“Lindsay’s here!” Penelope exclaimed, looking out of the front window.
“I'm coming!” Emily shouted down the stairs.
“That’s a cool car.” Kevin said, up on his knees beside Penelope, peeking out the window. He watched Lindsay get out of a red Volkswagen Golf and come up the walkway.
“She rides me around sometimes.” Penelope got up to unlock the security screen door. “His name is Chandler Bing.”
“That’s a good name.” Kevin nodded.
“Its cuz he's red like a Bing Cherry. Hey, Lindsay!”
“PG! What's the shakes, babe?” Lindsay gave her a high five.
“We’re hanging out.”
“Hi.” Kevin waved from the couch. He was always a little tongue tied and mystified around Lindsay. He wasn’t sure why but his older brother told him it was because Lindsay was a babe. In her faded jeans, clingy black turtleneck, and dusty motorcycle boots, Kevin almost understood what that meant.
“Hey Kevin.” Lindsay smiled at the bespeckled boy. “Where’s the fam, Penelope?”
“Hotch went to work, Morgan’s at the community center, JJ and Will went to the movies, and Jason’s gonna take Spencer to see his mom today.”
“For real?” Lindsay asked. “Spencer’s going to see his mom?”
“Uh huh.” Penelope nodded. “He visits her at the place she lives twice a month.”
Dr. Diana Reid was most likely a permanent resident of the Sunny Valley Residential Center. She was a paranoid schizophrenic. She was also a genius like her son, brilliant, and mostly pleasant too. She just needed supervision or she would not take her medication. Without her medication she did things like forget to take care of her toddler son. Spencer became a ward of the state at age four.
“That’s nice.” Lindsay replied.
Penelope went back into the living room with Kevin. They were in the process of repairing his busted walkie-talkie and working on the dime-store camcorder his dad bought him last Christmas. Penelope promised that by the time they were done with it, Kevin would still have it when he got to college.
“Hey Prentiss!” Lindsay shouted from the bottom of the stairs. “I'm here!”
“I know that.” Emily leaned over the banister. “I’ll be down in like five minutes.”
“Obee kaybee.” She smiled, giving her best friend the OK sign.
Emily disappeared again. She knocked on Jason’s door and waited until he said come in.
“Lindsay’s here so I'm gonna head out.”
“I heard her shouting.” He replied.
“Is something going on?” Jason sat on his bed.
He’d been asking her that one way or another since Friday night when Emily climbed into bed with him. She’d been avoiding the question but it was getting more difficult.
“Yes, but I'm handling it.”
“Are you alright?”
“Mmm hmm.” Emily nodded.
“I'm handling it Jason. Let me handle it.” she came and sat beside him on the bed. When she rested her head on his shoulder, Jason put his arm around her.
“If you need anything you know that I'm here.” He said. “You don’t have to go through anything alone.”
“I know. Everything’s gonna be OK.” She kissed his cheek. “I’ll be back later; Lindsay and I are just going to the mall and stuff.”
“No picking up boys and using them for nefarious means.”
“Aww man, you're no fun.” Emily pouted and then smiled. She stood up from the bed. “I’ll see you later.”
“Did you talk to Spencer?” Jason asked.
“Yeah, I did. He's OK I think but he’ll probably come and see me later this evening after you guys get back. I'm sure we’ll talk again.”
“OK, I love you.”
She leaned down to kiss his mouth. Jason moaned when she ran her fingers through his curls.
“I love you too, Jason Gideon.”
Walking out of the room, Emily took a deep breath and put on her game face. She had no idea what would happen this afternoon but she had to do this. She didn’t want to lose her best friend. She was upset that she was smack in the middle of this quagmire. Of course part of Emily understood that Hotch had to get it all off his chest. Now she was carrying an armful of quite a heavy load. Coming down the stairs, she put on her best jovial smile.
“What up yo!” she said.
“Hey. Is everything cool?”
“Yeah.” Emily nodded. “Penelope, I'm leaving. When’s Morgan coming back?”
Penelope looked at her Batgirl utility watch.
“Twenty minutes.” She replied.
“OK. You guys be good.”
“We will.” She and Kevin answered in unison.
Emily grabbed Jason’s favorite orange fleece from the closet before she and Lindsay walked out the door. The temperatures were in the mid 50s now. It was perfect for the thin maroon sweater she wore with her jeans, but would probably be chillier when she came back later. They climbed into the Golf; Lindsay started the ignition and pulled off. The Charlatans UK roared out of the speakers, Emily turned it down some.
“Is the Chevy Chase mall OK?” Lindsay asked. “Or should we go to McLean?”
“Which one has Friendly’s?” Emily asked.
“Yeah, let’s go there.”
“OK. Hey, it sucks that you weren't feeling well yesterday.” Lindsay said. “Four day weekends should not have sick days.”
“Tell me about it.”
“John called though, so we hung out last night and it was a lot of fun. Are you feeling better today?”
“I’ll survive.” Emily replied. “A little retail therapy will cure the yucks.”
“For sure.” Lindsay nodded. “My dad was generous with money this morning too.”
Emily smiled. The smile faded some when she thought about what was coming. She had no idea how Lindsay would react or how she would react to that reaction. All Emily knew was that it had to be done. Better it be after a few hours of shopping and best friend time.
“Are you sure you're OK, princess?” Lindsay asked. “I don’t wanna be a pain in the ass but you look a little green to me. Don’t you puke in my car.”
“I'm not gonna puke in your car.” Emily punched her playfully in the arm. It was the complete opposite of how she punched Hotch the other night. “I'm fine really, just ready to have a good day.”
“Well stick with me kid. You know how I roll.”
“What's up?” Lindsay asked sipping her root beer float.
They were sitting in Friendly’s with their shopping bags. It had been a great afternoon but Lindsay knew something was amiss. Emily was either a little too giddy, almost playing a role, or not smiling at all when she thought she wasn’t being watched.
“I know about you and Hotch.”
Wow, way to be not beat around the bush Prentiss, she said to herself.
“He told you?”
“Yeah, he told me the other night.”
“Are you royally pissed?” Lindsay asked.
Emily shrugged. Lindsay poked her hand a few times.
“Tell me the truth, princess.” She sang it like a song.
“Why did you do it?”
“What do you mean? I did it because I wanted to. God, I hope that doesn’t sound crass. I never want to hurt you; you're the best friend a girl could ever ask for. But I can admit to not really thinking about how you would react until after.
“Your brother’s a babe, you know this. I'm attracted to him…physically more than anything. I could hardly believe he was willing. I honestly thought he was frigid.”
“Do you love him, Linz?”
“No.” Lindsay shook her head. “Hotch is an awesome guy. He’s cute, sweet, caring, and holy moly he’s well endowed. Not that he really knew what to do with it. I helped out the best I could.”
“I'm traumatized now.” Emily covered her ears. “Oh my God, you really thought I wanted to know that. I have to see him in his pajamas.”
“My bad.” She laughed. “You're pissed, aren’t you?”
“I don't know. You guys went behind my back and that hurts. I just never saw it coming; I was floored when he told me. I really did feel betrayed; by the both of you.”
“Hotch was the one who said not to tell you. I didn’t really like that part. The first time was an accident; neither one of us intended for it to happen. I was fine with keeping that on the low low. Then it kinda kept happening and I didn’t like keeping it from you but I kinda knew why he wanted to.
“He adores you, you know. It’s kinda in that mother, sister, lover, best friend way. He didn’t want to be the cause of us breaking up. I don’t want him to be the cause of us breaking up. We’re not dating or anything, Em…it was just sex.”
“And that’s it…just sex.” Emily repeated.
“That’s it. I love you to pieces; you're my best friend. I've never had a friend like you before and I don’t want anything to come between us. There are a billion men in the world. I can easily find one that has no connection to our relationship whatsoever. Anyways, Hotch has a lot of issues. I don’t want to become one of them.”
“Oh, I don’t even know.” Lindsay shrugged, rolling her eyes. “Weakness, I guess. I told you that he's cute and sweet. I won't deny, right or wrong, that I'm attracted to him. We probably really need to stop though, especially if you hate it. You hate it don’t you?”
“I don’t know how I feel.” Emily lied. It was much easier that the truth, which she could hardly put into words. “On the one hand, its soooo not my business to get involved. On the other hand, I care about you both and I don’t want anyone getting hurt. On the third hand…”
“The third hand?” Lindsay raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, on the third hand. On the third hand, the idea of my brother and best friend together isn’t cool. I liked having something outside the family. Something just for me, even if it sounds silly.”
“It doesn’t sound silly, are you kidding? It’s just me and my dad all the time, Em. He made this decision to isolate himself from the world and it affects me too. I love him so much but hell, you don’t think I'm resentful. Being with you, and your family, it’s an escape. I have my own world and it’s awesome. That’s more important than just sex.”
“Are you OK with just sex? Are you sure this isn’t something more?” Emily asked. “Are you sure you don’t want it to be something more?”
“I'm sure.” she stopped when their food arrived. Lindsay ran her finger over the sauce coming out of her barbecue bacon cheddar burger. “We've had this conversation before. I don’t even know if I believe in love and all that stuff.
“You and I have so much in common but not that; not right now. Love would be nice but it’s not a requirement. I'm seventeen years old. Hotch and I had fun together. He ended it, he came back; he’s a tad bit indecisive.”
“He’s hoping that he and Haley get back together.”
“I think that would be good for him. They seemed to be on the same page with a lot of stuff. He loves her, I think. He was happy when they were dating. Honestly, I don’t think I would’ve had a chance in hell with him if she hadn't broken his heart. People do crazy things when they’re heartbroken.”
“Don’t I know it.” Emily nodded. “He's just worried about how this will affect all of us. He's mostly worried about you and I. As you said, he doesn’t want to be the cause of our breakup.”
“Well I don’t want this turning into some John Hughes film, unless the soundtrack kicks ass.”
“I don’t think I’d be upset if Simple Minds was my permanent background music.”
“I know right.” Lindsay laughed. “I told Hotch it was no big deal if he didn’t want to be my special friend and I truly meant it. I'm sorry he’s all conflicted; I didn’t want that. You know I adore him and I hate to think he’s flogging himself over his weakness or something. Between you and me, I think he was doing that before me.”
“Sometimes.” Emily replied. She didn’t feel comfortable having a serious conversation with Lindsay about Hotch. His personal stuff, for lack of a better term, was just that…personal. Maybe she would if he and Lindsay were in a relationship, but they weren't.
“Can I ask you something, Linz?” she cut up her grilled chicken salad and added the honey mustard dressing.
“Was he your first?”
“Hotch? No, that was John. Remember last spring?”
“No.” Emily shook her head.
“What do you mean no?”
“You never told me about anything with John.”
“Oh my God, are you serious?” Lindsay covered her mouth. “Oh my God, Em, I could’ve sworn…how could I not have told you? It was John, in March. Was something going…Sarah Bickle?”
“Huh?” Emily ate her lunch.
“It was in the middle of the Sarah Bickle debacle. That must have been how it slipped my mind. And honestly we don’t talk about sex tons; there are much more interesting things to discuss. I guess it slipped my mind but after a while I must’ve thought you just knew and I didn’t bring it up again.”
“Damn, I wish we could’ve celebrated it when it happened.”
“Nothing much to celebrate.” Lindsay shrugged. “It was cool though and I'm glad it was John because he’s totally awesome. I have to come like fifth to all the stuff he’s doing now; I've only seen him twice since the semester started. But I still dig him. What about you and Jason…anymore afternoon delights?”
“We slept together on Friday night.” Emily replied.
“Oh my God!”
“We just slept, Linz.”
“You did that on purpose.” Lindsay threw a French fry at her. “You like to give my blood pressure a rise.”
“It was kinda funny.” Emily smiled. “But cuddling was nice. I love being close to him. He smells so good and he feels so good. I can't wait to make love.”
“You're gonna be waiting alright. You think you can get him to dial back the clock; seventeen maybe. I mean, c'mon, who makes rules like that?”
“I plan to respect his rule. Second base here I come though. I'm sixteen now…I'm not taking no for an answer.”
“You go girl. He wants it as much as you, if not more. I’ll never understand the patience he has. He has his own bathroom now; I bet he jerks off…”
“Linz!” Emily exclaimed, laughing. “Eww lets not go there.”
“I can't help myself. You two are just so cute and clean. I want you to do something kinky so we can giggle incessantly about it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. I'm not sure Jason has a kinky bone in his body.”
“You better pray you're wrong about that. Maybe we should hit up Barnes and Noble...buy The Joy of Sex.”
Emily smiled but didn’t respond. They ate their lunch in companionable silence for a while. Friendly’s was crowded, that was nothing new. Thanksgiving weekend made it even more so there were plenty of people-watching to keep them busy for a while.
There were lovers, weary couples, overexcited kids, and groups of loud teenagers. And of course the requisite mall senior citizens. On another day Lindsay and Emily would probably laugh their heads off, making up stories about the different conversations at each table. This afternoon they both seemed to be dealing with the conversations they were and weren't having.
“So we’re OK, right?” Lindsay asked.
“We’re OK.” Emily nodded.
“Really OK, or fake OK?”
“I would like you to stop seeing him, in that way. There, I said it out loud. That being said I can't stop you from doing what you want…Hotch either.”
“Its done.” Lindsay said making a slashing motion with her hands. “You asked and I'm agreeing to it. We still have to be partners for AP American History but no more hanky panky, I swear.”
“OK. This was all so damn weird, Lindsay.”
“I know. It was weird and dumb and kinda insane. I'm thinking it was more Cameron Crowe than John Hughes. I'm much more Phoebe Cates than Molly Ringwald. You are so Ione Skye.”
“You think?” Emily asked.
“Oh for sure.” Lindsay nodded. “I don’t know if Jason is Lloyd Dobler but you're definitely Ione Skye. I can totally see you two making romantic love in the back seat of an American made car while Peter Gabriel plays on the radio. It’s practically fated.”
“Can you make romantic love in the back seat of a car?”
“Apparently you can with John Cusack.”
“Well no doubt about that. After lunch, let’s hit up Sam Goody; I want the soundtrack now.”
“Sounds like a plan. Best friends forever?” Lindsay held out her hand.
“Best friends forever.” Emily slapped it.