The water came back on right after Stewart left. I washed the sheets and towels, and while I was waiting for my next client or a walk-in to arrive, worked on a new playlist.
Elodie managed to be busy with a client each time I finished with mine. I was dying to ask her how she knew that soldier with the strange name, but we kept missing each other. I usually didn't get involved in other people's drama—I had enough of my own—but Elodie didn't know many people here. The only other Army wives she talked to were on Facebook. My next client was a sleeper, he usually conked out within five minutes, which left me with the entire hour to think about my brother. Oh—and how much I was dreading tonight's dinner. I was slightly envious of Austin for being so far away in South Carolina, sleeping past noon and working part-time at Kmart.
I also thought about Elodie's friend, about the way he wore pants throughout his treatment and how the amount of tension he held in his body wasn't healthy for a young guy. He couldn't have been older than twenty-two. If that.
My last client of the day was a walk-in who left me a big tip for a thirty-minute pre-natal massage. Her belly was so full and she seemed so tired. I almost asked her if she was okay, but I didn't want to be rude.
I walked by Elodie's room again. The door was closed and for a second I even imagined that her soldier friend might be in the room with her. My imagination sure runs wild.
Before I went home, I helped Mali restock the back room and the towel warmers, folded the laundry. I wasn't in a rush to get home, especially on so-called-family dinner night.
When I finally left for the day, I took the leftovers of Mali's delicious cooking home with me. That whole thing about pregnant women eating for two might be an old wives' tale, but it was still important for Elodie to have nutritious meals. I carried the food in one hand and tried to call my brother with the other. Voicemail.
"Hey, it's me. I was just calling to check on you? I haven't heard from you in a few days. Call me back. I'm going to Dad's for Tuesday dinner. You suck for not being here."
I hung up and put my phone in my front pocket. Around me the sky looked like the sun couldn't decide to set or not, that orange color that made everything look just a little nicer. The parking spots in the alley were all full. Bradley's white truck was there—parked sideways, taking up two spots—and the truck bed was so full of mattresses it reminded me of that fairy tale about the princess and the pea. He walked out the back door and tossed a pillow into the pile.
"Water's back!" he shouted, waving his hand.
"Yeah . . ." I said, smiling. "Thanks for being on the water company!" I added.
Okay, that was awkward. I could feel it and I knew that conversation would mull over inside my head later tonight. My brain usually worked that way. Bradley didn't seem to notice or overthink my words the way I did, he just told me to have a good night, locked the door to his shop, and climbed inside his truck.
Doors slammed, tires crunched over branches, and voices filled the rest of my short walk home. I thought about dinner tonight and what forced conversation we would have during at least three courses.
I had to be at my dad's by seven, which meant I had to be ready to leave my house by six forty. I needed to shower and put actual clothes on, even if I was just giving my appearance minimal effort. My dad's wife had stopped commenting on my looks once I lost enough "extra pounds" to please her. Small mercies, I guess.
I really wanted to stay home and eat leftovers with Elodie. I've had variations of that same thought every single week since I moved out. I thought it would go away, that I'd get used to the routine. But nope. I haven't and don't think I ever will. Sure, dinner once a week is better than living there—by far. But, I hated the task of it, hated that my entire week revolved around Tuesday at seven. When I did my laundry, when I washed my hair, when I could work. It all revolved around this dinner. I guess I wasn't as much of a grown-up as I thought.