In September I participated in Blogtember, a blog challenge thought up by Jenni from Story of my Life. One of the promts was to write a short story. You can read the opening to mine here, which you'll want to do if you haven't already, otherwise the next part of the story below won't make much sense.
Juliet came through the door first, closely followed by Henry who was fussing with an umbrella. Lida offered her greetings while I watched in a kind of frozen state, unable to decide if I should join Lida or go back to the kitchen and wait for Henry to make the first move. But then he saw me and I still stood rooted to the spot.
It had been a while since I’d seen him (six weeks, but I wasn’t keeping count). I was dutifully ignoring him, hoping that space would somehow erase him from my memory. A month and a half was obviously not long enough, though my memory did not do him justice. As always, I noticed his hair first which was turning to curls in places that glistened with rain water. His cheeks were flushed and clear of the stubble I was used to. I didn’t think a clean shave suited him as well, but then he did look striking in that suit.
I realized belatedly that everyone, including Alex who had followed me out of the kitchen, was staring at me expectantly.
“Dude,” Alex mumbled in my direction, “just say Hi.”
“Clara,” Henry said, his tone suggesting that he thought I might faint. “Are you alright?”
“Oh, hi…um...yes,” I stammered. I could literally feel the heat coming off my cheeks. “I’m fine.”
“Just a few drinks,” Alex joked. “You know how she gets.”
Henry smiled and gave us each a hug. I’m pretty sure mine was the most awkward. “It’s good to see you two. I miss hanging out. Juliet’s been saying she would love for all of us to get together sometime.”
Juliet had joined us at Henry’s side and was smiling that bland smile of hers. (You know, that smile someone has plastered to their face when caught in a conversation they know nothing about? Yeah, that smile.) Henry put his arm around her and kissed her forehead.
I resisted the urge to gag; or reach across and slap that ridiculous smile off Juliet’s face; or run to the bathroom to hide for the rest of the evening like the coward I was.
Instead I smiled back faintly, slightly nauseated at the thought of having to see the two of them together ever again.
Thankfully, Alex could always be counted on. “Well, here we are, hanging out. Let’s get you two some drinks.”
Luke had remained in the kitchen where he sat contentedly, talking with the cook in another language. It only occurred to me that I hadn’t noticed Lida leave when she reappeared with Robert.
“Oh, good we all have drinks,” she said. “Let’s move out to the living room until Mara is ready for us.” She waved us out of the kitchen and began speaking to Mara in what my sluggish brain realized was Greek.
As was their custom, Alex and Robert immediately broke into a conversation about work and made a beeline for the piano. They stayed close to one another as they sat down at the bench, their bodies barely separated. Alex laughed out loud and then whispered something close to Robert’s ear. I sometimes wondered about those two.
Lida caught me looking at Alex and Robert and followed my gaze. She watched them for a moment her expression remaining unchanged, and then abruptly turned to Henry. “So tell me about this trip the two of you have been planning. Juliet won’t stop talking about it.”
I felt the blood drain from my face and my heart seemed to drop into my stomach.
“Oh, yeah,” Henry said, stumbling on his words. He seemed almost as surprised at this news as I was. “Um, we were thinking about going up to my parent’s place in Santa Barbara, maybe this weekend, but I don’t know yet.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Since when did Henry plan weekend getaways with girlfriends he’d only had for six weeks? I mean, this was a guy who secretly crushed on a girl he worked with for over six months before he finally asked her out, and they dated for that same period time before she ever met his parents.
I felt a kind of panic-inducing desperation seep in, replacing the last of my lingering hope that I hadn’t even realized still existed.
I downed the last of my wine in an effort to disguise the tears that the growing hole in my chest was managing to squeeze out of me like a sponge nearly spent.
And then Mara announced that dinner was ready.
...to be continued
P.S. I plan on having the next part of the story at the end of each month, so keeping checking back! And that includes this month.