~ 6:30 ~
Staring at the four friends, Mo leaned back against the espresso machine. She envied the group. Their circle was tight and seemed to be unbreakable. They met every Friday at the coffeehouse at various times and stayed for what seemed like an eternity to any outsider. They talked, laughed, played games, and enjoyed being in the presence of each other. Sometimes they were there as a pair or a trio, but more often than not, they were there as four. Mo remembered they first time she had seen the four of them together. It was that very day they became inseparable.
Ava and Walsh stopped by the coffeehouse every day and at that time; Mo thought they were a couple. They laughed and joked together the way that only couples could. Their routine was simple. They’d stop in around six and stay for an hour. Mo had learned that they met after work to release the day’s tension and just to vent about each other’s daily lives.
Ava was a web designer for an up and coming start up business in the area. It was a job she hated, but it paid well and though she was never about the money, she was too scared to venture off and just do what she felt in her heart. Not that she knew what she felt in her heart. It had been a long while since she had any rumblings in there. She was positive that it was filled with cobwebs and dust. Ava didn’t know what she was waiting for and she felt that if she had an inkling of an idea of what she was waiting for, that she still wouldn’t know it if it came up and bit her on the ass. She hated the way that she was sometimes oblivious to the most obvious things around her. She didn’t know if she just chose to ignore the things around her or if she truly couldn’t see the lines or between them. She even once took a class on mediating and finding her psychic self to see if she could read between the lines and see not only the obvious but also the underneath. The only thing she saw was her checking account short a hundred bucks and three friends who made fun of her, but what she felt was an awakening inside her. Not an awakening of her psychic self, but a part of her that she had ignored for so long and refused to acknowledge. It was the mere acknowledgement that she controlled her actions and that though destiny and fate played a hand in life it was her choice to choose which path that destiny and fate would give her. So as Garrett, Porn, and Walsh laughed at her, she laughed along with them, but on the inside she was shooting them a middle finger and smiling that she finally got the whole destiny and fate debate. The figments of the imagination became real and she could see for the first time her choices and she liked what she saw.
Ava had met Walsh in college and they had become instant friends over a chem lab gone wrong. It would be an experiment that bonded them for what would be life.
Walsh ended up throwing his college education out the window and not becoming a multi-billion dollar businessman like he had planned since he was fifteen years old. It was at that age, he realized that money would always get the women. Instead, he became a writer for a fashion magazine. He was the sole male columnist for the magazine. He spat out his opinions on the need for thigh-highs, push up bras and stilettos. Though a portion of the female population said he pigeon holed the female species into a bimbo stereotype, the rest of the population found his diatribes amusing and funny. He had become a man who questioned the things that females did and then answered his own questions mocking chauvinistic men and men of privilege in the process. It was marketing ploy that no magazine editor could dream of creating because at the time he took the job, no heterosexual male would have ever dream of writing in a women’s fashion magazine. Especially one that focused only on what designer was hot and who was wearing what. It was a magazine that straight men only read when they were in the bathroom with nothing else other than their thoughts and their significant other’s choice of reading material. It might have been a waste in a college education, but it still paid well and attracted the women that Walsh so loved. Though he had slept with most of the women in his office, most still thought he was gay because his interest in them lasted for only a few days maybe a few weeks if they were lucky. He had that boyish charm that crawled into one’s skin. You either wanted to fuck him or be his best friend and for Ava, she only wanted the latter. Walsh had never given up hope though. A small part of him held onto the dream that maybe one day things would be different and that he would be with her, but with Garrett in the picture, Walsh knew that it wouldn’t be him in her heart so he had settled on being her best friend. He knew it in college and he knew it the moment they had been introduced to Garrett. He only had himself to blame though. He was the one who introduced her to Porn, who had introduced them to Garrett. It was funny how life can create a chain of its own sometimes. It was him who had insisted that Ava meet Porn. He knew that Porn would be the fresh breath of air to their little circle.
Porn worked with Walsh. They had met each other in the hallway when two models were cat fighting over a pair of expensive shoes that were custom made for an exclusive photo shoot. The fight had spilled into the hallway and into Walsh’s pathway. He, of course, found the moment opportune and not only separated the fight but got the phone numbers of both models. Porn, who had seen the whole interaction, commended him on his triumph and asked him if he wanted to watch the shoot. The models would be ninety percent naked anyway since he was the stylist. The catfight in the hallway was Porn’s first day as the magazine’s stylist and he really just wanted someone who didn’t intimidate the hell out of him in the room with him. The magazine was known for firing a stylist, make-up artist, and whomever its wrath chose on site with no questions asked or reason given why. It was said that if one could last one week at the magazine, then one had truly made it in the industry. Porn would have been happy with one day and of course he had no idea that he would turn into the style editor within six months. The day he received his promotion he tracked Walsh down and told him the whole story of his first day and how he had made an impossible first day seem like the greatest day. He wanted to celebrate his promotion with the person who sat in the room with him and made fun of the models, fashion and the whole aspect of a fashion magazine with him. The one person who had made him forget that he was actually at a job. To him, it just seemed like two friends goofing off and making fun of the pretty people. Porn guessed it was then that he had fallen for Walsh, but wasn’t quite positive about it. He wasn’t quite sure about a lot of things in his life either. The only thing Porn was sure of was that he had fallen for a straight man that could give a fuck that he was sitting next to a gay man. That was the one quality that Porn found the sexiest about Walsh. It didn’t matter if Walsh was straight, Porn was happy just to be sitting next to him. On the day of his promotion, he ordered that Walsh would help him celebrate and called only one other person to share his news with and that was his brother’s ex-best friend, Garrett.
It was Garrett that had pulled his brother off of him when he came out of the closet. It was also Garrett that took him to the hospital to get bandaged up and gave him a place to stay when his entire family kicked him out of their lives and stopped talking to him in one night. In the end, he was the only family that Porn would have and the only person he wanted to share his good news with. When the infamous night happened, as Porn liked to call it, it was the beginning of a brotherhood that neither he nor Garrett minded. People often thought they were brothers anyway except when they caught the hint of Garrett’s Australian accent that had lingered since he had moved to the States as a teen. So it was natural for him to celebrate Porn’s promotion with him. He would’ve been crushed if he hadn’t. He just took the next flight back to join his best friend in celebration. That was the great luxury of him being his own boss. He could do things on a whim and when he wanted to do it. The only person he had to answer to was himself and he was pretty happy with himself. He owned a successful surfboard shop that sold and built custom boards. Surfing had always been a passion of his since he was able to stand and now it had become a passion that had paid off financially for him. He was fortunate that surfers wanted his boards and was even more fortunate to open up a shop on the shores of where his father had taught him to surf. A land he wanted to return to one day with his wife and children if he ever settled down. Garrett wasn’t like Walsh who could get and go through so many women that it made the group’s head spin. He was the opposite. He couldn’t keep a woman in his life for longer than a month or two. His traveling would make them leave or he discovering that they were only after his money would make them leave. Ava had been the only person that didn’t care about his traveling or money. She was the only woman he could talk to when he was finished a day of traveling and business who actually cared how his day was, how his work was going, and if he got to his destination safely. She cared with no strings attached and Garrett couldn’t decide if he was scared to death of that or if he was more scared that he wanted strings attached to Ava. He didn’t know if he could just let go and be with someone when for so long he was without.
The day the four of them met was explosive. Ava was waiting at one of the outside tables, basking in the sun and reading a book as usual. She could hear Walsh and his co-worker around the block. They sounded as if they were the happiest people in the world. She was even jealous that they sounded as happy as they did. Trying her best not to look up, she watched them from behind her sunglasses. Porn had his arm looped through Walsh’s and was waving his hand about like a flaying fish. Laughing to herself, Ava almost choked on her espresso. It was so un-Walsh, yet he seemed comfortable to have this man hanging on his arm. She remembered the phone call she had received only hours earlier.
“You are going to trip over this guy,” she remembered Walsh saying.
“Seems like you’re the one tripping over him,” she said to herself. Still watching the two, she was caught staring when Walsh smiled and shrugged in his boyish way. Raising her hand, she threw them a little wave and on cue, Porn tossed one in return.
“She’s an absolute doll!” she heard him say as they crowded the table.
“Ava, this is Porn. Porn, this is Ava.”
“It is such an honor to meet you,” Porn said as he shook her hand. Throwing himself in the chair next to her, he smiled, “Walsh talks about you so much.”
“It’s nice to meet you too,” she replied, realizing she had no clue what to say in response. She had never heard of Porn before today. It was as if he just appeared out of nowhere and into their lives. “Is Porn your real name?”
“God, no, honey. My real name is boring. Peter Octavius Richard Neely. My parents were apparently trying to kill me with my name so I turned took the initials and tried to kill them with it!”
Ava smiled. She liked Porn already. His short light brown hair was wavy and sun kissed with tints that only made one aware of how dark his brown eyes were. There was a soft boyish look to his face that she trusted. She knew that he would never tell your secrets or turn his back on someone. Porn was the type of person that wore his heart on his sleeve even if it stayed broken. The sadness in his eyes told her that it often stayed broken despite the owner’s outward happiness expression.
“What are you wearing?”
Looking down at her attire with a raised brow, she shrugged.
“Something with sesame seed in it. Doesn’t give me a headache.”
“You smell delicious.”
Feeling herself blush, Ava looked at Walsh who was grinning ear to ear.
“Didn’t I tell you that you would love him?”
“You did,” she replied. Turning to Porn, she smiled, “Congratulations on your promotion by the way.”
“Thank you. I truly couldn’t have done it without Walsh.”
Curious, she asked, “How come?”
Obliging, Porn spilled every detail to his new best friends even if Walsh had already heard the story earlier in the day. He repeated how he met Walsh and how his life had changed that very moment. “And that was that,” he said as a matter-of-factly. “I knew I had to find him and make him celebrate with me.”
“And celebrating with one person is no fun when you can celebrate with two, so of course I had to call you. I knew you’d make it a party and coordinate the rest of the evening.”
“And if I had plans?”
“I’d talk you out of them,” Porn chimed in.
“And if you couldn’t?”
“Then Garrett would have. He’s got Yoda powers.”
Nodding, Porn smiled in childlike awe. “Yeah. Always has. He would just look at you and say you’re going and you would just go okay. Just like that.”
Ava smiled at Porn and then finished her espresso. “Then I can’t wait to meet Yoda Garrett.”
“He’s hot too.” Looking at Walsh, Porn added, “Present company excluded.”
“Of course. I’m going to hit Mo up for a drink. Anyone need anything?” Walsh asked as he stood.
“Hot or cold?”
“Half and half, skim, whipped cream, so on.”
“However they normally make it is fine.”
Walsh nodded and walked away.
“You’re not a huge coffee fan are you?”
“Not the least bit,” Porn said, turning his full attention to Ava. “Martinis are my forte, but I’ll learn how to like coffee. Have you and Walsh dated long?”
Ava immediately laughed harder than she should have.
“What’s so funny?”
“We’re not a couple. He’s my best friend.”
“But he looks at you with lust in his eyes.”
“He looks at everyone that way. Porn, if you hadn’t noticed, he loves his women. He’s a whore.”
Porn laughed out loud. He liked Ava. She was honest with her words and he knew she was probably honest with her feelings too. She had an unassuming beauty about her. The magazine editor would call her average but she was far from average in his eyes. Her dark brown hair and doe eyes took his breath away and he was gay. He wondered what effect she had on straight men if she took his breath away. When she smiled, he knew that her smile alone could mend any trouble one had.
“Where are you drinks?” Ava asked as Walsh sat down.
“Mo’s bringing them,” he said, watching a black, ’68 drop top Mustang slowly drive by.
“But weren’t you getting them from her?” Porn asked.
“Don’t bother talking to him Porn. He’s drooling over the ’68 Mustang that just drove by.”
Looking over his shoulder, he saw the car turn around and park on their side of the street. “It was his dad’s,” he said to Ava. “He had it restored several years ago.”
“You know the driver?” Walsh asked as he watched a tall, physically fit blonde man climb out of the car.
“Here you go,” Mo said, placing a round of drinks on the table.
Looking up, Mo whistled. “He’s hot.”
Staring at her, Walsh’s brow crumpled at her.
“Sorry, I’m out.”
“It’s just Garrett,” the blonde said as he joined the table. “No Yoda.” Looking at Porn, he asked, “What on earth have you been telling them?”
“Nothing,” Porn replied in a tone that a five-year-old boy who had just flushed his sister’s Barbie head down the toilet would use. Looking away, he looked at Ava and Walsh. “Garrett, this is Ava and this is Walsh.”
“It’s nice to meet you both,” he said and shook their respective hands.
“Have a seat,” Walsh offered by pushing the chair next to him over with his foot. “Sorry about the Yoda thing.”
“It’s okay,” he said taking a seat. “So who needed convincing?”
“He tells that stupid Yoda line to everyone who needs to be convinced of something. Like I have mystical powers.”
Ava slowly raised her hand. “It was me,” she smiled.
Walsh looked at his best friend. She had suddenly become shy. This was not Ava. This was not the friend who openly attacked everything in his life. This was someone who was flustered and it just dawned on him why.
“What was he trying to convince you of?”
“There was no need of convincing,” Ava answered. Feeling Walsh stare her down, she kicked what she thought was his leg under the table.
“Ow!” Porn yelped.
“I’m so sorry.” She turned to Porn and felt herself turn five shades of red. “I didn’t…I was crossing…dude, I’m just sorry.”
“Did you say dude?” Garrett asked.
“Habit,” she answered without looking at him. “Why?”
“I don’t hear it a lot out of my work. Well, I mean, I just think I notice it more outside of my business I should say.”
“What do you do?” Walsh asked.
“Build custom surf boards.”
“When I was younger, my dad was the epitome of the sixties stoner,” Ava answered. “Every other word out of his mouth was dude.”
Walsh looked at Garrett and wondered what he had that made Ava kick a near total stranger. “Look at him,” he screamed at himself. Wanting to make his inner voice shut up, he looked at Garrett and saw everything that Ava had seen in him. He was a nicely tanned, physically fit, strikingly handsome and confident man. He had sun-bleached hair that was naturally blonde and forest green eyes. Hell, if he had been gay, he would have fallen for Garrett too. Sighing to himself, Walsh felt a little hope slide away from his heart. “Porn said you were flying in later,” he heard himself say and then begged his macho manhood to shut up and be nice.
“There was an extra seat on an earlier flight. Thought I’d surprise him.”
“I’m glad you did bro.”
Smiling, Garrett looked at Porn. He knew how much this promotion had meant to him and how much it meant for him to be here to celebrate with him and his new friends. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
“Stop. I’m going to get teary eyed.”
“You’re not a drama queen are you?” Ava asked and then wished she hadn’t. “I didn’t mean it. I mean, I’m just going to shut the hell up now.”
“He’s a total drama queen,” Garrett answered with a slight wink.
Sensing Ava’s embarrassment over something he didn’t take offense too, Porn nodded. “I am a total drama queen like he said and I’m not easily offended so don’t feel bad.”
Smiling, she patted his hand. “I speak freely. Sometimes too freely.”
“So did her dad.”
Garrett felt a stitch of envy rise in him. Something he didn’t feel often when it came to matters of the heart. “How long have you two been together?”
This time it was Walsh who laughed. “We’re best friends. I haven’t even seen Ava naked.”
“Well, thank God, because you would apparently tell the whole world if you did.”
“I didn’t mean it that way prissy pants.”
Ava glared at Walsh and drove a high heel into the toe of his shoe.
“Apologies again,” he winced.
“You two sure you’re not a couple?”
“Best friends,” Walsh answered with no bonus reply.
“We met in a chem lab gone wrong.”
“This sounds interesting,” Porn said.
“Please do tell.”
Ava looked at Garrett and couldn’t say no. “It’s nothing juicy. Walsh was flirting with my lab partner when he knocked over the flame we were using which set her hair on fire.”
Porn looked at Walsh. “That is horrible.”
“It gets better,” he replied.
“Turns out her hair was a wig or extensions. Whatever it was melted to her skin.”
“Still gets better.”
“She is panicking and hyperventilating of course and ends up passing out, but as she falls to the floor her skirt snags the table which rips off of her body to reveal she’s a he.”
Lowering his head to the table, Walsh counted to five and then laughter erupted from the table. Raising his head to the firing squad, in his defense he offered, “He was a hot woman.”
Ava nodded. “And I hated her because she was so stunning.”
As the four continued to laugh, Mo watched from inside the coffeehouse and knew the four of them just became inseparable from each other.
“There were no signs she was a he?” Garrett asked.
“None at all man. None at all.”
Looking at Walsh, Garrett could see why Porn was attracted to him. He was charming and his bed head black hair and blue eyes only complimented his boyish good looks. He knew that Walsh was a ladies man but faithful to his friends and loyal perhaps to a fault.
“None?” Porn asked Ava.
“Every girl hated her. She was smart, beautiful and had stolen seventy-five percent of the senior girls’ boyfriends.”
“Obviously, because she sucked a mean…”
“Porn,” Garrett interrupted. “There is a lady at the table.”
“I don’t care. Walsh may be a ladies man, but he is far from being polite around me.”
“You are totally right,” Walsh said to Porn. “He is like a big brother.”
“I told you,” Ava smiled.
“So where is this celebration heading to?” Garrett asked, pushing his empty cup away from him.
“Ava, you’re the coordinator,” Walsh answered. “Any suggestions?”
Looking at the three men, she took a deep breath and answered, “Why must I be the coordinator? Just because I’m a woman?”
“It’s the gay man’s celebration so I’m out.”
“It’s totally not fair. You two work at the hottest magazine in the world and you can’t find or know some hot and happening party, bar, restaurant, or wherever it is that fashionistas hang out at.”
“She has a point,” Garrett added.
“There’s that new club everyone’s hitting tonight,” Porn said.
“We could start there. I hear they have one of the hottest djs in the country working there for two weeks and martinis that would make one swear that alcoholism is a way of life.”
“Where do you come up with these lines Walsh?”
Ignoring her, he continued, “Hot babes and guys there.”
Porn smiled. “I’m in.” Looking at each person, he nodded. “Walsh and Garrett, you guys are dressed nice enough to get in, but Ava, you can’t wear what you’re wearing.”
“Jeans and tee aren’t going to work.”
“What’s wrong with what I am wearing?”
“You all are casual.”
“Casual for guys is a tee shirt and jeans. They’re wearing button ups so that makes it not casual.”
“I wore this to work.”
“You work in a geek environment. If you dressed up, their minds would never be on their work. Look, I’m a gay man but you’re smoking hot. So of course your bosses tell you to dress casual.”
She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know if she was hurt, slightly confused, or should thank him for his statement.
“What kind of shoes are you wearing?”
“Maybe if I had kicked you harder you would know.”
Reaching under the table, Garrett grabbed her slender leg and pulled it towards him with a smile. “Black heels. Hot too.”
“Do you have your suitcase?”
Reaching into his pocket, Garrett slid them across the table.
“Come on Ava.” Grabbing her hand, Porn stood. “I’ll replace anything I ruin.”
“Ruin?” she asked. She looked at Walsh for help but he was hiding a laugh behind his coffee cup. “You are just getting a huge kick out of this aren’t you?”
“What was that show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? On this episode we go Queer Eye for a Straight Girl. I’m so loving this especially after you tortured me with hours upon hours of watching that show.”
“You loved that show,” she stated. “I know we just met, but won’t you be of help Garrett?”
He could only shrug his shoulders. “You look great in what you are wearing, but I’m not a fashionista so what do I know.”
“Time is of the essence. Come on.”
Walsh and Garrett watched as Porn dragged Ava to the back of Garrett’s car. He threw open the trunk and they disappeared behind it.
“How pissed is she?”
“On a scale of one to ten only a three or three and a half. She’ll be aggravated by the whole thing but at the end of the night, she’ll have forgotten about it all.”
“What does she do for a living?”
“Web designer. Graphic artist. She’s one or the other. Maybe both.”
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t remember. Honestly, it’s a bit boring to me.”
“Does she like her job?”
“Just like for all of us, depends on the day,” Walsh answered, looking away from the car.
“Porn have you seen Garrett without his shirt on?”
“Of course. He taught me how to surf. Well, he tried to anyway.”
“Then you should know that there’s no way in hell that wife beater will fit me.”
“It’s not a wife beater. It’s an undershirt. He wears it under his business shirts. Not out in the public because I would kill him.”
“Nice built body,” Ava said and pointed to where Garrett sat. Pointing to herself, she said, “Woman’s body. Man” Point “Woman.” Point.
“It’s all about attitude. You’ve got it so flaunt it. Now give me your shirt and put this one on and then turn around.”
Ava jerked her shirt off, not really caring who saw her standing on the street changing clothes behind a car. She slid into Garrett’s shirt, which hung loosely on her. “See.”
Putting her hand on her hips, Ava sighed. What was she thinking? Feeling something cold and metal against her back she shivered.
“Where did these come from?” she asked as Porn placed a small pair of scissors in her hand.
“Style baby. Style.”
In a matter of moments, Porn had the once loose shirt hugging every curve of Ava’s body. He pilfered through Garrett’s bag and found a black button up shirt and slipped it over her. After a few moments of adjusting, he stepped back with a smile. “This is sexy business casual that ladies need. Dark denim jeans, black tailored, well semi-tailored button up. I mean, if I gave you black frame glasses and a string of pearl necklaces, you could be the hottie in porn that everyone wants. You are to die for.”
Blushing, Ava looked at what she was wearing. Her jeans and shoes were now paired with a curve hugging undershirt and a slightly altered black button up. “I look like an idiot don’t I?”
“Why don’t you watch the faces on Walsh and Garrett and let that be your answer.” Stepping around the car, he looked at the two men. “Are you ready?”
“Just hurry,” Walsh answered back. Looking at Garrett, he smiled. “Maybe this was a bad idea.”
“I’m beginning to think” he replied, but as Ava stepped around from the back of his car his mouth stopped working and just fell open and so did Walsh’s.
“Now those are two faces that say I want to fuck her,” Porn said as he closed the trunk.
Looking over her shoulder, Ava smiled. “I’m already turning red, so stop.”
Grabbing her hand, Porn gave it a squeeze. “Let’s go light up this town and meet your new lusters or suitors. Whichever you want to call them.”
Walsh was floored. Ava looked amazing even if the only thing that was different was her top. He was impressed that in fifteen minutes, Porn had turned average clothing into something fabulous. “He really should be a designer.”
“I tell him but he won’t listen.”
“So he’s done this before?”
“To his friends. Maybe it’s the model but this is his best work yet.”
Glancing at Garret, Walsh wanted to scream of course it’s the model but he held his tongue. No need to show off his jealous side.
“So I’m guessing by the looks on your faces that this is hot?”
Covering her face, Ava blushed even harder.
“See,” Porn said, pulling her hands away from her face. “Unanimously hot.”
“Let’s just go.”
“We’ve got to get our check,” Walsh replied as he stood.
“I took care of it already. Congratulations again Porn.”
Porn’s heart smiled. This was the nicest thing anyone had done for him in a long time. Grabbing Ava, he hugged her. “Thank you Doll.”
“You’re welcome,” she said and kissed the side of his cheek.
“I’ll drive then,” Garrett said as he stood.
“Did you get the tip too?” Walsh asked as they walked towards the car.
“When did you do all of this?” Garrett asked.
“When I went to the restroom earlier.”
Opening the passenger door, Walsh and Porn climbed into the backseat. “You’re full of surprises aren’t you?”
Smiling, Ava got into the car without a word.
The club the four of them went to was probably the loudest club in the universe with heart jarring bass, flattering low lights, and every single pretty person in town.
Watching Porn and Walsh on the dance floor, Ava shook her head with a sigh. Surrounding both, women and men pawed at them like caged animals.
“So this is where you have been hiding,” Garrett said, placing a drink in front of her.
“It’s the quietest spot in the club. I don’t have to yell so loud.”
“Are you watching the two party animals?”
“Are you having fun?”
Sitting next to her, Garrett smiled. He didn’t really know what to think of Ava. She didn’t seem like the other women who were obsessed with money, looks, and so on. If there was a definition and meaning for the word normal woman, she was the picture of it. “It’s just not your scene is it?”
“Not on a work night.”
“Walsh says you work for an Internet firm or something.”
“Web design for a start up.”
“So if I needed your web design services I’d call them up.”
“Or I could just offer you my services.”
“My business could use a great new website.”
“I’ll do it.”
“What’s your price?”
“Teach me to surf and we’ll call it even.”
Garrett nodded with a smile. “Deal.”
Reaching out, Ava shook his hand. “Deal.”
“And so the story begins with the beach bum and the computer geek watching their two friends party into the good night.”
“You don’t go out on work nights either do you?”
“Only for special occasions.”
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