“What did you say to her?” my sister asked me, as we watched her come down the stairs.
“Nothing, really,” I said. I felt her looking at me, but this was partially true. Or true enough.
Kristy was at the front door, tray in hand, as my mother passed her. “Wine?” she offered.
My mother paused, about to demur politely, but instead she took a deep breath. “What is that wonderful smell?”
“Meatballs,” I said. “You want one?”
Again, I expected a no. But instead, she reached for a wineglass, took a sip, and nodded at me. “Yes,” she said. “I would love one.”
Now, as she stood with all of us in the front window, there was one last thing I was wondering about. I’d held off as long as I could, hoping someone would offer an explanation, but finally there was nothing to do but ask outright. “So,” I said, still looking out at the cars, “where’s Wes?”
I saw Monica and Kristy exchange a look. Then Kristy said, “He had to run some pieces down to the coast this morning. But he said he’d stop by on his way back, to see if we needed him.”
“Oh,” I said. “Right.”
An awkward silence followed this, during which I, and everyone else, just stared out at the rain. Gradually, though, I became aware of someone sighing heavily. Then clearing her throat. Repeatedly.
“Are you okay?” Bert asked Kristy.
She nodded, letting loose with another vehement a-hem. I glanced over at her, only to find her staring at me. “What?” I said.
“What?” she repeated. Clearly, she was annoyed. “What do you mean, what?”
“I mean,” I said, somewhat confused, “what’s the problem?”
She rolled her eyes. Beside her, Monica said, “Donneven.”
“Kristy.” Delia shook her head. “This isn’t the time or the place, okay?”
“The time or the place for what?” Caroline asked.
“There is never,” Kristy said adamantly, “a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”
“Throbbing?” my mother said, leaning forward and looking at me. “Who’s throbbing?”
“Macy and Wes,” Kristy told her.
“We are not,” I said indignantly.
“Kristy,” Delia said helplessly. “Please God I’m begging you, not now.”
“Wait a second, wait a second.” Caroline held her hands up. “Kristy. Explain.”
“Yes, Kristy,” my mother said, but she was looking at me. Not really mad as much as confused. Join the club, I thought. “Explain.”
Bert said, “This ought to be good.”
Kristy ignored him, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “Wes wants to be with Macy. And Macy, whether she’ll admit it or not, wants to be with Wes. And yet they’re not together, which is not only unjust, but really, when you think about it, tragical.”
“That’s not a word,” Bert pointed out.
“It is now,” she said. “How else can you explain a situation where Wes, a truly extraordinary boy, would be sent packing in favor of some brainiac loser who severed ties with Macy because she didn’t take her job at the library seriously enough and, even worse, because she dared to say she loved him?”
“Why,” I said, feeling as embarrassed while this was broadcast as I had been the first time she’d stated it aloud, “do we have to keep talking about this?”
“Because it’s tragical!” Kristy said.
“Jason decided on the break because you told him you loved him?” my mother asked me.
“No,” I said. “Yes. Not exactly. It’s a long story.”
“I’ll tell you what it is,” Kristy said. “It’s wrong. You should be with Wes, Macy. The whole time you guys were hanging out, talking about how you were both with other people, it was so obvious to everyone. It was even obvious to Wes. You were the only one who couldn’t see it, just like you can’t see it now.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Monica said, picking some lint off her apron.
“Wes never felt that way,” I told her. I was fully aware that my mother—and Caroline, not to mention everyone else—was listening, but somehow I didn’t care. Too much had happened this night already. “He was always going back to Becky, just like I was going back to Jason.”
“That’s not true,” she said.
“It is true. He’s been back with her. For weeks,” I told her.
“No,” she said, shaking her head.
“But I saw them together. At the World of Waffles. They were—”
“Breaking up,” she finished for me. “That was the night he saw you at Milton’s, right, and he said he had an appointment?”
I nodded, still confused.
“He was on his way to break up with her.” She paused for a second, as if she could see this sinking in, all finally coming together. “He wants to be with you, Macy. Now if it was me, I would have told you that night, but he’s not like that. He wanted to be free, totally in the clear, before he let you know how he feels. He’s just been waiting for you, Macy.”
“No,” I said.
“Yes. Now, I’ve been telling him to just come over here and tell you, and ask you if you feel the same way,” she said. “But he’s not like that. He has to do it in his own way. In his own time.”
Like the final question, I thought. He wasn’t waiting to torture me, or because he didn’t know it. He just wanted to get it right. Whatever that means.
Everyone was looking at me. Once, I thought, my life was private. Now the entire world was into my business, if not my heart. But, I thought, looking across their expectant faces, this wasn’t really the whole world. Just mine.
“He came over today,” I said slowly, all of this sinking in. “This morning.”
“So what happened?” Kristy asked.
I glanced at my mother, waiting for her to realize I’d broken her rules. Instead, she was just looking at me, her head slightly cocked to the side, as if she was seeing something in me she hadn’t before.
“Nothing,” I said. “I mean, he just asked me if this, the way things are now, was what I wanted.”
“And what did you say?”
“I said it was,” I told her.
“Macy!” Kristy smacked her hand to her forehead. “God! What were you thinking?”