Grandpa handed me a bowl of steel-cut oats, and it took several seconds for my stunned brain to register that the ceramic in my hand was hot.
Yelping, I quickly set it down on the counter beside my hip, thanking him absently.
“All you Millennials staring at your phones,” he grumbled.
Blinking up, I watched as he ambled over to the kitchen table, sitting down to tuck into his own bowl.
“Sorry,” I said, turning the screen off. “I must be gaping at this like a snake that’s unhinged its entire jaw to eat a small creature.” I put the phone down, joining him at the table. Staring at my mobile in bewilderment wouldn’t change the message there from last night:
This week is really nuts. Maybe next week?
Yes, you wanker, but next week I won’t be here.
“Am I a Millennial?” I asked, grinning at him to push aside my irritation and confusion. “I felt I was an in-betweener. Not an X, not a Y, not a Millennial.”
He looked up at me and grinned. “Twelve hours you’ve been back and already it’s going to feel quiet when you leave.”
It already feels quiet, I thought. One week of a house with six people and it became the norm.
“How about this,” I said, swallowing a bite of oatmeal. “I’ll leave my mobile here and we’ll catch a film?”
Grandpa nodded into his mug of coffee. “You’ve got yourself a plan, kiddo.”
The road passed under us in a steady hum that filled the car.
I had a pretty nasty hangnail on my left middle finger.
My skirt needed to be laundered.
My shoes were falling apart.
I suppose I should have clued in with his It was really nice to meet you when he dropped me off, but I’d been hoping it was just nerves or the awkwardness of Hanna watching us so intently. It wasn’t. That hadn’t really been a see-you-later kiss, it was a goodbye.
I’d forgotten how horrible it felt to be dumped.
“I realize I don’t know you as well as I used to,” Grandpa said carefully, “but you’ve seemed pretty quiet all day.”
Looking over, I gave him a halfhearted smile. I couldn’t deny it, and even going out to see a beautifully shot and wonderfully distracting documentary on the migration patterns of African birds hadn’t snapped my mood away from Jensen’s brush-off last night.
It wasn’t that I’d expected more, it was that it had genuinely turned into more. I knew I wasn’t imagining it. I trusted my view on things too much to believe that.
“That’s the tenth time you’ve apologized today,” he said, frowning. “And if there’s one thing I know about you, it’s that you’re not a compulsive apologizer.”
“Sorr—” I stopped myself, giving in to a real smile this time. “Oops.”
He stared stoically at the road ahead of us. “I’ve been told I’m a terrible listener,” he joked, “but you’ve got me trapped in the car.” Softening, he added, “I’m all ears, honey.”
“No, it’s nothing,” I began, turning slightly in my seat to face him. “But those mobile phones you hate? I hate them, too, now.”
“I believe I was dumped via one.”
Grandpa opened his mouth to speak, but I continued on, clarifying. “Not that Jensen and I were together. Though, in a sense, we were?” I winced.
“The guy I talked to on the plane. Apparently he’s Hanna’s brother.”
“Sorry,” I said, laughing now, too. “Hanna is the wife of Ruby’s brother-in-law’s business partner.”
He gave me a blank look before turning back to the road.
I waved my hand, letting him know it wasn’t mission critical that he understood the spiderweb of relationships. “It’s this giant group of friends, and I went on the trip with some of them: Ruby and Niall, Will and Hanna. Jensen is Hanna’s oldest brother, and he came along.”
“So it was two married couples and you, and Hanna’s brother?” Grandpa asked, frowning. “I think I’m getting a picture of what’s going on.”
“I honestly don’t want to overshare here,” I said, “and since that’s my given superpower, I may need to physically cover my own mouth to keep from doing so, but I will say that I liked him. I think I rather liked him a lot. And on this holiday, for two weeks, it felt like . . . he might like me, as well? But now that I’ve reached out, wanting to see him one more time before I leave, he’s . . .” Frowning, I murmured, “Well, he’s got work.”
“Every waking hour, apparently. He has too much work to do to see me even for a late dinner.” My heart seemed to dissolve, painfully, inside my chest.
“So,” he said, making sure he understood, “he was pursuing you on this two-week trip, but back to the real world and he doesn’t have time.”
Ugh. Enough. “It’s some version of that. We were both on the same page, but then suddenly . . . we weren’t.”
Grandpa turned down the tree-lined street of Coco’s childhood home. “Well, then I guess it’s time for some whiskey.”
By seven, I’d had just enough whiskey with Grandpa on the porch that, when my phone lit with Hanna’s number, I wasn’t entirely sure it would be a good idea to answer.