She is checking her phone again. Why is she checking her phone again?
“How is your mum?” Drat. Wrong question.
“She’s alright.” She is not even bothering to look up. “She arrived on Tuesday, but’ll be jetting back out by Friday. You know how it is.”
“Yes I know. Sorry about that.”
“Well at least you’re talking now.” I look at her to see if that offends her. She shrugs. And continues to browse her phone. I need help.
The waitress arrives and serves our order: a Minute Maid, chips masala and dry-fried liver for her, and me: a soda. She picks the fork and spikes each fry a bit too meticulously, careful not to dismantle the pile. I venture again.
“Do you go to church anymore?”
Pauses. Searches the ceiling. “Naah…”
“Pastor Kevin has been asking about you.”
“He’s very concerned.”
“Why would he be concerned?”
She sips her juice.
“I’m fine. Can’t you see that I’m fine?”
“Quite frankly, I can’t tell.”
“Well, I am.”
She continues to labour on her plate as I watch her. She is not gaining much mileage. I sit up.
“Kerry, I’m genuinely concerned about you. We all are.”
She stops and slowly places her fork on her plate and takes slow deep breaths, as if counting up to ten.
“Ken, is this the reason you asked me out to lunch? Are you now some kind of church envoy?”
“I really am worried about you, Kerry. I don’t like how we left things.”
She chuckles and tosses her braids behind her. “How we left things?”
“Look, Kerry. I’m sorry.”
“I really am. I … I wanted to apologize. And to check on you.”
“Three years later.”
“I really am sorry.”
She remains calm for a moment.
“You really are a douche.”
I lack words.
“I needed you.”
I look down. Ashamed. “I’m sorry.”
I couldn’t have done better, I want to say. I still don’t know what I could have done better.
She picks her fork and reluctantly pocks at some chips.
“Are you still in the band?”
“Yes. Yes I am though being in campus now means I only get to play in the holidays.”
“He still plays drums. But he’s to start work any day now.”
An even longer pause.
Sigh. I take a minute before answering. I could never really be prepared for this.
“She’s in the States.”
“She is also very so-”
“Are you still together?”
“Good for you.”
“We didn’t mean to hurt you, Kerry.”
“What did you mean to do exactly? Because one minute I’m getting the brunt for not towing the line, and the next my best friend and boyfriend are making out!”
“You told me you were exhausted, that you couldn’t deal with relationships right now, and that you should leave me before you hurt me…”
“I was going through so much. So-much! And you claimed you couldn’t be there for me.”
“Mum and Dad were getting a divorce and my boyfriend couldn’t be there for me.” She snickered. “The irony.”
She shoves a chip in her mouth and chews vehemently.
I sit still.
“True. Those were my words. And I am sorry I couldn’t be there for you as you hoped. It was getting out of hand, Kerry.”
“What was getting out of hand?”
“What habits? You smoked too!”
“I stopped! We both stopped, but you linked back with Jared. And we both know he was dealing meaner stuff than weed.”
“That was just one time…”
“And then you started hanging out late. Sleeping at the trap house.”
“I never cheated on…”
“And your dad would call me and stress me, and get me into trouble with my folks.”
“I told you not to answer his calls!”
“And then you went missing. You didn’t show up for practice, didn’t pick my calls…”
“You knew where to find me…”
“And by the time the police were coming for me, I had had it, Kerry. I had nothing left in me.”
She gets back to play with her food, eyes on her plate.
“I wanted to die that night. Dad had been drinking again. He came home late and started a huge fight. Mum took the Voltz and left. She didn’t even say goodbye. I wanted to die.”
She wipes a tear.
“I came to your room because I wanted to see you. Because you said you’d be there for me. But what do I find? You and Paula.”
“It was a tough time for me too…”
“You shouldn’t have gone for her. She was my best friend!”
“She was my friend too!”
“It was tougher for me and you know it. You said you tried but you didn’t try enough. I thought my friends would be there for me… Help me. But instead what did I get? You and Pastor Kevin talking about me and judging me, calling me a junkie, the black sheep. You and Paula going at it behind my back. You betrayed me!”
“We were all trying to help. It was not like that from the beginning.”
“What beginning? What did we even have if you couldn’t be there when it mattered? Or do I ask for too much?”
“Ken,” She gets her purse and pushes her seat back before looking me dead in the face. “It’s been something.”
She gets up and leaves in an angry huff, almost whisking away a napkin, just as a phone call is coming through.
“Just a minute, Paula.”
She had not even touched her dry fry.