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VI: For Miles and Miles
Dianna leaves the kitchen before I could say anything else. Her shoulders are tense and her steps are hurried. Even if I couldn’t see her face, I could tell that she is trying not to cry in public. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen her walk away from me and I find myself wishing it would be the last.
I lean back on the kitchen counter and breathe. My chest feels tight; I could feel my heart beat against it.
From the corner of my eye, I see Rob shaking his head with a smile while pouring me a drink. Kayla is gone too.
“How’ve you been, man? Haven’t seen you in a while.”
I turn to him and shrug, “Same, same.”
He hands me the drink and we tip our shot glasses. We drink. I welcome the burn on my throat from the liquor. My body warms up.
Rob offers me a swig of pineapple juice but I refuse. “Still work at the school?”
“Yeah,” I set the glass down. “I just finished taking GRE prep classes. Might apply for Grad school in the fall.”
“Yeah, man. Been taking classes too since work gets to pay for classes. I’m making bank dude. It’s crazy.” He takes out a couple of Budlights from the fridge and hands me one.
“Good to hear, bro.”
“Just got back from Vegas. Want to move there, man. You should come with us next time we go. Take time off.”
I shake my head in amusement, reminded of the way Rob likes to party.
Di and Kayla walks back to the kitchen. I try to catch Di’s eyes but she looks at the way Kayla and Rob seem to have fallen back together. Her eyebrows are drawn in.
“Hey,” I reach for her hand and I’m thankful she turns to me. She still wouldn’t meet my eyes though. When I urge her closer, she doesn’t pull away.
Rob hands Kayla another beer and they walk back towards the living room where the party is now in full swing. Di keeps her eyes trained on Rob like a hawk.
“Rob’s not going to do anything if he knows what’s good for him,” I try to assure her.
She scoffs. “It’s Rob.”
“He just likes to have fun, babe. But he’s a good guy.” I pull her back against me and place a kiss on the back of her ear.
“You know Rob and I kind of went out right?” She looks at me this time, raising an eyebrow as if to gauge my reaction. I knew that already, but I get the feeling she has more to say about it.
Around us, a couple of Rob’s frat brothers mill around with drinks. One, I knew as Mike, pours shots of Crown Black and hands them out to eager girls. The girls are not more than 19 from the looks of it. Not a second older than Kayla.
Mike catches my eye and I nod a greeting. He offers me a drink and I shift around Di to reach it. Di gives me an annoyed look but says nothing about it. I take the shot.
It gives me a numb feeling.
“Before we met,” she says quietly. “It wasn’t serious but it went on for a while – up to the time you and I started talking.”
“You didn’t tell me this,” I snapped. The alcohol seeps into my system, blanketing my sense of logic. I grow irate.
“He was fooling around with another girl the same time he was dating me.”
I look at her, pissed. “The same way you were still with him while talking to me?”
“You know it wasn’t like that.”
“Then what the fuck—”
A squeal interrupts us and Di lurches forward before I could register what’s happening.
“Oh my god! I haven’t seen you in like for-ever!”
The rest of the night is blurred.
Between shots of Crown and a couple of Budlights, my handle on what happens around me is unstable.
I feel a pair of arms hold me around my waist and another holding me up under my pits. There are sounds of feet shuffling on the ground.
“Can you hold him up for a second so I can open the door?”
I felt the person’s reply more than I could hear it. Whoever it is, he or she must be holding me against something metal and cold. I hear a car door open and I am being ushered inside it.
“I know, sweetie, I already texted her. She’s on her way.”
“The fuck is Kay.”
Someone’s hand pushes down on my head as I’m lowered to the seat of the car.
“Gotta look for Kay.” I try to stand back up, but my body is uncooperative. Hands on my shoulders push me down. They pick up my feet and place them inside the car.
The passenger door is closed. I hear another door open.
“Thanks Mike. When you see Kay, can you please tell her we’re waiting in the car?”
“Sure thing. Drive safe.” At the mention of driving, I fumble around with my seatbelt and try to pull it across my body. I feel someone’s hands help me buckle it in.
There is shuffling next to me, so I turn towards it and focus my eyes. I recognize Dianna sitting in the driver’s seat. The driver’s door remains open.
“Are we leaving? Kay’s not here yet!”
“Jay, we’re not leaving yet. We’re inside the car.” She squeezes my knee. “Can you stay here for a second, baby? I think I see her by the door. I’ll just get her, OK?”
My head feels heavy, so I lean it against the passenger door window.
We’re moving now.
I turn my head to look around. There are oddly shaped shadows dancing across Dianna’s face.
She looks pretty under the stoplights.
When I open my eyes again, it’s dark except for the light coming from bathroom. I turn to my side and see Dianna walking towards the dresser in her underwear. She reaches behind her to unhook her bra and I watch her drop it on the laundry basket.
She disappears into the bathroom and I pass out again.
I feel arms slide around my middle. A kiss on my shoulder.
“I love you,” she says in lieu of good night.
A/N: I’m playing around with POVs - thanks for reading.
Part Five: Fresh Pair of Eyes
The sound of your phone wakes you up the next morning. You reach your hands towards the general direction of where the sound came from but when you can’t find the phone, you decide that you were just dreaming.
Except the phone goes off again.
Your vision is blurry when you open your eyes. They’re dry, so you immediately curse about forgetting to remove your contacts. You slide across the bed to feel for your phone in your purse, satisfied when you find it tucked in its front pocket. You pull it out and bring it closer to your face.
Your fingers slide across the screen automatically and you enter your passcode.
You have 6 unread text messages and 3 missed calls.
The first three are from Dianna.
Where did u go?
Jalen and I are waiting for you in the kitchen
You notice that you replied back to say “OK,” but didn’t see the rest of her messages.
Hey we’re leaving, come outside now
You close your eyes and groan, not looking forward to the talk she’s going to have with you about this. You’re dreading it. Finding the next couple messages from your brother makes you want to lock the door, hide under the blankets and wait until this blows over.
Kay, where the fuck are you?
Your reply indicates that you were so wasted last night. You check your call history and see that Jalen called you 5 times and only answered the 6th time.
The next message came from a number you don’t recognize, but your blood turns cold when you read what it says.
Had a good time with you last night ;)
You close your eyes again, willing your brain to remember what happened last night but it doesn’t.
You try not to panic, so you grab a pillow and place it over your face. It’s full of shame and embarrassment.
With a sigh, you remove the pillow from your face to sit up, only to catch a wave of nausea on your body’s ascent. Your head is pounding and you feel bile rise up to your throat. Next to your bed, you notice a trash can and silently thank Dianna for putting it there.
(She’s always on drunk-Kayla duty.)
You drop your head back down, willing for the nausea to go away, with lips firmly closed. Maybe you can sleep this off.
Maybe, you can sleep it all off and wake up ok.
By the time you finally roll out of bed and make it out of your room, it’s 3 o’clock. You didn’t puke but your body feels sluggish and you’re craving Chinese food. The sound of the TV entices you to the living room where you find Dianna using her laptop. When she hears your footsteps, she looks at you with an amused smile.
“Good morning, drunkie.”
You spy a bag of chips on the table, so you reach for it and grab a few bites. The salty taste momentarily satiates your craving.
You grunt in reply.
She snags the bag from your hands to grab some chips, and then sets the bag down between you.
“How much did you drink?” She asks you.
“I was so hungover this morning.”
“So, a lot.”
You shrug and pull out your phone to show her.
“Do you know who this person is?”
She shuffles next to you to look over your shoulder. When she peers at your phone, she makes a face.
“How the hell did he get my number?”
She sits up, looks at her laptop. She pauses and bites her lip. It looks like she’s contemplating on what to say next. You start to get scared of what she’s about to tell you. You decide you don’t want to hear it but it’s too late.
“Jalen and I couldn’t find you at the party for a while…”
That explains the text messages.
“He was pissed that we couldn’t find you, but he was kinda drunk too so I told him to stay in the car so I could look for you.”
You munch on more chips as some of your memories start to trickle in.
“…I found you with Rob by the door. I don’t know what happened before then. When I saw him, I told him to ‘fuck off.’”
You laugh at the idea of Dianna cursing someone off.
“I’m sorry,” you say quietly.
Dianna looks at you carefully, leaning next to you. She tucks a strand of your hair behind your ear.
“Don’t do that again,” she reprimands you.
“You and Rob?” You blurt out before you could stop yourself. There seems to be something between them, you noticed while at the party, although you are just too cowardly to ask.
“Me and Rob,” she says with finality.
“Freshman/sophomore year. Before Jalen,” she replies, waving her hand dismissively, “Such a man whore.” She laughs a little, rolling her eyes.
You’re a little relieved she’s not mad at you or giving you a longer lecture, and you look at her with more fondness than you could ever muster. Dianna has been and forever will be an older sister that you never had. It seems that she noticed the shift in your demeanor, so she loops her arm around your shoulders to pull you close.
You wonder where Jalen is.
“Jalen is at work.”
Dianna can read you so well.
She gives you one last squeeze before she retrieves her arm so she could finish what she is working on the computer. You both grow silent apart from the sound of the both of you chewing on some chips.
You stare at your phone for a second then unlock it. Your thumb swipes along the ridges of the home button as you read over Rob’s text again. You start to type.
Hi, what happened last night??
The blue chat bubble tells you that he owns an iPhone. You briefly wonder if he has the latest one when you receive a reply.
Let’s chat about it over coffee sometime.”
The lack of emoticon bugs you a little more than you’d like to admit.
How about tomorrow?
Sounds like a date.
Another sigh escapes your lips. You make a promise to yourself that you’ll never drink again.
idk what this is - just go with it for now
Our chairs were set up side by side, at a comfortable angle where she was facing me without being completely awkward. I crossed my legs and slumped back on my seat to suggest my deference — that I, at this moment, was at her mercy.
“So,” she croaked. I looked at her sympathetically as she cleared her throat.
“This is Victoria and I am a producer for the National Public Radio, here on behalf of Amnesty International. May I ask you a few questions?”
She held the microphone next to my mouth and looked at me nervously, when it should have been the other way around.
I was the subject matter; she was the writer.
Part Four: (I Was Not Ready) The Day You Gave Me Your Heart
I weave through a mob of people hanging around the front entrance to my friend’s house with Diana and Kayla in tow. Di is holding onto my shirt from behind, while she’s holding Kay’s hand to make sure she’s close.
(Last night, Di mentioned how she’s a little apprehensive about Kay coming with us to this party. I know that Kay drinks so I’m not really worried.
She’s been feeling tired lately. She hasn’t been eating much. I heard her puking in the bathroom this morning….)
We reach the kitchen area and I nod a greeting to my friend. He smiles and walks over to us. Di lets go of my shirt but doesn’t let go of Kay’s hand. She leans over to whisper something to Kayla, but keeps her brown eyes on the man approaching. I see my sister narrow her eyes for a second before putting on a polite smile.
“Good to see you, man.” We hug and shake hands. It’s been a while since I’ve been to one of his parties.
“Hey Diana.” He gives her a quick hug. Di pats his right shoulder in return. But when he sees Kayla, he pauses as if waiting to be introduced.
“This is my sister Kayla. Kay, this is Rob.” Kay lets go of Di’s hand to shake hands with him.
“Jalen, why is this the first time I’m meeting your sister?” He holds onto her hand longer than necessary, while my sister looks like she’s embarrassed. Or pained. Her eyes shift to Diana who’s offering her a tight smile. “Nice to meet you, Kay.”
“You too,” she replies, “And call me Kayla.”
“OK, Kayla.” He flashes her a grin and lets go, looking over to me then Di.
“The usual?” I nod.
Di holds up a hand to say no. ”You got cranberry? I’m DD tonight.”
“Do you have Grey Goose?” Kayla speaks up. “I don’t really like beer.”
“That’s my girl. There’s one in the freezer. Pineapple back?” Rob turns to a stack of red cups next to the fridge, taking three.
“Do you want a pineapple juice as your chaser?”
“Whatever you have.” Kayla opens the freezer to take out a bottle of Grey Goose and hands it to Rob. She then grabs a can of pineapple juice, the jugs of cranberry and OJ from the fridge, handing them to him.
I shake my head and smirk at her in amusement, then lean against the wall by the counter where Rob fixes the drinks. Di stands next to me and I drape an arm around her shoulders. She watches Kayla interact with him, and I look over to the party.
The living room is dark but lit enough that you could see people dancing. There’s a DJ set up in the corner with his headset on, bopping his head as he peers at his laptop. It’s Jacob, Rob’s frat brother. There’s about thirty something people in there—some of which are most likely underaged. Couple of the girls are bent over, shaking their hips. Couples grinding against each other. A group of girls is dancing in a circle. There are guys leaning against the wall clutching their red cups watching. Probably waiting for an opening.
The glass doors are open leading to the balcony where more people are standing around the keg. On a large blue cooler, there is a couple sucking face.
“Here, Jay.” Di says softly when she hands me my cup. I give her a kiss on the forehead in thanks before I sip. I taste the vodka, cran, and OJ.
“Damn Kayla! Who taught you how to drink? Jalen?” I hear Rob laugh and see Kayla smirking as she grabs a napkin to wipe her chin. On the table are two empty shot glasses.
“Diana,” she beams. Di laughs next to me.
“So that’s what you guys do at your little get-togethers. The fuck?” I smile.
“One more?” Kayla grabs the bottle and looks at me. She doesn’t hesitate in pouring three shots of Goose.
“Last one, Kay. That’s 3 in less than 10 minutes.” Di says before she looks at me with a furrowed look. Rob looks at me expectantly and I shake my head. He raises his hands as if in defense or in defeat, smiling while shaking his head.
I grab the shot glass and hold it up for a toast. Kayla holds my gaze for a second before looking towards Diana. Suddenly my brain catches up and I realize what she’s doing, what she’s saying, what she’s telling me to toast to. Di holds up her cup of cranberry juice but doesn’t say anything else. I couldn’t read her expression.
“To old friends and new!” Rob bellows.
We repeat the mantra and down our shots. Kayla makes a brave face after the shot, while Di giggles at her. Rob throws me a wink before he turns to Kayla.
“Come on, let’s dance.” He takes her hand and my sister goes willingly.
“Kay,” I warn her as Rob drags her into the crowd, while my sister giggles.
Di shifts and presses her body to my front. She stands between my legs so I hold her waist with my free hand.
“Does Kayla have her phone with her?”
“I think so, why?” I sip.
“You know Rob gets around.”
(Rob is one of the first friends I made in college. He joined a frat shortly after our freshman year. Even if I didn’t, he was cool enough to send me invitations to some of their frat parties.
I met Di through him.)
“Do you think Kay’s interested? She didn’t look like she was.” I look to the dancing crowd attempting to catch a glimpse of where Rob and my sister could be. Rob is a tall and built guy but in the dimly lit living room, it was really hard to find him.
“But you know how she gets when drinks.”
“Not really… though seems like you do.” My lips find the apple of her cheeks.
“She’s a crazy, angry drunk.”
“I’ve only seen her be tipsy once. She’s more giggly but not angry.” I don’t like what she’s insinuating. Again, I look to the dancing crowd and am relieved to find Rob and Kayla standing by the glass doors laughing.
Rob takes her hand and leads her out to the balcony. Kayla rests her elbows on the railing as she looks away from the party and towards the backyard. Meanwhile, Rob grabs two bottles from the cooler (without the kissing couple) and hands one to her. They chat and sip their drinks.
Di looks over and continues. ”She told me that she’s done few things when she’s drunk. She regrets it later. I mean, we all have. And Rob can be an ass about it.”
I turn back to her, mulling over something she says that catches my attention. There’s a double meaning to her statement. We had sex while drunk a few months ago, now we’re having a kid.
Something bubbles up inside me. What is she implying?
“No one’s fucking making you do anything you don’t want to.” I snap.
Di looks at me quickly with her eyes wide and teary. “Why are you snapping at me?”
“You’re talking about shit you regret—”
“—I’m talking about Kayla! What’s wrong with you?” She’s angry now, eyes are starting to tear up. She pushes off of me but I hold onto her waist.
There are legit tears in her eyes now. I don’t know what to do, so I bow my head down and hold onto her tighter.
“Sorry, I thought you were implying that you regret… you know.”
“I didn’t ask for this, neither did you. But we’re going to deal with it.”
Before I could answer, a new group of people walked into the kitchen with Rob. My sister was not with him. Di dabs a finger under her eyes to remove any stray tears. I bite my lip in remorse, while she turns her head to face the group.
“SHOTS! Jalen, ready for another round?”
“I’ll be right back. Gotta go to the bathroom,” Di mutters as she walks away.
Rob looks at me as he holds up a bottle of Crown Black. I shake my head, willing myself to ignore what just happened.
“Make mine a double.”
Part Three: Falling On Your Face
I hiked the purse further up on my shoulder as I exited Bath & Body Works, careful enough that I didn’t bump into anybody. Malls should install pedestrian stop lights or stop signs every where. I swear: some of these people walk exactly the way they drive.
Yet, as much as I disliked how busy the mall was on Saturdays, I was grateful for the distraction. Jalen was being moody and secretive—always walking into his room and closing the door every time he received a phone call. This past week, I woke up to him yelling at someone over the phone.
The parking lot was as chaotic as it was inside. I saw a few creepy cars stalking people across the lot for prime real estate parking. I lucked out on my spot and now, as I neared my car, I noticed a red Honda following behind me.
As I got inside the car, my phone rang.
“Hey, where are you?”
“I’m just leaving the mall. What’s up?”
“Are you driving?”
“No, I’m about to though.” I turned the ignition.
“I need to tell you something.”
The seriousness of his tone made me nervous. I grabbed the earphones for my iPhone and placed an earbud to my ear.
I set the car on reverse and pulled out of my parking spot.
“Can you just tell me now? I have my headset.”
Jalen sighed. I drove in silence, waiting for him to continue.
“I have something to tell you. Just… don’t get mad, ok? Don’t tell anyone until I tell you it’s all right.”
“What the hell. You’re scaring me.”
“It’s not bad, well, I don’t know you tell me.” His attempt at assuaging my worry failed.
The news felt like a punch in the gut and I struggled to take air into my lungs for a second. I heard my brother hold his breath, waiting for an outburst. Words felt trapped. I couldn’t offer him a reply straightaway.
A minute passed.
Then: “Are you fucking kidding me?!”
“Are you shitting me, Jalen?!”
Fearing for my safety, I pulled in to another parking lot and turned off the car. I leaned my head back against the headrest and sighed.
“She’s three months along this month. I… mom and dad don’t know yet. But I think we’re going to keep the baby.”
I closed my eyes.
A picture of my brother and his girlfriend when they were younger came to mind. In that picture, they were 22 and I was 18. The picture showed us all posing at a Sounders game. It wasn’t the first time I met her since she’s my friend’s older sister. That was their first date.
Now, two years later…
“Are you on your way home?”
“Um, no… not yet.”
Since we were kids, I’ve always known that my brother would do and say the right things. He didn’t always hang out with the smartest people, but his friends were nice to me. When I got teased by people or when I got in trouble, he took the blame. He protected me.
For some reason at this moment, I felt like I needed to protect him.
“Don’t say anything, ok? Di wants to tell her parents first.”
“C-can I be there when you tell mom and dad?”
“I’ll tell you when.”
“Are you going to be home tonight?”
“No, I’m staying at Di’s.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
“I-I’m proud of you.” I heard him smile.
I stayed in the car for a few more minutes in silence after we hung up. Then, I turned on the car and decided to drive back to the mall.
Part Two: Como se dice ‘carrots’
The sound of house keys were muffled when I slipped them into my right pocket. My jeans were a tight fit today. I jumped up in an effort to adjust, pulling on the fabric of my jeans down slightly to alleviate the discomfort. The clock read 6:53 pm and I’m hungry.
Kayla, my sister, was running late.
I make my way towards the street, nodding to my neighbor who was screwing on a green hose to the outdoor faucet. It looked like he was about to wash the green Prius in the drive way. The dude’s whipped or something because I always see him washing or detailing that car. It’s probably his mom’s. It looks like a chick’s car.
A pair of familiar headlights turned into the street—a white 2010 Acura TL that could probably use a car wash. The car stopped in front of the curb where I stood. “Roll Up” by Wiz Khalifa was blasting from the speakers.
“Sorry,” she said.
Just as I was pulling the car door shut, Kayla stepped on the gas. I buckled in while scanning with the car stereo, trying to find a better song.
Kayla has one hand on the wheel and another propped against the window, a hand cradling her head. Her lips were withdrawn, showing her dimples. From where I sat, she looked worried or confused.
Usually when she picked me up after she gets off work on Tuesday, she’s as hungry as I am. We throw out ideas on where to eat or what bars have happy hours at the time. Since she’s the driver, we’d go where she wants to go.
Wait, what the hell. She’s blushing and it’s not even that hot out.
For a second, I’m glad I’m dark enough that people don’t see me turn red unless I’m drinking. Light-skinned people can’t hide that well.
People act surprised when I tell them she’s my sister because she’s not Asian. I think it’s hilarious when you can tell people want to ask but they don’t want to sound racist. We once joked that she was a mail-order baby from Russia. That our parents were trying to adopt a white baby to do a reverse-racism experiment.
Kayla was a baby when my parents adopted her; I was 4. She knows she’s adopted and nobody cares.
(We act and talk the same. The only thing that’s different was that Kayla has brownish-green eyes and have freckles. I don’t, unless you count the freckles on my arms when I get sun burnt.)
“What?” I continued searching for a station. Foo Fighters, fuck yeah.
We stopped at a red light near the hospital, with the car positioned in a weird incline facing the crosswalk and the intersection. If the break pads ever wore off, we’d hit a bunch of people crossing the street like bowling pins.
10 points for that old dude.
20 for the homeless looking guy with a backpack.
50 for that one girl with the nice ass.
My eyes followed the girl walk across, head turning towards her general direction when I catch Kayla doing the same. She had both hands on the wheel now, at the 10-and-2.
She was chewing on her upper lip.
The light turned green and the car jerked forward in movement as we drive down the road before getting on the ramp to the highway. We passed a few buildings before the view changed into a scene with fast cars. Kayla remained quiet throughout the drive.
Oh yeah, I’m hungry.
“What do you want to eat, Kay?”
She scrunched her face at the nickname, but didn’t comment on it. Her eyes were glued to the road while tapped her fingers on the wheel to the beat. It’s Rihanna.
“Cool,” I replied at the same time she mumbled about her craving for tacos.
“How do you say ‘carrots’ in Spanish?”
She talked with her mouth full. There was a half-chewed carnita in there. Sometimes, Kayla eats like a dude when she’s hungry. Those carnita tacos on her plate didn’t stand a chance. When she looked up, she looked like a chipmunk with big eyes.
“Are you storing food for the winter?”
Her face scrunched, mouth open in mid-bite, eyes wide, and her eyebrows raised. Table manners suck.
“Jalen, are you high right now?”
I dipped a “Mexi-fry” in ketchup before popping it into my mouth.
“You look like a chipmunk with food in your mouth. Or a sock puppet. Close your mouth when you chew.”
“I don’t eat like a chipmunk. They nibble on their food and they have big teeth.”
“You just maul your food with your big teeth.”
She huffed, but quieted down again. With her arms crossed, she leaned her elbows down on the table while she waited for me to answer her original question. So I studied her between chomping down on my burrito and sipping a Dr. Pepper. Even if she tried to hide it, avoiding my stare and the slight pout on her face told me she’s kind of annoyed now.
When my parents took her home for the first time, my dad told me that Kayla’s real mom gave her up for adoption. I was 4 at the time so I told my dad she probably deserved it (and because I didn’t know better). But he did the psycho jumbo on me when he asked, ‘What if someone gave you up?’ It kinda fucked me up a little, to be honest, but also made me feel bad. Since then, I made sure she’d never feel abandoned.
If anyone asked, I’d deny having a weak spot for my sister.
“¿Cómo se dice ‘carrot’ en Espanol?” I started to say and she looks up. “‘Zanahoria.’ Spanish for ‘carrot.’”
“Oh.” She mumbles softly after a second.
I look to her plate and wasn’t surprised to find it empty. This girl can eat.
“Why do you ask?”
“I helped a couple of seniors look at recipes in Spanish online today. Just curious.”
Again, with the blushing. She started to rip her napkin in shreds—I fucking hated that.
“Maybe you can ask them to teach you how to cook next time.”
Rip. Rip. Rip.
“Or learn table manners, like keeping your mouth closed.” I sniped before feeling the shredded napkin pieces on my face and watched Kayla push away from the table to leave.
Emily stared at the word on her computer screen willing herself to accept the sentiment behind it. She had been trying to write in her blog for the last two hours but couldn’t find the right words to describe how she feels. She laid her head on her desk in frustration. How could anyone have this effect on her?
He has a girlfriend again. That girl probably couldn’t help it. He is
so cute such a man whore.
Accepting it was like admitting I’m fine with him making
adorable annoying faces at another girl without any hard feelings. Tolerating it made it seem like I had no choice, and that is it—end of story. It’s not like I’m in love with him…. Right?
Her eyes widened at the possibility. That’s impossible.
When she met Matthew, she was drawn to him right away. He sat in front of her in Sunday school. With his height, their Sunday school teacher wouldn’t notice her taking power naps behind him. Unfortunately, her naps did last long. By the time he turned around to shake her hand during “Getting To Know You,” she thanked God she hadn’t drooled in her sleep.
She hated to admit how much he impressed her that day. Something about the way he walked suggested that he was older—though she didn’t know by how much right away—as if he owned the place. At first she thought he was arrogant but when he spoke and the slightest dimple made an indentation on his left cheek, he was friendly and sincere. They became instant friends after discovering their birthdays were just 10 days apart and share the same Zodiac sign.She used to think it was *cough* Fate *cough* now, she was convinced it’s a stupid coincidence.
I don’t even know what I’d do if I was given a choice. A choice to do what? Be with him? Tell him not to go out with other people? Oh, God.
The idea of being with Matthew scared her. He’s 19! At 16, she had scarcely been in contact with boys, let alone become the object of any boy’s affection. The mere thought of being with Matthew is so ridiculous.
Her phone rang, allowing her to shake off her thoughts. It was Libby.
“You wouldn’t guess what we did, Emi!” Emily heard another squeal on the other line. It was Sarah, no doubt.
“We called KEMP and got a song dedication for you!”
She paused, holding her breath.
“Turn on your radio, they’re playing it right now!”
Her heart stopped. She doesn’t even remember pulling the phone with her when she moved towards the radio. The phone’s curly cord was caught against her computer chair, now on the floor.
Digital, digital get down, just you and me
You may be twenty thousand miles away but I can see ya
And baby, baby you can see me
“We had them dedicate it to Matthew!”
Amidst the squeals from her two best friends and the sound of the radio, she found her voice.
“WHAT? Oh my god, Libby, no!” Her ears felt warm when she realized what they had done. She jumped across her bed and buried her face into a pillow to scream.
“Sorry, Em. You should just tell him you like him—”
“—do you think they have KEMP in California?”
“Of course they do, Sarah, we did ask them to play ‘N Sync.”
“What do you think Emi?”
The song was still playing and her friends continued chatting on the phone, but all she could hear was the heavy pounding of her heart in her chest.
They stood in the rain for what seemed like ten years, on repeat. Years flashing by their eyes. He stared at her, wide-eyed, holding a blue and yellow umbrella, almost afraid to blink. She shrieked at god’s blessing and invoked a curse before giving him a hug. Ouch, he said, oh, when she clumsily stepped on his brown loafers.
Some things never changed.
The first thing he noticed was her eyes, naked with amusement. She always wore glasses. She now wears her hair short with bangs, slightly damp from the showers. He could tell she was hurrying to find cover when she ran into him the first time. Slightly taller, slimmer than what he imagined. He still felt a lot taller like last time, even now when she’s wearing three-inch heels.
Their meeting was coincidental. Serendipitous. He was visiting his dad, she was meeting her friends for lunch.
New York City seems to be that place for people. A place to meet, to lose, and to find each other once again.
He shook his head, apologizing for his awkwardness. She laughed refusing to accept his apology and began to walk. They surfaced the usual questions, falling into step, as if picking up from where they left off years ago. She teased him about his clothes, he lightly nudged her on the shoulders. No awkwardness, just playful banter.
“As a penguin.”
Filled with one-liners, their conversation fueled on. From seventeen and fourteen, to twenty-two and eighteen, to thirty-six and thirty-two.
He talked about his daughter and the ex-girlfriend that ran on him, she talked about her Master’s degree program for Art. She laughed when he asked about her hiding behind fruit stands when there was a boy she liked.
She wondered how he remembered. He said of course he’d remember.
All these years, she thought, he’ll always remember.
Part One: The Meeting
I walked briskly but without purpose; it was my early night and I’d been dying to get to the store to spend my first pay check. It was breezy so I zipped up my fleece—sure, it was the first day of Spring, but I don’t think the winter chill got the memo.
The sound of laughter caught my ears so I looked up, surprised to see parents on the sidelines watching kids kick around a soccer ball. One boy I recognized from day camp waved as he passed by on his way towards a woman, presumably his coach. She was holding a clipboard.
“Hi,” I waved back but the boy missed it.
Coach looked up and beamed. ”Hi!”
It took me half a second to realize she was saying hi to me, so I offered a polite smile in return, then turned my face to search for my car in the parking lot. My face burned with an embarrassed hue, and so I dug into my purse to feel for my keys.
Coach had really cute dimples. And soccer legs.
I spent the drive home coming up with different scenarios where I ask Coach for her name.
We’re both at the grocery store buying milk when we bump into each other in the queue. She tells me that she’s seen me around. I say, yeah, but I never caught your name. Then when she opens her pink lips to tell me her name, she tells me it’s Elena. Or Sarah. Or maybe it’s Michelle. I imagined her smiling with her cute dimples as she grasp my hand for a firm handshake.
We share sheepish grins and say we’d see each other at work. (On Tuesdays and Thursdays when she holds practice.) She’d say hi when I walk out of work on Tuesday, stop by to watch her kids practice and mention how they’re getting better. Then she’ll say ‘You should watch our games’ and I’d say yes. Elena, Sarah, or Michelle would see me at games and say ‘hi.’ I’d walk over to tell her ‘Good job, Coach.’
Anyway, I’m projecting again. The names I came up with are pretty generic except for Elena, since it’s pretty.
I decided to call her Soccer Legs instead. It’s much more discreet.
Soccer Legs volunteered as a bilingual instructor for the senior health program every Friday. She and her colleagues came in with boxes of fresh veggies from the little veggie garden near the community center. They usually had lots of carrots, radishes, tomatoes, and eggplants.
One time, I came into the kitchen when they were having a session. I opened the door and paused gazing at whoever was in charge to ask for permission. Soccer Legs was standing by the stove with a medium-sized frying pan while holding a wooden spoon. She was wearing jeans unlike the first time I saw her, and I almost felt disappointed that I couldn’t see bare skin. When she saw me, she looked at me curiously but not unfriendly.
“Um, is it ok if I just heat up my lunch?”
“Of course,” she said. Her class looked at me for a moment and I noticed a couple of them from some of the classes I taught.
I ducked my head and walked towards the microwave with my Pyrex, a little embarrassed for my intrusion. Once I reached the microwave, I opened it quickly, reminding myself that I should buy a microwave for my apartment pretty soon.
“Bueno. Las zanahorias son fáciles de cultivar en su patio trasero. Saben muy bien en un guiso,” she continued. “Carrots are easy to grow in your backyard. They’re really good in stew.”
I placed last night’s not-so-healthy stir fry chicken from Chinatown inside the microwave then set the timer for 00.02.00. While waiting for my food, I turned around to watch her facilitate. Behind me was the sound of fans whirring to heat up my meal. I almost felt bad for the noise it makes.
“Me gustan las zanahorias en mi…” Soccer Legs bit her lip in thought looking upwards as if trying to find an answer. “I like carrots in my….”
She looked straight at me and I held my breath. I hadn’t been ready for eye-to-eye contact yet. Besides, what did she just say?
“What’s that dish with carrots, cabbage, and stuff? They use a wok…?”
“Yes! God, I’m having a moment,” she laughed, “Stir fry. Carrots in stir fry. Thank you.”
“No problem.” I flashed her my dimples.
The microwave beeped to let me know my food’s done and I could smell my lunch through the microwave door. I fished it out, careful because it was a little hot. I maneuvered my way into the small group of seniors congregating by the sink near the microwave and I feel myself hungrier by the minute. And also a little bit flushed.
Outside the kitchen, I felt exhilarated but also a little relieved. Made eye contact and shared a short conversation with Soccer Legs?
God laid a hand.
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