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After he’s gone, Wren stares at me as if she’s still seeing me through a lens, frowning slightly and studying me.

“Who is the friend you were with last night?” Wren asks, and before I can change the subject from Emilia, the lights dim and a strange, frenetic drumming starts to thrum from the speakers. I subtly place my drink down onto a table next to us as we all move toward the purple spotlight in the center of the room, beaming down on a circular drum stage. A woman climbs onto it, holding a chainsaw in midair, inches away from the crotch of her lace thong. Her pale, teardrop breasts are covered only by small sequined nipple tassels that glitter in the purple stage lights. I watch with the rest of the crowd, both horrified and mesmerized until I can’t watch anymore, but when I turn to Wren, she is no longer next to me.

I find her back at the bar, whispering in the barman’s ear. By the time I make it through to her, I’ve already watched her do a shot of tequila with the barman, sucking on the lime like she’s eighteen and in Cabo for spring break. Before I can stop her she orders two picklebacks.

“Can we get some coke?” Wren asks, her eyes glassy and blank. It looks like the numbness has finally set in, and it’s miserable to watch.

“Have you ever done coke?” I ask her, aware that I’m being everything that someone who wants to self-destruct would hate most in the world.

“Never,” she says, just as the barman places two shots of whiskey in front of us, and a shot each of pickle juice to chase them. He grins when I glare at him over the size of the whiskey shots. They’re practically in tumblers. I grab Wren’s arm but she’s already downed the whiskey and is retching into her hand. I stick my middle finger up at the barman and lead Wren through the crowd, ignoring our distorted reflections in the mirrors as we pass.

* * *

? ? ?

I sit Wren down on the curb outside In-N-Out and instruct her not to move. She’s already been sick in the gutter four times, maybe five. I drew the line at holding her hair back from her face because I never went to college and we’re not sorority sisters.

“I want to dance on the counter,” she mutters as I leave her, but she doesn’t move. Her upper body is slumped, now too heavy for her to hold up, and one of her false eyelashes is loose at the corner.

I order more food than we will ever be able to eat, then I sit down on the curb as Wren methodically works her way through each Double-Double burger and grilled cheese as if she hasn’t eaten in weeks.

“Thank you. I feel better,” she says, still slurring softly.

“We’re idiots. We should have eaten before we went out,” I say generously.

“I used to have an eating disorder, you know,” Wren says, unwrapping another burger.

“What kind?”

“All of them.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Want to know what kills a relationship faster than plutonium? Watching your girlfriend eat seventeen Oreos, three tubs of ice cream, two bags of Funyuns and a wheel of brie in one sitting,” Wren says.

“Obviously, Dylan has been a gem about it,” she adds after a beat, but there is an edge to her voice. She stretches her legs out in front of her restlessly, her leather shoes in the road. I stare down at the grilled cheese sandwich in my hand.

“You know he’ll always be in love with you. I just have to decide how much it bothers me,” she says. “Did you see his face earlier? It would be funny if it wasn’t so awful. And it’s not your hair, before you try to say it. He can’t even look at you. Or me.”

I put the grilled cheese down on the curb next to me and figure out what I need to say.

“I made him so unhappy.” The truth.

“Do you think you could ever unmake him unhappy?” Wren asks, staring at the gutter under our feet.

I think about it for a second before I shake my head.

“Probably not.”

She nods slowly, closing her eyes for too long when she blinks.

“I don’t think I can either,” she says miserably.

“Why are you doing this, Wren?” I ask. “Trying so hard to be friends. You know you really don’t have to pretend to like me.” I barely even like me, I add in my head.

Wren studies me for a moment before shrugging.

“I don’t know. Maybe I thought if I could see what Dylan saw in you, I could be enough for him too. Maybe I thought some of your magic would rub off on me. Or maybe I’m just a nice person, Grace, and you seemed like you needed a friend.”

I think about that for a moment, wondering if it’s true. I haven’t felt so lonely lately, or at least nowhere near as lonely as when I was surrounded by people who were paid to spend time with me.

“Can I give you some advice as a friend then?” I say slowly.

Wren nods.

“Don’t let Dylan get away. It will be the biggest mistake you’ll ever make.”

A Range Rover pulls up in front of us then, the tires crackling over the old burger wrappers by the side of the road, and Dylan rolls down his window. He breaks into a smile, his eyes creasing at the corners when he sees us both sitting on the curb, surrounded by In-N-Out wrappers. I look at Wren and she shrugs.

“I texted him,” Wren says hollowly.

“All right, you reprobates. Jump in,” Dylan says, and if he thinks this is weird, or if he’s annoyed that Wren got so drunk and is surprised that I’m not, he doesn’t let either of us know it.

I pick up our trash and dump it into the nearest trash can, because I don’t want Dylan to think we’re complete animals, and then I get into the back of the car. I figure Wren is going to sit in the front, but she climbs shakily into the other backseat instead, clipping her seat belt on silently. She stares out the window the entire drive to Malibu, so that after a while I have to open my window to drown out the silence.


I get out of the car at Coyote Sumac, telling Wren to call me tomorrow. She nods wordlessly in response. I watch Dylan drive back up the dirt track slowly, and I very nearly convince myself that watching them leave together is the easiest thing in the world.

I drink some cloudy water straight from the tap before collapsing onto the sofa. I turn on an old episode of Friends and try not to think about the intensity in Wren’s eyes all night. Maybe getting fucked up has been misunderstood this entire time, and it’s actually the only thing some of us can do to live in the moment.

I’m about to switch off the TV when there is a knock at the front door. I creep toward it and look through the peephole at the distorted figure in front of me. I open the door and stand in the doorway with my arms folded across my chest.

“Can I come in?” Dylan asks, wincing slightly, probably at the obviousness of it all.

I turn around and walk back to the sofa, leaving him to close the door and follow me in. He leaves a gap between us when he joins me on the sofa.

“I think Wren just broke up with me. I mean she passed out at a pivotal moment, but I got the idea,” Dylan says, rubbing his eyes.

“I didn’t do anything,” I say, staring straight ahead at the TV, my stomach in knots.

“I know you didn’t,” Dylan says gently. “But she did say that you might have some shit to say to me. Or maybe she knew I had some shit to say to you. She’s pretty smart like that.”

We watch in silence as Phoebe gives birth to triplets on mute. After a while, Dylan shifts over so that our arms are touching, and he says my name so softly that I turn to him. He looks serious, older than I remembered, as he reaches over and turns off the TV.

“When you first left . . . I didn’t believe that there was a version of my life without you. Sometimes I still don’t,” he says slowly.

I nod wordlessly, willing myself not to cry. I want to say that the problem was I could never believe there was a version of my life with Dylan. It seemed inconceivable that I could ever be so normal. So likely to have three kids and two rescue dogs and retire happily to a beautiful ranch in Montecito. I remember how Dylan used to kiss the top of my head each morning before he left for work, and how, like everything else we did that had become a tradition, at some point I instinctively started to pull away from him so that there would be one less habit to break when it was over. I wonder now why he’s here, what he needs to get off his chest. The problem is that I can remember, in photographic detail, his face the night I tried to tell him about Able. He would deny it if I ever tried to tell him what I saw, but maybe I just know him better than he knows himself.

“Look, the end of us was just stupidly dark, and I wouldn’t want to revisit it or even, like, spend a long weekend there, but I do know that we were nearly perfect once. I remember it.” Dylan has been staring intently at the floor in front of his feet, but now he looks up at me again. “And I’m so fucking sorry for the part I played in the end. I just wanted you to know, whatever that means to you at this point.”