Independence Day, 1976

Catagory: Drama, Friendship, L&L romance

Description/Spoiller: Shirley returns to California for an unnanounced Bicentenial visit with Laverne. She quickly discovers that nothing is as she left it.

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July the Fourth, 1976:

Dear Diary,

Today is the day I've been waiting for all week! In just a few minutes, I'll be back in California, and I'll see Laverne for the first time in eleven years.

Eleven years, can you believe that? It's almost as if Walter whisked me away from our apartment only yesterday.

How did eleven years go by so fast? I feel silly asking, probably because it's easy to lose track of time when you move around a lot. The trouble with that is losing track of everything that you leave behind. I feel so guilty; I have a pile of letters from Laverne that I haven't read yet from up to a month ago. But you know how it is; I've seen most of Europe in eleven years. Walter and I spent a year in Paris that taught me that the good life was bunk. A lot of what Walter promised me is bunk.

I'm still surprised that he let me go to the States. But it's pretty nice of him to take care of Toddy while I'm gone. It's the most decent thing he's offered to do since our separation….

Shirley's neat scrawl became a shaky mess. She closed her eyes, taking two long, deep breaths before continuing.

I can't wait to see the apartment; I wonder if my painting of Laverne is still over the bricked-up doorway. And are the plants still alive? And those fuzzy green dice…I'd better not think of them, I might get motion sickness.

The first thing I want to do, after hugging Laverne and telling her all about Walter (and show her pictures of Todd…. have I ever shown her the newest pictures I had made up of Todd?), is run down to Cowboy Bills. I miss Mr. DeFazio so much; the last time we talked was when Toddy was born, I think, and Toddy's starting secondary school in a year. How much time has passed! Will he and Edna even remember me now?

And the boys…I actually miss them. I miss Squiggy.

I've been gone a long time, haven't I?

Maybe I won't run in to Carmine. I hope he's still in New York.

"Lady! Lady, is this where you want to be left off?"

Shirley jumped at the driver's strident tone, her startled thumb tracking ink over her signature, smearing it.

She craned her neck in order to see over the imposing form of a businessman. From the window opposite her seat in the airport shuttle, through the yellowing light of the setting sun 113 1/2 Laurel Vista seemed to be exactly as it always had been. The flowers she and Laverne had nurtured sprouted in surprisingly healthy bunch from clay pots. The hacienda was still in wonderful shape.

She nodded quickly, "This is it." She quickly retrieved her suitcases and dumping a handful of Walter's money in the driver's hand, missing the look of delight he gave her as he tucked a one hundred-dollar bill into his pocket.

Shirley landed on the sidewalk, waiting for the shuttle to pull away before crossing the street and barreling through the front door of the building.

She ran up the stairs, only pausing to take a breath when she reached Laverne's front door. Suitcases settled against the wall, Shirley tucked the edges of her new short, blunt haircut behind her ears and straightened her modest sun dress before knocking on the door.

"Laverne? Laverne, it's me!" Nothing answered her but the sound of the Beatles singing some plaintive tune from the stereo.

It's too loud, Shirley sighed to herself, knowing that Laverne couldn't hear her over the music. Jiggling the door, wondering if it would open. She wasn't surprised to find it unlocked, and entered the apartment, towing her suitcases.

The living room was empty; only George greeted her as he sang the words to "Something". Shirley was puzzled instantly by the presence of two acoustic guitars lying on the sofa, but dismissed the sight and sighed, setting her suitcases against the coffee table. Quickly peeking on to the balcony, confirming that Laverne wasn't present, Shirley sat down on the couch, frowning, wondering what to do.

It came to her suddenly, "She's upstairs," Shirley deduced, then frowned, "Why would she be listening to music all the way up in the bedroom?" She gave up trying to figure her friend's motives out and mounted the stairs.

Shirley's toes caught on a piece of material on the second step, almost tripping her. "Even Laverne's never usually this sloppy." She picked up the clothing and folded it neatly into a bundle; only then did she recognize it as Lenny's yellow short-sleeved shirt, "Why would Laverne wear something of Lenny's? Maybe it's a new trend. I didn't see it in Paris this year…" Her jaw dropped when she recognized Laverne's plaid shirt on the next step. And her denim shorts. And Lenny's brown pants. And Laverne's sneakers. And Lenny's boots.

By the time Shirley threw open the door to Laverne's bedroom, she had an entire outfit for each of them in her arms, minus underwear, which she prayed they were still wearing when she threw the door open.

Squiggy would have been proud of her entrance, a "HELLO" delivered at the highest decibel she could manage in competition with the Beatles.

The scream that came from her a second later had George, Paul, Ringo and John beat.

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