For the first time since we’d met, I lied to America.
I was too ashamed to admit to her that I wanted those things—the rings, the vows, the mortgage, and the kids. I wanted it all. But it was too hard to tell an unconventional girl that I wanted a conventional life with her. The thought that we didn’t want the same things and what that meant terrified me, so I pushed it to the back of my mind, to the same place where I kept my memories of Mom crying over Aunt Diane, far enough down so that my heart wouldn’t feel it.
My toes sparkled in the sun, freshly painted with Pretty in Pink. They wiggled as I relished the thin sheen of sweat on my skin and the heat dancing off the pavement surrounding the turquoise water. I was surely burning under the bright rays, but I remained on the white plastic slats of my lounge chair, happy to soak in the vitamin D, even with the little shits in 404B splashing like heathens.
My sunglasses fell down for the tenth time, the salty beads on the bridge of my nose making them slide around like a stick of melting butter.
Abby held up her water bottle. “Here’s to having the same day off.”
I held up mine and touched it to hers. “I’ll drink to that.”
We both tipped up our beverages, and I felt the cool liquid glide down my throat. I set the bottle down next to me, but it slipped from my hand and rolled under my chair.
“Damn it,” I said, protesting but not moving. It was too hot to move. It was too hot to do anything but stay in the air-conditioning or lie by the pool, intermittently slithering in the water before we spontaneously combusted.
“What time does Travis get off work?” I asked.
“Five,” she breathed.
“When does he go out of town again?”
“Not for two weeks, unless something comes up.”
“You’re awfully patient about this.”
“About what? Him making a living? It is what it is,” she said.
I turned onto my stomach and faced her, my cheek flat against the slats. “You’re not worried?”
Abby lowered her glasses and peered over them at me. “Should I be?”
“Nothing. I’m stupid. Ignore me.”
“I think the sun is frying your brain,” Abby said, pushing up her glasses. She settled back against her lounger, her body relaxed.
“I told him.”
I didn’t look at her, but I could feel Abby staring at the side of my face.
“Told who what?” she asked.
“Shep. I told him—sort of, in a way—that I was ready.”
“Why don’t you tell him for sure, directly, that you’re ready?”
I sighed. “I might as well ask him myself.”
“You two are exhausting.”
“Has he said anything to Travis?”
“No. And you know anything Trav tells me in confidence is off-limits.”
“That’s not fair. I would tell you, if I knew it was important. You’re a shit friend.”
“But I’m a great wife,” she said, not an ounce of apology in her voice.
“I told him we should visit my parents before classes start. A road trip.”
“I’m hoping he gets the hint to pop the question.”
“Shall I plant a seed?”
“It’s already been planted, Abby. If he doesn’t ask me, it’s because he doesn’t want to … anymore.”
“Of course he does. You’ve been together three years in August. That’s not quite three months away, and it’s definitely not the longest a girl has waited for a ring. I think it just feels like it because Trav and I eloped so fast.”
“Be patient. Rejection is hard for their egos to take.”
“Travis didn’t seem to mind.”
She ignored my jab. “Twice takes twice as long.”
“Rub it in, bitch,” I snapped.
“I didn’t mean—” Abby squealed as she was lifted off the lounger and into Travis’s arms.
He took two long strides and leaped into the pool. She was still screaming when they rose to the surface.
I stood and walked to the edge, crossing my arms. “You’re off early.”
“Had a cancellation at the gym.”
“Hi, baby,” Shepley said,