I went to visit Martin’s for the last time as an employee, and return my band.
“We’re all going to miss you here,” Martin said while he hugged me.
I almost got teary because Martin was no ordinary boss. It’s so rare to find someone who thinks you’re better than you think you are. He was always pushing me. To be better. Never settle for less, he’d say. And when the opportunity rose, that’s exactly what I did.
Behind the counter top I saw Tina and the fresh meat Alyssa.
“Aww, this is so sad, I feel like we’re never going to see each other anymore,” Tina said when she pulled me in for a hug. Well, snatched me in is more like it.
“Don’t say that,” I said, “of course we’ll see each other again. I’m going to come to Martin’s a lot so don’t you forget about me.” I winked.
“Oh my gosh,” Alyssa said, “that guy is totally checking you guys out.”
Tina and I turned our attention to a handsome beach boy.
“I think he’s checking you out, Anna,” Tina said. “You should totally go up to him.”
I laughed. “I’m seeing Daniel.”
“So then—” the beach boy looked away “—go tell him to stop staring,” Tina said, pushing me towards him like a four year old at school.
Of course I blushed a deep red but the guy looked at me and smiled, not leaving me any room to get away quick enough. If only he wasn’t looking for a little while longer, I could have walked away.
I smiled politely. Not too eager, not too robotic. Natural. “Hi.”
“Hey,” he said.
Alyssa and Tina were watching the scene with wide cartoon-y eyes and smiles.
“My name is Tony.”
“Anna,” I nodded in greeting.
Tony started taking out a pen and a napkin from the side of the counter. Suddenly he began writing his number down.
Okay, time to let him down easy. “Look, you seem like a nice guy and—”
“What’s that blonde girl’s name that you were just talking to earlier?” he asked without looking up from the napkin.
I was confused by the question. “Tina?”
He looked up and smiled. “Thanks.”
He hopped off the barstool and then walked up to Tina, leaving me to bask in my complete and utter humiliation. I looked over to Tina and she was twirling her hair in between her fingers while her other hand was holding the infamous napkin. Alyssa left them together. Could anything else go wrong? No, I think that’s already spoken for. I feel like Joe Pesci from that scene in My Cousin Vinny where he’s yelling about how much worse things can get; that is my life right now. Seriously, how much more shit can I pile on?
When I got home I found Chloe to be crying on the sofa while watching Juno. Tissues were all over the floor and the coffee table.
“What’s wrong?” I asked softly when I embraced her.
“I…ba…bab-y-yyy…” Chloe struggled.
And because I couldn’t figure it out on my own, I had to ask again.
Chloe blew heavily into a tissue. “I wan-na…baby-yy-yyy…” a hiccup was added twice.
“You want to keep the baby?”
She cried harder and nodded.
I smiled. “That’s okay. Why are you crying?”
“Because I’m already…a bad…..mother…”
Damn you, Juno, damn you.
“No you are not. Chloe look at me. You need to be sure that this is what you want okay?” she nodded at my words. “And I also need you to think about what you want when your head is clearer, you know?”
“When my head is clearer?” she sniffed.
I nodded. “Yeah, like, when it’s not filled with an award-winning movie about teen pregnancy.”
Chloe wiped her nose with the back of her hand, calming down. “Right, right, right. I’m going to take a shower.”
“Take a bath. Stay there and ponder. Get all prune-y.”
Chloe half-smiled, and nodded. “Yeah, right, right.”
Chloe got up and went straight to the bathroom, she didn’t close the door though. I started cleaning up what looked like large scrunched up snowflakes in our living room, and wiped everything down. I’m slowly realising Chloe is more emotional and impressionable at this stage in her life, the last thing I wanted for her was for certain things, like movies, to influence her decisions. I wanted her to make it for her, with the right information. And if she really did go through with this, then I’d still be supportive, no matter what.
I approached the doorway of the bathroom and found Chloe already sunken in bubbles and steam with her phone in her hand. I knocked on the door.
“May I come in?” I asked.
Chloe smiled, her nose and eyes were still red but she just looked tired rather than sad now. I entered and got on my knees at the tub.
“What are you reading?” I was hoping it didn’t have anything to do with The Secret Life of the American Teenager, because that would be worse than Juno.
She shrugged and the water ebbed at her shoulders. “Just some pregnancy stuff. I figured I needed to be more in the know about this. Make my decisions a little more mature.”
I sighed with relief and smiled. I stood to lean and give her a kiss on her forehead. “No matter what you choose, it’s the right decision. You’re doing it for yourself and no one else and that’s the most important part.”
She nodded at my words. “Are you going somewhere?”
I sighed again, this time out of nerves. “I’m going to hang with Jodie for a bit.”
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Jodie is so judgmental about your relationship with Daniel. I hate it. Makes me anxious.”
It was obvious Chloe didn’t really know the full story, since there was one. And I didn’t want to be little miss chatterbox and ruin whatever secret Jodie and Daniel were keeping from me. Ugh! That sounded so weird.
Jodie had no idea what I was here for, or at least that’s what I thought. I acted all nonchalant when I arrived at her place and greeted her, and she didn’t seem suspicious of anything. I only wish now that I had some form of mediation or, I don’t know, protection just in case. Jodie is a tough girl, the kind that takes no shit, she and Sherri at our advertising agency would get along just fine.
We sat at the kitchen stools together, having an ordinary conversation. My heart was beginning to pound when I rounded the corner onto Secret Street. How do I even begin?
“So,” I started, “I was wondering if we could have a girl-to-girl talk?”
Jodie hesitated at first, then she just stretched the word, “Yes?”
“I swear I wasn’t spying on you or anything. I just happened to approach Daniel’s place and you guys were there.”
All the while I was speaking, Jodie’s eyes started to tighten and her forehead creased. She was definitely looking worried, and that was worrying to me. Jodie was never the concerned type, she was always thrashing through obstacles with nothing but balls, if she was ever worried, like ever, it was always because she was fearing for someone else. Rarely was the fear for herself.
“You saw us?” she asked, and the fear resonated in her voice. It was making me even more nervous.
I nodded. “And when I asked Daniel what was going on—”
Her eyes widened. “Did he tell you!?”
“No, no,” I said quickly. “But he did tell me if anyone should be telling me what’s going on, it should be you. He said he couldn’t say anything because it wasn’t his story to tell. So that’s why I’m here, asking you, what’s going on?”
Jodie rested her elbows on the bench top and put her face in her open palms. “This is not about you, Anna.”
“Daniel concerns me, so I’m concerned. I know not everything that’s happening with him or you is my business, but when you guys are secretly talking, I mean, it does make me wonder.”
Jodie chuckled into her hand and shook her head. Then she looked at me with a defeated smile. “It’s so stupid.”
“Whatever it is, you can tell me.”
“I’m not sure you’ll be able to handle this.”
I smiled politely and then braced myself. “Try me.”
Jodie paused to sigh. “We did sleep together, once upon a time. Way before you, Anna, I swear it. But that’s not the worse part. What’s worse is that I found him at a gay club.”
My mouth dropped.
Jodie burst out laughing and quickly backtracked. I think she was too spent to do anything besides laugh at this point. “No, no! He’s not gay, he’s definitely not gay. He was with some girl way back when and they were scouting for another girl. Who knew bisexuals hit gay clubs, huh?”
I was starting to feel a bit woozy. I knew Daniel had done a lot of things, but I didn’t want to find out through Jodie. The entire time I was wondering about Daniel I hadn’t even realised the most crucial part of what she had hashed out. It was then I looked at Jodie. She seemed…ashamed.
Jodie laughed again, this time it sounded shaky. “I’m a walking stereotype I know. What with the sports and all.”
I furrowed my brows, trying to take it all in. “But…I’m confused…you had these dates…with guys.”
“Right, I told you that didn’t I?”
“Have you actually seen the guys I’ve dated?”
I went into retrospect mode trying to find at least one. “Billy Westhouse.”
Jodie roller her eyes. “One guy, Anna. If not for the struggle you probably wouldn’t have recollected him. Besides, everyone experiments right? I wondered about my sexuality, getting more and more confused, and Daniel was my last. Which is why, selfishly, I didn’t want you to date him. I was scared he’d spill; I wanted to tell you guys in my own time on my own terms. I was afraid what you guys would think of me.”
“Jodie, we would think nothing different of you as we do now. We wouldn’t treat you a different way at all. I know for a fact that each and every one of us will love you no matter what.”
Jodie smiled. “It’s hard you know. Some people have it easier than others.”
“If anyone is ever making it hard for you to live your life the way you choose, the way you were born to live, then they don’t deserve to be your friend.”
Jodie smiled wider this time. “I don’t know why I was so nervous to tell you. I guess it was more the Daniel thing.”
“I’ll get over that soon enough, I’m sure. I know Daniel. I’m not blind to his sexual escapades before me,” we laughed together, “but I still love him and—”
I stopped talking almost immediately. And it wasn’t even on purpose, it was like my breath and words were stolen from me by the sudden realisation of what I had just declared. When I tried recapping what I just said, it was like all I could remember was saying that I loved Daniel. Even the recap was in slow motion. At this point I wasn’t feeling anything. I felt like I was just floating, not because I was overwhelmed by euphoria. I was definitely overwhelmed by numbness. And just when my mind started to wonder off and actually register my words, Jodie spoke.
I felt like her face looked like mine, frozen in shock, but not in the kind of shock that is synonymous with botox. Jodie blinked twice and then asked calmly, “What did you just say?”