"You don't seem surprised to see me at all," Mark pouted.
"That's because I'm not," I grinned. "Mom told me you were on break from college and having dinner with us."
Mark grunted. "I told her to keep it a secret."
I invited Mark into the house and we sat on the couch, discussing life and how college was affecting them. Mark told me all about his boyfriend, who was staying in the city to have dinner with his family.
Travis was a punk rocker majoring in music and they'd clicked when Mark had filmed a low-budget music video for his band. It was a really sweet story, to be honest. I only wish I had something equally as romantic to tell him.
But I didn't. I had no idea what was going on with Mike, so I didn't say anything about that. Mark, thankfully, didn't mention Jill at all, either.
At approximately noon, Sally came over, "Yoo-hooing" her way into the house. Mom was busy in the kitchen, mashing potatoes, and Sally immediately began to help her with the food. It must be a mom thing, I told myself. I still hated the idea of cooking.
Another hour later, and we were all sitting down to eat. I heaped my plate full of potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and turkey. Man, I was starved. Chatty conversation buzzed around me, but I chose to tune most of it out. I just wanted to eat in peace.
It seemed somehow wrong without Dad being here. Last time we had all gathered at the table, he was with us. And I' was very rude to Mark and Sally that night, too. I thought back to that day and found myself getting choked up. Fuck.
So I shoved more food into my mouth, hoping to distract myself from depressing memories.
I looked up at Sally, who'd spoken my name. "Hmph?"
"How is college in California?"
I swallowed. "It's actually rather enjoyable. My classes are great and I've made a lot of friends." That was a total lie. I had like two friends and most of my classes were boring. But I certainly couldn't say that.
I kept eating. The conversation was light after that, with Mark throwing in sports quotes, Mom talking about her newest designs, and Sally sharing the town gossip. I began to relax.
It was late when I went to sleep. I'd camped out on the couch, even though Mom insisted I take a spare bedroom. The couch was fine with me though. I could watch TV early in the morning this way.
I tucked the pillow under my head and closed my eyes. But I couldn't sleep. So I ended up lying there for a few hours instead. After that, I got so bored I started watching infomercials. All the way through.
I must have dozed off sometime during that, because the next thing I knew was the heavenly scent of coffee. It lulled me off the couch and out to the kitchen. Mom was sitting at the table with her mug and the newspaper.
"Good morning," I grinned, pouring myself a cup.
She looked up and smiled at me. "Good morning, hun."
We sat in companionable silence for probably the first time, ever. Mom continued to read the newspaper and I stared off into space. It was cool.
A few days later, I was back on a plane headed to California. It was good to get back. While I didn't mind the cool weather in Maine, I was still missing the heat of west coast.
Jessie wasn't back on campus yet, so I spent that time chilling in my dorm. My bed was a lot more comfortable than that couch. I was pretty much just laying on it and staring at the ceiling.
That's when my phone rang.
"Hi," said Mike.
"Hi," said I.
"Um, how was your Thanksgiving?" he asked.
"Fine. How was yours?"
"Boring." He sighed. "About that conversation we had. About you being ...you know. Were you serious?"
"I thought I was at the time," I groaned. "I really don't know what I am anymore and I'd rather not think about it."
"Ok, fair enough. I was just calling to see how you were. I'm gonna go now. Bye!"
I hung up. Whatever.
Classes resumed and weeks passed by. Nothing out of the ordinary really happened. I still went to work every other evening, but Mike and I didn't talk much. Then I stopped seeing him all together. According to the manager, he quit.
Jessie and I had joined the anime club on campus. We met all kinds of other students who shared our passion. One of them was a redhead girl who taught herself Japanese, so she insisted on watching anime without subtitles.
It was good making new friends, though.
But I was starting to miss Mike. I really did blow it when I made that spiel about being a lesbian. I guess, I was just a little shocked about the idea that he liked me. I didn't really know how to handle it and feigning gayness was an easy cop-out. And it was wrong.
I wanted to find him and apologize, I really did. But no one seemed to know him. It was kind of sad. I ended up abandoning my search for him.
Instead I threw myself into my favorite class, painting. At the time, I was working on this incredible oil painting of a cherry blossom tree with a little Japanese girl in traditional clothing sitting under it. It was really cute and I knew Jessie would love it.
I planned on giving it to her for Christmas, if I had it finished by then. And graded, too. It was getting close to that, but the only indication of winter was a slight drop in temperature and a bit more rain. I was going to miss the snow a lot this year.
A week before Christmas, Jessie and I decided to go downtown and do some shopping. We stopped in a lot of little outlets and boutiques, trying to find cute and unique stuff.
I found a mint green hoodie with a holly design. It was very festive for the holidays, but also cute, so I bought it. Jessie discovered a pair of red-and-green striped leg warmers, so she acquired those for her wardrobe as well.
"Have you heard from Mike at all?" she asked me as we sat down on a bench outside a thrift store. I shook my head.
"I have no idea where he is," I admitted. "I'm beginning not to care either."
Jessie nodded. "So, are you going back to your mom's for the holidays?"
Again, I shook my head. "I'm actually going to stay here this year. Each dorm hall is having a Christmas dinner/party thing. I don't mind."
"Maybe I'll mail you some snow from Minnesota," Jessie laughed. That's where her dad was living right now and she was going to spend the holidays with him.
But yeah, I was sure going to miss the snow.