Home > The Lost Night(5)

The Lost Night(5)
Author: Andrea Bartz

And I knew who could help. I texted my friend Tessa late in the afternoon; she was always surprising me with the digital lockpicking skills she’d picked up in her library sciences program. She invited me over later that week—Damien, too, if he was free.

I couldn’t resist checking Facebook one last time before shutting down my computer. I scrolled a bit further and my heart jumped: Deep in one of Sarah’s photo albums was a little thumbnail that looked familiar. Full-size, it was four men scuzzing around onstage, keyboards and guitars and synth. They all had black and red stripes painted across their faces. It was a perfect match with the concert I’d been picturing for August 21—a wild show that rattled a random Calhoun apartment. I looked at the date and my stomach sank. This night, the one pictured at least, had been a full month before Edie died.

Chapter 2

The wine shop on Tessa’s block was closed, but the bodega wasn’t, so I picked up a six-pack and carried it awkwardly, the bottles clinking inside their cardboard carrier within the bodega’s plastic bag—a pointless beer turducken—past Tessa’s doorman and up the ancient elevator and to her door. Marlon, her cute terrier mutt, bounded up to my ankles and crouched, wagging his tail hysterically.

“Lindsay!” Tessa gave me a cursory hug and grabbed the beer. “My favorite kind, thank you!”

“Didn’t want to show up empty-handed. It smells amazing in here.” Something garlicky and rich.

“I made risotto. Here, come help me make a salad.”

I followed her into the kitchen and tapped a magnet on the fridge in the shape of a mug of Guinness.

“Your trip! I forgot to say thanks for the postcard.” I don’t know if she sends them to everyone or just to me because she knows how much I love her handwriting: the hip, squared-off lettering of an architect or artist, angular and typographic.

She smiled and swung the fridge door open, pulling the vegetable drawer out noisily. She always has fresh vegetables, not limp and forgotten and sometimes rotting white and green like mine. “Of course! You know, there’s exactly one post office left in all of Dublin, and the nineteen-year-old behind the counter acted like she’d never seen a postcard before.” She dropped a clatter of veggies in front of me and produced a cutting board.

“Well, you are the last person on earth still sending them.”

“It’s true. I should know, I catalog this shit all day.”

I turned on the tap and began scrubbing the vegetables. “So tell me about Dublin!”

“It was fun! Rainy. I mostly just drank Guinness with Will.”

“Sounds amazing. Is he coming tonight?”

“Eventually. He’s at work.” She banged around, cleaning up. Her kitchen’s all gleaming white and chrome. “Do you know what time Damien’s coming?”

“Oh, he said to eat without him—it’ll be eightish. Apparently Trent teaches spin on Thursdays, and he obviously can’t miss that.”

She laughed. “How’s everything for you? Work?”

“Ohh, the same.” I sliced a head of cauliflower right through the center and peered down at it. How like a brain it looked, the woody white just like a brain stem. For just a second, I saw the ruffled pink organ in front of me, blood spurting from the bottom.

“Are you still working crazy hours?”

I blinked the image away. “Only during shipping weeks. When we’re sending everything to the printer. And I care less with every passing month, which makes me sort of untouchable. So it’s fine. Should I cut up both tomatoes?”

Tessa looked back at me and nodded. “Still not interested in looking around for another job?”

I rolled my eyes. “There aren’t that many print magazines around anymore, Tessa. And they know I’m good at what I do. We can’t all love every second of our amazingly perfect jobs like you.”

She let out an awkward laugh. “Sorry. So tell me again what you need me to break into your old email for?” She’d turned back to the stove and the hood swallowed her words.

“It’s sort of dumb,” I began. “I randomly had dinner the other night with this friend from when I first lived in New York. And remember how when I was twenty-three, my best friend committed suicide?”

Tessa nodded, still bent over the pot.

“We started talking about the night it happened, and Sarah—the friend I just saw—we, like, remembered it really differently. It just got me thinking, that’s all. Set some nostalgia in motion.”

“You remembered it differently?”

“It made me realize how little I actually dealt with it at the time.” I didn’t mention Sarah’s odd claim about my whereabouts; I still felt sheepish about the discrepancy. “Instead of grieving and leaning on my other friends to get through it, I just cut them all off. I was so self-absorbed at twenty-three. Everyone is, I think.”

Tessa nodded and tested a bite of risotto.

“It’s almost weird that…that I haven’t thought about how odd my reaction was, if that makes sense. I never really tried to figure out why I reacted that way. And now I’m curious to go back through it with a little perspective.”

“And you really think your old emails will help?” Her tone was friendly, just curious, but I heard my voice growing defensive.

“I’ve just been thinking about it, is all. The ten-year anniversary is coming up next month—maybe that’s subconsciously why I contacted Sarah in the first place. Not to psychoanalyze myself or anything. But I’m the head of research at Sir; I fact-check things all day long. Maybe I’m finally equipped to go over this one more time and then be done with it.”

“What are you hoping to figure out?”

“Why she killed herself, I guess.”

“Was she depressed?”

“She was. She must’ve been. But she never told anyone, so it was pretty shocking. And it all happened around when she was fighting with everyone. I’d even been planning a dramatic friend breakup with her.”

The kitchen vent whirred. “Just be careful that you’re not circling back to find reasons to blame yourself or anything,” Tessa said. “Healthy people don’t kill themselves. That’s not something anyone else can drive you to do.” She turned around and I smiled at her. Sometimes Tessa can sense the anxiety I’m creeping toward before I even realize it. She wiped her hands on a towel. “Let’s eat.”

She asked about my folks in Wisconsin (fine; hadn’t talked to them since Easter) and Michael, the sort of dodgy guy I’d been seeing. I asked about her archivist job at Columbia (excellent) and her and Will’s upcoming anniversary trip to New Zealand (stressful but exciting). We were almost finished when I noticed she hadn’t grabbed a beer; she was sipping water, occasionally crossing to the fridge to refill her glass.

“I brought Two Hearted Ale for you!” I called, suspicious. She froze, wide-eyed, and I gasped. “You are not…are you? Is that—Tessa!” My voice rose to a screech as we both broke into laughter.

“We haven’t even told our parents yet,” she said as I released her from a hug. “Mine will be in town next weekend, so we figured we’d tell them in person.”

“Tessa,” I said again. Just above my grin, my eyes filled with tears. “I’m so happy for you! Holy shit.” I’d known that she and Will were vaguely trying to get pregnant—she’d begun seeing an acupuncturist to regulate her cycles and improve her chi or whatever—but she hadn’t mentioned it in months.

“I’m only eight weeks along, so don’t tell anybody,” she said. “I kind of feel like crap all the time, so I want to complain to everyone, but apparently I’m not supposed to talk about it yet.”

“I won’t say anything. Morning sickness?”

“Mostly just feeling exhausted and…off. It’s like being hungover all the time. And all I want to do is drink wine.”

I squeezed her hand. “I’ll make you amazing virgin ginger cocktails. And run errands and do whatever you need, obviously.” I clicked my tongue. “Tessa, you’re going to be a mom!”

I gave her another hug, my tears soaking into her shoulder. The idea of taking care of Tessa cheered me; typically she was the one with her shit together, mothering me.

“When are you due?”

“End of February.” She shrugged again, like she was sick of talking about it. “It helps to see you excited because I keep forgetting it’s exciting. I’m just focused on pretending everything’s normal.”

“You totally fooled me! Jeez. Thank you for making us dinner and, you know, being willing to help me with these emails.”

“Of course! Should we go into the office? I’ve been thinking about this challenge all day.”

I stopped in the bathroom first and froze as tears again filled my eyes, suddenly, like a bell clanging. I blinked into the mirror and steadied my breath. I was happy for Tessa, of course, excited to meet Baby Hoppert. But there was also—what? Jealousy, a wistfulness? I peered hard at the feeling until it crystallized: that awful tug of feeling left behind, overlooked by some unseen orchestrator. All of my Facebook stalking came into sharp focus: Sarah giggling about her in-laws in New Jersey. Alex and his apartment in the burbs. Even Kevin had a goddamn husband now. Where was I the day adulthoods were distributed?

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