Plus One(2)

By: Aleatha Romig

“Hello,” I say without reading the screen.

The whoosh of wind and traffic and murmurs of others rushing around me drown out the voice on the other end. Turning toward the building, I cover my other ear and speak again “Hello?”

“Hello!” my mother’s voice yells. “Can. You. Hear. Me?”

I shake my head and speak louder. “I hear you.”

Passers-by look my direction as if I’m yelling at them.

“Kimberly Ann?” she asks, her volume still louder than necessary.

“Mom? It’s me. Is everything all right?”

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes, Mom. What’s wrong?”

“You know,” she says, dragging out her words in a way that tells me this isn’t a quick call. “You never call me anymore.”

I don’t have time for this. “That’s not true. We spoke just last week. Is Dad okay?”

“We’ll find out soon. He has that appointment.”

I rack my brain trying to remember what appointment my father has. “The appointment?”

“With the urologist. They’re going to—”

I cut her off. Not because I don’t care about my dad, but because the streetlights are brightening and the sun is sinking near the horizon. Shana’s reservation is for six o’clock. I don’t want to make her wait in one of the best restaurants in the city. “Mom, sorry. I’m about to go to dinner with Shana. Can I call you tomorrow?”

“Yes, just don’t forget. You know how you are. First…”

I hold my breath, wondering what could possibly be so important.

“First,” she goes on, “can you tell me Timothy’s jacket size, waist measurement, and pant length?”

I press my other hand over my free ear tighter, certain I’ve misunderstood her question. Timothy and I dated months ago. More accurately, we broke up months ago. Why in the world would she care about his suit size?

“Mom, why?”

“Kurt’s friend from California broke his leg. It was a skiing accident. From what I heard…”

Kurt… my mind searches for Kurts. The company where I work has one who is employed here in New York and also one at our Chicago office, but that wouldn’t make sense.

“…three places,” she continues. “Can you imagine? Kurt’s heartbroken. And you know how Scarlett is. She has six bridesmaids and it wouldn’t be right if Kurt only had five groomsmen. Thankfully, the tux shop said he could get another size and your aunt asked if Timothy would mind. As you know, Kevin is already in the wedding and then there’s Jimmy…”

The wedding!

The figurative light bulb above my head illuminates.

Kurt is my cousin Scarlett’s longtime boyfriend and fiancé. Shit. Their wedding is coming up soon. How soon? I’m afraid to ask.

“…happy that you’re dating someone, anyone. The entire family can’t wait to meet Timothy. Everyone is so excited that you have a plus-one.”

My temples pound as I slouch against the building. I never told her that Timothy and I broke up because I didn’t want to hear about how I’d never find a man, how I should move home, or mostly, how Darrin McKinney from my high school class is still single and owns a shoe store in Cartersville. The only shoe store. It’s the only one because the town has one stoplight and one grocery store. Why do they even need a shoe store?

“Mom… go… will… Tim… tomor…” I speak between taps of my fingernail on the microphone of my cell phone.

“What was that dear? You’re breaking up.”

“Bad… problem…”

“Kimberly Ann?” she asks, back to yelling.

I disconnect the line.

No, we didn’t have a bad connection. The fingernail against the microphone is an old trick, one you’d think she’d figured out by now. I inhale and exhale as I look around, reminding myself that I’m in one of the biggest and most exciting cities of the world. I’m about to have dinner with my best friend, and I love my life. I won’t let thoughts of my perfect cousin’s wedding, or my need to tell my mother that Timothy isn’t able to attend, or my eventual admission that I no longer have a plus-one, ruin my night.

Maybe I could make up an accident like the one Kurt’s friend had. Would two ski accidents be too coincidental?

As I ride the special elevator up to Gaston’s and tap my finger against my chin, I contemplate possible stories. Perhaps in a series of unfortunate events, Timothy stepped off the curb and got hit by a car. I practice the story in my head. “It was so sad. He never saw the taxi and it didn’t see him. You know how traffic is in the city…”

A smile forms as I add gory details: broken leg, arm, and maybe a rib or two. That could work, but depending when the wedding is, this terrible accident would need to happen soon. My mood lightens as I ponder the consequences of his morbid demise. No, not demise. Just an injury. The pieces start to fall in place. Timothy’s make-believe accident could be more beneficial than just saving him from the wedding. It could also save me. After all, what kind of a girlfriend would I be if I left my nonexistent boyfriend alone to recuperate from his pretend accident?