The Forever of Ella and Micha, Page 2Jessica Sorensen
We’re almost the same height and I can easily look him directly in the eyes. “It was nothing. ”
“We need a ride. ” Lila flutters her eyelashes at him as she coils a lock of her hair around her finger. “To get some lunch. ”
“You don’t have to take us,” I intervene. “Lila just really needs an off-campus fix. ”
“I’d love to take you anywhere you need to go,” he offers with a genuine smile. “I’m headed back to my apartment first, though, so if you don’t mind stopping you can just come with me now. ”
From inside my pocket, my phone starts ringing the tune “Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who and my lips curve into a grin.
Lila rolls her eyes. “Oh dear God. I thought you would have been over your giddiness by now. You two have been together for almost three months. ”
I answer the phone, loving the flutters in my stomach that are caused from just hearing the song play. It reminds me of how his hands feel against my skin and how he calls me by my nickname.
“Hello, beautiful,” he says charmingly and the sound of his voice sends a quiver through my body. “How’s my favorite girl in the world?”
“Well, hello to you too. ” I amble toward a leafy tree in the center of the lawn. “I’m doing great. Are you having a good day?”
“I am now. ” He uses his player’s voice on me. “I’ll have an even better day if you’ll tell me what you’re wearing. ”
“Jeans and a ratty T-shirt. ” I press back a smile.
“Come on, pretty girl, it’s been like a month. ” He laughs into the phone, a deep noise that makes my insides vibrate. “Tell me what you’re wearing underneath it. ”
I roll my eyes, but tolerate him. “A red, lacy thong and matching bra. ”
“That’s a really nice mental picture you painted there,” he growls in a husky voice. “Now I’ll have something to help take care of myself later. ”
“Just as long as you’re taking care of it yourself,” I say and there’s a drawn-out pause. “Micha, are you there?”
“You know I’d never do that to you, right?” His tone carries heaviness. “I love you way too much. ”
“I was just joking. ” Kind of. Lately, it’s been bothering me that he spends so much time with Naomi, especially because a lot of his stories involve her.
“Yeah, but you always joke about it every time we talk and I worry that deep down you believe it. ”
“I don’t,” I insist, although the thought has crossed my mind. He’s a lead singer in a band. And gorgeous. And charming. “I know you love me. ”
“Good, because I have something to tell you. ” He pauses. “We got the gig. ”
My mouth instantly sinks. “The one in New York?”
“Yeah… Isn’t that great?”
“It’s awesome… I’m really happy for you. ”
Silence takes over. I want to say something, but the sadness has stolen my voice so I stare across the campus at a couple walking and holding hands, thinking about what it’s like to have that.
“Ella May, tell me what’s wrong,” he demands. “Are you worried about my being gone? Because you know you’re the only girl for me. Or is it… is it Grady? How are you doing with that? I never know since you won’t talk to me. ”
“It’s not Grady,” I say quickly, wanting to get off that subject. “It’s just that… it’s so far and I barely get to see you as it is. ” I slump back against a tree trunk. “You’re still coming up here this weekend, right?”
He lets out a gradual breath. “The thing is, to make it to New York in time, we have to leave tomorrow morning. And I’d drive over there tonight, just to see you, but we have a performance. ”
My insides wind into knots, but I stay calm on the outside. “How long are you going to be gone to New York?”
He takes a second to answer. “About a month. ”
My hand trembles with anger or fear… I’m not sure. “So I haven’t seen you in almost a month and I’m not going to be able to see you for another month?”
“You could come visit me in New York,” he proposes. “You could fly out for, like, a week or something. ”
“I have midterms. ” My voice is sullen. “And my brother’s wedding’s in, like, a month and all my extra money is to pay for that. ”
“Ella, come on!” Lila shouts and my eyes dart to her. She motions me to come over, while Blake stands beside her with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans. “Blake’s waiting on us. ”
“Who’s Blake?” Micha wonders curiously.
“Just a guy from my class,” I explain, leaving the tree and heading toward Blake and Lila. “Look, I got to go. ”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, Lila’s just waiting on me. ”
“Okay… I’ll call you after my performance then. ”
“Sounds good. ” I hang up the phone, realizing I forgot to say good-bye, but the word wouldn’t have left my mouth anyway. It feels like we’re slipping away from each other, and he was the one thing that brought me back out of my dark place. If he leaves me, I’m not sure I can hold onto the light.
“Fuck. ” I hang up the phone and kick the tire of the band’s SUV, which is in the middle of a parking lot of a shitty-ass motel in the bad side of town where crackheads walk the streets and every building has graffiti. It makes Star Grove look classy.
The sadness in Ella’s voice worries me. She’s still struggling with her personal demons, Grady’s death, her mom’s death, and won’t completely open up to me about everything. There’s always a thought in the back of my mind that she might vanish again.
A car backfires as I walk back to the motel room. On the stairway, I weave around a man making out with a woman who’s probably a hooker to get to my door.
This is what I’m choosing over Ella? Sometimes I wonder why.
“Wow, you look like you’re in a pissy mood,” Naomi remarks from the bed when I slam the door of the motel room. She’s painting her toenails and the room stinks like paint thinner. “Did you have a bad day?”
Clearing my throat, I empty out the change from the pocket of my jeans and drop my wallet down on the nightstand. “What gave it away? The door slam?”
“You’re so hilarious. ” She sits up and blows on her nails. “What did Ella say to you this time?”
“She didn’t say anything. ” I unzip my duffel bag that’s on a chair between the television and the table. “She never does. ”
“That’s the problem. ” Naomi likes to put her two cents in on everything and sometimes it gets on my nerves. “That she doesn’t tell you how she feels. ”
I grab a pair of clean jeans and a black, long-sleeved shirt from the bag. “I don’t want to talk about this. ”
“But you do when you’re drunk. ” She smirks. “In fact, I can’t get you to shut up when you’re wasted. ”
“I talked to you about stuff once. ” I walk backward toward the bathroom. “And I was having a really shitty day. ”
“Because you miss her. ” She clips bracelets around her wrists. “Here’s a thought. Why don’t you just bring her on the road with us?”
I pause in the doorway. “Why would you say that?”
“Dylan, Chase and I have been talking and we think maybe you’d be a little bit more…”—she hesitates—“pleasant to be around if she was here. ”
I cock an eyebrow. “Am I that bad?”
“Sometimes. ” She gets up and slips on her shoes. “It’s like you’re the same as when Ella disappeared for eight months, only sometimes it’s worse. You’re always so down and you hardly ever go out with us. ”
I rub my face with my hand, taking in what she said. “I’m sorry if I’ve been acting like a douche bag, but I can’t ask Ella to come with us. ”
Naomi grabs the keycard from the dresser and puts it into the back pocket
of her jeans. “Why not?”
“Because she’s happy,” I say, recalling the many times she chatted to me about her classes and life in an upbeat tone that made me smile. “And I can’t ask her to give that up, even though I’d love to have her here. ”
Naomi shrugs and opens the door, letting in the sunlight and warm air that smells like cigarettes. “It’s your decision. I was just giving you an outsider’s point of view. Do you want to come out with us tonight? Drinks are on Dylan. ”
“Nah, I think I’ll stay in tonight. ” I wave her off and she leaves, closing the door behind her.
I pile my clothes in the stained bathroom sink and turn on the shower. The pipes squeak as the water sprays out. Raking my hands through my hair, I let out a frustrated sigh. My fingers grip the counter and my head falls forward.
My mom told me once about how she met my father. He lived in the town over from Star Grove and one day when they were both cruising, they ran into each other. Literally. The front end of my dad’s truck slammed into the back end of my mom’s car. Her car was trashed, but they ended up talking for hours after the tow truck had come and gone and my dad had offered to drive my mom home.
She said it was instant love, or at least that’s how she interpreted it in her hormonal teenaged brain. She was supposed to be leaving for college at the end of the summer, but she stayed behind and married my dad instead.
She said she regretted the decision, but I’m not sure if it’s because my dad turned out to be a cheating dick, or if she was just sad over the loss of her future.
I push away from the counter, coming to the conclusion to let it go for now. Ella and I are tough enough to make it through a month.