Prudence’s Lucky Break Part Two

Rating: K+

It had been nine weeks after Prudence’s injury. She had a quick, uneventful recovery, got her cast removed, and was starting physical therapy. She still was on crutches but otherwise, she was getting around more easily. She texted her friends to meet her at Leon’s Pub the next afternoon, and said she would be bringing Penn.

Pru’s text arrived on an afternoon when Ellowyne and Lizette were hanging out with Amber at her house. They were looking through Amber’s closets and trying on some of her crowns. “About time,” Lizette said when the text showed up on her phone.

Amber said, perhaps too eagerly, “And she’s bringing Penn. Glad we’re finally getting to meet him.” 

“You know, Pru sure seems to have less time for us now that he’s in the picture,” Lizette added.

“Oh, I know!” Ellowyne exclaimed. “Don’t you just hate it when a girl drops her friends to spend more time with a guy?”

Lizette and Amber looked at each other in disbelief. Amber rolled her eyes, and Lizette said, “Um, now that you and Rufus have finally gotten together, you do spend a lot more time with him than with us.”

“And he does hang out with us a lot,” Amber said. 

Ellowyne’s jaw dropped. “I still spend time with both of you and Prudence,” she protested. “And Rufus and I hang out with all of you. Maybe I tell him to not come around so often with us.”

“Come on, Ell. Rufus is our friend and we like having him around,” Amber responded. “But it would be nice to have another guy in our circle.” 

Lizette asked, perhaps a little too eagerly, “Do you think Penn and Prudence are dating?”

“I don’t know,” Ellowyne replied. “I just hope she hasn’t lost herself in a new relationship and–oh, wait! I need to go. Just got a text from Rufus.”

Lizette and Amber looked at each other and tried, unsuccessfully, to stifle their laughter.

The next day, everyone met at Leon’s. Prudence and Penn were the first to arrive, and they sat at the end of the circular booth, with Prudence on the outside so she could rest her leg on a chair. When they got into the pub, Amber and Lizette scrambled to get to the table and sit next to Penn. Unless Penn was actually Prudence’s boyfriend, they figured he was fair game. Lizette was just a little faster, and she flashed a toothy smile at Amber, who half-heartedly sat next to her. They were all involved in a lively conversation when Ellowyne and Rufus finally arrived. “We were just talking about you,” she exclaimed.

Ellowyne leaned over to hug her friend but was slightly taken aback. “Really? What did you say about us?”

Penn stood up and proffered his hand to Rufus. When they were done shaking hands, he said, “Prudence, Lizette, and Amber told me you were two of the best friends they’ve ever had. They also told me you’re a talented poet, Ellowyne, and that you’re a brainiac, Rufus.”

Rufus laughed genially. “Wow! Ellowyne is a creative genius, but I’m not sure if I can live up to my reputation,” he said, as everyone else chuckled at his comment. 

“Now, Ellowyne, you go to State like the rest of us, is that right?” Penn asked.

“I do”, she answered. I’m majoring in creative writing, with a concentration on poetry.”

“I’d like to hear you recite some of your poems sometime. And you, Rufus?” Penn inquired. 

“I’m at Berkeley, doing a double major in mechanical engineering and math,” he said.

Penn whistled. “You really are a brainiac!”

The server came with Rufus and Ellowyne’s drinks, a craft lager for him and a cranberry vodka for her. The six of them started to chatter again, and Ellowyne asked Penn about his studies. “You said you go to State, Penn. What’s your major?”

“Actually, I’m in the nursing program,” Penn said.

Rufus, who was usually sensitive and rarely obtuse, stumbled right into a verbal booby trap and asked, “So you’re going to be a male nurse?!?”

Penn waited until Rufus was taking a generous gulp of his frothy beer, and said, “Well, I thought about becoming a female nurse, but I didn’t want to have the surgery!”

With that, Rufus snorted beer out of his nose. When everyone stopped laughing, he said, “Okay, I deserved that. We don’t have a nursing department at Berkeley, and I’ve never met any guys in nursing. Wait. There’s my buddy Jamal’s brother and he’s g—”

“Rufus!” Ellowyne snarled as she kicked Rufus on the shin. Hard. 

Penn mercifully decided that Rufus didn’t need another snout full of beer, so he laughed and said, “Not all male nurses are gay. Some are but most aren’t.” He turned to Prudence and asked, “Do you think I’m gay, Pru?”

Much to the chagrin of Lizette and Amber, Pru leaned over to kiss Penn. She looked at him, her eyes sparkling with affection and admiration. “Tell them how you decided to get into nursing.”

“Well”, Penn said. “I joined Army when I graduated high school. I figured I’d be fixing and driving trucks or get into communications. I never had an interest in health care, but they assigned to be a combat medic. I’ve done three tours of duty in Afghanistan, and while I’m in school, I’m in the Army National Guard.”

“Ah, geez, I’m sorry, man, for being a douche,” Rufus said. He stood up and shook reached for Penn’s hand again. “You are the real thing and deserve respect. You have mine. Thank you for serving our country.”

Penn nodded. “No problem, man. But the next time we go out for beer, you’re buying!”

Ellowyne spoke up. “At the risk of sounding as ignorant as my bae, why did you choose nursing instead of medicine?”

Penn took a thoughtful sip of his ale. “I found out I like being on the forefront of care. Too many doctors waste time on other tasks but as a medic—or a nurse—I can have more direct interaction with patients. I’m also impatient. If I decided to go to medical school, I would have needed a bachelor’s degree. I don’t want to go to school for eight years.”

Amber asked, “So what do you want to do as a nurse?”

Penn replied, “I like the fast pace of the emergency room, and my Army background comes in handy if I’m taking care of trauma patients. Eventually, I’d like to be a helicopter nurse. Or maybe I’ll stay in the Guard and see what happens.”

Prudence furrowed her brows and appeared to be on the verge of tears when Penn said he might remain in the Guard. During their short time together, she noticed that Penn startled easily, especially if there were unexpected fireworks or other loud noises. Sometimes he told her about his nightmares, which almost always reflected the things he did and saw while deployed. Sometimes, when he was stressed, he’d become angry, although he got over it as soon as it started. 

Lizette queried, “How far along are you in the nursing program?” 

“Like all of you, I’m a junior this year. I did two years of prerequisites and am finally in the nursing program. I should graduate when you do.”

After chatting for what seemed to be only a few minutes, Lizette looked at her phone and saw what time it was. “We’ve been here for more than three hours! I need to study biochemistry tonight.”

“I’m glad we all switched to pop a couple of hours ago,” Ellowyne commented. 

“It’s been great to meet all of you,” Penn said. “Rufus, maybe you and I could hang out sometime. Remember, you owe me a beer!”

Rufus nodded and seemed to be relieved that Penn forgave him for being a jerk.

The friends shuffled out the door to their cars, “Your friends are great people, Pru,” Penn said as he was helping her to get into his car.

“Maybe we should say OUR friends,” Prudence replied. “I hope that you’ll be hanging out with us when you can.”

Penn nodded in agreement, then took her face in his hands and kissed her. “Our friends. I like that.”

Prudence’s Lucky Break Part One

Rating: K+

Amber anxiously scanned the bleachers for her friends. She started out late, got a ticket for speeding, and couldn’t find a parking space, so she arrived to the game a little later than she wanted. Ellowyne spotted her first, and waved so she could see them. “I’m so sorry I’m late. Did I miss much?”

Lizette deadpanned, “Well, you missed the cheerleaders. Seven of the hunkiest shirtless guys you’ve ever seen.”

“She’s kidding,” Ellowyne said. “There were eight cheerleaders. Two for each of us.”

Rufus chuckled and squeezed Ellowyne’s hand. “Come on, ladies. You don’t need a cheerleader when you have me,” he said. Amber and Lizette laughed and rolled their eyes. Ellowyne kissed his cheek and squeezed his hand in return. Then he said, “I hate to break this to you, Amber, but there are no handsome cheerleaders at women’s rugby matches.”

“Une telle déception,” Lizette said to Amber, who also spoke French. Rufus quizzically lifted one eyebrow. “That, to our favorite non-French speaker, means ‘such a disappointment.’” Rufus gave her a thumbs up. “But never fear, Amber, I have some snacks that should get you over this big letdown: Pixi Stix and a concoction of Mountain Dew and Red Bull.”

Amber laughed. “Pageant crack and Go-Go juice. I should never have let you know I was a pageant kid!”

The players took the field and everyone stood for the national anthem. Prudence, the home team captain, won the coin toss and decided that her She Devils would kick off. Not only was she the captain, she was a forward, a position played by the toughest and strongest team members. 

 Lizette, Ellowyne, and Rufus attended most of the She Devils home games, but this was the first one Amber came to watch. She had lots of questions and whispered to Lizette that she didn’t understand the game. Lizette told her that she still had much to learn about the game. “I have a copy of Rugby for Dummies. You can borrow it anytime. The most important thing to remember is that it’s a rough sport. Sometimes Prudence is covered with cuts and bruises but she’s never been seriously hurt, like spraining her ankle or breaking any bones. She brags that she mocks pain, and she has a bumper sticker that says, ‘Give Blood. Play Rugby.’”

No sooner had Lizette spoken these words, than the referee’s whistle sounded and the announcer said that a player for the She Devils was down. The team gathered around the injured player. The announcer said that it was Pru. Her horrified friends climbed down the bleachers to the field were she was. The usually stoic Prudence, who claimed she laughed at pain, was in tears. 

Pru felt light-headed and dazed after her injury and wasn’t sure if the handsome man looking down at her was real or a fantasy cooked up by her pain-mediated imagination. The paramedic, whose name was Penn, had red hair and eyes as blue as the ocean. He asked Pru where it hurt and, after gingerly palpating her left ankle, said that she should go to the emergency room to see if it was broken or sprained. The other paramedic, who wasn’t nearly as cute as Penn, helped him get Pru on a gurney. As they moved toward the ambulance, both teams and their fans held a moment of silence for Pru, and then burst out clapping as Penn said that that her injury was not deadly and loaded up the gurney. 

Ellowyne, the first one to get to Pru and Penn, was distraught at her friend’s injury. She asked, “Can I ride in the ambulance with her?” 

“I’ll go,” Amber suggested, perhaps more interested in the handsome Penn than Pru’s condition.

“You have your car here. I should ride with Pru,” Lizette said. She also found Penn attractive.” 

“No, I’m sorry but I can’t let any of you ride in the ambulance,” Penn said. “But you can follow me to the hospital and wait there.”

So off the friends to the hospital. Ellowyne called Pru’s parents, who were at work, and they were going to get to the ER as soon as possible. She also asked Pru to permit the hospital staff to let their friends know about her condition, which naturally she approved. 

The ER was abnormally, almost eerily quiet for an early Saturday afternoon. Rufus paced while Lizette and Ellowyne sipped on coffee. Amber searched the Internet on her phone, looking for rugby injuries. She was horrified to see x-rays and pictures of badly broken limbs with bones sticking out of the skin. She inhaled sharply. Lizette walked over to Amber and looked at some of the photos. “God, Amber, those pictures would disturb anyone,” she said. “But I’m sure Prudence isn’t hurt that much. At least I hope not.”

It was the second time that day Lizette immediately regretted what she said. Penn and the orthopedic surgeon entered the waiting room. The doctor said, “It appears that your friend has a unstable lateral malleolus fracture that will require surgery. I will contact the OR to get ready for surgery.”  The doctor went back to the ER but Penn stayed behind. Pru’s friends and teammates gathered around him and started asking questions.

Ellowyne asked, “Can you please translate what the doctor said?”“Sure”, Penn replied. “Prudence has a broken fibula, which is the slender bone in her leg that attaches to the ankle joints. It was an unstable break, which means that the ligaments were damaged. She’s going to need immediate surgery. She will wear a cast and use crutches, and she’ll need physical therapy.” 

Prudence’s friends were shocked and saddened. Amber asked, “Will she be able to return to rugby?”

“Her recovery will take months. She’s not going to play the rest of this season.” Penn shook his head. “Poor kid. She’s taking it pretty hard. She’s had some pain reliever, and then she will go to the surgical suite. Would you like to see her before she goes?”

Of course Pru’s friends wanted to see her. The usually robust, cheerful Prudence looked small and vulnerable. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks and her eyes were red from crying. “I guess this time pain won,” she said softly. 

Ellowyne smoothed Prudence’s hair. Rufus hugged Prudence, and Lizette and Amber held her hands. Penn stood near the curtain separating the gurneys from each other, silently watching Pru and her friends. He figured Prudence must be quite special to have such a devoted bunch of friends. 

By that time, the She Devils flooded into the ER waiting area. One of the women said, “We won the game for YOU!” 

Prudence sobbed. “You are so awesome.”

The coach responded, “Once you’ve recovered enough to get around easily, you can still come to the games. After all, we need our captain!” 

Prudence tried to choke back her tears. “I wish I could play now. I’m scared. I need surgery. I’ve never had surgery.” Penn held her hand and the staff wheeled Prudence into the operating room.

The Lonesome Loser: Prologue

Rating: M because of course language and non-explicit adult themes

This story is based on the official Ellowyne canon in which Ello, Pru, Lizette, and Amber share the same birthday, October 31. Ellowyne hosted a party to which Amber was not invited. A new friend named Penn joined the party. He is mentoring Freddy, who had a dangerous preoccupation with setting fires. Ellowyne’s grandmother insisted that Penn stay for the party and she gave Rufus and him masks to wear. They barely donned their masks when Amber crashed the party. She was dressed in a risqué version of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, complete with a short blue gingham jumper, a low-cut blouse, and sparkly red stiletto heels. Amber then grabbed one of the masked men and kissed him aggressively, thinking he was Rufus. When Penn removed his mask, Amber slapped him for taking advantage of her. She then stormed out the front door of Ellowyne’s house and walked right into a slightly squishy pumpkin. She kicked the pumpkin aside and everyone at the party laughed at the spectacle Amber made of herself.

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Story:

After Amber left the party humiliated and disgraced, Ellowyne, Lizette, and Pru turned their attention to this new guy. As they girls gushed over Penn, Rufus quietly slipped out of the house. He got into his decrepit red Subaru, a car held together by dozens of bumper stickers, sheer faith, and Rufus’ knack for fixing almost anything that was broken. Anything, that is, but his own breaking heart.

He looked into the rearview mirror and started berating himself. “God, you’re such a dumbass. Ellowyne was never yours. You were too shy, too scared, and too stupid to tell her how you felt and now she’s crushing on some guy she’s just met. He’s gonna fall in love with her—who wouldn’t? She’s beautiful, intelligent, and sweet. They’re gonna end up together.”

Rufus sat in the darkness of his car and thought carefully what to do next. Putting his key in the ignition, he asked himself, “Wait a minute. What’s so special about this guy Penn anyway?” Then looked into the rear view mirror again and frowned. “He’s handsome. He’s already done with college and has a great job, probably a great apartment, too. He’s everything I’m not. How could I ever compete?”

Find out what Rufus does when he’s confronted with the reality that Ellowyne may have found another guy! Please feel free to say in the comments section which ending you prefer.

 

The Lonesome Loser: Ending One

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus got in his car, plugged in his phone and headed home. From the time he left the party to the time he pulled into his driveway, Rufus tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne, from Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love Hurts, Love Stinks and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was his mother, Mary Sue. “We saw you sitting in your car so long. Honey, are you okay?”

“I don’t know, Mom. I feel like someone has reached into my chest, pulled out my heart, and stomped on it.”

“Ellowyne? “

“Yeah.” Rufus could no longer fight his tears. Mary Sue embraced and consoled her son and together they walked into the house.

Janet, Rufus’ other mom, hugged him, too. She offered up comfort, cocoa, and freshly baked chocolate cookies as they all sat around the kitchen table.

Rufus began to tell them with Ellowyne and how she reacted to Penn. “I feel like an idiot. I’ve never told her how I feel and now she seems to be into this new guy. I can’t compete with him. He’s already out on his own and he’s got a great job. He’s confident and knows the right things to say. ” Rufus shrugged. “And he’s handsome. Of course Ellowyne was attracted to him.”

“First of all, you’ll have a great job when you graduate,” Mary Sue pointed out. “You’ve been accepted at Cal Tech and MIT for grad school and when you finish, you’re going to have a great career as an engineer.”

“You’re smart and you’re funny. And, not being biased since you’re my son, you are one of the kindest people either of us has known,” Janet added.

“And we both think you’re handsome!”

Rufus smiled weakly. “I guess instead of having a face only a mother can love, I have a face that only TWO mothers can love.”

Mary Sue stroked Rufus’ hand. “Sweetie, listen to us. If Ellowyne hasn’t seen what an amazing man that you are, she isn’t worth your time. I know it hurts, but someone is going to figure out what a great guy you are.”

When his moms went to bed, Rufus grabbed his laptop and a few more cookies. He then sat in the chaise lounge in the living room to check his email. One was from MIT. He had been awarded a prestigious fellowship in engineering. He read the email again and he shouted so loudly that he awakened Janet and Mary Sue. “You aren’t going to believe this! I’m getting a full ride at MIT!”

Suddenly, it didn’t matter to Rufus anymore that Ellowyne flirted with Penn. For once, he decided to do what was right for him and not build his life around someone who couldn’t reciprocate his love. Goodbye, Ellowyne. Hello, MIT.

The Lonesome Loser: Ending Two

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smartphone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love Hurts, Love Stinks and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was Lizette. “Hey. What are you doing out here? “ she asked.

Rufus sighed. “Just listening to some tunes. I didn’t want to be in there, not with Ello throwing herself at Penn.”

Lizette nodded. “Yeah, total flirt alert. Hey, are you okay?”

“Not really. It sucks to see Ell throw herself at this douche when I’ve been here for her all along”.

“I dunno.” Lizette said as she climbed into the passenger seat of Rufus’ red Subaru. “Maybe it’s because Penn is a novelty, someone new in her life”.

“Or maybe it’s a matter of familiarity breeds contempt”.

Rufus poured out his heart. He told Lizette how he fell in love with Ello the first time they met back in middle school. He confessed that, over the course of the past several years, he brought her flowers, candy, stuffed animals, and even a vintage snow globe.”

“I remembered that! She obsessed over it, asking herself—and the rest of us—what it meant.” Lizette gently stroked Rufus’ hand. “You know, Ello is not the most observant person. I think she’s a fool for not even noticing the sweet little gestures you’ve made over the years.” Lizette got closer to Rufus, twirled hear hair and looked into Rufus’ eyes. “It’s a shame she friend zoned you all this time. You really have a lot to offer a woman.”

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Rufus furrowed his eyebrows. “Are you kidding me?”

“You’re kind, sweet, and funny. You’re a total brainiac. And you have a gentle face and beautiful eyes.”

“Seriously?’

“Yes! Ellowyne is clueless. One day someone, maybe one of her closest friends will figure out wow amazing you really are.

Rufus smiled weakly. “You really think so?”

“I know so.”

“Hey, thanks, Liz. I’m glad we had this talk. I’m not going to give up on Ellowyne.  I have more work to do at her house and maybe I’ll bring her some chocolate truffles.”

Lizette got out of Rufus’ car, shook her head and rolled her eyes. Ellowyne was not the only one who was clueless.

The Lonesome Loser: Ending Three

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smartphone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love Hurts, Love Stinks and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was Prudence. “Hey, why did you leave the party?”

“It got kinda weird watching Ellowyne flirt with Penn.”

“I thought so. You were giving off a dull yellow aura, which means you’re jealous. I can give you some green apatite or green aventurine to help you .”

“Hey Pru,” Rufus said. “I appreciate your help but I need to be alone right now.”

“But if we get your chakras in balance—“

“Thank you, Pru but really, no.”

Pru, the last of their friends to leave the party, got into her Mini-Coop and drove away. She was only a few blocks away when she realized she left her phone at Ellowyne’s house. She noticed that Rufus’ car was still there but Rufus wasn’t in it. Quietly she opened the door and retrieved her phone. To her utter shock, she heard Ellowyne and Rufus fighting in the kitchen.

“What the hell, Ellowyne? I was standing right there!”

“God, you are so jealous”, Ellowyne retorted. “I would never have agreed to this if I knew how jealous you are.”

“I’ve told you that you can date other guys. I just don’t like you blatantly throwing yourself at someone when I’m around.”

“You can date other women…”

“When do I have time for that?”

“Oh my God, Rufus. Are you going to blather on about how engineering is such a tough major while my English lit major isn’t?”

“We’ve had this fight before. I’m sorry I said anything.”

Prudence stood by Ellowyne’s front door, torn between slipping quietly through the front door and staying to hear the argument. She decided to continue eavesdropping.

Rufus spoke first. “I’m not sure about our relationship. It’s worked for me but lately it’s been more difficult than ever. You know that I love you…”

“And I love you, too, but as a friend…”

“Don’t patronize me. You’ve strung me along. I hoped our little arrangement would bring us together as a real couple.”

“But we agreed to not get emotionally involved”.

“No. You agreed, Ellowyne. I didn’t. Do you know what you are? You’re a commitmentphobe. You’re afraid of getting involved.”

“Isn’t what we have good enough for you? We’re friends—“

“That’s the point. We’re FRIENDS with benefits. You’re not being my friend when you flirt with some new guy while I’m standing right there!”

“I think you need to leave, Rufus. This is ridiculous.”

“Fine. But when I go out the front door, our friendship is over.”

Prudence hurried out the door before Rufus could see her. Back in her car, she wasn’t sure what startled her the most: Ellowyne and Rufus being friends with benefits or the intensity of their argument.

No sooner had Pru gotten into her car when she got a text from Ellowyne. “I need to talk to someone. I might have made the biggest mistake of my life.”

Before she could answer, Pru received a text from Rufus. “Hey girl. I just did something stupid and now I think Ellowyne hates me.”

Prudence sighed. She was close friends with both of them and she didn’t want to take sides. Before she drove away, she turned on her car radio.

       Clowns to the left of me, jokes to the right

       Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Indeed, Prudence thought. Indeed.

The Lonesome Loser: Ending Four

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smart phone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love Hurts, Love Stinks, and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

The sound of tapping on his car window interrupted Rufus’ private sing-along. It was Ellowyne. “Hey, what are you doing out here?”

“Um, I was just getting my sweatshirt. Let’s go back inside.”

Rufus wanted to dislike Penn but he found him to be smart and funny. He also thought Penn looked familiar but he couldn’t remember where he might have seen him. They exchanged phone numbers and Instagram user names and added each other as friends on Facebook. Penn asked Rufus if they could get together to have coffee or some craft beer. Rufus agreed and they made plans to go meet the next day. It would be his first real man date with someone other than his engineering school buddies.

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The next day, Rufus met Penn at his favorite dive bar for burgers and craft brew. Penn ordered some poutine, a Canadian concoction made with fries, gravy, and squeaky cheese curds. Rufus thought they sounded strange and was surprised at how delicious they were.

But that wasn’t the only surprise of the day. As the guys devoured their food, Penn leaned across the table and told Rufus he thought he was quite attractive. Rufus was startled and nearly choked on his craft beer. “Uh—I’m straight.”

Penn was crestfallen. “I saw you this summer at Pride.”

“That’s where I’ve seen you,” Rufus said. “I march every year with PFLAG. I have two moms.”

“Oh, damn. I’m sorry. I’ve made such an ass of myself.”

“Hey To tell you the truth, I’m flattered. I’d like to be friends.”

“Sure. I’d like that. Hey, do you think Ellowyne, Pru, and Lizette would be okay knowing I’m gay?”

“Of course they would. But you might want to get to know them a bit better than telling them straight away.”

“Straight away?” Penn laughed so hard that beer almost came out of his nose. The two new friends agreed to get together for Korean food in a couple of days.

As Rufus got into his car, he got a text from Ellowyne “How was your man date?”

“Gr8!,” he texted back. And it WAS a great day. Not only did Rufus make a new friend, he also found out that his chief rival for Ellowyne’s affections simply wasn’t interested in her. He smirked at his reflection in the rear view mirror. “And you were so worried,” he said smugly to himself.

The Lonesome Loser: Ending Five

Although Ellowyne had just met Penn, it was clear to Rufus that she was interested. She never looked at him the way she looked at Penn. Blinking back the hot tears welling up in his eyes, Rufus plugged in his smart phone and sat in his car, feeling too numb to drive home. He tortured himself by listening to love songs that reminded him of Ellowyne like Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing to Led Zeppelin’s All of My Love. Breakup songs like Love Hurts, Love Stinks, and Lonesome Loser gave voice to his feelings of loss and despair. When he heard a familiar tune by Cee Lo Green, he sang along. “I see you driving ‘round town with the girl I love and I’m like ‘Fu—‘“

Rufus stopped singing and turned off the smart phone. “Man up,” he said to his reflection in the rear view mirror. .“If Penn can make Ellowyne happy, then good for him. For both of them. It’s ridiculous to sit out here and sulk.”

When Rufus walked into Ellowyne’s house, the other partygoers, including Penn, greeted him warmly. Rufus poured a glass of punch and made a toast. “To friendship! After all, friendship is magic!”

Penn’s eyes widened in astonishment. “Are you a brony?”

“Yeah. A bunch of us in my cohort started watching it at the math and stats building as a way to ratchet down our stress,” Rufus answered.

One chuckled. “We did that, too! I had to take a course on linear equations and it just about killed me and the rest of the class. After class, all of us were so brain dead we needed something to relieve our stress. And the day of the course final, we all wore My Little Pony t-shirts, watched a couple of episodes, and then we did a bar crawl!

Everyone laughed except Rufus, who was dumbstruck. “By any chance, to you go to Berkeley? I think I’ve seen you on in the student lounge at Evans Hall. We’ve got sofas, snacks, and My Little Pony 24/7.”

“The Geek Cave!” Penn smiled broadly. “I’m getting my master’s in social work. About six months of classwork and my thesis left to do.”

“Awesome! I’m in my third year. Double major—environmental engineering and math and stats for engineering.”

“You must be some kind of brainiac! I wish I had known you before taking that stats class.”

Wide-eyed, Prudence whispered to Ello and Lizette. “I think we’re witnessing the birth of a bromance!”

And Prudence was right. The guys exchanged cell phone numbers, Instagram user names, and added each other as Facebook friends. Soon they were hanging out regularly, studying together, playing video games, and watching whatever sporting events as long as they were in season. Rufus helped Penn understand non-linear equations to help with his thesis. In return, Penn introduced Rufus to craft beers, poutine, and bibimbap, and gave him the confidence to finally tell Ellowyne how he felt about her. Of course Penn thought that Ello was attractive but he valued his bromance with Rufus too much for him to pursue her. The two young men remained best friends for life.