Chris had had the same argument with his girlfriend about twenty times now. He had actually begun a tally, though he had started after a few occurrences so it wasn’t completely accurate. Regardless, it was a lot of times and at least twenty too many. Savannah was most distraught about his friendship with Sybil. On the one hand, Chris could see where she was coming from. God knows he’d heard her carefully listed string of arguments enough times and in more detail than he’d ever asked for to know why she was upset, inside and out. But at the same time, he didn’t agree and didn’t really care to do anything about the problem he felt she had created.
Savannah’s main grievance was that Chris spent too much time with Sybil. Chris wouldn’t say he spent too much time with Sybil, but he did spend a lot of time with her. Part of that was because they worked together and part of that was because he slept at her apartment when his downstairs neighbour’s guitar playing became too much for him to handle. That bothered Savannah, and that was even without Chris bothering to tell her that he slept in Sybil’s bed with her when that happened. The thing was, however, that Savannah wasn’t offering to let him sleep at her place instead and he didn’t have anywhere else to stay. It was either sleep in Sybil’s bed and wake up with her hair in his mouth or lay awake for hours in his own bed as his growing frustration reached insurmountable heights while he listened to Gladys from downstairs struggle her way through “Stairway to Heaven”. Led Zeppelin had composed an eight minute song that Gladys managed to make last half an hour.
“You know why you can’t stay at mine,” Savannah would always defend herself, which was technically true, though not altogether conducive to moving the argument along. Savannah lived at home with her parents and her four year old son Brady. Brady was a terror and a weirdo. He had a bizarre fascination with fire. He always wanted to light things on fire. He wasn’t an arsonist yet, but Chris felt sure it was only a matter of time. Savannah was very protective of Brady, as Chris felt she had the right to be, and thus was weary about introducing him to new people. Chris had met Brady about five times and each time it had not gone spectacularly well. Chris put this down to his own immaturity and the fact that Brady was a sociopath. When he and Savannah had first begun dating, he had told her that he wasn’t mature enough to be a parental figure, which she had refuted before moving to Australia for two years after they’d only been together a couple of months. It had been an extremely difficult time in his life.
Chris loved Savannah a lot. She was amazing and wonderful and he felt lucky to have her in his life. Brady was a complication in a lot of ways. Brady very clearly didn’t like Chris, which was ultimately fine because Chris wasn’t sure he liked him much either. Of course, ideally they both should’ve liked each other a lot. That certainly would’ve made things easier for Savannah. Instead, they were stuck in this weird limbo space where Chris couldn’t spend a lot of time at Savannah’s home because Brady didn’t like him, but also because she still lived with her ironically strict and conservative parents. Chris had assumed that the illegitimate child would’ve effectively put an end to that, but apparently it had only tightened the reigns. Besides, he wasn’t sure her parents liked him very much either.
Chris came to work one Monday extremely tired, having spent most of the previous night awake due to his reluctance to ask Gladys to please stop warbling her way through classic rock favourites. He had contemplated escaping to Sybil’s numerous times, but he and Savannah had had a particularly bad version of their usual fight earlier in the day, which had concluded with Savannah telling him they might as well break up if he was going to love someone more than her anyway. He had tried to argue that, but he had said the words so many times that they were beginning to lose their weight.
“You look terrible,” was the first thing Sybil said to him.
“Thank you, you’re very kind,” Chris returned, sighing deeply. Sybil grinned at him, but also handed him a coffee so he forgave her for her cruelty.
It all came to a head later that night. Savannah came over to have dinner with Chris at his apartment, which she never did and that was how he knew she wanted to have a frank and open discussion about everything. She began after they had finished eating, saying, “I would like to have a frank and open discussion about our relationship” just as he knew she would because that was how she began every single one of their arguments. She continued by telling him that she wanted him to start spending less time with Sybil, which he scoffed at almost immediately on instinct. It wasn’t a great thing for him to have done.
“I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, Chris,” Savannah said in a very calm voice, which was how Chris knew shit was about to hit the proverbial fan. “I just want you to spend less time with her.”
“We work together,” Chris pointed out.
“Less time,” Savannah repeated clearly and slowly. “I said less time. You don’t have to always be at her house.”
“She’s my best friend,” Chris argued. The moment the words had left his mouth, he knew it had been the wrong thing to say. Savannah’s face fell, distorting into something angry. There was definitely going to be shouting and all Chris could think about was how, for once, maybe he would be the one keeping Gladys up at night.
“You know, there was a time when I was your best friend,” Savannah returned in a dangerously quiet voice.
“It’s different and you know it.”
“Is it?” Savannah asked, voice getting louder. “She’s very pretty.”
Internally, Chris died on the spot. He could feel his hold on the argument slip away. There was no way he would come out of this the winner. He wouldn’t even end up anywhere close to bad. He would end up floundering at the bottom of a well, waiting for the sweet relief of death to take him in its cold, clammy clutches as he slowly drowned to death.
“Oh Christ, don’t do that,” he sighed, pleading slightly.
“Do what? It’s just an observation.”
“No it isn’t and there’s no way I can win from it,” Chris countered.
“Why?” Savannah asked with feigned innocence. “Because you also think she’s pretty?”
“No, I don’t,” Chris said immediately. Savannah narrowed her eyes at him.
“You’re lying!” She accused angrily, thrusting a finger at him.
“Of course I am!” Chris agreed, giving himself over to frustration and, subsequently, his inevitable loss. “But if I told you I think she’s pretty, what would you have done?”
“You think she’s pretty?!” Savannah shrieked. Chris winced, throwing his hands up.
“For fuck’s sake,” he said, looking toward his ceiling. “Just kill me. I’m done. I’m ready.”
“You’re done?” Savannah repeated harshly. “Well, you know what, Chris? So am I. I’m done too.”
And then she left, letting the door slam behind her. Chris was fairly certain they had just broken up. He called to check fifteen minutes later and her response was an annoyed huff, some angry crying, and the single phrase “yes, you emotionally stunted moron”. Chris thought about arguing, trying to win her back, explaining that he hadn’t meant he was done with their relationship, but merely done with the conversation. And then he thought about her demonic child with the fire obsession who hated him and he let it go.
Later that night, Chris went to Sybil’s apartment the moment Gladys began strumming her guitar. He wasn’t interested in enduring that hell at that particular moment. He barely liked Led Zeppelin at the best of times. Sybil and Suze were watching some baking competition show when he arrived. He threw himself down on the couch between the pair of them and let the soothing sound of baking euphemisms wash over him. At the next commercial break, Sybil got up to get them some clementines for a snack and Suze turned to Chris with a smile on her face.
“Karl and I missed each other again tonight, but, like you said, it’ll all work out in the end,” she said positively.
“No it won’t,” Chris grumbled bitterly in response. “Love’s a lie and we might as well all be dead.”
Judging by the stunned expression on her face, it was not the uplifting, supportive reinforcement she had been expecting to hear.