“Look,” I said, and now I was starting to get a little pissed. “I was honest with you.”
“Oh, well let’s just give you a medal, then!” he said, clapping his hands. “You break up with me because I might really like you, enough to look past just hooking up for the summer, and now I’m the bad guy?”
“Okay,” I said, “so you would have rather I lied and said I felt the same way, then dumped you a month later instead?”
“Which would have been just so inconvenient,” he said sarcastically, “making you miss Mr. Spinnerbait and that opportunity.”
I rolled my eyes. “Is that what this is about?” I asked him. “You’re jealous?”
“That would make it simple, wouldn’t it?” he said, nodding. “And Remy likes simple. You think you have everything figured out, that you can chart my reaction and what I’m saying on some little graph you keep tucked away. But life isn’t like that.”
“Oh, really?” I said. “Then what is it like? You tell me. ”
He leaned in very close to me, lowering his voice. “I meant what I said to you. I wasn’t playing some kind of summer game. Everything I said was true, from the first day. Every goddamn word.”
My mind flitted back then, over the challenges, the jokes, the half-sung songs. What meaningful truth was there in that? It had only been that first day that he’d said anything big, and that was just-
There was a whirring noise behind me, and next Lissa’s voice, slight and tentative. “Um, Remy?” she asked, then cleared her throat, as if realizing how she sounded. “We’re going to miss the beginning of the movie.”
“Okay,” I said, over my shoulder. “I’ll be right there.”
“We’re done anyway,” Dexter explained, saluting the truck. To me he added, “That’s what this has been all about for you, correct? Making it clear. That you and me-it was nothing more than what you’ll have with Spinnerbait boy, or the guy after that, or the guy after that. Right?”
For one split second, I wanted to tell him he was wrong. But there was something in the way he said this, a cocky angriness, that stopped me. He’d said himself I was a bitch, and once I would have taken pride in that. So sure, okay. I’d play.
“Yeah,” I said, shrugging. “You’re right.”
He just stood there, looking at me, as if I had actually changed before his eyes. But this was the girl I’d been all along. I’d just hidden her well.
I started to walk away, toward the truck. Paul opened the back door for me. “Is he bothering you?” he asked, his face serious. “Because if he is-”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “It’s fine. We’re done.”
“Young knight!” Dexter yelled at Paul, just as he was shutting the door. “Be forewarned, when she does have the fountain drink, she has a vicious arm on her. She will peg you, my good man. When you least see it coming!”
“Let’s go,” Paul said, and Trey nodded, starting to back up.
As we drove away I was determined not to look back. But in Lissa’s side mirror, I could still see him standing there, shirttails flapping, arms spread, up in the air, as if waving us off on a grand trip while he stayed behind. Bon voyage, take care. Go in peace. Huffah.
The next day when I got back from spending the night at Lissa’s, my mother was home. I dropped my keys on the side table, my purse on the stairs, and was just starting into the kitchen when I heard her.
“Don?” she called out, her voice bouncing down the hallway that led to the new wing. “Honey? Is that you? I took an earlier flight, thought I could surprise-” She rounded the corner, the sandals she was wearing clicking across the floor, then stopped when she saw it was me. “Oh, Remy. Hello. I thought you were Don.”
“Obviously,” I said. “How was Florida?”
“Heavenly!” She walked over and hugged me, pulling me close against her. She had a nice tan and a new haircut, shorter and streaked with a bit of blond, as if in Florida you are required by law to go tropical. “Just wonderful. Invigorating. Rejuvenating!”
“Wow,” I told her as she released me, stepping back. “All that in only three days?”
“Oh,” she sighed, walking ahead of me into the kitchen, “it was just what I needed. Things have been so busy and stressful since the wedding, and then before the wedding with all the planning and organizing… it was just too much, you know?”
I decided not to point out how little wedding planning she had actually done, figuring she was going somewhere with this. So instead I just leaned against the sink as she pulled an Ensure out of the fridge, popping the little tab top and taking a sip.
“But once I was there,” she said, pressing a hand to her heart and closing her eyes, dramatically. “Sheer heaven. The surf. The sunsets. Oh, and my fans. I just felt like I was finally myself again. You know?”
“Yeah,” I agreed, although it had been a while since I’d felt anything like myself. All night I’d kept seeing Dexter in my mind, arms waving, calling after me.
“So I came home on an earlier flight, hoping to share this new feeling of contentment with Don, but-he’s not here.” She took another sip of her Ensure, glancing out the kitchen window. “I guess I was just feeling hopeful.”
“He hasn’t been around at all,” I told her. “I think he worked, like, all weekend.”
She nodded gravely, putting the Ensure down on the counter. “It’s been such a problem for us. His work. My work. All the details of each. I feel like we haven’t even had a chance to really bond as husband and wife yet.”
Uh-oh, I thought again, as a warning bell sounded softly in my head. “Well,” I began, “you’ve only been married a couple of months.”
“Exactly,” she said. “And while I was gone, I realized that we really have to focus on this marriage. The work can wait. Everything can wait. I think I’ve been guilty too long of putting other things first, but not this time. I just know things are going to be better now.”
Okay. So that sounded positive. “That’s great, Mom.”
She smiled at me, pleased. “I really believe it, Remy. We may have had a bumpy adjustment, but this one’s for good. I’m finally realizing what it takes to really be a partner. And it just feels great.”