Chapter Nine

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My heart's a languishing flame and you drive me into the rain saying this will quench the desire in her name. But it won't, babe. -Jackson Killian

Chapter Nine

Jeanie was gone when I got home from work. Devin was asleep on my couch; his long body monopolized every square inch of space including both side-arms, his head on one, his feet dangling over the other. Quinn was snuggled up in the crook of his forearm, butt sticking up in a posture that can only be comfortable for the very young.

Devin had texted me earlier to say that his dad knew he was crashing here, so I dimmed the floor lamp and threw an extra blanket over the two of them before shuffling through the kitchen towards my bedroom, hitting light switches as I went. I left a trail of darkness behind me.

My room was still and cool and dark. I flipped on the bedside lamp, the warm glow illuminating my perpetually unmade bed and my jammies in a tangle at the foot of it. I kicked off my Skechers and stripped down to my underwear. Chilled and breaking out in gooseflesh, I hurried into flannel pants and a thermal.

In the bathroom I took off my watch and freed my hair from its barrettes, fatigue seeming to seep into my blood from leaden bones. Whatever my limbs were made of, my eyelids were also. I brushed my teeth, but not as long as I should have.

My phone was still in the pocket of my scrubs. I pulled it out and wiped the screen on the front of my thermal.

I had a message from a 424 area code.

11:23pm: Text me when you get off work.

11:25pm: It's Jack by the way.

I sent a text before I could decide against it.

12:47am: What's up?

Instead of the answering chime I was expecting, my phone vibrated abruptly in my palm as the display showed a gray silhouette and the same 424 number. He was calling instead of texting.

"Hey," I said, my voice quiet as I closed the bedroom door. I left it open a crack, just in case.

"Hey. How was work?"

His congenial tone and the banality of the question had me coming up short. "Um..."

"I wanted to say I'm sorry. For earlier. I've been thinking a lot. Since I left you this afternoon and... Well. Today didn't go how I wanted. I thought we were going to make a plan, you know? And I wanted you to know. I still hope we can do that."

I sat down on the edge of my bed and looked down at my bare feet. "Okay."

"I accept what you said. When you said... about doing what you did, for me. I don't need all the details right now. I think it's best if we don't really talk about it so much. I just accept it. I accept this."

"Okay," I said again.

"This isn't easy for me. And I expect it isn't easy for you either. My being angry about everything doesn't help. I get that. I'm open to Zen, Kit. I want to let it go a little bit. I don't want to fight with you, or your friends, or your friends who are half my age but bigger than me. I don't want that. I want to find a way to be part of Quinn's life, and that means... being part of your life too."

He sighed and went on. "I get what you said earlier about co-parenting without hate. We have to work through some things, but maybe we can start, by just. Trying to let go of some of the animosity... and try to be ... try to just get along."

I wasn't sure he was done. The herky-jerky way he was talking, I thought he might say more. And I didn't quite have words yet.


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