Hello all! Written long ago and gathering dust, here’s another random chapter from an unfinished book…
JEFF AND ALLIE
Part one began like this:
“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.
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…and here comes part two:
Silently, Allie moved through the living room back to the kitchen. She took comfort in small tasks and began to empty the dishwasher. First the spoons, then the knives, then the forks. Out of the basket and into the drawer. How many hours before he’d be back? How many hours to fill? Next came the dishes, first the small ones, then the dinner plates. Bottom rack finished, she started on the top rack. Then, clearing the table, rinsing the dirty dishes, she placed them in the empty dishwasher. While she worked, no answers came to her, only the sounds of a kitchen being put into order. That was a small comfort.
If she had seen herself, she would have noticed that her face was tight, that she was chewing on the inside of her lip. She would have seen that her hair had come loose. If she looked closer, she would have noticed the bitten fingernails, a new habit of hers.
Wiping the table and the counters, she was making progress, controlling what she could. She thought about the rest of her day.
The phone rang and she turned, watched it, turned again and walked away. “Let someone think I’m busy,” she thought. She went upstairs and forced herself through the morning rituals, shower, clothes, hair, make-up.
“Well, you look great!” That was what her friends said to her once, after a break-up years ago. It was funny to her and they all had laughed. She looked at herself in the mirror. Well, not great, but not falling apart. No one would stare.
She used to have her girlfriends to lean on. They would call each other and decipher their relationships. “If he hasn’t called by Wednesday, you’d better make your own plans.” They had a whole set of rules to apply when they were younger, acting older. They were easy rules, and they made the process fun. Ten years later, none of those rules applied.
Allied turned away from the bathroom mirror, turned off the light and went downstairs. She checked her phone – no message. She sat down on the couch. Alone and silent. She thought about Jeff and where he was going. She hadn’t asked him, but she knew he was going to her.
The phone rang again and this time she jumped. She felt a pounding in her chest and stared. Her stomach churned. She wondered if the same person was calling again. “Don’t answer it,” she told herself. After the fourth ring, the machine picked up. This time, Allie walked over to the phone and watched. After a moment, she checked for a message. No message.
Jeff and Allie had been together for three years. Not married, but living together. They were in the stage of being an established young couple, working on their future together. They had talked about getting married, but they were not engaged. Jeff loved Allie and was happy. Allie, too, loved Jeff and like many young women, was looking into the future and planning out their life together. She didn’t share this part with Jeff because, at thirty, she already knew not to push. She knew that much, but little else. She knew not to put pressure on him, but she didn’t understand that he might never want to marry her.
Jeff was not having an affair, but he was close. He had met Linnea three months ago and they became fast friends. He let that happen because their friendship was so fun and easy. At the time, Allie was busy with school and he simply filled his time away from her by seeing Linnea. At first he didn’t even think about it. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. His conscience was clear. Linnea didn’t seem like a threat.
When children find new playmates, they don’t think about their old friends. They’re just happy to have another friend. They are too young to understand anything more and are oblivious to another playmate’s jealousy. Jeff was young in his thinking. He didn’t hide his new friendship and early on he introduced Allie to Linnea. And Jeff, too, was oblivious to Allie’s reaction.
Linnea was a nice person, but she was not naïve. She was aggressive and confident in everything she did. She had seen Jeff at a park and approached him, spoken to him. She liked that he was sitting there reading a book. Allie’s name didn’t come up the day he met Linnea. All they were talking about was books. They didn’t like the same books, but they had fun talking. Linnea was good at conversation and Jeff was taken in by how effortless they were together. It was one of those instant connections that his sister Jocelyn knew well. Jeff might have noticed Linnea’s face and her eyes, but he was busy enjoying their conversation.
Jeff was the kind of person who observed a lot and kept his thoughts to himself. He didn’t share his thoughts easily and Allie was used to this detachment. To her friends, she called him “a man of few words.” They had shared plenty of moments of closeness and honesty and that was enough for Allie to hold onto.
But meeting Linnea threw Jeff off balance and caused him to withdraw even more when he was with Allie. And it caused a logjam of feelings he could not clear. Allie noticed and worried to herself what it might mean.
The phone rang again. This time she answered…
Thank you for reading.