Lex and Lu(2)

By: J. Santiago

Lu closed her eyes briefly and took a deep breath, steeling herself for what she was about to see. She turned slightly and watched the action on the TV. The cameraman chose that moment to get a close-up of him, and Lu’s stomach dropped. “Yup,” she said, “that’s Lex.”

Sky whistled low. “Wow! Did he look like that when you knew him?”

Lu studied him on-screen. “I don’t think so. He’s all grown up now, filled out.” She watched for another second. The sweat rolled down his face, his short hair no help in absorbing it. She couldn’t help a small smile. “One thing that hasn’t changed—he’s always sweated like that. It was nasty when we were little and it’s still gross.”

“I wouldn’t mind helping him work up a sweat,” Sky murmured with a wink as Lu turned away.

“I suppose there are thousands of women that feel the same way,” she replied.

“Oh, yeah. That man gets what he wants, when he wants. No question.”

Lu shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “So, what’s next? We hanging here?”

Sky’s gaze drifted back to the TV. Annoyed, Lu waved her hand in front of Sky’s face. “Sky, let’s finish these drinks and either call it a night or go somewhere else.”

Sky pushed Lu’s arm out of the way. “Wait a sec! I’m trying to read this.”

“Read what?” Lu asked, getting more frustrated.

“The announcers just said that right before the game, he found out that his father had died. No one was sure if he was going to play tonight, but he did.”

“What are you talking about?” Lu asked, panic rising in her chest. Everything around her faded out. She stood up and yanked on Sky’s hand, trying to get her attention.

“What are you talking about?” she demanded.

Startled by Lu’s tone, Sky stopped watching the game. “The ticker at the bottom of the screen said that Lex Pellitteri’s father died earlier today,” Sky explained.

Shocked, Lu stared unseeingly at Sky until her cell phone lit up and buzzed with a text message.

Lu picked up the phone. It was from Willa.

Willa: Mr. P. was in accident today. Will call later. Hang tight and don’t even think about coming home.

Lu: I know he’s dead. I’ll be there as soon as I can.

Willa: DON’T!

Lu: I’m coming home.

Willa: ALONE???????

Lu paused. She wasn’t sure how to answer that. She didn’t want to cause any trouble, but there was no way she was staying away this time. She’d stayed away for too long. And Mr. P. was the one person who had supported her. It would be OK if she went alone. No one would begrudge her that.

Lu: Yes.

Willa: OK. Text me when you leave.

Lu picked up her purse. “I’ve got to go.”

Sky grabbed her arm. “What the fuck is going on, Lu?”

“I need a favor.”

“Only if you tell me what the hell is going on.”

“You’re blackmailing me—now?” she asked, incredulous.

“Hell, yes. What’s going on and what do you need?”

“I have to go home. Mr. Pellitteri is really special to me. I have to go home, but I need you to take care of everything here. Can you do that for me?”

Sky was completely taken aback by Lu’s show of emotion. Ordinarily, Lu never lost her composure, never showed any sign of anything affecting her. But now her big, cornflower-blue eyes were luminous with unshed tears. Her hands, one of which was still held by Sky, was shaking.

“Of course. But I don’t understand.”

Lu heaved a big sigh. “Lex is the guy. And I have to go home.”

Sky needed no other explanation.

Amber slid the French door open. She tried to make noise so that Jo wouldn’t be startled. Long ago, they had stopped knocking on each other’s doors. But after a day like today, startling her friend wouldn’t have been good. She made her way into the kitchen, the house as familiar as her own. In the third drawer over from the sink, she found the wine opener. Pulling two glasses from the rack above the minibar between the kitchen and the dining room, she made her way back to the island and proceeded to open the wine.

In a haze of disbelief, Amber sat heavily upon the bar stool that faced the kitchen. She’d lost count of the times she had sat at this counter drinking wine, laughing, sometimes crying over the past seventeen years. If she couldn’t believe Mike was gone, how was Jo feeling?

She heard Jo’s footsteps before seeing her face.

“Hey, Dr. J.,” she called out, hoping to elicit a smile from Jo. The kids had long ago tagged her with that nickname.

It may have worked for a split second, but the smile was fleeting. Dr. Josephine Pellitteri rounded the corner in all her weary glory. Even at 57, with two adult children and the sudden loss of her husband, Jo’s beauty was still apparent. Her black hair had one or two grays, while everyone else had been hiding it for years with a rainbow of colors from the hair salon. She looked tired to Amber as she entered the room.

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