Waking up next to Aaron has become one of my favorite parts of the day. But when I open my eyes this morning and stretch, my hands find the other side of the bed empty and cold. I let out a deep sigh and turn to my right, where Aaron lay almost every morning over the past weeks.
When he left for work yesterday, he said he’d try to finish earlier and come over, but sometime in the middle of the night, he texted to let me know something had come up, and he couldn’t make it. He’d call.
With a frown, I get up and shower, trying to get rid of the heaviness in my body. Gosh, it’s only been one night spent alone, and already I can’t wait to see him again.
After finishing my breakfast, I’m about to do the dishes when my phone rings. My smile turns into a grimace as soon as I realize the caller isn’t Aaron but my mom. I haven’t talked to my parents a lot since I came to New York, mostly due to the fact that I still have to muster up the courage to tell them about my change of plans.
I take in a deep, pained breath and squeeze my eyes shut before I answer the call. “Hey, Mom.”
The way she says my name sends an unpleasant shiver down my spine. Shit, something is up. “What’s wrong?”
She gets straight to the point. “I ran into Mr. Lewis.”
My stomach drops. Mr. Lewis, principal at the school I used to work at. Used to—a fact that my parents aren’t aware of. Or rather, weren’t. Judging from the tone of my mother’s voice, Mr. Lewis might have filled them in.
“Did you?” My heart beats heavy in my chest as I tap my fingers on the countertop of the kitchen isle. “That’s... nice.”
She exhales noisily. “Kaitlyn, is there anything you want to tell me?”
I close my eyes, lower my chin to my chest, and pinch the bridge of my nose. I should have come up with what to tell my parents weeks ago. Now I’m caught off guard and have no idea what to say. “Mom...” I sigh dejectedly.
“Sweetie,” she says in a measured voice, but I know the calmness she wants to convey isn’t there. “Why would you quit your job? Why did you keep this from us? What are you going to do now?” Her voice marginally increases in volume and urgency. She’s probably moments away from an angry outburst.
As I won’t get out of this anymore, I might as well get straight to the point. “I want to be a writer. I will publish a book next year.”
For a few moments, there’s nothing but silence on the other end of the line, and I wonder if my mom passed out from the shock. “A writer?” she finally says in a low voice. “You want to be a writer? And you give up a steady job for that?”
“Mom,” I say with a deep sigh. “This is not only about me wanting to be a writer. This is about me wanting to live. I want to experience new things, meet new people, see new places, and not do what is expected of me. I don’t want to finish school and college and then find a job and work until I retire. That’s what you all want from me, but it’s not what I want.”
She puffs. “Where is this coming from all of a sudden? I don’t get this. I thought you enjoy being a teacher.”
“I do, Mom. I really do, but I know life has more to offer than that.”
“If you want to see the world, you can still travel while being a teacher with a steady job. You could have traveled all summer instead of house-sitting for your aunt.”
“Mom, you’re not listening to what I’m saying. That is not what it’s about. Please, this is not the end of the world. I will not end up homeless or broke. I will still take on tutoring jobs or any job that comes my way. Maybe I am a little crazy, but I want to do this. I can always go back to my teaching job if all else fails. I don’t want to look back in ten or twenty years and regret my decisions. Can’t you understand?” I plead, delivering my speech without pausing for breath. “I need to do this, for my own happiness.”
Again, my mom is silent. I hear no sound except the pounding in my ears from my hammering heart. My mother usually is a loving person, but you need to stay away from her when she’s mad. And right now, she’s furious, as I expected. But I’m mad too. Mad at her for not even trying to listen and understand, and also mad at myself for stalling. We could have had this conversation a long time ago, but I blocked it out. I roll my shoulders, trying to relax my tense muscles, before I pace up and down the kitchen, running my hand through my hair.
My mom still doesn’t say anything, and I open my mouth to talk, but at last, she speaks. “We will talk about this when you get home, face to face, not over the phone. Your father will want to talk to you too. The last word hasn’t been spoken on this matter.”
“Yes, Mom, it has. I won’t back down.”
“Does Jannie know?”
I stop in my tracks. “Don’t drag her into this. To be honest, I had hoped you’d learned your lesson with how it all went down with her. Is this what you want? Us not talking to each other anymore?”
She gasps. ”Of course not! How can you say that?”
“I don’t know. Mom...,” I say on a long exhale. “I don’t know what else to tell you. I’m sorry, but you won’t make me change my mind.”
After a few more moments of silence, my mom takes in a long, slow breath. “Maybe we should all cool down a little and talk again in a few days once the waves have calmed.”
I nod, even though she can’t see me. “That might be best.”
We end the call after exchanging at least some cordialities and her telling me she loves me, which I almost answer with a snort. But I hold myself back and tell her I love her too even if I’m not exactly feeling that love right now.
I grab my mug from the kitchen table and finally start on the dishes—a little more forcefully than necessary. While I do, I stew over the conversation with my mom. I guess all I can do is to allow her some space and hope for the best.
I try to distract my thoughts with cleaning, but once the house is spotless, I drop on the couch with a heavy sigh and worries still running through my mind. It’s already past noon, and I haven’t heard anything from Aaron. I tried to call him, but it went straight to voicemail. Weird.
I turn my head in the kitchen’s direction, contemplating my options. Although it’s been a while since I had breakfast, I don’t feel like having lunch, so I lie on the couch, staring at the ceiling.
Because I’m so deep in thought, I almost fall off the sofa when my phone rings next to me on the coffee table. I leap to my feet and grab it with my sweaty palms. But again, my smile falters when I see the caller ID. As it’s still not Aaron, the revitalizing effect of the adrenaline rush coursing through my body ceases instantly and instead causes a small wave of nausea.
With a heavy sigh, I answer. “Hey, Amber.” Even though I always love talking to my best friend, this was not the call I was hoping for.
“Oh. My. Goodness!” Amber screeches. “Has your mom called yet?”
I groan and roll my eyes. “How do you know?”
“Small town gossip, of course. Your mom told my mom. And she told me.”
With another groan, I slump into the couch and drape my arm over my eyes. “Mom called me this morning, and it was as pleasant as I expected.”
“She yelled at you?”
“No, she didn’t raise her voice. She didn’t have to; her words and her unwillingness to listen to anything I had to say clearly conveyed her anger.”
“So are you coming home now?”
With a puff, I sit up. “Not a chance! Jannie will be back in a month, and I will spend the rest of that time here so Mom can cool down. Not sure how my dad feels about this yet. I’m hoping he’ll be a little more understanding.”
“Well, keep me posted. But now to the important matters: What’s new with you and the hunk?”
I laugh. Even though I’m ill at ease because Aaron hasn’t called or texted yet, I can’t contain the habitual silly grin when I think about him. “New? Nothing really,” I tell her as some of the tension leaves my body. “We’re still enjoying our time together.”
“Naked time, huh?”
I snort with another laugh. “Hey, it’s not all about the sex. Being with Aaron is so much more than just mind-blowing orgasms. You know better than anyone I always preferred the safe side of things. But now... things changed. He pulls me so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore. I’m doing things I never thought possible. And not only in the bedroom. He reinforces my decision to become a writer. He encourages me to continue on my way. I have this new sense of self-confidence; it’s like I’m discovering who I really am for the first time. I’m doing things for myself, and I’ve never felt happier.” I let out a content sigh, with that silly grin still on my face. “I even let him read my book, Amber. Can you believe that?”
I wait for an answer from my friend, and I worry that she fell asleep during my little speech. “Amber?” I ask.
“Wow,” is the only thing she says a moment later.
“You’re falling for him,” she states.
“What? I’m telling you how I’m on my path to self-discovery, and that’s what you get from it?”
“Your monologue wasn’t so much about that but more about how Aaron is the one who set the ball rolling. Sure, you took that first step yourself when you quit your job and all, but you’ve been questioning your decision since.” She pauses, and I know if she sat in front of me right now, I would be on the receiving end of one of her intense stares. “So are you falling for him?”
I bite my bottom lip and place my hand on my roiling stomach. I’m still not entirely sure if developing feelings for Aaron is the smartest thing to do, but ever since that first confusion made way to an ever growing certainty of how I’m drawn to him in more ways than one, I can breathe more and more easily. A budding sense of ease and serenity enfolds in my mind whenever we’re together.
I close my eyes and let memories of him and me take over. Being with him is exhilarating yet calming; he makes me feel things that no one else ever has. “Yes,” I tell Amber. “I’m falling for him.”
Wow, admitting it out loud somehow makes this real as if it eliminates the last bit of doubt.
Amber chuckles. “I knew it! Now what? Are you gonna stay in New York?”
I blow out my cheeks. “I have no idea. I don’t even know if he feels the same. But I do know that I want to be with him even after this summer.”
“Ask him if he feels the same, and then you’ll work something out.”
I laugh. “It’s just as easy as that, huh?”
“Yup,” Amber responds. “Do it. I don’t want to hear you whine about missed opportunities when you come back home. If you come back home,” she adds with another chuckle.
My friend’s words echo in my mind long after we end the call. Talk to him. Yes, I have to talk to Aaron, now more than ever, but another hour of futile attempts at getting a hold of him passes before someone rings the doorbell, sending a jolt through my body – that must be him. I rush to the front door, tearing it open, and my little heart leaps with joy when I finally lay eyes on him again, but the relief is short-lived. My head starts spinning when I see the deep frown etched on his forehead and how his chest rises and falls with heavy breaths. There’s no way he will give me his usual sexy hello smile with the way he clenches his jaw. His whole appearance doesn’t bode well.
And all he says is, “We need to talk.”