BALLARDVALE BLUES - DAY THREE

Kate groggily lifted her head and looked down, seeing that she was still wearing yesterday’s clothes and laying on top of her covers. She had fallen asleep in a contorted position that left an ache in her back. Pain pulsated through her temples, symptomatic of drinking cheap beer on a nearly empty stomach. She rolled to her side and looked at the belongings she’d pushed up against the wall upon her arrival home. She was meant to pack away everything in her room, so naturally, Kate left her bed and ambled down the hallway and into Sam’s room. It was pretty early for her and possibly late for Sam, but she figured he might still be in his room. 

 

“Glad to see you haven’t fled the Kern residence yet,” her first words of the day emerged as a mumble.

 

“What?” Sam was sitting upright on his bed flicking through a book. She disregarded

this and went over and sat on him. “Owww, what the hell?”

 

“Move, move over.” He scrunched up his body a bit more so he was sitting more cross-legged. Kate claimed the space at his feet.

 

“I’m surprised, lazy; it’s early for you.”

 

Kate ignored this, “What’re you even doing?”

 

“Reading, found this in here. Not sure where it’s from.”

 

Kate read the name on the spine of the book. “Catcher in the Rye? I’d put my money on your angsty teenager years, no?”

 

“My options were this, an anthology of the romantic poets or go downstairs and interact with Mom and Dad. What would you have done?”

 

“Breakfast, but I don’t have a pathological need to avoid Mom and Dad.”

 

“Yeah, well, Dad doesn’t have a pathological need to constantly have a chat with you.”

 

“Quite,” she said.

 

Sam stuck a finger in the book as a marker and looked up at his sister. Her grey irises stood out against the backdrop of red veins that overtook the whites of her eyes.

“Headache?”

 

“Slight, I was out last night.”

 

“Danny?”

 

“Nailed it. I don’t know how his body is still running, based on the contents of his fridge.”

 

“You go out all last night with him? House was dark when I got back in.”

 

“No, only for a while. A bunch of guys showed up, and they were heading to Charlie’s to hang out there. I wasn’t in the mood. Danny hangs out with older people now.”

 

“Older how?”

 

“Like Garrett and Tim and all of them from a year up.”

 

“Well, it isn’t a big town. If you’re going to hang back here, your choices are a little limited.”

 

“He hangs around with Jessica, too, I think.”

This made Sam smile. Kate hadn’t ever been one to hold back on her feelings. Everything showed on her face. It had shown when they were kids and it showed now.

“You still don’t like her, I take it.”

 

 “I mean, I haven’t seen much of her over the last four years,” she said quickly, but followed it up with, “much to my relief.”

 

Kate was such a baby sometimes. “Yet, you still hold a grudge.”

 

“No. I mean she’s fine if you can accept someone that showed up out of nowhere and was a total ass to you for no reason.”

 

“That was seven years ago? Time to move on.”

 

“Yeah, but it’s always been that way for the last seven years. And it’s just more annoying because no one sees it but me.”

 

“So avoid her,” he said resting his hand on top of the pants pocket that contained his cigarettes. He hadn’t ever really cared for Jessica when she’d been around, but he hadn’t ever tolerated an antagonistic relationship with her the way Kate claimed to.

 

“Aren’t you busy today?” he asked a little tauntingly. “I believe you have a grad party chock full of family members to get ready for.”

 

“Don’t be smarmy.”

 

“Ohhhhh, did you do the S’s last night?”

 

“Seriously, I’m not even in the mood. This is all Mom and Dad’s doing. They just want to have a party for their friends.”

 

“And you really can’t figure out why I’m reading a book from Freshman English up in my room rather than go down there?” Kate was more tolerant of their invasiveness, but it was slightly satisfying to see her patience begin to flicker. “Do you know what they want to talk about with me?”

 

“Nope, it’s Dad though; he’s the one who mentioned you coming home more, you know.”

 

“Great. Well, it’s mid-morning and I need to get out of here. I need to go get some work done.”

 

“On Sunday?”

 

“I work every day, just less so on Sunday.”

 

“Ugh, that sounds literally horrible.”

 

“Can’t put a price on freedom.” He shrugged at her.

 

“That makes no sense whatsoever, but sure.”

 

Sam watched her quasi-roll out of bed and shakily stand up on her feet. She wobbled out of his room. He placed the book on his bedside table and looked out his window. He wasn’t sure what his father had in mind, but he didn’t feel like finding out; not today anyway. Getting news, or even just a general lecture he didn’t want was best received at the end of a visit. That way Sam could avoid dealing with any negative fallout and make his merry way home. Plus, Sam thought as he stood up and grabbed his computer bag, his dad was probably just going to ask him where his career was headed. His mom would probe him about getting married and having kids. Neither of them would like the answers he had for them.

 

He snapped up his house keys before heading downstairs. His mom was in the kitchen and looked over upon seeing Sam.  “Hey there, you snuck in late last night.”

 

“Yeah, was just out meeting up with some friends.”

 

His mother looked pleased about this. “Glad to hear it. I feel like you rarely visit any of them when you’re home. Who did you see?”

 

“Ahhh, just the usual, you know,” he racked his brain for anyone he knew that had remained behind. “just some… high school people.”

 

“Oh, did you go by and see Connor?”

 

God! Why was she still asking about this? “Yeah,” he said, let’s go with that, “I saw Connor.” He hadn’t seen Connor since the day they threw their hats at graduation.

“Oh isn’t that such a sweet baby.”

 

“Mmmmmm,” he grunted with raised eyebrows, “yeah, cute baby.” He needed to extract himself from this situation.

 

“Yes,” his mother said loftily, “I saw him rolling her through the supermarket, she was kicking her little legs.”

 

Sam plowed past the conversation, “Well anyway, I’ve got to go.”

 

That snapped her back to the baby-less present. “What? Aren’t you hungry?”

 

“No, I’m all set, thanks.”

 

“Well, do you have a minute? I think Dad wants to show you something.”

 

Sam wanted to be shown nothing, but he looked at his mom’s kind face and knew he couldn’t actually be that evasive. “I mean, is it quick? It’s just that I have to head out.”

His mother looked momentarily disappointed, “Yeah, you know what? Go out, you guys can catch up later. We have to get ready for the party,” she said with the kind of glee he knew would make Kate’s stomach turn.

 

“Oh, okay,” that was a relief; maybe this wouldn’t be a really huge deal after all. 

 

“See you later, honey. What are you doing, anyway?”

 

“Oh, I’m heading to that coffee shop down town. I need to get some work done.”

 

The calm expression morphed into a frown, but Sam turned to walk out the door before he could be interrogated any further. The atmosphere retained the previous day’s mugginess. He whipped out the Marlboros, lighting one up as soon as it was safe. He chose to walk down the other side of the road. It was nice to peek down through the trees and see a wide expanse of green; it did seem like a bit more of a treat now that he was less accustomed to it. He welcomed the harsh clean lines of grey, black, and red brick that surrounded his life in the city, but the pure gleam of the countryside refreshed him. He passed one of the larger breaks in the trees and saw the dirty little pathway that had formed over time. The kids of Ballardvale had eroded it. When Kate was little, she and Danny would end up running down the path in the valley and beyond to the river. When Sam was a teenager, he and his friends would raid a liquor cabinet and sneak down there. Even now, there was probably someone getting into some kind of trouble. It was a teenage playground.

 

Sam’s head was still in the valley, though his feet had taken him down to the center of town. He made his way over to the coffee shop and considered one more cigarette before entering, but thought better of it. His habit had begun as a petulant rebellion against his doctor father, but remained a constant craving. Inside, Sam ordered a black coffee, his usual. The bitter taste was a kick to the senses and the caffeine that electrified his body soon thereafter wasn’t so bad either. He set his computer down on worn, decades old maple. That table would ensure a good view of the room. Though on second thought, diagonally across the way was Danny.

 

“So do you come here often now?” Sam probed at him as he came over.

Danny looked around somewhat mischievously, “Actually, your sister told me to come here.”

 

“For any reason in particular?”

 

“I was telling her yesterday about how I met this girl. She told me to ask her for coffee and not the whole bar thing I usually do. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t a bad idea.”

 

“You mean speaking to someone, face to face, in a sober capacity is working for you? I think you may almost have reached adolescence.”

 

“Don’t be a dick,” he looked around. “She’s in the bathroom, so don’t say anything stupid if she comes out.” He did, so far, sort of like her. Maggie had a directness that most girls he went with never showed. He had originally planned on eventually asking her to come by Charlie’s, but she had texted him last night, and he had been thrown off enough to take Kate’s advice.

 

Sam laughed at him. “Fine, fine. Relax! Are you coming by later for Kate’s grad party?

If nothing else, there’ll be free food.”

 

“Who says no to free food?”

 

“Free food?” A girl of average height with honey colored hair and light brown eyes asked as she came over to the table and sat down. “Hi.” She smiled up at Sam.

 

“Hi, I’m Sam.”

 

“This is Maggie,” Danny said, smiling like a jackass.

 

“Nice to meet you, Maggie.” He motioned back to his laptop. “I’ve actually got some emails I need to catch up on.”

 

“I’ll see you later then.” Danny looked at her as she turned her head back around and stared right at him.

 

“So you get free food later?”

 

“Yeah, I’m going to my friend Kate’s, graduation party later. We’ve been friends since we were little. She’s like my sister.”

 

“That’s nice.”

 

“Do you want to come?” He knew Kate wouldn’t mind.

 

‘Thanks, but I can’t.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“I only meant to come and hang out for the night with Johnny before heading back home. That’s why I texted you for today. I have to be back in Johnston soon.”

 

“Do you have time for another coffee?” He glanced at her empty cup.

 

“I actually kind of need to go nowish.” Guilt displayed on her face, “Sorry.”

 

“You can leave, but only if you tell me when we’re hanging out next.” He felt like he was gambling and didn’t really like it.

 

Maggie leaned back in her chair, sizing him up. “In a day or two when you come to Johnston.”

 

“Deal.” He stood up with her and walked to the door. “Do I get a hug?”

 

She laughed and moved in; he stole a kiss too, but she didn’t pull away at least. If anything, she pressed into his lips for a moment and then stepped back. “I’ll see you soon, Danny.” He watched her walk away and enjoyed it. Danny retreated back to the table they had been sitting at and picked up the remainder of his drink.

 

“I’ll be damned. That looked like a real, live coffee date to me.”

 

“You’re such a pain in the ass.” He walked over to Sam’s set up. “What are you even doing? It‘s Sunday.”

 

“I’m working.”

 

“That’s a waste, if you ask me.”

 

“Good thing I didn’t ask you then. So where did she go? Did she realize she was on a date with you and flee the scene?”

 

“Actually, she had to go home. She’s a town over.”

 

“Should’ve brought her to the party. Kate’s nosey, she’d probably want to meet her.”

 

“I asked, and she said she had to go home since she was only around visiting Johnny anyway.”

 

“Oh, well, on the bright side, she can’t be grilled and scared off by everyone.”

 

“I gotta say, that’s probably also the upside of not bringing her around Charlie’s. Kate was really on to something.” He scratched his head.

 

“Because you want her to actually return to Ballardvale at some point?”

 

He paused, because he knew one of the reasons Kate was anti-Charlie’s. It was so stupid, but in this case, it had also been a save for him. “So I think it might’ve been Jess too.”

 

“Could’ve been, but conventional dating would dictate the coffee date.”

 

He ignored Sam textbook-like recital and plowed on. “I’ve never had a problem with Jess and none of my friends have. She and Kate seem to have this thing?”

 

“Jess? I couldn’t tell you why, but I’d have to agree with you there.”

 

“Yeah, exactly. It’s like Kate just hates her and I’m not sure why. But maybe she’d be all up in Maggie’s shit if I brought her to Charlie’s.”

 

“Jess would?”

 

“Yeah,” Danny couldn’t put his finger on it. “Jess and my friends, she’s always around to hang out, but she’s not friends with them the same way.”

 

“If that’s how she is, it’s how she is. I just know Kate isn’t a fan.”

 

“Yeah, but I’ve never actually seen them argue or just stop hanging out. If I don’t like someone, I just stop hanging out with them.” Danny blew out a sigh, thinking of his two friends. If Jessica knew he was hanging out with Kate, she always elected to come along. But if Jessica was around, Kate would make a quick exit, so he had to assume this one was on Kate.

 

“Wouldn’t waste too much time thinking about it. Looks like you have more important stuff to worry about.”

 

Danny nodded in agreement. “I’m going to shove off now. See you in while?”

 

“Yes, you unfortunately will.”

 

“Jesus, you two avoid your house like it’s a torture chamber.”

 

“Well, for me it is. For Kate, it is today.”

 

Danny stood up, “Later, Sam.” As Danny walked out, his phone buzzed and he looked down to Jess’s text, what’re you up to?

 

Grabbing a smoke outside

?

Outside coffeehouse

I’ll meet up with you in a few?

Yeah sure

He leaned against the building and looked out over the square, inhaling deeply.

Jessica coming around would be a problem. Whatever, he thought, not really my problem. Kate was going to leave again anyway, and Jessica always hung around him no matter what. After a few minutes of waiting, she was slinking towards him.

“It is sooo effing hot right now.”

 

“What’re you up to right now?”

 

“You’re looking at it, need something to do. Why are you at a coffee shop by the way?” She peered in and saw Sam sitting there working. “Sam?”

 

“I was just talking to him.”

 

She scrunched her lips around, “Mmm, whatever. So, you want to go down to the river today or something? I actually get a weekend day off for once.”

 

“Can’t actually.”

 

“Oh. How come?” She searched his face for a hint.

 

“I’m actually headed to Kate’s today.”

 

“Kate’s? I’ll come.”

 

“It’s her graduation party.”

 

“Yeah, I haven’t really seen Kate much since she came home.” A purposeful move, but it was probably time for her to say ‘hi.’ This seemed as good as any other time.

 

“You want to come?” She sensed surprise in Danny’s voice.

 

“Totally,” Jessica replied. “Isn’t Sam going to it? It’s his sister.” She looked curiously through the window at Kate’s older brother.  He was good looking in a mature kind of way; it was too bad he was such a string bean and resembled Kate. “Come on, let’s go.”

 

“I think it’s a little early.”

 

“Oh whatever, she won’t care. She’ll have people to help her set stuff up.”

 

“Yeah, I s’pose so.”

 

She was sensing some hesitation on his part, “Come on.”

 

Danny shrugged, “Yeah, ok.”

 

Jessica let him lead the way since she wasn’t actually sure where Kate lived. The few times she’d been there it was because she had followed Danny in that direction, not of her own volition. They arrived at Kate’s house faster than Jessica had imagined. It really would have been fine had it taken more time, but the earlier they could sit through the perfunctory graduation party visit, the better. Then it would be off for fun somewhere.

 

Danny climbed the three stone steps that led to a side door and knocked. “Kate?” No answer. “Kate, we’re coming in.”

 

Jessica looked around at the house as she and Danny stepped in. It had a good-sized kitchen; there was even an island. The rest of the house matched its proportions. She didn’t even know what a person would do with that much space. Danny made his way to the back, through the living room that was opposite the kitchen and Jessica followed him, slowly taking in Kate’s space. Her TV was tiny, and it looked weird in the room, as it was so big. The houses Jessica had grown up in were always smaller for certain, but they always filled it with good stuff, and TV screens that were actually visible for that matter.

 

She continued to the back door with Danny and heard him say, “Hey Kate!”

 

Kate turned around from arranging potato salad on a plastic fold out table. She was wearing an orange sundress. It was so boring and bland. So Kate. “Danny?” A smile spread across her face as she turned and saw him. “Kind of early. Not that it matters.”

 

“Well, we thought we could come and help.” This ‘we’ seemed to trigger Kate’s focus and she looked beyond Danny and saw Jessica standing there.

 

“Hey, Jessica.”

 

I’m called Jess. You know that. “Hey Kate, how’s it going?” She stretched her mouth in the shape of the biggest, happiest smile she could. “Been a while since I’ve seen you.”

 

“It has, and it’s going.” She looked around and walked towards them so she would be out earshot from her parents standing at the other end of the yard. “I’m actually relieved you’re here. Not that I’m pulling a ‘Sam’ where I avoid my parents. But if I were going to pick a day, this would be that day. They are way too happy about this, and honestly, I don’t even care. They just want to have all their cousins and friends and whomever over, so now I’m stuck here all day.”

 

Jessica felt satisfaction in hearing Kate’s tribulations come tumbling out of her. It was nice to see the ice princess show some emotion for once. It almost seemed like she was a real, normal human being.

 

“You guys wanna go grab ice and dump it in those coolers?” She motioned to two large empty green coolers.

 

“Yeah, no problem,” said Danny.

 

“Thanks!”

 

Jessica and Danny turned away and returned to the house. “I’ve never seen her like that,” Jessica said, trying stifle the smirk she could feel on her lips.

 

Danny was studying her via a sideways glance. “Well, you guys never hung out much.” He laughed, “Trust me, there are plenty of spazzy Kate moments that have come up over the years.”

 

“Yeah, I guess. But you’ve known her forever.” Jessica opened the door to the fridge,

 

“Wonder what they’ve got in here.”

 

He grabbed two bags of ice, “What are you doing?”

 

“If we’re helping, I think that deserves a beer.”

 

“I guess,” he put a bag down at her feet. “Here.”

 

This forced her to take a long slug off the top of it and put it down. “Sure.”

 

“And yeah, we’ve been friends since about kindergarten; it makes for some stories.”

He laughed, “She definitely got spazzier as we got older.”

 

“How so?”

 

“Eh, I dunno. It just sort of happened, more after she left for school.”

 

“Yeah, totally.” Nope, not a bit. Kate was always exclusive and stuck up. She had no idea what college had to do with any of it.

 

 “Well, I guess you weren’t really around when we were kids. It’s different when you go from a little kid with someone to a full adult.”

 

“I guess so,” she agreed out of convenience as they walked back out to complete their chore.

 

“There’re two more,” Danny said, “I’ll go and get them.” Much to Jessica’s dismay, she watched him turn and walk away.

 

“Here,” Jessica jumped, as Kate’s voice was unexpected. “Sodas and beers and stuff. We can just load them in here.”

 

“Right,” Jessica turned and crouched down to help her out.

 

“Thanks for helping out, Jessica.”

 

“Oh, you can call me Jess.”

 

“Sorry, I think when I first met you, you were called Jessica. It always just stuck in my head for some reason.”

 

“That’s fine. But I’m really more of a Jess.”

 

“Gotcha. So what’ve you been up to? You were done with school a year ago, I think.”

 

“Yeah, I work down at Charlie’s.”

 

“What’d you major in though?”

 

“Elementary Ed. No jobs in that, though.”

 

“Oh, bummer.”

 

“Yeah, but honestly, I couldn’t imagine having that same kind of a schedule droning on and on day in and day out. I like it to switch up. Plus, I make bank off of tips.”

 

“That’s great! Did you move back home?”

 

“Uhh, God no.”

Kate’s face flickered a bit, “Why not?”

 

Moving home hadn’t been an option. Even staying in Ballardvale her final years of high school were tricky enough, the way her mother moved them sporadically around.

“I just couldn’t imagine living with my mom again. I think I’d be moving backwards if I did that. Like, I don’t even know how you’re doing it now. It must be really hard.”

 

“Well, I’m moving away again in a few weeks, you know?”

 

“Yeah, I just couldn’t go from feeling free and living on my own to like, being back at home. Seems kinda suffocating.”

 

“Here we go,” the sound of Danny’s voice interrupted her stream of thought.

 

Kate smiled again, “Thanks, Danny.”

 

“Here you go, Jess,” he handed her the beer she had left behind. “So what’d I miss?”

 

“Jessica was catching me up on life and her apartment,” Kate replied, eyeing the beer in Jessica’s hand.

 

“Oh yeah, she has a pretty sweet place.”

 

“Only just moved in from my old one.”

 

“What was wrong with it?”

 

“Well, it was actually on this side of town, and I wanted to be in the The Gulch.”

 

“Oh, really?”

 

“Yeah, well you know, The Gulch is closer to downtown and more friends live there anyway.” She motioned to Danny. “Like we all hang out all the time, so it makes more sense.” She stared right at Kate, who was back in her icy state. It was weird how she could arrange her face in a particular manner and just keep it there. She could smile away, but Jessica knew she was full of shit.

 

“Definitely can’t blame you for that.”

 

“Anything else we should do?” Danny placed the last of the cans in the cooler.

“I mean, I think that’s pretty much it,” she motioned to Jessica, “you already got a drink, Danny just grab one if you want or anything else you guys need.” She sat back on her knees and looked depressingly around the yard. Her mother was grinning ear to ear and motioning for Kate to come over and say hello to some middle aged couple wearing crinkled, pleated khakis, the man paired his with a horrible pastel polo, while the woman had on a misshapen tan button down t-shirt.

 

 Jessica smiled, “Looks like you’re on duty.”

 

“Uhhh, yeah, looks like it. Better go over. I wonder where Sam is.” She stood up.

 

“I saw Sam,” Jess said.

 

Kate’s head whipped around, “You did?”

 

“We did,” Danny answered. “I was at a coffee shop.”

 

Kate looked confused, “You were at a coffee shop?”

 

“Kate! Get over here,” her mother was calling. “You have some visitors,” she sang out, clearly pleased.

 

“Yeah, fine.” She walked away, still looking confused.

 

“So what were you doing at that coffee shop again?”

 

He paused, “You know, I ran into Sam.”

 

She didn’t realize he ever actually hung around Sam. He was older than both of them.

“Sam’s an odd one.”

 

“Naw, he just does his own thing, I think. Never comes home. I kind of feel like he can’t stand his family, except Kate.”

 

“Can you blame him?” she muttered, staring at the lot of them; they were rocking an Even Stevens look. She didn’t even know how Sam could stand Kate.

 

“Who knows really, I mean, again, I never even see him; he never even comes home.”

They made their way into the back of the house once more and then to the kitchen up front. There was food and more beer in there that Jessica wanted to drink. As the sun had begun to go down, it started to get cooler out. She’d been there for way too long. The plan was to go early and leave early. Sam had appeared and he and Danny were hanging out though. So unfortunately for her, Kate was trudging in towards the kitchen. She looked tired, sort of annoyed, and even a little sweaty.

 

“Oh, my God. I think I’m almost free!” She looked thoroughly relieved.

 

“Oh, what? You’re not excited to be dragged around like a prized pig at a county fair? Weird,” came the sardonic sound of Sam’s voice.

 

“Shouldn’t you be heading out to say ‘hi’ to the immediate world Mom and Dad invited over?”

 

“Hell no, I did my time, plus I’ve carefully honed my powers of evasion so I don’t have to deal with this crap.”

 

Jessica watched Kate sink into a chair and say, “Teach me your ways!”

 

“I came home at the right time, but I stayed in here. If I’m out of sight I’m out of mind, yet I’m still here when I said I’d be, so it’s their problem if they can’t remember to force me outside, not mine.”

 

“Well played, Sam.” Jessica found her voice and they all looked in her direction.

 

“Where’s Addie?”  She shifted in her seat.

 

Kate sat up a little straighter in her chair, “I’m not sure actually, she was supposed to come by.”

 

“I’ll call her.” Jessica pulled out her phone. Maybe if Addie were there, Kate would get distracted and they could take off.

 

“Hey, Jess. What’s up?”

 

 

“Where are you? We’re all at Kate’s graduation party.”

 

“Oh, you are?” Addie didn’t know if the surprise in her voice would register with Jessica. She liked Kate and Jessica the same but found the match surprising. “Yeah, I just finished up here, I was going to take off in about 5.”

 

“Is that Addie on there?” Addie could hear Kate’s voice, though muffled, through the

other end of the phone.

 

“Yeah, it’s her.”

 

“Here, can I grab the phone?” There was some rustling as Addie changed hands.

 

“Addie?”

 

“Yeah, Kate?”

 

“Are you free?”

 

“Yeah, I was just saying I was gonna come over.”

 

“Don’t.”

 

“What?”

 

“Yeah. I need to get out of here, I’ll come to you.”

 

Addie shrugged at no one in particular, “Fine by me. I have to help my parents open in

the morning anyway.”

 

“Cool, I’m gonna get off the phone and head your way now.”

 

“That works.” Addie hung up and sat back on her bed to look around her room. It was pretty sparse. There were drawers and a desk crammed against the wall opposite her bed.  Her real room was the roof. She crouched out her window and climbed the rickety fire escape, which Kate was a total wimp about. She had a habit of going up there, if she could make it, to take her sunset photo every day. It was always the same view, but it always looked different as the days and months went by. Plus, she liked distorting the shadows and colors with various filters. Most people would think she had the most boring Instagram in the world, but she didn’t care, she liked her sunset photos. It was easily the best part of her home.

 

After her daily ritual was over, she found her way back to the kitchen in the apartment and rooted through the refrigerator.

 

“What are you looking for?” her mother’s words spiked through the air.

 

“Food.” She rummaged around and found some old pasticcio.

 

“I thought you were going to see Kate for her graduation party?” Her mother’s voice sounded off.

 

“She wanted to come here instead.”

 

“Oh, OK, either way is fine with me.”

 

Great, she thought, so glad it’s fine with you, “I’m honestly okay with it. I’m tired and tomorrow is going to be an early morning.”

 

“Of course you’re okay with it. You are getting older now.”

 

“I’m not old.”

 

“Yes, well it’s time for you to be running around less. You get tired from it.”

 

Heat gathered in the pit of Addie’s stomach. Her mother always said these things as though it would make them so. She didn’t know if her mother did it on purpose, but telling someone they are getting older and inevitably more tired wasn’t necessarily going to make them that way, no matter how many times it was reinforced.

“Make sure you heat that in the oven.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Not that microwave. And put a pan of water in there too.”

 

“I know.”

 

“It’ll dry out otherwise.

 

“Got it.” She looked at her mother.

 

“Okay, I’m going back downstairs.” Her mother crossed over to the door.

 

“See you in a while.”

 

“And Addie, don’t forget to put that on 350˚.”

 

Addie exhaled, “Thanks, Mom.”

 

This seemed to pacify her for the time being and she left for good. Addie went through all the steps she was instructed to do. Her mother’s didactic tone was frustrating, but it was better to just take it than be reprimanded later for saying “I know.” After about twenty minutes, her food was warmer and Kate came through the door as Addie was starting to eat.

 

“Well hey there, you look… miserable.”

 

“Ughh, not miserable,” Addie shrugged at Kate as she sat herself down on the couch. She was in angst-filled Kate mode. “I’m just over it right now.”

 

“What, having your cheeks pinched?”

 

“Trust me, a cheek pinch would be welcome. Cheek pinching happens and then it’s over and you move on to a different cheek pincher. This was like three hours of small talk. Not just family members either, it was with their friends. Um, I’m sorry, I don’t know who any of these people are, I don’t care, and they probably don’t even care. It is beyond me why they would even want to go to this,” Kate paused to exhale post-diatribe.

 

“Um, free food? Your mom does always make that pasta salad. Seriously, so good.”

 

“And it gets better, Danny for some reason invited Jessica.”

 

“Yeah, I was a little surprised when she called me from your place.”

 

“I’m not sure how she would wind up there; I sort of figured Danny knew we weren’t really friends. But, there was some weird thing happening with him today. He and Sam were at a coffee shop earlier or something?”

 

“Sam? Yeah, sure. Danny does not do coffee shops. So that is… different.”

 

“Apparently, they were all there and then Danny and Jessica showed up at my place.”

 

“Not sure if Jess and Danny are coffee shop people. I think they hang out a ton now. After you went away to school and stuff, I mean.”

 

“Well, she’s a lame replacement for me. Just saying.”

 

“Ehhh, I don’t think Danny’s known for being too discriminating. Have you looked at who tags him in photos on Facebook? Jess’s really probably not the worst person he hangs around.”

 

Addie could tell Kate was still bristling internally. There was a territorial side to Kate where people were concerned. “So what do want to do now? You’re free, I have a couple bed beers left and a whole world of Netflix waiting for us to watch.”

 

Kate seemed to be distracted by that at least. “Dirty Dancing?”

 

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”

 

Kate curled her bottom lip, “It’s been a long, hot day full of warm embraces from various aunts and uncles.”

 

“Fine, Dirty Dancing first and then Breakfast at Tiffany’s… and then Mean Girls?”

 

She smiled, “Fair enough.”

The T.V. went on, and they went through their movies one by one. Addie didn’t even remember anything past Lindsay Lohan falling face first into a trashcan.