Page 4 of We Were Once

Mom: I had food delivered for you. Did you get it? Chicken and dumplings. I’m in the mood for comfort food and thought you might be, too.

I wish I would have known ten minutes ago. Eyeing the bag, I smile. I can’t argue with her choice of dish, but I’m just not sure if the pain in the ass delivery was worth the trouble.

Even a baseball cap flipped backward didn’t hinder his appearance because apparently, I just discovered I have a type. Small-town hero with a side of arrogance. Jesus. This is Connecticut, not Texas.

Despite his appearance, I wasn’t impressed. Dating cute guys has not worked out well for me in the past. The local bad boy doesn’t fit into my plans or help with my “balance” as he points out I evidently need.

So rude.

I balance just fine. School. Trying to think of more, I get frustrated. I’m at Yale for one reason and one reason only—to get into the medical school of my choice, and to do that, I need to keep my brain in the game. The school game, not the dating game. “What does he know anyway, Frankie?”

Returning my mom’s text, I type: Got it. Thank you.

Mom: Promise me you’ll live a little, or a lot, if you’re so inclined.

She’s become a wild woman in the past two years. I’m happy for her, but that doesn’t mean I have to change my ways to fit her new outlook on life.

As I look around my new apartment, the cleanliness brings a sense of calm to me. After living in my parents’ homes over the summer, it feels good to be back at school and on my own again.

Me: That’s a lot of promises. First, caring for Frankie, and now for my own well-being. I laugh at my joke, but I know she’ll misinterpret it, so I’m quick to add: Kidding. I will. Love you.

Mom: Hope so. Live fearlessly, dear daughter. Love you.

Feeling like I dodged another lecture on “you’re only young once,” I smile like a kid on Christmas when I find a chocolate chip cookie in the bag. With just one bite of the food, I close my eyes, savoring the flavor. “Patty sure knows how to cook.”

I click on a trivia game show and spend the time kicking the other contestants’ butts as I eat.

Soon, I’m stuffed but feeling antsy about the dough sitting at the bottom of my stomach, so I get up and slip my sneakers on before hopping on the treadmill. I warm up for a mile with that bag and the red logo staring back at me, so I pick up the pace until I’m sprinting. “I’m not trying to go anywhere. It’s good exercise,” I grumble, still bothered by what the delivery guy said. A bleacher seat therapist is the last thing I need.

I start into a jog and then a faster speed, though my gaze keeps gravitating toward the bag and the red printing on the front—Patty’s Diner. The food might have been delicious, but I can’t make a habit out of eating food that heavy or I won’t be able to wear the new clothes my mom and I just spent two weeks shopping for.

I barely make four miles before my tired muscles start to ache. I’m not surprised after a day of moving, but I still wished I could have hit five. I hit the stop button and give in to the exhaustion.

I take a shower and change into my pajamas before going through my nightly routine—brushing teeth, checking locks, turning out the lights, and getting a glass of water. I only take a few sips before I see Frankie in the living room all alone. My mom’s guilt was well-placed. I dump water in the pot and bring it with me into the bedroom. “Don’t get too comfortable. You’re not staying here.”

Returning to the living room to grab my study guide for the MCAT, I hurry back to bed and climb under the covers. But after a while, I set the guide aside, behavioral sciences not able to hold my attention against my mom’s parting words.

Classes. Study. Rest. Routines are good. They’re the backbone to success. I click off the lamp, not needing my mom’s words—live fearlessly—filling my head. Those thoughts are only a distraction to my grand plan. Like that delivery guy.

2

Chloe

Sunshine floods the apartment, waking me. I avoided it temporarily around seven o’clock with a pillow over my head, but an hour later, I’m wide-awake. Opening my eyes to Frankie greeting me, I smile despite the hour. “Your grandmother will kill me if I don’t take care of you, so I think we’re going to have to come to some arrangement.”

I sit up and then climb out of bed. “I may not need the sun this early, but you might like it, little fella.”


Tags: S.L. Scott Romance
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