“Okay, what did Allen do?”
I look up at her, because her voice has changed dramatically. I’m shocked because she’s leaning against the counter looking at me intently.
“Excuse me?” I ask, and this time I’m really confused.
“You’re pissed off. That’s a feeling I remember well with Allen. Plus, I’m married to a man who can do that to me easily. So c’mon, tell me. What did Allen do?”
“You don’t know?”
“Why would I know?”
“I just assumed the two of you discussed it and that’s why you’re here. To make sure I understood I was getting the brush-off.”
“Allen gave you the brush-off?”
“Well… I mean I thought so, but maybe not. Maybe sending flowers and a C-Ya-Never note is the proper etiquette for a one-night stand. I’ve never had one before, so I couldn’t tell you.”
“It might surprise you, Jessie. It’s all right if I call you Jessie, isn’t it?”
I shrug, because I’m pretty sure she’s going to call me that regardless.
“It might surprise you,” she continues, “but Allen doesn’t do one-night stands.”
“That probably would surprise me—if I believed you.”
“Why would I possibly lie about that?” she asks and I frown.
“Okay, fine. He doesn’t and I was just so horrible that I turned into one. Thanks, but that doesn’t make me feel much better.”
“Why on earth would you think you were horrible? A man doesn’t send flowers to a woman he thinks is horrible, let alone spend three days with them when he was supposed to be on a family vacation.”
“I meant horrible… Oh, never mind. It’s not important.”
“You meant horrible…?” she prompts.
“In bed, okay?” I huff when it becomes clear she’s not letting it drop.
“Oh, but well, surely you know better. Besides, men are men. I don’t think it’s possible to be horrible at that for a man, as long as… well, you move a little at least,” she laughs.
My mouth opens at her reply and then I can’t stop myself from laughing. I don’t want to like Allen’s sister, but I find I can’t stop myself.
“I moved,” I laugh. “Maybe I was just too inexperienced to make it good for him.”
“Too inexperienced?” she asks and I really should stop the conversation, but I want to talk to her for some reason. She’s easy to talk to. It’s almost as if we’re old friends, so I decide to just tell her like it is.
“Yeah. Maybe I didn’t satisfy him. Who knows? But it doesn’t matter. I mean, he didn’t give me any promises we were more. I was just hoping… I was stupid. I thought maybe afterwards he would see how special it was, that he had the same kind of feelings I was having… See? Stupid.” I sigh, disgusted with myself.
“Oh my, Jessie. How inexperienced were you?”
“Very,” I grumble.
“As in…” she asks, treading carefully.
“Very.” I can’t bring myself to say the word ‘virgin’ out loud, but I see the exact moment Ana understands and I struggle not to blush. Why on earth I thought it was a good idea to talk about this with a stranger I don’t know—except the fact that I don’t really have friends and I needed to talk about this—but still…
“Jessie, what if I told you my brother is crazy about you?”
“Considering I just got some flowers from him and a goodbye note, I wouldn’t believe you.”
“Do you care for my brother?”
I start to lie to her. I probably should, but something in her face makes me not want to.
“I care for him a lot.”
She seems to be making up her mind about something and then she sighs and that sound is almost… sad.
“Jessie, Allen is a good man. He’s one of the best men I know. I personally think any woman around would be lucky to have him.”
“Listen, Ana, you don’t have to sell me on how great your brother is. I get it. I obviously thought that from the beginning, or I wouldn’t have slept with him.”
“He wasn’t always a good man though, Jessie.”
“He was so bad that my husband was going to kill him.”
My breath comes out in a rush that feels like something is pressing down on my chest. My body quakes as her words wash over me.
“I can’t tell you everything. It’s not my story to tell. But I can tell you that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my brother didn’t tell you goodbye because he didn’t care about you. He did it because he felt you deserved better.”
“I don’t understand…”
“Allen might have put his past behind him, but that doesn’t change the things he did in his past. Things that give him nightmares…”
“Ana, I don’t get it. You’re going to have to give me more than this if you want me to believe you.”
“Allen’s a recovering addict, Jessie,” she says softly, so soft that I have to strain to hear her. But when I do it feels like she’s stabbed me right through the heart and the blow is painful enough to bring me to my knees. I wobble a little as it is, and I’m sitting down. If I had been standing, I would have fallen.