Into the Hollow
With great reluctance, he broke the staring contest and looked my way.
“Please. Let’s go.”
He nodded and readjusted his hold on the box.
I glared at Maximus. “And you, please get out of the way. I, personally, have no problems with breaking your nose.”
Maximus sighed and moved over, opening the door for us. Dex pushed past him and Maximus whispered in a voice so low, I could barely pick it out. “You watch yourself.”
Dex didn’t even pay attention. I quickly scooped up a box of books and went after him.
The minute I hit the top of the stairs, I could hear my mom on the phone, crying to my dad. I knew if we didn’t act fast, we’d be majorly hooped. For all I knew, he could be calling the cops and making up a whole bunch of shit to get Dex in trouble again.
Our footfalls were quick and silent and when we reached the ground floor, he gave me a steady look, making sure I wasn’t about to run into the kitchen where my mom was and plead insanity. I swallowed hard, as tempted as I was to totally cave in, and together we scampered over to the car and started piling the stuff in the trunk.
“I’m going to go get the rest,” he told me, putting his hand on my arm. “Will you be OK here?”
I nodded, though I knew I was on the verge of crying or panicking or something.
He gave me one last deep look and when he was satisfied that I was going to be OK, he patted me lightly on the shoulder. “I’ll be back.”
I whimpered something and leaned against the car, the trunk door open. It was hard to believe that in a few moments it would contain most of my life.
It didn’t feel right to leave this way. I wanted nothing more than to go back inside and plead with my mother and try to get her to understand. I wasn’t doing any of this to hurt her, I was doing this so that she wouldn’t hurt me. But what did it matter in the end. In the end I would be seen as the villain and nothing else. They were so damn ignorant they’d never ever see the truth, even if it was crying in front of their face.
But then there was my dad, who I knew had a smidge more respect for me than mom had. I knew he’d be absolutely livid and confused as to why his daughter would leave in such a harried, disrespectful manner.
And Ada…she was on the inside but the way things were going, we’d be safe and gone before she returned from school. Sometimes it was hard to believe she was in high school and lately I’d been relying on her more and more. Maybe as sisters we had a backward relationship, but it was one that worked and one that I would miss dearly. I owed it to Ada to stick around. But if there was anyone who would understand, it would be her.
Even though she’d be pissed.
Dex was back in an instant, hauling the luggage behind him with one hand and carrying three heavy boxes with the other.
I raised a brow. “So, have you traded in cigarettes for steroids, or what?”
He threw the suitcase in the back, not caring at all if I had valuables in there and plunked the boxes down. “Oh you know, chicks dig men with muscles.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Another Dex Foray mystery?”
He wiped his hands and gave me a charming smile. “Will you ever run out?”
“I guess not,” I replied absently. I looked at the house like I’d never see it again. It might as well be true. Maximus came to the doorway with his arm around my mother who was sobbing into her sleeve. I’d always imagined the day I’d leave home, but I’ve got to say it never looked like this.
I cleared my throat and stood up tall as Dex slammed the back shut.
“I’ll call you when I get to Seattle,” I told them. My mom wasn’t looking at me, so I unfortunately had to say it to Maximus.
He nodded solemnly and gave my mother a squeeze, like he was playing the part in a play. It left a film of bad taste in my mouth but I could only ignore it and turn around. I took the slow steps toward the front door, conflicted by the need to get the hell out of there while I could and the need to stay behind and tell my mother that everything was going to be OK.
If it wasn’t for the energy I felt from Dex on the other side of the car, the reality, the reason for leaving, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. But I pushed through and went by on that instinctive need to protect myself.
I got in the car, shut the door, and we roared off down that fog-shrouded road I grew up on.
The drive to Seattle was as pensive as the grey, low clouds that flew past the windows as we made our way up the I-5. In a few areas there were patches of snow that piqued my interest, but most of the time I just sat as close to the door as possible, as if it was my only escape route.
I watched the scenery with forced attention, a distraction from reality, until reality bit me in the form of Ada. Her texts came through in a frantic succession and though I knew she understood deep down, I could imagine how hurt she was that I left without saying goodbye. Then the phone calls from my parents came and I quickly turned off my phone before they had a chance to really get to me. I needed to know I was making the right choice and in that car, packed to the brim with my belongings, with my life, I still didn’t know.
We were just outside of Olympia when Dex asked, “Can we talk about it?”
I had this cold feeling, like someone deposited a chunk of ice in my gut. I didn’t want to clarify what he meant, but my mouth was faster than my heart.
“Talk about what?”
A heady silence filled the car, heavy like a sandbag. I picked at my nails and waited. I knew this wasn’t going to be some random question. Wasn’t there a theory about the size of a pause after someone asks you a question or a favor? The greater the pause, the greater the favor. Maybe that was all Jerry Seinfeld.
He sighed softly and steadied his grip on the wheel.
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“Well if there’s more than one thing, I’d rather we didn’t talk about it,” I mumbled, watching the pavement roll past. Lord knows I had a million things I wanted to ask him: How come you look better after everything I’d gone through? Why did I have to suffer after you left me, and you’re looking and acting like a modern day Adonis? When am I going to stop being mad at you?
He tugged the front of his cap down, so that his eyes were covered in shadow.
The pause amplified. If anticipation was a breathing, living thing, it would have popped out the windows and made a run for it.
He kept his gaze locked on the cars in front of us and said in a low voice, “Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?”
I had a feeling that was the question. Ever since my mom brought it up earlier, pointed like a spear, I knew Dex had been stuck on it.
But I still wasn’t ready for it.
I took in a deep breath. “I didn’t know until it was too late.”
“It’s true,” I said angrily.
He bit his lip, keeping his eyes hidden. “Would you have told me anyway?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“That’s not fair-“
“That’s not fair?!” I exploded. He winced and tightened his grip on the wheel. “Don’t you dare tell me what’s not fair! Do you think I wanted to be fucking pregnant! If I had found out earlier, I would have gotten rid of it. I would have gotten rid of anything that had something to do with you!”
Dex lifted his head up, like I had just slapped him in the face. His eyes prickled with clarity. He was stunned.
I felt bad but it didn’t stop me from continuing, my feelings rumbling out like an overdue avalanche. “You ended things. You fucked up and you ruined me and I owe you nothing! You have no right to know what was going on in my life. You have no business in it. You have nothing!”
“I had a right,” he protested, words gravely and barely above a whisper.
“You had no -“
“That was my baby too!” he yelled, his body shaking with the force. He yelled it with such acute pain and intensity that I jumped in my seat. I shut my mouth, feeling stupid and embarrassed and very small.
A few moments passed as his words sank into the atmosphere, making the air even heavier than before. I squirmed, wondering if I had made a huge mistake by going with him. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was mad about things, but I still felt I was the only one who had a reason.
I could feel his head turn toward me, watching me.
“You’re not the only one with a reason to be mad, Perry,” he said, struggling to keep his voice calm.
I shivered and eyed him incredulously. “What?”
“Nevermind,” he said with a shake of his head. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
It did matter and it would matter for a long time. But that wasn’t the issue now.
“Did you just hear me thinking that?” I asked. I watched him carefully, searching for a lie.
He frowned. “What does that mean?”
“I was just thinking that. Did you read my thoughts?”
“I knew what you were thinking, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
He looked a little confused but didn’t add anything else to it. He relaxed a bit in his shoulders and I decided not to press it. Things were already weird and strained without going down this road. If he couldn’t read my thoughts, then I didn’t want to bring it to his attention.
I wanted to keep everything to myself.
Seattle welcomed me with lashings of bone-chilling rain and heavy grey arms. It did little to comfort me and the moment I saw his Parisian-style apartment building just beside the monorail, I felt even colder.
In a surreal state, we parked the car in the underground garage and I pretended the last time I was there, I wasn’t picking up my shattered heart and jumping on my bike for a snowy escape. We went up the elevator with my suitcase and the first of the boxes, and when we got to his front door, I pretended I hadn’t slammed it in his face, telling him I quit the show. And when we walked into the apartment, I looked away from the kitchen island, pretending that it wasn’t there where we had made love.
We hadn’t made love, anyway. We had made hate.
And now I had to live in it.
“Well,” Dex said, clearing his throat. “Let’s show you to your new room.”
I followed him toward the den where I had slept in last. It was a mess, with the bed missing all its linen and shoved into the corner. His desk was piled with papers and heavy books. I wondered if he still kept his pills in that hollowed out novel.
He rubbed anxiously at his forehead. “Obviously I wasn’t planning for you to come here. Sorry, I’ll clean it up. Things have been a mess since Jenn left. She was the neat one.”
And a bitch, I couldn’t help but think. Not that it was fair to think that way anymore. She had been cheating on Dex, but Dex cheated on her with me and that wasn’t cool either. I wasn’t innocent in all of this and it tugged at my conscience from time to time. She was still a bitch, though, and Dex was better off without her. That was a fact.
“Don’t worry about it,” I told him, putting the boxes down on the chair. “And don’t worry about getting the rest of the stuff. I think I need to be alone for a while.”