Through All the Dust
Chapter Forty-Seven: A Simple Favor
I’d met with Lauren’s mother, Lily, for discussions about the incoming baby over lunch. She’d been cryptic over the phone but I adored Lily and had never had any qualms about meeting her under any circumstances.
She’d beat around the bush through the appetizers, asking questions about the wedding and mentioning nothing about her true intentions.
As the server dropped our food at the table, Lily smiled at me.
“Are you excited for tomorrow?”
My stomach sank at the very thought.
“Nervous is a more accurate depiction,” I smirked.
She nodded with wide eyes, “I can only imagine. The Grammy’s…What an honor.”
“It is,” I agreed, pushing my greens around my plate. “I’ve never done anything of that kind of caliber…I’m terrified.”
“Oh, Blair,” she smiled pleasantly. “You’re going to do great. Lauren and I will be at home watching!”
“I wish she could come with me,” I pouted. “Damn baby.”
Lauren was officially too pregnant to participate in life. She was massive and her ankles had swollen so much that, at most times, she could hardly walk. She was passed discomfort and was actively aggressive almost all the time. We were three weeks out from her due date but she said she was ‘ready to blow’ at any moment.
I’d been gifted two extra tickets to the show, one of which obviously belonged to Brian, but the other was free for the taking. Justin and the live band had received their own tickets, which meant Mona was also spoken for in terms of guesting. So, I’d pitched it to Lauren and she’d regrettably turned me down. She was genuinely bummed about having to decline—and she begged me to swear if I was ever nominated again, that I would bring her. It was an obvious agreement.
“Speaking of that damn baby,” Lily chuckled lightly. “I wanted to run something passed you.”
I forked a mouthful of salad into my mouth, “I assumed.”
“Well,” Lily sighed, placing her fork down against her plate and folding her hands on the table. “First and foremost, I wanted to thank you.”
“Thank me?” I managed between bites, a hand over my mouth to hide my chewing.
“Yes,” she smiled. “You’ve done so much for Lo these last few years, and especially since Jimmy’s passing…”
I thought back to the first time I saw Lauren after Jimmy died. It was easily the most heart wrenching experience of my life—topping even the scene at Tyler’s apartment the night he died.
She was on the floor, her fingers digging into the carpet so fiercely that she’d ripped one of her fingernails straight from the nailbed. She was inconsolable, one of Jimmy’s shirts tucked into her lap. There was no talking to her, no consoling her.
So, I’d sat with her on the floor and pulled her into my lap, both arms wrapped around her shuddering body as she wailed and writhed and screamed in anguish.
She was the fiercest, and strongest, woman I’d ever had the privilege of knowing. By time Jimmy’s funeral had rolled around, she was graceful as ever. She’d composed herself throughout the service, flinching only during Brian’s speech. Nevertheless, she was steady. I was in awe of her ability to rally. People thought that I was the one with all of the strength, but they were all wrong. It was Lauren every time. No contest.
I shook the terrible memory away, willing it not to exist.
“I’m not sure where she would be if not for your friendship,” Lily continued, unnoticing to my short trip down trauma lane.
I swallowed down the lettuce, “She’d be where she is now. She’s a trooper, that Lauren.”
“Yes,” Lauren laughed. “She is…But I think that her surviving this is, in large part, thanks to you. And to Brian. You two have been so integral to her happiness these last seven months. So, thank you.”
“Please don’t thank me,” I replied slowly. “It’s…unnecessary. And to speak candidly, it’s weird as fuck, Lily.”
She chuckled, shaking her head at my lack of tact, “Well perhaps then I should just move onto the favor.”
“Favor?” I asked curiously, taking the opportunity to shove a forkful of chicken into my face.
“As you know, Lauren isn’t working at the moment.”
“But she still needs a lot for the baby,” she told me. “We’re talking furniture, bottles…She’s really dropped the ball on preparation.”
I’d noticed the last few times I’d been to Lauren’s. She’d finally had a room set aside for the baby, but it was nearly empty. There were a few things she’d received from the shower all those months before, but for the most part, she was without. I couldn’t help but think that she was putting it off to save herself some pain. Like she hadn’t totally admitted to herself that it was real. I couldn’t blame her.
“What’s the favor, Lily?” I asked flatly.
She sighed, obviously uncomfortable with what she needed to ask me.
“You need money?” I volunteered for her, sensing her hesitation.
Lauren’s family was somewhere in the middle class. They weren’t poor but they certainly weren’t wealthy. Lauren owed more in student loans than she made in a year. Jimmy had thrown a lot of his money onto her debt when they’d gotten together, something that Lauren had initially resented him for but now was forever grateful to him for. Despite his gesture, she was still scrimping and saving.
The Sullivans had taken money from Jimmy’s estate to pay off Lauren’s mortgage for her. It was a gesture that had brought Lauren to her knees, thankful and pained.
“You know I’m always happy to help with whatever,” I shrugged at her.
“I feel so terrible even asking…”
I smirked, “It’s a good thing you didn’t actually ask then, huh?”
“I’m not asking for you to take it all on,” she clarified oddly. “But maybe if you could just help me out a little…We could make it a loan if that would be better.”
“Lily,” I laughed uncomfortably. “It’s all good. What did you have in mind?”
“I thought maybe we could take her shopping,” Lily thought aloud. “Force her to realize she needs to get ready.”
I shook my head in disagreement, “She’ll never go for it. And if she does, and I try to pay, she’ll bite my head off. Have you spoken with your daughter lately? It’s fucking terrifying.”
Lily smiled, “That’s true.”
“What are your plans for today?” I asked, chasing my lunch down with a gulp of water. “Why don’t we just go? You and I?”
“Sure,” Lily agreed happily. “That sounds nice.”
“Cool,” I replied. “I’m just going to go call Brian quick, let him know I’ll be late.”
I excused myself and stepped outside, lighting a cigarette as I dialed Brian’s number.
“Hey, pretty,” he answered promptly.
“Hey,” I smiled to myself. “I’m going to be a while, Lily and I are going shopping.”
“Shopping?” he asked.
I could hear guitars in the back and a couple hits of a kick drum. For a second I forgot about what had happened, and found myself immediately assuming it was Jimmy fucking around.
“Yeah,” I took a deep inhale of my smoke. “Lauren still hasn’t done any of her baby shopping. So, we’re going to go take care of it.”
“I assume without Lauren’s permission?” Brian laughed.
“Of course,” I snickered.
Brian hesitated before speaking, “Blair, do me a favor, okay?”
I waited for continuation.
“Throw it on my credit card, would you? Whatever the cost.”
“Bri, I can—”
“I know,” he cut me off quickly. “But…He’s my godson, too. I want to help—and I feel like next to you, I’m hardly doing anything. So, I’d like to pay for it.”
I was going to argue but he’d made a good point. We’d sworn to Lauren when Jimmy died that we would take care of her. That meant morally and financially, and so far I hadn’t let Brian help at all. I wanted to be the one supporting my best friend, forgetting that she was carrying his best friend’s child, too.
“Okay,” I finally agreed.
I could hear Matt calling Brian’s name, despite Brian muffling the mic on his phone.
“Shit, B, I gotta go.”
“I heard,” I laughed softly. “I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah,” he rushed. “Love you.”
He’d hung up before I could return the sentiment. I finished my smoke, and then my lunch, and then we were off to spend all of Brian’s hard-earned money. It had taken hours, much to my dismay, but we’d acquired everything and anything that Lauren might need.
Toys, a crib, a changing table, clothing, diapers, bottles—you name it, we bought it.
“I’ll get Bri and Matt to head over tonight to build it all,” I told Lily as we loaded up her van and my car.
“I’ll send Pete over, too,” she smiled.
Once we’d managed to Tetris everything into the vehicles, I lit a cigarette and leaned up against the Impala. Lily surveyed the full vehicles and smiled.
“You know,” she said without looking at me, “when Lauren told me that she’d made friends with Blair Peterson, I was suspicious of you.”
“Oh?” I smirked.
She nodded, her eyes falling onto me, “Maybe more suspicious than I was when she told me she was dating a drummer.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Jimmy wasn’t exactly a parent’s dream guy for their daughter. From his pierced chin to his tattooed neck and everything below, he could be a bit off-putting. That is, of course, until he opened up his brilliant mind and used that sweet little lisp to convey his thoughts to you. After that, there was nothing left but affection. He was the world’s best human.
“I stayed suspicious of you,” she told me. “Right until Jimmy passed away…And then I saw how connected you and Lauren had become. You stepped in and…you saved her life. I honestly thought that I was going to lose my daughter…But she leaned on you…And…I’m just so thankful that she has a friend like you.”
“I didn’t save her,” I argued quietly, trying my best to be sensitive. “Lauren pulled herself back from it. I was just there for moral support.”
“You are so humble, Blair,” she smiled at me. “You have no idea what sort of impact you have on the people around you. It’s your obliviousness that makes you so wonderful, because it’s genuine. You are just genuinely lovely.”
“Tell that to my aunt,” I teased. “She thinks I’m a nightmare.”
“I’m certain she does not,” Lily laughed.
An awkward silence fell onto us. I was never one for mushy sentiments.
“Well, anyway,” Lily finally sighed. “My daughter loves you a lot. I’m happy she fell into the wrong crowd.”
“The wrong crowd,” I laughed loudly.
Lily gave me a stern look, “Have you seen what you all look like? You all look like you just hopped off the bus from the penitentiary.”
“That’s nice,” I chuckled, taking in the last of my cigarette before flicking it away.
“It’s true,” Lily grinned. “Anyway, I know feelings make you uncomfortable, so I won’t tie you up any longer.”
“I’ll see you at Lo’s in a bit?” I asked cheerfully.
She nodded, waving as she climbed into her soccer mom van.
I hesitated before pulling out, knowing that Storm Lauren would be a doozy. However, it was a bridge I’d have to cross—and I wasn’t about to let Lily skip across alone. So, I hoped that Lauren would recognize the love behind the gesture and that she’d resist the temptation to murder us, and I pulled the Impala into drive.