Her sweater is a bit small for me, but I pull it on and settle down beside her. She puts her arm around me for warmth. Hers and mine. She rests her head against my shoulder.
The darkness is comforting—despite the cold, still air. The smell of damp earth, the hint of must—it’s not at all like the den at home, but it’s deeply, instinctively familiar, nonetheless. And there are old memories here, too. Of childhood. And simpler times.
I look down at her out of the corner of my eye. She smiles. “I’m glad you called,” she says. “I’ve missed you.” She says it without reproach, but it makes my heart sink anyway. I hadn’t wanted to hurt her. Though I guess I knew I would. It’s just . . . I couldn’t be around her while . . . . She knows me too well. She’d have found out what I was up to, and then she’d have talked me out of it.
But it’s safe now. The deed is done.
“I’m glad you came.” I lean into her a little. “To be honest, I didn’t think you would.”
“And why would you think that?“
“No reason,” I lie. I grin and try to cover: “Just, you know, clothes, shoes, running in heels . . . .”
She punches me in the ribs with her free hand. “You try running on gravel in heels!”
I laugh. “See, that’s exactly my point!”
She snuggles back into me and I put my arm around her and pull her close.
“I was a little worried . . . that you’d be angry with me.”
She looks up at me and smirks. “Why, because you’ve been avoiding me?”
Hah! “I’m that transparent, am I?”
She sighs. “You are to me.”
Hmmm. And I always have been, haven’t I.
“You aren’t angry?”
“Eh,” she says, and shrugs. “Not any more. Maybe at first. But I know how you get.
“I try not to take it personally.”
I don’t know how she can be so easy-going. So forgiving. But I’ve always envied that about her. And I hate it that I’ve relied on it so much.
“You know,” I say, and meet her eyes, “I’ve really missed you.”
“I know,” she says, without hesitation—like it’s the most obvious thing I could have said. “But maybe you could remember, next time, that I like having you around, too, okay?”
Skewered, I look away.
“Uh huh. So, can I assume whatever stupid idea you’ve been avoiding me to do is done?”
But I guess I’ve avoided the topic long enough.
“She’s gone, Tara. And she won’t be back.”