The Right Guy
Lily and her mother sat in silence as the SUV wound through the suburban streets. When her mom merged into the highway headed north, she finally started talking. Lily knew it was because she was anxious about making it to the hotel on time. Once she was on the highway she felt like her body had motion. She could concentrate on things like conversation, nagging, making her opinion known.
“Thanks for coming with me,” her mom, Annabelle, said. “I know you’re not used to spending time with your mom.”
“I’m excited,” she said, but she didn’t say it convincingly.
“Karen had been really excited about the trip. I appreciate you filling in last minute. Who even trips on beans in their kitchen?”
Annabelle’s best friend, Karen, sprained her ankle after she spilled beans in her kitchen. Supposedly. Knowing Karen she probably was dancing with a broom and knocked down the whole pantry. That’s the kind of woman she was. She balanced Annabelle out, especially after the Great Unraveling, which Annabelle and Lily never spoke about but it was definitely a part of their conversations. During the Great Unraveling, Lily’s dad left and took his money and their house with them.
Instead of canceling the trip, Lily filled in. As a tango partner. A week. At he Highland Mountain House. At a tango retreat. To some, that sentence maybe would be fun. To Karen it would be. But Lily’s body felt heavy. Her eyes, covered with gauze. If she couldn’t see a path forward how would she learn dance moves?
“Anyway, I think it’ll be good for you. To dance. Did you know dancing has healing properties? I read it in Oprah Magazine. An interview with a very dashing dance coach. Did not look like a dance coach. More like a lumberjack, really. Not that lumberjacks are your type. You’re more into the buttons?”
Maybe Annabelle realized her daughter wasn’t into talking, so she started working conversation overtime.
And of course she steered the conversation to Colin. Of course.
Annabelle insisted on meeting Colin before graduation. “If he’s going to be a part of your life, I need to know him,” Annabelle said. Lily could point out some flaws in that argument. But Annabelle didn’t believe in secrets between daughter and mother. And Lily didn’t know how to keep her own secrets quite yet.
So they met in a restaurant off campus for the most awkward dinner of all time. Before Colin sat down, her mother decided she didn’t like him.
Then again, Annabelle had once said, “Don’t bother trying to impress me with a man. I’ll probably find something not to like.” So. Lily wasn’t hopeful. But the second she saw Annabelle give Colin the up-down glance followed by a sneer, Lily knew his reputation was not salvageable.
She hadn’t even heard his deep voice, which rumbled when he talked. She hadn’t heard his trivia! She hadn’t heard his laugh, far more high pitched than one would expect.
She didn’t know the things Lily loved about Colin, the things that made up for his quirks. The buck teeth. The always being right. The fact he didn’t love lily back, quite the same way. Which was the only quirk that Lily had on to the last few weeks. Remember that he didn’t love you, she’ll tell herself, when she is still clobbered.
Well, Annabelle was harder to please than her daughter. Annabelle’s opinion of Colin forged in iron. Colin was nothing but a tall husk of repression who would never be a part of their two person clan.
And he certainly wasn’t a tall, dark, handsome lumberjack who was actually a dancer. Colin was a blond with frustratingly soft hair, a “casual” pot habit, a ticket to India for the summer. And after that, a guaranteed job at his dad’s hedge fund, where he planned to make the “casual” pot habit a thing of the past. Lily didn’t believe him.
According to their pillow talk in the waning days of senior year, he was going to take Lily along for the ride. Instead here she was, in her mom’s car, wearing tie dye sweatpants from high school, wearing the sulk from high school too. Feeling like a high schooler. Feeling just as trapped.
“You’re far too young to be dating anyway. 22? Go out. Go explore. Go have fun. I don’t want you settling with anyone.”
She waited a second.
“Well, you can have you-know-who now. And that’s it.”
“Mom, I’m never going to end up with Karen’s son.”
Annabelle shrugged. “You never know. Maybe you could end up with a lumberjack — or maybe with Karen’s son. You never know.” She actively and loudly dreamed that Lily would marry her best friend’s son and then she’d never have to socialize with anyone else again.
If they were going to continue to talk about Lily’s love life, this was going to shape up to be an excruciatingly long two hours (some two hours are longer than others).
For the first time since she got home, Lily just wanted to arrive. Arrive anywhere. Cut the journey. Their destination was still two hours away. She found herself repeating over, and over: We’ll get there, eventually. And after years of longing to go to Highland, she couldn’t quite believe she was almost there.