The Fable of Us(6)

By: Nicole Williams

“Why don’t you finish your drink and leave?” he snapped, motioning at the screen door I’d come through. “This used to be the one place a person could go without worrying they’d run into an Abbott, and I’d like to keep it that way. I’ve put up with enough from all of you to have earned my sainthood a decade ago, so beat it.” He waved again at the door, waiting for me to run off like I wanted to.

But I wasn’t going to run. Not yet. I’d cut and run from Boone enough times that I wasn’t going to add to that list. Besides, I wasn’t leaving until I was good and marginally intoxicated so I could endure the reunion   with my family.

When I slid my empty glass across the counter, Tom didn’t need the nod from me. He knew what I wanted.

“Don’t worry, Boone. I’m not planning on ransacking the place and spoiling your retirement plan of ruining your liver.” That was, if it wasn’t already permanently damaged from the bottles I’d seen him empty as a teenager. “And I’m only in town for the week, so the likelihood of us running into each other again is next to none.”

“Which would be too soon for me,” Boone announced to himself, though he didn’t mutter or mumble. It wasn’t his style to say something under his breath. If Boone had something to say, he said it for everyone to hear.

The heat pressed in around me, making it impossible for me to think straight. “Okay, you hate me. I get it.” I grabbed the refilled shot glass out of Tom’s hands so quickly, half of it splashed across the counter. The particle board lapped it up like it was as desperate for the drink as I was. “You’ve made that exceedingly clear. But why don’t you stop acting like you were the only one who got hurt? You paid me back. And then some.”

When I noticed my hands trembling, I tucked them into my lap. I didn’t want to seem weak around him. Not after all this time. Boone already knew all of my weak parts and pieces from childhood and adolescence. I didn’t want him having an education in my adult ones.

“Are you about ready to go face your ex-sweetheart and little sis, who are about to exchange I dos in a few days? Because from what I recall of your little-to-no alcohol tolerance, by now you should be shit-faced enough to do what you Abbotts have made an art form of and Pretend Everything’s Just Fine and Dandy.”

I stared at the screen door, wishing I’d never come through it. Part of me wished I’d never met the guy sitting six stools down from me. Right then, I was willing to sacrifice the good memories for the sake of having none of the bad ones. “Stop, Boone. Just stop. I can’t do this again.”

“Just getting started, Clara.”

Before I could snap something back, my phone vibrated in my shorts’ back pocket. The cut-offs and tee I’d slipped into in Santa Barbara had seemed like a good choice at the time, but now I was wishing I’d gone with a light, airy sundress. This heat was like nothing else, and it had been so long since I’d been in it during the summer, I guessed I’d purged those memories from my brain.

I had a new text. From my little sister. The youngest of the three Abbott girls—Avalee. In it was a picture of her hand, her nails perfectly polished in some shade of petal pink, a diamond the size of Delaware flashing on her ring finger. It was so large, it covered up most of her middle finger and all of her pinkie. The words, Sterling asked! This was my answer! were all that accompanied the photo that knocked whatever air I was still clinging to from my lungs.

Avalee was twenty-one. She’d graduated high school three summers ago. She was the youngest, the one who should have been the last to get married if chronology had anything to do with it, and here she was, engaged before I had one solid prospect in the queue. The middle sister, Charlotte, was getting married in six days, which left me, the oldest, as the last daughter to marry off. Or else fulfill the opening of old spinster.

I could only imagine what my mom would say when I rolled up to the curb tonight. Starting and ending with, when are you going to get serious and settle down?

I forced myself to stop thinking about what my mom would say, and the increased pressure, guilt, and scrutiny I’d be under from the moment I trudged into their presence until the moment I fled from it. I forced myself to type back, Congrats! So happy for you both! and hit send before I could change my mind.

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