“Hola, mi vida,” Branli spoke into the phone.
“Hola, amor,” Ashanty answered. “How are you?”
“I’m good. Are you home?”
“Oh my god, are you here?” Ashanty giggled.
Branli pulled up to her driveway. He stepped out, welcoming the opportunity to stretch his legs after the nearly three hour drive. “Hurry!” He hung up.
A few seconds went by. Ashanty’s front door opened and her head popped out, not entirely sure if Branli was being serious. When she saw him standing in the driveway her eyes lit up and she ran toward him.
Branli gave her a warm hug. “Mi vida!” Her head pressed firmly on Branli’s chest.
“Drew!” Ashanty saw Andrew and gave him a hug as well. “What are you guys doing here?”
Drew smirked and turned to Branli for the answer. Both of them stared at Branli, waiting.
“It’s a long story.” It really wasn’t. “We should go.” He tried to hurry.
“Where to?” Ashanty asked.
“Back to some gay bars before we head up to Fresno tomorrow to visit Renee,” Branli answered.
“R.C. Murphy,” Andrew answered.
“Oh.” Ashanty was quiet for a moment. “I kinda have school next week.” She was hesitant. “How long are we gonna be gone for?”
This plan wasn’t going to work like Branli had thought. He leaned on his car, crossing his arms. “What if I tell you we’re going on vacation for a week?” He began. “We’ll go to Fresno, visit Renee, about half the people on the mothership list, and heck even have time to visit Greg in the east coast.”
To this Ashanty smiled. “Really?!”
“I like this plan.” Ashanty nodded.
“Urgh,” Andrew expressed. “I’m going to hate you; I only brought two changes.”
Ashanty and Andrew enjoyed themselves while Branli seemed to sulk at the bar. Their attempts to get him up and dance or even talk to a guy failed. They knew it was hard for him to be even slightly social at a bar, but they let him be. Eventually the two made their way to the dance floor to ogle the go-go boys.
Branli enjoyed his drink, taking small sips and staring at his watch. The stop watch to be exact.
“You ‘specting someone?” asked the guy next to Branli. His words slightly slurred and his breathe giving him away. He was drunk.
“Something like that,” Branli answered.
“Well? Where’s he?” He thought for a moment. “Or her?”
“He. He’s wont be here for quite a while.”
“Then what’s this waiting?” The man opened his arms, nearly falling over as he lost his balance. “You should be out there. Get that ass up there dancing.”
Branli blushed and forced an uncomfortable smile.
“You still working on that?” Ashanty asked as she returned with Andrew.
Branli didn’t answer.
“He’s being grumpy!” Andrew interjected. He hoped to move Branli out of his funk enough to make him realize he was dampening everyone’s fun.
“Tell me, mi amor,” Ashanty tried a different approach. “What’s wrong?” She put her hands on Branli’s and for the first time taking notice of the stop watch. “What’s this?”
“I meant to ask about that,” Andrew added. “You don’t wear a watch. Why are you wearing it?”
“Nothing.” Branli took back his arm. He took his drink and downed it. “Okay. Let’s go dance.”
Hours later the cab was there to pick the drunks up. Ashanty was first to be dropped off. Later Andrew and Branli would arrive at their hotel. Branli landed face first on his bed while Andrew went to use the restroom. When Andrew emerged Branli was already asleep. Andrew smiled and went to his laptop to be up for a bit until he could fall asleep. If he was too drunk he couldn’t sleep. Closing his eyes would send the room spinning. He had to wait it out long enough for him to be able to crash.
Branli wasn’t moving, clearly passed out. A part of Andrew bothered him that Branli was going to fall asleep at the edge of the bed fully clothed.
“Branli, Branli, Branli,” Andrew began, mimicking Branli’s cadence from a particular night when he called out to Andrew.
Branli moaned, moving slightly and his arm falling to the side of the bed revealing the stop watch. Andrew got up to examine it. It was curious to see him with this black stop watch he had never seen before. As Andrew approached Branli turned over and finally woke up, halting Andrew’s curious advance.
“What?” Branli groaned.
“Get ready for bed.”
A few more grunts and Branli was under the covers.
Andrew managed to read the watch before Branli pulled it under:
484.4 and counting down…