Choosing Henley(7)

By: Anne Jolin

After placing our order, we dive into conversation. Having lived together for so long, we seem to have so much to catch up on every time we see each other now that we don’t live together. Even if it has only been a couple of days since we last saw each other. I tell her about my week at the salon, and she fills me in on her week at the clinic, matching my horrific menopause story with her own hairy old man story. Gross.

“I was talking to Peyton last night and she doesn’t have any plans for New Year’s Eve. Do you think there’s any way that Jay can score her a ticket?” I ask, and before she can even answer, I’m talking again. “Because I kind of already told her that we had an extra ticket.”

“That seems a little bit like putting the cart before the horse there, John,” Hannah teases, and I groan. She knows how much I hate when people call me that, and I’ve been getting it my entire life. People seem to find it very entertaining to make Beatles references when they find out my name. “I’ll text Jay right now.”

“Thank you, Hannah Montana.”

She glares at me and I snicker. Han’s bitch face doesn’t even compare to mine. Before she can whip a comeback at me, her iPhone buzzes on the table.

“It’s Jay. He says he can get another ticket,” she tells me, tapping out what I assume is a reply before looking up at me. “Now you can bring your new best friend to the party,” she deadpans.

I burst out laughing, and she’s quick to follow.

“Gosh. You think you’d be less needy now that you have your tattooed hunk of burning love,” I say, waggling my eyebrows at her.

“Oh the things that man can do with his—”

I cut her off and make a gagging face. She smiles triumphantly before sticking her tongue out at me. She knows that, unless I’ve had a couple drinks, these kinds of conversations make me uncomfortable.

“So what’s the deal with Beth?” I’m attempting to change the topic, but I do actually want to know what’s going on with her.

Hannah sighs. “I have absolutely no idea. She’s always busy but never tells me what it is that she’s so busy doing when I ask. If it weren’t for the fact that she seems so happy, I’d be worried about her.”

I lean back into the booth and think out loud. “Maybe she has a new boyfriend?”

“Maybe. I honestly have no idea,” Hannah answers, shrugging her shoulders before levelling her gaze on me. “So are we going to talk about it? Or pretend like it didn’t happen?”

I look down at my plate and start to pull apart the leftover ciabatta bun. I always pull apart my food, especially when I’m nervous. You should see me eat sushi. It’s almost ridiculous.

“Well, I’m guessing, by the way you’re destroying that bun, you don’t want to talk about it.”

“I just…” I start to speak, but I’m not sure what I want to say, so I stop.

“You just miss him?” Hannah leads.

“Yeah.” I sigh, defeated.

“I know you’re scared, Lennon, and I understand why, but it’s literally been painful to watch the two of you together these last few months. Are you sure you don’t want to try?” she asks.

“I can’t.” I squeeze my eyes shut. Just thinking about it makes my chest feel like there are a hundred bricks on top of it.

She knows me well enough not to push. “Hey, butthead. Look at me.” And I do. “It’ll be okay. You’ll be okay. I love you.”

“I love you too, Han,” I say back.

We don’t talk about it anymore after that and I’m grateful. We’ve been friends since we were children, and the Rhodes sisters were there for me when my dad left. They witnessed firsthand the damage it caused to my soul, the way it changed me, and although I know it’s hard for them to understand, they try anyway.

My only saving grace was that my mother bounced back quickly. She never remarried, and even though I could sometimes hear her crying at night, she was always there for me. She supported me and put me through school, and she was proud of me. I don’t have two parents—not anymore, anyway—but mom tried every day to love me as much as two parents would have.

IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE and I am running late—really late—for actually a very important date. Mom and I are having dinner at the Rhodes house and I need to bring dessert, which of course I’ve forgotten. I pull my Equinox into the first available parking space, slam it in park, and bolt across the parking lot. It’s snowing and my black pumps are making it hard for me to move quickly. I am already dressed for dinner in a dark-green dress that ends a few inches above the knee and my black coat. I was in a rush and didn’t button it up, the cold air practically chilling me to the bone before I make it inside the grocery store.

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