I sat on the surprisingly comfortable stool at the bar, trying not to fidget too much. Something hard to do while I was both nervous and angry, but I gave it my best shot. My resentment was even worse than it had been the day before.
The fact that Jinx had gone to rehab didn’t erase the hurt that he didn’t tell me. I was happy he had gotten help, but I really wished he had told me. I would have understood and waited for him when he got out. Or, I would have gone to see him if that was allowed. I really had loved him, which only made it hurt even more when he disappeared without a word, no matter what the cause might have been.
I looked at my watch, my fury growing with each minute that Jinx was late. It turned out to be twenty in all. By the time he finally showed up, I was about ready to explode.
“You’re late,” I hissed, still not wanting to actually yell.
“Bullshit. You are the same ‘Jinx’ you were before. It was Carl I loved, and I haven’t seen him in a long time.”
I was reconsidering my decision to tell him about Billy. Not sure he wouldn’t just walk out on both of us.
“I deserve that,” Jinx said, surprising me. He gave me a sad smile, sitting down on the barstool next to mine.
He shrugged, glancing down at the bar. “Yeah. I can see why you would think that. I haven’t really given you any reason to think otherwise. The fact that I work as a copywriter at an advertising agency probably won’t help my case. I mean, I get paid to convince people.”
“Is that what you do?” I asked, it making so much more sense than him having secret drawing skills.
“Yeah, I’m pretty much the only one. Everyone is a graphic artist of some description except for Chris, the art director, and Camilla, the receptionist who checked you in. It’s a bit weird sometimes. Like being an ostrich among the penguins, but I make the best of it.”
“An ostrich among the penguins?” I asked, this being precisely the kind of goofy thing he would have said when we were teenagers. It made me smile.
Jinx smiled at me sweetly. It made his light-brown eyes light up. “Yeah. I really did miss you. I mean that. No bullshit, no tricks. I really wish things could have worked out better between us. We’ve been friends since we were kids and then, well, more than that. I really couldn’t imagine my life without you in it, Lila. I now have a much better idea of what that would be like. Yet, still, here we are.” He tapped the bar top.
Sweet as his words were, they didn’t tell me if he still loved me. Friends was one thing, but did Jinx still love me the way he said he did when he had gotten me pregnant with Billy? I was soon berating myself for even thinking such a thing. I didn’t care if he loved me or not. It didn’t matter. The whole thing had been a passing thought from the old me.
I didn’t make it easy on him, keeping my end of the conversation to a minimum in case I accidentally let something slip about Billy. Or the feelings I still had for Jinx that I was doing my best to repress. Though as I was listening, I almost thought I could hear a bit of the old Carl in there somewhere. The playful little boy turned scrappy punk I had known all those years. I could see the pain that had been caused by his own, short-sighted actions, and I wasn’t unsympathetic. We all make mistakes.
I still hadn’t told him about our son by the time we got to the bottom of our glasses. He had surprised me by ordering a Coke and nothing else. Maybe Jinx really was starting to change for the better.
“Can I get you anything else?” asked the cute bartender who was clearly flirting with Jinx, not that he seemed to notice.
“Mineral water,” he said.
“Two,” I said, realizing that he wanted to keep talking, and I did too, just to see where it might go.
“So, you’re not drinking?”
“Not anymore, caused too much trouble. I don’t need any more trouble.” I nodded, deciding to leave it at that.
“You write commercials?”
His face lit up as he leaned against the bar so he could turn his whole body to face me. “Kind of. There’s a whole process. I come up with the words that are either written on or spoken over the images and hand it off to the art director to give to the artists and voice-actors or whoever. Still, though, nothing really happens without me.”
I smiled at Jinx’s apparent pride in his work, hiding it by taking a sip of my drink. “Sounds like a lot of responsibility,” I prompted.