Home > The Lost Night(9)

The Lost Night(9)
Author: Andrea Bartz

I found Greg’s full name in an email and Googled him; strange how he’d felt so firmly in the past by the time Edie died, when in reality she’d been his ex of only six months. Time felt different then, stretchy and wide. I found him listed as a partner at some tech-y, startup-y architectural firm, beaming at me from a poorly framed headshot. The website was a confusing mass of buzzwords: “breakthroughs” and “collective reach” and “strategic partnerships.” Gross. No contact information for him, just a physical address somewhere in DUMBO. I saved the listing and returned to my archives.

A name hit a nostalgic note in the February emails, and I clicked through to something I’d sent a friend from college who was teaching English in Italy, someone I lost contact with in the ensuing years. It started out with boring catch-up talk, but the middle of it made my stomach squeeze:

Sometimes I just feel like such an idiot next to Edie. Like, so incompetent. The other day I was complaining to her about my boss and she was like, “Lindsay, you know everyone and their dog is unemployed right now, so you can see why she expects you to be working late and not complaining, right?” And she’s RIGHT, but it’s also like, Why can’t you ever just be on my side? Or sometimes when I’m asking for her advice on guys, she’ll ask what I said or look at what I’ve texted and she gives me this wide-eyed look like, Oh my GOD, how do you not know how to talk to boys? Which maybe I sort of don’t. She’s just so GOOD at everything. I know I just sound jealous, but it’s not that. It’s something, though…

Wow—I hadn’t realized that I’d noticed so early how uneven the power dynamics of our friendship were. Later, I’d worked out that we were the kind of friends you make fresh out of college, when the only thing you have in common is doing fun things together. And so, after months of passive-aggressive torment from Edie (and quiet complicity from the rest of our friends, who were just happy her scorn wasn’t directed at them), I’d made a grand decision: I’d extricate myself from this group and start over with kinder, happier, less self-obsessed people. I was planning to tell her that very weekend. I’d been prepped for that discussion, equipped and braced, and then she’d died. It was awful.

For her, of course. Well, for everyone. But especially for me. It was ridiculous, but in addition to the squall of confusion and grief and shock, there’d been a ribbon of annoyance—like Edie had skipped out on the confrontation by killing herself. I’d been so over her, how she was always making me feel like a charity case, like the one who had to be fixed. And then she’d disappeared.

She’d died dramatically, too, still a magnet for attention, with coverage of her death all over the blogosphere. Canonized, deified, the exact fucking week I’d planned to finally put an end to the toxic relationship. And so I’d left. I’d stopped talking to them all. And everyone thought it was because I was racked with grief—which I was—but it was also a convenient excuse to get the hell away.

I leaned back and felt my pulse thumping in my neck. I’d never put it together like this before—never allowed myself to see Edie’s death in this light.

These were sick, stupid, childish thoughts. I poured myself a glass of water and swallowed them all.

I checked the time: 10:12; not late. So, before I could think too hard about it, I texted Michael and asked what he was up to.

My phone chimed a few minutes later. “Working late. What about you?”

Stupid noncommittal text. Obviously, Michael, I’m alone and bored and wanting you to want to see me.

“Just got home from dinner. Feel like watching a movie when you’re done?”

He waited six minutes to answer, just long enough for me to pee again and wander around and burn holes into the screen with my eyes.

“Sure. I’ll text you when I’m heading out.”

Forty minutes later, I hadn’t heard back from him. I checked in, hating myself for it. He said he could leave in fifteen and was that too late? I waited four entire minutes, the longest I could hold out, and then answered: “No, it’s fine, come over when you can.”

Chapter 3

Michael showed up a little before midnight, handsome and smooth. Four months we’d been sleeping together, occasionally with dinner or another sufficiently datelike activity beforehand; I knew I was too old to put up with this, but the thought of seeking out something more fulfilling made me so, so tired. We settled onto the couch and he was as witty and charming as ever, quick to steer the conversation to himself when it was clear I was feeling sullen. Sometimes this annoyed me; right now, it felt like warm relief, chatter I could wrap myself in like a blanket. Eventually I stood to make us tea and he suggested we turn in instead.

* * *

I was in the woods behind Uncle Bob’s farm, steadying a pistol in my hands, clicking through my pre-fire checklist: fighter’s stance, hand throttled high on the grip, thumb curled down for strength, trigger hooked inside the joint. I knew Edie was behind me, watching, and I was furious with her, anger streaming into my forehead and hands, a primal, frenzied, out-of-control urge to hurt. It occurred to me that Edie didn’t know not to step out in front, and then it happened: She was picking through the trees, treading over roots, headed straight into my crosshairs. I closed my left eye and took aim, and the recoil shook me awake.

I lay still, heart racing, something eager and carnal still pulsing through my veins. I slowed my breathing, beating down a flare of bewilderment and shame, then willed my brain to delete the dream from my memory. Michael, next to me, was snoring.

Hours later, he woke me up by kissing my neck, a gentle, urgent move that always roused me. I swam up to the surface, blinking the wool from my eyes. Then Michael was there, solid and warm and sour-breathed, and I pulled myself awake enough to kiss him, hard.

Almost as soon as he came, he slid back on the bed and gently pushed my hips flat, working his tongue against me. He was good about this in an unsexy, pragmatic way—tit for tat, keeping us in a tie. At first I didn’t think it would work, my mind suddenly cluttered with flashes of the dream, but I forced them aside, listening hard to my own deepening breath. Afterward he kissed my belly and wandered off, naked, to toss the condom and drink water and stretch his long arms; then he climbed back into bed.

“What are you thinking about?” He exhaled it as I nudged my head onto his chest, and I felt rather than heard the words. The lover’s laziest question.

“Do you ever get blackout drunk?” I asked.

He let out a surprised chuckle. “I mean, not lately. But in college and my twenties, of course. Why?”

I looked around the room, thinking. Postorgasmic oxytocin was probably needling through my brain like truth serum, inky and insidious.

“I’ve just been thinking back to those days. Remembering. Well, remembering what it’s like to wake up and not remember anything, which is sort of a Möbius strip of remembering.”

He stroked my arm absentmindedly. “I mean, it’s a normal part of being young. Figuring out your limits, and hopefully you have friends there to take you home and keep you safe and give you Gatorade.”

“That’s true.” I scratched my forehead. “It’s weird that it’s normal, though, isn’t it? It’s weird that we aren’t more terrified of it. Like, what did ancient civilizations make of it? Shouldn’t we be more freaked out by people walking and talking and, like, interacting with others when a critical part of their brain is offline?”

He considered. “What actually happens? Are the brain cells too fried to pull up memories the next day?”

“No, I looked into this once.” I laughed. “Not even for an article, I was just curious. It’s actually that your brain isn’t laying down memories. It stops recording. So not even extensive hypnosis or something could bring those hours back up.”

I heard the smile in his voice. “I knew you’d have researched it.”

“It’s what I do.” His hand stopped moving near mine and I wove my fingers into his. “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done while blacked out?” I tossed it out like a statement, a challenge.

“I got into a fistfight once,” he offered. “Stupidest thing. Apparently this guy bumped into me in a bar and I was wasted and in a bad mood about something—a lady, probably—and I was like, ‘Hey, fuck you, man.’ And he turned around and said something threatening like, ‘You wanna go?’ And even though he had about eighty pounds on me, apparently I was like, ‘Let’s go! Right here!’ And all my stupid friends were just watching like assholes as I took a swing at this guy. Who came back and punched me, busted up my nose, and threw me onto a table. So idiotic.” We both giggled. “What was yours?”

There were options. The Warsaw Incident, which of course I’d never tell him. The time I’d spent my entire savings on round-trip tickets to Balikpapan, Indonesia (I’d drunkenly agreed to go to Bali and was five hundred miles off the mark); the time I’d come home late and inexplicably screamed at my messy roommate, shoving her tub of dirty dishes off the counter and then cutting my foot on broken glass during my defiant, wobbly exit. Lloyd flickered into my mind, too, the terribleness of that one morning after, but I swallowed and rattled off my default blackout story.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» The Lost Night
» Pride (The Elite Seven #2)
» Watch Me Follow
» Meet Cute
» Don't You Forget About Me
» Daisy Jones & The Six
» California Girls
» I Owe You One