Billy had been out of Happy Grounds Home for less than a month, but his time there already seemed a strange combination of dreamlike and immediate, as though it had happened yesterday but in someone else’s life. His voices were still talking to him, but they had somehow become more innocuous, like a chronic ache that had been there long enough it no longer defined who you were. He wondered how long before the voices defined him again.
He didn’t think he was really cured.
He hadn’t said that to anyone.
Billy shrugged. “Not much to tell. I saw the shrink. I read a lot. I wandered around.”
Kate didn’t say anything. She just waited. It was one of the things that had made them friends in the first place, all the way back in junior high when they were seated together alphabetically: Doheny; Dunham. Back then, Kate had had short, natural hair and played softball and everyone teased her. Now, she had long pressed hair and had grown into her muscles and reported for the local news station, which made her somewhat of a celebrity in Rose. Her apartment looked like what Billy imagined San Francisco in the 70s must have been: beads instead of a door between the living room and her bedroom, incense burning from a stick stuck into one of about a thousand potted plants, and those damn bean bag chairs she loved so much. No matter how he moved, his limbs seemed to get in the way. Who invented these things, anyway? Billy kicked his legs straight out and interlaced his hands behind his head, trying to ignore the fact that now his butt had sunk through all the beans—or whatever crap they used to stuff these with—and was pretty much resting on the floor.
“It’s weird,” he finally said. “It’s like you’re still in your life, but it’s on hold. And everyone else around you isn’t. They’re moving forward while you’re just…stuck.”
Kate considered this. “Want a pop?” she asked.
“Yeah. And a real chair.”
“Tough luck, crazy man,” said Kate, flicking a kitchen towel at him. She poured two glasses of pop, filled them with ice, and garnished them with a lemon slice like she always did. “Hey, I heard Florencia moved to Los Angeles.”
“Yeah,” said Billy. He pulled the lemon slice out of his pop, tossed it expertly into her drink like he always did, and took a swig. He swallowed too fast and the bubbles burned his throat. “I heard that too.”
Kate was the only person who knew about him and Florencia, the only person he trusted enough to keep it to herself.
“Did you know she’s living with Jenna?” said Kate.
Billy choked on his drink.
“That’s what I thought,” said Kate. “Someone at the station knows someone who knows Jenna’s agent. That’s how I heard.”
Billy set his drink down. As was so often the case with him these days, he wasn’t sure what he was feeling. Sad? Worried? Lonely? Jealous?
That bit with Florencia had been surprising. At first it had started as a way for him to prove to himself that he could still feel something good. And, if he were honest with himself—which after all that therapy he at least tried to be—he liked that Florencia had known him before he was crazy but also seemed to like him just fine as he was now. A little damaged. A little confused. A little older. But it had turned into something more. Something unexpectedly sweet. A lifeline. He was incredibly grateful while it had lasted, and more than a little relieved it had ended.
“You know what else I heard?” asked Kate, interrupting his reverie. Just as well; reveries weren’t a safe place to linger these days. “Jenna got a show.”
“A TV show?”
“No, Einstein, a Broadway show. Of course a TV show! A good part, too, it sounds like.”
Billy stared at his drink, a slow smile starting across his face. He had tried to stay mad at Jenna when she left, but he couldn’t. It wasn’t her fault she was beautiful and talented and ambitious and brave. It really wasn’t her fault she didn’t have to stay in Rose the way he did. She would have resented him forever if she had stayed here for him, and that would have been far worse than her being so far away.
He hadn’t been one of those people who was sure she’d make it in Hollywood. He didn’t know enough about Hollywood to say. But he had always believed in Jenna and her ability to be all right no matter what.
He hoped the show was a huge hit. He hoped she would get everything she wanted.
“You still miss her,” said Kate. It wasn’t a question.
“Every day,” said Billy.
“Want to call her?”
Billy peeled himself out of the bean bag chair, stretched, and grabbed his coat. “No,” he said. “No, I most definitely do not.”