July 1st, 2016
It’s been quite an odd few weeks, I’d have to admit. From Rose coming back from the dead, ringing me up and trespassing into my abode, to finding out it was her kid sister all along. Now, after almost fifteen years of no contact, I sit opposite Naomi Sanchez in a small café in Rivenhaal, a city two hours north of Presley. It’s crazy, to think I haven’t seen her in this long. I was convinced that I would never see her again, to be honest; at one point there was no reason to. I was happily married, with a son in a beautiful city. But things, I learn, can change at the drop of a hat.
“I spent a couple of years moving around, you know,” Naomi says, slowly taking a sip of her latte. “I was living in Los Angeles for two years once I finished college. I did a few modelling gigs here and there, but I got bored of it. My parents mainly got me into it at first to model their jewellery, remember?”
“Yeah, I do. You’d have a shoot over the weekend, and you’d come to school with some crazy expensive bracelet or necklace.” I smile at the sudden memory flooding my thoughts. Naomi has just turned thirty-five, but she doesn’t look a day over thirty. Her skin is clear and soft, with her makeup accentuating her eyes and her smile. Her long dark hair is tightly coiled, tied into a bun. I studied her when we walked into the café, seeing that her slender figure never left her. It feels as if I never left her; the familiarity is astounding.
“It was my only incentive; free shiny stuff,” she laughs. “But yeah, I got tired of modelling. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a long time, though. I just moved out of L.A. to Atlanta. I got back in touch with an old friend nine years ago… and it was all going really well. I moved in with him, and all was good for like, three years. Then I walked out on him. Thing just went… south.”
“Aaah,” I say, sipping on my coffee. “I guess a lot has happened, right?”
“That ain’t even the half of it,” she laughs. “I just left for New York and cut all ties with him.” She looks down to the table. “I moved to Rivenhaal last year. Got a job in a real estate company. Everything has been so quiet, since.”
“Wait,” I narrow my eyes. Why didn’t I notice the part where she said she got back in touch with an ‘old friend’? all I know is the Rich Kids, but she could mean someone from college. Either way, the curiosity is nagging at me. “Who was he? Do I know this guy? Your ex.”
Naomi rolls her eyes. “I guess I couldn’t keep it a secret from you, can I? I don’t know why I’m trying to.”
“What do you mean?”
“Christof. Jones. Jonesy.”
My jaw drops. “Jonesy? You were in a relationship with Jonesy?... Well, that was unexpected,” I scoff. It seems after all these years, nothing can keep the Rich Kids apart – not even time. I wish I could say I’m completely cool with the idea that Naomi ended up with Jonesy, but for whatever reason, I’m not. Even if it didn’t last.
Naomi scratches her neck, looking away. “Truth is, Bret, we were just a bunch of incestuous friends at school. We left no stone unturned with each other, did we? I got with you, Rose got with you, Rose got with Tanner, I got with Jonesy…”
“But didn’t that happen after high school? You just said, you reconnected when you were in your mid-twenties.”
“…It’s complicated. But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some sort of crossover during high school. You know, those four months when Rose was lying in her coma, your relationship with Sofia had grown stronger, and I couldn’t help but think about those things you said a few nights before she was shot. Do you still remember?”
I swallow, looking away from her. “Yeah. I do.” I never meant it literally, but I could see how telling her she was basically nothing without me would hurt, especially as at the end of the day, I had the upper hand. I wouldn’t be the one waking up alone.
“I felt lonely and abandoned. And I know that nothing brings people closer together, or turns people farther away from each other, more than loss does. Jonesy was reeling from everything, too. Tanner was his closest friend, and Rose was someone special to all of us. We were hurting. We never planned on hooking up, but we did.” She says it bluntly, as if the memory of that year has given a coldness to her voice. “And years later, he reached out to me. I was ready to make it work with him, and things were amazing, but Bret, there’s a dark side to all of us.”
“What did he do to you?” I know he must have hurt her for her to run away to suddenly.
“He turned into a douchebag, and we’d argue over Rose and Tanner. Jesus Christ, even a decade later, the topic wasn’t closed. He would make these remarks, defending his best friend and slating Rose. We’d argue, until it got physical.” I can see her trying to hold in tears. I’m the one person she knows she can go into detail about these things, without having to explain everything. Even over time, she never lost the comfort to open up to me. “Well, he got physical. I never touched him. I just packed my shit and left.”
“Wow. Christ,” I bring my hands to my face, pulling them down to my jaw slowly. “I wasn’t expecting to hear all of that.”
“Well, come on, Walker.” She nudges my arm. “Tell me about you, now. You didn’t call me up to meet and catch up just so I could spill out my life story and you just sit there listening with your popcorn.”
“I mean, it’s nothing amazing. Sofia and I were married for a while, and then we divorced around five years ago. I have a son, Hudson. They both live in England, now.” It wasn’t Facebook or any other website like that, where I found Naomi’s number – this explains the lack of knowledge we have of each other. It was a business website – LinkedIn. So nothing personal was on display. I tried finding her on other respective sites, but I gathered she just wasn’t into that kind of stuff, when I couldn’t see her face anywhere - just a bunch of Latina women with android-quality selfies. I was still determined to find her – it’s not impossible in this new world, this world of technology. Hell, if I can know what kind of cereal a random dude in Wisconsin is eating, surely I could find an old friend. Double Hell, if Jennifer-Anne could stalk the hell out of me, I could find Naomi Sanchez in a heartbeat.
“Do you mind asking me why things didn’t work out with Sofia?” There’s an awkward air now, with her name on our lips. It just teleports us back to 1999.
“I told her about you. It took me years, but I finally told her.”
“Oh. Wow. I mean, that must have been heavy. Especially after holding out for so long.”
“Yeah. It was,” I sip my beverage. “But it’s over now. It’s cool.”
“It’s not cool.” Naomi shakes her head. She can tell that things have been rough ever since. And I wonder if it’s the same with her since she left Jonesy, or if it’s better.
“I mean, on the bright side, I get to see my son in a few weeks. He’s supposed to come and visit.”
“Awesome. How long has it been?”
“A long, long time.” I chuckle sadly. “I’m supposed to clean my act up, you know? Stop drinking. Get a proper job.”
“You can still do that, right? If that’s what it takes.”
“Of course I can. It’s just that…” I pause.
“What?” She looks at me with alarm, like I couldn’t possibly have an excuse.
“This is going to sound insane. Ridiculous. But this really did happen to me. And I was wondering if it happened to you.”
“What did?” she slaps my wrist. “Spit it out, man.”
“Did… has… Jennifer-Rose come back into your life in one way or another?”
She looks at me with a mixture of bewilderment and annoyance. Rose is always the centre of conversation, even now. “Of course not. She’s been dead for eighteen years, Bret. What are you talking about?”
“Did you know she had a sister?”
“Yes. Jamie. We all knew that.”
“No. I mean a younger sister. Right?”
“Oh. Shit. Yeah.” Naomi’s eyes widen. “Wasn’t her mother pregnant when we in college, or something? I never really caught up with that.”
“Well. That young sister trespassed into my apartment last week.”
“What?” Naomi laughs. “Is this really why you contacted me?”
I feel a bit stung at first, gathering that she mustn’t believe me.
“N-No. That’s not why.”
“Well, it is. Obviously.”
“…Maybe. Jesus Christ.”
“Well,” she smiles. “Tell me more.”