“There you are!” Laverne giggled as she walked toward him. “I wanted to ask you if you'd like to go to the movies with me tonight. I have money saved up and with your coupons we could also get something to eat-”
“Oh. Well, how about tomorrow night, then?”
“I can't either.”
She giggled, “What, you have a singing telegram to deliver across the country or something?”
“No, but I'm going there.”
“Vernie, I'm moving to New York.” The sad look on her face literally broke his heart,
“You remember a couple of months ago when Shirl left and married Walter and I went to New York for three weeks?” she nodded so he continued, “Well see, I met a music director there and he loved my voice. Sadly, he had nothing to offer me at the time but he promised he'd call as soon as he'd find something. And he did. He's been looking for a singer for the lead role in a new musical his friend is producing and he called me last month telling me the role was mine if I wanted it. The rehearsals start in three days.”
She wasn't saying anything and the intense glare she was giving him honestly stressed him.
He chuckled nervously, “Vernie, please something.”
“You've known you were leaving for the past month and you didn't say anything?”
“I know I should have told you sooner, but I could never find the right ti-”
She burst into tears, “How can you do this to me?” Could he feel any more terrible right now? “I..I confessed my feelings to you and you..you kissed me-”
He took a deep breath, “I know I did but Vernie, I've been waiting my entire life for an opportunity like this.”
“What are you saying? That you're in love with me but you're still leaving?”
When he didn't answer she felt like someone had just shot her.
She was crying so hard she could barely breathe. She didn't even have the courage to face him anymore, so she walked past him quickly; “Laverne, wait.” He managed to grab her arm just as she was going up the stairs. “I never meant to hurt y-”
“Let go of me!” she shouted, shaking him off so violently he almost fell down the stairs. Then she ran to the bathroom and locked the door.
He was crying too now, “Vernie, let me in. Come on;” he knocked on the door several times and pulled on the doorknob but with no luck. All he could hear was his friend sobbing on the other side.
“You're abandoning me. Just like them. Just like Shirley and Lenny.”
“No, I'm not. I'll write and call you every week and I'll come visit you whenever I can. I promise.”
“Yes, I will. Open the door, please.”
“You'd stay for her.”
“If Shirley asked you to stay you would. I'm just not good enough for you.”
“Now that's not true. Listen to me, what you and I have is completely different from what Shirley and I had. She controlled my every move, I could never do anything. I've given up plenty of opportunities in my life just to be with her and look what happened. She dumped me for another guy!”
“I'm not like her.”
“I know you're not, but I just can't give up on what I love for another person again. I don't want to spend my entire life wondering if I'd be able to make it on Broadway on my own. I'm thirty years old, it's now or never. I have to do this. I have to try otherwise I'll never know. Do you understand?”
Her sobs became so loud she couldn't even hear him clearly anymore.
“Vernie, let me in, please.” he begged, maybe crying as hard as she was.
“If you leave this afternoon, I never want to see or hear from you again.”
“Now you can't do this to me, Laverne. You're my best friend, I need you.”
She knew she was being selfish but why should she have to suffer alone? She didn't say anything when her best friend in the whole word left her with just a note. She didn't say anything either when Lenny left. She just had to act like she was happy for them for moving on while in reality she spent weeks crying every night. Well this time, it wasn't gonna be the same. If she was gonna get hurt again, she sure as hell didn't want to be the only one hurting. Carmine would have to be in pain too. Except this time it was harder because she was in love with him.
“I was your best friend!”
“I know you hate me right now but I know you don't mean that.”
“Yes, I do!”
“Why does our friendship have to end because I'm moving away? Even if we're thousands of miles apart, we'll always be friends. You're the most important person in my life and no one and nothing can change that.”
There was a long pause and then, “Do you really mean that?”
“God yes, of course I do.” he jiggled the doorknob again, “Come on now, Vernie, let me in.”
After waiting for what seemed an eternity, he finally heard the lock click. She opened the door slowly, tears blurred her vision so she couldn't see him properly. He wrapped his arms around her the second he saw her and he only unwrapped them when she was finally calming down.
He took her face in his hands, “Listen to me, I know Shirley and Lenny hurt you by leaving the way they did and I know they stopped writing you months ago but I am not like them. When I make a promise, I keep it. You told me you had money saved up earlier, right?” she nodded, “How much do you have?”
“A bus ticket from here to New York is $65 but you need the return ticket too so that's $130. I know it's a lot of money but if you can save up another $30, I'll send you the last $50 you need so you can come visit me for the three-day weekend coming up in two weeks.”
“I don't want you to leave.”
“I know you don't but I have to.”
She nodded wiping her tears, “I know...”
“And listen, if we do it right, we can see each other once a month. You're coming to see me in two weeks and next month, I'll come down to visit you. What do you think?” he asked smiling and he felt relieved when she smiled too.
“Do you really think I'd leave and just forget about you?”
“Everyone else did...”
“Hey, I'm not everyone else.” he reminded her, kissing her temple quickly. He checked his watch, “Okay, the bus leaves in five hours. What do you say you and I go for a walk and then I could use my last coupons and treat you to lunch?”
“Could we go to that Italian restaurant I like?”
He chuckled, “Sure.”
The five hours flew by and now the three of them were at the bus station. Squiggy agreed to drive Carmine and Laverne and it was the least he could do; He somehow became nicer ever since Lenny left. Carmine's bus was coming and Laverne was already crying, he embraced her in a warm loving hug. Squiggy felt awkward so he just stood beside them without saying anything.
“This is not goodbye Vernie, you'll see me again in two weeks.”
He took her face in his hands, “I'll call you as soon as I get there, okay?”
She nodded and wiped her tears, “Okay.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
After a few moments, Carmine turned to Squiggy.
“Dude, I swear if you tell me you love me, I'll slug you.”
Carmine chuckled, “No, Squig, come here.” he wrapped his arm around his shoulders and made sure Laverne was a little far from them and out of earshot before talking again, “Listen, I need you to do me a favor.”
“I need to know you'll be there for her.”
“Who? Laverne? But she hates my guts.”
“No, Squig, she doesn't. She's your friend. Promise me you'll look after her.”
He whined, “But I.-”
“Squig, please. This is serious. You do know what being lonely feels like. Now I've never asked you for anything, do this for me. Promise me you'll look after her.”
Squiggy sighed giving in, “All right, all right, I promise.” Carmine mouthed 'thank you' as Laverne stepped closer to them.
He cleared his throat, “I have to go now. I'll see you in two weeks Vernie and Squig, don't forget to do what I asked you, okay?”
Squiggy nodded and Laverne wiped her tears with her sleeve as she waved goodbye to him with her other hand.
Carmine smiled waving back as he got on the bus.
* * * * * * * *
For the next five years, Carmine and Laverne called each other every week. They had never missed a single phone call. And they also managed to visit each other every month. As well as the hundreds of letters sent weeks after weeks, even though they were miles apart, it really felt like he had never left. They'd see each other for Thanksgiving and Christmas and for birthdays, they'd send each other care packages. And even though sometimes they were both depressed from going from one lousy relationship to another, the only thing that kept them going was their friendship. Because no matter what would happen, they knew they'd always have each other.
X x x