Chapter 17

Cover 1

“Mer, are you alright?” Holden asked.

“I’m fine,” I said.

“It’s just that you have been acting seriously weird all weekend.  It’s downright depressing.”

I grimaced at the roadmap on my Garmin as the electronic car inched along the line of the highway.  I was just in a slump.

Things still weren’t smoothed over with Lena; she acted like nothing had happened, but I could feel the concern in her eyes when she thought I wasn’t paying attention.  It was humiliating.  And Holden continued to be suspicious.  I wished I could say there was no base for his concern, but I couldn’t.

“Sorry,” I apologized for the hundredth time.  The word no longer held any inflection of sincerity.

For once, my boyfriend had been the one to suggest we do something together to get away from the monotony of too many nights in.  But I had been the one to decline a movie, dinner, and bowling.  I felt barely sociable enough to be around him; how would I handle feigning a friendly demeanor for strangers?  I was thankful Holden was going home today; I didn’t feel like pretending to enjoy myself anymore.  Although if the worry on his face was any indication, the farce hadn’t been very convincing.

“Hey, Holden?”

“Yeah, Mer?”

“I was just wondering…”

“Yeah?”

“Do you still love me?”

My boyfriend turned and offered me a look of blank surprise.  I regretted having to ask the question but all of the sudden I wanted to know his answer, to be sure.

“What type of question is that?” he asked, appalled.

“Hopefully an irrelevant one,” I murmured.

“Well, it is irrelevant.”  The conviction that rang in his strong voice didn’t settle the unease in my stomach.

For all of his indignation, he hadn’t answered me.  “So, you still love me?”

“Of course I do.  Why would you ask me something like that?”

“We’ve been together for a long time.”

“So?  I should think that’s a good thing.”

It should have been.

“I was just making sure we are still together for the right reasons,” I explained slowly, trying to take away the sting from my initial question.

“And love is the right reason?”
“Yes.  Definitely.”  It was the only reason that mattered.

“What would you consider the wrong reasons?”

I pondered his question for a brief second.  The answer came more easily than it should have.  “Because we’re creatures of habit, we’re attracted to the familiar.  Because we don’t want to go through the whole messy break-up process.”  And those were just three of reasons on the lengthy list scrolling through my mind.

“I’m worried now,” he admitted, peeking sideways at me while still trying to concentrate on the heavy, Sunday-evening traffic.

“Don’t be.  I was just making sure.”  Wasn’t I?

“Are you sure?’

“Yeah,” I said offhandedly, my mind already speeding to the next subject.  While I was asking the questions I may as well get them all out instead of terrifying him on two separate occasions.

I thought of the story Remington had told me, the one about his last relationship.  It was a topic I had tried to put out of my mind all weekend.  Just when I was sure I had forgotten, those stupid text messages from Holden’s phone popped into my mind.

“Why don’t you cheat on me?”

“What kind of question is that?” He screeched in tandem with my car’s brakes.  I wasn’t sure if the reaction came from my question or his near-miss of the bumper in front of us.

Holden had cheated on every one of his previous girlfriends.  “A serious one.”
“I don’t cheat on you because I love you,” he explained evenly.

“But you told your other girlfriends you loved them too, right?”  What made me different from them?  Why had he chosen to be faithful to me?

“Some.  A couple of them.”

“And yet you cheated on them.  Why start being faithful to me?”

“That’s it, Mer.  I’m pulling over.  I don’t care if I miss my flight.  There’s something wrong, and I’m not leaving until you tell me what it is.”

“There’s nothing wrong,” I promised.  “But you didn’t answer my question.” Again.

“When I told those other girls I didn’t meant it, not like I mean it with you.  I was really young and immature.  I’ve grown up a lot in the past few years.”

I nodded, silently cursing Remington for unintentionally sowing a seed of doubt in my mind.

If I were honest I would admit the rude man hadn’t planted the seed.  But I needed to focus my anger toward something concrete—toward someone; Remington was the unlucky target.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on or do I need to catch a later flight?”

“There’s nothing going on.  I just wanted to make sure you had the right answers.”

“So I passed your little test then?” he asked sarcastically.  Thankfully Holden decided to focus on the road ahead of him, accepting my lame excuse for the time being.

“With flying colors.”

“And if I hadn’t passed?”

“I don’t know.”  And I didn’t care to focus on that particular scenario.

Holden looked at me once more and smiled; the look didn’t quite reach his eyes.

The two-and-a-half-hour drive home from the airport afforded me some time to think—a blessing and a curse.  I spent the first half scolding myself over revealing my insecurities and completely screwing up my weekend, not to mention putting in jeopardy my relationships with both Lena and Holden.  I spent the second half worrying about how I was supposed to fix everything.

By the time I pulled into my driveway I hadn’t resolved anything, and my mental voice had gone hoarse.

 

***

 

“Mer, are you alright?”

Why was everyone asking me that?  Holden hadn’t let up all week.  After Tuesday I had stopped answering the same questions.  Silence was better than a lie anyhow.

 

“I’m fine.”

Fine: the universal word women used when the current topic was not up for discussion.  This was not something I wanted to talk about now—or ever.

Lena took a long look at my face but decided to press the issue further anyway.  “I’ve never seen you act the way you did last week.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”  She raised an eyebrow, waiting for the truth.  “Wicked case of PMS this past week?” I offered, hoping she didn’t hear the inflection in my statement.

She grinned, somewhat mollified.  “I knew you weren’t really mad at me.”

“I know.”  I had been mad at myself, livid actually.  I was the even-tempered one, not the girl who went nuts for no reason.

“Why do you suppose that is?”

I shrugged.  “Because you’re my best friend.”

“Maybe, but I must not be that good of a friend.”

“You’re not,” I teased.  “Good friends don’t put people through what I have to deal with every time you’re in the room.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she countered.

“Please, impart your wisdom to me.”

“When you get angry, who do you get really, really mad at?”

It was a rare occasion for me to get that upset about anything.  “I don’t know.”

“I’ll tell you.  Your family and significant other.”  She waited for me to confirm or deny her theory.

“True.”

“I wonder why that is?  Why don’t we care about saving face with the ones we love the most?”

“Because there are no pretenses, all barriers are gone.  Those people know us better than we know ourselves.  And, despite the knowledge of good and evil, they choose to love us anyway.”

“Which is why I’m obviously not that good of a friend; you never truly get mad at me.  Even with all our years of friendship there’s still an air of saving face between us.”  She pursed her lips, disappointment plain in her wilted stance.

“Who wants to see the evil, Lena?”

“You’re not that nice in the first place.  I can only imagine the horror.”  She made a face, and I laughed despite my dark mood.  “Oh, hey.  I almost forgot to tell you that I’m staying in tonight.”

“I’m sorry, what?”  I peeked at the calendar on my wall.  Today was Thursday, wasn’t it?  I sincerely hoped so because I hadn’t gone in to work this morning.

“I’m staying in tonight.  I have a test in the morning that’s going to determine whether or not I have to take the final.  I’d rather stay in now than at the very end of the semester.”

That’s right.  Lena was still in college.  She had classes, exams, projects, and reports with due dates and grades.  It seemed an impossible thing to forget except our time together seemed to revolve around one day of the week: Thursday.  And on Thursdays Frostburg residents went out, no matter what.  Blizzards, two-inch thick sheets of ice, and exams weren’t valid excuses.

“Today is Thursday, right?”

“Very funny.”

This meant Lena was being responsible.

Lena?  Responsible?  Those two words didn’t fit together in the same paragraph let alone the same sentence.  It was a sad realization that my best friend was making decisions based on logical reasoning.

“And if I try to persuade you to come out?” I asked playfully.

“I would have to lock myself in my room and turn up the volume on my iPod so I didn’t succumb to your relentless urging.”

 * * *
Click HERE to continue reading…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: