I watched as a light turned on across at Elizabeth’s house. She walked over to the window and glanced my way. I didn’t turn on my light. I sat on the edge of my bed, my body still burning hot. The light flooded over her face, and I watched her lips move.
“Are you okay?” she questioned, crossing her arms against her body.
She was so damn beautiful, and it annoyed me.
It also annoyed me that my shouts probably awakened her almost every night. I walked over to the window, my eyes still heavy with the guilt of not being there for Jamie and Charlie. “Go to sleep,” I told her.
“Okay,” she replied.
But she didn’t move to her bed. She sat on the ledge of her windowsill, and I leaned against mine. We stared at one another until my heartbeats slowed, and her eyes faded shut.
I silently thanked her for not leaving me alone.
“Rumor has it you’re banging an asshole,” Faye said over the phone a few days after I’d sat up with Tristan after his nightmare. I hadn’t spoken to him since then, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
“Oh my gosh, that is not a rumor.”
“No, but it sounds more exciting than Tanner whining about some dude cutting your grass, even though I remember offering you a certain guy named Ed to trim your bushes. But really, though, are you okay? Should I be worrying like Tanner is?”
“Because that Tristan guy is a total dick, Liz.” The worry on the end of each of her words was sad. I hated that she was worrying about me.
“I can talk to him,” I said quietly. “About Steven, I can talk to him.”
“You can talk to me about him, too.”
“Yeah, I know. But it’s different. Tristan lost his wife and son.”
Faye went silent for a moment. “I didn’t know that.”
“I doubt anyone does. People mainly judge him from the outside, I think.”
“Listen, Liz. I’m just going to be uncool for a second because sometimes being a best friend means being truthful even when your bestie doesn’t want to hear it. It’s sad, really, about Tristan’s family. But how do we know we can trust this guy? What if he made that story up?”
“What? He didn’t.”
“How do you know?”
Because his eyes are haunted the same way mine are.
“Please don’t worry, Faye.”
“Honey…” Faye sighed into the phone receiver. For a second I contemplated hanging up on her, something I would’ve never done in the past. “You just got back into town a few weeks ago, and I know you’re hurting. But this Tristan guy, he’s mean. He’s wild. And I think what you need is more stability in your life. Have you thought about talking to a therapist or something?”
Because therapists were supposed to help you move on, and I didn’t want to move on. I yearned to go backward. “Look, I gotta get going. We’ll talk later, okay?”
“Bye, Faye. I love you,” I said, and meant it, even though I didn’t like her very much right then.
“Love you, too.”
When I hung up, I went to the front window of the house and watched as the darkened skies started rolling in. A rainstorm was building right in front of me. Such a large part of me was excited for the rain too, because the rain meant the grass would grow faster, and that meant broken Tristan would be here again, standing right in front of broken Liz.
Saturday evening, I couldn’t have been happier sitting and watching Tristan cut the grass. I sat on the front porch with Mama’s heart-shaped tin box of love letters, going through all the words I’d already read millions of times. When Tanner’s car pulled up toward my house, I placed the letters back into the box and shoved them to the corner of the porch. A weird sense of embarrassment washed over me knowing that Tanner was about to see Tristan cutting the grass.
As his engine turned off and Tanner hopped out of his car, I gave him a tight smile and stood up. “What brings you around here, buddy?” I asked. His eyes instantly locked on Tristan, and he frowned.
“Just was driving around after work and thought I would see if you and Emma wanted to grab some dinner or something.”
“We already ordered pizza, and Emma is inside on her second round of watching Frozen.”
He stepped closer, his frown still remaining. “The grass doesn’t seem like it was that long to begin with from what I can tell.”
“Tanner,” I warned, my voice low.
“Please tell me you aren’t paying him cash, Liz. He’s probably using it for drugs or something.”
“Stop being ridiculous.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Ridiculous? I’m being realistic. We don’t really know anything about this guy, except that he works with Crazy Henson. And I mean, look at him; he has the look of some psychopath or killer, or Hitler or something. It’s creepy.”
“If you want to stop being a jerk, you can head inside and get some pizza. Otherwise, we should catch up later, Tanner.”
His head shook back and forth. “I’m going to run inside and say hi to Emma, then I’ll get out of your hair.” He went inside the house with his hands stuffed in his jeans, and I sighed. When he came out, he gave me a wary smile. “There’s something different about you, Liz. I can’t put my finger on it, but you’re acting strange ever since you came back. It’s like I don’t know who you are anymore.”