Disarranged(7)By: Sara Wolf
"Hi. What are you doing here?"
"Lee and I are on vacation," she says, twirling an extra napkin in her manicured fingers. "You?"
'Lee and I'. The words hit hard, and close to home, but I suck it up and smile brighter.
"I'm here with Grace for vacation. You know her, right? Lee's sister."
"Of course!" Kiera laughs. "Of course I know her. Model girl. Really gorgeous."
"Ooh, are we talking about me? That's my favorite subject," Grace's voice reverberates. She walks over, her makeup photoshoot-flawless and her jacket still dusted with snow. She takes it off to reveal a slim red dress, and sits beside me. Kiera's eyes narrow.
"We were talking about you!" Kiera's smile looks forced, but her voice is perfectly natural. She's still the best actress I've ever met. "I had no idea you'd be here, Grace, or I'd have invited you to dinner with Lee and I. I should get to know my future sister-in-law, after all."
Grace laughs, but nothing about the sound is pleasant. It's bitter, rough around the edges.
"I'm sure you're very excited to get to know a sister-in-law who hates you."
Kiera freezes touching a spoon. Grace just smiles wider. Lee is watching us intently, his eyes riveted to me.
"That's right. You heard me. Get out of here, and never speak to me again."
Kiera flinches, glares at me, and then composes herself all in one expert instant.
"Let me know if you change your mind. I think you'll find me better company than that thing."
Kiera sneers in my direction. I almost shrink back, but Grace's courage and the months I spent healing strengthen me. Lee's watching, too. I can't afford to look weak. All thoughts of being nice to Kiera just because he chose her fly out the window as I frown.
"Grace and I are friends," I say. "And we're having dinner together right now. So you need to leave."
Kiera curls her lip and stands. "I had no idea you were capable of growing a backbone."
"I had no idea you were capable of looking so ugly," I fire back.
Grace makes a giggle-snort beside me. Kiera goes red down to her roots, grabs her purse and storms back to Lee's table. She snaps something at him, and marches out of the restaurant. Grace gives me a light victory punch on the shoulder, and I smile. The breath I'd been holding in around Kiera puffs out of me. I feel so much lighter. But then I meet Lee's eyes again, and the weight descends heavier than ever. But his gaze has changed. Where it once was stony it's now warm, the deep, joyous twinkle I remember so fondly lighting his eyes from within even as Kiera fumes at him, snaps something I can't hear to him, and stomps out of the restaurant. There's a tense sort of quiet as Lee and I look at each other. Finally, Grace stands and walks over to his table, pulling him up by the arm and leading him to ours. With every step they get closer, and the sound of my beating heart in my ears gets louder.
Grace sits him next to me, and sits across from us. His body heat sears into my left side, and the spicy-aftershave smell of him wafts up from his collar. He's so close. He's real and close and right next to me after months of nothingness. I clutch my napkin in my fingers and pick at it to distract myself from the ghostly friction flying between us.
The waitress comes up and Grace orders gnocchi.
"And you, miss?" The waitress asks me. I start in my seat and browse the menu quickly, frantically.
"I-I'll have the asparagus alfredo."
"One asparagus alfredo. And you, sir?"
Lee clears his throat. "I'm fine."
Grace pouts. "C'mon, Lee! You weren't eating anything! I saw you pushing your food around. Now that she's gone you can properly eat. So order!"
"Just the caprese salad will be fine," he says. When the waitress is gone, Grace sits up straighter and smiles.
"So, Lee. You didn't tell me you and your fiancé were coming here."
"I didn't know until yesterday," he says. His voice is lower than I remember, softer.
"Ah, a spur of the moment kind of trip, huh?"
"How's Jen?" He changes the subject.
"Playing some sweet LA gigs. Recording stuff. Hates your guts. Same as ever. Can't say I blame her, though."
Grace's gaze flickers to me, and I rivet my eyes to the ice in my root beer, stirring it with the straw instead of meeting her glance.