Thursday, January 26, 2006

Christmas Eve, the Blogger-delayed edition

"Hi, Steve," she says with a distracted grin.

"Come on in!"

I go to hug her. She hugs back, but presses a hand against my shoulder as she does. I move in to kiss her and she turns her head and kisses the air instead.

"You ok, Steph?"

"Yeah, I'm alright. Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas to you! So what brings you out this way?"

"I can't really stay, I just... well, I wanted to say hello. And Merry Christmas, which I just said..."

"Steph, sit down. You want a drink?"

She shakes her head and follows me into the family room. She pulls her coat off and sits on the recliner, and I'm reminded that we've had sex on that chair more times than I can count. She used to love doing it there; she said the angle was just right for me to hit her G-spot.

"So, how's it going," I ask.

"It's ok. School's not quite as bad as last year."

"You acing everything, as usual?"

She rolls her eyes.

"You're gonna make a good lawyer."

"I need to talk to you."

"Aren't you gonna ask me how I'm doing?"

"Steve, don't."

"Don't what?"

We stare at each other, birds of prey sizing up our next meal, each of us sure we'll devour the other. Just like it used to be.

"Nancy's sister keeps calling me."

"Holly?" I gasp.

"Yeah, Holly."

"Where did she get your number?"

"I was going to ask you the same question."

"I didn't give it to her, Steph! Shit!"

"What's going on? Are you dating her now?"

"No, Stephanie!"

I'm starting to really dislike this whole line of questioning. Steph has a way of making you feel like you committed murder, even if you didn't.

"Well, it's getting a little out of hand, Steve."

"What's she saying?"

"She keeps saying that she would be with you, but I ruined it, that I hurt you, and because I hurt you, you're not ready for a relationship."

"That's ridiculous!"

"So you mean to tell me you didn't say anything to her? About me?"

"No!" I shout. "She knows we were together, but that's all."

She stares at me, surely reading my face for some clue that I'm lying. The nostalgia vanishes, drowned by resentment. She never trusted me, did she?

"You don't believe me," I say, staring her down.

"Why is she saying these things?"

"She's stalking me. She has been for weeks. Chris and I went and talked to her, and she stopped. But I guess she didn't really stop, she just turned it onto you."

"Well, I had my criminal law professor talk to her. I think he set her straight."

"How so?" I want to know, but I also want her to leave. I hate that she thinks I could do such a stupid thing as to tell Holly my relationship business. It hurts that she thinks so little of me.

"We called her together. He basically told her she was breaking the law. He offered to take her for a tour of the women's prison. Her 'future home', he called it," she says with a chuckle. "By the way, she also said you committed statutory rape," she frowns, lifting her eyebrows disapprovingly.

"Steph, she was-"

"Sixteen? I know. He told her it was legal. Don't sweat it, Steve, you're off the hook for that one."

Oh, good! Maybe I'll go do her again!

"I told her the same thing."

"Well," she says, standing up, "I just wanted to see what the deal was."

"You mean you wanted to rip me a new one."

"No I didn't."

"Yeah you did. You never believed in me, did you?"

She stares at the wall behind me.

"I didn't come here to discuss that."


She tilts her head at me. "Oh, come on, Steve. Like it was ever going to work out with us."

"I had fun with you. I hate that we never got a chance to say goodbye."

"Me too."


She nods. "Thank you for some really nice memories," she whispers.

"You too!" I say, trying to see her downcast eyes. "Can I have a real hug now?"

We embrace tightly.

"I have to get back. My-- Josh -- is bringing his family up for midnight mass."

"Yeah, I'm actually supposed to be at Tim's house in a little while."

"So you're dating her now," she squints.

"Yeah, we're actually really happy."

She bobs her chin. "Well, I'm happy for you both," she says, and she almost sounds genuine.

"Me too. I'm glad that it's going ok for you."

She smiles. "It is."

"You deserve that. Look, I just want to say I'm sorry-"

"Don't." She shakes her head. "It's ok."

"I hurt you."

"I hurt you too. Didn't I?"

"I deserved it. You didn't."

"We're both better off now. It just wasn't meant to be."

She hugs me again, body-to-body, like she used to do before bed. I feel her lips against my cheek, and then by my ear.

"Merry Christmas," she says, and then she is gone.