• Jill Marie Denton

His Three Friends | Mar 7, 2020

Part One:


“I can’t believe you’re really going. I know you’re sad but…”


I interrupted Jada’s argument with an outstretched palm. “It’s what’s best for me. If I’d had my way, if life worked out the way it’s supposed to, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”


“I know. It just sucks. I’m losing my best friend.”


“You’re not losing me. I’m just going away for a while. Maybe a month, maybe a year, but I’ll still have my phone. And wherever I end up, you can come visit. I’ll never be that far away.”


Jada sat back, eyed me suspiciously over the bistro table. No doubt she knew better. After years of being at my side, she knew I had no idea where I was headed, nor how much time I’d have for my past once I got there. I was leaving town for good, leaving behind all the memories and the people who’d once filled in the nooks and crannies of my existence.


Because now that life felt hollow, useless. My best friend, my husband and my support system was gone. My heart was broken, and my life was over. If I stayed, if I made one more excuse for why I should keep the house, or the car, or the job, I’d grow even more dependent on those mood stabilizers I was already popping like mints.


It was time to find something else, to be someone else, before I considered other, more permanent options. The kind that ended with long black cars, fan-shaped bouquets and even more weeping for me, too.


“You can’t run from this,” she argued weakly. “You can’t wake up in a new town and be someone else. I know you don’t want to stay here but life doesn’t just start over because you want it to.”


“Sure, I get that. But I haven’t even set foot in my house since…” I trailed off with a sigh. “Look, Sam’s gone. I could sit here and tell you I’m okay, that I’ll be all right in time and that I’ll just keep doing what I’ve always done until life feels normal again. And I’d be lying. I can’t go home. I can’t go to work. I can’t eat. I can’t watch another in-law cry their eyes out for me. I’m tired of staying at hotels, of answering the same ‘are you sure you’re okay?’ question over and over. And of dodging the media, for that matter. I just need to go someplace else. And aside from this guilt you’re laying on thick, I’m feeling like it’s a good idea.”


Jada’s eyes turned down as she scowled. “I don’t mean to make it harder on you. I just worry. I can’t imagine what this must be like, what the phone calls and lawyers and shit must be like. It’s bad enough losing your husband. Losing him like this… it’s just not fair. And now I’m losing you, too.”


A tiny tear rolled down Jada’s cheek. For a moment, I felt a sharp tang of remorse. She was disappointed. But so was I. She’d never want me to leave, no matter how dire my circumstances were. Friendship teetered on dependency sometimes, especially when so many years were shared.


“I’ll still be around. I just can’t be here, in this town, with everyone expecting something from me that I… I don’t even know what they could expect from me. They put microphones in my face. They ask how I feel. And I don’t even know who I am anymore.”


Jada released a deep breath, rolling her eyes up to force back the tears she didn’t want me to see. They were there, just on the edge, like they were in every other set of woeful eyes that’d watched me over the last month or so.


“What can I do to help? You have your passport, your reservations. Do you need new luggage or something?”


I tried for a smile for her sake. “No, I’m packing light. Flight leaves three hours after Sam’s in the ground. The car’ll be waiting for me in the parking lot of the cemetery.”


“There’s nothing left to plan, then.” Jada replied, sitting back with her palms in her lap. “Keep your same phone number, at least for a while. I’ll stay up on your family and what everyone’s doing in case you want to know.”


“I’ll be doing my best to forget about them. All the happy memories I have are gone now. I appreciate the offer, but my lawyer will help keep an eye on stuff here. I’ve already given directives on how to handle his settlement when it comes in. Everyone will be taken care of.”


She nodded with averted eyes. “I just wish I could’ve done something more. You’ve had my back for so long. Through my divorce, the custody mess, the dipshit I messed with after. And now there’s literally nothing I can do for you.”


“You’re doing enough not treating me like some helpless, doddering fool. It’s amazing how people you haven’t seen in years come out of the woodwork to grieve with you, to show compassion for someone they never knew, because the news tells them they should.”


“They mean well,” Jada argued. “It’s just hard. People don’t know what to say to a young widow or how to act around them. You’re twenty-eight. You were both healthy, happy, and had everything anyone could ask for. And now your husband’s dead. That’s hard to make sense of.”


Widow.


I reached for my purse, ready for another dose of respite in the form of a tiny white pill, but I stayed my hand. I needed to be in control for the next few hours. The pills could wait.


“Life’s hard to make sense of, but I have to go. I have some unfinished business to take care of in town over the next few days.”


“You said you didn’t need anything. What unfinished business?”


“You’re gonna judge me.”


Her brow lifted. “Doubtful. And even if I did, you’ll just do it anyway. What’s up?”


“Well, a couple of Sam’s friends have offered their support like you have. Filling my fridge, paying bills for me, keeping me company, whatever. They’re good guys, always considerate and all. I’m just wondering if they’ll really give me the support I need.”


“I assume you’re talking about Shawn and Mark? I’m sure they’re good for it. But if you need money or something, I can…”


“It’s not money I need right now. And yes, Shawn, Mark and maybe Rex.”


“Ooh, I love Rex,” Jada confessed with a lilt. “Too bad he’s such a self-absorbed douchebag sometimes. He’s way hotter than he should be. It’s not fair.”


I could only chuckle. Jada had circled Rex for weeks after her divorce, and though Rex’s charm and fancy car had gotten her to his bed, he never cared enough to follow through for a round two. Round twos weren’t his modus operandi anyway. Jada had told me all about his exploits, his technique and his impressive stamina in great detail over a cheese board the following weekend.


And I couldn’t help but want a little of that excitement for myself. Going home that night after our ladies’ night to find Sam in bed, on his side with his toned chest exposed and his auburn hair mussed, I couldn’t help myself. I abused him ruthlessly. I tore the sheets. I scratched his face and he fed the fire like he always did so well.


My fingers tingled with pins and needles as I unclenched my fists. These memories were too damn strong sometimes.


Jada interrupted my thoughts. “Shawn and Mark, they’re good guys. Maybe a little obsessed with their hobbies or whatever, but I’m sure they’d do whatever you need done. What can they do that you won’t let me do?”


“I’ll tell you, but you have to swear that this stays between us. And you have to swear you won’t try to talk me out of it.”


“Why would I talk you out of taking help from someone who’s offering?”


“It’s not ‘help,’ per se. It’s more like support. The type I’m not quite ready to get from a stranger yet.”


Jada’s head tipped forward as her eyes widened. “You’re not serious…”


“As a heart attack,” I confirmed quickly. “I haven’t slept well in weeks. I’m a nervous wreck. I can’t stop thinking about this mess around me. I can’t get away from it. I just need a distraction. A release. And I don’t want some rando from a bar, some guy that doesn’t know me or who I am. Some guy who feels bad for me or works on his pickup lines a bit too hard. And I don’t want to have to make up some story about why I’m looking for company in the first place.”


“Two words for you, friend. Guy code. None of them will break that code. I’ve been around them long enough to know that.”


“Sam’s dead.”


The words stuck in my mouth, drying my tongue like parchment.


“The code lives on,” Jada replied without pause. “You’re his widow. And he’s not even in the ground yet. What are you thinking?”


Ugh. Widow.


“I told you. I knew you’d try to talk me out of it.”


“Sorry, but yeah! I get wanting some physical satisfaction more than anyone, but with his friends? Don’t you think that’s a bit, I dunno, risky? Mark’s in that long-distance relationship and isn’t Shawn into his neighbor? What if they say no?”


“Then I’ll just have to convince them. They’ve both flirted with me before, years ago before I married Sam. They can go back to their lives once I’m out of the way. I don’t want any more than an hour with them.”


“With them? With all of them?”


“Sure, why not?”


Jada laughed aloud, a shocked, proud sound that reverberated off the bistro’s bare walls.


“Damn. So, I guess I’m in on this now. Who’s first?”


“Shawn. He’ll be at the bar tonight for the regional championships. And he’ll be raring to go after his six o’clock Krav Maga class.”


“I forgot he was into that. And you’re going to try to seduce the dude away from a championship game? The odds are stacking up quick.”


“I don’t care about my odds. He said he’d give me any support he could, that he’d help me any way I need. So, let’s see if he’s a man of his word.”


“Wow. All right, so Shawn’s tonight. And Mark?”


“Tomorrow morning. He works overnight so I can catch him at his front door at dawn. Maybe join him for his post-shift shower.”


“Damn, you’ve thought this through!” Jada’s eyes twinkled in collusion. “He’s so considerate, I’m having a hard time imagining you convincing him to be impulsive. And his girlfriend? What if he calls her on the way home and she’s on the phone when you swoop in?”


“Nah, she’s in a different time zone. She won’t be on the phone, and like I said, I want an hour of his time. I don’t care if he tells her or not. I don’t owe him or her anything.”


“I guess. But I have to ask,” Jada snickered. “Rex? You have to know what sleeping with him means.”


“Yes, I learned from your escapades. He will tell everyone. Quickly. And that’s why he’s last. And again, I really don’t care. I’m scratching an itch and he’s got beautifully manicured nails. Plus, I know for a fact he’ll take me up on the offer. He’s gotten grabby with me on more than one occasion over the years. I’ll wave the bait in his face and he’ll snap at it.”


“Sam always laughed off his behavior with you. I knew it bothered you. But you still have the guy code to contend with.”


“Maybe, but I’ll be convincing. I’ll play into his vanity. He is attractive, unreasonably so, and he knows it. You don’t mind me going in for your sloppy seconds, do you?”


“Nah, I had my ride,” she giggled. “And it was good, as you know. But we would’ve killed each other in time. It’s better this way.”


I could only nod. A relationship between Rex and anyone was destined for bloodshed. He was far too impulsive, too vainglorious for his own good. CEOs of big companies certainly could afford to be as self-centered as they wanted to be.


Jada paused our discussion as the server carried over a black leather check carrier. Grabbing for it, she slid her silver credit card into the plastic divider before handing it back. The server wasted no time in leaving us alone again.


And her sympathy in the form of check-grabbing made me scowl.


“Well, I’d wish you luck, but I don’t think you need it.” Jada’s eyes turned up at the corners. “I guess by the time I see you next, you’ll have quite a few stories for me.”


“I won’t be sharing details. And you’re sworn to secrecy on this. Once it’s all done, I don’t care if they share, but if one of these prospects doesn’t work as planned, I need the other two.”


“It’ll work as planned,” Jada noted easily with a knowing headshake. “You are incorrigible. You’re gorgeous. They’re hotblooded men. You don’t want anything more than a quick fix and they’ll know it. And like you said, they said they’d support you in whatever way you needed. I’m sure you’ve already got your seduction plan all figured out.”


“All except the attire. I’m going to need some new duds for this. Preferably stuff that’s impossible to say no to.”


“Nudity always works,” Jada replied with a chuckle.


{Chapter 2 coming Mar 14, 2020} <3 JMD

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