"I miss you." Lisa's voice came through Mark's receiver. After the affair with Denny had wrapped itself up, Mark had returned to his apartment and lit a few candles to calm down. No sooner had he laid his head upon his pillow did a ringing come from his portable phone.
"I just saw you! What are you talking about?" Mark's voice stung with annoyance.
"I just wanted to hear your sexy voice. I keep thinking about your strong hands around my body. It excites me so much. I love you."
Mark couldn't deny that he liked the sound of her sexy voice. And his hands around her body...well, it excited him too and he couldn't help it. But before he could get too excited, his mind snapped back to his best friend.
"Is Johnny there?" he asked.
"He's...in the shower."
He fought back another wave of attraction.
"God! I don't understand you! Why do you do things like this!" his hands clamped hard onto the phone.
"Because I love you. You just don't care do you?"
"I do care!" Mark assured, "But we agreed, it's over between us."
"I understand, it's our secret. But I still have feelings for you. You just don't care!"
Mark sighed audibly. "God! I do care!"
"I have to go now." Lisa said, "I'll see you later darling."
"Don't call me that."
"OK." she said, not believing it for a second, "Bye."
Mark slammed down the phone before she had chance to hang-up herself.
This was never going to end, was it?
The next day Mark went up to the roof to clear his head. He was relaxing on one of the chairs they kept up there, football in hand, when Johnny came in through the door, muttering to himself and holding a water bottle.
"I did not hit her! It's not true! It's bullshit! I did not hit her!" he threw down the water bottle, "I did not!" He turned and noticed Mark, sitting quietly on the roof. "Oh, hi Mark."
"Oh, hey Johnny. What's up?"
Johnny made his way to the adjacent chair beside Mark.
"I have a problem with Lisa. She said that I hit her." he sat.
Mark gasped. "What? Well did you?"
"No, it's not true, don't even ask!"
Johnny paused a moment. He considered the subject closed.
"What's new with you?"
"Well I'm just sitting up here thinking, you know?" That much was true. Of course, he couldn't tell Johnny the specifics of what he was thinking about, but maybe he could still depend on his best friend's guidance to help him through this mess with Lisa. "I have a question for you."
"Yeah." Johnny invited.
"Do you think girls like to cheat like guys do?"
Johnny titled his head with reserved curiosity, and, Mark thought, maybe even a hint of suspicion. He hoped that was just his imagination.
He stood up and leaned against the brick ledge.
"I don't know. I don't know, I'm just thinking."
Johnny looked off into the San Francisco skyline. "I don't have to worry about that," he said innocently, "because Lisa is loyal to me."
Mark frowned inwardly at the bitter dramatic irony of his words.
"Yeah man, you never know. People are very strange these days."
Johnny sat with his hands behind his head, listening. It's true, people were strange these days. Denny was living, breathing proof of that, he thought.
"I used to know this girl. She had a dozen guys." His eyes went distant as he thought back to the girl. He, of course, had been one of the dirty dozen. He wasn't proud of it. Mark, despite his best efforts, just always ended up as the other man. His attention returned to Johnny. "One of them found out about it, beat her up so bad she ended up in a hospital on Guerraro Street."
Johnny threw his hands up and laughed "Hahaha! What a story, Mark!"
The thought of a adulterous woman getting what she deserved amused him. He stood to join Mark.
"Yeah, you could say that again." Mark said sternly. If Johnny should find out of his betrayal, would he go after Lisa? With a reaction like that...
Johnny leaned up against the side of the ledge next to Mark. He put his hand on the younger man's shoulder. All this talk of betrayal...he was relieved that he'd never have to worry about such things, surrounded as he was with people whom he loved and trusted.
"I'm so glad that I have you as my best friend, and I love Lisa so much."
"Yeah, man." Mark replied, "You are very lucky."
"Well maybe you should have a girl, Mark?" Johnny suggested gently.
Once again, the irony of Johnny's words struck deep, inspiring a stabbing guilt in Mark that was getting harder and harder to suppress.
"Yeah, yeah. Maybe you're right." Holding the football, he took a few steps towards the other ledge of the roof, "Maybe I have one all ready. I don't know yet."
"Well what happened? Remember Betty, that's her name?"
"Yeah, we don't see each other anymore. You know, she wasn't any good in bed. She was beautiful, but we had too many arguments." God, Mark thoughts turned again to Lisa, what is it with me and dating beautiful women who aren't any good in bed and with whom I argue so much!
"That's too bad, my Lisa is great, when I can get it." Johnny said.
Sure, if you consider dry humping on the stairs great. Mark thought, then sat down again with the football.
"Oh, man! I just can't figure women out. Sometimes there just too smart. Sometimes they're just flat out stupid. Other times they are just evil." Mark said, and of course, Lisa was all three.
"It's seems to me you are the expert, Mark!" Johnny exclaimed excitedly, sitting down once again beside his best friend.
"No," Mark said, smiling at his best friend's naivety, "definitively not an expert, Johnny."
Johnny noticed something in Mark. Something he was holding back perhaps? Some secret? Their talk had been exceedingly vague.
"What's bothering you Mark?" Johnny asked.
Mark looked at Johnny a moment, guilt plaguing at him. Abruptly he stood and went for the door.
Johnny quickly chased after him.
"Do you? Do you have some secret?"
He slapped a hand on Mark's shoulder and turned him towards himself. Now he was sure something was wrong.
"Forget it! Come on, forget it!" Mark dodged.
"Why don't you talk? Is it some secret? Come on!" Johnny grabbed the football out of Mark's hands.
"Forget it! Talk to you later!" Mark couldn't be stopped. He went for the door.
Johnny threw the football in the air and caught it.
"Well, whatever." he muttered to himself.
Mark charged past Denny, who himself was on his way to the roof, and they exchanged a hurried glance. Denny smiled but Mark couldn't be bothered. He descended into the building and was gone. Denny walked out onto the roof, shaking his head in confusion.
He noticed Johnny on one of the chairs, tossing the football, and walked over.
"Oh, hey Johnny." he said.
"Oh, hey Denny, what's up?" Johnny replied.
"What's wrong with Mark?" the boy asked.
Johnny smiled and laughed. "He's cranky today! Haha. Girl trouble I guess!"
It must not be that bad then, Denny thought.
"What's new with you?" Johnny prodded.
"Nothing much!" he said, then leaned up against the brick of the wall. "We still going to the movie tonight?"
"Sure, we are."
"What kind of movie are we going to see?"
Johnny caught the football and held it for a moment. "Well we'll see..." he threw up at the ball and caught it, "Denny, do not plan too much. It might not come out right!"
Johnny was always filled with wisdom like that, and Denny was happy to have him as his father figure.
"All right! Let's toss the ball around." Denny said with a smile.
Johnny stood up and tossed him the pigskin. "OK."
Denny caught it and ran his fingers over the stitching, contemplating.
"I got to tell you about something." he said after a moment.
Johnny held open his hands and Denny threw him the ball back. He caught it.
"Shoot Denny." he said, than tossed the ball back again.
Denny caught it. "It's about Lisa."
Suddenly, the ball wasn't being tossed anymore. Johnny leaned back and focused his attention, not harsh, but serious suddenly at the mention of his future wife. "Go on."
"She's beautiful. She looks great in a red dress. I think I'm in love with her." he paused to gauge Johnny's reaction. It was unchanged.
"Go on." Johnny offered. If he was upset, he wasn't showing it.
"I know she doesn't like me because sometimes she's mean to me but...sometimes when I'm around her? I feel like I want to kiss her and tell her that I love her. I dunno, I'm just confused."
To Denny's surprise, Johnny smiled. "Denny, don't worry about that. Lisa loves you too! As a person, as a human being. As a friend. You know, people don't need to say it. They can feel it."
Denny stumbled into one of the chairs. "What do you mean?"
Johnny sat down too. "You can love someone, deep inside your heart and there is nothing wrong with it."
Denny listened attentively. Johnny was leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head.
"If a lot people love each other," his words echoed with meaning, "the world would be a better place to live."
Denny shook his head. "But Lisa is your future wife!"
"Denny don't worry about it! You are part of our family, and we love you very much. And we'll help you anytime. And Lisa loves you too! As a friend. You are sort of like her son."
Denny stood in surprise. "You mean, you're not upset with me?"
"No, because I trust you and I trust Lisa." the irony of his words were lost on Denny.
"What about Elizabeth, huh?" Johnny asked.
Denny smiled sheepishly.
"Well...I love her."
Johnny nodded his head. "Um-hm"
"When I graduate from college, get a good job" Denny continued, "I want to marry her and have kids with her."
"That's the idea!" Johnny said, walking towards the boy.
Johnny came right up next to Denny, and Denny used the moment to thank Johnny once again.
"Thanks for paying my tuition."
Johnny put a fatherly-figure hand on Denny's shoulder and started walking him to the door.
"You're very welcome Denny and keep in mind. If you ever have any problems talk to me and I will help you!" he said.
Denny smiled again. "Awesome. Thanks Johnny!"
"Let's go eat huh?" Johnny said. "Come on, lets go!"
The father-figure and son-figure went for the door, laughing all the way.