But then my gut grew a little tight with guilt, because I didn’t want to ignore her call, either. She was doing what I’d wanted us to do, after all: call each other, stay connected.
“Hanna!” I said, answering as I stood, walking to the other end of the porch.
“Gah,” she started, without greeting. “It’s so good to hear your voice. I feel like we’re all going through withdrawal today!”
I laughed, and then felt my humor cool. Maybe not all of us.
“Absolutely,” I said, as evenly as possible.
“What are you doing Wednesday night? Do you want to come over for dinner?” Without waiting for an answer, she added, “You’re in town until next Monday, right?”
“I leave on Sunday.” I glanced at Grandpa, who sat sipping his whiskey and staring serenely out at the brilliant green lawn. He loved his granddaughter, but even more, he loved his quiet. “Uh . . . let me check my calendar for Wednesday.”
I pretended to open the calendar app on my phone, knowing of course that I had literally nothing scheduled the entire week other than sitting around Grandpa’s enormous house and wandering Boston alone. The idea of going to Hanna’s for dinner sounded perfect.
But the possibility that Jensen might show up, after telling me he was busy all week? A little nauseating.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t head this potential awkwardness off at the pass and ask whether Jensen would be there, because the last thing I wanted to do was open up the conversation with Hanna about her brother having sex with me in nearly every position possible for two weeks and then blowing me off via text message. No doubt Jensen wouldn’t discuss me with Hanna unless she pried, and she would assume all was well. I was also sure that while he was still a jerk for the text brush-off—and it didn’t excuse his behavior—he probably was busy. After being away for two weeks, the odds of him taking time to go to his sister’s were probably not good. It would be fine.
“Wednesday is free,” I said. “I’d love to come over.”
After agreeing that I could come anytime after seven thirty that night, we rang off, and I returned to my Adirondack chair beside Grandpa.
“How’s Hanna?” he asked, voice slow and calm as honey.
“She made a joke that we’re all going through withdrawal.”
I felt him turn and look at me. “Are you?”
“Maybe from all the wine we drank,” I joked, but my laugh was cut off as I stared wryly at my glass of whiskey.
The irony seemed to drift past him. “You really like this Jensen guy?”
I let the question settle between us, plant roots, show me what it was made of. Of course I liked him. I wouldn’t have had sex with him if I hadn’t. We’d been a team. We’d had fun.
But shit, it was more than that. Away from him, I felt sort of hollow, as if some ball of light had been scooped out of me, and it wasn’t only that the trip was over and it had been amazing. It was more of an achy hollow, and it was shaped like his guarded smile, like the big, greedy hands that belied his boundaried facade. It was shaped like the arc of his top lip and the flirty bow of his bottom . . . Oh, for fuck’s sake.
“You came here because of a loser boyfriend, and here you are again.”
I had to love my grandpa for being so utterly blunt.
“Too right,” I mumbled into my tumbler. Did this feel worse? It was less humiliation and more heartbreak. Humiliation had an angry fire to steer it. Heartbreak just had . . . whiskey and grandfathers, and the Mums waiting for me back home.
And God, I missed them right now.
“It’s not a crime to love, you know,” he said.
This piqued my interest. Grandpa had worked his entire life as a supervisor at a shipping yard; he’d made a decent wage, but it was hard work and the kind of job that called for someone with a distinct lack of turbulent emotions.
“I know,” I said honestly. “But I actually feel terrible about this Jensen thing, as brief as it was. Because even though it only lasted a couple weeks, he was genuinely good. Genuinely kind, and attentive. He’ll be very good for someone, and I’m sad it won’t be me.”
“You never know how things will work out. I was with Peg for fifty-seven years,” Grandpa said quietly. “Never really expected her to end up with me, but she did.”
I’d never heard the story of how he and Coco’s mum met, and the raw edge to his voice caught me off guard. “Where did you meet?”
“She was at her father’s soda shop, working behind the counter.” He swirled the amber liquid in his glass. “I ordered a malt, and watched the way she lifted the metal cup, scooped the ice cream, added the malt. I’d never done that before. Every move she made fascinated me.”
I stayed perfectly still, terrified to disrupt what he was saying because it felt like there was some bone-deep truth in there, something that would tell me what it was I was or wasn’t feeling. Something to let me off the hook of my own torment.
“She handed it to me, and I paid, but when she gave me my change, I told her, ‘I want you to wear your hair like that when we get married.’ I’d never seen her before, but I knew. It wasn’t something I would ever say to a gal. I didn’t ever tell her what to wear or do again, not for fifty-seven years. But that day, I wanted her to look just the same when she became my wife.”
He took a sip and settled the tumbler back on the wide armrest of his chair. “I didn’t see her again for nearly a year, you know that?”