After I grabbed my phone off its stand, it took me a few seconds before I was able to hit end. I had a window to Jude’s room and I didn’t want to close it. But life had to go on; I couldn’t stay tucked under my covers all day staring at an unmade bed on the other side of the country. I had to get up, go through a routine, and do my best to pretend my heart hadn’t flown to San Diego with him. This wasn’t a foreign concept to me—fake it until you make it; I’d done it for five years following my brother’s murder.
I knew this was different. Jude hadn’t been killed in cold blood; I knew this. But my lungs felt like they’d collapse at every other breath, and the spot where my heart used to beat felt like it was a hollow void.
Not that I needed any more proof, but damn if I didn’t love that man more than was healthy for me.
I typed a quick message, hit send, then made myself get out of bed. Shower or coffee first? After contemplating this for a good minute, I realized I was apparently incapable of making even the smallest decisions.
After a couple more minutes of indecision, I went with the coffee-first option. I had a handful of applications to fill out, not to mention a mess in the kitchen and dining room to clean up. Then I would shower, then off to the dance studio, then . . .
Oh, my God. I was going through my life like it was a step-by-step program. Not cool. To prove to myself I wasn’t becoming a step-by-stepper, I took action. I showered first, then got to work on the job applications while I waited for the coffee to brew.
I’d gone through half a pot by the time I’d finished with the eighth and final application. Shaking my wrist, sure I was experiencing the early stages of carpal tunnel from that fill-in-the-blank marathon, I tossed a change of clothes into my dance bag and couldn’t rush out of that apartment fast enough. Two weeks and I still hadn’t adjusted to being alone in it.
I wasn’t sure I ever would.
Two hours later, I’d handed off all the applications. Half the places said the positions had already been filled—the other half said they’d take a peek and give me a call if they wanted to interview me. When I said I’d call next week to check in, I was promptly answered with some variation of the don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you reply.
Outlook in the summer employment department wasn’t looking good.
No Jude for another week. No job for who knew how long. No friends within a half-hour commute.
By the time I’d arrived at the studio, I was feeling every shade of sorry for myself. There was only one way to stop this train of self-pity in its tracks.
I had my pointes on and was ready to go in record time. I moved without the accompaniment of music, each movement an extension of what I was feeling. By the time I’d worked up a sweat, my pity party had come to a wrap. And by the time my toes started tingling, I’d built up enough positive endorphins to remind myself that life was pretty damn good.
Taking a water break, I checked my phone. I was checking for missed calls or texts, but the time caught my eye. My eyes bulged. I should have stopped being surprised how I could lose time when I danced the way I had been today, but losing four hours in the span of what seemed like a couple dances wasn’t something I’d ever gotten used to.
The studio was quiet on weekend nights, and, other than the teenage employee obsessed by her phone, I was the last person in the place. After changing back into my shoes, I hurried to my car, rushing back to an empty apartment. I turned on every light, even the TV just to have a little background noise. Finishing cleaning up the mess from last night’s botched dinner, I poured a bowl of granola cereal and curled up on the couch, my phone balanced on my lap. I tried not to check the phone screen every five seconds.
An hour later, the self-pity was starting to trickle back into my veins. Jude must have had a crazy-busy day of practice; he usually was able to shoot me a quick text or two throughout the day. But not today. I was resolved to not become one of those clingy girls who had to check in with her guy every hour, although tonight, I was getting dangerously close to jumping on that bandwagon.
After minutes of tapping my phone’s screen, stalling, convincing myself not to call him, only to convince myself to call him the next second, the phone chimed.
I was so excited I nearly dropped it. I was in such a hurry, I didn’t check the screen to see who was calling.
“I missed you so damn much today,” I greeted Jude, my smile stretching into place.
Silence for one second on the other end. “I missed you so damn much, too?” was the uncertain reply. The female reply.
“Most days,” she answered.
“Oh,” I said, trying not to sound upset. “Sorry. I thought you were Jude.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Lucy,” she said, as little Jude started talking up a storm in the background.
“No. I’m glad it’s you,” I said, telling a half-truth.
“Liar.” She paused, hushing little Jude, and told him to go play with his blocks. “What? Did you and Jude have some sort of phone sex date tonight?”
I rolled my eyes. If only Holly knew. “How many times do I have to tell you that our sex life is none of your business?”
“You can tell me as many times as you want. I’m never going to stop sticking my nose in you and Jude’s freaky business,” she said. “I’m a single mom, Lucy. I have a better chance of dying in a plane crash than I do of getting laid again, so stop acting like such a prude and let me keep on living vicariously through you.”