By the grace of god or some higher power, Mitch was granted freedom from the sling. Never had he been itchier in his entire life than right then, and he nearly scratched his forearm raw after he left the hospital.
“We should celebrate,” Jodie declared that evening as Mitch listened to a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl in the living room, her legs stretched across his lap as she painted his nails. Pausing her work, she plucked the joint from his fingers and took a hit.
“Wanna get a pizza?” asked Mitch. “I think I could try a slice of cheese without getting nauseous.”
“No, like…” She sat up. “Let’s go away for a weekend, before shit gets crazy here.”
“It’s already crazy? Graveyard Smash is like…what, in a month, dude? And then the brewery opening?”
“Oh c’mon, when was the last time we went somewhere? For fun?” She groaned. “Look, you survived the past month, our friendship survived the last 5 years despite Calvin’s best efforts. The leaves are gonna be changing soon, maybe I wanna get some work done in a different location, somewhere with fresh air…”
He finally caught on as she continued her list, but allowed her to continue. When the joint was returned, he delicately pinched it between thumb and forefingers, but kept the spread as far apart as possible due to wet polish. “Lake house? You know that you can just say ‘lake house’, right? You don’t need to play coy.”
“Yes, of course I mean the lake house. Let’s go to Pisgah. Should be peak foliage between the end of September and beginning of October, and we can go do edibles in the middle of the woods. Your uncle still has the place, right?”
“He does,” Mitch confirmed. “Usually he and Marie go on the weekends around this time of year, but I can check and see when it’s free. He keeps trying to get me to use it, anyway. Never did because Calvin wasn’t a huge fan of the woods. God forbid he encountered a bug.”
“We can go revisit where we first met. I can get the heebie jeebies from remotely being near where I grew up.” While Jodie prodded, Mitch put the joint between his lips and drafted a text to his uncle, amazed that he was capable of such a level of coordination. Joining the calamity came the sound of footsteps from the stairwell, and his head tilted in that direction. Seconds later, Avi was in the doorway, but his presence didn’t stop Jodie from her listing.
“Hey, no sling,” Avi cheerfully pointed out, and took a seat next to Mitch on the couch.
“Doctor said my recovery is going amazing,” Mitch responded with a smile and set the phone down on his lap. He readjusted to accommodate Avi’s wide frame, but despite that they were still pressed shoulder to shoulder. “I reckon that’s probably thanks to you.”
“I reckon,” Avi smiled back, that smile growing brighter as Mitch handed him the joint which he’d been keeping out of Jodie’s reach. “Oh my god, you’re a lifesaver,” he gasped. Heat crept into Mitch’s cheeks, and a jolt ran through his fingertips as Avi’s brushed against them. He hoped that he wasn’t as transparent as he felt.
“Avi,” Jodie spoke up and poked Avi’s side with her toes while he inhaled. “Ever been to Vermont?”
“No, can’t say I have,” he answered. “Heard it’s real pretty, though.”
A response from Roland came through with a few dates listed that the house would be available. “We should be good for next weekend, if we wanted it,” Mitch interrupted, then apologized for doing so.
“There’s no filming that weekend,” she pursed her lips in thought. “Yo Avi, wanna come experience the majesty of nature with us?”
“My uncle and aunt have a lake house,” Mitch explained. The words tumbled out and his pulse pounded as though he was making an elevator pitch. “It’s nice. There’s plenty of mountains nearby, you’d like it a lot.”
“Well, yes, I’d love to go, but…” Avi trailed off, then grimaced.
“If you had classes scheduled, Nate or my dad can take over,” Jodie piped up. “Nate owes me a big time favor that I gotta cash in on.”
“No, I don’t, actually. Took that weekend off.” Avi sighed and urgently rubbed his jeans like he was trying to wipe them dry. The tension in Avi’s body was palpable where his and Mitch’s arms made contact. “Well, I meant to bring this up sooner. My girlfriend’s flying out that weekend.”
Mitch stiffened, instantly sobering up.