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I wish she would stop. It’s not a joke. There’s something I need to tell her and she’s not making it any easier by laughing and teasing me and looking so God-damned beautiful with the dress and the hair and that shiny tint on her lips that’s either from lip gloss or from licking them too much like she does when she’s nervous.
“I was just, umm…”
Her face falls a little, and I really want to look away but she’s looking me straight in the eye and considering what I’m about to do, I can at least do the same.
“Talking. To Jan, actually and umm…wow,” I try to laugh to lighten the situation, but all she does is become more concerned as she inches closer.
“What?” I can barely hear her, but I can see that she wants this to be a joke, another prank. She wants me to laugh and say: “Just kidding! Actually I was just inside playing roulette and I DID win, how crazy is that?” But there’s no turning back now.
“To Stamford. It’s uhh…it’s really good pay—“
“And a promotion. And maybe my own parking space, I don’t know, she was fuzzy on the details—“
“So yeah, I start next week. And I don’t have a place to live yet so that’s kind of terrifying.”
“Stop!” Her voice bounces on the pavement and it’s enough to get me to stop rambling like an idiot. I shove my hands in my pockets, because it seems like the right thing to do and this way I have that tiny flashlight on my keychain to play with while she inevitably chews me out for springing this on her.
But she doesn’t chew me out. She doesn’t do much of anything. She stands there, rubbing her arms like she’s cold but it’s like, 75 degrees out here or something and I doubt that’s the reason all the color is gone from her face.
“Why?” It’s a logical question; she’s certainly allowed to ask it. Except I don’t like lying to her and really, that’s my only option because I can’t exactly respond with “Because you’re getting married and that kind of gets in the way of me being ridiculously in love with you.”
So I lie.
“You’re the one who’s always said that I needed a step up so…I’m stepping.” It’s lame. She knows it, I know it, but again, what else am I supposed to say?
“Stepping. All the way over to Connecticut.” It’s not a question; it’s just a giant strand of bitter. But can I blame her? I’m sure this is not what she had in mind when she thought about tonight. Hell, it’s not what I had in mind either. But Jan needed an answer, and I needed to get away. Somewhere more permanent than the Marriott in Australia where Steve Irwin serves me lots and lots of alcohol.
“I know this seems out of the blue—“
“Damn right it does.” Pam rarely gets angry. I’ve only seen it a few times since I’ve known her; Roy’s usually the reason behind it and it’s usually a very obvious, nostrils-flaring, eyes-shooting-daggers angry. But this is a scarier kind of angry, a subtle yet far more severe angry that makes me feel a little like my life is in danger.
“I’m really sorry to spring it on you like this, but I just figured you’d want to…know.”
“So what do you just—do you just not care about…here anymore?” I really hate it when we talk in code; that secret code that we’ve developed over the years where we never actually have to say what we mean because God-forbid we just address what’s been in front of our faces the entire time. I know what “here” really means and I know that. “care”…well, actually, I doubt it means that, but you got to love false hope.
“It’s just time for a change.” That part’s the truth.
She nods, seeming to accept the answer whether she really believes it or not.
“When are you leaving?”
I let out a breath that relieves the tension in my lungs and shake my head. “Soon. Like I said, I don’t know where I’m living and since I start sometime next week I have to secure something so...”
“Wow.” She’s staring at a spot behind me and there are a lot of things running across her face, like shock and disappointment and disbelief and frustration and I can’t keep up with them all. And then I can actually see the truth sink into her.
“So this is goodbye.”
I know it’s selfish, but I’m glad she said before I had to because honestly I don’t think I could have done it without crying like a girl.
“Yeah. I think it is.”
She doesn’t say anything else, just closes the space between us, with her arms around my waist and her head lying gently on my chest. Normally this kind of physical contact would send me into some kind of seizure but I don’t want to ruin my last moments with her by panicking. I just want to hold her. So I do.
She sighs, shifting more of her weight toward me and I know that the gold glitter on her dress is embedding itself into my sweater, and will probably stay there even after multiple washings. I really don’t mind.
“I just,” she begins, her voice reverberating through me and I tighten my hold on her. “I wish we had more time.”
And just like that a thought flashes through my head, something I’ve thought about before but never really in this context. I usually just push it aside but I figure that I’ve already put myself out there, already made an absolute mess of the night, I might as well go for broke.
“What if we did?”
She pulls back, looking less angry and more scared than anything else.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean…just give me a day. After everything that we’ve…I just feel like I can’t say goodbye in a parking lot.”
This gets a laugh out of her, a laugh I’m grateful for because it means I haven’t completely screwed this up. Yet.
“So, you mean like, lunch or something?”
Maybe it’s adrenaline or alcohol or just my tendency to be a greedy bastard when it comes to her but I shake my head firmly.
“No, I mean a whole day. 24 hours.”
This obviously surprises her. I’ve never been this forward, I’ve never demanded this much from her, I’ve never been one to just forget the fact that she’s not mine to have for an entire day.
Which is why my stomach does a somersault when I see her nod and say: “Okay.”
“I know it’s a lot to ask so you just name the day and time and we’ll do it. I may have to call the movers if it’s anytime later than Tuesday but it shouldn’t be too—“
“How about now?”
I must look like an idiot; jaw dropped, eyes wide, a little bit of spit forming at the corner of my mouth that’s threatening to fall to my chin. But drooling would kind of ruin this momentum we’ve got going so I clear my throat and laugh.