Love and Other Words

Page 12


From: Elliot P. <[email protected]>

Date: January 4, 07:34 AM

To: Macy Lea Sorensen <[email protected]>

Subject: re: Crazy!


Punctuation is your friend.



thursday, october 5

Liz Petropoulos, what a trip.

She’s medium height, curvy, and has the most amazing skin. Also, no fewer than four times have I told her how much I covet her cheekbones. She’s a smiler, saying hello to everyone who walks in the doors to the Mission Bay building and stopping anyone without a badge, beckoning them to sign in.

I raise my badge as I do every morning. Thankfully she was on break yesterday when I burst in, frazzled after my non-breakfast with Elliot, but today she smiles with a little glimmer in her eyes, like she knows more now than she did the last time I saw her.

“Well, hello, Liz Petropoulos,” I say, approaching her, dropping any pretense.

She hesitates only a beat before saying, “Hi, Macy Sorensen,” without having to check my badge. As I get closer, she smiles again. “Boy, have I heard a lot about this Macy person over the past seven years. And to think she’s been the nice, new Dr. Sorensen complimenting my cheekbones.”

“Guess Elliot and George should give up and let us get married,” I say, and she laughs. It’s a round, delighted sound.

Her expression straightens pretty quickly. “I’m sorry I told him when you’d be in.” She holds up a hand when I start to speak, and adds in a quieter voice, “He told me about running into you, and we put two and two together. You can’t know what it means to him that he’s seen you. I know it’s not my business, but —”

“About that.” I lean my elbows on the broad marble reception desk and smile down at her so she knows I’m not about to get her fired. “What do you say you do me one favor, and then we halt all nonapproved information sharing?”

“No question,” Liz says, eyes wide. “What can I do for you?”

“His cell number would be fantastic.”

Friends call friends, I tell myself. The first step to fixing things is to talk, to clear the air once and for all, and then we can move on with life.

Liz pulls out her phone, opens her Favorites list, and bends, scribbling his phone number.

Elliot’s on her speed-dial.

But I get it: Attentive, considerate, emotionally mature Elliot would be the dream brother-in-law. Of course she’s in regular contact with him.

“But don’t tell him I have it,” I tell her as she tears it off and hands it to me. “I’m not sure how long it will be before I figure out what to say.”

Who am I kidding; this is such a bad idea. Elliot has a story to tell. I have a story to tell, too. We both have so many secrets, I’m not even sure we can backtrack that far.

The entire walk down the hall to the residents’ break room, I keep checking the pocket in my scrubs pants to make sure that I haven’t lost the small Post-it folded inside. Not that I really needed it in the first place. I stared at the numbers the whole ride up to the fourth floor. I guess it never occurred to me that he would have the same phone number all this time. His number used to be a rhythm that would get stuck in my head like a song.

I drop my bag in a locker in the break room and stare down at my phone. My rounds start in five minutes, and where I’m going, I need to be levelheaded. If I don’t do this now, it will be a stone in my shoe the entire shift. My heart is a thunder-drum in my ear.

Without overthinking it, I text,

Only a few seconds later, a reply bubble appears. He’s typing. Inexplicably, my palms begin to sweat. It hadn’t occurred to me until now that he could say, No, you’re too big a dick, forget it.

Or that he wouldn’t have this number. I am an idiot.


thursday, march 13

fourteen years ago


s my fourteenth birthday approached, I could tell that Dad wasn’t sure what to do. For as long as I could remember, we’d always done the same thing: he would make aebleskivers for breakfast, we’d all see a movie in the afternoon, and then I would pig out on a giant sundae for dinner and go to bed swearing I would never do that again.

After Mom died, the routine didn’t change. The constancy was important to me, a small reminder that she’d really been here. But this was the first year we’d had the weekend house, and the first year I had a close friend like Elliot.

“Can we go to the house this weekend?”

Dad’s coffee cup paused in mid-air, his eyes meeting mine over the thread of steam. He blew over the top before taking a sip, swallowing, and setting it back on the table. Picking up his fork, he speared a piece of scrambled egg, doing his best to act casual, as if there was nothing that particularly thrilled or disappointed him about my request.

It was the first time I’d asked to go up there, and I knew him well enough to know how relieved he was to be able to continually rely on the perfect predictions in Mom’s list.

“Is that what you’d like to do this year? For your birthday?”

I looked down at my own eggs before nodding. “Yeah.”

“Would you also like a party? We could bring a few friends up to the house? You could show them your library?”

“No… my friends here wouldn’t get it.”

“Not like Elliot.”

I took a bite and shrugged casually. “Yeah.”

“He’s a good friend?”

I nodded, staring at my plate as I speared another bite.

“You know you’re too young to date,” Dad said.

My head shot up, eyes wide in horror. “Dad!”

He laughed. “Just making sure you understand the rules.”

Blinking back down to my food, I mumbled, “Don’t be gross. I just like it up there, okay?”

My dad wasn’t a big smiler, not one of those people you think of and immediately picture with a big grin on his face, but right now, when I looked back up, he was smiling. Really smiling.

“Of course we can go to the house, Macy.”

We drove up early Saturday morning, the first day of my spring break. There were two things Dad wanted to check off the list this week, including items forty-four and fifty-three: planting a tree that I could watch grow for many years, and teaching me to chop firewood.

Before I could run off into my book wonderland, Dad pulled a tiny sapling from the back of the car and hauled it into the side yard.

“Grab the shovel from the back,” he said, kneeling to cut the plastic container away from the apple tree using a razor blade. “Bring the work gloves.”

In some ways I always assumed I was my mother’s child: I liked the color and clutter of our Berkeley house. I liked lively music and warm days, and danced when I washed dishes. But up at the cabin, I realized I was my dad’s kid, too. In the chill of the March wind snaking through the trees, we dug a deep pit in easy silence, communicating with the point of a finger or the tilt of a chin. When we’d finished, and a proud little Gravenstein tree was firmly planted in our side yard, instead of enthusiastically wrapping his arms around me and gushing his love in my ear, Dad cupped my face and bent, pressing a kiss to my forehead.

“Good work, min lille blomst.” He smiled down at me. “I’m going to town for groceries.”

With this permission, I took off. My shoes pounded on the ground as I moved in a straight path from the end of our driveway to the top of Elliot’s. The doorbell rang throughout the house, carrying back to me from the open windows overhead. A loud bark reached my ears, followed by the clumsy scratch of a dog’s nails against wooden floors.

“Shut it, Darcy,” a sleepy voice said, and the dog fell silent, only to release a few small apologetic whines.

It occurred to me that in the nearly six months we’d had the cabin, I hadn’t been inside Elliot’s house. Miss Dina had invited us, of course, but Dad seemed to feel it was wrong to intrude. I think he also liked the solitude of our house on the weekends – Elliot’s presence excepted, of course. Dad liked not having to come out of his shell.

I took a step back, nerves rising, when the door opened and a yawning, shaggy-haired Andreas stood in front of me.    

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