And then he stopped kissing me. The memory of that night replayed in my mind every morning I woke up, stood in front of the bathroom mirror, and touched my stomach.
Sometimes I stared at myself waiting to confess that the night I slept with James was an accident, that I’d had no say in the matter. But I had. I wanted him.
And for a stupid few minutes, I could’ve sworn he wanted me, too.
* * *
Dr. Ward’s candy choice today was Starbursts, which was much better than his black licorice days.
“What’s on your mind, Aria?”
“Salvador Dalí. Salvador was known for his melting clocks painting, The Persistence of Memory. Did you know he had a brother nine months older than him who died? His brother’s name was Salvador. His parents named Salvador after his dead brother Salvador. Isn’t that crazy? They believed that he was the reincarnation of his brother. He said, ‘We resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections. He was probably a first version of myself, but conceived too much in the absolute.’ Imagine that pressure. Never living up to what your parents dreamed you could be.”
“Do you feel pressure from your parents, Aria? Like you let them down?”
I blinked, thinking back to the argument my parents had had a few hours ago. “Is there a deal breaker?” I asked.
“For how much your parents love you. Are there different kinds of mistakes that can just make them stop loving you? Like, say a kid started using drugs, or fighting. Or failed a class. Or—”
“Yeah. Is that a deal breaker for love?”
“Your parents still care a lot about you,” Dr. Ward said.
“But it’s not the same. Before, Dad used to pop into my room each night and tell me something about sports that I didn’t care about. Then I would tell him something about art that he didn’t care about, and then he would kiss my forehead and leave.”
“Now all of those memories are just melting away.”
“You want to talk more about that?” he asked.
He didn’t push me for more details. I was starting to like that about him.
* * *
When we got home, I looked down at my phone to see if Levi had texted me back.
Levi: Sorry for any trouble I caused.
Aria: It’s okay. It wasn’t your fault.
He didn’t text back until dinnertime.
Levi: It might be best if we don’t talk outside of art and music class. I don’t want to add stress to your family.
Aria: What? That’s stupid.
Levi: Sorry, Art.
Aria: You can’t break off a friendship with an emotional girl who’s pregnant over a text message after telling her that you like her. That’s just mean. And stupid.
He didn’t reply until after KitKat’s bath.
Levi: I know. Sorry.
That’s it? You’re sorry?
Aria: Do you want the definition of asshole?
He didn’t reply.
The next morning at the bus stop, Aria didn’t look at me, but she did define a word for me.
“Asshole: a stupid, mean, or contemptible person. Just in case you didn’t know.”
I definitely knew.
Right before lunch, Simon informed me that I should probably sit at a different lunch table, but he told me we could still talk in gym class. I sighed, taking my lunch and finding an abandoned table in the back corner of the cafeteria.
I sat and ate my nasty food.
“Are you okay?” Abigail asked, walking up to me. “I stopped by Aria and Simon’s table, and Aria said you weren’t sitting with them anymore.”
She sat down beside me. “I have a few extra minutes today if you want me to sit with you. And I will probably have some extra time tomorrow, too.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Abigail.”
“Welcome.” She paused, staring down at her hands. “Why haven’t you told Simon or Aria about my cancer?”
“What do you mean?”
“I know you saw me at chemotherapy the day before you invited me to sit and eat with you guys.”
“Oh. Yeah. I didn’t think it was my right to share something like that.”
“But that’s why you invited me to eat with you three, right? Because you felt bad for me?”
“No. I invited you because when you smile, you make everyone else happy.”
She drummed her fingers on the table. “The day you asked me to sit with you guys I was on my way to the bathroom to cry because it was one of my not-so-happy days. So thanks for that.”
She rubbed her shoulder and looked across to the table that we normally set at. “Is Simon mad at me or something? He won’t even talk to me, let alone look my way.”
She honestly appeared perplexed by Simon’s sudden distance from her. “He likes you, Abigail.”
“Oh, I know. I like him, too,” she said, eating her sandwich.
“No, I mean he likes you, likes you.”
“I know. I like him, like him, too.” She cocked an eyebrow. “I thought that was clear? I gave him extra cookies.”
“But you told him you didn’t want to go out with him.”
“Because girls like me don’t get the boyfriends.” She frowned. She sat with me for the longest she had ever sat in one place. “After next week, though, things will be different,” she muttered to herself before saying, “Should I make him brownies this time?”