Viktoria hurried down the stairs to open the door. Ezio was at work and the kids in school.
She peeked through the glass on the sides of the door and some strange woman, very fashionable with short blonde hair and glasses. Ah, Viktoria thought, some Avon lady. This will be a short conversation.
“How do you know my na.. Penny?!”
“In the flesh. Wow, so you actually DID forget about me.”
“No, but … you look so … different!”
“Yeah, it was needed. You would not believe the news. Can I come in or shall we entertain the neighborhood?”
Penny whistled through the teeth as she followed Viktoria to the grand room, a large open space containing the living space, the kitchen and dining area and a large bar.
“Gotta hand it to ya, you done pretty well for yourself!”
“Erm … thanks. Coffee? Cookies?”
“No I’ll pass, I just had my teeth whitened, but do you have anything in that bar over there that you can spare?”
Oh yes, this was still the Penny Viktoria remembered. It had always been a mystery to her how this party girl, who loved getting drunk, loved men (plural!), sometimes even several at the same time in EVERY sense of the word, and Eric, sweet, nerdy, book and quiet loving, introverted Eric would ever get together. While Viktoria technically did introduce them, as she was friends with both and had invited them to her parties, she never thought they would end up changing more than the typical pleasantries, let alone end up dating and then married. Viktoria had tried to pry some more reasoning out of Eric a few times, but while they used to tell each other everything, he turned into an oyster whenever this topic came up.
“Yeah, sure, need me to whip you something up?”
“Oh no, I’ll do it, your drinks have always been a tad on the weak side for my taste.”
Viktoria made herself a cappuccino while Penny whirled and clunked around on the opposite side, then both women sat down on the couch.
“Ooooh nice and soft, must have been a pretty penny! Love the color, somewhere between cream and ivory…” Penny swooned. She was a very successful fashion blogger and pretty stuff was literally her life.
Viktoria couldn’t help but stare. She remembered Penny with very long, very straightened and very blonde hair, always up in that signature ponytail with perfectly straight bangs. Now her hair barely grazed her ears and the color was a more softened ashy shade with very noticable roots of her naturally dark brown hair.
She wore glasses now. The old Penny needed them but would rather have died. Contacts or she would feel her way around.
The clothes had changed to a more grown up taste, too.
“Did I pass the visual exam?” Penny asked smirking in between two big sips. In typical Penny fashion, she had made an entire pitcher of what was presumably some Penny-special. Viktoria could smell the alcohol and nearly got drunk on the fumes alone.
“Sorry, you just changed so much … how long has it been?”
“Not that long … I think. This is all really new. I did it on the day of divorce. Yep, you are looking at a divorcee!”
“Oh wow, Penny that was quick.”
Argh, this was why Viktoria hated secrets.
“I mean a shock. I am so in shock that I cannot remember words!”
“So you DIDN’T know? I would have bet any amount that Eric would have told you!”
Yikes… another quick white lie
“No, …ummm … Eric did not tell me anything.” There. Not even a lie.
“Man you really became a hermit. What a mother goose you have turned into. Just family life. Did you ever go back to work?”
“No, well, yes, I have a flower shop now….”
“A … what? HAHAHA oh my god could you get any more Stepford Wives than this. Imma gonna throw up!”
Penny was in a terribly good mood for someone who got dumped after years of marriage and was freshly divorced.Was she drunk already? Hard to tell with flighty Penny.
“Sooo, anywho, I am free again. Reason I am here is .. well there are actually several. Numero uno is to tell you the news. Second, I am moving so if there is anything in that house you want to have, speak now or I’ll sell it with all that’s in there. Just thought I’d ask, because you lived there too once, for a moment.”
A sting in Viktoria’s heart. Yes, she did live in Eric’s house for a few weeks. Right after she found out about her first husband, she ran away and needed change of scenery. She lived in Eric’s rental property – for free – until the divorce was final and she found her own place in San Myshuno. Eric had a tiny apartment, but he was happy there. The house, a gorgeous 3 bedroom place in modern industrial style right by the boardwalk, was a gift from his very wealthy parents, an incentive to find a girl and settle down. Quiet Eric hated that place and the attention but moved in after he met Penny. Evidently Penny had no problem selling it. Sad kinda. Viktoria wondered how Eric felt about this.
“No thanks, there really is nothing.”
“Oh yeah, and now the fireworks… ready for this bomb?!”
Uh oh, a ‘bomb’ to Penny would be something the magnitude of a nuclear blast to average mortals. Viktoria tentatively nodded.
“I moved back into my old place and get this, you remember Bryan? That gorgeous piece of mandom living next door? Yeah, he still lives there now with an equally cute roommate and OMG, I came, I saw and well, we all came… hahahaha get it?”
“You … didn’t … sleep with him, did you?”
“No, not him. BOTH of them. And it was awesome. The only little problem we have is that I may be a little bit pregnant now and not really sure which of the two would be the daddy.”
“WHAT?! Oh for heaven’s sake Penny! They are not roommates! They are married! Bryan is gay!”
“Huh? Well, I can tell you they are not 100% … I have the proof right here.” Penny rubbed her still very flat stomach.
Viktoria buried her face into both hands. BOOM! The nuclear blast. And why the heck not one but TWO gay men would sleep with Penny… she was a force of nature.
“Do they know yet?”
“Nah .. I am not even really sure what I am gonna do about it. I kinda want to have a little girl, they are so easy and cute and you can dress them like dolls. Not another boy. My son and I just never clicked.”
Penny was wrong on so many levels, but Viktoria knew better than to argue with her.
“I think your first step would be to tell them. They should have input…”
“Why, are they ruining their perfect beach bods or am I? Nope, they’ll hear about it when I think it’s necessary. And don’t you go around telling on me!”
“I never have Penny.”
The doorbell rang. What in the world. They hardly got any visitors unless they had invited them. The kids were the only ones who brought friends home. Viktoria didn’t even bother to sneak a peek first just swung the door open.
“Eric!” Viktoria could not have been more surprised if he had feelers and wings now.
“Hi Viktoria. I am sorry I did not call first. I … kinda wanted to talk to you about something. Is … Ezio home?”
Eric was mortified of Ezio, always had been. For no reason at all. Ezio actually liked him, tried to speak to him many times but Eric would be very stiff and resort to one syllable answers.
“No, umm …” What to do? Inviting him in was not a great idea but he was her best friend and he looked like he needed a friend right now. Penny made the decision for her.
“Whoever that is, bring them in, the more the merrier!”
“Penny is here?”
“Just arrived. Sorry Eric …”
“I think I better go then …”
“NO NO NO … don’t go on my account Eric, come on in, I don’t bite … want some Margarita slash Vodka slash whatever that one bottle with all that Italian gibberish is in the bar …? It’s tastyyyy ….” Penny was already lit and now pulled Eric inside and with her into the living room, where she shoved him onto the couch and handed him her glass. She filled it and started drinking from the caraffe.
“We have more glasses Penny!”
“Loads more… looks like the party started without me.” a deep voice now said behind a still stunned Viktoria befor kissing the back of her neck. Ezio was home. Oh man. Welcome to our new episode of ‘tell me who your friends are…’
“Hi Eric, Penny!” Ezio nodded at Penny, whom he never truly cared for, and offered his hand to Eric who stood up from the couch, well mannered and shook the hand, his face pale and eyes wide. Poor Eric.
Ezio sat down on the couch adjacent to the one Eric sat in and started making small talk, then when he realized nobody else spoke he stood up and said
“You two lovebirds should come over for dinner soon we’d love to … whoa….”
That is when Viktoria pulled him into the hallway.
“Stop. Just shoosh!” She gave him a five second rundown.
Ezio went back into the room and apologized to both. Still crickets.
Ezio turned to Viktoria and whispered
“Vik, why don’t you go upstairs with Penny and do … girl stuff. I’d like to speak to Eric alone, ok?”
“Not a good idea. You know he is scared of you. I’ll talk to him, you keep Penny busy.” she whispered back
“Oh mia cara … ” he protested but Viktoria shook her head and walked over to Eric, where she asked him to help her with a gardening question. The safest place, Penny hated anything outdoors.
They sat down on the patio furniture before Viktoria opened the conversation as carefully as she knew how.
“How are you doing?”
“I heard you are dating already.”
Eric pulled a face, then looked down at his feet.
“Eric … words would be really helpful right about now …”
“I don’t know what to say Viktoria. It’s all so … wrong.”
“Eric, people break up, people get divorced, it happens.”
“That’s not it … I … Olivia … I … it’s …”
“OMG Eric, just say it. You have known me forever. You know you can trust me. But I am not a mind reader and I need more than fragments.”
“I think I am gay.” he blushed and looked at his feet, swallowing hard.
“OK. Cool, how is that wrong? The only thing I don’t get is why are you dating Olivia then?”
“It just happened … just like with Penny …”
“Eric! You do not just happen into a marriage and have a kid… and now another relationship when you KNOW it is not going to make you happy!?”
“Olivia was so …. down … and sad … so I told her about Penny and my problems and she mistook it … I didn’t know how to stop it …. and besides, can you imagine if I told my father I was homosexual? He would kill me on the spot!”
“Eric, your dad is the least of your worries. You are not a little boy anymore and I know Professor Miller is intense, but he has no power over you anymore. And it is not like you hang out with your family a lot anyway. And you’ll always have me. But you HAVE TO fix the Olivia situation. It is not fair to either of you!”
“She blames you, you know.”
“Yeah, I heard. Straight from the horse’s mouth. I tried to tell her she was wrong, but she wouldn’t have any of it.”
“But she is not wrong. I thought you knew. Everybody else knows it. Even your husband.”
“Eric, for crying our loud, not you too! You are so frigging smart, how can you think something to low and dumb?!”
“Because it is the truth. Blaine still loves you, always has. Since we were all kids. Why do you think I wouldn’t come over to your place unless I KNEW he wasn’t there. i wanted to ask you to the dance one year but he threatened to break my legs if I did. And he still has all your pictures ALL of them. Even the naked ones.” Eric blushed deeply.
“WHAT?! What are you talking about? And what naked ones? I never took naked pictures and certainly would not have given them to Blaine! Blaine is a good friend. Like a brother….”
“A brother you sleep with?”
“OMG how does everybody know about this?!”
“Nope. The man himself.”
“Blaine would never … he may be a womanizer, but he never speaks about his conquests.”
“He does when he is really drunk. Ask your husband’s brother .. that good looking one … the one that tends the bar that the European club…”
Eric nodded. So that was how Ezio found out and how his entire damn family knew. Petruccio was a nice guy generally, but a shunned lover is a fickle thing. Viktoria may have turned him down too harsh one day and he retaliated by airing her dirty laundry to the world. Fantastic.
“Look Eric, you know me. I am not a whore. Ezio and I were broken up and Blaine and Olivia not even together. I am not proud of this but is it not like anybody really cheated on anyone….”
“True. But Olivia thought they were a ‘thing’. Did you not notice that she barely spoke to you since that day?”
“We all got so busy with life … and it was twenty years ago now. Time to let go, right? But wait … back up to the naked pics. Does he say he has some?”
“Well, I saw them. By accident and I promise I put them away once I realized what they were!” Eric blushed deeply.
“FOUND THEM? So they are real? Like … really no clothes?!”
“Not a single thread. I was over at their house … for a party… everybody was invited – well, almost everybody, sorry Viktoria … but you know I do not like parties but Penny said we HAD to go, she wanted to see their house .. you know .. Penny. I snuck into the living room with all the bookshelves, but the books were …. not my taste … so I found another room upstairs that had a better selection. Art mostly .. and then I found a book about heavy metal. I thought they meant it in a scientific way but it was just dirty people with guitars and such. But in the back was a pocket and I looked and there were pictures. Lots and lots of you as children, as teens, just you .. and then about 6 or 7 of a LOT of just you.”
“I don’t even … when … OMG. I am going to kill him. I will skin him alive. I will sever every piece of his body and dissect it. Unbelievable!”
“Sorry Viktoria. I kinda thought you knew .. since you two were … close.”
“Not THAT close! OMG Eric, what am I supposed to do?”
“I have an idea, but there is a condition attached. You help me with my problem and I will help you with yours. Deal?”
“How am I supposed to help YOU get out of this Olivia thing. You know she hates my guts already …”
“Well, what have you got to lose then?” Eric smiled faintly.