On my way to Kristy’s, I slowed down in front of Delia’s house, peering through the front window. I could see Pete walking with Avery in his arms, rocking her, and Delia beyond him, stirring something on the stove as Lucy sat at her feet, stacking blocks on top of each other. I knew she would have been happy to see me, but instead I just watched them for a second, feeling sort of sad. It was as if everything had closed up and grown over my absence, like I’d never been there at all.
When I pulled in the driveway of the doublewide, I could see the light of the TV through the window. As I got out of my car and started up the steps, Bert came out of the front door. He was in khakis and a collared golf shirt that looked to be polyester, and he reeked of cologne. I actually smelled him before I saw him.
“Hey,” I said. I was trying not to wince. “You look nice.”
He smiled, obviously pleased. “Got a date,” he said, hooking his fingers in his pockets and leaning back on his heels. “Going out to dinner.”
“That’s great,” I said. “Who’s the girl?”
“Her name’s Lisa Jo. I met her at the Armageddon social. She’s, like, an expert on the Big Buzz. Last summer, she went out west with her dad and recorded evidence of it.”
“Really.” A female Bert. I couldn’t even imagine.
“Yup.” He hopped off the step and started down the walk. “See you later.”
“Bye,” I said, watching as he cut through the garden, down the winding path that led back to his house. “Have fun.”
I pulled open the doublewide door and called out a hello, then stepped inside. There was no answer, and I glanced down the hallway to Kristy’s room: the door was open, the light off. Looking the other way, I saw only Monica sitting on the couch, staring at the TV.
“Hey,” I said again, and she turned her head slightly, finally seeing me. “Where’s Kristy?”
“Out,” she replied.
“With Baxter?” She nodded. “Oh,” I said, crossing the room and sitting down on the ottoman in front of Stella’s chair. “I thought maybe she’d be in tonight.”
It was just too damn ironic that, in desperately seeking conversation, I’d ended up with, of all people, Monica. What was even sadder was that I stayed where I was, making various stabs at it anyway.
“So,” I said, as she flipped channels, “what’s been going on?”
“Nothing.” She paused on a rap video, then moved on. “You?”
“I’ve been grounded,” I said, a bit too eagerly. “I mean, I still am grounded, technically. I’m not supposed to be here . . . but I got this email from my boyfriend, and it kind of flipped me out. It’s just . . . I feel like everything’s changing, you know?”
“Mmm-hmm,” she said sympathetically.
“It’s just weird,” I said, wondering why I was telling her all this, and yet fully unable to stop, “I don’t know what to do.”
She took in a breath, and for a second I thought I might actually get a full sentence. But then she sighed and said, “Uh-huh. ”
Clearly, this was not what I needed. So I said my good-byes, leaving Monica still flipping channels, and drove back into town. And there, at a traffic light by the Lakeview Mall, I finally found what I was looking for.
Wes. He was across the way, facing me, and I flicked my lights at him. When the light changed, he pulled into the lot in front of Milton’s Market while I turned around and doubled back to meet him.
“I thought you were grounded,” he said, as I got out of my car and walked over to where he was standing in front of the truck. I couldn’t believe how happy I was to see him.
“I am,” I said. “I’m at yoga.”
He looked at me, raising his eyebrows, and I felt myself smile, suddenly feeling reassured. Of course I wouldn’t go back to Jason. Of course I wasn’t the same girl again. It had just taken seeing Wes to remind me.
“Okay, so I’m not at yoga,” I said. I shook my head. “God, this night has just been . . . I don’t know. Weird. I just needed to get out. Too much to think about.”
He nodded, running a hand through his hair. “I know the feeling.”
“So what are you doing?” I asked. “Working?”
“Um,” he said, glancing at the truck, “not really. I took the night off. I have a bunch of stuff I have to get done.”
I looked at my watch, then said, “I’m have another hour before I’m due home. You want company?”
“Um,” he said again. I noticed this, for some reason. In fact, as I stood there, I noticed that he was jumpy, nervous even. “Better not. I’ve got to meet with this client at seven-thirty. You’d be late.”
“Oh.” I tucked a piece of hair behind my ear, and neither of us said anything for a minute, a silence more awkward than any I’d ever felt between us. Something’s going on, I thought, and immediately I flashed back to that night at the hospital, when I’d cried. Maybe it had been too much, and had freaked him out. We’d only talked on the phone since then, hadn’t seen each other. For all I knew, this change had happened ages ago, and I was only just catching up with it now.
“It’s just,” he said, as I turned my head, watching a car pass by, “just this thing I have to do. You wouldn’t want to come.”
I felt my body reacting, my posture straightening, as I shifted into the defensive mode I knew so well. “Yeah, I should go anyway,” I said.
“Well, hang out for a second,” he said. “What’s been going on?”
“Not much.” I looked at my watch. “God, I’m gonna go. It’s stupid for me to even be risking this, with everything that’s happened. And I have this email from Jason to answer.”
“Jason?” He looked surprised. “Really.”
I nodded, flipping my car keys in my hand. “I don’t know, he’s having some problems, we’re in touch. He wants to get back together, I think.”
“Is that what you want?”
“I don’t know,” I said, even though I knew it wasn’t. “Maybe.”
He was looking at me now: I had his full attention. Which was why I turned my back and started walking to my car.
“Macy,” he said, “hold on a second.”
“I really have to go,” I told him. “I’ll see you around.”