It didn’t add up.
I decided to call Nate again, because the more I thought about it, the more suspicious I got. I knew he was working, so I figured I’d have to leave a voice mail. When he answered, it took me off guard.
“Hey Loni—what’s up?”
“I found Jessica,” I told him.
“Well, that’s good news,” he said “Where is she?”
“Down in San Diego with her mother. I didn’t actually talk to her myself. She still isn’t answering her phone.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
I sighed, rubbing my temple. Nate just didn’t seem to feel any urgency about the situation, and it frustrated me.
“Not much of a relief,” I told him. “It doesn’t make sense. Amber is living with some rich boyfriend and she doesn’t want him knowing she has a daughter Jessica’s age. I tried to take Jess to visit her last summer and she wouldn’t let us come. I think Amber is up to something.”
“Hon …” he said, and his voice was patient, loving, and condescending as hell. “You sound crazy.”
“I’m not crazy,” I snapped.
“I know you’re not,” he replied soothingly. “And that’s why this sounds so crazy, because it’s not like you. I know you’ve given everything for Jessica, but kids pull shit like this all the time. She’s with a family member. At least you know she’s safe, so maybe you should just enjoy the fact that she’s finally out of your hair.”
“She’s not a normal eighteen-year-old,” I insisted, walking toward the kitchen. I found the wine I’d picked up at the store earlier and grabbed my corkscrew. “Her brain doesn’t work right, you know that. And she has health issues. She doesn’t even have a doctor down there.”
“Nobody who’s eighteen years old has a brain that works right,” he said. “You know that—we all know that. Kids are wonderful but they do stupid shit. Sooner or later she’ll call you, ready to apologize. Until then fighting with her is pointless.”
I took a deep swig straight from the bottle, because a glass just seemed like extra work at this point.
“Is there anything you can do to check on her?” I asked, frustrated by his lack of sympathy.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, don’t cops have ways of finding people? Like, calling in favors from old friends or something? I don’t know.”
“I think you’ve been watching too much TV,” he said firmly, his voice going from condescending to annoyed. “We could call in a welfare check, but that’s a waste of time and resources because you already know she’s fine. You have to let this go and I have to get back to work. We’ve started something good here, babe, but I’m not interested in drama. Time to get over this shit.”
He was probably right, but he didn’t need to be a jerk about it.
“Okay,” I said, frowning. “I’m sorry I bothered you at work.”
He didn’t answer for a moment.
“It’s all right. But don’t do it again, okay? Not unless it’s a real emergency. It sucks that things aren’t going like you hoped, but this doesn’t qualify and I’ve got shit going on. I’m hanging up now.”
“Do you still want to try to get together sometime this week?” I asked hesitantly.
“I don’t know—are we going to pick up where we left off on Friday?”
The question startled me.
“Loni, I like you a lot and I’ve been a good guy, but I’m tired of this. You’re so caught up in Jessica that you don’t have the energy for me. I’m exhausted, I’m grumpy, and I’m not in the mood. Let’s talk later, okay?”
“Wow, so sorry that my family obligations are getting in your way,” I snapped. “But I actually give a damn about Jessica. She’s my responsibility. That doesn’t just go away because she turned eighteen.”
“I can’t believe we’re still talking about Jess,” he muttered.
Then he hung up on me.
What the hell?
Nate hadn’t been himself the past two days, not even a little bit. He’d always been so concerned and supportive of me, even over the smallest things … and he’d never pressured me for sex. But now that I needed him, he’d checked out. I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
You sure you really know him?
Reese’s nasty little insinuations burrowed through my thoughts. I shouldn’t leap to judgments, though, not while I was this upset—my perspective was all messed up. I wasn’t thinking straight.
Still, I’d expected a little more sympathy from Nate. Isn’t that what boyfriends do?
I sucked down another mouthful of wine, contemplating my unpleasant conversation with Amber. Apparently Jessica had flown down there yesterday, although it hadn’t occurred to either of them that this was information I might like to have. I had no clue where the money for the plane ticket had come from, either.
Selfish, both of them. And Nate was selfish, too … although maybe he was right in his own way. For better or worse, Jessica was an adult and she’d made her decision. I should probably just accept it and let it go, because all this stress and worry wasn’t accomplishing jack shit anyway.
At least the wine was still on my side.
An hour later I’d finished the bottle and things were looking up. For example, with Jess gone, I wouldn’t be stuck at home every weekend. I could go places, do things … Sleep with Nate any time I wanted.
Assuming I still wanted to sleep with him.
But the more I thought about it, the less interested I was in following up on that. Sure, it wasn’t like we were engaged or anything, but what’s the point of having a boyfriend if he blows you off the first time you need him?
On the other hand, finally getting laid would be nice …
I’d completely forgotten about Reese until the doorbell rang just after seven that evening. By that point I was halfway through a second bottle of wine, which was half a bottle firmly over my limit. I opened the door to find him standing on my porch with a bag of Chinese in one hand and a six-pack of beer in the other. I ran my eyes up and down his strong form, deciding he looked fantastic.
I wanted to bite him.
Yeah, definitely over my limit on the vino—I’d had more to drink in this one weekend than the past two months combined. Too bad I couldn’t bring myself to care.