Not If I See You First
“Lori’s talking to someone I don’t know and looking over here,” Sarah says. “Either gossiping about us or working up the nerve to come over. Oh, here comes Molly.”
“Hey, what’s up? You guys usually sit out here in the morning?”
“Every day,” I say. “Doing the good work.”
“It looks like sitting around to me.”
“Looks are deceiving. We provide a rare and valuable service—”
“Here they come,” Sarah says with an edge to her voice because Molly’s here.
Before I can say anything, Lori says, “Hi, Sarah. Parker.”
A girl I don’t know says, “Hi, Moll.”
“Hey, Reg,” Molly says. “How was your summer?”
“This is Regina,” Lori says. “She has a problem. I told her she should talk to you.”
“Have a seat,” Sarah says. “Um … Molly?”
“It’s okay,” Regina says. “She can stay. She already knows most of it.”
There’s some scuffling as people sit down.
“Go ahead, Regina,” Lori says. “It’s okay.”
“So … I was going out with Gabe last spring, but we broke up right before school let out.”
“Regina …” Lori says.
“He dumped me. Then he went to Spain for the whole summer on an exchange program.”
“Hang on,” I say. “How’d he do it? In person, phone, text?”
“When I was at work he texted me We need to talk and I texted back About what? and he said We should talk in person and I said You’re freaking me out, what’s wrong? and he said I could call him if I couldn’t wait and I said I was at work but I’d call him on my break. Then I called him and he broke up with me.”
“Did he say why?” Sarah asks.
“He said we were growing apart. That we both knew things were cooling off and he didn’t want to drag it out when we only had one more year at school.”
“Was he right?” I ask. “Were things cooling off?”
“I didn’t think so, but …”
Silence. This is what I need from Sarah later, whether this girl is looking at her hands, looking up at the sky trying to find words, glancing at all the faces not wanting to share with a crowd …
“We can’t keep entire conversations confidential because honestly it’s too hard to sort everything out,” Sarah says. “But if there’s anything specific you want us to keep to ourselves, we will. Just tell us.”
“It’s not that. It’s just … well … I guess things weren’t that hot in the first place?”
“You’re not that into him, or he into you?” I say.
“Oh, we’re great together, but … maybe he wants to go faster than I do?”
I say, “He said things were cooling off but he actually meant things weren’t heating up fast enough.”
“Did you two talk about it?” Sarah asks.
“No. I didn’t say much. I was at work, and I really didn’t expect it. I dunno. I just felt like I blew it somehow. I didn’t want to make it worse by trying to figure out what went wrong and promising to fix it or begging or whatever. I just wanted to hang up. So I did and that was it. Well, until last week. He started calling me again.”
“He wants to get back together?”
“He didn’t say that. And I didn’t ask. He just said he misses me and wants to catch up.”
“And you don’t know whether you want to?” Sarah asks.
“I don’t know if I should.”
“There is no should,” I say.
“Parker’s right,” Sarah adds quickly, which tells me to let her follow her line so I clam up. “I asked whether you want to. That’s what matters.”
“I dunno. I do, I guess. We really get along and stuff. I miss hanging out … but … after he broke up with me … I dunno … I think it’d be weird.”
“Weird how?” Sarah says quickly. To emphasize the importance of the question and to get it out before I go off on her, which Sarah must know is about to happen.
“I dunno. Just weird. I didn’t see it coming the first time so it could happen again anytime without me expecting it. I’d be thinking that all the time. I guess that’s true with anyone, though. I just wasn’t thinking about it before.”
“So what do you want to do?” Sarah asks.
“I guess … I want to be with him. I just don’t want to be looking over my shoulder all the time, you know?”
“Yes, definitely,” Sarah says.
“So … what should I do?”
“We don’t tell anyone what to do—”
“Except when it’s obvious,” I say, unable to hold back any longer. “You just said it. Go find someone to be with where you don’t have to look over your shoulder. Is that this guy, what’s his name?”