Chapter Twenty-Nine: “Her name is Lola”

Robin was cornered by Evan at the end of his shift one Thursday night. They’d shared a shift at the record store with Finch, who had spent most of the evening by the jazz section, very obviously avoiding Evan. Robin had accused him of doing exactly so, but Finch had only smirked at him in response. Seeing Finch smile in any capacity was still somewhat alarming so Robin had let it go out of pure shock. Instead, he had sat at the front counter while Evan talked to him nearly incessantly about his pitbull and later his trip to Cuba.

“Let’s hang out, bros,” Evan said as Robin turned the key in the front door to lock up at the end of their shift. Finch was standing off to the side, looking miserable and angry in his black parka. He didn’t look like he wanted to hang out with anyone in the world, least of all Robin or especially Evan. Robin didn’t really blame him for that one. He would’ve rather chewed off his own hand then spend another consecutive minute listening to Evan talk about the all-inclusive Cuban getaway he’d gone on four years ago.

“Uh…not sure I’m up for going out,” Robin replied evasively. Finch very pointedly didn’t say anything at all. Although, Robin was surprised to see him still standing there.

“Oh, we can stay in,” Evan steamrolled Robin before he had a chance to think up a better excuse. “You live pretty close to here, right? Let’s head there.”

“My roommate,” Robin protested weakly. Finch was already walking in the direction of Robin’s apartment. It could’ve been a coincidence, but it seemed like he’d been waiting and Robin had never seen him leave work in that direction before. Part of him wondered if maybe Finch and Evan had planned this. That seemed incredibly unlikely, but so many strange things had already happened and Robin was having trouble making sense of it all.

As the three of them made their way back to his building, trudging through the snow and listening to Evan talk about the proper way to train a pitbull puppy, Robin prayed that Joey wasn’t home. If it was only the three of them, he figured Finch would quickly grow tired of Evan’s sheer existence and bail. Then Robin could feign illness to get Evan to leave as well. Either that or he’d shove him out a window to his death and solve all of his Evan-related problems forever. If Joey was home though, it would be harder to get rid of them both. Joey was too fun. It was a problem. He was weirdly alluring for a skinny dude with a crooked nose and a semi-permanent black eye.

Much to Robin’s disappointment, when they got back to his place, Joey was in fact home He was sprawled across the couch, listening to aggressively loud techno and watching Wheel of Fortune on the TV Joey had recently brought home. It was most likely stolen, but Robin was choosing to ignore that. Robin couldn’t hear a single word from the TV, but Joey didn’t seem to mind. He was wearing a white tank top, of course, and his grey sweatpants. There was a tissue shoved into one of his nostrils because he’d clearly been punched in the face recently. He was holding a beer in one hand and scrolling through his phone with the other. It was a lot to take in at once. On the other hand, Robin couldn’t hear Evan any longer, which was a definite plus.

“Oh, sorry, dudes!” Joey called over the pounding baseline, reaching over to the stereo to turn it down. He kept it on, but at a volume that Robin couldn’t feel rattling through his heart, which was nice.

“Don’t want to interrupt if you’re busy,” Robin told Joey, hoping he could convey through eye contact that he should tell them they were in fact interrupting so that Robin could usher Finch and Evan right back out the door. Joey didn’t take the hint. He didn’t even seem to notice Robin’s weird eye contact.

“No worries,” he said, waving them over. Finch went immediately, going to sit down on the couch at the other end from Joey. Joey reached out, grabbed Finch’s forearm, and pulled him down next to him so that Evan could sit at the end. That left Robin with the matching armchair adjacent to the couch. The four of them watched Wheel of Fortune in a relatively awkward silence for a few minutes. Robin had no idea what Evan had been hoping for when he proposed they hang out together, but this surely wasn’t it.

“You should date my cousin Candice,” Evan told Finch after a while, breaking the mostly uncomfortable silence with a bizarre nonsequitor. “She’s got a shaved head too.”

Robin snorted. Finch, predictably, didn’t say anything at all.

“Soul connection,” Robin remarked dryly.

“She has a pitbull too,” Evan continued, managing to make his way back to one of the four topics of conversation he had in his arsenal. “Her name is Lola.”

“She was a showgirl,” Robin half-sang under his breath. Evan gave him a puzzled look because he clearly didn’t understand the reference.

“With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there,” Joey added, singing a little louder. Robin flashed him a grin.

“She would merengue and do the cha-cha,” they continued together, growing louder still. “And while she tried to be a star, Tony always tended bar.”

Evan looked even more confused than before. Robin didn’t think he’d ever seen anyone look so truly baffled before. Finch rolled his eyes and pointedly refused to join in, but it felt significantly less hostile than it had in the past. Robin wondered if they were friends. Would he refer to Finch as his friend? Would Finch tell his hypothetical court-appointed therapist that he’d successfully managed to bond with another living human?

“Is this from a poem or…?” Evan asked, looking between Joey and Robin, who marvelled at the fact that Evan couldn’t recognize the opening verse of “Copacabana”. He worked at a record store. They had more Barry Manilow records than they had space for. Barry Manilow was apparently very popular amongst baby boomers who were donating their record players to thrift shops for twenty-something hipsters to buy along with useless porcelain cat figurines and decorative, collectible plates commemorating Prince Charles’ wedding to Princess Di, which would be displayed ironically.

“At the Copa, Copacabana!” Joey belted out at the top of his lungs in response. “The hottest spot north of Havana! At the Copa, Copacabana! Music and passion were always the fashion a the Copaaaaaaa…They fell in love…”

Even Robin was startled. Finch, who had the misfortune of sitting the closest to Joey and his slightly tone-deaf rendition, cringed. Evan was staring at Joey, possibly still trying to puzzle out which poem he’d put to a tune. Robin sometimes wondered how Evan had made it so far in life on his own. He wasn’t particularly bright and he talked about that one resort in Cuba like it was Bora Bora.

“I don’t get it,” Evan admitted. It was an admission that came as a shock to no one.

“It’s a song, dumb shit,” Finch said bluntly. Evan didn’t look offended, which was a true testament to either his resiliency, graciousness, or stupidity.

Evan and Finch ended up staying for a full three hours. Robin couldn’t believe it. After Wheel of Fortune, they watched Jeopardy! and then a horrifying hour of Coronation Street. Apparently, Joey was a Corrie fan. It seemed out of character, but a lot of things seemed out of character for Joey until they all blended together into some weird amalgamated caricature of a human being. Evan spent all of Jeopardy! shouting out wrong answers and Finch looked incredibly unimpressed throughout all of Coronation Street, although Robin was sure his facial expression wasn’t any less shocked and appalled. Nevertheless, he stayed for the whole thing and only got up to leave shortly after Joey announced he had business to attend to with his cousin Vinny. Robin had only met Vinny once before and he already knew whatever business they were going to attend to at nine o’clock on a Thursday evening would be highly illegal.

“Fun night, guys!” Evan said at the door as he was leaving as well. Finch merely grunted in response and pushed his way past him into the hallway beyond. He threw a hand up over his shoulder to wave goodbye, but he didn’t turn around to check that anybody had noticed or responded in kind. Still, it was a marked change to how he used to deal with them, specifically in sullen and grieved silences.

“Sure,” Robin said to Evan, who thumped him so hard on the shoulder that his knees buckled. Robin assumed it was meant to be jovial, but he could’ve sworn he felt a fissure in his right femur. As Evan walked away from his apartment door, Robin couldn’t help but hope that he’d never have to see the sight again.

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