It didn’t come as a surprise that Greg appeared in her backseat, a sheepish expression on his face. “Sorry about earlier,” he said.
“Don’t worry about it,” she replied. “I’m not.”
“I heard I’m supposed to be your boyfriend now.”
Sighing loudly, Alison ran a hand roughly through her hair. “Yeah, well, I’m sure you knew that was a lie.”
“I know, I know.”
“How did I know you’d spy on me,” she complained.
“I wasn’t spying. Honestly. I stopped by for one second. Then I left. I must’ve dropped in at a bad time. I didn’t mean to hear you say that.”
“Then you probably know about his girlfriend too,” Alison muttered. Her eyes had grown damp. The situation had been more humiliating than anything else. But she had known. She had known from the beginning that it wasn’t a date and that was why she didn’t care in the least that he was already taken.
“Sorry if I got your hopes up. I really did think he liked you. I wasn’t just saying that to be an asshole.”
“Looks like you thought wrong.”
“Alison, don’t be like that,” he begged. “It was an honest mistake.”
“I’m not being like anything. I don’t care. It wasn’t a big deal. Just forget it, okay. I don’t want to talk about him. It’s over. Just let it alone.” She was sick of thinking about Josh, anyway. She had made far too big a deal over him the last few days. Who cared if he was attractive? Lots of guys were. And who cared if he was a good cook. If she wanted gourmet food, she’d pay for it herself.
“So, how’s Emily holding up?”
Thank you! Much better. Let’s talk about Emily. Anything was better than talking about Josh and his cute, little, short, girlfriend. “She’s great,” Alison replied. “She’s doing really well.”
“That sounds like good news.”
“It is good news.”
“How was the food?”
“It was fine,” Alison said.
They drove the rest of the way home in silence. She was glad when she finally pulled into her house.
“Can I come in?” Greg asked.
“I suppose,” Alison replied. Normally, she’d argue a little first and tell him it was too late before finally giving in. But not tonight. She was too tired to argue. And also, she didn’t much feel like being by herself.
They went into her house. Her gaze fell on the answering machine sitting on her coffee table, the light blinking. There were two messages on it, one from earlier and a new one from when she had been out. She had meant to listen to the first one before she left but had completely forgotten about it.
She made her way to her couch, pulling her shoes off and dropping them on the floor beside the table leg. Then she leaned forward and pressed the button to start the messages.
* Beep *
“Hi, Miss McCarthy. It’s me again, Daniel Hoffinger. I was wondering about the other day when you ran out. I was wondering if you were doing all right. I hope nothing’s wrong. Call me back if you get the chance. We’d like you to check the mirror out again if you can.”
Oh yeah, him. How awful. She had run away from his apartment and never called him back or anything. She decided she’d give him a call later if she remembered.
* Beep *
“Hello. My name’s April Longstrum. I found yoa’ agency in the phonebook and I was callin’ to make an appointment. My number’s 492-8793. I’m availabal all day befo’ six. Thank yew.”
Oooh. A new customer. That sounded wonderful. She loved customers. It was a little late to call now but she’d definitely call back first thing in the morning, which for Alison would be around 1:00 PM.
“Keeping busy,” Greg commented.
“Just the way I like it,” Alison smiled. “I have to say, with all that’s happened, at least I’ve had a good month of work. You know how much I hate it when it gets slow.”
“I know it.”
“So what if it makes up for my total lack of a personal life, right? When you come right down to it, friends don’t pay the bills, customers do.”
Greg burst out laughing, shaking his head in amusement. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, “I couldn’t help it. That was just the most depressing thing I ever heard in my life.”
Alison narrowed her eyes at him. “What’s that supposed to mean, ghostie, I was being serious.”
“That’s the sad part.”
“Laugh it up,” Alison grumbled, pulling a cigarette from the coffee table. She lit it, taking a deep drag. Letting out a heavy breath of smoke, she leaned back against the couch, the cigarette in her hand. “By the way, I decided to quit smoking. Can’t remember if I mentioned that to you yet.”
“Was that before or after you’re finished with this one?”
“After,” she replied. “This is my last one ever. Then I’m done.”
“Good for you.”
“That’s right,” she said, puffing away. “Good for me.”
“What made you decide to try quitting again?”
“Lots of things,” she said. “But most of all, I think I just need a change in my life.”
“You could try cutting your hair,” he offered.
“No way. I like my hair.”
She let out another breath of smoke, struggling with all her might to keep her mind off of thoughts of Josh. But it was hard. She was still hurt by the whole situation. If she were the sensitive type, she would’ve even gone so far as to call herself devastated and heartbroken. Good thing she wasn’t the sensitive type. However, there was so much acid in her stomach right now it was a wonder she didn’t have an ulcer already. That was what always got her when she was stressed. Her stomach.
“Are you still upset about that guy?”
“I’m a little upset,” she admitted reluctantly.
“I knew it.”
“He has a girlfriend,” she reminded him. “I think that’s a good enough reason to be annoyed, don’t you think? Considering the fact that I had that huge crush on him and was under the pathetic impression that something might happen between us tonight.”
“I see what you’re saying.”
“So what do you think about him?”
“Yeah you. What do you think about him?” she asked.
“I think he sounds like a blubbering moron,” Greg relied. He held up a hand in defense. “Don’t say anything yet. It’s not like I’ve seen him all that much. But from what I saw, I wasn’t terribly impressed.”
Alison grinned. A blubbering moron? How funny. She supposed that if she were feeling especially mean she might describe Josh like that herself. “A blubbering moron,” she repeated to herself. “I like that.”
“Wow, you took that way better than I thought you would.”
“I’m not super happy with him right now, remember?”
She looked down at the tiny cigarette in her hand. No more for her now. Too bad. But she meant it when she said she needed a change. Some kind of change. Any kind of change at all was welcome. She just needed to feel like a different person for a little while.
Bending forward, she pushed the dying cigarette butt into an astray on the coffee table.