“Speaking of being my road map . . . today people paid me a lot of cheesy compliments that went directly to my head,” he said. “So in an attempt to not get a big ego, I am requesting that you tell me a handful of my flaws.”
I laughed. “Oh boy. Are you sure? We’ll be here all night.”
“Dive right in. Rip it off like a bandage.”
“You fart in your sleep,” I stated. “And they are smelly. Like rotten eggs in your face, worse than the pigpens, bad.”
“Oh, wow. Okay, took you no time to get that one out.”
“You don’t always flush the toilet. You put the toilet paper on backward like a caveman. Sometimes you leave the bathroom so fast that I doubt you washed your hands, which makes me want to do the HCT.”
“HCT?” he asked.
“Hand-check test. You know, when someone comes out of the bathroom and you shake their hands to see if they are wet or cold from washing them. You can smell them, too, to see if they smell like soap. Then you know they cleaned them well.”
He laughed. “Don’t tell me you go around smelling people’s hands.”
“Well, no. But don’t be freaked out if I do it the next time we hang out.”
“And where did you learn about HCT?”
“My mom used to do it when I was a little kid. I was obsessed with lying about washing my hands. So she created HCT to get me to stop.” I paused for a second. My stomach tightened, and I tried my best to twist my memories of Mama away. There were so few good ones that whenever one popped into my head, it made me want to get emotional on the spot. Of course, I wanted to recall the good moments with Mama, but also thinking back on the good made me miss her even more.
“How is she doing?” Ian asked, probably taking note of my silence.
“Oh, you know. The best she can be. Garrett has shockingly been giving me updates on her. She should be delivering the baby in a few months.”
“How are you feeling about it all?”
Too much. I’m feeling too much.
I curled into a tighter ball. “You snore in your sleep like a rhino. When you clip your toenails, you let the clippings fly anywhere, even if it’s in the kitchen. Did I mention you hang the toilet paper the wrong way?”
He chuckled. “Okay, okay. Obviously, we’re not talking about your mom anymore, but you’re wrong about the toilet paper.”
“No. You hang it with the paper facing over. That’s wrong.”
“No,” he argued. “That makes it easier to pull. Easy access.”
“Wrong, wrong, wrong.” I yawned. It escaped me without thought, and I was quick to cover my mouth.
“Oh shit. It’s almost three in the morning over there, isn’t it? Go to sleep, Haze.”
“I’m fine.” I yawned again.
“Liar. I’ll call you in the morning before you head out to the ranch. Sleep tight. And Haze?”
“You snore like an elephant with a peanut caught in its nose.”
I snickered. “Good night, Ian.”
He hung up the phone, and a few minutes later, my phone dinged with a text message.
Ian: Here’s a bit of reading material for the next time you’re sitting on the toilet.
Following the message were five articles about how one was supposed to hang their toilet paper over versus under.
Hazel: I could find you an article online about how Bigfoot is real, too, if you’re interested. And the truth about Santa Claus.
Ian: Big Foot is real. As is Santa Claus. You should really start believing everything you read on the internet. Like, right now there’s an article going around saying I have a massive cock. Believe in that, Hazel.
Don’t you worry, Ian. I have enough proof of my own on that subject.
Hazel: Massive is in the eye of the beholder.
Ian: I welcome you to behold it with your eyes when I see you again.
Hazel: Go to sleep, weirdo.
Ian: You know what I’m thinking right now?
Hazel: Yes, and me too.
Ian: Good. Good night.
I knew his thoughts, even though he never said it straight out.
I love you too, Ian Parker.
Before I fell asleep, I turned on Spotify and put the Wreckage’s songs on replay to help me fall asleep. Even though I didn’t know when I’d see Ian again, I was already counting down the days until our reunion. And just like every other girl around the world, I pretended the love songs were written for me.
The next morning, I awakened to my phone receiving a text message. I hurried to answer it, thinking it was Ian, but it wasn’t. Garrett’s name flashed on the screen.
Garrett: Kid came early. In something called NICU. Not looking so hot.
Mind spinning, I scrambled to my feet. My chest was rising and falling as I tossed on some clothes and headed out of my bedroom, writing Garrett back.
Hazel: What hospital?
Garrett: St. Luke’s. About three hours from town.
Hazel: Are you and your mom there?
Garrett: Nah. Had no gas money this week.
Hazel: On my way.
Garrett: They probably won’t let you near.
Hazel: She’s my sister. I’m on my way.