“How could you do this to me?” Janet said, her voice whimpering through the phone.
“I’m sorry,” I sighed.
I was sitting on the side of the bed with my elbow on my knee and my head in my hands. I had the biggest headache and I haven’t been able to sleep because I still felt like a major dick. And now I called Janet. Her crisis with Stanley was something that I wasn’t there for; and we’re never not there for each other. I guess Daniel could strike out number thirteen from his list. Unlucky number thirteen!
“Screw sorry, Anna, where the hell were you?”
“It doesn’t matter, I’m here now.”
Janet scoffed. “Yeah, now. But when I was freaking out—”
“Look, I said I was sorry okay!” I yelled.
Static noise took over. Great, just great Anna.
“Are you okay?” Janet asked, her voice soft even though I had no right to yell at her. A hidden talent of hers; even through a phone and hundreds of miles away, she could tell something was up.
I sighed again, guilt ridden. “I’m just—” I didn’t want to worry her “—why did you want to call off the wedding?”
“No we’ll get to me later. I just want to know.”
“It was just stupid, really,” she said, her voice sounding amused, the faint sound of a smile. “I freaked out because I didn’t think Stanley knew what my favourite colour was.”
I cinched my nose. “Really?”
“Well don’t sound to astounded. I know it was stupid.”
“No, I mean…whatever, I mean…” Oh for the love of all that is holy someone save me here!
“It wasn’t just about the colour,” Janet explained, “I was freaking out because I thought that he didn’t really know me. And I wanted to marry someone who does, you know? For obvious reasons,” she chuckled.
I smiled, and it felt like I hadn’t smiled in days. “I guess I get that.” I had been wondering if Daniel was pondering whether he knew me well enough or not. I hope he wasn’t. I hope he was sure of me, all the way.
“Well, anyway, I’m happy. Are you?”
“Of course I am.”
“Because, I don’t know, it’s just…your voice or something.”
“Yeah…” I managed to open up to her. I felt as if I shouldn’t have, just because she was so stressed out with her matrimony and I was just adding more weight. Not to mention she was all the way over in California and I missed her so much that I didn’t want to just speak over the phone. I wanted to see her again. All of my friends.
“Wow,” she said.
“Yeah,” I mumbled.
“He still loves you know,” Janet said, as if I had asked.
“I know. And I love him.”
“You just…nah, never mind.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” she said, I braced myself, “but you just need to set your priorities straight. I don’t mean you shouldn’t have a guy friend ever—you have that Paul guy—I just mean maybe the only Californian Soul for you is Daniel. You’re so stuck on the people that you used to know and I know it scares you, to think that there won’t be other people like us or Adam and Martin and Randy, but you’ve got to let go, man. Derek especially is a creep. He’s crazy.”
I winced at the word ‘crazy’. Even though I believed that on some level he wasn’t balanced, on another, he was dealing with a lot of issues. “Yeah, you’re right,” I agreed, listening attentively.
“And about the list, I can see why he got offended, don’t you?”
I nodded. “I don’t know why I ripped that paper up. Any girl would be lucky to find something like that in her man’s closet.”
“Exactly. So why am I such a little scaredy cat?”
“Maybe it’s because of Daniel’s parents. Or yours?”
I nodded and then froze, furrowing my brows in confusion. “Come again?”
“Look, I know.”
“I know about your parents getting a divorce. Chloe told me. Her parents are friends with your parents, and you know, they talk. Chloe told me not to tell you she knew but, I don’t know. I think you should know everyone knows. We were just waiting for you to talk to us about it so we can support you.”
“Th-thanks?” I breathed.
“Anna? Are you still there?”
I cleared my throat. “Yeah, I umm. I have to go.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?”
“I’m sure, I—” I heard the door of the apartment close; announcing Daniel’s arrival with a load for dinner “—I have to go.”
“Okay, I’ll see you.”
I walked out of the room like a zombie. Daniel and I hadn’t spoken much these past couple of days, what with him still angry at me and me trying to fix things, so I always treaded softly. This time I didn’t. I was clutching my cell close to my body with both hands, staring at the floor.
“My parents are getting a divorce,” I said in a monotone.
Daniel stopped taking our pots and pans and plates, and putting away groceries, to turn and face me. He rounded the corner of the kitchen, coming closer. When I looked at him, it was the first time in the last couple of days I saw the softest, sympathetic expression that I knew I didn’t deserve right now.
“Did you say—?”
“My parents,” I repeated in that same dead monotone, “are getting a divorce.” With some effort, he untangled my fingers from my cell and sprung it from its cage. I started clutching my shirt. “My parents are getting a divorce.”
“Anna? Anna, look at me,” Daniel said, his voice stern and riddled with concern.
“My parents are…”
His voice echoing before I saw black.
Even though my vision was blurred as I awoke, I could feel Daniel dabbing a damp cool cloth over my forehead. I was resting on something soft, and it was only when I wriggled while he walked away that I felt I was on the bed. Daniel came back with the damp cloth.
“Thanks,” I croaked.
Daniel smiled. “Don’t move so much. Hey, wait, just stay still.” He placed a gentle hand over my shoulder. “You switched off pretty quickly, and hard.”
I moaned, reaching for my head at a splitting headache. “Did I hit the floor?”
Daniel reddened, and the reaction made me smile. He seemed so embarrass it was cute. “You actually hit my hand while you were going down and I was going up to try and catch you.” We both laughed at the awkwardness. “Sorry.”
“I’m suing,” I joked lazily.
Our voices faded, and Daniel continued dabbing my forehead. It was only when he spoke again, in all seriousness, that he removed the cloth and his hand.
“You didn’t know?”
I shook my head. Now I was embarrassed.
“That’s not unusual you know,” he said in an effort to comfort me. “Parents will do anything to keep their children from feeling hurt. It’s just a simple fact. They only hid this from you because they love you so much, not because they don’t. I mean, look at my parents, I would’ve probably been blissfully unaware had it not been for my father and the brutal reality and truth that comes with adulthood.”
I chuckled humourlessly at the thought of being an adult. I was hardly; I couldn’t have identified with that ‘Not Yet a Woman’ song by Britney Spears anymore. It was the epitome of me right now.
“They should have told me regardless,” I said, somewhat sounding unsympathetic and demanding of my parents. Not good.
Daniel sighed with concern, brushing away strands of hair stuck to my face. “I know this may be a stupid question but, how are you feeling?”
It wasn’t stupid. I wasn’t crying so he must be confused. “I feel like…there’s a lump in my throat, and my heart is palpating. And helpless. I feel really helpless, just wondering where I went wrong.”
“No,” Daniel shook his head, and with his firm voice he caught my attention, “you can’t think like that. It has absolutely nothing to do with you, you hear?” I nodded obediently and his eyes softened. “Do you want anything? Need anything?”
I shook my head. “Thanks.” I was just glad he was talking to me.
“Hey, I have an idea,” he offered after we were momentarily silent, “let’s go to California together. We haven’t been in a long time, you and I, and I think it’ll be good for not just you and your parents, but for us.”
“I do miss California.”
“And our friends.”
“And our friends,” I agreed. “But I’m not so keen on being confronted with my parents’ lack of honesty. They’ll be blindsided if I don’t tell them I’m coming, and if I do then they’ll ask all these questions and I’ll just cave. I wouldn’t want to talk with them about it through the phone.”
“Then don’t tell them,” he shrugged. “Simple as that. It’s your time, Anna—” he pointed “—your life, your rules. How do you want to play this? Do you want to let things happen around you, ignoring them as they go along; or do you want to take control?”
Ignore my parents’ situation and ours; or take control? A heartbeat hardly skipped in the time that it took for me to decide.
I held his hand and smiled. “California.”
Daniel returned my smile and squeezed my hand, leaning in to kiss me and unleashing a tenderness I had missed and craved.