Coffee and Conversations

 

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~ 5:45 PM ~

Ava had always loved the sound of the chimes on the coffeehouse door. They made her feel as if she were home and when she was at the coffeehouse, she always felt at home. Smiling as the door closed, she shrugged off her damp jacket and edged her way towards the back corner of the coffeehouse.

Spotting “their” spot open, she placed her jacket on the coat rack that hung inches away from the area. She collapsed on the plush hideous velvet green couch with a sigh. Despite its ugliness, it was perhaps the most comfortable and luxurious couch she ever had the joy of sitting in. Hearing the music over head, she smiled again. She loved the eclectic music that poured out of the speakers too. She knew if she sat in the coffeehouse long enough she could hear every type of genre ever made. Currently, she could hear the track to one of her favorite bands seeping through the air. She knew that it wouldn’t be the last time she’d hear something by the band tonight. The owner’s taste in music was as strange as her own. Tossing her purse on the floor, she stretched out and then curled herself into the cushions.

“Here you go.”

“Thanks,” Ava replied, looking up at Mo who was placing a steaming cup of latte on the table in front of her.

“Will the boys be joining you?” the waitress asked.

Nodding, she straightened herself. “Yes. I’ll go ahead and order everyone’s usual.”

“Snacks too?”

“Please. Lots. It is Friday night after all.”

“Coming up,” Mo said with a smile.

Ava smiled back and watched her walk away. Mo was a beautiful woman with vampire red lips and a sleeve of ink on her right arm. She intimidated the boys with her strength and the fire in her eyes. Ava saw the strength and fire, but from a different view. She had seen her weeks ago, crumpled on the loveseat that sat across from her crying a river of tears that smeared her jet-black mascara and red lipstick. Mo looked as if she had been abandoned by all faith and hope. The world had just given up on her and she was not taking it well. It was then that Ava realized what strength and fire the tattooed waitress had.

The door chimed, snapping Ava away from her thoughts. She turned to see if it was anyone in her party, but it wasn’t. Of the four of them, she was the one that was always early, impatiently waiting for the others. It was habit she blamed on the fact that she was born premature. They all knew it was a lie. Ava’s biggest pet peeve was punctuality. Garrett would be the only one on time. Not a moment early. Not a moment late. Just on time. She loved that about him. Punctuality was also one of his pet peeves, but he also had a laundry list of pet peeves that was beyond what any normal human could or should have. Why he had so many escaped them and him also, but if it was something that could upset the balance of his world, then Garrett Smith hated it.

#

By the time Garret had arrived, on time as usual at six, Ava had finished half her latte. Smiling, she looked up at him as he placed his jacket on the coat rack next to hers.

“All black this evening? Going to a funeral?”

“What are you reading?” he asked, edging towards her and ignoring her questions about his attire. They gave him enough hell when he wore anything other than black and gave him hell if he wore black. It was lose, lose situation to him.

“Another novel, by another writer you could give a shit about.”

“Well, aren’t we pissy this evening?”

Smiling, Ava tossed her book at him.

Kissing her on top of her head, he collapsed next to her. Looking at the book, he looked at her with a raised an eyebrow. “You’re right. I could give a shit about it.”

Rolling her eyes, Ava snatched the book from him. She was sure that if she hadn’t had a crush on Garrett for so long, she would not be able to put up with him. She wasn’t sure if it was the way he smiled or the hint of his Australian accent that had captivated her, but her crush on him beat anything Ross had on Rachel. “I told you.”

“Hi Garrett,” Mo said, placing his drink on the side table next to the couch.

“Evening Mo,” he said in return.

Flushed, the waitress smiled. “I’ll be back with the other’s when they arrive.”

“Thank you Mo,” Ava said before he could sneak in.

The two of them watched her walk away.

“You know you make her flustered.”

A smirk crawled across his tanned face. “I just said hello,” he said, reaching for his drink. “Besides, isn’t she seeing someone?”

“That’s not the point. You know she likes you and you go out of your way to drive her crazy.”

Running a hand through his spikey blonde hair, he looked at Ava with a smile that could turn anyone into melted butter. “I just said hello.”

“You and your smugness are unbearable at times,” she said, nudging him in the ribs.

Putting his arm around Ava, he pulled her closer to him. “You’re just jealous,” he whispered in her ear.

“You wish,” she whispered back as she slipped an arm around him. Snuggling closer to him, she inhaled his cologne and felt herself sigh.

It was moments like these they both cherished.

Garrett kissed the top of Ava’s head again and pulled her as close as he could. She was the only woman who had never given up on him. She had stood by him through thick and thin and asked for nothing in return. Not that he had anything in return to give her other than his love and friendship. He knew one day, they’d be together, but he wasn’t sure when it would be. He wasn’t ready to hurt the only woman he loved. It would surely be his death if he hurt her. He couldn’t bear the thought of losing his muse. She had inspired him and encouraged him to do anything that he wanted.

“You two should get a room,” a voice from behind them bellowed.

Looking over his shoulder, Garrett smiled at Walsh. “It was just about to get exciting.”

Tossing his jacket over Ava’s, he smiled at his two best friends. “Watching you is about as exciting as watching a wet towel dry.” Leaning down, Walsh kissed Ava’s cheek. “Hey Sweetie.”

“Love,” she said with a kiss on his cheek in return. “Want to sit with us.”

“And miss the love fest? I think not.”

Smiling, Ava sat up and moved over.

“Where’s Porn?”

“You know he will be late as usual,” Garrett answered, moving his arm from around Ava. He knew in a matter of moments that Walsh would have her in his arms. She had somehow unknowingly become the rag doll they fought over.

“So have we placed bets on when he’s arriving?” Walsh asked as Mo arrived at their spot with his drink in hand. “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” she said and left the trio.

Garrett said as he checked his watch. “I’ve got six thirty.”

“Six forty-seven.”

Walsh reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. “Twenty says he will be here at six thirty-five.”

“Deal,” Ava replied. “If he comes five minutes early it’s Garrett’s. Five minutes late, it’s yours.”

The three friends scrambled for twenty dollars and placed their money on the coffee table in front of them.

“Could we maybe pool our money for a watch for him instead,” Garrett asked.

“He wears one. I bought it for him. In fact, he picked it out,” Ava answered.

“Did you set the time on it?”

Mocking him, Ava stood.

“Where are you going?”

“To the bathroom if it’s okay with you master Garrett,” she sassed. “Do I need a hall pass?”

He motioned her away with his hand. “Sorry.”

Once she was out of earshot, Walsh asked, “Is she on her cycle? That seemed a bit bitchy.”

“If she was, she would have taken her purse with her,” Garrett answered; looking at Walsh he saw a look that could only be described as what the fuck? “What?”

“Why does a purse have to be involved with a cycle?”

"Are you serious? You work in female dominated field."

"Those females pay me to mock their female dominated field."

Garrett sighed. "Theory number one my friend, feminine products are concealed in a purse. Theory number two, make-up is in a purse. Now, Ava didn’t take her purse so she’s not reapplying make-up on and apparently she’s not in a cycle of hormones.”

Staring at him, Walsh shook his head slightly. He knew the theories worked, but they also didn’t work either. “Or she could have everything she needs in the pocket of her jeans. They make mini sizes of everything now. Make-up and feminine products included. I do know that from all the girls at work."

Slightly nodding, Garrett relaxed in his seat. “You are correct.”

“I’ll just ask when she gets back. Would explain the semi bitchy temperament I’m feeling from her.”

“It’s none of our business.”

“I don’t care. If we were all girls here, we’d be discussing it like it was just the weather or the latest episode on some god forsaken reality show.”

“But we’re not all girls here. Well, I know I’m not.”

“Fuck you,” Walsh replied. “What’s the all black for?”

Rolling his eyes, Garrett took a sip of his coffee. “I wear all black you guys give me grief. I wear something with color and get grief. I can’t win can I?”

“Well, if you didn’t look like you just stepped out of GQ, then I wouldn’t ask. Why are you dressed so snazzy?”

“I’m wearing jeans and a button down.”

“Clothing that Porn would have picked out for you to wear.”

“I picked these out. Are you saying it is metro?”

“Not metro, just not your normal attire to Friday nights here. Your Friday night attire is more like jeans and tee, not probably super expensive dark wash jeans and a shirt that probably cost more than our combined tab will be tonight.”

Garrett shrugged his shoulders. “Just felt like wearing it.”

“You’re going to see someone aren’t you?”

“No. Just felt like wearing it.”

“Seriously?”

Garrett looked at Walsh. “I answered that already.”

“Answered what?” Ava asked, collapsing on the love seat across from the two of them.

“Nothing.”

“I asked why he was so dressed up.”

“You look hot tonight. Any reason?”

Sighing, Garrett looked at Ava. “Just felt like wearing what I have on,” he answered. He would never admit he knew that what he was wearing was one of Ava’s favorite attire. Every time he wore it, she complimented on it.

“Walsh is just jealous,” she said with a wink.

Smiling, Garrett raised his cup to her.

“I am not jealous,” Walsh chimed in.

“Sure. Believe the hype buddy.”

Looking at her, Walsh wanted to throw his wallet at her. “Are you cycling?”

“As in a bicycle or as in a menstrual cycle?”

“The latter.”

“No, but thanks for calling me a bitch.”

“You’re not a bitch. You’re just bitchy tonight.”

“Tonight is no different from any other night sweetheart.”

“Again Walsh,” Garrett added, “you’re just jealous. Ava’s got the one liners tonight.”

“I see it is pick on Walsh night.”

“When is it not pick on Walsh night?” Garrett asked.

“It’s always pick on Walsh night,” Porn answered as he walked towards the trio. Seeing the money on the table, he glanced at them and then looked at his watch. “Six fifteen.”

“Damn,” Garrett replied. “I had six thirty.”

“Six thirty-five.”

“Six forty-seven.”

Smiling, Porn grabbed the money from the table. “Hello my little friends,” he said to the three twenties in his hand. “Look’s like the evening’s on me then.” Looking at his three friends, “Well, I mean, you, you, and you.”

“Is it still raining outside?” Ava asked as he took his jacket off and placed it on the chair between the loveseat and couch.

“Drizzling,” he answered, sitting next too her. “Six forty-seven?”

Shrugging her shoulders, Ava leaned her head against his shoulder. “You’ve been super late to everything this week. I was going with the flow.”

“I haven’t been super late to everything.”

The other two men laughed.

“When have you been on time this week?” Garrett asked.

Scratching his cheek, Porn shrugged his shoulders. “I didn’t say I was on time, I said I haven’t been super late.”

On cue like the other three times, Mo appeared with Porn’s chosen drinks. One double espresso and an iced vanilla frappuccino that would be the first of six he would have tonight. “Trey’s bringing your first round of snacks,” she said to him.

Perking up, Porn smiled. “He’s a doll.”

“I thought you might like a change of scenery from me,” she said to Porn.

“We love seeing you,” Garrett said, making her blush.

“Well, this is for Porn,” she said, turning away from him. There was something about Garrett that drove all species into an absolute frenzy when he was around. “Another one for you Ava?”

“Please.”

“Me too,” Garrett added.

“Walsh?”

“By the time you finish with theirs, I’ll be ready, so go ahead please.”

Nodding, Mo disappeared as Trey appeared with a bevy of snacks.

“Here you guys go,” he said not noticing anyone other than Porn. “We have some rare and delicious cookies made by Sam tonight.” Still staring at Porn, he continued with a wink and a smile, “He’s trying out a new recipe so let me know if you hate them.”

“Thanks,” Porn said as he walked away.

“Should we leave you alone so you can score?” Walsh asked as Porn stared after Trey.

“Huh?”

“Never mind.”

“If you keep staring, you’ll bore holes into the back of his head,” Garrett added as he reached for a cookie.

“What do you guys think?”

“The cookie’s great.”

“Not that. About Trey.”

“Go for it hot stuff,” Garrett suggested.

“Do you know anything about him?” Walsh asked.

“I know that he’s hot.”

“You think ninety percent of the male population is hot.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Porn sighed. “At least I’m open-minded to what is available.”

“And what does that mean?”

“It means, you shouldn’t be so picky about the ladies in your life. Keep the gates closed and the only woman you’ll know is Ava.”

“Hey.”

“No offense,” Porn said leaning back into the loveseat and putting his arm around her. “You’re an absolute angel and any man should be honored to have you in their life. The three of us should be bearing you gifts every time we see you.”

“I like that idea.”

“But if Walsh wants a woman in his life that he can score with, then he must let all women in his life.”

“Are you saying I can’t score with Ava?”

“If she’s drunk you could.”

“Should I be taking offense to any of this?” she asked Garrett.

“I’m not sure, but probably.”

“Your standards of what a woman should be are not reality.”

“Ava’s a reality.”

“You’re saying that because she is sitting here.”

“I am not.” Looking at Ava, Walsh new that she was the type of woman he wanted in his life. If she would have him, she would be the woman for him. “She would be my ideal woman.”

A twinge of jealousy rose in Garrett. In a subtle manner, they had been fighting over Ava for years and the small comments that sometimes escaped the others hit closer to him than anything.

“No, she would be Garrett’s ideal woman.”

Walsh looked at him.

Nodding, he shrugged. “What am I suppose to say?”

“You could take my side.”

“I don’t even know what your side is and besides, I’ll be totally greedy, I want Ava for myself.”

“Fuck you.”

“Boys, play nice.”

“Anyway, I’m not sure I follow where this conversation is going.”

Ava felt a wave of relief when Mo appeared like a beacon in the night with the second round of drinks. She absolutely loved the timing of the woman tonight.

“Let’s ask Mo.”

“Let’s not,” Garrett, Ava, and Walsh said in unison.

“Ask me what?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Walsh answered. “Porn’s just being an ass.”

“I am not. I’m just suggesting that you need to be real when it comes to your ideal woman.”

“You mean lower his standards?” Mo asked, placing their drinks on the coffee table.

“Sort of. Walsh just has this high standard for what his ideal woman will be and unfortunately he’s not going to meet a supermodel who will love him for his charms.”

“My ideal woman is not a supermodel.”

“What?” Ava asked. “You’re on crack aren’t you?”

“You’re not on my side either?”

“I have to agree with Garrett about not knowing your side, but you only date women who have nothing in common with you. It’s okay to date down without lowering your standards. Porn’s right. The hottest supermodel of the world is not going to walk in and request your hand in marriage. Instead of blonde hair, maybe a red head.”

“Natural breasts versus fake breasts,” Garrett added.

With a toss of his hands, Porn replied, “This is what I am saying.”

“My ideal woman is not a supermodel.”

“It’s truly okay if it is,” Garrett said. “On your defense, it’s your own choice, but just ask yourself this question, how many women have you dated in your life have had any other hair color than blonde? Natural or fake.”

Walsh contemplated the question and didn’t like the result that was tallying his head. “I’ll get back to you guys on that.”

Smiling, Porn leaned back into the loveseat. “Point proven.”

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~ 6:30 ~

Staring at the four friends, Mo leaned back against the espresso machine. She envied the group. Their circle was tight and seemed to be unbreakable. They met every Friday at the coffeehouse at various times and stayed for what seemed like an eternity to any outsider. They talked, laughed, played games, and enjoyed being in the presence of each other. Sometimes they were there as a pair or a trio, but more often than not, they were there as four. Mo remembered they first time she had seen the four of them together. It was that very day they became inseparable.

Ava and Walsh stopped by the coffeehouse every day and at that time; Mo thought they were a couple. They laughed and joked together the way that only couples could. Their routine was simple. They’d stop in around six and stay for an hour. Mo had learned that they met after work to release the day’s tension and just to vent about each other’s daily lives.

Ava was a web designer for an up and coming start up business in the area. It was a job she hated, but it paid well and though she was never about the money, she was too scared to venture off and just do what she felt in her heart. Not that she knew what she felt in her heart. It had been a long while since she had any rumblings in there. She was positive that it was filled with cobwebs and dust. Ava didn’t know what she was waiting for and she felt that if she had an inkling of an idea of what she was waiting for, that she still wouldn’t know it if it came up and bit her on the ass. She hated the way that she was sometimes oblivious to the most obvious things around her. She didn’t know if she just chose to ignore the things around her or if she truly couldn’t see the lines or between them. She even once took a class on mediating and finding her psychic self to see if she could read between the lines and see not only the obvious but also the underneath. The only thing she saw was her checking account short a hundred bucks and three friends who made fun of her, but what she felt was an awakening inside her. Not an awakening of her psychic self, but a part of her that she had ignored for so long and refused to acknowledge. It was the mere acknowledgement that she controlled her actions and that though destiny and fate played a hand in life it was her choice to choose which path that destiny and fate would give her. So as Garrett, Porn, and Walsh laughed at her, she laughed along with them, but on the inside she was shooting them a middle finger and smiling that she finally got the whole destiny and fate debate. The figments of the imagination became real and she could see for the first time her choices and she liked what she saw.

Ava had met Walsh in college and they had become instant friends over a chem lab gone wrong. It would be an experiment that bonded them for what would be life.

Walsh ended up throwing his college education out the window and not becoming a multi-billion dollar businessman like he had planned since he was fifteen years old. It was at that age, he realized that money would always get the women. Instead, he became a writer for a fashion magazine. He was the sole male columnist for the magazine. He spat out his opinions on the need for thigh-highs, push up bras and stilettos. Though a portion of the female population said he pigeon holed the female species into a bimbo stereotype, the rest of the population found his diatribes amusing and funny. He had become a man who questioned the things that females did and then answered his own questions mocking chauvinistic men and men of privilege in the process. It was marketing ploy that no magazine editor could dream of creating because at the time he took the job, no heterosexual male would have ever dream of writing in a women’s fashion magazine. Especially one that focused only on what designer was hot and who was wearing what. It was a magazine that straight men only read when they were in the bathroom with nothing else other than their thoughts and their significant other’s choice of reading material. It might have been a waste in a college education, but it still paid well and attracted the women that Walsh so loved. Though he had slept with most of the women in his office, most still thought he was gay because his interest in them lasted for only a few days maybe a few weeks if they were lucky. He had that boyish charm that crawled into one’s skin. You either wanted to fuck him or be his best friend and for Ava, she only wanted the latter. Walsh had never given up hope though. A small part of him held onto the dream that maybe one day things would be different and that he would be with her, but with Garrett in the picture, Walsh knew that it wouldn’t be him in her heart so he had settled on being her best friend. He knew it in college and he knew it the moment they had been introduced to Garrett. He only had himself to blame though. He was the one who introduced her to Porn, who had introduced them to Garrett. It was funny how life can create a chain of its own sometimes. It was him who had insisted that Ava meet Porn. He knew that Porn would be the fresh breath of air to their little circle.

Porn worked with Walsh. They had met each other in the hallway when two models were cat fighting over a pair of expensive shoes that were custom made for an exclusive photo shoot. The fight had spilled into the hallway and into Walsh’s pathway. He, of course, found the moment opportune and not only separated the fight but got the phone numbers of both models. Porn, who had seen the whole interaction, commended him on his triumph and asked him if he wanted to watch the shoot. The models would be ninety percent naked anyway since he was the stylist. The catfight in the hallway was Porn’s first day as the magazine’s stylist and he really just wanted someone who didn’t intimidate the hell out of him in the room with him. The magazine was known for firing a stylist, make-up artist, and whomever its wrath chose on site with no questions asked or reason given why. It was said that if one could last one week at the magazine, then one had truly made it in the industry. Porn would have been happy with one day and of course he had no idea that he would turn into the style editor within six months. The day he received his promotion he tracked Walsh down and told him the whole story of his first day and how he had made an impossible first day seem like the greatest day. He wanted to celebrate his promotion with the person who sat in the room with him and made fun of the models, fashion and the whole aspect of a fashion magazine with him. The one person who had made him forget that he was actually at a job. To him, it just seemed like two friends goofing off and making fun of the pretty people. Porn guessed it was then that he had fallen for Walsh, but wasn’t quite positive about it. He wasn’t quite sure about a lot of things in his life either. The only thing Porn was sure of was that he had fallen for a straight man that could give a fuck that he was sitting next to a gay man. That was the one quality that Porn found the sexiest about Walsh. It didn’t matter if Walsh was straight, Porn was happy just to be sitting next to him. On the day of his promotion, he ordered that Walsh would help him celebrate and called only one other person to share his news with and that was his brother’s ex-best friend, Garrett.

It was Garrett that had pulled his brother off of him when he came out of the closet. It was also Garrett that took him to the hospital to get bandaged up and gave him a place to stay when his entire family kicked him out of their lives and stopped talking to him in one night. In the end, he was the only family that Porn would have and the only person he wanted to share his good news with. When the infamous night happened, as Porn liked to call it, it was the beginning of a brotherhood that neither he nor Garrett minded. People often thought they were brothers anyway except when they caught the hint of Garrett’s Australian accent that had lingered since he had moved to the States as a teen. So it was natural for him to celebrate Porn’s promotion with him. He would’ve been crushed if he hadn’t. He just took the next flight back to join his best friend in celebration. That was the great luxury of him being his own boss. He could do things on a whim and when he wanted to do it. The only person he had to answer to was himself and he was pretty happy with himself. He owned a successful surfboard shop that sold and built custom boards. Surfing had always been a passion of his since he was able to stand and now it had become a passion that had paid off financially for him. He was fortunate that surfers wanted his boards and was even more fortunate to open up a shop on the shores of where his father had taught him to surf. A land he wanted to return to one day with his wife and children if he ever settled down. Garrett wasn’t like Walsh who could get and go through so many women that it made the group’s head spin. He was the opposite. He couldn’t keep a woman in his life for longer than a month or two. His traveling would make them leave or he discovering that they were only after his money would make them leave. Ava had been the only person that didn’t care about his traveling or money. She was the only woman he could talk to when he was finished a day of traveling and business who actually cared how his day was, how his work was going, and if he got to his destination safely. She cared with no strings attached and Garrett couldn’t decide if he was scared to death of that or if he was more scared that he wanted strings attached to Ava. He didn’t know if he could just let go and be with someone when for so long he was without.

The day the four of them met was explosive. Ava was waiting at one of the outside tables, basking in the sun and reading a book as usual. She could hear Walsh and his co-worker around the block. They sounded as if they were the happiest people in the world. She was even jealous that they sounded as happy as they did. Trying her best not to look up, she watched them from behind her sunglasses. Porn had his arm looped through Walsh’s and was waving his hand about like a flaying fish. Laughing to herself, Ava almost choked on her espresso. It was so un-Walsh, yet he seemed comfortable to have this man hanging on his arm. She remembered the phone call she had received only hours earlier.

“You are going to trip over this guy,” she remembered Walsh saying.

“Seems like you’re the one tripping over him,” she said to herself. Still watching the two, she was caught staring when Walsh smiled and shrugged in his boyish way. Raising her hand, she threw them a little wave and on cue, Porn tossed one in return.

“She’s an absolute doll!” she heard him say as they crowded the table.

“Ava, this is Porn. Porn, this is Ava.”

“It is such an honor to meet you,” Porn said as he shook her hand. Throwing himself in the chair next to her, he smiled, “Walsh talks about you so much.”

“It’s nice to meet you too,” she replied, realizing she had no clue what to say in response. She had never heard of Porn before today. It was as if he just appeared out of nowhere and into their lives. “Is Porn your real name?”

“God, no, honey. My real name is boring. Peter Octavius Richard Neely. My parents were apparently trying to kill me with my name so I turned took the initials and tried to kill them with it!”

Ava smiled. She liked Porn already. His short light brown hair was wavy and sun kissed with tints that only made one aware of how dark his brown eyes were. There was a soft boyish look to his face that she trusted. She knew that he would never tell your secrets or turn his back on someone. Porn was the type of person that wore his heart on his sleeve even if it stayed broken. The sadness in his eyes told her that it often stayed broken despite the owner’s outward happiness expression.

“What are you wearing?”

Looking down at her attire with a raised brow, she shrugged.

“Scent.”

“Something with sesame seed in it. Doesn’t give me a headache.”

“You smell delicious.”

Feeling herself blush, Ava looked at Walsh who was grinning ear to ear.

“Didn’t I tell you that you would love him?”

“You did,” she replied. Turning to Porn, she smiled, “Congratulations on your promotion by the way.”

“Thank you. I truly couldn’t have done it without Walsh.”

Curious, she asked, “How come?”

Obliging, Porn spilled every detail to his new best friends even if Walsh had already heard the story earlier in the day. He repeated how he met Walsh and how his life had changed that very moment. “And that was that,” he said as a matter-of-factly. “I knew I had to find him and make him celebrate with me.”

“And celebrating with one person is no fun when you can celebrate with two, so of course I had to call you. I knew you’d make it a party and coordinate the rest of the evening.”

“And if I had plans?”

“I’d talk you out of them,” Porn chimed in.

“And if you couldn’t?”

“Then Garrett would have. He’s got Yoda powers.”

“Yoda powers?”

Nodding, Porn smiled in childlike awe. “Yeah. Always has. He would just look at you and say you’re going and you would just go okay. Just like that.”

Ava smiled at Porn and then finished her espresso. “Then I can’t wait to meet Yoda Garrett.”

“He’s hot too.” Looking at Walsh, Porn added, “Present company excluded.”

“Of course. I’m going to hit Mo up for a drink. Anyone need anything?” Walsh asked as he stood.

“I’m fine.”

“Porn?”

“Caramel latte.”

“Hot or cold?”

“Hot.”

“Anything special?”

“What?”

“Half and half, skim, whipped cream, so on.”

“However they normally make it is fine.”

Walsh nodded and walked away.

“You’re not a huge coffee fan are you?”

“Not the least bit,” Porn said, turning his full attention to Ava. “Martinis are my forte, but I’ll learn how to like coffee. Have you and Walsh dated long?”

Ava immediately laughed harder than she should have.

“What’s so funny?”

“We’re not a couple. He’s my best friend.”

“But he looks at you with lust in his eyes.”

“He looks at everyone that way. Porn, if you hadn’t noticed, he loves his women. He’s a whore.”

Porn laughed out loud. He liked Ava. She was honest with her words and he knew she was probably honest with her feelings too. She had an unassuming beauty about her. The magazine editor would call her average but she was far from average in his eyes. Her dark brown hair and doe eyes took his breath away and he was gay. He wondered what effect she had on straight men if she took his breath away. When she smiled, he knew that her smile alone could mend any trouble one had.

“Where are you drinks?” Ava asked as Walsh sat down.

“Mo’s bringing them,” he said, watching a black, ’68 drop top Mustang slowly drive by.

“But weren’t you getting them from her?” Porn asked.

“Don’t bother talking to him Porn. He’s drooling over the ’68 Mustang that just drove by.”

Looking over his shoulder, he saw the car turn around and park on their side of the street. “It was his dad’s,” he said to Ava. “He had it restored several years ago.”

“You know the driver?” Walsh asked as he watched a tall, physically fit blonde man climb out of the car.

“Here you go,” Mo said, placing a round of drinks on the table.

“It’s Garrett.”

Looking up, Mo whistled. “He’s hot.”

Staring at her, Walsh’s brow crumpled at her.

“Sorry, I’m out.”

“Yoda Garrett?”

“It’s just Garrett,” the blonde said as he joined the table. “No Yoda.” Looking at Porn, he asked, “What on earth have you been telling them?”

“Nothing,” Porn replied in a tone that a five-year-old boy who had just flushed his sister’s Barbie head down the toilet would use. Looking away, he looked at Ava and Walsh. “Garrett, this is Ava and this is Walsh.”

“It’s nice to meet you both,” he said and shook their respective hands.

“Have a seat,” Walsh offered by pushing the chair next to him over with his foot. “Sorry about the Yoda thing.”

“It’s okay,” he said taking a seat. “So who needed convincing?”

“What?”

“He tells that stupid Yoda line to everyone who needs to be convinced of something. Like I have mystical powers.”

Ava slowly raised her hand. “It was me,” she smiled.

Walsh looked at his best friend. She had suddenly become shy. This was not Ava. This was not the friend who openly attacked everything in his life. This was someone who was flustered and it just dawned on him why.

“What was he trying to convince you of?”

“There was no need of convincing,” Ava answered. Feeling Walsh stare her down, she kicked what she thought was his leg under the table.

“Ow!” Porn yelped.

“I’m so sorry.” She turned to Porn and felt herself turn five shades of red. “I didn’t…I was crossing…dude, I’m just sorry.”

“Did you say dude?” Garrett asked.

“Habit,” she answered without looking at him. “Why?”

“I don’t hear it a lot out of my work. Well, I mean, I just think I notice it more outside of my business I should say.”

“What do you do?” Walsh asked.

“Build custom surf boards.”

“When I was younger, my dad was the epitome of the sixties stoner,” Ava answered. “Every other word out of his mouth was dude.”

Walsh looked at Garrett and wondered what he had that made Ava kick a near total stranger. “Look at him,” he screamed at himself. Wanting to make his inner voice shut up, he looked at Garrett and saw everything that Ava had seen in him. He was a nicely tanned, physically fit, strikingly handsome and confident man. He had sun-bleached hair that was naturally blonde and forest green eyes. Hell, if he had been gay, he would have fallen for Garrett too. Sighing to himself, Walsh felt a little hope slide away from his heart. “Porn said you were flying in later,” he heard himself say and then begged his macho manhood to shut up and be nice.

“There was an extra seat on an earlier flight. Thought I’d surprise him.”

“I’m glad you did bro.”

Smiling, Garrett looked at Porn. He knew how much this promotion had meant to him and how much it meant for him to be here to celebrate with him and his new friends. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

“Stop. I’m going to get teary eyed.”

“You’re not a drama queen are you?” Ava asked and then wished she hadn’t. “I didn’t mean it. I mean, I’m just going to shut the hell up now.”

“He’s a total drama queen,” Garrett answered with a slight wink.

Sensing Ava’s embarrassment over something he didn’t take offense too, Porn nodded. “I am a total drama queen like he said and I’m not easily offended so don’t feel bad.”

Smiling, she patted his hand. “I speak freely. Sometimes too freely.”

“So did her dad.”

Garrett felt a stitch of envy rise in him. Something he didn’t feel often when it came to matters of the heart. “How long have you two been together?”

This time it was Walsh who laughed. “We’re best friends. I haven’t even seen Ava naked.”

“Well, thank God, because you would apparently tell the whole world if you did.”

“I didn’t mean it that way prissy pants.”

Ava glared at Walsh and drove a high heel into the toe of his shoe.

“Apologies again,” he winced.

“You two sure you’re not a couple?”

“Best friends,” Walsh answered with no bonus reply.

“We met in a chem lab gone wrong.”

“This sounds interesting,” Porn said.

“Please do tell.”

Ava looked at Garrett and couldn’t say no. “It’s nothing juicy. Walsh was flirting with my lab partner when he knocked over the flame we were using which set her hair on fire.”

Porn looked at Walsh. “That is horrible.”

“It gets better,” he replied.

“Turns out her hair was a wig or extensions. Whatever it was melted to her skin.”

“Still horrible.”

“Still gets better.”

“She is panicking and hyperventilating of course and ends up passing out, but as she falls to the floor her skirt snags the table which rips off of her body to reveal she’s a he.”

Lowering his head to the table, Walsh counted to five and then laughter erupted from the table. Raising his head to the firing squad, in his defense he offered, “He was a hot woman.”

Ava nodded. “And I hated her because she was so stunning.”

As the four continued to laugh, Mo watched from inside the coffeehouse and knew the four of them just became inseparable from each other.

“There were no signs she was a he?” Garrett asked.

“None at all man. None at all.”

Looking at Walsh, Garrett could see why Porn was attracted to him. He was charming and his bed head black hair and blue eyes only complimented his boyish good looks. He knew that Walsh was a ladies man but faithful to his friends and loyal perhaps to a fault.

“None?” Porn asked Ava.

“Every girl hated her. She was smart, beautiful and had stolen seventy-five percent of the senior girls’ boyfriends.”

“Obviously, because she sucked a mean…”

“Porn,” Garrett interrupted. “There is a lady at the table.”

“I don’t care. Walsh may be a ladies man, but he is far from being polite around me.”

“You are totally right,” Walsh said to Porn. “He is like a big brother.”

“I told you,” Ava smiled.

#

“So where is this celebration heading to?” Garrett asked, pushing his empty cup away from him.

“Ava, you’re the coordinator,” Walsh answered. “Any suggestions?”

Looking at the three men, she took a deep breath and answered, “Why must I be the coordinator? Just because I’m a woman?”

“It’s the gay man’s celebration so I’m out.”

“It’s totally not fair. You two work at the hottest magazine in the world and you can’t find or know some hot and happening party, bar, restaurant, or wherever it is that fashionistas hang out at.”

“She has a point,” Garrett added.

“There’s that new club everyone’s hitting tonight,” Porn said.

“We could start there. I hear they have one of the hottest djs in the country working there for two weeks and martinis that would make one swear that alcoholism is a way of life.”

“Where do you come up with these lines Walsh?”

Ignoring her, he continued, “Hot babes and guys there.”

Porn smiled. “I’m in.” Looking at each person, he nodded. “Walsh and Garrett, you guys are dressed nice enough to get in, but Ava, you can’t wear what you’re wearing.”

“Huh?”

“Jeans and tee aren’t going to work.”

“What’s wrong with what I am wearing?”

“Too casual.”

“You all are casual.”

“Casual for guys is a tee shirt and jeans. They’re wearing button ups so that makes it not casual.”

“I wore this to work.”

“You work in a geek environment. If you dressed up, their minds would never be on their work. Look, I’m a gay man but you’re smoking hot. So of course your bosses tell you to dress casual.”

She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know if she was hurt, slightly confused, or should thank him for his statement.

“What kind of shoes are you wearing?”

“Maybe if I had kicked you harder you would know.”

Reaching under the table, Garrett grabbed her slender leg and pulled it towards him with a smile. “Black heels. Hot too.”

“Do you have your suitcase?”

“Trunk.”

“Keys?”

Reaching into his pocket, Garrett slid them across the table.

“Come on Ava.” Grabbing her hand, Porn stood. “I’ll replace anything I ruin.”

“Ruin?” she asked. She looked at Walsh for help but he was hiding a laugh behind his coffee cup. “You are just getting a huge kick out of this aren’t you?”

“What was that show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? On this episode we go Queer Eye for a Straight Girl. I’m so loving this especially after you tortured me with hours upon hours of watching that show.”

“You loved that show,” she stated. “I know we just met, but won’t you be of help Garrett?”

He could only shrug his shoulders. “You look great in what you are wearing, but I’m not a fashionista so what do I know.”

“Time is of the essence. Come on.”

Walsh and Garrett watched as Porn dragged Ava to the back of Garrett’s car. He threw open the trunk and they disappeared behind it.

“How pissed is she?”

“On a scale of one to ten only a three or three and a half. She’ll be aggravated by the whole thing but at the end of the night, she’ll have forgotten about it all.”

“What does she do for a living?”

“Web designer. Graphic artist. She's one or the other. Maybe both.”

“You don’t know?”

“I don’t remember. Honestly, it’s a bit boring to me.”

“Does she like her job?”

“Just like for all of us, depends on the day,” Walsh answered, looking away from the car.

“Porn have you seen Garrett without his shirt on?”

“Of course. He taught me how to surf. Well, he tried to anyway.”

“Then you should know that there’s no way in hell that wife beater will fit me.”

“It’s not a wife beater. It’s an undershirt. He wears it under his business shirts. Not out in the public because I would kill him.”

“Nice built body,” Ava said and pointed to where Garrett sat. Pointing to herself, she said, “Woman’s body. Man” Point “Woman.” Point.

“It’s all about attitude. You’ve got it so flaunt it. Now give me your shirt and put this one on and then turn around.”

Ava jerked her shirt off, not really caring who saw her standing on the street changing clothes behind a car. She slid into Garrett’s shirt, which hung loosely on her. “See.”

“Wait.”

Putting her hand on her hips, Ava sighed. What was she thinking? Feeling something cold and metal against her back she shivered.

“Be still.”

“Sorry.”

“Hold.”

“Where did these come from?” she asked as Porn placed a small pair of scissors in her hand.

“Style baby. Style.”

In a matter of moments, Porn had the once loose shirt hugging every curve of Ava’s body. He pilfered through Garrett’s bag and found a black button up shirt and slipped it over her. After a few moments of adjusting, he stepped back with a smile. “This is sexy business casual that ladies need. Dark denim jeans, black tailored, well semi-tailored button up. I mean, if I gave you black frame glasses and a string of pearl necklaces, you could be the hottie in porn that everyone wants. You are to die for.”

Blushing, Ava looked at what she was wearing. Her jeans and shoes were now paired with a curve hugging undershirt and a slightly altered black button up. “I look like an idiot don’t I?”

“Why don’t you watch the faces on Walsh and Garrett and let that be your answer.” Stepping around the car, he looked at the two men. “Are you ready?”

“Just hurry,” Walsh answered back. Looking at Garrett, he smiled. “Maybe this was a bad idea.”

“I’m beginning to think” he replied, but as Ava stepped around from the back of his car his mouth stopped working and just fell open and so did Walsh’s.

“Holy shit.”

“Wow.”

“Now those are two faces that say I want to fuck her,” Porn said as he closed the trunk.

Looking over her shoulder, Ava smiled. “I’m already turning red, so stop.”

Grabbing her hand, Porn gave it a squeeze. “Let’s go light up this town and meet your new lusters or suitors. Whichever you want to call them.”

Walsh was floored. Ava looked amazing even if the only thing that was different was her top. He was impressed that in fifteen minutes, Porn had turned average clothing into something fabulous. “He really should be a designer.”

“I tell him but he won’t listen.”

“So he’s done this before?”

“To his friends. Maybe it’s the model but this is his best work yet.”

Glancing at Garret, Walsh wanted to scream of course it’s the model but he held his tongue. No need to show off his jealous side.

“So I’m guessing by the looks on your faces that this is hot?”

Covering her face, Ava blushed even harder.

“Hot.”

“Hot.”

“See,” Porn said, pulling her hands away from her face. “Unanimously hot.”

“Let’s just go.”

“We’ve got to get our check,” Walsh replied as he stood.

“I took care of it already. Congratulations again Porn.”

Porn’s heart smiled. This was the nicest thing anyone had done for him in a long time. Grabbing Ava, he hugged her. “Thank you Doll.”

“You’re welcome,” she said and kissed the side of his cheek.

“I’ll drive then,” Garrett said as he stood.

“Did you get the tip too?” Walsh asked as they walked towards the car.

“Yes.”

“When did you do all of this?” Garrett asked.

“When I went to the restroom earlier.”

Opening the passenger door, Walsh and Porn climbed into the backseat. “You’re full of surprises aren’t you?”

Smiling, Ava got into the car without a word.

#

The club the four of them went to was probably the loudest club in the universe with heart jarring bass, flattering low lights, and every single pretty person in town.

Watching Porn and Walsh on the dance floor, Ava shook her head with a sigh. Surrounding both, women and men pawed at them like caged animals.

“So this is where you have been hiding,” Garrett said, placing a drink in front of her.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“It’s the quietest spot in the club. I don’t have to yell so loud.”

“Are you watching the two party animals?”

“They’re hilarious.”

“Are you having fun?”

“I am.”

“Honestly?”

“Honestly.”

Sitting next to her, Garrett smiled. He didn’t really know what to think of Ava. She didn’t seem like the other women who were obsessed with money, looks, and so on. If there was a definition and meaning for the word normal woman, she was the picture of it. “It’s just not your scene is it?”

“Not on a work night.”

“Walsh says you work for an Internet firm or something.”

“Web design for a start up.”

“So if I needed your web design services I’d call them up.”

“Or I could just offer you my services.”

“My business could use a great new website.”

“I’ll do it.”

“What’s your price?”

“Teach me to surf and we’ll call it even.”

Garrett nodded with a smile. “Deal.”

Reaching out, Ava shook his hand. “Deal.”

“And so the story begins with the beach bum and the computer geek watching their two friends party into the good night.”

“You don’t go out on work nights either do you?”

“Only for special occasions.”

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~ 6:45 ~

“Mo, could you help him?”

“What?” she asked, snapping out of her memories.

“The gentleman with the flowers,” Trey answered as he assisted his customer at the cash register.

Still a bit dazed, she looked at the man who held a bouquet of red roses in his hands. “How can I help you?”

“Is there anyone here by the name of Ava Howe?”

“The woman in the corner on the green couch.”

The man looked over his shoulder and then back at Mo. “Thank you.”

“No problem.”

“Who got flowers?”

“Ava.”

“From who?”

“Didn’t ask. It’s none of my business.”

“Don’t you think it’s weird that someone sent flowers here?”

“Of course it’s weird. She’s a customer getting flowers in a coffeehouse.”

“Ava Howe.”

Looking up, the four friends just stared at the man holding roses.

“That’s me.”

“These are for you ma’am.”

Blushing, Ava stood and took the flowers from him. “Thank you. Do I need to sign anything?”

“No ma’am. Have a good night.”

Watching the stranger leave, Ava lifted the flowers to her nose and inhaled. The smell reminded her of the summers she spent on her grandfather’s farm, spending the afternoon pruning and watering the rose bushes with him.

“Who’s sending you flowers?” Porn asked as he stood. Digging through the roses, he searched for the card.

“Nosey.” Pulling the flowers away from him, she sat down in the chair and opened the card with a smile.

“What’s it say?” Walsh asked.

“Nothing.” Slipping the note in the back pocket of her jeans, she stood again. “I’m going to get some water for these. Do you guys need anything?”

The three men said nothing.

With the roses in tow, Ava walked away.

“What the hell was that?” Walsh asked.

“Who sent flowers to her here?”

Looking at Garrett, the two hoped for answers to their questions.

“What?”

“Did you send them?”

“Why would I send her flowers here? Don’t you think I’d just bring them to her?”

“Who did then?”

“I don’t know Porn. Obviously, someone likes Ava or just wanted to send her flowers.”

“But who? She hasn’t talked about anyone. She hasn’t mentioned any dates. In fact, she has a pretty dull life.”

“She might not tell us everything.”

“Whatever. We are her best friends. We share everything.”

“Are you sure about that?” Garrett asked.

“What do you mean by that?”

“You know exactly what I mean by that. Every move we make isn’t broadcast live over airwaves. We don’t talk about every person we talk to or everything we did. Yes, we know everything but we really don’t.”

Porn was hurt. The four left no secrets behind. They shared every intimate and shameful moment with each other. The only thing they didn’t share was what happened in bed because that was sacred for everyone, maybe with the exception of Walsh.

“You suck.”

“What?”

“I said you suck.”

“That’s the best you could come up with?”

“It’s all I have to say to you. Don’t go around and put negative thoughts in everyone’s head.”

Garrett stood. He was tired of this conversation already.

“Where are you going?” Walsh asked.

“To the bathroom. You guys are insane if you think I am going to sit here and let my comment or your thoughts start a stupid riff among us tonight. Just let it go. Let her be happy someone sent her flowers. It’s just a sign that someone cares or likes her.”

“Red roses mean I love you, not I fucking care,” Porn replied under his breath as Garrett walked away.

“Porn, it could be nothing. You know Garrett’s right too.”

Sighing, he sank deeper into the couch. “I think I am more jealous than upset.”

Moving to sit next to him, Walsh put his arm around his friend. “One day, you’ll receive flowers too.”

Porn put his arm around Walsh and hugged him. “I know. I’ve just hit my lonely period and it sucks.”

Keeping his arm around him, Walsh ruffled his hair. “We’ve all been there and we all know how you feel.” Even though he wasn’t gay, he didn’t mind Porn’s attention. He was comfortable enough around him to hold him in his arms when he needed a hug and he didn’t care about the looks of strangers when Porn hung on him. He sometimes enjoyed the attention more from him than he did of the women he dated. A small part of him questioned if he could date Porn and though he realized that emotionally he did love him, he just didn’t love him physically.

Pacing outside the unisex bathroom, Ava reread the card that was with the flowers. There were only nine words on it. Thank you for letting me be there for you was all that was written on the card. Those words meant more to her than anything. Hearing the water run on the other side of the door, she put the card back in her pocket.

Garrett stepped out of the bathroom, saw Ava, and smiled.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he said and hugged her. “They were suppose to be here before we got here.”

“Are they freaking about?”

“Yeah,” he answered, still holding onto her. “You should tell them.”

Pulling away, Ava looked at him. “You promised me that you wouldn’t say anything.”

“And I’m not, but…”

“No buts. I just couldn’t face going alone and now I know there’s nothing wrong and you know there’s nothing wrong. There’s no need to freak Walsh and Porn out for no reason.”

“You’re right.”

Smiling, Ava kissed his cheek. “Thank you again.”

“You’re welcome. Hurry back before they continue to freak.” Watching her disappear into the bathroom, Garrett let out a slow sigh. He hated hiding things from the other two, but he had a promise to keep for Ava. He remembered her frantic phone call like it was yesterday. It was a call he never wanted to receive again. He was out of town when he received her voicemail and he could barely understand her words. All he could feel was a sinking feeling in his stomach that something was horribly wrong. When he finally reached Ava, she sounded even more distraught than before. Once he had calmed her down, she told him the doctor had found a lump in her breast. Jumping to conclusions, she had nailed her own coffin shut before the results had come back. Garrett flew home and to her side and spent the next two days in doctor’s offices with her. It was the closest the two had ever been in their five years. He had learned every aspect of Ava’s life that he could possibly have learned. It was as if nothing was hidden. Except that neither Walsh nor Porn knew what she was going through. By the luck of whoever was upstairs, Ava had called him earlier in the day to share that she was in tiptop shape and the lump the doctor had found was benign. Garrett had even cried when he found out. The day had been a wonderful day and was fully confirmed when he saw Ava sitting on the couch with her nose in a book as usual.

“So are you going to tell us who sent the flowers?” Walsh asked as Ava returned to the group.

“A dear friend,” she answered as she sat on the couch next to Garrett.

“For what?” Porn asked, still hanging onto Walsh.

“A thank you.”

The three friends glanced at each other and accepted the words as truth.

“Have you guys been to that new sushi restaurant on Twenty Fourth?” Walsh asked as Mo arrived to their area.

“Walsh, you need to find you a woman like Porn,” she said as she collected their empty cups.

“But I have him,” he smiled.

Sitting up, Porn elbowed him in the ribs. “I’m going to sit with Ava and Garrett.”

“And you wonder why you can’t keep a woman,” Ava said as Porn collapsed next to her.

“The happy family,” Walsh replied, stretching out on the loveseat. “It’s picture perfect really.”

“You’re just jealous,” Porn pouted.

“I could easily just join you guys.”

Sighing, Mo had seen enough. “Another round for the family?”

“Can I get tea instead?” Ava asked. “Chamomile please.”

“Guys?”

“Tea would be great,” Garrett answered.

“My usual,” Porn chimed in.

“Same for me.”

“Coming up.”

“Is she seeing anyone?” Porn asked. “I know this guy who seems perfect for her.”

“She’s not seeing anyone,” Ava answered. “She has told me she has sworn off men for a while.”

“Why?”

Ava shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t know specifics. Just passing along the words I heard from her mouth.”

“So has anyone tried that new sushi joint yet?” Walsh asked again, hoping that Porn wouldn’t pry into the private life of Mo.

“I have,” Ava answered. “They have an amazing roll list.”

“When did you go?”

“Last week.”

“With who?”

“Myself.”

The three men eyed each other. They knew Ava was lying. The only place she went by herself was to the coffeehouse they were all currently sitting in.

“Do you guys want to play Trivia Pursuit?” Porn asked before they could jump to conclusions on Ava.

“I got Ava,” Walsh answered.

“Losers buy the next round,” Porn replied.

“You better be up on your entertainment trivia.” Garrett truly hated the game and so did Walsh but they found joy of pitting Ava and Porn against each other. They were the two entertainment gurus.

“Can’t we play spades instead?” Ava asked. “Trivia Pursuit brings out the worst in everyone.”

“Spades it is,” Porn said. “Will you get the cards?”

“Sure.” Ava stood, stretched, and went to the far corner of the coffeehouse.

“Where are her flowers?” Garrett asked.

“Mo’s keeping them in water in the back for her,” Walsh answered. “There was also no way she went to the new sushi place by herself.”

“Right,” Porn agreed.

Walsh gave him a fist bump. “Losing team buys?”

“Let’s just play and not worry about whether she went to a sushi restaurant alone or not,” Garrett sighed. “And losing team buys works for me. I’m on Ava’s team.”

“That’s cool. Porn’s got an extra sixty in his pocket anyway.”

“Ha. Ha.”

The three of them moved around the coffee table between them with Garrett and Ava on the couches and Walsh and Porn on the two chairs. The game of spades at least remained friendly even though Ava was the most skilled. They didn’t know where she had learned to play but she usually shocked them all by her skills.

“The deck is missing a two of diamonds,” she said, collapsing on the empty couch. “We’ll have to use the jokers.”

“Blinds and double blinds?” Garrett asked.

“Bags too.”

“Deal,” she replied and placed the cards in front of Walsh.

“If you had to pick a celebrity that favored you who would it be?” Porn asked as he settled into the chair.

“What?” Walsh asked he dealt.

“Which celebrity do you think favors you?”

No one answered and continued to watch Walsh deal.

“I think Richard Roxburgh or Sean Pertwee favor Garrett. More Richard than Sean.”

The three men looked at Ava. “Who?” they asked in unison.

“Richard Roxburgh or Sean Pertwee.”

“Who the hell are they?” Walsh asked.

“You seriously don’t know who Richard Roxburgh is?” she asked Garrett.

“Why am I expected to know?”

“He’s Australian.”

Rolling his eyes, he sorted his cards. “That’s like telling you that you should know every American actor.”

“Lowest card out,” Ava said. “Richard Roxburgh was the Duke in Moulin Rouge. Dracula in Van Helsing. Mission Impossible 2. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I could go on.”

The three friends just stared at her.

“And this Sean actor?” Porn asked.

“Ava, no one knows these actors,” Walsh said as he held up three fingers for Porn, indicating he could win three hands.

“I can Kevin Bacon them.”

“What?”

“That I do know,” Garrett answered, “The Kevin Bacon game is six degrees of separation. Everyone is connected to someone by six people.”

“So you’re saying you can connect those two actors to Kevin Bacon by six other actors people?”

“Well, I can do Richard Roxburgh in two and Sean Pertwee in three.”

Walsh looked her. “Is this what you do at work when you’re bored?”

“Fuck you.”

“Go then.”

“Richard was in Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman who was in Practical Magic with Rachel Evan Woods who was in a movie with Kevin called Digging to China.”

“Richard, Nicole, Rachel, Kevin,” Porn repeated. “Two peeps.”

“And this Sean Pertwee.”

“Sean was in a movie called Blue Juice with Ewan McGregor who was in Moulin Rogue with Nicole who was in Practical Magic.”

“Take Moulin Rouge, Nicole, and Ewan out,” Garrett interrupted. “They’re too easy. Go a different route.”

Ava took a deep breath. “Fine.” Running a hand through her hair she thought of her options.

“Next round says you can’t do it,” Walsh added.

“And if I do?”

“Everything’s on me tonight.”

“You got a bet ye of little faith.”

“I think your tab is going to be huge tonight,” Porn said.

“So who’s first?”

“Sean was in Blue Juice with Catherine Zeta Jones who was in The Terminal with Stanley Tucci who was in Montana with Kyra Sedgwick who is Kevin’s wife and was in Cavedweller with him.”

“Catherine, Stanley, Kyra,” Porn recounted. “Now Richard.”

“Was in Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman who was in Someone Like You with Ashley Judd who was in Heat with Robert DeNiro who was in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon.”

The three applauded Ava. They didn’t know how she retained the useless information in her brain but they were glad that she did. She never seemed to surprise them with the knowledge that she held.

“Night’s on me,” Walsh sighed.

“I saw Van Helsing with you, but who did he play in Mission Impossible.”

“Villain’s right hand man. Hugh.”

“Who got his finger nicked?”

Ava nodded. “He’s hot. I’ve always thought of you when I have seen him in anything.”

Garrett smiled. “I’ll take you thinking of me whenever you watch a movie with him or Sean in it.”

“Before you guys starts having sex on this table, can we get this card game rolling?” Walsh asked knowing that if he left the conversation continue between them that it would turn out sexual and then somewhat awkward.

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