“Mom, I’m fine.”
“I know you. Something is different. And, don’t you think it’s awfully strange he gets a phone call, has to go outside to take it, then has to leave right away? Doesn’t sound like work to me.”
There’s an ache in my chest that believes her, and I resolve to push away whatever these feelings are and return to being just sensible Issi, the Issi that keeps herself on track and protected from just this sort of angst.
“What time are you leaving?”
“Car will be here in an hour.”
“Well, at least help me with some of this ice cream before you run away. I’ve got a freezer full of the stuff.”
We make our way down to the kitchen, and that niggling doubt about Van and what mom says leaves an uneasy feeling in my chest.
Mom smiles and walks to the freezer, taking out her own container and zapping it in the microwave before sitting down with me at the counter.
We eat in silence, both of us lost in our own sort of heartache, and I do what I can to keep my mind and my heart from thinking about the man that was almost my stepbrother.
NOT LONG AFTER I HUGGED Mom and she disappeared down the street in the limo, my phone is ringing.
When I look to see who it is, my stomach flips and I struggle with whether or not to answer.
My better judgment loses out, and I connect with Van.
“Hey, Issi.” His voice immediately soothes and excites me, and I think about his lips saying my name. “I’m about to board, but I can’t apologize enough for having to run out like that. How’s your mom?”
“It’s okay. Work first. That’s always been my rule. Mom seems better. She’s off for the airport herself.” I walk over to the living room window and look out as snow starts to fall. “Hope the snow doesn’t foil your travel plans. Not sure where you’re going…”
Deep down I want to know everything about him, everything he’s doing. Then, I’m shrouded in this embarrassment that I’m half falling for a guy I just met and have this insecure need to know what’s going on in his life.
“The rig is near Cincinnati. My flight’s been delayed about half hour, so I wanted to hear your voice and ask you something.”
I’m not sure what to say, and I open and close my mouth twice before I decide to keep it simple. “Thanks. I hope you get where you’re going safe.”
I shake my head and pinch my nose between my eyes. I feel like I’m in middle school talking to my first crush and fumbling all over myself.
“Issi, look.” His voice turns serious. “I hated to leave today. I’m not a guy that wastes time or plays games, so here’s the thing.”
My heart thunders in my chest, and my throat is tight.
His voice comes through after he clears his throat. “I know our parents fell apart, but I want to see you again. I’m going to be honest, I need to see you again, Issi. My heart wouldn’t be right if I didn’t. I don’t know how long this work bullshit is going to take, but I want you to come to where I’ll be. You said you hadn’t planned on going back to work until Tuesday. Later tonight there’s another flight. I’ll pay for it all. I’ll put you up in the best hotel in the city. I’ll have to deal with work—what’s going on, well, I can’t go into details, but it’s serious—but I want to spend time with you as well. I know it’s crazy and selfish, but I want what I want, and I want to get to know you more. I want this fucking work shit to be resolved so I could stay there with you, but I can’t. I’d book you on the early morning flight back Tuesday. What do you say? I can book the tickets right now.”
I’m tongue-tied. My head tells me to politely decline. This is crazy, right? I should just continue on the path I’ve been on which has served me well.
I’m busy. I have work. Work is my life. I have no time for this.
Whatever this is.
Especially with a guy I barely know, whose father just cheated on my mother on the day of their wedding, and from what I understand works in an industry that would have him traveling ninety percent of the time. He lives in West Virginia, and more than likely has a girl in every port.
“Wow.” I hear myself say and the devil on one shoulder is kicking the shit out of the angel on my other. “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything so spontaneous…but yes, I’ll come. It’s been a wild couple of days, so sure, maybe I could use the distraction.”