Part 2: The Hanger
*you can find part 1 here.
Finally arriving at the show with moments to spare, Stephanie popped out while Melanie parked. After driving around in circles Melanie was puffing with annoyance and ready for a drink as she entered. When she walked through the door, she found a crowd gathering around one end of the bar, leaving the gallery oddly imbalanced. Only a few people actually seemed interested at all in the art covering the walls. Curious, Melanie leaned as far over the bar as possible, and saw a flash of recognition in the eyes of the girl at the center of the crowd.
Stephanie looked up over the heads of the men surrounding her and waved Melanie over. A bit confused, Melanie pushed her way through some shoulders until she got to Stephanie’s side and met her with a hug.
“They just sort of gathered around me. It’s like a movie, isn’t it?” Stephanie whispered. She seemed close to brimming over with excitement. Suddenly drinks appeared at Stephanie’s shoulder which she automatically placed in Melanie’s hands. Melanie took one, but resisted asking the question on her mind in favor of looking for John. She brightened. There he was leaning towards a piece hanging near the back.
It was nearly impossible to get a word into the conversation or even hold her ground beside Stephanie. She was ready to retreat into a more private corner. Yet as she watched John approach, she noticed his gaze didn’t seem to be focused on her. The closer he got, the more he eyes clearly leaned towards Stephanie. John peeled back two or three guys in the way before he reached her side. Irritated, Melanie punched him in the shoulder. He turned to her in surprise as if realizing for the first time that she was even in the room.
For the next hour, Melanie watched as several boys tried to get a word with Stephanie, her boyfriend John included. It felt mean, but the excessive attention given to Stephanie astounded her. A brief interlude usually sufficed for most strangers who began a conversation with Stephanie. She was best experienced in small doses over a long period of time. In fact, Melanie and John got together at Stephanie’s expense, joking over some silly thing she had said a little too loudly at a friend’s party. Now, watching John fawn over Stephanie, Melanie began to feel left out.
After yet another boisterous laugh between them, Melanie decided she’d rather go home. She turned to John and taped him on the shoulder. He hardly seemed to register it. She taped him again. But his shoulder just twitched. Now beyond annoyance, she poked at him hard with her finger and shouted.
“Hey! I’m going home.”
John paused for a moment, actually looking her in the face. Hardly a thought appeared in his head.
“Okay.” John replied.
Melanie turned to Stephanie next.
“I’m beat, Steph. So, I’m going home now.” Melanie said.
Stephanie gave a great Marilyn Monroe-esque pout.
“Oh! But I’m not ready to leave yet.” Stephanie said.
“Well, I’m going now. You can find a ride, if you want to stay.” Melanie responded turning away before an answer was given.
Guilt picked at the back of her head halfway to the car and she thought of turning around. Stephanie needed the attention after all and it wasn’t her fault if John was behaving like a tongue lolling dog. But actually walking back to the gallery after storming out felt silly. She turned around, debating. There, at the corner she saw John and Stephanie talking outside the gallery’s front doors.
The sun was setting behind them, making a pretty silhouette. A flash from the sun falling escaped between them and for a second, Melanie thought it looked as if they were holding hands. Her chest heaved under her plain shirt. When the flash descended their hands were far apart and Stephanie was running towards her.
Containing, for the moment, the threat of jealousy engulfing her, Melanie stood still until Stephanie reached her. Stephanie stopped less than two feet away.
“Hey! You waited, thank you!” Stephanie breathlessly announced.
Melanie instantly wished she had abandoned her and gone home.
“Yeah. Were you ready to go then?” Melanie sighed.
The car ride back to Stephanie’s apartment was quiet. Even the music on the stereo was low. For a minute as they pulled up to the apartment Stephanie wouldn’t leave the car. She turned to her friend and sighed.
“I’m sorry you didn’t have much fun at the show.” Stephanie whispered.
“Who says I didn’t have fun?” Melanie replied.
Stephanie laughed, uneasily.
“Well, anyways, thanks for taking me. And for the shirt. I had a good time.” Stephanie said, her voice returning to her normal volume.
“Sure. Of course. I’m glad you’re feeling better.” Melanie said. It made her grit her teeth a bit, but she supposed that it was true. She wanted to help Stephanie get over Mark for at least three months now. But it seemed a bit too selfless to allow Stephanie to cheer up using her new boyfriend.
Stephanie looked at her for a moment as if about to say something else, but then thought better of it and got out of the car, waving as she passed the windshield. Driving slowly home, Melanie thought to check her phone for a call or a text from John and found there was a voicemail. For the rest of the drive, Melanie allowed herself to berate John knowing she would forgive him later once she’d heard what he had to say.
This is the second installment of the short novella, based on the song “Tengo la Camisa Negra” by Juanes.