wasn’t sure that I did. Ok. Two o’clock? Sure. How about my place? I miss you. I sat down hard on my bed. Tears came to my eyes. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair of him to do that to me. He hadn’t missed me. Or I would have heard from him. And now he wanted to just stroll onto campus and do what? Fuck up my life? I don’t feel good. I’m going to bed. It was peevish. It was me avoiding responding. Because I had missed him too, but damn it, I was pissed off at him. He should know that. I wanted him to work at it. I could admit that. I wanted him to coax the truth out of me. Ethan would. Ethan was patient and always willing to approach me from different angles until I gave in. But Heath wasn’t Ethan. He wasn’t going to play games. Or let me be passive-aggressive. Nite. That was it. Nothing else. Not what I wanted. Lying back, I hugged my pillow and I cried, not wanting to feel anything for him anymore, but never wanting to let go of the enormity of what he had meant to me.
“Why did Heath leave?” I had demanded of my father that afternoon when I had realized that he was gone and I had no way to reach him. We were in the kitchen, a tired room of sixty-year-old cabinets and almost equally ancient appliances. The curtain on the window had been there when my parents had moved in back in the eighties, and it was yellow with bunches of grapes on it. It was like everything in our house- faded. Dad had asked me to fix him something to eat. I was slapping around the bread, the mustard, the cheese. At that point I was still angry. It hadn’t set in, the hurt, the pain. The loneliness. “He turned eighteen, Cat. He aged out of foster care. He was allowed to leave whenever he wanted.” Dad was leaning against the counter, using the crook of his elbow on his bad arm to hold a beer can. With his good hand he popped the top. “He wouldn’t have left without telling me unless there was a reason,” I insisted. I was wearing a bikini and shorts because Heath and I had plans to go out on the fishing boat. We had plans. He wouldn’t just leave. I quickly spread the mustard over the bread. One of our new fosters, Tiffany, came wandering in, chewing the ends of her hair. “Is that for me?” “No. Make your own sandwich,” I said, rudely. “Caitlyn.” My father frowned at me. I instantly felt tears in my eyes. Tiffany was tiny and malnourished and I was pretty sure somewhere in her history she’d been abused because if you moved quickly around her she winced. She was about twelve and had big brown eyes. I couldn’t take my anger out on her, of all people. “I’m sorry.” “S’okay.” She came toward me, but she gave my father a wide berth. “Can I just have a piece of cheese?” “Sure.” I put the cheese on a slice of bread and handed it to her. She left the room again, biting it. I put the knife down and bent over, suddenly feeling like I couldn’t breathe. “Daddy…” a sob choked out of me. “Hey.” He came over and set his beer down, then put his arm around me. “Baby, it’s okay. Someday, you’ll be glad he left. Not today. Not tomorrow. But sometime when you’re living a good life with a nice guy, you’ll recognize he did you a favor.” I scoffed, wiping my eyes on his T-shirt. “There’s no way.” “Guys like him are emotionally unstable. They suck you in and don’t let go and trust me, you don’t want to live like that.” “What do you know about it?” “I married your mother. That’s what I know about it.” His voice was hoarse. “I love her. And I can never leave her. But she’ll never love me the way I need.” He’d never spoken about my mother before. Not like that. I froze, not sure what to say. He kissed the top of my head. “There’s a better future out there for you, baby. You just have to be brave enough to take it.” It was great advice. I wished, lying there in my small room in the sorority house, that I could ask him for