In the Stillness
Author:Andrea Randall

I open the bathroom door and smile up at Eric. “Do you mind if I grab lunch with her, then you and I can spend the afternoon and evening together?”

 

He buys my smile and returns one of his own. “Of course. I’ll clean up around here and when you get home we’ll find something to do.” He playfully wiggles his eyebrows and I know what he means. Too bad we can’t have sex till tonight, with the lights off, so he can’t see what I just did to my hip.

 

Shit.

 

I rise on my toes and kiss his scruffy chin. “You need to shave.” I force a giggle before turning to the bedroom to dress.

 

“Have fun with Tosha, I’m gonna go grab some coffee.”

 

I throw on a thin long-sleeved shirt, despite the seventy-degree heatwave, and prepare for lunch with my best friend— the only person who knows me better than my husband thinks he does.

 

An hour later I’m sitting on the patio of The Pub, while Tosha illegally smokes a cigarette over our margaritas.

 

“Tosh, put that shit out, you’re going to get us kicked out!” I laugh and sip my lunchtime alcohol. Tosha and I always order liquor with lunch; it’s been our small act of rebellion since we turned twenty-one.

 

“Oh screw them.” She rolls her eyes and puts her cigarette out on the table. “Anyway, what’s going on with you? You look all . . . emo.” Despite being a professor, she often finds herself at a loss for an appropriate word.

 

You have to tell her. Just do it now and get it all over with.

 

I take a deep breath. “I went to Lucas’s grave yesterday.”

 

Tosha chokes on her margarita. “What the fu- what? What the hell possessed you to do that?” She unabashedly reaches for a second cigarette.

 

I see you. Stop staring at my left arm.

 

“I don’t know,” I’m honest, “I had some free time yesterday and just drove around. Before I knew it, I was yelling at him for dying. It was ten years ago, Tosh, ten fucking years ago.”

 

She hasn’t taken a drag since she lit her cigarette; she’s staring at me slack-jawed.

 

“You yelled at his grave? Does Eric know you went there?” She finally pulls on the cigarette. A good long drag.

 

“Yeah. He doesn’t get it, though. I lost my shit on him this morning.”

 

“I don’t really get it, either, Nat.” Her eyes bleed concern.

 

“I’ve just been stressed lately, I guess—”

 

“It’s not Lucas’s fault. Or Ryker’s. And, not even really yours, you know.” She plays with her hair with one hand and holds her Marlboro and margarita in the other. “You got sick . . .”

 

“Yeah.” I snort sarcastically.

 

“Then . . . you got better. And met Eric.” Bless her heart—she’s trying to believe her own words.

 

The truth is, I got through it. Then met Eric.

 

“It felt good, though. To cry a little at his grave.” I shrug and swallow some salted tequila.

 

“You haven’t seen—”

 

I shake my head and cut her off. “No, I haven’t seen Ryker.”

 

“Wow, his name rolled off your tongue easy enough.” Tosh was present for the period when I couldn’t even hear his name without a meltdown. “Maybe your brain, like, knew it’d been ten years or something.”

 

“Maybe.” I sigh.

 

“Are you going to go to the cemetery again? I’ll come with you if you do.”

 

“I doubt it,” I lie.

 

She nods. “Okay. Well, if you do—”

 

“I won’t. Trust me. Yesterday was more than enough.”

 

We sit in silence until our food comes. Suddenly, I’ve lost my appetite, but I pick at my salad anyway.

 

“Are you so ready to have the school year end?” I ask Tosha, breaking our silence.

 

“Ugh, you have no idea. I can’t wait to teach some higher level classes—the freshmen are such self-righteous twits.”

 

“I’m sure we were nothing like that.” I wink, she laughs. We’re back.

 

Tosha teaches biology at Mount Holyoke. She loves to hate it; that’s why I love her. She smokes to be difficult.

 

“Certainly not,” she mocks in a faux-snooty tone.

 

For a fleeting passage of time, we’re two seniors, giggling about when I’d met Eric—a hot guy I met randomly on the sidewalk, and subsequently spent a week stalking on Myspace. I finally gathered the nerve to call him.

 

Now, here I sit, at the extended end of that phone call.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

 

 

 

 

“How are we going to afford this, Eric?” I smooth out my dress and glide some cherry gloss over my lips.

 

Eric couldn’t wait to surprise me with dinner at The Lord Jeffery Inn. Situated along the Amherst common, it’s one of the finest dining places in the area. I’d been there a few times with my parents during college, and once with Eric’s parents, but this isn’t somewhere we’ve come on our own dollar.

 

“I told you, one of the visiting professors saw how hard I was working. He asked what I had going on at home, and when I told him I had a wife and twins he gave us this night out.” He takes my hand as we head up the stone stairs. “He has kids, too, and knows how hard it is to do what we do and have a family at home.”

 

“He’s got that right. Wow, the renovations they did are gorgeous.” I squeeze Eric’s hand as the hostess leads us to our table.