Hello all! Written long ago and gathering dust, here’s another random chapter from an unfinished book…
JEFF AND ALLIE
“I’ll be right there, hang on a minute!” Jeff’s head pounded. He was thinking about what lay ahead of him. A long drive, a hard discussion and a longer drive back. He was shocked to find himself in this position because he had always been so careful about staying detached. Now he was in it.
He walked into the kitchen. “Here,” she said, handing him the phone. He tried to figure out her mood by the tone of that one word. It was his way. Don’t ask a lot of questions, just try to get what’s going on by the clues you get. Sometimes it was fun, a game he played.
He reached out for the phone. Their hands did not touch.
“No, I know”
“About a half-hour”
He thought Allie looked tired and he tried to think of what to say. If nothing came to him, he usually said nothing. He wasn’t the kind to fill an awkward silence. Nothing came to him, so he left the room and went upstairs.
She had been waiting for him to say something to her. She wanted to hear him talk to her. She desperately wanted to know what was going on in his head. Whenever she asked him, his response was the same, “I don’t know.” Even when the barriers were down, he didn’t know.
“One thing at a time!” That was what his mother had always said when she was too busy to do more. The problem was that she always said it. As a child, he began to realize it was her way of saying she didn’t want to do something. He adapted the phrase to his own needs, by saying it to himself. If there was something difficult in front of him, he put it off with that thought.
Allie guessed that she had a half-hour before he left. She knew not to ask. She had come to accept his way and played it the same with him. “He’s just not a talker,” she had always reasoned.
She was right. They had a history together and that made them a couple. “We’re living in West Chester,” she told her friends. “We have a townhouse together.” To Allie, the basic facts made a statement about themselves as a couple, established, committed. She felt proud telling people where they lived, even if it was just a rental. When they went out to buy something for their house, she felt good, as if they were putting in one more brick in their future.
Most of the time, Jeff didn’t like to think a lot about how he felt. He went through his everyday life without much analysis, without thoughts of the future. He was always very busy at work and when he was finished for the day, he wanted to relax, just live. Today, it was the right plan to say little. One thing at a time. Jeff knew he couldn’t talk to Allie today. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He looked up as she entered the living room.
Jeff didn’t like to talk about their status as a couple, thought it unnecessary. He cared for Allie, very much. Of course he loved her, they were sharing a townhouse. But he was always the type of person to lean inward and when something heavy was on his mind, he retreated to himself. He didn’t think it was useful or wise to pull someone else through the process of his thoughts, especially if they might be upsetting, particularly if he reached a different conclusion in the end. In his view, it was only important to share his final thoughts. To Allie’s credit, she never pushed Jeff. She understood that part of him and tried to believe that she respected him for the way he was. Jeff recognized that Allie held back the questions, giving him room, and he appreciated the effort. Still, he always felt like Allie was ready to burst with questions, statements and promises he simply didn’t want to hear. In that way, Jeff did not think Allie was right for him.
As he was getting ready to leave, he thought about where he was going, to Linnea. She had called Jeff last night on his cell phone as he was headed home. He had agreed to meet her today. Jeff told Allie he had to go out. “First I meet Linnea, then I figure out the rest,” he said to himself.
Allie heard him come downstairs into the living room. She had thought of something to say and now she was taking her last chance. She wanted to ask him where he was going and when he’d be back, but she knew she could not.
“Keep it simple,” she told herself. When she saw him, she saw that his face was carefully composed, revealing nothing. Her face was soft and vulnerable. Jeff noticed. He liked her face and he always noticed the details, but he couldn’t respond with words. “She looks beautiful,” he thought. If Allie had understood him more, she would have known that was how he felt. That was his reasoning and maybe it was true.
Allie took a breath. He looked at her, wondering what she would say. He wanted to leave without talking.
“We need laundry detergent,” her voice cracked. Can you get some?”
He was relieved. “Sure.”
The door closed and that was all he had said.
Thank you for reading.