"There has to be something I can do about this!" I fume to my parents. "She's ruining his life! He's only staying with her because of Hailey. What kind of life will she have? Raised in a 'family' with two angry parents?" I cannot remember ever being so angry. This is not the life he deserves. This is not the man I used to know. He would never have allowed a girl to dangle his four-month-old daughter in front of him like a privilege to be earned. I wish I'd said something when they first started going out, but none of us ever thought it would get this far. Not so far that if he even blinks in my direction, she'll take Hailey and walk out. No matter who keeps telling her, she won't believe that Jon and I are only friends. But my parents can only tell me what I already know – anything I try to do now will only make it worse. I have to let him go.
Om nom nom nom nom. The kitty ringtone signals a text. I smile when I see it's from Jon. "hey can u meet us in the lobby? i need 2 run some errands & D wants 2 c u." When I get there, Jon gives me a quick hug and then I sit down on the couch beside Deanna. Without preamble, she throws her left hand at me so I can shriek at the shiny diamond ring. We gush over the Disneyland proposal and discuss names for the baby. I try to be happy for them, but they've only been dating for two months, and something feels off. But Jon is so excited to be a father, and since Deanna's parents have been positively awful to her because of the baby, he really wants us to be friends. I support her because I support him.
Music pulses loudly through the space. We have to go outside onto the smoke patio in order to hear each other. "So what do you think of her?" My roommate, Ariane, asks me. "I don't know," I shrug. "She's really ditzy. And she has a weird laugh. And what happened to her jaw? Couldn't her parents have afforded braces in this day and age?" We snicker and though it's all true, I feel bad. "But we only just met her, so maybe we'll see something in her later." "I guess," Ariane muses, "But they don't seem right together. And she's barely out of high school." "Meh, he's just rebounding." I say. "I'm sure he'll come around." We agree. So instead of talking to him, we just dance. We've got the rest of our lives to laugh about this later, after all.
"Hey Tango!" His voice booms as he wraps me in a hug that picks me up off the floor. "Hey yourself stranger! Glad to be back from Puerto Rico?" He tells me all about his grand adventures, what he loved about school there, and mostly what he hated. I've missed him so much this year. School hasn't been the same without all of us getting in and out of trouble. There's so much I've yet to tell him, but I want his stories first. We've got all the time in the world now.
New message on myspace. It's Jon, hailing from Puerto Rice again in the middle of the night. His mom displaced him over there to "fix" who knows what, but he's miserable. I don't need to smell his breath to find the alcohol in his letter. Only half of his sentences make any sense and his typing is even worse than normal. The main feeling I find in his words is this intense loneliness. It is mirrored in my own. We used to talk about everything, and now distance alone has forced us apart.
"I don't know what to do," I howl. "I told them the truth and they only threw it back in my face." Jon wraps me in his arms, supporting me through this pain of denial, of punishment I don't deserve and cannot understand. He says nothing, instinctively knowing that words mean nothing now. And I sob.
My mom still asks me about eyeliner boy. Every time I just roll my eyes and tell her he's fine. Then I call Ariane and we laugh over Jon's inopportune timing. The one day he suddenly decides to try his hand at the emo fashion style, my parents surprise me at college while everyone's at breakfast. I tease him that I'll let him have my water-proof mascara if he'll just give me ample warning next time.
Last night it took me an hour to get him to stop talking about suicide. His last girlfriend hurt him a lot. So today I bring him to the mall so we can play around with the puppies and try on the weirdest outfits we can find. He throws in a beautiful orange dress for fun and it fits perfectly, but I don't have the money for it. The next day, I find him modeling it for me. "You jerk!" I laugh, punching him in the shoulder. "Go bother some poor girl who's receptive to your pathetic version of flirting." "Hey now, can't blame a guy for knowing a good thing when he sees it!" He puts his arm around my waist to tickle me but I run away first. The dress hits my feet and when I look back, he's sticking his tongue out at me until we both start laughing again.
We misread the movie times and now have over an hour to wait. We pick an empty cushioned bench towards the back of the theater where it's quieter. A bunch of people were supposed to come, but they've apparently all backed out. No matter. Jon has always seemed pretty cool. At least he did pretty well in that Shakespeare play we were both in last quarter. We start talking to pass the time, going through our majors and all that surface crap in record time. Then, handing me the popcorn, he asks about my scars, and for some reason, I'm not afraid to tell him. When he talks, it turns out we have more in common than just Twelfth Night.
Great. Here I am, trying to get away from my Southern roots, and my first quarter in college, somebody's already making me a language coach for the play. Perfect. "Sebastian?" A head of dark hair looks up at me. "I'm supposed to run lines with you?" "Oh cool," he laughs, holding out his hand. "I'm Jon." I smile. "Taryn."