I am never leaving my couch again. I took my time pouring my drink. I had already gone to the bathroom – twice, and very slowly. Looking around the room, I sipped from my glass. People were talking, busy with things, ignoring me – I didn’t mind but I felt stupid.
He was standing a few steps away – by himself too, but he didn’t come talk to me. What a jerk and what is he even doing here? What a ridiculous beard. Can’t he tell I feel dumb here all by myself?
I forced myself to join Vanessa. I asked her about Anna. She had a shift. The evening drifted by, and I watched the clock. I was expecting a phone call later so I was glad to have an excuse to leave soon.
Last resort. I trudged to Isabelle and sat down next to her.
“How are you?” I said. She hung her head.
“Don’t ask.” Her usual answer. Then she started her five minute explanation. At least I wasn’t by myself. I felt somewhat bad for not exactly listening to what she was saying and when he came and sat down on the other side of her, I definitely wasn’t. He’d earned points when he was talking in a group and I liked what he said earlier.
“How are you, Isabelle?”
I sat and listened to her tell everything again. And she went on and on. And he listened. I wanted to meet eyes, smile at him for taking time to hear her out. And I was thinking either 1) he was truly interested in her and what she had to say – even more points for him for that, since no one really liked Isabelle – or 2) he came to her because she was with me – which, of course, was good too.
Vanessa joined us and the conversation’s focus drifted from Isabelle.
“It’s kind of hard to tell how old you are,” he said to me.
I laughed. “Guess.”
“Safe guess. Twenty-four.”
He asked me what I do. We found out where we had seen each other before. He had been in my dad’s class and said nice things about him. By this time, of course, I had already fallen fast and hard.
Once, I caught him looking at my hands, and I tried not to fidget with them in my lap. Not until Sunday morning as I munched on breakfast did it occur to me that he could have been checking for signs of attachment. Blast those stupid rings I had been wearing.
Sunday afternoon he asked if I wanted to join him and some friends for lunch. He paid for my food. He wasn’t the loudest in the group. He wasn’t a showoff or starved for attention like some people. The way he treated Tabby’s spoiled three-year-old brother impressed me.
Good with kids. Check.
“Did you not sleep well?” he said.
“No, I did. Why?”
“You’re so quiet.”
“Sorry, I’m always this quiet.” I was only furious, and maybe that was when he lost interest.