Elsie sat still and looked at her phone.
“So. That’s it. That’s how you and I end.”
I want to be upset.
I want to feel like I need to cry.
I want to feel like I need to half-destroy my punching dummy with just my fists.
I’m not upset.
She set her phone on the floor and examined her hands.
As if I’d scorched a thick layer of dirt and filth off my skin.
He doesn’t want me.
She stood and dialed Hildreth’s phone number.
“So, why do you hate split pea soup?” Sally Jesse Raphael readjusted her red-framed glasses.
“Well. It all started in kindergarten, when I had to—“
Hildreth’s phone rang.
He answered it. “Hello? Hildreth’s Red Hot Lovering Service, Hildreth speaking. No. Of course not. I always answer the phone like that. It’s fun. You should try it sometime, Els. It scares away telemarketers.”
He shifted into a better position on the couch. “mmnn. So, what’s happening? What?” His face fell. “You did…what?”
The room spun in giddy circles.
“Why? H—how did you even get his number?”
He listened to her explanation.
Just keep breathing.
“I understand. I. I’m going to let you go. I. No. I’m fine. Foot’s bothering me a little. I.”
He bowed his head. “Els. You aren’t going to run back to him, are you? If you did…Oh, Elsie. What would I do? I’d be lost. Don’t leave me. Please. Don’t go back to him. He’ll hurt you. He’ll…”
All of his words locked up on him
He tried to push through it, but nothing doing. The words were inaccessible.
He ended the call.
Less than five minutes later, Elsie barged into Hildreth’s living room. She headed straight for him like a shark on a dolphin hunting mission.
He looked up at her.
The stricken expression on his face cooled her down. “Hildreth.” She sat next to him. “My Hildreth. I love you.”
He looked away from her and held his silence.
“I can’t blame you for being angry at me. I’d be angry if you did the same thing to me.”
He laid his hands in his lap. They curled into fists.
“But listen to me. Hildreth, please. Listen to me. I know you’re mad at me, but I’m glad I called him.”
His fists tightened.
She stroked his hands. “Because now I know. It’s all over. Yes. The sound of his voice still makes my knees weak and my stomach flutter, but it’s over. He pushed me away and I don’t care. I mean it, Hildreth.”
She laughed softly. “I don’t care if he wants to slut it up with his slutty girl toy.”
Hildreth’s hands relaxed.
She could see a slight smile on his face and it made her happy. “He doesn’t want me anymore, Hildreth. Ambrose isn’t going to come after me.”
His hands uncurled completely.
“Not even if Mark Caten pesters and begs him.”
Hildreth chuckled at that. “I’d pay good money to see that show.”
“So would I.” She laid her hand on the opposite side of his face and gently turned it towards her. “I called Ambrose Smith because I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know if Caten had already contacted him.” She kissed him – a light kiss. “I wanted to know if we were safe or if we needed to run. We’re safe. Hildreth.” She kissed him again.
It wasn’t quite so light this time, but Hildreth wasn’t complaining.