I walk out of the house and climb into my truck. The phone rings, and I don’t know why, but my heart speeds up just a bit when I see her name.
“Did he cook dinner?” she asks when I answer. Her voice is different, not sad but as if she is asking whether you want fries or a salad.
“Umm, it would depend, but usually yes.”
“Asshole,” she says, and I laugh. “He never fucking cooked.”
“Can I ask what brought this on?” I pull into my driveway.
“I hate deciding what to cook for dinner. It just feels like it’s always the same thing.”
“Tacos,” I tell her, and she gasps.
“On a Monday?” She laughs. “Living on the edge.”
“That’s me, the badass.” I laugh, getting out of the truck.
“Were you in the car?” she asks as I hear pots banging in the background.
“Yeah, I just got home. Hailey is leaving,” I say, sitting on the couch now while I talk to her.
“What?” she asks softly. “Why?”
“According to Nanny, she needs to find herself and doing it moping in the house and getting drunk isn’t it.”
“She gets drunk?” she asks softly, and I hear sniffling. “Is she okay?”
“No,” I answer honestly. “Not even close, but I’m really hoping that she will be.”
“Where is she going?” she asks me, her voice picking up just a bit.
“Some house on the beach. We are selling everything,” I tell her. “Cleaning out the closet.”
“I wish I could do that,” she says. “I have all his clothes still hanging in the closet, and I don’t even bother opening it anymore.”
“When it’s time, you will,” I tell her.
“Did you live with Frankie before she died?” she asks me.
“No, we were planning to, but she fell sick right before we could,” I say softly, remembering. “Our goal was to move out the minute we both could afford the down payment. I had just joined the academy, and she was starting her nursing program.”
“How long were you two together?” she asks with a laugh.
“Five years,” I say. “We met our first day of high school.”
“First love,” she says, and I quickly correct her. “Only love.”
“I have to go get the kids,” she says, and we both say bye and disconnect.
I get up, making my way to the kitchen, not hungry anymore. I lie on the couch and flip on the television. Finally deciding on a movie, I let my mind spin while it plays. I keep thinking about the questions she asks; I keep thinking of the doubt she must be going through.
My phone beeps on my chest, and picking it up, I see it’s a picture from Samantha of her hand holding a taco with the caption.
I laugh at her, thinking it’s one small step for her, but I know it’s a huge one.
I send her back a reply.
Lock the doors, there is a badass on the loose!
She sends me back a simple:
I put the phone down as I continue watching the movie, but my mind isn’t on the movie; it’s on a table some two hours from me where three girls try to fix their broken hearts. She doesn’t call me that night or the night after.
On my first shift back, I sit on my bunk, wondering if I should call her. I don’t think any more because my fingers have already dialed. She answers after one ring.
“Hey,” she says, and I smile, listening to her voice.
“Hey, yourself. Did the taco police take you hostage?” I ask with a smile on my face, and she laughs softly.
“Very funny,” she says, and I hear rustling.
“Were you in bed?” I look back at my watch, seeing it’s nine.
“I was,” she says quietly. “I took another step yesterday.”
“Oh, yeah?” I ask, my interest piqued.
“I called Elliot and Ethan and asked them if they wanted any of Eric’s clothes.” I think I stop breathing, listening to her. “Needless to say, it didn’t go over well.”
“What do you mean?” I sit up in my bed, my blood starting to boil. That whole fucking family needs to be knocked on their asses.
“Well, there were lots of questions, and then some guilt about erasing him from our lives,” she says as she sniffles again. “How the fuck am I erasing him from our lives when I have his two children?” she asks, and I don’t think I’ve ever hated someone more in my life. “Like I don’t get it.”
“Why didn’t you call me?” I’m not sure why I ask that question. I’m not even sure we qualify as friends.
“Because I thought you’ve heard me bitch enough over the past couple of days.”
“Oh, please.” I roll my eyes. “Asking me questions and discussing tacos isn’t bitching.”
“Tomorrow, I’m painting the house,” she says cheerfully.
“Are you?” I ask, wondering if her brothers-in-law will help her.
“I am. The girls and I discussed it, and we are going to do one room at a time,” she tells me, finally a pep in her voice. “We are starting with the kitchen. I wanted a soft yellow; is that a weird color?”