After lunch, Ella must have spent at least an hour in deep conversation with her mom; talking about everything from childhood secrets to how amazing life at Harvard had been going.
"Have you talked to Steven lately?" Ella began making small talk.
"I haven't, but your dad called him from the hospital."
"How's he been doing?"
"He's holding up okay. As well as you can expect when you're in the middle of fighting a war."
"Yeah," Ella gazed contemplatively at the glass kitchen table. "I worry about him a lot."
"Me too." Angie was about to get up and finally clean up the dishes, but Ella beat her to it.
"Mom just relax I got it covered." Ella picked up both their plates and glasses and walked towards the sink.
"Okay. Well, I didn't tell you everything about Steven."
"Come on then. Spill the beans." Ella turned on the faucet and rinsed the dishes.
"Well," Angie paused for emphasis. "He's coming home this summer."
"Oh my gosh, that's awesome!" Ella closed her eyes and looked towards heaven.
"Yeah. It is wonderful isn't it? He's getting repositioned at a military base closer to home."
"I can't wait to see him." Ella could picture the family in her head, everyone together again.
"I can't either. But I'm sure Steven will be more excited to see his girlfriend than to see us."
"Well yeah, with a gorgeous girl like Hannah it makes complete sense." Ella dried her hands on a towel and came to sit back down.
"Speaking of dating, have you found any prospective suitors at Harvard yet?"
Ella took a deep breath, then sighed. "Nope, not yet."
"Oh I see. You're just waiting for that ‘perfect' guy right?"
"Well I just believe there's one person for everyone." Ella got a far-off look in her eyes.
"I'm sure your man is there. Nothing wrong with waiting. Nothing wrong at all."
So far, the conversation didn't seem to be going anywhere; if anything it was going downhill. Ella decided now would be just the right time to make her exit.
"You know I should probably start heading back to school," Ella casually glanced down at her watch. By now it was 3:30 in the afternoon.
"I'll let you go then sweetie. It's been fun chatting."
After kissing her mom on the cheek, giving that small frail body a hug (her mom had always been petite and thin, only 5'4" and 105 pounds) and doing the same for her dad who was watching baseball on the couch, Ella headed out.
"Hello?" Garrett answered his phone unenthusiastically.
"Garrett, is that you?" came the bubbly voice he automatically identified as his sister Monica. Of the two little brats, Monica was the one who was slightly easier for Garrett to get along with.
"Yeah sis, it's me. Thanks for interrupting my date with leftovers," he said good-naturedly. "I was just about to enjoy some Kung Pao chicken...until you called."
"Oh. Sorry," She responded sarcastically. "Sounds like a umm...blast. Maybe I shouldn't ruin the fun. Want me to call back later?"
"Monica why would you do that? I always have time to talk to my baby sister." Garrett said sighing, with a look that didn't exactly match his tone of voice; he was just glad that Monica wasn't there to see his oh so happy face. "So what's up?"
"Well, I have amazing news. So you know how it's spring break out here in Cali high school?" Without actually giving time for him to answer she continued eagerly. "I've been thinking about where I want to go to college, and I've decided to come visit Harvard!! And of course I figured since you're such a loving big bro and Harvard's like practically down the road from your apartment, you'd let me stay with you!"
"Does that mean you'll be bringing your uhh...sidekick with you?" referring to the ever so annoying Caroline.
"Come on Garrett, you don't seriously think we're still, like, attached at the hip. That was so five years old...and in case you haven't noticed we're like almost eighteen. Caroline's decided to stay here in Cali and become a cosmotogologist" she stumbled over the word, "however you say it...so yeah she's gonna do something you don't actually have to be smart to do. For me, I want to use my brain just a little bit more than that."
"Well I'm glad you've decided not to be dumb for your entire life."
"Thanks a lot Gare. I love you too. So...how about it? Are you going to let me come stay with you??"
"No." He said it with a sense of finality in his voice.
"Aww come on. I know you'd love to spend a week with your wonderful little sister. Pleeeease?"
Great, now she's reverted to begging, Garrett groaned internally. "Jeez I was just kidding," he added to cover up his true feelings. "Of course I'll let you come. It's no use staying somewhere else if you're gonna visit a school right around the corner."
"Awesome. You're the best. This is great. Maybe you'll get some benefit ‘cause I'm sure I can find you a girlfriend...then you won't be such a loner anymore...hanging out with me and a hot girl who's not your relative. How much better could life get?" And then she laughed.
It was in that instant, when Monica said the word "loner" that Garrett started to think about himself. He didn't feel insulted because it was obviously a joke, but he felt strange. He really was a loner, living in an apartment off campus, without a roommate, completely....dare he even realize it....alone.
Now he knew he didn't want to be alone. He didn't want his everyday life to be as monotonous as it was at the moment. He just wanted things to change. I really am a self-obsessed jerk aren't I? he asked himself. All I ever do is think about making myself happy. He never really let anyone into his life. Maybe having Monica come wouldn't be such a bad idea.
After all, she was the type who was little miss social; she'd probably make a hundred friends in Boston and introduce them all to her big brother. It seemed like an easy way to create new relationships...try new things...be more outgoing. She was definitely going to add spice to his life. Spice, he thought, might be just what I need.
It was a short easy drive to get back on campus - probably less than an hour. Ella parked her Toyota, grabbed her bags and headed to her dorm. As she predicted, Kim was eagerly waiting in their room and greeted her with a "Heyy best friend! I missed you today. Photography was so boring without you" - the one class they had together -"and I couldn't stop worrying about your mom. Is she okay?" Her last words were spoken with true sympathy.
"Yeah, she's fine, just had a bad seizure because of some stress. Sorry I wasn't here to keep you company today. Please tell me you've gotten over Chad already."
"Huh?? Ohh...I totally forgot about him until you mentioned his name. I've decided to look for someone better."
"I''m impressed, Kim. That's a step in the right direction," Ella told her friend with a smile as she unpacked her small suitcase.
"Eww...what is that brown stuff?" Kim asked, pointing to the coffee-stained shirt.
"It's a long story," Ella sighed, getting ready to explain her mini-drama to the queen of drama herself. "I bumped into this guy on accident and he like totally freaked out and started yelling at me. The stains are just coffee; it went on everything we were wearing plus the floor. Oh, that guy was such a butthole."
"Aww Elle that's so cute how you just say butthole instead of being crass and just saying asshole like the rest of us. I wish my mouth were as clean as yours. So tell me. Was this guy cute?" There it was, the inevitable question: was he attractive?
"Jeez is that all you ever think about?"
"Uhhh...no. So was he or wasn't he??"
"Haha I love you Kim," Ella said, laughing. "Anyway I don't know...he was just a random idiot for crying out loud." She was beginning to get defensive but stopped herself. "Okay, so he had gorgeous brown eyes...and a cute nose," she added reluctantly, causing both of them to giggle.
"I knew it. He is good-looking." There was that little sparkle in Kim turquoise colored eyes - the sparkle that always appeared when she had dragged information out of her friend.
"But I don't like him at all and plus we'll probably never even meet again."
"That's just what you think. Even if it's not this ‘coffee guy' with a ‘cute nose,' I need to find you someone to hook up with."
And Kim just kept on talking while Ella kept on listening and occasionally adding her own opinion; it continued like that until early Thursday morning when the exhausted girls finally fell asleep.