Authors: Ann Marie Frohoff
He turned to face me. “Hello. Your mother says you have something to tell me.” He barely even looked at me. He removed his navy and light blue striped tie and walked to the fridge, taking out a Corona. No small talk, just straight to the point, so typical in his lawyerishness. I’m not sure why I expected anything different, but it burned me how he could be so affectionate to my mother and not at all to me. It was hard to believe that we were once so close. I was irritated that my mom decided to say something to him. Maybe I wanted to do this
dinner. I gave her an incredulous look, but she just turned away and continued doing whatever it was she was doing.
“We can talk about it after dinner,” I offered.
“Might as well do it now. She said it was important.”
“It’s not important, Dad, it’s just something that’s going to happen, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with you. I just wanted to let you know what my plans were.”
“Right now is a better time than any.” He popped the top off his beer bottle and took a swig.
“I’m going to see Jake a week after my birthday, in London.”
No hemming or hawing. He wiped his mouth with the palm of his hand and nodded, his jaw jutted out.
“Why do you think this is a good idea when you know how we feel about Jake…and you?”
“That was a long time ago, and I’m going to be eighteen and moving out soon. And if you’d like me to move out now, I can, if that’ll make you feel better about my choices.” I couldn’t believe I said I’d move out! I thought of when Kyle had pulled the same thing. I glanced at my mom, and she was staring at me with a horrified look on her face. What the hell was I thinking? Holy shit! Did I mean it?
“Alyssa Montgomery, I don’t think you mean what you’re saying. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.” My father walked over into the den and sat in his chair, blowing off my ridiculous offer. He obviously didn’t think I meant it, but I did. I seriously couldn’t wait to get out of there and start a life on my own.
“Oh, Alyssa.” My mom practically wailed and turned away from me. I wondered if I was making her cry like Kyle did when he told her he was moving out, way back when, under similar circumstances.
“You two need to stop this.” I said glancing back and forth at my parent’s. “It’s not like I killed someone and am going to jail for the rest of my life.” I huffed and sat down on the barstool next to the counter separating the den from the kitchen. “Dad, for your information, Jake is a very successful musician, if you didn’t realize. I mean he’s won all sorts of major awards. Like awards people would sell their souls for. He’s even been on the cover of
Rolling Stone Magazine
, for Christ’s sake!” I was nearly shouting now, trying to get my point across that Jake wasn’t some loser, out-of-work musician.
“Alyssa, I’m very aware of what Jake is doing and his accomplishments. Your mother keeps me apprised of these things you share with her. I’m just surprised to hear you’re that involved with him again, and enough to make the decision to go visit him in London. I just don’t agree with it.”
“You never agree with anything that doesn’t fit in your little box, Dad.”
His nostrils flared at my back talk. I knew I was pushing it, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be treated like an adult. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout. This just brings back so many memories about how it used to be between all of us. It’s not the same. Jake is an adult now, and basically, so am I. I’m not some loser either, Dad. I have a plan, and I’m sticking to it. Jake is just an enhancement to my life, and he loves me.”
“He loves you.” My dad’s brows knitted together and his words weren’t a question. “He loves you so much that he’s willing to tempt you into getting off track.” He said this under his breath, and shook his head in disappointment. My blood boiled at his unwillingness to see the situation for what it was. I don’t think he’d ever believe
were a good idea, ever.
“This was my idea. He had nothing to do with it. He was as surprised as you. He was planning on waiting until I graduated to visit.”
“But you wanted to push it, like you always do,” he said sarcastically.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
My mother cleared her throat. “You two, can we please have a nice dinner? It’s ready, come sit down.” My mother’s voice was strained. Her eyes drooped with sadness.
“I wanted to have a nice dinner, but
decided to tell Dad before I was ready.”
“Alyssa Montgomery,” my grumbled, “have some respect.”
I hopped off the stool. “Yes, sir.” I popped off again, giving him a salute. He walked closer to me, shaking his head, and I kind of felt defeated. Not that the situation would have changed my mind; it was just that nothing I did on my own was good enough in his eyes. “It’s a shame that every choice I make on my own is never good enough.”
“Alyssa, you know how much we love you. We’re very proud of you. It’s a tough pill to swallow, knowing the history you have with Jake.”
Later that night, I lay in my bed with a warm sensation running through me. For the first time in years, I felt complete. Surprisingly, my parents decided not to give me any more of a hard time about the Jake situation. Instead, my father took a different approach, treating me more like an adult, in a backhanded sorta way. He said he hoped I’d be happy with my choices and that he also hoped Jake would understand what was on the line for me. He hoped Jake wouldn’t hold me back.
The Christmas tree glowed brightly with the little white light bulbs I’d strung through its branches. It was 10 pm and a week before Christmas. The only reason we had a tree was because my brother Kyle drove me to get one. My parents were over having a real Christmas tree, and when my father brought out the dusty box from the garage with its tattered and faded picture of a fake tree on it, I cringed. I was so excited
Christmas, I wanted a real tree. I begged Kyle to go in with me to pay for it. I even offered to cook dinner for our family. It was
Christmas celebration. Almost like my coming out party. I hadn’t yet told my siblings that Jake and I were basically getting back together. My sister would shit a brick when she heard, though it wouldn’t be a surprise to my brother. I knew Jake had always kept up with me, through him.
I stepped back from the tree to get a better look, making sure all the lights were perfectly placed before the decorations of colorful glass bulbs and meaningful ornaments went on. A rattle came at the door, someone jiggling the knob, then a soft knock. It must be Nicole. She’d sent a text earlier telling me she had something to show me, and that
“I might wanna see it.”
Nicole stood in my foyer, bundled up in an oversized cream-colored cable knit sweater, wearing Ugg Boots (typical California winter footwear). You would think it was snowing outside. A brisk 48 degrees
like snow, as far as us Southern Californians were concerned.
“What up?” she whispered and looked around.
“Nothin’,” I whispered back. I turned and stepped down into the living room area. Nicole followed me in.
“Where is everyone?” she said softly as she plopped down onto the sofa. She hit the cushion with her fist. “Damn, this is hard.”
I glanced at her and shrugged. “No one ever comes in here. I’m surprised it doesn’t have plastic covering it.” I half-laughed, amused at my remark. I looked back at the tree, trying to decide which decorations and box to start with. I looked back at her. “The units are upstairs already, and Allison is probably at her boyfriend’s. She might as well move in with him.” Nicole nodded, looking at me pensively. “What?” I said, throwing my arms out.
“Dude, so don’t get mad at me for bringing this up. I’m only trying to protect you.”
My stomach clenched into a ball. “What?” I asked again, more urgently.
She took her laptop out of her bag and opened the lid. She sighed and looked at me sadly. My heart raced. I knew this was about Jake. “So you know how Nadine and I have been concerned about this girl he says
his girlfriend. It just hasn’t sat right with us, especially me, Aly.”
I was raging inside. Whatever it was she found out about Jake, I didn’t care. What I cared about was her trying to knock me down every chance she had. There was always some underlying tension with her. She always seemed to be pointing out my disadvantages, like a black widow enjoyed killing its mate.
“Ok, spit it out then,” I said tersely, folding my arms.
She leaned back tucking her blonde hair behind her ears, shaking her head at me. She tossed her hands in the air. “I mean, Aly, I’d want to know these things. Ok? I found a recent interview he did after a show just three weeks ago, and that girl was in the pictures with him. He was quoted saying my girlfriend, blah blah blah. He had his arm around her and everything.”
Of course it made me want to throw up, listening to this revelation, but who was I? I had a boyfriend, too, kind of. Nicole looked down at her screen and tapped away at the keys. I grappled with what to say to her. I wanted to punch her for being all up in my shit. Didn’t she have anything better to do than to worry about my life?
“I’m quite aware of what’s out there, Nicole.” I really wasn’t, but she didn’t know that. “And who am I? I’ve been seeing Nathan on and off for a long time. You could say he’s my boyfriend, too.”
“Puh-lease, Aly. Nathan’s just happy he’s going out with you. He
you can’t commit. I bet you this Sophia chick has no idea. Guys are pigs.”
I flashed back to the whole Rachel mess back when Jake and I first started seeing each other. He’d led Rachel on in order to avoid the confrontation about me. It wouldn’t surprise me if he were doing the same thing again.
“Why do you even care? This trip is just to see what the possibilities are. We love each other. That doesn’t mean things are gonna work out. Love has never been our problem.”
“I care because I don’t want to see my best friend throw her life away for some liar.”
“He’s never lied to me.”
“Sure. Whatever you say.” She rolled her eyes and I wanted to pummel her.
“This is none of your business, Nicole,” I said bitterly.
“I sent you the link to the article,” she said, ignoring me. “I just wanted you to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. I would want you to do the same thing for me.” She closed the lid to her laptop and put it back in her bag. “I’m sorry if this upset you. I thought you’d be thankful.”
I sat bitterly staring at the Christmas tree until my sister came home at nearly 1 in the morning. I was surprised to see her home on a Friday night. She walked through the door and her eyebrows rose. She was just as surprised to see me. She padded into the living room, taking off her red cashmere beanie, and threw it at me, giggling quietly.
“Hey,” she whispered and sat down next to me. She stared at the computer screen for a moment, taking it in, then looked back at me with her mouth slightly open. She didn’t say a word.
I breathed in. “Jake and I have been talking.”
Allison nodded slowly biting her lip, still no words.
“And…and I was planning on having a Christmas dinner and telling everyone what I was going to do for my birthday. You know, a present to myself.” I paused, because it sounded so silly that I wanted to slap myself. “I bought a ticket to go see Jake a week after my birthday.”
“And now you see this? Who is that? His girlfriend? Holy shit, Aly. How long have you been talking to Jake?”
“Allison.” I turned to face her. “The last three years. We’ve been talking this entire time. It’s never really ended.”
“Holy mother of God.” Her face draped with concern and she slapped her forehead. “Are you kidding me? And you never said anything to anyone? I bet Nadine knows.”
“I didn’t tell anyone until just a couple months ago, when I first planned the trip.”
“And what’s this?” she said, pointing at the computer screen. “Did he lie to you and tell you he didn’t have a girlfriend? Who is that?”
“I don’t know what to think. He says she’s his girlfriend in this article, but he’s told me she’s not. He told me he told her flat out that he didn’t want a serious relationship… and I believe him. He’s probably already told her about me anyway. I mean he’s had to, right?”
“Have you told Nathan about you and Jake?”
“Not yet, but he’s always known,
I’ve told him more times than I can count that I couldn’t be serious, so there.”
“Oh Alyssa, I don’t know about all this,” she said, panicking.
I stretched out, wrapping my hands around my headboard’s metal bars. They were cold against my palms, sending a chill over me. I released them and pulled the covers up over me. I glanced at the clock, blinking several times. My eyes were dry and I rubbed them for moisture, all the while thinking about Jake with every action I took. He was all I thought about, other than what I would do about Nathan, my
. Anxiety churned inside me, and I kept reminding myself of how Jake and I had always been. He’d never lied to me. I mean I suppose you could say leaving something out is lying by omission, but I don’t know. I believed he loved me. He’d have to, to continue this for so long.
I had to do something about Nathan.
Christmas vacation flew by in a mixture of excitement and dread. The heaviness of the Nathan situation pressed down just enough to keep me from bouncing around like a Ping-Pong ball. It was two weeks before I left for London, and a week before my Feb 10th birthday. The issue of my relationship status with Nathan grew by the minute. We’d been talking about my life and how he fit in it. I’d tried to remind him that I couldn’t commit to anything serious. I’d also hinted around that maybe he should date other people. He’d said he wasn’t interested in dating anyone else.