I got the call just as I walked into my apartment after work.
My mother never called me. That was the thing about her– for all her whining about me being her sole reason to live, she never talked to me. Even when I reached out, back at the beginning of college when I moved (more or less) down south, the conversations were always short and rushed. When she did call, it was on my birthday or Christmas, and usually the phone was passed to my other family members.
So seeing her number on my cell phone set off the warning bells before I even registered I was answering it. “Hi, Mama.”
“You need to come home.”
This was it. Someone had died. I dropped my purse on the floor and flopped down onto the couch, laying on my back and staring at the ceiling. “What happened? Who’d we lose?”
“Grandpa fell this morning,” Mom said, her voice grave. “He’s in the hospital. You need to come see him soon and say your goodbyes.”
Not dead yet, then. Still, not good news– eighty-five, suffering from alzheimer’s, not exactly in the best shape to be falling from any height, even just from an upright position. I rubbed my eyes with my free hand, thinking about my work schedule. “I have a long weekend this week,” I told her. “Scheduling got wonky with the new holiday show, so I have Thursday through Sunday off. I’ll come Wednesday night.”
We spent nearly a half an hour discussing prices of airline tickets and flight times. By the time I hung up, I had my round trip tickets secured and a relative plan for the weekend. All I needed now was a ride to the airport.
And there was only one person I knew who had a car and availability on Wednesdays.
Mulling around my room packing my backpack for the trip, I listened to the ringing in my ear with a weird amount of dread pooling in my belly.
Jay’s voice in my ear was strangely detached. I hadn’t gone out of my way to talk to him for quite some time, though I still considered him a friend. We’d hung out briefly in town a couple weeks back, mostly so I could see his daughter and hang out with her. I slid a smile onto my face, so as not to sound too desperate. “Hey, Jay, can I ask a really huge favor?”
“Sure, what’s going on?” He sounded genuinely worried.
“I need to make an emergency trip home this weekend,” I told him, and then filled him in. When I was done, the smile I’d forced on had become a grimace, my voice shaking slightly. “I just need a ride to the airport and back, is that okay?”
“I’d be glad to help!” So glad I could hear his excitement through the phone. I felt badly, like I was somehow leading him on or using him. “When do you need me?”
“My flight is Wednesday night,” I said, sliding my laptop into my backpack. “I won’t have time to go get my car and then drive all the way to the airport, so could you pick me up at Chance? My car will be fine in the bus lot until I get back, I’m not worried about that.”
“Yeah, perfect, you get out at six right?”
“Yep. Thank you so much.”
“And coming home?”
“I get back Sunday night at nine-ish.”
“Sounds great,” he said. “We can get a late dinner if you like?”
Dangerous territory there, I mused, winding my spare phone charger cord through my fingers. “We’ll see, I have work Monday morning so I don’t want to stay out too late, and I’ll still have to pick up my car.”
“You could stay over.”
With your homicidal ex? I thought bitterly. No thanks. “I’d really rather get my car and come home, so you won’t have to worry about bringing me to work so early in the morning. Thanks though.”
“Okay,” Jay said, and I winced at the disappointment in his voice. “I’ll see you when I get you from work.”
“Thank you, Jay,” I said. “Really, it means a lot to me.”
Hanging up, I sat on the edge of my bed and put my head in my hands. Treating Jay as a friend was just… so weird. He flaked whenever we made plans, but when I had pre-existing plans or just didn’t want to hang out with him, suddenly I “didn’t want to be friends anymore” and he should “just stop talking to me since I hated him so much.”
My phone buzzed, and Dakota’s name came up on the screen. I smiled despite myself, weirdly pleased that he had texted me.
Nerd. I’m going up north this weekend.
Now why had I told him that? He was dealing with his own family drama, he didn’t need mine on top of it.
Vacation? Visiting family?
Something like that lol
Nice. Have fun
I hope so. How’s your great granddad?
Not so good but still alive.
I hope he gets better soon.
….Yeah. It’s not really something you get better from.
I’m sorry. That’s awful.
That was enough sharing for one night, I decided, now that I’d put my foot in my mouth– so to speak.
Idly, I wondered if he was really as detached as he came across.
I’m going to see my grandfather in the hospital.
Setting my phone aside, I rubbed my hands over my face, muttering, “God dammit, Piper, what the hell? What happened to not burdening him with your own bullshit?”
Me too, I thought bitterly.
I don’t know exactly what it’s like for you, but I guess I can commiserate. He’s been going downhill for awhile.
Good that you’ll get to see him then.
Now, that was really enough, I told myself, and plugged my phone in for the night. Dakota didn’t need my sob story on top of his own, and honestly, I hadn’t been planning on telling him in the first place. At all. Ever.
God, I was such a weak bitch.