The Truth About Forever

Author: P Hana

Page 20

   

“Okay,” I said, taking the napkin and folding it. “Thanks again. I had a really good time.”

“Yeah?” She smiled at me, surprised. “I’m glad. Drive safe, you hear?”

I nodded, and she cranked the engine, then pulled away from the curb, beeping the horn as she turned the corner.

I’d just unlocked my door when the Bertmobile pulled up beside me. Kristy was leaning forward from the backseat, hand on the radio: I could hear the dial moving across stations, from static to pop songs to some thumping techno bass beat. She looked across Wes, who was digging in the glove compartment, right at me.

“Hey,” she said, “you want to come out with us?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “I really have to go—”

Kristy twisted the dial again, and the beginning of a pop song blasted out, someone shrieking “Baaaaby!” at full melodic throttle. Bert and Wes both winced.

“—home,” I finished.

Kristy turned down the volume, but not much. “Are you sure?” she said. “I mean, do you really want to pass this up? How often do you get to ride in an ambulance?”

One time too many, I thought.

“It’s a refurbished ambulance,” Bert grumbled.

“Whatever,” Kristy said. To me she added, “Come on, live a little.”

“No, I’d better go,” I said. “But thanks.”

Kristy shrugged. “Okay,” she told me. “Next time, though, okay?”

“Right,” I said. “Sure.”

I stood there and watched them, noting how carefully Bert turned around in the opposite driveway, the way Wes lifted one hand to wave as they pulled away. Maybe in another life, I might have been able to take a chance, to jump into the back of an ambulance and not remember the time I’d done it before. But risk hadn’t been working out for me lately; I needed only to go home and see my computer screen to know that. So I did what I always did these days, the right thing. But before I did, I glanced in my side mirror, catching one last look at the Bertmobile as it turned a far corner. Then, once they were gone, I started my engine and headed home.

Chapter Five

Dear Jason,

I received your email, and I have to say I was surprised to learn that you felt I’d been

Dear Jason,

I received your email, and I can’t help but feel that maybe you should have let me know if you felt our relationship was

Dear Jason,

I received your email, and I can’t believe you’d do this to me when all I did was say I love you, which is something most people who’ve been together can

No, no, I thought, and definitely, no.

It was Monday morning, and even with two full days to craft a response to Jason’s email, I had nothing. The main problem was that what he’d written to me was so cold, so lacking in emotion, that each time I started to reply, I tried to use the same tone. But I couldn’t. No matter how carefully I worked at it, by the time I finished all I could see was the raw sadness in the lines as I scanned them, all my failings and flaws cropping up in the spaces between the words. So finally, I decided that the best response—the safest—was none at all. Since I hadn’t heard from him, I assumed he’d accepted my silence as agreement. It was probably just what he wanted anyway.

As I drove to the library to begin another week at the info desk, I got stuck behind an ambulance at a stoplight, which made me think, as I had pretty frequently since Friday, about Wish Catering. I’d already had to confess about my new job to my mother, after she found my wine-stained shirt in the laundry room soaking in Shout. That’s what I get for following instructions.

“But honey,” she said, her voice more questioning than disapproving, but it was early yet, “you already have a job.”

“I know,” I said, as she took another doubtful look at the shirt, eyeing the stain, “but I bumped into Delia on Friday at the supermarket, and she was all frazzled and short-handed, so I offered to help her out. It just kind of happened.” This last part, at least, was true.

She shut the washer, then turned and looked at me, crossing her arms over her chest. “I just think,” she said, “that you might get overwhelmed. Your library job is a lot of responsibility. Jason is trusting you to really give it your full attention.”

This would have been, in any other world, the perfect time to tell my mother about Jason’s decision and our break. But I didn’t. I knew my mother thought of me as the good daughter, the one she could depend on to be as driven and focused as she was. For some reason, I was sure that Jason’s breaking up with me would make me less than that in her eyes. It was bad enough that I assumed I wasn’t up to Jason’s standards. Even worse would be for her to think so.

“Catering is just a once in a while thing,” I said now. “It’s not a distraction. I might not even do it again. It was just . . . for fun.”

“Fun?” she said. Her voice was so surprised, as if I’d told her that driving nails into my arms was, also, just that enjoyable. “I would think it would be horrible, having to be on your feet all the time and waiting on people . . . plus, well, that woman just seemed so disorganized. I’d go crazy.”

“Oh,” I said, “that was just when they were here. On Friday night, they were totally different.”

“They were?”

I nodded. Another lie. But my mother would never have understood why, in some small way, the mayhem of Delia’s business would appeal to me. I wasn’t even sure I could explain it myself. All I knew was that the rest of the weekend had been a stark contrast to those few hours on Friday night. During the days, I’d done all the things I was supposed to: I went to yoga class, did laundry, cleaned my bathroom, and tried to compose an email to Jason. I ate lunch and dinner at the same time both days, using the same plate, bowl, and glass, washing them after each meal and stacking them neatly in the dish rack, and went to bed by eleven, even though I rarely fell asleep, if at all, before two. For forty-eight hours, I spoke to no one but a couple of telemarketers. It was so quiet that I kept finding myself sitting at the kitchen table listening to my own breathing, as if in all this order and cleanliness I needed that to prove I was alive.

“Well, we’ll just see how it goes, okay?” my mother had said as I reached over and turned on the washer. The water started gurgling, tackling the wine stain. “The library job is still your first priority. Right?”

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