Chapter Five
Word Count: 1,398

John picked up his phone and dialed without thinking too hard on what he was doing. He'd had a couple of drinks at dinner so the idea seemed like a good one at the time. Usually, in his experience anyway, ideas were not as good as he thought they were in his head.

'Hello,' she said and he paused for a second before answering her. Would she be mad he called? A little late now to think on that. Likely she had caller ID and would see his number and just call back or something since it was clear he hadnít hung up yet.

"Uh, hi, sorry. Itís John."

'Oh, hi,' she said. 'How are you?'

"Iím all right. You?"

'About the same.' Their version of all right probably differed drastically.

Then maybe not. There was a reason she appealed to him that day (and vice versa he wagered). He hadnít given her a lot of thought until then because why would he have? Their paths crossing wasnít going to happen. Yet it had. Oh, she pretended just fine, but deep down he knew she was as alone as he was when all was said and done. She just had more people around her to make it look like she wasnít so alone all of the time.

He doubted anyone but the four of them that day knew she was miserable at home, and heíd bet a million dollars none of the other three had figured out what her motherís situation was. John knew. He saw it in her eyes when she talked about them. It wasnít what sheíd said, but how.

"Good," he said.

Now what, you moron? Say something so she doesnít think youíre an idiot or an asshole. Or both.

"So, I was just wondering, you know, if maybe Melissa had come home yet," he said.

'No,' she said quietly.

"No? I was really hoping that maybe," he shrugged.

He wasnít sure what heíd hoped. That sitting there listening to her play for an hour or so would send her back to her mother. He wouldnít deny he hated the idea of his daughter being under the same roof as those people.


"Because you want her home," he said. Was that so strange? Maybe so.

'Oh, well, no.'

"Iím sorry."


"I, uh, didnít tell her I know or anything."

He wasnít sure that was a concern to her or not, but legally he wasnít sure where he stood. Heíd signed his rights away and it was made abundantly clear he wasnít to try to contact her. As heíd gotten older that bothered him off and on, but never enough to see a lawyer about the legality of it. Heíd signed on the dotted line when all was said and done. So had she.

'No?' she asked.

"Nah. I listened to her play and that was about it. I think Sean wouldíve called the cops on me if Iíd taken up much more of her time. Then I would have had to explain my way out of a for-real statutory situation."

She laughed softly at that.

"Iím glad I can amuse you."

'Where are you?'

"Uh, New York actually for a couple of nights."


"Yeah. We left there and flew out here for a while. A couple more things like Shermer Days, a couple of legitimate concerts."

'What are your couple nights a break from?'

"A fair in Pennsylvania somewhere and a real concert here in New York."

'Oh,' she said.

"I do think Sean and Melissa have talked since we left."


"That surprises you?"

'A little.'


'Sheís never really been interested in boys.'

"Is she interested in girls? Because if she is, I should probably tell Sean that heís wasting his time."

'No! Nothing like that. She just hasnít ever really shown an interest beyond going to a dance or maybe a group activity. You know, a movie or something.'


'Yes. Why do you think theyíve talked?'

"Just a suspicion I have. He hasnít said, I havenít asked. Itís not really any of my business as long as sheís not sending him naked pictures of herself."

'God, donít even joke about that.'

"Iím not sure Iím joking! Thatís more than I want to deal with, I think, and Iíve heard that happens."

'I bet it does.'

"Iím going to assume if you say sheís not like that that sheís not."

'Sheís not!'

Now what else could they talk about? The bands they were playing with in a couple daysí time, a few of them would probably appeal to Melissa. Actually, they all could depending on what kind of music she liked.

"So, what kind of music does she like?"

'What do you mean?'

"Well, weíre playing with a couple of other bands night after tomorrow. Itís a clubís thing theyíre doing. I was thinking if she liked any of the bands I could get her a shirt or something," he said, naming off the other bands.

'You donít have to do that.'

"I know I donít. Iíd send it to you, you can give it to her. Sheíll never have to know I sent it. One of the bands I could probably talk into autographing it because I know them well enough to ask such a thing."

'Youíd do that?'

"Would she like it?"

'Yes, of course.'

"Iíll see what I can come up with. Black okay? For the T-shirt, I mean?"

'Any other colors?'

"Havenít seen them yet, but Iíll try to choose something other than black."

'Thatíd be nice.'

"All right. Look for something not gothic. Got it. Any of the bands a better choice than the others?"

'Any of them, really, though Iíve heard her mention Jimmy Eats World more than the others.'



"Jimmy Eat World. Iíll see what I can do." He glanced at his watch, noticing the time and that it was a Friday night. "Why are you home?"

'Where else would I be?'

"I donít know. Out enjoying summer."

'Oh, Allison and I had dinner earlier. That was my excitement for the night.'

"Whereíd you go?" He wouldnít have thought she and Allison talked. Showed what he knew. He knew Andy dated her after that day, but he assumed once they broke up Claire would bail on that friendship.


"That sounds pretty good right now."

'You havenít eaten?'

"I did, but it wasnít near as tasty as a Hackney Burger."

'Oh. We split an onion loaf. I havenít had one in ages. It was so delicious.'

He chuckled a bit at that.

"All right. Well, Iíll let you go, I guess. I was really hoping something would shake loose for you two."

She sighed. 'Me, too.'

"Good night," he said.

'Same to you.'

He hung up and realized what a fucking ridiculous conversation it had been. He must have looked like an idiot. As if it was any of his business whether Melissa had gone home or not, but he was curious. Heíd sort of hoped that sheíd get her curiosity out of her system and give up on the living with the grandparentsí thing.

Of course he wasnít entirely sure why Melissa was mad at Claire.

A knock to his door brought him out of his thoughts. He opened his door and nodded in greeting to his neighbor.

"Hey," he said.

"Weíre heading out. Want to come?"

"Sure," John said. "Let me grab my keys," he said.

He liked his neighbor. He knew who John was and everything, but never asked John to join him on nights like this if he was going to be around people who would hound him for an autograph or tips on how to be the next Eric Clapton. He was a stereotypical theatre guy and as gay as they came, but for whatever reason John usually had a good time with him and his friends. (Being the only straight guy in a crowd was actually a help a lot of the time rather than a hindrance.)

He glanced at the phone before heading out, realizing he hadnít asked Claire what size shirt he should buy. He supposed he could ask Claude that piece of information because he didnít want to fuck something simple like a shirt up. A large seemed a little big for her, so a medium? Hell if he knew how girlsí clothes were sized.

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