Part two in the ‘Interrupted love story series’
CHAPTER 1 – STAY OUT OF IT!
(Thursday, August 22nd)
“Hey Joe, Jack sent me a text message asking if we wanted to meet him at the pub tomorrow,” Sarah said as she sat down on the ottoman.
Across from her, her brother was sitting on the sofa, his legs resting on the coffee table, his computer on his lap, some sports program running on TV. He glanced over at her.
“That band Rick told us about is playing,” Sarah babbled on. “We’d said we wanted to hear them, remember?”
“Yeah, I know,” Joe said with little enthusiasm. He reached for the remote control to turn the volume on the TV down. “I got Jack’s message too. I don’t think I’m gonna be able to make it, though. Already sent him a response.”
“What other grand plans do you have for tomorrow night?” Sarah asked with a skeptical frown.
His expression turned into this annoyed, clenched-jaw kind of look that told her that he didn’t like her question – probably because now he had to quickly make up some viable answer.
It was Thursday evening. Sarah had just come home from work. Almost exactly 24 hours had passed since the very bizarre scene in her kitchen Wednesday evening – a scene like out of some dramatic play. It had starred Joe, Liz and D as protagonists and Jack and herself as supporting cast. It still made Sarah cringe every time she thought about it.
“I’m not in the mood for the pub and unplugged love music, okay?” Joe grumbled, putting an extra dark emphasis on love.
“Fine,” Sarah said, rolling her eyes at his tone.
“Sarah, I just really don’t feel like–” he started.
“Fine,” she cut him off. “That’s fine! Then don’t!” With that she rose from the ottoman and turned around to leave. She was hungry and she was tired and she wasn’t going to deal with her brother’s bad vibes here!
“Now don’t be mad, okay?” Joe said behind her, his tone suddenly more conciliatory. “I know Jack and you probably wanna cheer me up or something but really, for right now, I’d rather just… I don’t need cheering up! I’m perfectly fine!”
“Yeah, sure!” Sarah scoffed without turning around. “Good for you!”
“Sarah–” Joe started sounding slightly exasperated, but then he just stopped and changed the topic and the tone. “I called the insurance today,” he told her just as she was about to pass under the archway that connected the living room to the kitchen.
“Oh, you did?” Sarah stopped and turned around to him.
“Yeah, I reported the damage, they confirmed that it’s covered. I still have a free claim, so the premium won’t shoot up. I made an appointment at the Volvo dealer here to have it fixed, but couldn’t get anything until next Thursday.”
Sarah nodded. “That’s good – that you’ve got that arranged, I mean.” She felt immensely relieved to hear that he had obviously not spent his entire day brooding like she had feared, but that he had done something constructive, such as taking action to have any reminder of Liz’s last insane evil deed erased from his Volvo. It was too bad it would have to wait for another week…
“I’m glad your insurance covers it,” she said. She didn’t even want to imagine what that repair would have cost otherwise, even if he probably could afford it.
“Yep, I’m glad too,” Joe nodded, his eyes trailing off towards the window. “Otherwise I may have had to kill her after all…”
“I wouldn’t blame you if you did,” Sarah said drily.
He let out a little laugh, his eyes returning to her. “Yeah, I thought you might feel that way.” A crooked smile appeared on his face. “It’s kind of comforting that I’m not the only one.”
“Oh, you’re not!” Sarah assured him.
Across from her, Joe was rubbing his chin. “Hey, but about tomorrow night, you’re still going though, right? I mean, just because I’m not… You and Jack should definitely go!”
A little baffled at this sudden shift back to the initial topic, Sarah nodded like that was a no-brainer anyway. “Yeah, sure, we’ll go. We don’t need you!”
“No, you definitely don’t,” Joe agreed. “And you sure shouldn’t let Jack go all by himself!” There was a mischievous little twist to his smile now.
Sarah nodded, a shadow flickering over her face as if she had just remembered something unpleasant. “Well, who knows,” she then said in a joking tone that didn’t quite sound real, “if both of us cancelled on him, he might just ask his… mysterious whoever she is. Maybe he’d actually welcome that.”
Joe shrugged, trying to keep a straight face. The way Sarah had just phrased it and her tone clearly showed that she wasn’t cool about her good friend Jack possibly being in love with someone.
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Joe said with a light shrug. “Didn’t sound like he had really even made up his mind about that – about it being what he wants and stuff like that. Besides, he asked you and me to go to the pub with him, right?”
“Yeah, well, because it was you and me who had first brought it up that we should go there sometime.”
“Whatever,” Joe said with an impatient little shrug. “You should definitely go. Maybe you can actually find out some more from him than I did…” He gave her his best innocent smile. “Because I think we do have to watch out for Jack a bit. Just so he doesn’t make any silly mistakes.”
Sarah looked back at him undecidedly and was just opening her mouth to say something, when he quickly said. “Oh, by the way, if you’re hungry, there’s some Chili con carne in the fridge…”
Sarah raised her eyebrows. “Did you make it?”
“Mhmmm,” he nodded. “Now don’t look so incredulous! “ he let out a little laugh. “I can cook some things, okay? Kind of had to over the last three years. Otherwise I would have starved or died of a fast food induced heart attack… Liz sure couldn’t cook at all!” He grimaced at the memory. “Anyway, I kind of had a craving for chili, and enough time, so – help yourself.”
“Wow!” Sarah looked impressed. “Yeah, that sounds great! Thanks!”
While she warmed up some of the Chili, which actually looked really good, Sarah quickly checked her phone.
There was a text from D.
Thanks. Need to prepare and pack for London.
Sarah put the phone aside, took the chili out of the microwave, almost dropped it when it was burning hot and she wasn’t using a hot pad, and then sat down at the kitchen table to eat.
She had sent D a text message this morning, just saying,
Hope you’re okay. Let me know if you wanna meet or talk.
The response showed that D neither wanted to meet nor talk but was caught up in preparations for London (or pretended to be…)
Sarah wasn’t sure what had happened between her brother and D but she had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t anything good. (Whatever good meant in this particular context.) All Sarah did know was that D had – after her absolutely terrific confrontation with Liz – walked out, and Joe had gone after her. Five minutes later he had returned, wordlessly pulled out the chair next to Jack’s and sat down, his arms crossed, his eyes on Jack’s water glass and a hard expression on his face. At that point Sarah had excused herself, taken her food upstairs to her room and eaten it there while trying to come to terms with the crazy developments that had just occurred in her kitchen.
Fifteen minutes later she had heard the doorbell and Liz’s brother, Steve, had arrived to pick the evil witch up. Shortly afterwards Jack had left and then Joe had stomped up to his room.
Sarah finished the rest of her chili and then leaned back in her chair for a moment. She couldn’t deny that she liked having her brother cook for her. It was great. But at the same time it worried her.
She got up from the table, put the dishes into the dishwasher and peeked into the living room again where Joe was typing something into his computer.
Sarah leaned against the archway. “The chili was really good,” she told him.
Joe glanced up at her. ”Did my best,” he said with a crooked smile.
“You can cook for me anytime!” Sarah grinned. “I can mark the pages in my cookbooks – of all the dishes I would like to have prepared sometime… And, of course, if you’re bored you can always mow the lawn, change the oil in my car, or… I’ll find something for you to do!”
“I bet,” he laughed. “We’ll see…”
“Sure you don’t wanna come tomorrow?” Sarah asked, giving it another try. “Because if all you’re going to do is cook and play on your computer–”
The smile disappeared from his face. “I wasn’t exactly playing on my computer, okay?” There was irritation in his voice now. “I actually work on this thing, okay? It’s what I do.”
“Yeah, well, sorry,” Sarah grumbled. “Don’t be so touchy! You didn’t exactly look like you were working…”
“I’m not touchy at all,” he retorted. “And okay, for the last half an hour I wasn’t working as in ‘doing something for R&D’. I’ve been trying to change my postal address on every freaking thing to here. I hope that’s okay.”
“Sure,” Sarah nodded. “Probably a good idea.”
“Yeah. I need to stop my mail going to Liz. Because who knows what could come out of that.”
“Mhmmm.” Sarah nodded, eying him warily. His eyes had already returned to the computer.
“But about to tomorrow night,” Sarah started again. “Don’t you think it might be good for you to get out a bit?”
Joe gave her a frown and tilted his head. “Is this my sister telling me I need to get out more? Seriously?” He put on an incredulous face.
Sarah rolled her eyes. “I didn’t suggest that you go and throw yourself into nightlife like you did when you were twenty. And all I’m saying is that you should come out with Jack and me.” She paused for a moment, weighing if she should add what had just crossed her mind. Then she just said it. “I could even see if D also wants to–“
Joe’s expression abruptly turned hard. “Don’t even think about it!” he said sharply. “Stay out of it!” He pointed his finger at her as he spoke. “And this time I really mean it!”
Surprised and a little annoyed by the tone, Sarah gave him a provocatively wide-eyed look. Then she shrugged, “Whatever you say…”
“Thank you!” he retorted drily and dropped his gaze back to his computer.
“Besides she’s already got some really important plans for tomorrow night,” he reported acidly without looking up. “Don’t you know that?”
Sarah frowned. “No, why?”
Obviously going for maximum suspense, Joe clicked around with his mouse a few times and tapped on some keys before he answered.
“She’s going to a party,” he announced and, letting go of the mouse, leaned back and crossed his arms behind his head – his eyes on Sarah now. “She’s going to a party with Peeete. At dearest Pete’s work or something.”
As the message was sinking in, Sarah had a hard time keeping her face from slipping. Crap! She hadn’t known that. D had never mentioned it. Probably for very good reasons… She would have gotten an earful for that! She must have mentioned it to Joe, however. Or he had found out about it by himself. Whatever it was, this was absolutely idiotic! Sarah couldn’t believe it. What the hell was D doing?!?
“You didn’t know about it?” Joe interrupted her thoughts. He seemed surprised.
Sarah decided not to comment. This was a lot more screwed up than she had feared.
Joe turned the TV off.
“Even if she didn’t have that lovely party going on,” he said in a sickly sweet tone, while taking his feet off the coffee table. “She doesn’t want to see me, okay? And quite honestly, I don’t really want to see her either.”
Sarah rubbed the bridge of her nose and exhaled.
“What happened?” she asked quietly, halfway expecting him to repeat that she should stay out of his business. Surprisingly he didn’t do that.
He closed his laptop, then looked up at her. “Well, you know…” he said with a sneer, “after running into Liz in your kitchen, she put on a really good show – we have to give her that! – but at the same time she apparently realized what she must have never been fully aware of before–“ he paused for a moment, his eyes narrow now. “It’s kind of absurd, of course, because it wasn’t a big secret, but well… She realized that I had been, you know, with Liz for a while there and not in some fucking monastery…” He sucked in a sharp breath before he continued in the same angry tone as before. “Seems like that’s a serious problem for her now. And suddenly she isn’t even sure – how did she put it? – that she knows who I am anymore…” He shrugged and placed his hands on the closed lid of the computer.
Watching him stare at his hands now, Sarah wished that she had somehow been prepared for all this (preferably by D). Maybe then she would have had some good and helpful response up her sleeve. But with all this being brand new information (and not exactly the comforting heart-warming kind) she was still trying to process it.
“Well, D isn’t always rational…” she finally said in lack of anything better to contribute. “Especially when she’s suddenly standing right in front of your precious ex, who’s dressed like a hooker… I’m surprised she pulled it off as well as she did and as long as she did. Some kind of breakdown was to be expected, though.”
“I know that,” Joe grumbled, tracing the edges of his laptop with his hands. “But even taking that into account… She basically told me to back off. So, what am I supposed to do? Huh?”
Sarah looked back at him, scrambling for something to say, but then it didn’t even seem as if he really expected a response.
“She told me to back off and I think that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” Joe announced decisively. “At least until she gets back from that conference in London.”
Sarah swallowed. Judging from what he had just said, D had obviously told him about her trip to London but omitted the fact that attending a conference wasn’t the sole purpose of this trip. She hadn’t told him about the job.
“So, that’s where we are,” Joe concluded darkly and picked up the laptop. The computer clutched under his arm, he stepped out behind the coffee table. “I think I’ll change and go running for a while,” he said. “I need some fresh air…”