Waking up sucks. I hate that feeling when you wake up but your eyes are still closed so your convinced you can just go back to sleep, when everything is still foggy and you aren’t thinking quite clearly. I let out a yawn as I pull the blanket closer. The car isn’t moving, it’s quiet and dark, Jordan isn’t in the car with me.
I sit up, scratching the top of my head, “Jordan?” I groan, “Jordan!”
Looking out the window I see a diner, a bookstore, a grocery store, and a gas station. The car is parked on the curb in front of the line of businesses, I don’t see Jordan anywhere. Cars fly by on the street and people pass me on the sidewalk as I climb from the car. I look around hoping to see Jordan’s face somewhere in the chaos but I see nothing.
I stay by the car, unsure where to go or what to do. I sit back on the seat with my legs hanging out of the car. I wrap the blanket around myself and wait, bouncing my leg impatiently. At one point I pull out my phone to call him but I quickly learned my battery was dead. A couple people watch me as they pass by, I must look so out of place sitting here like this.
Glancing back towards the diner I finally see Jordan. I jump up, frustrated, confused, and ready to go.
He looks stunned to see me, “Hey, I thought you were sleeping.”
“I was, I woke up and you were gone,” I pull the blanket tighter.
“I’m sorry. I went to grab some stuff, I didn’t think you would wake up,” He lifts the bags in his hands to show me, “Well since you’re awake, how about we go and get that ice cream I promised you?”
He puts the bags in the backseat and wraps his arms around my waist. Our hips meet as he pulls me closer, a devilish grin plays at his lips. I nod and try to give a flirty smile in return.
We get back in the car and go to the same ice cream parlor as last time. It’s surprisingly busy for a Monday night. His hand stays entwined with mine as we stand in line.
“What are all those bags in your car for? Rosie planning something special for dinner?” I smile up at him as I draw circles on his chest with my finger.
“Actually they’re for you and your dad. When you left after your dad woke up, he and I talked a little. He told me that he has no problem with me coming by and I should take advantage of the offer while he’s still like this. I got some food for the three of us. I thought you and I could do homework after, hang out.”
“If we keep spending so much time together people might think we’re dating!” I say sarcastically. He lets out a deep laugh that makes my heart flutter.
We eventually get to the front of the line and order the same as last time. Jordan tells me I should put cherries on top of my ice cream, and I do, which makes it somehow even better. After we get back in the car, I steal a bite of his ice cream when he’s not looking.
He chuckles when he looks back over at me, “Did you just-- God it’s a good thing you’re so beautiful,” He stretches across the gear shift to press his lips to mine, “Yeah, you totally stole my ice cream, I can taste the Nutella sauce. I’ll get you for that.”
I wrinkle my nose at him as I pop a cherry into my mouth, I turn up the radio and start bopping to the music as the city slowly vanishes behind us. I can see him looking at me from the corner of my eye.
“So what are we having for dinner? That’s quite a few bags,” I look at the back seat as I finish my cone, I count six bags that all appear full.
“Well it isn’t just for tonight, I got some stuff that’s easy to make, requires little work so you guys have food. I saw your kitchen remember? I worry you don’t get enough to eat,” He reaches his hand over the pet the back of my head.
“Jordan... I don’t want charity, things are tough but I can handle it,” My shoulders slump.
He lets out a long sigh, “It’s not charity. I care about you, I just want to help. Honestly, I’m happy to do it. I’d bend over backwards just to see you smile. Making sure you have food is something I don’t even have to think about. It’s not charity, it’s not.”
I pull my fingers and watch the empty road ahead. I smell warm meat and my stomach growls, which only further encourages Jordan.
“We’ll be at your place soon. I’ll get dinner set up if you want to get your dad, warm food should help his focus and withdrawal maybe. It should help you get some sleep tonight too.”
“Thank you, I’m sorry I was being ridiculous. Do you think maybe we can go out this Saturday? Just us, maybe go back to your place after? I’d be surprised if my dad makes it to Saturday night sober and I would rather be with you than experiencing that. I’d happily go out with you every night.”
I see some pink sneak into his cheeks, “Of course we can go out. I’ll convince my mom to take my dad to dinner or some junk. He won’t question it as long as his steak is about $100 more than it should be,” He looks at me and frowns, “Sorry, that kind of slipped. My dad just gets on my nerves. I didn’t mean to make a money comment.”
“It’s alright, you can make it up to me this weekend.”
He chuckles and shakes his head. I stare out the window, dozing for the rest of the trip. I don’t realize that I actually feel back asleep until Jordan is poking my shoulder in front of my house.
My door is open with Jordan leaning in, “Come on Rhea, let’s get you inside,” He helps hoist me from the car, “Food is waiting for you.”
When we come in I smell food, looking over to the counter I see a large, cooked chicken, a steaming bowl of mashed potatoes, and a bowl of buttered peas. I turn to Jordan and kiss him.
“You’re wonderful,” I mutter before waddling to my dad’s office. I rub my eyes and lean on the doorframe, “Dad come eat. Your project will be there in twenty minutes.”
He glances up, his forehead covered in sweat, “I’m not hungry,” His computer screen is the only light in the room aside from the light coming in from the kitchen, “Close the door! The lights giving me a headache!”
“No daddy, the lack of vodka is giving you a headache,” I walk over and put my hand on his arm, he jumps but tries to relax to my touch, I can feel him shaking, “You can do this, come eat. It could help. Worse comes to worse, maybe you get sick and I make you a can of soup to get you through the night. Try to eat dad, please? For me?”
He looks up and sighs, he lifts a shakey hand to my cheek, “For you baby girl, I’ll do it.”
He slowly rises from his chair, taking small, choppy steps behind me. I help Jordan find the plates while my dad takes a seat at the table, he squints against the light.
“Dad, do you want me to pull out the couch in your office? Maybe sleep will help? I could get you some pillows and a blanket,” I watch him as he tries to shield his eyes from the light.
“M--maybe, I don’t know. I might try to sleep maybe, if I can keep the food down.”
Jordan looks concerned as he helps me fill three plates, I take one to my dad while Jordan carries the others, “What’s wrong with him?” He whispers to me.
I place the plate in front of my dad, “Withdrawal, his body and mind are reacting to the sudden change. It’ll get worse as the days go by, until it reaches the point he can’t take it anymore. The hope is to just get through one day at a time, get at least one meal in him and keep it there. By Friday he’ll probably be aggressive and sick. That’s what usually happens.”
I sit down and watch my dad play with his food, “Maybe this time can be different. This really isn’t so bad, I can handle it.”
“Then why aren’t you eating dad?” He looks up, ashamed.
“I’m sorry honey, I’m trying, really. It might just take me a minute, I don’t feel great.”
I nod and poke my pieces of chicken. Jordan and I talk and help distract my dad so he doesn’t think of his headache and nausea. He manages to eat most of the food, now if he can keep it down for at least an hour then we’ll be able to relax a little more. The chicken tastes amazing and is so warm and juicy, I tell Jordan I can’t touch the leftovers or they’ll disappear. We clear the table together before I help my dad back into his dark office.
He sits at his computer, typing and clicking, as I pull out his couch and reveal the old “guest bed”. I used to have makeshift sleepovers in my dad’s office when he worked late. It hasn’t been used in years.
“I’ll get you some pillows dad,” I pat his shoulder on the way out.
Jordan stands at the sink, scrubbing the plates. Next to him, the last of the food is packed in nice, new plastic containers.
I grab a couple pillows from the closet, “Where did those come from?”
He looks back at me for a second before focusing on the dishes again, “I found some cheap Tupperware containers that I thought you could use. Might help for nights like tonight or for making your dad lunch for the next day so you don’t have to think about it at school.”
I put down the pillows and hug him from behind, wrapping my arms around him and placing my hands on his chest, “Thank you.”
I scurry off and deliver the pillows to my dad and find his old throw blanket. He doesn’t seem to notice me as he groans and pinches the bridge of his nose. He might not make it to Friday.
“Try and rest dad,” I whisper in the doorway, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
He doesn’t respond as I close the door. I let out a sigh as I make my way into the living room to do homework with Jordan.
“Shall we start with math?” He asks as he enters the room and claims the seat to my left.
“Do we have to?” I pout.
“No,” He leans forward, shrugging his shoulders as he rests his elbows on his knees, “I actually want to talk about something.”
My stomach drops, “What?”
“In the car, before you fell asleep? I wasn’t expecting you to say that, and I’ll admit I was caught of guard and I know it’s really early in the relationship but I--”
“What did I say?” I interject.
“What do you mean, don’t you remember?”
“No I barely remember getting onto the desert road, I was exhausted!”
A frown forms on his face, his eyes are wide and sad, “You told me you love me, Rhea. You said you think you might love me, and then you fell asleep.”
I feel my face turn pink, “I-- umm--”
“I’m sorry, I should have figured it was tired babble. I didn’t mean to make this awkward, I just wanted to-- I don’t even know.”
He buries his head in his hands, “Jordan?” He doesn’t look at me, “What were you going to say before?”
He drops his hands, his head still hanging low as he looks up at me, “Does it matter?”
“Yes,” I whisper, the butterflies in my stomach are having a field day.
“I was going to say...” He sits up and looks into my eyes, like he’s searching for some sign of how this will end, “I think I love you too.”
I don’t hesitate as I throw myself on him, letting our lips collide as my hands run through his hair.
“Say it again?” I mumble against his lips.
He pulls me back and brushes my bangs out of my eyes, “I love you, Rhea.”
“Ohh,” I sigh, “I love you too.”