Thirty Six: Breakfast

Taylor

I woke up early in the morning. The sun had risen, sending soft lines of light through the white windowblinds. I sat up in bed, rubbing my head fiercely, and leaned over Allison’s sleeping frame to check the clock. 8:30. I wasn’t sure what time Louise got up in the mornings, but I figured I might as well get up and go to the guestroom while I was awake. I didn’t want her to get any ideas. Not until everything was explained.

I yawned, leaning back against the pillow to collect my thoughts for a second. Allison shifted slightly. She was lying on her stomach. Her hair was a wreck, laying in tangles all over the pillow. She had kicked the cover off sometime during the night, and her old Rolling Stones t-shirt was twisted up around her waist.

“Mmmm....” she mumbled into the pillow.  “Haven’t seen ‘em.”

I snorted, covering my mouth with my hand. She had a tendency to talk in her sleep, usually murmuring the most bizarre and incoherent things. I thought it was adorable. And hilarious.

“Oh, OK. Fried chicken...”

Even in sleep, she wanted food. Figures. I smiled, tapping my fingers lightly against the bed, before deciding to get up.

I was on the inside of the bed, the wall to my left and Allison to my right. I contemplated scooting off the edge of the bed, but decided against it. All the bouncing might wake her up. Instead I very carefully crawled toward and then over her, trying to make as little ruckus as possible.  As hard as I tried, I wasn’t very successful.

“Mmm.... what’re you doin....”

At first I thought she was just talking in her sleep again, but her left arm flailed out, feeling for me, and finally latched on to my shirt. It took me by surprise, and I stumbled a bit before falling into an ungainly heap on the floor beside the bed.

“Ow,” I muttered, rubbing my leg. Not surprisingly, she still had a death grip on my shirt.

“What are you doing?” she repeated, a bit more intelligibly this time. She looked at me through heavy lidded eyes.

“Could you let go of my shirt? You’re going to rip it,” I muttered, grabbing her hand and prying the fingers open.

“Oh, sorry....hehe....” She let go of my shirt but held on to my hand.

“I’m going to go to the guest room now. Before Louise gets up,” I said.

“Now? Why so early?” She lifted her head and glanced at the clock.

“Well, I didn’t know what time she was gonna wake up, and I just kinda woke up on my own, so...” I trailed off.

“Ah, OK. Well, come and get me later. I’m going back to sleep.” She rolled her head back over and disengaged her hand from mine. I chuckled, standing up.

“Sweet dreams,” I told her, patting the back of her head gently.

“Mmmm.”

Shaking my head and smiling, I crept quietly from the room and walked down the hall.

I stopped outside of the guest room door, listening intently for any signs of life from Louise’s side of the hall. Finding none, I slid into my room and into the bed. The sheets were cold, and the air in the room wasn’t much better. I sighed, wishing I was still in the warm confines of her bed. Maybe after we got the situation straightened out with Louise things could go back to normal.

I rolled over, thinking about Allison sleeping soundly down the hall. The thought was comforting, and I managed to find some sleep soon after.

I woke up again much later. The sound of water rushing through the pipes could be heard. I sat up, rubbing my eyes, and searched for the clock. 11:08. Hmmm. Must be Louise in the shower. No way Alley would be up yet.  I debated on whether or not to go and wake her. After all, hadn’t she told me to do just that? But the smarter side of my brain won that debate. She could be a monster in the morning. Better let her have a few more hours.

The shower shut off, and I could hear other noises emanating from Louise’s bathroom. I decided to keep put for the time being. What was it she had said last night? Something about forgetting and running around naked? I laughed to myself. If she only knew.

The door opened and I heard her pad down the hallway to her own room. A minute later, she came back down the hallway, passing my door. Good. She was dressed. She headed down the stairs. I rose from the bed, decided to follow. She was probably going to the kitchen, and breakfast was sounding really good. Plus, maybe I could make a better impression on her than I had the night before.

I stopped by Allison’s room first, digging through my clothes to find pants to wear. I slid them over my boxers, glancing over at her sleeping form in the bed. Yeah, better let her sleep.

I trudged down the stairs. Various pots and pans were clanging around in the kitchen, and I could hear the cat bitching about something. Louise was talking to it.

“You hungry, baby?”

Loud meowing.

“Awww..... you want a treat?”

Even louder meowing. I chuckled and walked into the room.

“He’s quite an eater, isn’t he?” I said when Louise looked up at me.

She smiled, though not without a trace of apprehension. “He sure is. Takes after his master.” We both laughed.

“So...” she started after a moment of silence. “How about you? Are you hungry?”

“Um... yeah,” I admitted.

“I’ll fix you something.”

“No, no, that’s alright.... I can fix something myself.”

“Oh, no, don’t worry about it. I was just getting ready to make myself something, so it’s no problem.”

“Um... OK. If you insist.” I smiled at her.

“Eggs and bacon OK?”

“Sounds great.”

I sat down at the table and watched her. Really watched her. I had tried not to pay too much attention to her in the past, at least not any more than necessary, because it had just felt... well, wrong. Like I was some peeping tom pervert or something. At least now it was fair.

“So....” she said as she cracked a few eggs in the pan. “Are you and Alley, um...”

I grinned in spite of myself. “Dating?”

“Yeah...”

“No, no. Just friends. Good friends.”

“Oh, OK.” She laughed. “I’m sorry, that was kind of rude.”

“No, no, it’s fine.”

“So, where did you all meet? I mean, I haven’t heard her talk about you at all... I guess that happens though, especially since I’m never home,” she laughed.

“Well,” I began, then stopped. I wasn’t quite sure how to press on with that. “She helped me out with something, and... well, we’re old friends, I guess you could say... but I hadn’t seen her in a really long time.... uh...” I racked my brain for some way to explain myself. Maybe coming down here wasn’t such a good idea after all. But damn, that bacon smelled good....

“Here you go,” she said, handing me a plate. I was thankful for the distraction, and turned the tables on her.

“So, how long have you and Allison known each other?” I already knew the answer to that, but it was a start.

“Oh..... hmmmm... too long.” She smiled. “All our lives, basically.”

“Got any good stories on her?” Another distraction.

She fixed herself a plate and sat down across from me. “Honey, I’ve got thousands.

I set my fork down and wiped my mouth, grinning mischievously. “Let’s hear them.”

                                                                                         *****

Tears were rolling down my face. Louise and I had been sitting at the table for over an hour, and in that time, she had told me just about every embarrassing moment that Allison had ever experienced. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.

“So then, she trips over the curb, and falls completely on her face,” Louise said, finishing another story. “And the movie is just letting out, so she was just lying there on the ground and there’s like a hundred people standing there gawking at her. I thought I was going to die laughing!” Louise let out another giggle and wiped her eyes. “Ask her about it. She tells it so much funnier.”

“Oh, I will... believe me, I will.” I coughed several times and rubbed my eyes, trying to compose myself. This was fun, actually. Louise was a pretty cool chick. It’s a good thing, I thought. Since we’re going to be living together indefinitely.

Of course, she didn’t know that yet. I had managed to avoid relaying information about myself. I knew that sooner or later the situation was going to get straightened out (at least I hoped so), but I figured I’d just let Allison deal with it. I was just glad Louise wasn’t asking any questions. Like why I was here on Christmas Day and not with my family. Or what I did for a living. Or hell, what my real last name was, like she had done the night before. I wasn’t sure how I would reply to that.

There was a loud creak in the stairs, and we both looked up. A few minutes later, Allison appeared, disheveled as always, rubbing her eyes and yawning.

“Good morning, sunshine,” I said cheerfully.

“Shut up,” she mumbled, sitting down next to us. She smiled halfheartedly at Louise. “Where’s mine?”

“Hello to you, too,” Louise replied with a smile. She walked back over to the refrigerator. “What do you want?”

“Whatever you all had is fine.”

Louise gathered the stuff to cook and busied herself. I turned my attention back to Allison, smiling at her sleepiness. “So what brings you down here so early in the morning?” I asked. “It’s not even one o’clock yet.”

“Well, I was asleep, until someone’s loud, rude laughter woke me up.” She gave me a pointed stare. “You sound like a manic gorilla.”

“Awww, you’re sweet.” I ruffled her hair. “Sorry to disturb your beauty sleep.”

“Damn right. You know I need every bit of that I can spare.”

“Allison,” Louise and I sighed at the same time. 

“Oh, no,” she groaned. “Don’t both of you start in on me now!”

“Do I need to give you another talk?” I asked teasingly.

“NO.”

“Very well, then.”

Louise’s back was to us while she fixed Allison’s eggs and bacon. Allison took the opportunity to kick me in the shins.

“Ow,” I hissed. “What was that for?”

What were you all doing?’ she mouthed silently.

‘Nothing.’ I mimicked her. ‘Just talking.’

‘About what?


I rolled my eyes. “What is this, the third degree?” I whispered. “Don’t worry. She did all the talking.” I grinned. “Mostly about you.”

“About ME?” She looked surprised. “What did you say?”

“Oh, nothing,” I replied airily, speaking a little louder. “Let’s just say I learned a lot.”

“Tell me!”

“Hmmm.... lemme think about it,” I said, staring at the ceiling and tapping my fingers lightly against the counter. I paused. “Nah.” I grinned. “Unless you want to tell me more about the time you fell down outside the movie theater.... or when the straps of your dress broke at the Sweetheart Dress and you had to safety-pin it back together... or maybe about the time you--”

She cut me off. “LOUISE!”

“What?!”

“I can’t believe you two would talk about me behind my back like that,” Allison mumbled, looking sad.

“Consider it a compliment,” I suggested. “And are you going to tell me about the dress or what?”

“I can’t believe you told him that, Louise. That was utterly humiliating, and now you’re making me relive it? Some friend you are.” Allison narrowed her eyes and pointed her fork at Louise.

“He asked, dear. I had no choice.” Louise grinned back at her, setting a plate down on the table. Allison grabbed it and dug in.

“Yeah, whatever. I see how it is around here,” she mumbled through a mouthful of bacon. “Although I’m glad to see you two are getting along.”

I laughed. “Hey, she fixed me breakfast. How could I not like her?”

Allison looked hurt. “I’ve fixed you breakfast before!”

“Yeah, I guess you could call it that,” I said. She promptly punched me in the shoulder.

“Hey, ” I said. “No need for violence.”

“Yeah, yeah.” She took another bite of food. We sat in companionable silence for a few moments before Louise stood up.

“Well, I hate to eat and run on you two, but I’m wanting to hit the mall and see what sales are going on,” she said.

“Are you crazy? It’ll be a fucking madhouse there, it being the day after Christmas. Total chaos,” Allison said. “There’s no way I would go out there!”

“Really?” I asked, disappointed. “I was wanting to go, too.”

Allison rolled her eyes. “Taylor, I swear, you have more clothes--”

“He can go with me,” Louise suggested. Allison and I shut up real quick and shot each other panicked looks.

“Oh, no, no, that’s alright,” I said, and at the same time Allison said, “I’ll take him, it’s alright.”

“Are you sure? It’s no trouble--” Louise began.

“NO.” We said it at the same time.

“Well, alright then...” Louise walked over to the living room and picked up her purse. “I’m going to go ahead and head out, then.”

“Oh, Louise, wait,” Allison said quickly. “Um... we were wanting to, uh, go out and eat or something, you know, later tonight, and well, we were wanting you to go, too.”

“Tonight? I don’t know... I don’t want to interrupt anything... and  I’ll probably be pretty tired...”

“You aren’t interrupting anything. Come on,” Allison said. “All the more reason you should go out to eat. That way you won’t have to cook.”

“Yeah,” I piped up.

Louise studied the both of us for a second before sighing. “Alright. What time are you planning on going?”

“Why don’t you just call us when you’re ready? We probably won’t be doing much at all today.”

“Well.... alright.”

“Great!”

Louise walked toward the door. “Well, I’ll see you all later, then. Bye,” she called out over her shoulder just before the door closed.

“Bye,” we chorused after her. We heard the car door slam.

“Way to go, Taylor. You and your obsessive-compulsive shopping tendencies just about got us in trouble,” Allison said, taking a long drink of orange juice.

“Hey, just because I have a little taste--”

“Taste! HA!” She set the glass down. “You know, I can’t believe you came down here without me.”

“I’m a big boy,” I replied somewhat coolly. “I can take care of myself, you know.” Her mothering was sometimes a little insulting.

“Oh, right. I forget sometimes,” she said sarcastically. “You’re lucky she didn’t ask you anything about yourself.”

“Yeah, well, she’s not nosy like you are. She knows when silence is better.” I inwardly smacked myself. That was unnecessary.

She glared at me and stood up, walking over to put her plate in the sink. “Excuse me.

I sighed, rubbing my forehead. “I didn’t mean it like that. Not in a bad way. I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re not.” She scrubbed the dish before setting it aside.

“Allison,” I sighed, standing up and walking over to her. We were on the edge of a fight, and I wanted to  pull it back from the brink before it escalated. “Don’t be mad at me.”

“I’m not mad at you.”

“Yes, you are.”

She sighed heavily. “I’m not, Taylor. I’m just... I don’t know. Stressed out, I guess. I’ve been thinking too much about everything, and it’s giving me a headache.”

“I know that feeling all too well.” I stood behind her and rested my chin on her shoulder. She leaned back against me. I wrapped my arms around her waist.

“I didn’t mean to get snippy. Sorry about that.” Her voice was quiet.

“It’s OK. Perfectly understandable,” I said. I kissed her cheek. “Considering the circumstances, I’d say you have put up with a hell of a lot.”

“I have, haven’t I?” She turned her head to face me and smiled. “I guess you’re worth it, though.”

“Thanks. I think.”

She laughed; it was good to finally hear that sound. “You’re welcome. Anyway, if you’re wanting to go to the mall, then we should be getting ready.” She grimaced. “I can’t believe I’m even coming within 50 feet of that place on the day after Christmas...”

“We don’t have to go,” I said.

“No, it’s actually the perfect opportunity to, um, perform our little experiment. There will be oodles of people around. We’ll see how many, if any, can see you. And then, when we go out to eat with Louise, we’ll know what to tell her.”

“Oooh, yeah,” I said thoughtfully. “True.”

“Alright.” She turned around, breaking my embrace, and steered me out of the kitchen. “Go shower and get ready.”

“What about you?” I asked, insulted. “I’m not the only one around here who hasn’t showered yet.”

“I’ll use Louise’s bathroom. We can get ready at the same time.”

“Gotcha.”

She followed me up the stairs. Reaching into the linen closet for some towels, she asked me what stores I was wanting to hit.

“Um... probably Abercrombie... maybe Structure....” I began rattling off stores, all of which she despised with a passion.

She groaned loudly. “Dear God. It’s going to be a hell of a long day.”