Page 20


“I asked a boy to a dance?”
“It was a turnabout dance where the girls ask the boys. Jamie talked you into it. Anyway, you weren’t interested in him after that one date, but Carley’s always held a grudge.”
“I told you all that?”
“We used to talk more,” Mom says, with a hurt look in her eyes. I’m guilty of putting it there. I don’t say anything back.
The waitress returns and asks what we’d like to eat. Mom orders a plate of onion rings for us to share; I love onion rings. The waitress moves to the next table over, and I watch the father order for his family. I’m aware of my envy as he chats with his daughter and son.
“When did Dad leave?” I ask my mom out of the blue. Her eyes grow wide as she swallows the soda she’s just sipped.
“Where did that come from?” she asks. I shrug.
“Is that what’s been bothering you lately? You want to know about your dad?”
“Maybe,” I say.
Mom fidgets in her seat a little and then clears her throat.
“Okay,” she says softly. “I’ve told you this before and I’ll tell you again. Your father and I weren’t meant to be together. We didn’t get along, and he left when you were six. That’s really the end of the story.”
I think back to my notes.
“My memory went crazy when I was six. Do you think Dad leaving us traumatized me?”
“I’ve considered that,” Mom admits, looking incredibly uncomfortable.
“So, what, you just fell out of love with each other?” I ask.
My mom doesn’t meet my gaze when she replies, “Yes.”
“And we never heard from him again?”
“No,” she says. The letters at home tell me that she’s lying, but I hide my anger. I press the issue.
“He never tried to talk to me or anything?”
I swear I see a flash of guilt in my mother’s eyes when she answers. “No, honey, I’m sorry, he never did.”
I don’t believe you, I think.
And then our onion rings arrive.
When I get home, I try calling Jamie. She picks up on the third ring.
“You need to stop stalking me,” she says sharply.
“Hi to you, too,” I say.
“Seriously, I got your message earlier. I’ve gotten all of your messages. When I’m ready to talk to you, I’ll call.”
“But, Jamie, don’t you think we should just talk about it?”
“Do you even remember what it is, London?”
“Yes,” I say quietly. My notes are resting on my lap.
“But not really,” Jamie snaps at me. “See, you get to go to sleep and forget everything. I don’t have that luxury.”
“It’s not a luxury,” I protest.
“Whatever, I have to go now.”
“But, J, are we ever going to talk again?”
“I don’t know, London, are we?”
“What’s wrong?” Luke asks over the phone.
“Nothing,” I lie.
“No, really, what is it? I can hear it in your voice.”
I smile weakly. Why can’t I remember you?
“Bad day,” I reply, shrugging, though he can’t see it.
“What happened?” Luke presses. I decide to let him in a little.
“My mom and I aren’t really getting along, and she made me go and talk about my feelings after school. Then I tried to call Jamie and she basically cut me off and hung up on me. I’m really sick of her drama,” I say bitterly, remembering forward to what I would consider some unnecessarily long arguments in the future. “She’s just so self-absorbed. Everything is about her. It drives me crazy sometimes!”
Luke laughs a little.
“What?” I reply angrily.
“Nothing, I’ve just never heard you mad. It’s cute.”
“It’s not cute!” I playfully shout at him. He laughs harder, and I join in. When we stop, Luke asks, “Seriously, though, what can I do to help?”
“It’s just nice to talk to you,” I say quietly. “This helps.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner,” Luke says softly, sending chills down my spine. “I was painting.”
“It’s no big deal,” I say, shrugging again. “I was eating onion rings and talking about feelings with my mom anyway.”
“So tell me about the…” Luke abruptly stops talking on the other end of the phone. “Just a second,” he whispers.
I hear Luke’s hand moving over the mouthpiece, and then a woman’s muffled voice. Luke’s reply is louder but equally jumbled.
Soon enough, he’s back.
“Sorry,” he says, returning to the conversation. “That was my mom. She wants me to get off the phone. She said it’s too late to talk.”
“Oh,” I say, trying not to sound disappointed, even though I know that my mom would feel the same way. “Okay, I guess we can catch up tomorrow then.”
“Okay,” Luke says.
“Good night, Luke.”
“Sweet dreams, London.”
He disconnects the call.
In the darkness, I stare at my phone for a few minutes, reveling in the warm feeling I got from the short conversation with Luke. I know I need to add details of the call to the note on my nightstand, but I don’t want to move just yet.
When I’ve finally willed myself to turn on the light and spoil my Zen moment, my annoying ringtone sounds again, and my heart leaps.
“Hello?” I say quickly.
“I forgot to tell you that you looked really pretty today,” Luke says in a whisper.
In the darkness, I feel my face flush.
“Thank you,” I whisper back.
“You’re welcome.”
For a few seconds, we are quiet. Every muscle in my body is tense, in a good way; it’s excruciatingly intimate. I’m lying in my bed, clutching the phone like a lifeline, hearing nothing but Luke’s measured inhale and exhale and my own quickening heartbeat.
If he were here right now, I’d kiss him. “Well, I guess I should go. My mom might come back,” Luke whispers, breaking the moment.
“Okay,” I answer, unable to say more.
“See you tomorrow,” he says.
“Okay, bye, Luke.”
“Bye, London,” he says before hanging up, the sound of my name from his lips sending chills through me again.
I clutch the phone to my chest and exhale sharply, then sit up and snap on the small lamp at my bedside. I update tonight’s note, and, as I’m doing so, my own mom pops her head into my room.
“It’s late,” she says.
“I know, I’m finishing up,” I answer, without looking at her.
“Sleep tight,” Mom says.
“I love you, London,” she says.
I sigh deeply and say halfheartedly, “I love you, too.” My eyes are still on my paper.
I resume writing, and sometime before I finish chronicling my call with Luke and turn out the light, my mom silently disappears.
Across the aisle from me, Jamie’s floral shoulder bag is packed and ready. There are five minutes left in class, and she’s making no effort to appear like she’s still paying attention.