Sticks & Stones

She stared at the ceiling. It was easy last night to avoid thinking about the afternoon phone call, but here, hours before the alarm would go off, there would be no avoiding it. Maybe if she reached over and played with the boy snoring next to her, she could put it off a little while…

She sighed. Now that the phone call had taken root in her mind, she wouldn’t be able to focus, and, given the boy’s condition, she’d have to do most of the work. Fuck.

Lisa Green?” the man at the other end of the line had asked yesterday afternoon.

“Speaking,” she’d told him.

“This is Steve Hartmann? From CUNY? In New York?”

For just a second, her heart and lungs had just stopped. “Hi?”

“I wanted to talk to you about your CV and letters of recommendation. Do you think it would be possible to schedule an interview sometime this coming Thursday or Friday?”

“Yes.”

“I know it’s short notice,” he’d apologized.

“I can be there.”

“But we need to fill the position next semester.”

“I can make it work.”

“And you live in Montreal, and most of the applicants live in the area, but you are extremely qualified, and we’d really like to meet you in person.”

Ordinarily, she’d pick that time to shout to get this guy’s attention, but this was someone whose good graces were crucial to her future. She decided to wait until he finished.

She was glad she did, because he had good news: “We’re aware of the hardship this will be, so we’d like to reimburse you for your airfare.” And bad news: “But due to budget cuts, you’re on your own for sleeping accommodations.”

“I’ll see you Friday.”

Clearly, she hadn’t thought this out. She couldn’t really afford to get a motel–the flight would come close to maxing out her credit card. She could always stay at a friend’s place, but she didn’t have any friends in New York. She did know people there, but one she didn’t want to see again, and the other didn’t want to see her again.

Fuck.

As quietly as she could, she rolled out of bed into a her jeans, pulled on a pair of heavy socks, shrugged on a parka, and tiptoed to her balcony. She stopped when, for a just second, and for the first time she could remember, she thought the weight in her jacket pocket was a half-empty pack of cigarettes with a lighter stuffed into it. And for just a second, she was so relieved that she didn’t have to ride out the sting of this bitch-slap of a day alone. And then she realized it was only a phone.

Not long after Steve Hartmann had called her, she’d met her boyfriend at that franchise coffee bar, just like they always did after classes, squirming in her seat.

Her grin echoed in his face as he sat down and asked, “What’s got you all worked up, babe?”

“I’m going to New York!”

He’d frowned. “When?”

“This weekend!” She shrugged. “Well, Friday.”

“But…”

She always found his confusion adorable. Even more adorable was how easy it was to make him that way.

“But,” he continued, “we’re going to that dinner party at Gabe and Marilyn’s this weekend.”

“They’ll understand.”

“I don’t understand.”

She’d fought off the urge to keep herself from squealing like a little girl, because that’s something Lisa Green never did. “CUNY!

His eyes widened in disbelief.

“It’s only an interview,” she clarified, “but they practically begged me to come in. That’s a great sign, don’t you think?”

“What if they make an offer?”

“I’ll pretend to play hardball, but I’m going to take what they can give me.”

“Oh.”

It was then that she recognized that the disbelief wasn’t the kind of giddy excitement she deserved.

“What do you mean, Oh?”

“Aren’t we going to discuss this?”

“We already discussed this,” she reminded him.

He didn’t reply.

“You told me I should go for it. That I needed to go for it. You know how much this means to me.”

“I don’t know if I’m ready to deal with this,” he breathed. “This changes everything.”

“You said…”

“It was easy to say that when I didn’t think you’d get the job.”

She set her jaw and took a deep breath through her nose. “Brody, that has to be the coldest way anybody has ever dumped me.”

“Wait a minute,” he said. “I never said anything about dumping you!”

“You did just now.”

“We can’t end this because of that!” he pleaded. “We’re going to move in together!”

“You just saved yourself some trouble then.”

“Come on, babe! I’m sorry!”

“So am I.” She stood up and whipped her jacket off the back of her chair.

“But I love you.”

She loved him too, but, Jesus. Did he really think that? She had to get out of there.

“Don’t go, Lisa.”

But she did.

Now, as the cold air burned her lungs, she asked herself if she’d overreacted. The answer was easy; she had. Still, this simplified things. Five and a half months was hardly enough of a relationship to bear the burden of long-distance–or even a mutual move. And it sure as hell wasn’t long enough put up with that kind of shit coming out of his mouth. Besides, he hadn’t called at all over the past nine hours. He was probably waiting for her to apologize. He didn’t know her at all.

Still, she felt like such an asshole.

Goddammit. How the hell was she supposed to dazzle the folks in New York with this Brody-shaped hole sucking her in?

She took her phone out of her pocket and checked the time. Four thirty. Her alarm wouldn’t go off for another hour and a half. The best way to pass the time would be to get her mind off of things she couldn’t fix right now, and the only idea she had to do that would be to go inside and fuck the boy in her bed.

to be continued…

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