“I’m gonna have to pass. I’m sorry. I hope you have a good weekend.”
She looked dumbfounded. I left her standing on the sidewalk as I jogged across the street to catch my train.
The next day, sunlight poured through the window in the guest room at my sister’s house. I reached for my phone and noticed that a text from Nina had come in earlier that morning.
Your body of blankets was getting pretty lonely last night, so I stuffed my ratty bathrobe in there with him. Hope you don’t mind. I think they’re getting along. They haven’t come out yet.
My ribs ached from laughing so hard. I wrote back.
Jake: That’s what you get for sneaking into my room again.
Nina: You got me. You must have gotten to Boston late, huh? What are your plans for today?
My stomach sank. Could you imagine what the truth would sound like?
I’ll be spending the day with my schizophrenic wife, Ivy, meeting with a doctor about signing off on a new type of trial medication for her and filling out some insurance forms. Maybe if I’m lucky, Ivy won’t have a paranoid episode or subsequently try to beat the shit out of me. I’ll spend the day with her then come home late tonight, get into bed and fantasize about eating you out while I jerk off.
I figured it was best to keep that to myself.
Jake: At my sister’s, family stuff, running some errands.
Nina: Sounds exciting.
She was digging for info and would have to be crazy not to suspect that I was hiding something from her. It always amazed me that she wouldn’t pry more than she did.
I toyed with the idea of asking her how the date went but didn’t really want to hear it if she had a good time. So, I opted not to bring it up.
Jake: What are you up to today?
Nina: Studying and trying out a new recipe I think you’re gonna like. You really got me into bananas.
Jake: Don’t tease me.
Nina: LOL. When do you come home?
Jake: The usual. Late Sunday night.
Nina: These might be waiting for you when you get here if I don’t screw them up.
A picture began to load. It was a photo of frozen bananas covered in dark Ghirardelli chocolate, encrusted with pistachio nuts. Oh, man.
Jake: Those look so good. Are you trying to kill me?
Nina: Maybe it’s my way of getting back at you for last night.
It was unclear whether she was referring to how I acted toward her date or my blanket trick.
Jake: Well, it’s working. You’re making me want to come home right now.
For way more than just the bananas.
Nina: See you when you get home.
Home. It really felt more like home there than it ever used to.
Jake: See you soon, Nina.
My sister’s voice vaguely registered. “Jake…”
Still looking down at my phone, I muttered, “Huh?”
“Who were you texting just now? I’ve been standing here trying to get your attention to see if you want to come to breakfast at the diner with us. You didn’t even notice me because you were too busy grinning like a fool for the longest time.”
“It was no one.”
Allison sat at the edge of my bed. “Look at you. Your face. You’re lying! Who was it?” She tied her long dark hair up into a bun and bounced up and down tauntingly. Her green eyes were identical to mine; it was kind of freaky.
“Al, don’t do this to me. You know I can’t lie to you for shit.”
“Uncle Jake said ‘shit!’” My seven-year-old niece, Hannah, came running into the room and jumped on the bed to tackle me.
“Oof, girl. You’re gettin’ big!”
“Hannah, don’t repeat that word again,” Allison said.
My other niece, Hannah’s twin, Holly, ran toward me a few seconds later, and both girls were giggling and crawling all over me as I tickled them.
“Girls, get off your uncle and go put your sneakers on. We’re leaving in five minutes to go get pancakes.”
The girls hopped off of me in unison and ran out of the room just as fast as they came in. All you had to do was mention food, and that was usually their reaction. I could hear my brother-in-law, Cedric, yelling at them for jumping down the stairs.
I stayed lying on the bed with my arms crossed behind my head as I looked up at the ceiling.
She wasn’t going to let me off the hook. “So, answer my question.”
“Her name is Nina.”
“Nina…that’s pretty. Who is she?”
“She’s my roommate.”
“Is she cute?”
“Why do you need to know?”
“Answer the question.”
“Yes, she’s pretty.” I closed my eyes briefly, picturing her face. “She’s…beautiful.”
“You like her…”
“What’s so bad about that?”
“Don’t ask questions you know the answer to.”
“Do you know when the last time I saw you smile like that was?”
“No, I don’t.
“Neither do I, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile like that.”
I sat up suddenly to avoid the inquisition. “I’ve got to get going to Ivy’s.”
“You can’t join us for a quick breakfast?”
“No. I overslept, and I have to meet with this doctor at eleven,” I said, looking around for my clothes.
“You deserve to be happy, Jake. You know that, right?”