He’s quiet for so long, I pull the phone away from my ear to check to see if I’ve lost him.
“I’m here,” he says, but I can’t read his voice. “I must have forgotten you mentioned that.”
“It’s no big deal. Just a drink after work, and then I’m home. Maybe we can have another phone chat?” I offer, thinking maybe this will bring back his good mood.
“Sure. We’ll see.” There’s a pause, and it sounds like he’s pacing. “It’s fine. Get some sleep, baby. We’ll talk in the morning.”
“Are you sure?” It’s weird to check in with him, but I remember how I felt the other night when he was at that nightclub and I tried to talk to him. I don’t want to do the same thing to him, so I try to smooth things over. “I’m sure I can reschedule—”
“No. Really. It’s okay, baby. We’ll talk in the morning. You worry about getting a good night’s sleep. Set your alarm this time.”
I laugh, thinking about my running around this morning. “I’ll do my best.”
“I miss you, Mallory.”
“I miss you, too, Oz.”
When we hang up, I set my alarm and pull the covers over me, thinking that saying “I miss you” sounds an awful lot like something else. And before I fall asleep, a thought crosses my mind.
I don’t remember telling him that I forgot to set my alarm.
* * *
I refresh my email again before picking up my phone to check for a new text message.
I haven’t heard a peep from him all morning, and it’s a little after noon now. I’ve really become too dependent on these messages. But still, this isn’t Oz. It’s not like him, based on what I’ve learned about him over the last week. He’s always sending me something, even if it’s a small note or a cute picture. It’s also weird to think how I’ve only known him for a week, yet he’s so vital to my everyday life now. I guess he is, though, when it comes to my new life here in New York. He’s been a part of it since the very first day. Even now, he isn’t ever far from my mind. He slipped in so easily, and I grabbed on to him, experiencing things I never had before.
He makes me feel so important to him. I’m special to him with all the little silly things he does. Like having to see me, wanting to bring me breakfast or needing to hear my voice. What has me melting most of all is the way he’s always checking on me. That isn’t something I’ve ever had. I know I’m well past the age of needing someone to look out for me, but it’s good to have it for once in my life. Someone making sure I eat and being worried about me going out. I should be annoyed, but all it does is show me that he loves me, cares for me.
The only person I’ve ever loved is Paige. She’s the only one who’s been in my life long enough for that to even happen. Everyone else seemed to float in and out too quickly. A few teachers stood out from time to time, but living in the system, sometimes people bounced too fast. I could never latch on to anyone. I’d taught myself not to, because it only led to heartbreak. But with Oz, it’s something deeper, something that’s growing. It will be different to how I love Paige. This is life-changing. Just having these thoughts scares me, too. It’s so early to be having them. I try to push all that from my mind. It’s about living in the now. I can’t think about getting hurt or I’ll never have a relationship. I’m grabbing on to this and seeing where it will take me.
Maybe he’s really busy today. He’s working, like I should be doing and not checking my phone every five minutes and evaluating this relationship like it’s a math problem I can solve.
“Sale at Nordstrom,” Skyler says, popping her head up over the cubicle wall and taking me by surprise. “Like, big.” She spreads her arms wide, indicating how big the sale is. “Only two blocks that way.” She points over her shoulder.
“We’re skipping lunch, I take it?”
“It’s worth it. Plus, the place we’re going after work has small plates, so we can load up to make up for skipping lunch.”
“Now that’s some math I can get with,” I say, making her laugh as I lock my computer screen. But not before refreshing my in-box one more time. I clearly have no self-control when it comes to Oz. “I do need some new clothes to keep up around here,” I add, grabbing my purse from the bottom drawer of my desk and slipping my phone in it.