“He came by again last night,” I said. “He sits out there like he’s waiting for me to sneak out.”
“If he gave a crap, he’d be at your door on his knees, begging for forgiveness.” She made a face, shifting in her seat. Now she really was huge; she couldn’t even sit against the table, her walk reduced to what could only be politely called a waddle. “I’m so hormonal right now I could kill him with my bare hands.”
I didn’t say anything. You can’t just turn your heart off like a faucet; you have to go to the source and dry it out, drop by drop.
It was around midnight a few nights later when I heard something ping off my bedroom window. I lay in bed, listening to pebble after pebble bounce off until I finally went and opened it up, sticking my head out. I could barely see Macon in the shadows of the side yard, but I knew he was there.
“Halley,” I heard him whisper. “Come out. I have to talk to you.”
I didn’t say anything, watching my parents’ window for the sudden light that meant they’d heard too, and I almost hoped they had.
“Please,” he said. “Just for a second. Okay?”
I shut the window without answering, then walked down the back stairs and even let the screen door slam a little bit behind me. I didn’t care about being careful anymore.
He was in the side yard, by the juniper bushes, and as I came around the corner he walked toward me, stepping out of the shadows. “Hey.”
“Hi,” I said.
A pause. He said, “How are you feeling? How’s your wrist?”
He waited, like he expected me to say more. I didn’t.
“Look,” he began, “I know you’re mad that I didn’t show up at the hospital, but I had a good reason. Your parents would’ve been upset enough without having to see me. Plus I had to walk to a phone and get a ride because my car was totaled, and ...”
As he talked I just watched his face, wondering what it was that I’d ever thought was so magical about him. I had been fascinated by the things he’d shown me, but they were all just sleight of hand, quarters pulled from children’s ears. Anyone can do that trick, if they know how. It’s nothing special.
He was still talking. “... and I’ve been coming by all week ’cause I wanted to explain, but you wouldn’t come out and I couldn’t call you, and...”
“Macon,” I said, holding up my hand. “Just stop, okay?”
He looked surprised. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he said, and I wondered which hurt he meant, exactly. “I just freaked out. But I’m sorry, Halley, and I’ll make it up to you. I need you. I’ve been miserable ever since this happened.”
“Yeah?” I said, not believing a word.
“Yeah,” he said softly, and reached out to put his arms around my waist, brushing my bruised ribs and hurting me again. “I’ve been going crazy.”
I stepped back, out of his reach, and crossed my arms against my chest. “I can’t see you anymore,” I said to him.
He blinked, absorbing this. “Your parents will get over that,” he said easily, and I knew he’d said this many times before. Everything, each line I’d held close to my heart, had been said a million times to a million other girls under their windows and in their side yards, on back streets and in backseats, in dark rooms at parties, with the door locked tight.
“This isn’t about my parents,” I said. “This is about me.”
“Halley, don’t do this.” He ducked his head, that old hangdog P.E. look. “We can work this out.”
“I don’t think so,” I said. The truth was I knew, after all those flat January days, that I deserved better. I deserved I love yous and kiwi fruits and flowers and warriors coming to my door, besotted with love. I deserved pictures of my face in a million expressions, and the warmth of a baby’s kick under my hand. I deserved to grow, and to change, to become all the girls I could ever be over the course of my life, each one better than the last.
“Halley, wait,” he called out after me as I backed away. “Don’t go.”
But I was already gone, working a little magic of my own, vanishing.
I didn’t see her right away as I came inside the back door, easing it shut behind me. Not until I turned around, in the dark, and the room was suddenly bright all around me. My mother, in her bathrobe, was standing with her hand on the light switch.
“So,” she said, as I stood there blinking. “Things are right back to the way they were, I see.”
“Wasn’t that our friend Macon?” She said it angrily. “Does he ever come around in broad daylight? Or does he only work under cover of darkness?”
“Mom, you don’t understand.” I was going to tell her then that he was gone, maybe even that she was right.
“I understand that even that boy almost killing you is not enough for you to learn a lesson. I cannot believe you would just go right back out there to him, like nothing had changed, after what happened to you. After what he did.”
“I had to talk to him,” I said. “I had to-”
“We have not discussed this because you were hurt, but this is not going to happen. Do you understand? If you don’t have the sense to stay away from that boy, I will keep you away from him.”
“Mom.” I couldn’t believe she was doing it again. She was taking this moment, this time when I was strongest, away from me.
“I don’t care what I have to do,” she said, her voice low and even. “I don’t care if I have to send you away or switch schools. I don’t care if I have to follow you myself twenty-four hours a day, you will not see him, Halley. You will not destroy yourself this way.”
“Why are you just assuming I’m going back to him?” I asked her, just as she was drawing in breath to make another point. “Why don’t you ask me what I said to him out there?”
She shut her mouth, caught off guard. “What?”
“Why don’t you ever wait a second and see what I’m planning, or thinking, before you burst in with your opinions and ideas? You never even give me a chance.”
“Yes, I do,” she said indignantly.
“No,” I said. “You don’t. And then you wonder why I never tell you anything or share anything with you. I can never trust you with anything, give you any piece of me without you grabbing it to keep for yourself.”