“I got into Maggie’s group,” I told her. “I just got the letter.”
London screamed, made clomping noises, which I think might have been dancing on the other end, dropped her phone, and then came back and screamed some more.
“You’re going to study with your dream lady!”
She exhaled an enormous gust of air as if she’d just fallen backward on the couch, and said, “Ruby I’m going to ask you a question and you don’t have to answer it. Though, let’s be real, I’ve put up with your moping for months now so I sort of deserve an answer.”
I groaned, knowing where this was going. “Can’t we keep talking about Oxford?”
Ignoring this, she asked, “Was I the first person you wanted to call when you got the letter?”
I didn’t answer and instead focused on picking at a loose thread on my sweater.
“Why don’t you just tell him?” she asked gently. “He would be thrilled for you.”
“He might not even remember me.”
She laughed incredulously and it turned into a growl. “You make me insane.”
I walked to my couch and sat down. “I’m just nervous. What do I say? ‘Oh, hey, I’m over being mad, still into all this?’ ”
“The ‘Hey, I’m going to work with Maggie, got any tips?’ conversation is a pretty good opener.”
Closing my eyes, I told her, “Even with everything I knew about him, I would have no idea how he would greet me if I called . . .”
“You don’t call, Gem. You go to his house like you want to every day on your walk home, and you sit on his porch until he walks up and sees you and his dick gets hard, and you tell him you got into Maggie’s group, and oh, by the way, you love him and want to have his giant babies.”
“What if I went over there and Portia answered the door?”
“Or, I don’t know, he worked through everything I said and decided that, logically, I was right. Boop beep boop, emotions managed.”
“Are you listening?” she asked. There was a current of frustration in her voice and I knew London well enough to know she was about to snap. It always took her a while to get there, but when she lost her patience it was done.
London began hitting buttons on her phone, filling the line with loud beeps until I was forced to shut up and listen. “Are you done yet?” she asked when she returned.
“Then hear this: This is real life, Ruby. This isn’t a movie where two single people come into a relationship with bad experiences that are actually completely hilarious and lighthearted and only made them stronger and healthier. In real life, relationships come with a side order of ex-wives and ex-husbands and stepkids and pets the other person hates. Sometimes people get hurt and they don’t have two parents who are shrinks to make sure they come out of everything okay. An ex-wife—especially one that left him feeling less than thrilled with himself—that’s a lot to just get over.”
“Then can you please forgive him for being a dick and wanting to get some closure? You know I’m always here to support you, and I’m head cheerleader of Team Ruby ninety-nine-point-four percent of the time, but I think it’s time to go see him, to figure out if you can be together or if you need to move on. You’re in love with him. You’re the one who left it in limbo.”
“He said he loved you, too,” she reminded me because I’d only told her about seven hundred times about the time he said it. “I’ve never met Niall Stella but I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who would say that and then talk himself out of it two months later.”
I was left speechless, staring at the wall, knowing she was right.
It wasn’t as simple as walking down the street and waiting on his stoop after all. The idea of seeing him again made me both giddy and painfully nauseous.
Thankfully—or not—work made the decision for me on Monday and Tuesday of the following week: we had a visiting architect and they needed me around to fetch late-night coffee, takeout, and any other after-hours requests it seemed only a temporary employee could manage.
The tension inside me was ratcheting up and I ignored London’s calls on Monday night and Tuesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon she was screaming at me in my text message box:
HAVE YOU BEEN TO SEE THE MAN YET? FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, JUST CIRCLE ONE HERE, RUBY: Y / N
With a tiny whimper, I finally replied: I’m going there after work today. I didn’t have a chance before now.
Her answer came quickly: What r u wearing
I looked down at my outfit and felt the flutters zoom back into my chest before taking an awkward selfie of my short navy skirt and favorite silk navy and red polka-dot tank. It was a weird angle and made me look all-boob but I sent it anyway. London knew my wardrobe as well as she knew her own.
Damn, Dolly. Are you wearing the red heels? she asked.
God, she replied, his boner is going to be ENORMOUS.
Smiling at my screen, I typed, Let’s hope and then shoved my phone into my bag. I could barely let myself hope we would have that kind of night. I’d be thrilled with even a smile, a kiss on the cheek, an assurance that he was still interested in trying if I was. I had to pretend I wasn’t craving more, everything, all of him.