I am still plugging away on this story. Plugging away sounds kind of slow and plodding and that’s how I feel. As Florence moves away in time and memory (except for the fact that I heard her remnants were still threatening [no, no, bad Florence!]), maybe I’ll feel better about it all. And, maybe I can just write this story as if it had no relation to Florence whatsoever…….
≡≡≡continued from here≡≡≡
“Are you still there?” My mother practically screeches in my ear and I don’t know whether she’s been talking while I’ve been transported to the outer space of Steve or if it’s become her natural way of speaking.
“Yes, mother. Steve has just shown up. I gotta go.”
“Steve? Not that jerk who dumped you for Mandy?”
Thanks for the memory, Mother. I can always count on you for raising the very worst things that have ever happened to me and making them still relevant to this day. Oh, no. Maybe that’s me.
“Yep. One and the same.”
I feel like a bad daughter as she’s still verbalizing her insult and I cut her off with a flick of a finger. I am a bad daughter, but then I’m reminded that she hasn’t been a great mother. There is that.
“Hey,” Steve says.
I feel like I’m in an episode of The Andy Griffith show and Opie will show up any minutes just as I’m saying, “Hey.”
“They’re thinking the storm’s eye will hit south of here, round Wilmington,” Steve says, sparing a short glance at me before looking off into the distance.
I nod. I seem to be bereft of words. I know words. I like words. Why can’t I speak them? Rufus nudges my leg. I squeeze my eyes tightly, open them, and then look into Rufus’ wise brown ones. And, yet, I still have nothing.
“You okay?” Steve asks.
“Sure, except that I feel like I’m in my own peculiar hell…”
“Steve? Waffle Butt?”
The squeal is unique. Without even looking at the figure approaching from the left I know that Mandy has descended upon us. I look up at Steve, and, oddly, he’s still looking at me. His clear blue eyes evaluate.
Mandy dances up and down. She hugs Steve, who merely pats her on the back, and then she pulls me up into a hug.
“Oh, girl, I have so missed you! You look healthy!”
And, in Mandy speak I take that to mean that I need to lose around 10 pounds. She’s skin and bones because she runs miles and miles each day, taking on every marathon she can, which still kind of bemuses me because she never liked physical activity when we were in school. She pushes me back, examines me, and then pulls me in again for a fuller hug.
“I’m so glad you’re here. There’s so much I’ve got to say. I hope Lyle’s been treating you good.”
She doesn’t wait for me to answer. No surprise. No moss grows when Mandy’s talking.
“To you both, really,” she says, including Steve in her gaze. Her eyes grow serious, but then her lips force a smile.
“We’re going to have a hurricane party! Isn’t it great?”
And I think those are the words from someone who has nothing to lose. My eyes move to Steve’s. He’s still watching me. I feel like he’s seeing something more than I’m willing to give and I want to look away while still looking at him, which makes no sense.
Something changes, and I see a grin turn the corner of his lips upward. Is that boy still in there? The one I could joke with? The one I loved? The one before Mandy came and blew us all out of the water?
And suddenly it’s as if everything evaporates around us except him and me and that stupid song we danced to at prom, “Apologize,” except I know it’s not a stupid song, and I know it’s because I knew he wasn’t thinking about me when he pulled me close and kissed my temple. That he was thinking about Mandy. But maybe the song was true. Maybe he wanted to apologize.
Somewhere in all that thought I meet his eyes, as a person, now. Not the girl I was ten years ago.
Does it matter? He swallows deeply. I don’t know his thoughts.
“You two, you’re something else,” Mandy says way too sweetly.
I suddenly, very desperately, wish I wasn’t a pacifist.
≡≡≡to be continued≡≡≡
FYI for future installments this will be under the category Don’t Worry Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright