10: “You are so against Barry Manilow”

Moving back to Roehampton for Suze was a little like being launched into a herd of wildebeests that were already running at full speed; there was a lot to keep up with and also no opportunity to slow down. She had waited to move until the last possible second because she knew it would be terrible being half a country away from her boyfriend Karl. She had thought she would be heading back to Roehampton to a new apartment, but that had fallen through. Then she had felt stupid about being thwarted by an internet scam and even more stupid for having to sleep on her friend’s couch for an indefinite period of time. At least she and Sybil could live together well. Although, with Chris around constantly, it was more like having two roommates.

Her new job was amazing, but stressful. She had been recruited by her boss, who loved her, which was good. That wasn’t the case with everyone, however. She had a co-worker named Piper Wingtip, who had been up for Suze’s job as well, but didn’t end up getting it obviously. As such, she was incredibly resentful. It was almost astounding. Suze had never had anyone hate her quite as much as Piper did. Piper tried to undermine her at every turn and it made her very difficult to work with. Not only did it not feel especially great, but it also meant that Suze had to work twice as hard to get anything done because Piper was blocking her at every available opportunity. Suze felt like she had to prove herself. She ended up working very long hours, much longer than she should’ve. Her time to speak with Karl was limited by time zones as it was; this didn’t make it better.

Finding time to talk to Karl was just another in a long list of problems. She needed to find a new place to live, she needed to find a way to deal with Piper at work, she needed to find a way to make her very long-distance relationship work. It was a lot.

When Sybil made Suze her own key to the apartment, Suze realized it really was time for her to move out.

“That wasn’t what I was trying to get at,” Sybil assured her when Suze brought it up over dinner one night. They were watching HGTV while eating chicken burgers. Suze hadn’t really thought that was what Sybil was trying to say, but it did make her feel a bit bad. 

“No, I know,” she replied dismissively. It wasn’t in Sybil’s nature to be so passive-aggressive.

“I mean, Chris also has a key,” Sybil pointed out, mouth full of asparagus.

“Yeah, but you two are basically married,” Suze returned.

“I have a boyfriend,” Sybil protested.

“Uh huh,” Suze nodded. Sybil was the most noncommittal person Suze had ever met. She could tell that she didn’t think it was going to work out between Suze and Karl, but that was because Sybil would never give it a real chance if she had been in the same position. She tended to give up on romantic relationships the moment they got semi-difficult. Suze assumed it had something to do with her parents’ divorce. It had always seemed strange, though, because she was not at all like that with her friends. Suze had been living in British Columbia for years and Sybil had kept in touch. And now that she was back in Roehampton, Sybil had given up her living room without any hesitation, going so far as to make Suze her own key, to help her out. Sybil was a really great friend. It was possible she was a terrible girlfriend. As much as she talked about Tobias being her boyfriend, she barely saw him. She saw Chris way more often. In fact, Chris seemed like he might be the only guy Sybil wouldn’t give up on. Suze didn’t like to think about that too much though because it made her feel very sad.

Between her job and looking for a place to live, Suze began missing Karl, both literally and figuratively, more and more often. She missed their place back in Vancouver. He was still there, with all of their friends, living in relative sanity. She felt so out of place, disjointed and temporary. She was pretty good at making friends, she always had been, and it was definitely helpful that Sybil had a whole friend group waiting to welcome her with open arms. Honestly, they were great and it was nice of them to do that, especially since they definitely didn’t have to. They invited her to their parties and to dinner. She went to jazzercise when Priscilla ran it and then she went back to Priscilla and Tallulah’s apartment afterward with Sybil before returning home. It was at one such occasion that she lamented her ever-growing distance to Karl.

“I’ll wake up in the morning and he’ll have left me four messages from the night before,” Suze shared with Priscilla, Tallulah, Rosalyn, Jemima, and Sybil. “So then I’ll text him back, but he’s two hours behind so he won’t respond until I’m at work. We just keep missing each other.”

“Like two ships passing in the night,” Jemima said wisely.

“Isn’t that a song?” Rosalyn cut in, somewhat derailing the conversation. Suze watched it happen helplessly.

“‘Ships’ it’s called,” Tallulah answered, nodding. “It’s by Barry Manilow. Great tune.”

“Can’t be that great, it’s by Barry Manilow,” Priscilla pointed out.

“You are so against Barry Manilow,” Tallulah rounded on her sister. “What has he ever done to you? ‘Copa Cabana’ is a total jam and you know it.”

Sybil turned to look at Suze.

“Don’t ever expect to get anything coherent or helpful from any of these people,” she told her. “Sorry, should’ve mentioned that sooner. They’re nuts.”

Considering that they then spent the next thirty minutes dissecting Barry Manilow’s discography while “Ships” played on a constant loop in the background, Suze couldn’t quite find it in herself to disagree.

In the end, it was Chris, bizarrely, who actually offered some real advice. He had come over to spend the night so as to avoid his downstairs neighbour Gladys and her horrendous guitar-playing. Chris said she seemed frustrated with her lack of progress, adding that she certainly wasn’t the only one.

“At this rate, I’ll never stop hearing her play a shaky rendition of ‘Wonderwall’,” he said, flopping himself down on the couch next to Suze. “I have to say, I was never really very fond of Oasis before this point, but now I would like nothing more than to strangle every single last one of them.”

Suze wasn’t really paying attention to him, staring at her phone on the coffee table, willing Karl to phone her. It was the perfect time. She was at home, relaxed, and although she still hadn’t been able to find an apartment that seemed remotely habitable, she hadn’t had to deal with Piper at all that day. She had gone home sick and Suze was delighted by it.

“Alright?” Chris asked, looking at her with an eyebrow raised. Sybil was taking a shower so it was just the two of them. Suze sighed and explained that she was waiting for a call from her boyfriend who lived impossibly far away on one end of the country. Chris nodded, like he understood.

“Savannah and I lived apart for about two years,” he told her. “She was doing her master’s in Sydney and I was here trying to establish a career for myself. It’s fucking difficult, I won’t lie. I mean, I could lie, but you would know it was a lie. It sucks. You don’t see them, you can’t be with them, and sometimes it’s so hard just to talk to one another.”

Suze found herself nodding along. It was the first time she’d spoken to someone who sounded remotely like they actually understood her problem. The closest she had gotten with anybody else was Iggy, who had told her about an ex-boyfriend she’d dated for two months who lived a forty-five minute train ride away. Iggy hadn’t been able to make that work. It was not the hopeful tale of inspiring optimism that Suze had been looking for.

“But, you know, then it’s so much nicer when you actually get to see them,” Chris continued casually. “I don’t know what your plans for the future are, but you’ll eventually sort it out. When you end up in the same place again, it’s pretty sweet.”

Suze felt a lot better about that. Karl didn’t end up calling her that night, but she got ready for bed with the reassuring thought that it would work out between her and Karl, that they would find a way to live in the same city again, that they would make it. If Chris and Savannah could while she was in Australia for two years, she and Karl would have no problem.

And then she watched Chris follow Sybil into her bedroom to go to sleep for the night, laughing about something that had happened to them at work earlier that day, and Suze felt sad for a different reason.

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