For a second, I thought that was it. She was saying no, and there was nothing we could do about it. My mother knew this, too, I could tell by the way she stepped back, nodding her head. “Of course,” she said. “I understand completely.”
For a second none of us said anything, and I wondered if, in the end, this is how all disputes are settled, with a shared silence as things become equal. You take something from me, I take something from you. We all want balance, one way or another.
“But,” Caroline said, “I suppose I could stick around. It’s just one night, right?”
“Yes,” my mother said, as Caroline lifted the camera to her eye. “It’s just one night.”
So Caroline stayed, first taking pictures until dark, then going inside, where she and my mother circled each other warily but politely, until we all went to bed. As usual, I couldn’t sleep, and after an hour or so of tossing and turning I climbed out onto my rooftop and stared down at Wes’s work on the grass before me. The sculptures looked so out of place to me there, as if they’d been dropped from the sky.
I dozed until about three A.M., then woke up to feel a breeze blowing through my open window. Regardless of my mother’s insistence, the weather was clearly changing. Sitting up, I pushed aside my curtain, looking out over the roof to the lawn. All of the sculptures had parts that were now spinning madly, whistling, buzzing, calling. The noise was loud enough to drown out everything. I couldn’t believe I’d even been able to sleep through it. I lay back down and listened for another hour or so, waiting for it to stop, for the wind to die back down, but it never did. If anything it grew louder, then louder still, and I thought I’d never get to sleep again. But somehow, I did.
Macy. Wake up.
I sat up, fast, my father’s voice still in my head. It’s a dream, I told myself, but in those first moments of waking confusion, I wasn’t sure.
The last time I’d heard those words, that way, it had been winter. Cold, the trees bare. Now, a summer breeze, strong but sweet smelling, was blowing. A dream, I thought, and slid back down to put my cheek against my pillow, closing my eyes. But also like the last time, about three minutes later something made me get up.
I looked out the window, at first not believing my eyes. But after I blinked once, then twice, to make sure I was really awake, there was no denying that Wes was standing in my front yard, the truck parked at the curb behind him. It was seven A.M. and he was just looking at all his pieces, at their movement, and then, as I shifted, leaning in closer to my screen, at me.
For a second, we just stared at each other. Then I walked to my bureau, pulled on a T-shirt and a pair of shorts, slipped down the staircase quietly, and went outside.
The wind and the whirligigs moving made everything feel in motion. The mulch that the landscapers had laid around the beds was now scattered across the grass and the street, and small cyclones of flower petals and grass clippings were swirling here and there in smaller gusts. In the midst of all of it was Wes, and now me, standing still, with the length of the walk between us.
“What are you doing here?” I asked him. I had to raise my voice, almost yell, but the wind seemed to pick it up and carry it away almost instantly. Somehow, though, he heard me.
“I was dropping something off,” he said. “I didn’t think anyone would be up.”
“I wasn’t,” I said. “I mean, not until just now.”
“I tried to call you,” he said now, taking a step toward me. I did the same. “After that night. Why didn’t you answer?”
Another big gust blew over us. I could feel my shorts flapping around my legs. What is going on, I thought, glancing around.
“I don’t know,” I said, pushing my hair out of my eyes. “I just . . . it just seemed like everything had changed.”
“Changed,” he said, taking another step toward me. “You mean, on the Fourth? With us?”
“No,” I said, and he looked surprised, hurt even, but it passed quickly, and I wondered if I’d been wrong, and it hadn’t been there ever, at all. “Not that night. The night I saw you. You were so—”
I trailed off, not knowing what word to use. I wasn’t used to this, having a chance to explain a good-bye or an ending.
But Wes was waiting. For whatever word came next.
“It was weird,” I said finally, knowing this didn’t do it justice, but I had to say something. “You were weird. And I just thought that it had been too much, or something.”
“What had been too much?”
“That night. Me being so upset at the hospital,” I said. He looked confused, like I wasn’t making sense. “Us. Like we were too much. You were so strange, like you didn’t want to face me—”
“It wasn’t like that,” he said. “It was just—”
“I followed you,” I told him. “To say I was sorry. I went to the Waffle House, and I saw you. With Becky.”
“You saw me,” he repeated. “That night, after we talked outside Milton’s?”
“It just made it clear,” I told him. “But even before, we were so awkward, talking, and it just seemed like maybe everything on the Fourth had been too much for you, and I felt embarrassed. ”
“That’s why you said that about Jason,” he said. “About getting back together. And then you saw me, and—”
I just shook my head, letting him know he didn’t have to explain to me. “It doesn’t matter,” I said. “It’s fine.”
“Fine,” he repeated, and I wondered why it was I kept coming back to this, again and again, a word that you said when someone asked how you were but didn’t really care to know the truth.
Something blew up behind me, hitting my leg, and I glanced down: it was a bit of white fabric, blown loose from someone’s backyard or clothesline. A second later it took flight again, rising up and over the bushes beside me. “Look,” I said, “We knew Jason and Becky would be back, the break would end. This isn’t a surprise, it’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s what we wanted. Right?”
“Is it?” he asked. “Is it what you want?”
Whether he intended it to be or not, this was the final question, the last Truth. If I said what I really thought, I was opening myself up for a hurt bigger than I could even imagine. I didn’t have it in me. We’d changed and altered so many rules, but it was this one, the only one when we’d started, that I would break.