“You up for a game?” Trunny asked, looking over the pool table at the woman sitting sideways in the small booth, leaning up against the wall with her feet propped up in front of her.
Jen shook her head without looking at him, and he frowned. She’d swung by the King’s Hotel looking for Wace, only to have Trunny tell her that Coppa had driven him up to the hospital. She’d chosen to stay, hoping they’d be back, but had been able to do little else than sit and worry, chewing on her thumbnail.
He’d be the last to admit it, but Trunny actually had something of a soft spot for Wace’s girlfriend. When he’d first heard that Wace was dating her years ago, he’d trailed off into a string of curses and dire predictions of how she was going to be a stuck-up bitch and how school teachers were nothing but trouble, ever. She’d proven him wrong and won his respect, and over the years, he’d developed a sense of admiration for her. She made a difference in Wace without really changing him, and that was something anyone could appreciate.
“They oughta be back any minute now,” he said quietly, seeing the way her eyes flickered between the window and the door. “Or -- you know, they mighta gone back to Wace’s, or maybe to the house...”
Wace had begun staying at Trunny and Coppa’s more and more in recent days as he’d been spending a majority of his time at the hospital and needed a place nearby to crash on the occasions he bothered to leave his father’s bedside.
Jen nodded slowly, acknowledging the information, but didn’t seem prepared to do anything about it. Trunny thought that he’d never seen her quite so preoccupied and fidgeted with the pool stick he was holding, uncertain of how to fix things. The awkward silence in the room finally seemed to snap her out of her daze and she looked at him in surprise, embarrassment crossing her face when she noticed the way he was just standing there, watching her.
“I’m sorry, Trun,” she apologized, forcing a bright smile and light tone. “I’m terrible company today.”
“S’okay,” Trunny shrugged, not meeting her eyes for a moment. “Nothin’ new around ‘ere. Wace’s been a fuckin’ bundle o’ sunshine ta be around.” Sarcasm was heavy in his voice and his gaze flicked to her, worried that she’d be offended at his referring to Wace that way.
She didn’t seem upset, though; was just studying her hands as if her skin were the most fascinating substance on earth. After a while, she murmured, “I’m worried about ‘im, Trunny.... he just...” She took a deep breath and held it for a moment before blowing it out sadly. “He just can’t seem ta get outta this darkness, ya know? It’s eatin’ ‘im up, an’ I’m scared there won’t be anythin’ left of ‘im by the time this is over...”
A strange sort of fear twisted in Trunny’s stomach at the accuracy of her assessment. He’d never really thought of it that way, but there was definitely more going on with Wace than just his normal temper and jack-assedness. The thought of things getting even worse wasn’t one he wanted to dwell on, and he looked for any way to find a bright side or a solution.
“Maybe ya could get ‘is mind off it for a little while,” he suggested awkwardly, hastening to add, “Y’know, take ‘im to a show... some kinda fuckin’ comedy shit or somethin’, so maybe ‘e’d laugh, make him feel better.”
She cast him a dubious look and he shrugged. “Just an idea, y’know.”
“I don’t think Wace an’ I ‘ave ever gone ta see a show,” she commented idly.
“Never?” he asked in disbelief.
Wace went to the cinema with his friends fairly regularly -- it had become a ritual when they’d started cutting classes to go see the new shows at the afternoon matinees.
“Nope.” She shook her head. “Never. We jus’... it was jus’ never somethin’ we did.” She shrugged. “I dunno. We were always too busy talkin’ or... well, we jus’ always ended up doin’ somethin’ else.” She tilted her head as if thinking about it. “Does ‘e like ta go to the cinema?”
“Fuck yeah,” Trunny answered, nodding enthusiastically and lining up a shot on the pool table now that the conversation had progressed onto more stable ground. “Me an’ ‘im an’ Copp usedta go all the time... up until ‘is dad got sick an’ all.”
She nodded thoughtfully, then looked at her watch and bit her lip. “I think I’m gonna try ringin’ ‘im at your house,” she said, gesturing toward the battered phone in the corner.
Trunny nodded his approval and she picked up the handset, then glanced over her shoulder with a sheepish grin.
“What’s your number, Trun?”
He told her as he tapped the cue ball soundly, sending it spinning across the table toward a cluster of solids and stripes in the corner. They all rattled together gently, one or two plopping into the pocket, and he was walking around to get to the cue ball again when he heard Jen say cautiously, “Wace?”
“Yeah?” Wace answered gruffly, and Trunny paused, not feeling the least bit guilty for eavesdropping. The old phone was ridiculously loud and he could clearly hear both sides of the conversation.
“‘Ey, it’s me,” Jen offered, cringing at the lameness of the statement.
“Yeah, got that,” Wace bit off. “Whaddya want, Jen?”
“Oh, I was jus’... y’know, I’m free t’night an’ was jus’ ringin’ ta see if maybe you wanted to do somethin’...”
There was a loud sigh that even Trunny could hear clearly and Wace answered in heavily measured tones, “I’m not gonna be here that long. I need ta stay near the hospital t’night. Maybe later.”
She chewed on her lip for a moment as she visibly debated whether to push him any further, and finally blurted out, “Oh, okay. But I mean, I can come inta town if you wanted... we could go see a show or somethin’. I know you got a lot goin’ on…might help ta take your mind offa things...”
“Bloody hell,” Wace’s voice on the line crackled with frustration and derision. “When ‘ave we ever gone to a fuckin’ show?”
Trunny winced and turned away from Jen so he wouldn’t have to see the look on her face, but he couldn’t make himself resume his game.
“Well, we ‘aven’t, but... I dunno, never mind, Wace. How, um... how are you?”
Jen’s voice sounded small, and Trunny had a bad feeling that she was slowly reaching the end of her rope with her boyfriend.
“I’m really fuckin’ tired, Jen, an’ I’m not up for a show t’night.”
“Yeah, okay. Well - all right. I’ll talk to ya later, ‘kay?”
The line buzzed loudly, letting Trunny know Wace had hung up almost immediately, and he looked over his shoulder at Jen. She was staring listlessly at the handset, and it took her a moment to return it to its cradle. She cleared her throat and reached over to pick up her purse, slinging the strap over her shoulder.
Finally, when she was standing by the door, she looked at Trunny and said quietly, “I’m gonna go.”
“Okay,” he said because he didn’t know what else to say. “See ya ‘round, Jen.”
“See ya,” she said with a tired wave as she disappeared out the door.
Trunny didn’t see the point in hanging around and playing pool by himself, so he put the cue stick away and started walking toward home, his hands in his pockets. He spent the journey in moody thoughtfulness, mulling over the hell that he felt sure was awaiting him at home. When he got upstairs, though, it was dead quiet, and the silence frightened him more than anything.
He grabbed a beer out of the fridge and went wandering through the flat, looking for his mates. He found Coppa on a crate in the disheveled, soon-to-be-bathroom, rolling a joint, and sat down beside him.
“How’d it go at hospital this mornin’?” he asked, not really expecting an answer.
“Wace’s dad ‘ad a stroke,” Coppa answered flatly, and Trunny looked at him in surprise.
“What?” he asked, blinking. “Whaddya mean ‘e ‘ad a fuckin’ stroke?”
“Keep your voice down,” Coppa reprimanded. “Don’t get ‘im started up again; ‘e’s ‘avin’ a rough time of it. Just as soon as ‘e finds some kinda papers the bloody nurse ‘as been askin’ for, ‘e’s goin’ right back up there.”
“No, the bloody Pope,” came the sarcastic reply. “Who the fuck else would I be talkin’ about?” Coppa sighed. “Nurses said the stroke ‘appened some time late last night; it was a pretty bad one, an’ they don’t expect ‘im ta last much longer.”
“Yeah, well, ‘e was already pretty fuckin’ sick, wasn’t ‘e?”
Coppa nodded in the affirmative, and Trunny trailed off into silence, adding one more event to his list of things that needed processing. “Everythin’s just goin’ ta shit, ain’t it?” he finally commented, and though he didn’t get a response, he again hadn’t expected one.
He shook his head and relegated everything to the Play It By Ear pile. “Fuckin’ ‘ell.”
- Razor's Edge - 25