Alison let Greg into the house in the same way that people let in strays while it’s raining. Very reluctantly and mostly because she’d feel bad if she didn’t. He had stood at her front door, begging and calling for attention and making her feel guilty for not giving it to him.
“What took so long?” he complained as he moved inside.
“Nothing,” she replied. “It’s not like I’m obligated to invite you in every day.” She turned, heading towards her staircase.
“I never said it was an obligation,” Greg retorted. “You’re supposed to want to see me. I’m your only friend, remember?”
“Ugh, don’t remind me.”
He looked up at her suspiciously as she headed up the steps, which only served to annoy her further. “Are you wearing makeup?”
“You going out?”
How did she know he was going to do this? This was exactly why she hadn’t wanted him to be there. She knew he was going to be nosy and ask too many questions. “As a matter of fact,” she replied, “yes, I am. I got invited over for dinner.”
“None of your business.”
“Greg, is it really that necessary that you know everything I’m doing all the time.”
“I’m just curious,” he said defensively.
Curious. As always. But perhaps she was just being hard on him. “Emily’s brother asked me.”
“Oh, him,” Greg said, his voice dropping. He sounded so irritated by the fact that it was almost amusing. “Josh, right? You must be ecstatic.”
“I am ecstatic, thanks.”
“What, so is it like a date?”
“No,” she said. “It’s not like a date. It’s a… a thank you. For helping them out. That’s all.”
“Yeah, right. You know, you’re really pretty,” Greg said matter-of-factly. “I bet he asked because he likes you.”
“No, I’m being completely serious.”
She wished he’d just drop it already. As nice of a thought as that was, it sounded just a little too good to be true for her liking. If it happened, and she and Josh really did hit it off later that night, then she could be all excited about it. But not yet. Not until she knew for sure that he was interested in the same way that she was interested.
Making her way into her bedroom, she sent a warning look at Greg. “Stay in the hall.”
“Okay, I will. Geez.”
Her eyes moved to the tall mirror above her dresser. She hadn’t been sure what to wear, since it was already established that this was, in fact, not a date. With that in mind, she had put on a pair of black pants and a dark grey and white, button-up blouse. Not too dressy but at least she didn’t look like slob. Picking up a brush from the top of the dresser, she brought it to her long hair, running the bristles through her dark strands. She could feel Greg’s eyes boring into the back of her head as she did so. “Stop watching me,” she complained out loud.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me. It’s not like you’re changing.”
“I don’t care.” She turned to look at him, finding him drifting at the top step and making a face at her. “I hate it when you stare at me like that.”
“Oh, sorry. I forgot,” he said sarcastically. “You’re too good for a dead guy. You’re going on a date with Josh, now. Who’s so cool just because he’s alive, right?”
Turning her body to face him, she moved a hand on her hip. “Greg. Are you jealous?”
“Me? Why would I be jealous?”
“You’re so jealous. That’s what this is all about. You’re jealous of Josh.”
“Why would I be jealous of him?” Greg said. His voice rose as he spoke. “If anything, the only thing I’m jealous about is the fact that he can still get laid every once in awhile when he’s got a boner. That’s something to be jealous about. I can’t do anything like that. Not like this. A stupid… a stupid corpse. Hey, or maybe I’m jealous of you. Maybe that’s it. Because you can still go out when you feel like it and I can’t. Oh, but at least I get to watch you two have fun, right? That’s just as exciting as sex, right? Watching other people have it.”
Oh God. Was this how he was going to be all night? Complaining about being dead and sex and a whole bunch of other crap she didn’t feel like hearing about right now? “You’re being ridiculous,” she said, her voice growing more and more angry. “Just go somewhere else for tonight. Please. I just want to have a nice night and not have to worry about you ruining it for me.”
“Ruin it for you!” Greg exploded. “So now I ruin things for you! That is rich, Alison. Real rich. Just blame me for everything, why don’t you. Forget it. Have a nice date with Blondie. I’ll be out screwing a cloud or something.”
“Go to Hell!” she shrieked, throwing the brush at him. It went soaring straight through his chest, slamming against the wall.
“Maybe I will!” he shot back, disappearing through the floor.
What a dick! She couldn’t believe it! Here she was, trying to go out and have a good time for once, and Greg had blow up at her like that! What the hell was his fucking problem anyway? Growling to herself, she grabbed her purse and slung it over her shoulder. Then she made her way out of her room and jogged down the steps, her gaze falling on the driving directions she had printed out earlier still sitting on her couch. Her fingers wrapped around the paper, crunching it in her hand as she made her way to the door.
The loser. The idiot. She wouldn’t stand for it. She wouldn’t let him treat her like this. She had enough problems in her life without having Greg add to them.
Locking the door behind her, she moved quickly to her car, ignoring the wind that had picked up since earlier that day. Her hand moved to the top of her head in a lame attempt to hold her hair in place. She unlocked the driver’s door and climbed inside. It made her mad that she had to go to Josh’s all flustered now. Letting out a deep breath, she checked her reflection in the rearview mirror, forcing an awkward smile. There. Be happy. No one wanted to spend their night with a pissy woman.
She pulled out of the driveway, tugging at the rumpled directions from her pocket. He said he lived in Allentown. It was a pretty big city so it shouldn’t be hard to find. She was sure she had driven through it at least once or twice before. According to the directions, it would take about a half hour from the highway.
Arranging the paper of directions in front of her over the wheel, she began heading down the main road towards PA Route 145. It was 6:15 pm, which should give her more than enough time to get there. The sun was glowing above her, the days growing longer as spring progressed forward. She couldn’t wait for the hot days of summer to arrive. She loved the heat and she loved when it didn’t get dark until after nine.
Pushing her argument with Greg out of her mind, she concentrated on driving. She concentrated on driving and thought about things to say when she saw Josh. What would they talk about? Would he pull the conversation forward? Should she come up with topics ahead of time? What kind of topics were appropriate for a man and woman that weren’t on a date? Her palms were sweaty, she realized. Was she really that nervous? It was just dinner. Just dinner with a nice guy. Not a date. Again and again, this wasn’t a date. She had to keep things in perspective. Why get herself all worked up over nothing, right?
Yeah, she liked him, but he didn’t know that and he didn’t have to know it either.
Finding out about her crush would probably just embarrass him. It had to stay a secret. At least until she found out his own opinion on the subject. And if he liked her too, then excellent! No more need to hide the truth any longer then. Let her like him and let him like her too. It’d be perfectly natural. And regardless of what Greg seemed to think, it didn’t have to lead immediately to sex either. He was jerk for even assuming it.
After three wrong turns in Allentown and a stop at a gas station for gas and better directions than the awful ones she had printed from the internet, she was finally headed down Shere Road. She was only a little late, by a few minutes. One thing she noticed about herself, she was always a couple minutes late and never a couple minutes early. It wasn’t even a purpose but it always seemed to end up that way. That was probably better though. Maybe he expected her to be a little late. If she were early or exactly on time, would he have made fun of her for being overly anxious to see him?
The house with the address 97381 appeared on her left side. She pulled into the parking lot, surprised to see two cars already in the long driveway. He had two cars and a house? He must’ve been doing pretty well for himself then. The house was absolutely adorable itself, a true bachelor’s pad, plain white and simple in design. The yard was bare except for neatly trimmed grass. It wasn’t small, but of course, it was nowhere near as grand or large as Emily’s gigantic place.
Taking a final glance at her hair and makeup, she climbed out of the car, her purse and keys dangling from her hand. She made her way up the driveway and to the front door, climbing the steps of the porch. Clearing her throat, she knocked on the front door. Her body was practically shaking with excitement.
The door opened. Alison’s mouth dropped open at the sight of Emily. “Emily,” she choked. “What are you doing here?”
Emily smiled at her, pulling the door open and making room for her to step inside. “You didn’t know I was coming?”
“Oh no, it’s not that,” Alison said quickly with an awkward laugh, “I’m just really glad to see you.”
Emily had turned her head, calling behind her. “Josh. Alison’s here.” The slender woman was dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved knit sweater, the sleeves covering the scabs around her wrists.
Alison stepped inside, her shock turning into horror when she saw the other woman waving at her from the dining room. Her strawberry blond hair was pulled up into a messy ponytail, and she was wearing red lipstick and a black dress shirt. Who the hell was she? “Who’s that?” she asked Emily quietly, trying to keep her voice from trembling.
Looking down, Emily motioned at Alison’s feet. “They don’t wear shoes in here.”
They? Emily! What did she mean, ‘they’? Blankly, she kicked her shoes off.
Josh appeared out of the kitchen then, holding a steaming pot in his hands. He was wearing pink oven mitts, khakis and a green polo shirt. It was the first time she had seen him in casual clothing and outside of his work suits. “Alison! You made it! That’s great.” He set the pot in the middle of the rectangle dining room table. “Do you know where the wine is, Hon?” he asked to the woman in the chair. “We’re so glad you could come,” he went on to Alison. He turned to the woman in the chair, extending a hand toward her. “This is my girlfriend, Elizabeth.”
“You must be Alison,” Elizabeth called to her, climbing to her feet and turning her attention to the pot on the table. She lifted the spoon, stirring it carefully. The girl was tiny. She must’ve been four feet tall and ninety pounds. Alison felt awful. She felt completely stupid. What had she been thinking? It hadn’t even crossed her mind that he could have a girlfriend already. “Emily’s just been raving about you all day,” the girl continued. Her voice was a little high and girlish-sounding, though for all Alison knew, the woman was older than her.
Alison said, “Nice to meet you.” She wanted to leave. This was too much. Here she was, dreaming and fantasizing and telling herself not to get her hopes up yet, and for what? For a stupid guy with a stupid little girlfriend? She knew. She knew something bad was going to happen! It always did. She knew she was going to get the wrong idea about this, even when she made a valid attempt to avoid it ahead of time. And yet it had never occurred to her once that Josh might already be taken. Out of everything, you’d think it’d be the first thing she would’ve thought of. Things like this always happened to her. No wonder she had been single for so long. She was a moron.