Chapter 29 – Happy New Year!

The first thing Frankie thought as she was coming to was, 'Where is that light coming from?' In her insanely drunken state the night before, she hadn't pulled the shades down, thus sunlight streamed in through her window and pounded on her brain. She reached up, her eyes squeezed shut, grabbing at the air until she finally found the bottom. She pulled the heavy blind down, and thought, 'That's better.' She was almost asleep once more, when she suddenly remembered what she had said the previous night. Panicked, she slowly rolled over and opened one eye a tiny fraction. There was Wes, sleeping soundly, and if at all possibly, sleepy smugly. She knew in her heart there was no way she could talk her way back out of that one, but her head begged to differ. It raced with ideas of what to say and what to do to cancel out her drunken confession, but in it's hung over state couldn't process much more than, 'What do I do? What do I do?!' It was then Wes stretched and yawned, and so she squeezed her eyes closed and tried to pretend she was asleep. She felt him wrap his arms around her and pull her near to him. Her head hurt too much to think anymore. "What time is it?" she asked suddenly, causing him to jump a little.

"One thirty," he responded after a moment. He waited patiently for her to begin explaining why she had said what she said. He thought of many different possible routes she might take. She meant she loved him like a brother, or a friend. She was drunk and confused the word 'hate' with 'love'. She was drunk, and giddy, and tired, and thus was babbling nonsensically, and he shouldn't take anything she said too seriously. As he was thinking up a fourth excuse, he heard her sigh and then she pushed away from him.

"I have to go to work," she yawned, holding her head and moaning slightly. "Why is the bar open on new years day anyway? Everyone's hung over from the night before." Wes was slightly shocked that she hadn't acknowledged what she had blurted yet.

'Could she have forgotten?' he thought. 'She was awfully drunk… but she normally remembers everything…'

"How do I look?" she asked, taking her hands off her face and attempting to open her eyes.

"All… right…" he managed to say unconvincingly. Her make up from the night before had run all down her cheeks, and somehow spread around her eyes creating the illusion that she had been punched. Her hair was more askew then it had been the night they'd met, and she had an imprint on her face from sleeping on her chain link bracelet.

"I'd better go hose myself off," she said, managing to sit up without falling over. "You can let yourself out."

"What do you remember about last night?" he asked cautiously. Her back was to him, so he couldn't see her bite her lip and squeeze her eyes shut.

"Last night?" she said, playing stupid. "I remember… being on the floor a lot, and standing on a table."

"You mean to say you've actually forgotten a drunken escapade?"

"I believe the answer is yes," she nodded. "New years resolution," she said, staggering towards the door, "never drink that much again."

"Do you remember me telling you to make that one of your resolutions?"

She stood in the doorway, leaning on the frame looking back at him, and thought hard. That was something she actually had forgotten. "Nope," she shrugged. "Maybe subconsciously."

"Go have your shower," he said, closing his eyes, crawling under the sheets and pulling the blankets up to his chin. "I'm still tired."

"Well if you're going to sleep in my bed, you have to take off an outer layer of clothing. I don't want your dirty clothes dirtying up the sheets."

"Fine," he said. "Close the door." She pulled the door shut behind her and slowly ambled into the bathroom. At the sight of herself in the mirror, she nearly keeled over.

'How could he just sit there and look at this?' she wondered, touching her puffy cheeks and swollen lips. 'Swollen lips?' she wondered. Her mind raced for a plausible reason for her lips to be puffy. Her face was puffy due to being overtired and hung over, but swollen lips were new. As she searched for a reason for her lips to be big, she started thinking about the previous night, and realized she really couldn't recall very much. She remembered laughing and saying she loved him, and having some long, goofy conversation about being in love and whatnot, but that was almost the extent of her recollections. She peeled her shimmering dress off and stepped into the shower, desperate to at least attempt fixing the mess she looked. 'But how am I going to fix the mess I'm in?' she thought fervently while scrubbing her face

When she came out of the bathroom, clad only in a towel, she bumped into Carl. "Did Wes spend the night again?" Carl asked, looking rather worse for wear.

"Yes," she said, gripping her towel and trying to push past him.

"I know he's been spending the night for a long time," Carl began, leaning against the wall, "but lately it's seemed different between you guys. I guess what I'm trying to ask is, should I give up on you? Are you spoken for?"

Frankie bit her lip and thought for a mere moment, before quipping, "Not quite yet." She knew she would never fall for Carl, but she wasn't quite sure what the situation was with Wes yet. She walked into her room to find Wes snoring loudly, as usual. She crept about, snatching up clothes to wear when suddenly he stirred.

"What time is it?" he yawned.

"Not much later than when I left, I'm afraid. It's only about two."

"Look," he said, sitting up in her bed to look her in the face. His hair was as messy as hers had been, and he too looked as if he had just been through something horrific. "Do you remember anything about after we got home last night?"

She feigned horror, and hissed, "Did you take advantage of me?"

"No," he said, cocking an eyebrow. "You don't remember anything you might've said?"

"What did I say?" she asked, clutching her clothing closer to her.

"You don't remember?"

"I have a faint memory of laughing just before I began to dream."

"It wasn't really funny what you said."

"Well out with it then!"

"You might've said that you loved me," he blurted.

"Oh, did I?"

"You honestly have no recollection?"

"I wouldn't say honestly," she mumbled.

"I knew you'd do this," he sighed. "Find a way to back out of what you said. Granted, pretending to forget wasn't on the list of possible options I'd thought up. Why'd you blow your cover like that? You could've sewn up the lie and walked away a free woman."

"Because you never let go," she said with a loud sigh. "I wouldn't have sewn it up and gone on my merry way. You would've mulled and stewed over it all day. And free woman? Are you still drunk? You're telling me that you would've given up on me? Just like that?"

"Frankie you have no idea."

"What are you talking about?"

"Right at Christmastime I was considering laying off, I was considering letting you go. I was going to stop chasing you and just believe what you've been throwing at me all this time to be true. Chris couldn't believe it, he didn't think I'd actually stop chasing you. But I was getting my heart broken every day, and I knew it was my fault. You had told me repeatedly that you had no interest in me that way, or hardly at all, and I just brushed it off as nonsense. I am full of myself at times. However at the Christmas party I was seriously beginning to think maybe I was wrong. Maybe there was nothing between us; I imagined it, or something. But then you gave me all sorts of hope, so now I'm in a new position. What are lies, and what are truths? And last night's little confession confused me no end. I figured that today I'd hear whatever you had to say and believe it to be true. If you backed out of it, okay then. Then I leave with a broken heart and a smashed ego. However, if the confession was indeed a confession, and not some drunken head game, then I would stay and continue to love you. Simple as that."

Frankie stood dumbfounded, her hair still dripping wet, and her clothes still clenched tightly in her hands. What was she supposed to say to that? What about her ego? She still didn't know what to say or how to feel, or even if she could still trust him. Before she knew it, she could hear her mouth talking independently of her brain, and she couldn't stop it. "Last night wasn't a lie," she heard herself say with an annoyed edge. "I told you last night that I wanted to be chased. I know I didn't exactly make my motives clear, but by chasing me I know that you actually want me. If you give up, I would know I had only been a pawn. You wanted to play me right into your hands. Or, a prize to be won, if you will. And you know I'm scared of falling in love, and being hurt, and all that. I don't know what was going through your head when you decided that you haven't made any headway on me. If you took two seconds to think back to when we met and now? Clearly much has changed." She stood frowning with a furrowed brow, took several deep breaths and began talking again. "And right now, I'm not quite sure what else to say, or why I even said all that I just said. So I'm going to go get dressed, and leave for work, because my shift started ten minutes ago. And I just want you to know that I'm mad at you. No, I don't know why. I just am." She turned and marched back into the bathroom, leaving both of them completely and utterly confused.

She walked into the bar around two thirty, her eyes still drooping. Celia yawned from behind the counter, and gave a small wave. She was standing over the fish fryer, grease spitting everywhere. An elderly couple sat at a window table, the man reading the paper and the woman doing the crossword puzzle. Both had a glass of water and between them was an ale with two straws. They smiled at Frankie as she made her way to the back with Celia. "Why are we booked to work today, but Kristof and Dani have the day off? We're Tom's favourites, you'd think that he'd, you know, favour us."

"Well, I asked him about that," Celia said, taking the fish out of the fryer. "He said that he knew I wouldn't be up all night, and knew you wouldn't be up all night, but didn't know about Dani and Kristof. So that's why he booked us."

"How does he know I wasn't up all night?" she said defensively.

"Were you?"

"No, but he couldn't have known I wasn't going to be."

Celia shrugged. "Well he said you weren't going to be and you weren't, so I guess maybe he did know."

"I'm ready to go back to bed," she said, sitting on the floor.

"Hey you've got to help me out."

"You've got one order."

"Two. There's two of them."

"You can't be serious."

"No, really, see, a man and woman."

"You know that's not what I meant," she said, rolling her eyes and getting to her feet. The two girls continued to man the bar for the remainder of the day, having a whopping total of seven customers. Near nine o'clock, both of them were exhausted. The bar had been deserted since six that evening, and the were both sprawled on different booth benches. They had been cleaning up the mess from the night before all day, and in between, serving old Irish people food. So by that point at night, both wanted to die.

"Why is the bar even open on new years day?" Frankie wondered aloud. "Most people are all hung over still, or visiting family. No one comes to a bar on new years day. No one except old people."

"I say we close up," Celia said feebly. "Nobody's going to come in here. Nobody's been in here for three hours."

"I concur," Frankie said, sitting up slowly. "Who's going to flip the sign?"

"You," Celia moaned. "And then you can leave, I'll get the lights on my way out the back."

"That's not really closing up, you know."

"Tom can bite me," she said, standing up and taking off her apron. "I'm going home to make a nasty phone call."

"Don't forget to chew him out extra for me."

"Of course. See you tomorrow night."

"Bye," she called, flipping the sign and closing the door behind her. The cold January air wrapped itself around her and chilled her right through. She locked the door with quivery hands, and hurried across the street. It was then she saw Wes, sitting on the stone wall, waiting for her.

She tried to frown. She tried very hard. He tried to keep his face expressionless. However as she got closer to him, both of them were finding it harder and harder to keep their desired facial expressions. He stood and began walking with her down the sidewalk. Both were fighting back laughing, but neither could really compute why. Not knowing why the other was laughing, one could argue that Wes, say, was laughing because Frankie was laughing, and vice versa. However both were laughing for otherwise completely unknown reasons. Neither knew why they were laughing or why the other was; or at least, trying not to laugh.

They walked in utter silence, their mouths both pursed tightly yet twitching with a hidden smile. Frankie was the first to crack, exploding with a loud, choking cough. Wes attempted to pat her back, but she waved him away. "Ugh, no, I just choked on a giggle." They both laughed for a minute before realizing there was really nothing to be laughing at, and the uncontrollable urge to laugh had vanished. Wes decided it was nerves. Frankie decided it was overtire.

"I think we need to sit down and talk," he finally said. "I don't know about you but I am completely confused."

"I don't want to talk," she pouted. "I like things the way they are."

"Well then for my benefit, not yours, can we just sit down and sort things out?"

"But in sorting things out, things would change, would they not?"

"It's been your way for a whole year, can't you give me a little bit of lenience?"

She sighed as they made their way up her driveway. "I don't know." She unlocked the door and let them in. She then made her way to the bottom floor of the split level and into the television room. Confused slightly, Wes followed. "Change of scenery?" he asked, sitting on one of the old couches.

"Sure," she shrugged, closing the door. "There's not many places to sit in my room. And there's a TV show on right now." She sat on the couch opposite him and flicked the television on.

"I can't talk like this."

"Why not?" she asked, digging a bag of gummy bears out of the sofa cushions. "Just where I left them," she smiled, taking a handful out.

"You're making this awkward on purpose."

"I'm comfortable," she shrugged through a mouthful of gummy.

"What is this? What are you watching?"

"My favourite show!"

"It's a rerun from twenty years ago."

"Point being?"

"You must've seen all the episodes about a hundred times. How many times have you seen this one?"

"It's my favourite episode!"

He cocked an eyebrow. "What happens?"

She hesitated and froze slightly, but quickly snapped out of it. "Funny stuff."

"Funny stuff," he repeated.

"Yes, funny stuff. Like, this guy here? He does loads of funny stuff."

"This is a commercial."

"Well he was in an episode once!"

"Frankie I want to talk to you somewhere where Carl won't come barging in or there isn't a television blaring, or there are any other possible distractions."

"Why! I like this! Why do we have to analyze and pick apart? Why can't we just let things happen?"

"You know what? Fine. I'll just go, then."

"Fine! I don't care! Go!"

"I am!" he shouted, slamming the door behind him.

"Whatever," she grumbled, looking back at the TV. "What the heck am I watching?"

Lying in her bed that night, alone for once, she stared up at the ceiling and thought to herself. 'This is so stupid,' she thought. 'This whole situation. It's so stupid. I'm going to call that stupid idiot. No, no I'm not. But I'm lonely. No I'm not! Look what he's done to me. I could be sleeping right now if it wasn't for him. I can spend one night on my own. No being shoved to the edge of my bed, or being smothered by his cuddliness, or drooled on, or going deaf from his snores… I wonder if he'll break in my window again. Or call me. I wonder what he's thinking about right now.'

Wes was fast asleep. He had gone home, completely torn apart, and just collapsed on his bed. He knew she was constantly pulling away, and he knew that he had indeed made a lot of headway, but it just wasn't enough. He'd thought that in time she would've caved, eventually. It was at the point, however, where he was doubting that, and her. She said she wanted to just 'let things happen', but at the rate things were going, he didn't know when those things would happen. He wasn't the kind of guy to be in an 'are we a couple?' relationship. He wanted to be able to say, "This is my girlfriend, Frankie." He knew full well that she had no intentions of having that title any time soon. She liked her game of cat and mouse, but it was quickly wearing him out. So he decided to sleep. And sleep he did. Until his cell phone began ringing incessantly. "Yes?" he grumbled, struggling to see his wristwatch.

"Happy new year," Frankie said in a voice not much above a whisper.

"I'm tired."

"I'm sorry."

"For what."

"Because you're sad."

"I'll talk to you when you know." He hung up the phone and crawled under the blankets. Frankie gingerly put her phone down, and was surprised when her eyes welled up.

"Why am I crying?" she wondered aloud, burying her face into her pillow. Both of them were miserable, and both didn't know what to do to make it better. So they slept.

Author's notes: One more chapter to go! What will the outcome be? A tasteful, bittersweet end to this crazy mixed up relationship? Or can something brilliant happen to change things around? Let me know what you're hoping to see! I'm interested to know where this story has led you guys!