Suze had booked a hotel for Karl’s visit, but she still had him come to Sybil’s apartment first. Karl and Sybil hadn’t seen each other since he and Suze had moved to Vancouver and, as they had always liked each other, she thought it would be nice for them to get a chance to visit before she and Karl went off to their hotel room for the week.
“Boozy Suzie!” Karl cried when he burst through the apartment door. She had offered to come get him from the airport, but as she didn’t own a car, that essentially just meant that they’d have to ride the subway together and he had told her not to worry.
“Oh my God, Karl has a mustache,” Sybil said, presumably to Suze, though she was staring directly at Karl’s face in abject horror. It might’ve offended a lesser man, but Karl merely laughed. Besides, to be fair, it did look atrocious. He was raising money for Movember, though. For reasons unclear to Suze, he had decided that a handlebar mustache was the way to go. He looked like the forgotten member of the Village People.
“And Sybil…” Karl trailed off, dropping his bag on the floor by the front door. “Nothing rhymes with Sybil. Why doesn’t anything rhyme with Sybil? And perhaps more importantly, why did your parents name you Sybil?”
“Apparently it was my great-grandmother’s name, but I really think my mother did it to keep me humble,” Sybil answered casually.
“Well you are amazing,” Karl returned and Sybil grinned at him.
Suze took Karl out for dinner and drinks to meet her new friends later that week, after he’d had a chance to settle and get control of his jet lag. They all met at a pub that had a stage for live music and a pretty generous dance floor. Suze could sense that the night would end there, likely with Jemima requesting Abba from the DJ with the lip ring. Karl was delighted to meet all of her friends. He was nice to all of them and made a point to introduce himself to everyone. He was a good guy like that. Suze had been drawn to his effortless charm and kind nature. Sybil said he was like the human embodiment of a golden retriever, only much more intelligent and Suze kind of agreed. Everybody seemed to like him as well. Tallulah even told her so.
“He is the nicest person I’ve literally ever met,” she said when they were in the bathroom together. “Honestly. And he’s not even nice in an annoying way. You know how some people are too nice? You know, like, alright, I get it, you give money to charity and think orphaned puppies are the saddest thing in the world. But he’s just legitimately kind. I dig it.”
It was a surprisingly strong endorsement from Tallulah and it warmed Suze’s heart.
And then it all went to shit.
They were four rounds in, finishing up the massive plate of nachos they’d ordered for the table, and prepping themselves to tear up the dance floor when Bernie brought it up. She obviously hadn’t meant to stir shit up and Suze could sense that she felt genuinely bad once she realized she’d made a mistake, but the damage was done.
“So, Karl, when are you going to move here and join our ranks for real?” She asked, sounding sincerely excited to have him around more. Karl faltered a bit and the silence seemed to fill every space of Suze’s body.
“Not sure,” he eventually answered. He smiled, but it wasn’t quite as happy as it had been moments before.
When they got back to the hotel room later that night, Suze could sense that they were about to have the conversation she’d been dreading having since she’d moved back to Roehampton.
“Suze,” he said softly, sitting down on the end of the bed. “I don’t want to move here.”
She was standing in front of the TV, wishing that they weren’t having this conversation. She didn’t want to talk about it. If they talked about it, then it was real and she didn’t want it to be real because she had a fairly good idea of how this ended and it wasn’t what she wanted.
“I can’t come back to Vancouver,” she eventually replied, matching his tone of voice. He looked up at her sadly.
“I don’t want to leave my job or our friends or our home,” he continued. She didn’t say anything for a long time. She had worked really hard to get where she was in her career. It was something that she had wanted for a long time. If she left it now, she wasn’t sure she’d ever get the chance again. Things had gotten better since her regular producer Tim had left and Frank took over. Piper was being less of a horrendous cow and Suze felt like she and Frank were really hitting their stride. She was creating something amazing, something she’d always wanted. And yes, she missed their friends in Vancouver as well, but she had her family in Roehampton and she’d made some really amazing friends since returning. She loved spending time with Sybil again. They had been friends for a really long time and Suze had missed her so much. She was going to miss Karl just as much.
“I can’t come back,” she said again.
“I’m so sorry, Suze,” he replied.
The next morning, Suze went with him to the airport. There was no reason for him to stay the rest of the week. It would only make things much harder than they already were. They hugged before he had to go through security.
“Have an amazing life, Boozy Suzie,” he told her softly, squeezing her even tighter.
“I love you so much,” she sniffed in return.
“Me too,” he said before kissing her on the forehead and walking away.
The moment Suze stepped inside Sybil’s front door, she burst into tears. Sybil got up from the couch immediately and came over to hug her.
“Oh, Suze, I’m so sorry,” she said, immediately understanding what had happened. Suze was a little annoyed that she had it pegged so quickly, but it wasn’t really Sybil’s fault. It had been glaringly obvious from the beginning that Suze and Karl’s lack of plan was going to end disastrously.
“This is the saddest I’ve ever been in my whole life,” she sniffled into Sybil’s shoulder.
“What about when your pet bunny died in ninth grade?” Sybil returned. “Or when you failed your driver’s test for the second time?”
“Surprisingly, this has not made me feel better,” Suze said darkly.
A couple days later, Suze was sitting on the couch in Sybil’s living room with Chris, who had come over to escape Gladys’ guitar practice. Sybil wasn’t even home. Suze thought about how weird it was that Chris was essentially one of her closest friends now. She was in her pyjamas. She wasn’t even wearing a real bra and she was still hanging out with him. That was true friendship.
“I’ve begun to suspect that you were right,” she told him out of the blue.
“I usually am, but about what specifically?” He returned.
“That love is a lie and we might as well all be dead,” she clarified.
“Oh right,” Chris nodded. “Yup. Yes. Exactly.”
It was not as such reassuring. Suze was even feeling sorrier for herself by the time Sybil actually came home. She was grinning as she sat down on the coffee table directly across from Suze, who was very unnerved in the literal face of such joy.
“Ugh, stop that,” she said, waving her hand at Sybil’s face.
“Stop what? Stop smiling?” Sybil returned.
“Yes, it’s annoying,” Suze said. She had a sneaking suspicious that she’d been out with Wes and Suze wanted no part of that particular happiness.
“Suzanne,” Sybil said very seriously, putting her hands on Suze’s knees. Suze winced at the use of her full name.
“Ugh, why are you like this?” She whined. Chris ignored them both completely as he was apt to do.
“Would you like to live with me?” Sybil asked, ignoring her.
“I already do live with you,” Suze replied, gesturing to the couch she was currently sitting on. “I am Suze, Queen of the Couch People. I eat cheese until I feel ill and cry a lot.”
“Such glamour,” Chris interjected dryly.
“No, dumbass,” Sybil cut in, redirecting the conversation. “I meant, would you like to live with me in a different apartment where you also pay rent and have your own bedroom?”
Suze stared at her for a long moment.
“I found a place online and went to check it out,” Sybil continued. “That’s where I was.”
“You went alone?” Chris demanded, suddenly displaying more emotion than Suze had seen him experience in the entire time she’d known him. “Do you want to be murdered?”
“I’m still alive, calm down,” she told him, rolling her eyes. Then she turned back to Suze. “It’s on Liverpool Street and it’s a two-bedroom loft with den. I mean, it’s kind of expensive, but my dad is really worried that I love my mother more than him so I think he’ll chip in.”
“Can we keep this couch?” Suze asked after a moment.
“Yes, of course,” Sybil returned, raising an eyebrow. “Why wouldn’t we keep the couch?”
“I really like this couch,” Suze replied.
“Yes, we know,” Chris cut in. “You are Suze, Queen of the Couch People.”