After some hemming and hawing, Avi selected a Thai restaurant and Jodie placed the order for the three of them. She gave Mitch a withering glare when he said that he was only interested in a side of white rice, and eventually he compromised by getting some red curry sauce as well.
Most of the totes were stacked next to the couch, except for the ones that contained clothing, which were brought up to Jodie’s room. Somehow, Jodie exercised enough restraint to not ask about or trash talk Calvin, and instead took up all of the space in the room. She mostly talked about her new brewery’s progress as they ate around the coffee table and while some awful horror film that played in the background.
“We should be launching after Graveyard Smash. Mid November, I wanna say,” she noted.
“That’s not too stressful?” pressed Mitch, incredulous that this move was less about being a business owner and more about burying herself in work to avoid grief.
“Of course it is,” Jodie threw her arms wide open. “But you know me. If I’m not doing a million things at once, I will cease to function. And besides, that’s what co-owners are for. I’ll do the behind the scenes stuff, and they handle the initial whirlwind of PR and whatnot.”
“Do you ever take a vacation?” Avi asked between mouthfuls of pad kee mao.
“Never. But, I’m going with Dad to Santo Domingo this Christmas. Gonna meet a whole lotta family that I didn’t even know existed. Apparently I’ve got like 50 cousins or something wack like that.”
“Is it your first time going?” Avi set his fork down, giving her undivided attention.
“It is,” confirmed Jodie.
“But you’re mostly going to get drunk on the beach,” Mitch smirked.
“That is also true,” Jodie nodded. “Ideally, I’ll be blacked out for a week, which will keep any awkward interaction down to a minimum. It’s a shame that Mitch refuses to come and pretend to be my boyfriend so that everyone can see what a good Christian girl I am.”
“I get fucked up when I meet like, one new person,” he scoffed, then added, “And how would that work when I’m clearly your dad’s boyfriend?”
“Oh, you and Victor?” Avi perked up, “Because I’m pretty sure that Victor wants me.”
“Don’t come for my man, Avi,” warned Mitch.
“Are you both done? Because he’s right next door, y’all can go sleep over there.” Jodie hitched her thumb in the direction of Victor’s half of their duplex. “I’m sure his girlfriend would be stoked.”
“Nora’s cool with it, I’m sure,” Mitch dismissed her, glad that Jodie was to his right so that she couldn’t punch that arm. She did, however, wad up a napkin and throw it at the side of his face.
“Gonna start charging you both rent,” she sulked, much to both Mitch’s and Avi’s amusement and dismay.
Later, while Jodie and Avi were fully engaged in conversation about the school, Mitch excused himself to scrape his untouched rice into the trash, then retreated into Jodie’s bedroom. He dug through the totes that were set down by the laundry chair, until he came across his most prized possession and oldest friend: Cendre, a gray plush rabbit, lumpier in some parts than others and nearly worn down to the stuffing.
“Hi Cendre.” His voice quaked, and he turned the stuffed animal over to determine if it remained undamaged. After he was satisfied with his examination, he kissed the top of its head between the floppy ears and held it close to his chest. With his knees at risk of buckling, he collapsed onto the bed, then crawled under the covers. Burying his face in the matted fabric, hot tears freely spilled and were absorbed into the little rabbit’s body. A sob tore out of his throat that was followed by another, but were thankfully muffled so that no one else could hear him.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured between wails and hiccups; although to whom that statement was intended for was anyone’s guess.