He was a retired school teacher who was almost completely bald and they met over drinks at a bar, she was pretty drunk but she sobered up as they got to her house and she realized the man was old enough to be her grandfather so she only made dinner, the way her brother taught her and sent him on his way.
And now sitting in front of her best friend in the whole wide world, someone who knew her for most of her life, who understood her, with whom she shared her dreams and hopes and she wondered: Why should she have to pick up old men, as lonely as she was in bars? Why should she go out with flirty customers who probably only wanted to see her naked and always hope that perhaps this one, this very guy was the one. The one she would spend her life with.
Why all that when she already had someone in her life who made her laugh, someone who listened to her rants, who comforted her when she was sad, someone who never stopped being there for her, someone she often felt could almost read her mind. Her best friend. And wasn’t that something both of them shared, a dream to find that very person? Were they so blind not to see that what they were looking for and never seemed to find was right there in front of them.
Suddenly it all made sense. She would propose to Shirley. So what if they were not attracted to each other? It shouldn’t be a big deal, they loved each other. Not the way the songs said they should but who cares? Were marriages really based on love or was it just convenience? Two people who tolerated each other found themselves on the same page at the same time and said why not, let’s take this one step together. And then came the mundanes of everyday life, then came kids and they just stayed together, unwilling to look any longer for that magic that movies promised, to look for true love.
The two of them could have that, and more. They could even have kids if they chose, they could adopt, like Phoibe’s mother did with her first wife, Jill or they could even sleep with men, or try in vitro. They could have it all. She just needed to say the words… Just five, or maybe six words. “Shirley Gradle, will you marry me?”
She didn’t have a ring, but they could buy one together, hell they could buy two rings, she would give Shirley one and than Shirley would give her one. They would both be a man and a woman. Her stomach was filling with butterflies, she had to do it now, before this giddiness passed. She was about to do it. She had to say those words… She could do it…
“What’s wrong Phoibe?” Shirley asked her face wearing that concerned expression. “Are you ok?” And Phoibe realized she wasn’t listening to a word Shirley said for how long? She had no idea. They could have been sitting there minutes, hours… “Say it. Say it!” Phoibe told herself. “You have to say it.”
But she couldn’t. She just sat there watching the life she imagined melt in front of her eyes. She loved Shirley, she would always love Shirley but she couldn’t do this because if she did she would forever give up something. That other life she always dreamed about. The life Rita had. The life she hoped Pegasus and Melody will have.She excused herself to Shirley, she said she is not feeling well, she would call her later, she promised and got the hell out of there.
She ended up at a sports bar, of all places spilling her sorrows to a bartender named Ayesha. She was so horribly drunk so she ignored the aging bartender’s annoyed glances, and later not so subtle clues that she should get the hell out of there so she could close. She barely remembered how she got home at all.
And now it was another day. Another crappy day in her crappy life. She noticed she had finished her coffee and went to the sink to wash the filthy mug. When she got back to the table she noticed her phone was flashing. It was a text from her neighbor. Rhaenys lived right across the street, she could see her big ugly house from her spot on the roof. The text simply said: “Party at my place tonight? Bunch of people already confirmed.” “Really Rhaenys? A party on a Tuesday? And I thought people grow up…” She said to herself and smiled. A party tonight was the last thing she should do right now. But after a crappy day like yesterday, and a crappy day today maybe it was just the thing she need to pick herself up. “Sure. See ya.” She texted back and put the phone in her pocket.
She came casually dressed as always. Rhaenys was in a formal dress, Rhaenys was always in formal dresses though so it didn’t really matter, anyway she only saw her for a second when she got in and they waved at each other. The place was packed. Thankfully Shirley wasn’t there. Phoibe never even called since the “almost-proposal-incident” and was glad she didn’t run into her. She ended up talking to a freelance writer for the town’s paper. She didn’t know anyone else who worked for the paper and wondered was this woman the only when there. She didn’t get a chance to ask when the woman asked: “Is that your natural hair color?” And Phoibe nodded, she got that a lot and knew what was coming… “You are Phaena Santoro’s daughter? Wow.”
She now wanted to go home. She didn’t want the attention. Not today. That was when she finally caught a break. “Hi Phoibe! A word?” Rhaenys asked her as she stood by them. Phoibe nodded enthusiastically and followed Rhaenys in the kitchen which was blissfully empty. “Look Phoibes I need a word.” “You said so already.” Phoibe teased although Rhaenys, usually playful, wore a serious face. “I know you work at the spa and that is a cool job… But I also know that’s not all you want to do, so I talked with my boss. There is a place in the lab, well it’s not really a place… ” She took a deep breath. We need test subjects for some of the experiments we are doing and I managed to land you a low paid position, with paid classes in biology and ecology in the lab. What do you say?”
“What do I say?” Phoibe only wondered for a second before she said yes. Her heart was hammering in her chest but she was excited. She really did want her life to change.