“Are you sure she’s going to like this? It makes absolutely no sense,” Jenny complains.
I have no idea what she’s talking about and I don’t have time to argue with her because as soon as we get in the house, I see Claire sitting on the couch under a pile of blankets.
She looks pale and tired and I panic for a minute. I shouldn’t want to run away from my best friend, but I do. I want to turn around and run out the door and pretend like this isn’t happening. I want to close my eyes and walk back into the house and imagine that it’s three months ago when I walked through the door to celebrate her birthday and she was already halfway to being trashed, her face flushed and her smile bright as she called me a bag of dicks and thrust a beer in my hand.
“Claire, you look like shit,” Jenny tells her.
I smack Jenny’s arm as Claire laughs.
“I feel like shit too,” Claire informs us with a low, raspy voice.
Carter walks into the living room from the kitchen with a glass of ice water and sets it down on the coffee table in front of her. I watch him slide his arms behind her and help her sit up and I want to scream. She’s the strongest person I’ve ever met and she needs help sitting up on the couch. I should have been the one to race over there and help her. I should have instinctively known she needed help but I didn’t. Or maybe I did but I’m just too fucking scared to get close to her.
“We have a surprise for you!” Jenny announces as Carter fusses over Claire’s blankets and she smacks his hands away.
Carter starts to walk away but immediately stops in his tracks when Jenny pulls her shirt all the way up until her tits pop out.
“Is that the surprise, because I like it,” Carter says with a nod.
“Oh, for God’s sakes,” I mutter, grabbing onto the hem of my shirt and tugging it up just enough to show off the skin over my ribs.
Claire stares back and forth between Jenny and I, a look of confusion on her face.
“One of these things is not like the other,” Claire sing-songs.
I lean forward to get a look at Jenny’s side, trying to avoid her tits hanging out for the world to see.
“What in the fuck is that?” I shout, pointing to whatever the hell it is.
Jenny looks down at herself and then back at me. “It’s what you told me to do! I’ll admit, it sounded a little weird when you told me on the phone, but I kind of like it and it totally makes sense.”
Carter cocks his head to the side and squints. “I believe what we’re looking at is a rack of ribs tattoo. Awesome!”
I turn to face her, pointing to my own tattoo. “Pink ribbon on our ribs, Jenny! PINK RIBBON ON OUR RIBS! How in the hell does a rack of ribs make any kind of sense right now?”
Jenny stares at me in confusion for a few minutes and then the light goes on. “Ohhhhhhh, yeah. I guess that makes sense. But, I mean, it’s a rack. Get it? Save your rack? I really think mine is better.”
Jesus Christ, when I called Jenny and told her we should get matching tattoos of a pink ribbon in support of Claire, I should have known she’d get it all wrong. I never should have let her do it on her own.
“Well, the sentiment was nice,” Claire tells us with a shrug, trying to hide her laugh.
“Dammit, now I’m hungry for ribs,” Carter complains.
Jenny finally pulls her shirt down and walks over to the couch, flopping down next to Claire. “Drew has been driving me insane since I got the tattoo earlier. He keeps wanting to lick it because he’s convinced it will taste like barbeque.”
Carter scrunches up his face in disgust. “And now I’ll never be hungry for ribs ever again. Thank you for that.”
Carter leaves us alone, most likely to go throw up somewhere and an awkward silence fills the room when he’s gone.
Thankfully, Jenny doesn’t know how to shut up for more than two seconds so she starts rattling on and on about barbeque sauce in places one should NEVER put barbeque sauce and I tune her out.
Claire stares right at me like she’s waiting for me to say something. I know I should apologize for not coming over sooner, but I can’t make the words come out. Is there a book called How to Talk to Your Best Friend When She Has Breast Cancer For Dummies? I might need that. I’ve always been there for her when she needed me. I’ve always known the right things to say, why should now be any different? Maybe because all the times in the past weren’t life or death situations. To quote The Breakfast Club, when Claire messed with the bull, I shoved my horns up someone’s ass to make them pay. Okay, I’m paraphrasing there, but whatever.
If Claire had a problem, I fixed it. End of story. Why in the fuck can’t I fix this? Why can’t we just go back to when things were crazy and fun and I could make everything better for her?
Twenty-five years ago…
“THIS IS FUCKING BULLSHIT! If you don’t have drugs then get the fuck out of my room!” Claire screamed at the poor nurse who came in to take her vitals.
The nurse took one look at Claire, told her she’d come back later and ran from the room.
“Oh, that was really nice. Great attitude, Miss Exorcist. Will there be green vomit spewing from your mouth for your next trick?” I asked as I handed her a cup of ice chips.
She snatched the cup out of my hand and snarled at me. “Eat. A bag. Of Dicks.”
“Classy. I hope those are your son’s first words,” I told her as I pulled a chair up to the edge of the bed and sat down.