Chapter 39: Liam
I’m getting ready to go to Cornelia’s Coffee Creation for the third time this week, eager to see Jenny. She’s a great person, I’ve found, despite the constant over-excited persona of hers. She knows my ushe now, although it’s not particularly a hard one to remember - black coffee. This may be my third time seeing her this week, but it’s been a month since I’d gone with Bentley that time.
“Going again?” he would ask after a day’s work at the shop. I always reply in a shrug and he gives me a reluctant, but encouraging smile before I turn to head out the door.
I’ve been smoking again.
I have my daily smokes outside of the store, away from Bentley’s sight - not that I think he’d care anymore, anyways. He’s still insistent on me going to college, but... I’m still not convinced. Even if he is dying, why would he want me to go to college when he’s handing down the store to me nonetheless?
I hear his small voice through the bathroom door and a smile finds its way to my face. “What’s up, little man?”
He cracks the door open a smidge, sticking his head into the tiny room. “What’re you doin’?” he asks, and when he sees the lump of shaving cream I’ve just sprayed onto my hand he jumps. “Is that whipped cream?”
A laugh escapes me and wave him closer to me with my free hand. “It’s shaving cream, silly.”
He looks up at me as if saying he can’t tell the difference. “Can I have some?”
I notch an eyebrow. “As long as you promise you won’t eat it.”
"Dad,” Jere chastises and I shake my head with a grin and ask him to hold is hand out for me. Once there’s a good amount in his hand I put the can down and watch as he speculates it. “What do we do with it?”
“We put it on our face.”
His nose wrinkles in disgust. “It smells like toothpaste.”
“Well, we’re putting this toothpaste on our faces. Ready?”
He looks from me and then back to the cream in his small hands. And, without warning, he slaps the cream onto his cheeks. “It’s cold, Daddy!” he complains, but I just laugh and do the same.
Before I can tell him where all to put it, he already has it on his nose and forehead. “Why do you only have it on the bottom of your face?” he asks and I shrug.
“I have to shave, Jere,” I try and explain, but when he gives me a funny looks with his hands still rubbing the shaving cream onto his neck, I hold up the razor. “With this.”
He’s moved onto his ears now.
“So I can get rid of the stubbly-stuff on my chin.”
His mouth forms into an “o” and then spits out the cream that escaped to his mouth. ”Ew,” he shouts, and I try to contain my laughter by pursing my lips. It doesn’t work. “Stop laughing!” he whines, which of course only makes me laugh harder.
Before too long, he’s lost in a fit of giggles as well and surprise-hugs me around my legs (due to his height). I can feel the wet cream ooze onto my legs and I grimace. “Jeremiah Tucker!” I scold, but he just continues on being happy and I can’t help but smile. “Why are you so funny?”
“Why are you so funny looking?” he retorts, and I know without hesitation that Jimmy is the one who taught him that.
I hear the phone ringing but pay no mind to it, figuring Jimmy will answer. When it dies, I hear her voice.
“Hey,” she murmurs through the speaker and I freeze. Jere stops laughing too. “I was just, um... just wondering-”
Her voice is muffled by the pounding of my footsteps down the stairs, leaving Jere behind me in the restroom.
“-so I guess I’ll be hanging up now. Um... don’t try calling back, this is a payphone, but I’ll ring y’all again soon.”
I pick up the phone
right when she clicks off.
“Daddy?” Jere calls from the top of the stairs, but my thoughts can’t stop their train of absolute shit. She called. That was her. Why was she calling here? Her voice is the same. Did she sound scared? I need her to know she shouldn’t be scared. Hell, Liam, of course she’s scared!
My thoughts are interrupted by my son calling me once more.
“Was that Libby?” he asks, and when I look up to see him at the top of the staircase, his face completely smeared with white shaving cream, I see only hope. I nod. “Is she coming back?”
His blue eyes are excited, and I can’t help but lie. “Maybe.” A broad smile comes to his face and I struggle to smile back. “You can ask her if she calls again.”
“Okay!” he practically jumps, and then scurries back to the bathroom.
My heart is pounding furiously and when I look down, I find the phone still held tight in my hand. So close, I think to myself. I’m always so close.
“We have so little time to say the things we mean, Liam,” I remember Mom telling me when I was small - around Jere’s age. “So don’t take advantage of those moments you have with the people you love.”
Back then, I had no clue what she was telling me. But for some reason that makes no sense to me, the words stuck. Maybe she was telling me about her and Dad. Maybe she was talking about a future loved one. Or maybe she was just telling me based on her personal experience.
But for whatever reason it was for her to speak those words to me, I’m thankful. Although I missed Libby’s call, she assured me she’s calling again. I’m counting on that. Because once she does, I’m going to tell her the things that need to be said; the things I mean.
“I need you,” I’ll tell her, because I do. I need her so badly.
I thought I was over and done with thinking of her, but since her phone call, she’s been the only thoughts I’ve had. No Bentley, no Jimmy, no Jenny.