Disarranged(6)By: Sara Wolf
“I have a reservation? Under, um, Grace. Grace Montenegro.”
She looks down the list and flashes a smile at me. “Right this way.”
She leads me past tables and to a booth in the very back. I thank her and order a root beer, and she leaves me with the menus. Grace said she’d be back in time for dinner, but I still look kind of pathetic at this booth, alone. Not that I mind. It gives me a few minutes to compose myself, to dredge up topics to discuss with Grace. When I flip open the menu my eyes nearly bug out – everything is so expensive. I close it quickly and sip my water. Maybe I’ll just have a drink for dinner, instead. Or bread. That sounds much better than a forty dollar steak. I’m still a student – every little expensive thing I see I calculate into my student loans, even if they are mostly paid thanks to Grandpa’s will.
I smile and stir my ice. Grandpa would’ve liked it here.
Over the heads of the dining crowd, I see a familiar face. She looks at me for a moment, all bright blonde hair and sparkling eyes. She smiles. And that's when everything in my stomach revolts. I'm not hungry at all anymore. The root beer the waitress brings looks like sludge and tastes like ash. She asks if I'm ready to order but all I can manage is a dry, hoarse 'in a while'. The waitress nods and leaves me to crumble.
Kiera is here.
She looks as beautiful as ever - maybe even more so. The cruel glint in her eye as she looks my way again doesn't make her any less pretty. I want to throw up but there's nothing to throw up into. I breathe slow, deep, the memories of last Christmas burning hot against the back of my eyelids. I can't go there. I'm better, now. This is a vacation.
Kiera gets up to use the restroom. I watch her go out of the corner of my eye.
My nausea gets even worse when I see who's sitting across from her.
A young man in a fitting, expensive-looking suit, with amber skin and hazel irises stares at me. His hair is as messy as ever. My heart contorts when I see the shadows under his eyes and the faint frown lines around his mouth.
He's tired. He's tired and worried and skinnier than I've ever seen him. And he's staring at me like he's seen a ghost.
My brain screams at me to play it cool, to remember he's engaged to a beautiful girl he obviously loves a lot. My heart cries out to run to him, to wrap my arms around him and never let go again. My two conflicting sides wrestle for mere seconds before reaching a tortured compromise - I raise my hand and wave. I even manage to put on a semi-convincing smile. Or at least I hope it's convincing. I can't tell, because all Lee does is nod, stiffly, back at me. The balloon of conflicted joy in my chest nearly punctures with that one movement. He didn't even smile. His eyes flickered for one moment, but I could've just been imagining it.
He doesn't care about me, anymore.
I tighten my grip on my root beer, the coldness seeping into my palm almost painfully. I should've expected this. It's okay. It's natural. He's engaged. You don't get engaged to someone when you care about someone else. Your feelings for everyone else cool in comparison to your feelings for your fiancé. Maybe he does still care about me, but it's muted, now. And that's fine. That's how it should be!
I keep saying it's fine in my head, but every time I try to reassure myself I just feel more and more like throwing up.
I grip the straw with shaking fingers and sip. I glance at the menu, pretending to be interested in what I want to eat. I can feel Lee's eyes on me, like two lasers piercing through my layers of clothes and down to my very skin. We haven't seen each other in months. That gap in time looms before us - a huge wall I have no right to climb, and one he obviously wants to stay behind.
The waitress comes back, and I offhandedly order a salad. Nothing solid. If I eat anything too solid it'll just be harder to throw back up, and I feel like I'm going to throw up any second. I won't risk it. Lee stares at me the whole time I'm ordering, and finally I muster up the courage to look at him again. His expression has changed. It's soft, now, the corners of his eyes turned down and his mouth open just a little, like he's about to say something -
"Fancy seeing you here, Rose!"
Kiera's voice booms, and I look up. She slides into the seat opposite me in the booth and smiles. I don't smile back. Part of me, the polite part, says I should. The part of me that still cares about Lee says I definitely should - she's the one he picked to marry. She'll be Lee's wife this coming fall. But the part of me that was back-stabbed, double-crossed, and played by her knows better. So I settle for smiling with my mouth, but not my eyes, just to let her know I mean business.