceded.
Stacey giggled. “We’re funny drunks.”
“Remember us being drunk and singing Rent in Boston?”
Stacey laughed harder, nodding.
“Or trudging through three feet of snow in January?”
“We weren’t drunk then!” Stacey exclaimed. Her eyes focused above Lennon’s head. “Gabriel,” Stacey said.
“Hi Stacey.” Len leaned back and looked straight up. Gabriel looked down. He grinned at her. “You all right?” She nodded. “You want another drink?”
“I kind of want a cranberry and vodka, but that’s probably not a good idea.”
“One won’t kill you.”
“True,” Len tipped her head back upright. “Whoa.” Dizziness overtook her.
“How many drinks have you had?” She felt his hand on her shoulder.
“Two,” Stacey answered for her. “She’s doing pretty good. She’s usually asleep after one and a half.”
Gabriel laughed. “Aw, poor Lenny. Sleepy drunk, huh?” She felt his fingers brush some of her hair off her neck. The feel of his calloused fingers brushing against her skin nearly sent her into a daydream. Or drunk dream. Or after-concert-cute-boy dream. Whatever.
“Happy, then sleepy,” Len clarified.
“You’re slurring,” Stacey said.
“No, I’m not,” Len protested. She focused on Gabriel again and pouted, sticking her fuller lower lip out. “Am I?” He laughed, but didn’t answer. He turned to leave, but before he did, Lennon said, “Gabriel?”
“Yes, Len?” He glanced toward her.
“You’re an amazing kisser,” she told him, over-enunciating her words so that she didn’t sound like she was slurring. He flashed her a full-on smile, the kind only seen in Crest commercials, and then a wink.
“You kissed him?” Stacey exclaimed, mouth wide open.