As I knocked on Anna’s door, I checked the time on my phone. I didn’t have long for lunch; the drive back to Oasis Springs wasn’t short, and I had to work this evening. It had been a while since I’d seen Anna, though, and I really wanted to tell her my news personally, not over the phone. It had taken me a couple of weeks to squeeze in the time, but I was finally here.
Anna beamed and invited me inside as soon as the door was open. “I’m so glad you could come over,” she said, guiding me over to the dining table. Lunch seemed to already be ready and waiting for us.
“Me too.” I smiled and sat down next to her. “I’ve missed you and the kids.” It was getting hard to call them “the kids” now. Brad – he no longer wished to be called Bradley – had turned fifteen a few months ago. Blake was turning thirteen in December, and Brianna would be eleven next year. Brad and Blake had phones now at least, though I rarely got a text or anything from Brad. Blake kept in touch, though, which I was really happy about. I was worried about Brad as he kept getting into fights at school, but Blake was such a sweet kid – he and Brianna both were. Knowing my father, I was worried about them too.
“So tell me what’s going on with you! I think you mentioned that you got a promotion a little while ago?”
I nodded and started on my salad. “I did. They finally realized I’m a cook not a bartender and put me back in the kitchen.” I still wasn’t the cook, but at least I got to handle food now.
“That’s great!” Anna reached over and squeezed my arm. “You’ll have your own restaurant before you know it.”
I laughed and shook my head. “That’d be nice, but that’s way off.” It was my dream to own my own restaurant someday, of course, but I knew I had to pay my dues, so to speak, first. “Anna, I did want to tell you something. Tommy and I are getting married.”
“Loralee! Congratulations!” Anna smiled brightly and leaned over to hug me. “I’m so happy for you.”
“Thank you.” Yet again, I couldn’t stop smiling. Just thinking about it always put a huge grin on my face. Looming in the back of my mind though was the thought, Please don’t ask if Huy is invited. I’d explored my relationship with my father, and I’d burned that bridge. There was only room at my wedding for family and family was more than just blood relation.
Fortunately, Anna didn’t mention Huy at all. Instead, she asked me questions about the wedding plans and Tommy and this and that. As we were wrapping up lunch, the conversation did move to Huy, but it had nothing to do with the wedding.
“Oh, did I tell you, remember that promotion Huy got passed over for a few years ago? Another opening came up, and he got it this time!”
“That’s really great, Anna.”
“We’ve been talking and we’re thinking of looking for a new house. The boys have really outgrown their room – really, we’ve just outgrown this house. We need something bigger.”
At that news, I smiled. “Thank goodness! I hope you find something that suits you.”
“I do too. Huy wants something traditional, but I just don’t think we can afford something in the style he wants.” She shook her head, rolling her eyes a little. “I’ll have to guide him towards something more realistic.”
I snorted softly. Good luck with that.
I left a few minutes later and returned to my car. It was nice to know that things were going well for Anna and her family, but I had to wonder for perhaps the millionth time why she stayed with him. I sighed and started the car. I guess he’s different when he’s with her. Surprisingly, the thought didn’t really hurt. I was over my father. I had bigger and better things on the horizon.
I flipped the TV off as Josh came in the door. I knew he wasn’t going to be happy, not just because the Ravens had lost today. He’d asked me to come to the game – he always did – but, this time, I hadn’t gone.
“Where were you?” Josh asked, a glower firmly etched into his face as he came into the living room.
Yup, knew it.
I sighed softly. “I didn’t want to go, Josh.” I looked up at him beseechingly, practically begging him to understand my perspective. I’d told him this a hundred times before. “I hate the way they mob us after the game. It’s not just your face microphones get shoved into, Josh.” I hated being in that spotlight; I didn’t want to pick up a newspaper and see my face on it. I didn’t want to be recognized in the street as “Josh Yuen’s girlfriend.” And I sure as hell didn’t want a reporter shoving a camera in my face and asking me what I thought of Josh’s game. How the hell would I know if Josh could’ve won the game by using technical-thing-I-can’t-even-remember? I was his girlfriend, not his coach.
Josh rubbed his face and paced around. “You know I play better when you’re there.”
I rolled my eyes. “That’s crap and you know it. When you went pro, I remember you saying you wouldn’t get superstitious like the other guys. You don’t have some weird underwear superstition too, do you?”
He gave me a look that very clearly said not. funny. “It’s not even about if I play better when you’re there. I asked you to go, Allie.” He sat down next to me, giving me a hurt look. “I asked you to go tonight, and you said you would.”
I sighed softly. “I didn’t want you to go into the game pissed off at me. I knew you wouldn’t find out I wasn’t there until the game was already over.” I reached over and took his hands. “I can cheer you on just as well here, in the privacy of our apartment, as I can in the stands.” I leaned in and kissed him softly. “You know I’m proud of you whether I watch you play in person or not.”
He leaned into the contact briefly before his expression clouded again and he pulled away, stalking across the room. “You do this every time. You think apologizing when I get home will make it alright that you just don’t care what I want.”
I stood up, irritated. “I wouldn’t have to apologize if you’d have some respect for what I want. I’ve supported you since we were kids; you should know I’m cheering for you.”
“It’s not about you supporting me – I know you do. It’s – “ He cut himself off, his hand making another pass over his face. “Forget it. Just…just forget it. I’m going to shower. I hate that locker room soap.”
I dropped down on the chair as the bathroom door shut behind him. When would he understand? I didn’t mind going to an occasional game, but why did I have to go to every home game, every Newcrest game?
My phone chimed, pulling my attention away from my spat with Josh. A smile curved my lips; it was a text from Luc.
Hey, let’s go to the movies tomorrow. Red Hand’s Revenge is playing.
My smile grew broader. Heck yeah, I texted back. 7?
We continued making plans for tomorrow evening – we decided to smuggle snacks in rather than pay the exorbitant theater prices – and then moved on to talking about school. Luc had started college at WCU, so we sometimes had time to see each other there, though, as a junior Business major, my classes were vastly different than his general ed. courses. We texted each other constantly.
He was my best friend, I’d realized a while ago. And though I liked how close I’d become with Luc, what I didn’t like was realizing that, at some point, Josh had stopped being my best friend.