(Chapter 13, part 2)
Karen was glad that Seth was still eating. Sometimes when he was eating things to help him sober up, as soon as he got sober enough to realize that he was starting to sober up, he immediately stopped eating and began drinking some more. Tonight was not one of those nights, however. Maybe he is actually hungry, Karen thought idly.
The break in the conversation led to other things to talk about for a while. About ten minutes into the conversation, Will and Emi showed up. Karen thought briefly that the boys would turn the conversation back to Pete’s weekend adventure, but they didn’t, not at first, anyway. They drank, ate, played pool (which Seth was actually better at when he was drunk) and darts (which Seth was not better at when he was drunk).
Even though they were the last ones to arrive, Will and Emi were the first ones to leave. Karen had mixed feelings on them leaving; she really liked Will, but Emi was kind of a hit or miss person. Seth swore up and down that she liked, Karen, but Karen wasn’t so sure. Part of that was probably because Emi thought that Seth and Karen would be dating by now. Truthfully, Karen had thought that too, at one point. But apparently, that was never going to happen; surely if there were any chance of that ever happening, it would have happened by now. Anyway, Emi had to go into work early tomorrow, because they were starting to prepare for the Black Friday rush (she worked at the local Target and she was supposed to show up a half hour before they opened their doors on “the Dark Day”).
“It was nice to see you again, Karen, as always,” Will told her as he ushered Emi through the door. “You should hang out with us more often. Seth is a lot of fun when he gets really smashed, like today.”
Karen shook her head and smiled at Will and Emi as they walked out the door. Zeke and Billy were the next to turn in. Zeke was still in college (he was finally on his last year, though), and he had a late morning class the next day. And since Billy still didn’t have a driver’s license, he had hitched a ride with Zeke, so he had to go, too.
And then there were three, Karen thought as she watched the two of them go.
“I am driving you both home tonight, right?” Karen asked, looking imploringly at Pete.
“What do you mean?” Pete asked innocently, giving Karen an innocent look. “He is way more drunk than I am. I’ve only had ten Coronas.”
Really? Karen thought. Only ten? Taking a look at his face, Karen realized that yeah, he actually was pretty sober. Well, “sober” by Pete’s standards. Pete could handle a lot of liquor. Especially when it was beer. Karen had decided a long time ago that Pete either had an invincible liver, or his body didn’t need one, because there was no possible way that his liver would be undamaged by the sheer amount of alcohol that he consumed on a daily basis. She kind of wanted to go with him to the doctor to see what the damage on his liver was, but Karen had a feeling that if she did that, then Pete would probably be told that his liver was fine, and Karen would get the news that she was the one with the dying liver. Nope, better just to keep it all in my head, she thought.
“Well, Pete, what are you going to do for the rest of your night? If you’re truly not going back to the strip club, do you have other plans, or are you going to call it an early night?” Seth asked.
Karen was sure that he wasn’t going to remember anything that happened tonight, but he wasn’t quite black-out drunk yet. Karen had seen him reach that dark spot once before, and believe her, it was not a pretty sight.
“Nah, I’m not going back to the strip club for a while. At least a couple of months. Maybe by then I’ll have my finances back in order and my loan paid off.”
One can only hope as much, Karen thought grimly. Please don’t let him step foot in that strip club until he pays off that debt, she thought again, knowing that the prayer would most likely be ignored but praying the thought nonetheless.
“So what are you going to do, then?” Seth asked.
“Eh, my brother will come pick me up. I think I’m going to hang out here just a little bit longer.”
“Ok,” Seth said, shaking Pete’s hand.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Pete said seriously. “Let me know what kind of day you’re having after you’ve thrown up a couple of times and your head is hurting so bad that you can’t see straight, all right?”
“Shit, Pete, I’m not that drunk.”
Pete and Karen just shared a look with each other that said clearly, Riiiiggghhht.
“Stay real, Karen,” Pete said after a moment of silence had passed.
“And you too, Pete.”
“Male sure he gets home safe, will you?”
“Will do,” Karen nodded.
She and Seth left after that point and Karen listened to him mumbling things in his half awake/half unconscious state of being. Briefly, she thought about taking him home, but ultimately, she decided against it. He would need some clean up supplies (and someone to do the cleaning up, too), so she, instead, took him to her apartment.
After helping him climb the stairs, she led him to the couch. While she was getting the sheets and the pillows, she heard him throw up. I really hope he saw the trash can that I put by the couch, she thought to herself. It wouldn’t be the first time that she had to clean up someone’s vomit, but she was hopeful that he had enough sense to see that she had put a trash can right by the head of the couch.
When she stepped back into the living room, she was thankful to see that Seth had seen the trash can.
“Do you feel better?” Karen asked him, sliding a pillow under his head.
“Yeah, sort of,” he grumbled, pressing his head into the pillow.
“Don’t worry, Seth,” Karen soothed, rubbing his back, “The hangover will only suck for the first two days. After that, you’ll be as good as new.”
“Shit,” he laughed (sort of). “Fuck that. I better be all better tomorrow. I can’t put up with this shit from Logan and a hangover at the same time.”
“Logan?” Karen asked, actually surprised at hearing his name. “Your brother?”
“What?” Seth asked, looking over at her with a really confused look on his face.
“You said something about a Logan,” Karen told him, still rubbing his back. “Do you mean your brother?”
“Yeah. Stupid fuck,” he grunted again, burying his head in his pillow again.
“What did he do?” she asked. Silently, she added, And how did you find out about it? You haven’t talked to him in years.
“He fucking showed up.”
“Showed up where?” she asked again.
“Here!” he said angrily. “At fucking work!”
“What?” Karen asked, sitting up a little straighter. “When?”
Seth mumbled his response, but his head was too far buried for Karen to hear what he said.
“Can you repeat that, Seth? I couldn’t hear you.”
Seth rolled over so that his face was free again and he repeated, “Logan fucking called today. This afternoon.”
“Wait, he called you?” Karen asked.
“No no no,” Seth said, shaking his head. “He didn’t call - he showed up.”
“Showed up? Showed up where? Here?”
“Yeah,” he said. Then he threw up again. Once he had finished, he lay his head back down in Karen’s lap and said, “My brother is an idiot.”
Karen stared at his head, wondering for the briefest of moments if he realized that he was lying on her lap. Shaking her head to try and distract herself, Karen cleared her throat and asked, “What makes you say that?”
“Because stupid fucking Logan joined a gang and now he wants out of it. And he wants me to help him. Why do I always have to help him?”
“He wants you to help him tell the gang that he is done with them?”
Seth sighed and mumbled, “Yeah. It’s so fucking annoying. I’ve been trying to tell you for years that I like you and now I can’t focus on trying to tell you that because my fucking brother has gotten himself into a situation that is way over his head.”
Karen’s attention sharpened and focused in on Seth, again. “You like me?”
“Yeah,” he murmured, “but I can never tell you that.”
“”Why not?” Karen asked softly.
“Because you don’t like me,” he responded simply.
Karen was stunned. Was it possible that Seth would remember saying that? Was it possible that it could have been a lie? Surely that wasn’t the case . . . was it? She looked at Seth and wanted to say something, but nothing came to her mind. For a few seconds, Karen didn’t know what to say. When she heard Seth snoring softly, she knew that it didn’t matter. So, Seth did like her. Why hadn’t he ever said anything to her? Did he really think that she didn’t like him? But now, that bit of information was irrelevant. The question was at this point - so now she knew Seth liked her . . . but what did she intend to do with that bit of information?