Travis Bowman slid his Jeep to a rocky stop next to Donovan Tate’s Forerunner. He stepped out, rounded the SUV, and ran up the three stairs to apartment 7A. He hammered on the door and yelled out. “Hey! Donovan! I’m here!”
Travis gave the door another pounding. “Yo, Donovan! Open up, man!” He tried the doorknob as he said, “You better still be ali—” The door was unlocked and swung inward. He fell through as it opened. Travis stumble-stepped forward, but he caught himself from face planting into the carpet. His eyes locked on Donovan’s, who was staring back at him with a startled look on his face.
“What?” Donovan asked.
“Oh, thank God. You haven’t done it yet.”
“Nothing. Never mind. What the hell was that phone call about?”
“Sorry about that, Travis. It’s been a long, lonely night.”
There was an awkward silence, but it gave Travis time to regain his composure. He entered and closed the door.
Donovan said, “You shouldn’t have come.”
Travis turned back to him. “I’m your best friend. Why wouldn’t I come? Don’t ever scare me like that again.”
Travis looked around the apartment. The place was filthy and in disarray. Crushed beer cans, empty cartons of various takeout, and an almost empty bottle of Jack Daniels with an overturned highball glass littered the apartment. In the middle of all the trash was a 5 X 7 framed photograph of Donovan and his girlfriend, Justina. Other captured moments of her and pictures of them dating were strewn out over the couch, on the coffee table, and across the floor.
“Still traveling down memory lane, huh? Looks like you’ve been busy putting the beers away as well. You have any more?”
“Fridge. Help yourself, since you’re here.” Donovan looked back to the muted hockey game playing out on the television.
As Travis moved to the kitchen, he asked, “It’s ripe in here. When you gonna clean this place up? It could give you a better outlook on life if you do.” He popped the door to the fridge and paused. “And why is beer the only thing left in here?” He grabbed two long-necks and closed the door. He twisted the tops off both beers and moved back toward the living room.
Travis stepped to the couch and offered one of the bottles to Donovan. Donovan only glanced at it for a moment then turned back to the television. “No thanks.”
Travis crinkled his eyes at the weirdness, “What, you’re not going to have a drink with me?
“It’s not that. I’ve already had too many as it is.”
Travis shrugged, “Suit yourself.” He nudged some of the trash on the coffee table away and set it down. “I’ll just leave it here in case you change your mind. You okay, man?”
“I’m concerned about you.”
Donovan was honed in on the game playing out on the television.
“Donovan! You’re not paying attention to me.” He leaned forward and grabbed the remote. He flipped off the television, tossed the remote back to the coffee table which landed among the clutter.
“You scared the hell out of me with that damn phone call.”
“Sorry about that. I’m just really having a hard time with Justina’s death.”
“I miss her too. What happened to her wasn’t your fault, dude. This depression spiral you’re in, it’s gonna kill you if you don’t snap out of it.”
“I don’t think I can.”
“Don’t say things like that. I don’t like to hear you talk like that.”
“I’m just tired. I feel like I’m drained of everything.”
“What you need to do is spend some time in the sunlight. The Vitamin D will do you some good.”
“Hey Travis? I’ve been a good friend, haven’t I?”
“Of course. The best. Where’s this coming from?”
“I don’t know. I guess I just don’t want you to be disappointed in me.”
“Choices I’ve made. Consequences. I don’t want you to hate me because of them.”
“I could never hate you. You’re my best friend.”
“Thanks. I love you, man.”
Travis placed his beer on the table by sliding a paper plate and a crushed can out of the way. He stepped away and moved down the small hallway toward the bathroom.
“I hate to break up this little rom-com moment, but I have to piss like a bitch. You don’t mind if I use your bathroom.
“Yes,” Donovan said, instantly alert and on edge.
Travis stopped and turned, “Excuse me.”
“No, I mean, that it’s—it’s, just, not working right now. Just, um, piss off the back deck?”
“You’re joking, right?”
“Right. Your next-door neighbors would love that visual.” Travis laughed it off. “You’ve been acting weird all night. I’ll be right back; then we’ll talk about getting you out of this apartment for a little while.”
Donovan raised his voice. “No! I’m telling you it doesn’t work!” Then, “I’m sorry, Travis.”
The last three words Donovan had spoken didn’t quite register with Travis as he grabbed the bathroom doorknob; he turned it and entered.
When Travis pushed through, he only took a step and a half before the visual hit him full force. The half-smile he was wearing was wiped clean and was immediately replaced by the look of utter dread.
Donovan was half-seated, half-lounging in a tub full of blood-red water. He wore the same clothes as the Donovan on the couch. His back was against the tub. His left arm was in his lap submerged under the water, and his right arm was perched on the side of the tub. His right hand was palm up with Justina’s necklace intertwined around his limp fingers. There was a bloody razor blade on the edge of the tub. From what Travis could tell, both wrists were sliced deep because there was so much blood on the outside of the tub and the color of the water was a reddish-black hue and almost overflowing. Donovan’s cell phone lay in a blood pool on the bathroom floor directly under the hand that was holding the tangled necklace.
Being hit with this traumatic sight, all Travis could do was back away from it as he shook his head. His murmuring became a mournful dirge, “No-no-no-no-no.”
He stumbled backward out of the bathroom, nearly tripping on the lip of the carpet. He caught his balance when he fell away into the hallway wall. He turned back to Donovan to demand an answer from him about what he witnessed in the bathtub.
The living room was empty. No Donovan Tate was looking back at him with a forlorn and lonely look.
There was a moment while Travis’s mind caught up with the reality of the situation. He only had time to focus down on what had just happened. He worked his mouth and swallowed hard, then said, “Say ‘hey’ to Justina for me when you see her, okay? I know now; you just couldn’t wait. You two rest in peace.”
Travis reached into his pocket, pulled his cell phone and dialed three numbers, then sank to the floor and leaned against the wall.