I had this chapter more or less written already, so I figured I would post it quickly! Thanks for reading & reviewing!
"Look, Angela, I don't think I can do this." Jordan's knuckles tightened around the steering wheel and she noticed them starting to turn white.
"What, are you like scared or something? It's just my dad!" she exclaimed, letting out a small peal of laughter. She stopped short when she realized that he wasn't even smiling.
"No, it's not that," he shook his head, ran a hand absently through his hair. "You don't get it."
"What is the big deal? I want to know what my dad is so busy doing these days. I want to see the renovations at the restaurant. Why can't you just take me downtown? I'll even take the bus back if you need to be somewhere."
He shook his head again. "I don't think it's a good idea."
"Why?" she persisted.
He sighed and slouched further down into the seat. He was suddenly very tired. He was aware that she was waiting for his reply and likely growing more agitated by the second as she analyzed the reasons for his silence, but he couldn't deal with her when she was like this. Jordan had sat by silently while Angela vented about her father never being home and spending too much time with Hallie Lowenthal (whom Jordan had met and although he'd found her way too intense she was kind of cute, for an older broad) but he couldn't be silent about this. He didn't know what Graham was up to either, but he didn't have a good feeling about any of it. How could he explain to her that he'd grown up watching the adults around him screw up, to the point where it became expected? He knew it had changed him, scarred him, somehow. He couldn't explain it to her, she would never understand, but he didn't want the same for her. Somehow, it just made more sense to spare her.
"I have to meet Tino," he said instead.
"I can't believe you're doing this again!" she exclaimed.
"Doing what?" he asked, defensive.
"Making excuses instead of talking to me!"
"I'm not," he said, but he looked away.
"Jordan…" She wasn't prepared to let this go. "What is the big deal?"
"Angela, sometimes…" he paused, licked his lips, "sometimes it's better not to know everything."
"What, am I supposed to just live in ignorance forever? What if their marriage is like, at stake or something?" she protested, clearly not seeing his point of view.
"Look," he turned to face her. "Your dad's a stand-up guy. He'll do the right thing, whatever that is."
"Fine." She was still never fully prepared for Jordan's fleeting moments of profoundness so she was willing to be appeased by the fact that he had clearly been thinking about this, and although she couldn't agree with him, she had to accept that he had his reasons. "Can you take me to see Sharon then?"
"So I was just telling Cherski here, big pissing contest going on for her affection," Rayanne gesticulated excitedly.
"I need to get out of here," Sharon rolled her eyes. "I swear, I am going to hate hospitals for the rest of my life."
"Kyle and Shane are still at each other's throats?" Angela asked.
"You didn't see them in the hallway today? They walked by each other, real slow, and just kept looking at each other, like they were a couple of dogs or something! It was a riot!" Rayanne burst into laughter.
"Ugh, guys are so immature," Sharon said. "It has nothing to do with me, it's just this hierarchical behaviour, like who's the alpha male or whatever."
"You should have seen them downstairs in the lobby, Cherski! Kyle was flipping out and Shane wasn't giving him the time of day. Then we all got kicked out by the security guard, but Angelika got to stay, and I practically had to restrain Jones by the collar, he was itching for a fight." Her voice rose excitedly as she re-enacted the events from two nights ago.
"Whatever, Kyle's not a fighter," Sharon said. "And none of his football friends want to get in trouble for fighting either. I predict it's all going to end very anti-climactically."
"So Angelika, imagine how pissed Kyle was when he showed up today and Shane and I were here!"
"Kyle keeps trying to see you, huh?"
"Those flowers are from him," Sharon pointed at two large bouquets on the windowsill behind her among several elaborate floral arrangements. "And so are the teddy bears."
"Wow, somebody's popular," Angela remarked, hoping it didn't sound sarcastic.
"Whatever, everyone just feels guilty for treating me like a pariah," Sharon rolled her eyes.
"What are you going to do about Kyle?"
"Nothing. Just because he shows up with some flowers and tries to get into a fight with another guy he thinks is a threat doesn't mean I'm going to get back together with him. He ditched me when it mattered, and I'm not going to forget that."
"But he's begging for your forgiveness!" Rayanne threw herself across the bed dramatically. "I will do anything to win you back, Sharon! Anything!"
"Stop making me laugh, it hurts!" Sharon clutched her belly.
"Are you going to have big scars?" Angela asked curiously.
"No, didn't I show you already?" Sharon lifted up her gown so they could see her bellybutton, which had a piece of white tape across it. "That's one of the incisions – it's like half an inch across, and there are two more lower down. That's it. They did everything through cameras or something."
"Very nice. You can hide it under a bikini," Rayanne said approvingly. "It'll be almost like the whole thing never happened."
Something shifted in Sharon's face as Rayanne said that, but it was gone in a moment.
"So get me out of here, already! I'm so sick of hospital food. Can you believe I miss school? Krakow came to see me last night and I swear it was so good to see him!"
"Good ol' Krakow," Rayanne said. "Always there to satisfy our needs." She smiled suggestively, and Angela and Sharon rolled their eyes at one another.
"Um, did he tell you what he read in some medical textbook? That Kyle could have given you like some… STD, and that's why all of this happened." She had to lower her voice for the last part, it just sounded wrong for some reason.
Sharon shrugged. "Yeah, it's possible. The doctors couldn't tell, so they treated me for everything just in case."
"Yeah, it's just some antibiotics, not a big deal," Sharon shrugged again, exchanged a look with Rayanne. "He'll have to be treated at some point too, I guess."
"Well that's good, I guess. I'm glad you're not more… upset," Angela said carefully.
"Well, two of us were involved in this mess, right? There's no point in getting more upset over things I can't control."
"I think that's great, Cherski. And that's another reason to stay away from Kyle when you start to feel lonely again," Rayanne chuckled, raised her eyebrows suggestively. "Of course, you can always start cuddling up to Shane. I'm sure he won't mind."
"There will be no cuddling with anyone!" Sharon exclaimed, laughing a little, but she looked serious too. "Sex got me in trouble in the first place. I'm waiting for a long time before I do it again."
"Don't wait too long," Rayanne said. "Use it or lose it, right?" She looked meaningfully at Angela. "On that note, I have to go. Tino is taking me to coax Rickie out of his self-induced prison."
"Okay, be good," Sharon said.
"Send Rickie my love," Angela said.
Rayanne blew them both kisses and left.
"Angela," Sharon said timidly when they were alone. There were tears starting to spill from her eyes.
"Yeah?" Angela said softly, feeling her own throat tighten.
"Through this whole ordeal, I never let myself cry. I thought it meant I was strong, or something."
"And now?" Angela prompted her gently.
"Now, I don't care about being strong anymore. I know that I'll be okay, but… I just need this."
When Angela called home for a ride, she was surprised when her father picked up.
"I'll be there in ten minutes," he said before she could say anything else.
She waited idly in the hospital lobby, cursing herself for feeling awkward. He was her father and until this year, they had always gotten along great. She didn't know why she suddenly felt this sense of dread in her stomach as she waited for him.
She took her time getting into his car, despite her initial impatience for his arrival. Now that he was here, she didn't know if she wanted to address the proverbial elephant in the room.
They drove in silence for a while, after his initial questions were met with one-word answers. Sharon was fine, school was okay, Jordan was fine. (It was all true, she rationalized.)
They pulled into the driveway at the house and he shut the engine off.
"Angela," her father began.
"Aren't you coming in?" she asked, although she was afraid that she knew the answer already.
"That's what I need to talk to you about," he said.
"Just like that? That's how you tell me?"
"Angela, that's not – "
"It's true, isn't it? You were home earlier to talk to Mom and get your stuff, right?"
"Well yes, but –"
"I knew it!" she exclaimed. "Do you think I haven't noticed?"
"I guess that I haven't been around much," he said.
"Yeah, it didn't take much to see that you're never home, that you come home late, that you're distracted and just… not there anymore."
"And that's what your mother and I are working on – my inability to be present, being able to prioritize things."
"I don't think you have a problem prioritizing things. I think the problem is that your priorities have changed!" She half didn't believe that she was saying these things, but she knew they were true. "It's like, you always think everyone is having more fun than you, and that you're missing out, or something. And now you're seeing what else you could have done with your life."
"Maybe," he conceded after several moments of silence. "But it doesn't mean I don't love you, your mom and Danielle. Don't ever doubt that."
"What now then?" she asked flatly.
"I'll be staying at Neil's for a while."
"And then what? You move out permanently?" she snapped.
"That's not the plan, no," he said, but she didn't hear any conviction in his voice. Maybe she didn't want to.
"I've got to go," she said abruptly. "I can't take anymore tonight." She reached for the door handle and let herself out.
"I'm sorry," her father said.
Angela had to walk away before he could see her cry. She wouldn't let him see her tears – not now, maybe not ever.
She was afraid to meet Patti as she walked into the front hallway – she didn't know how her mother would be handling this. Would she be strong and put on a brave face, or would she be a mess? There was nothing to compare this to.
"Angela, is that you?" her mother's voice drifted down from upstairs.
"Yeah, it's me," she called back, trying to hide the sorrow from her voice.
"How's Sharon?" her mother asked, appearing on the stairs.
"Better," she said, but her voice broke.
"Oh sweetie," her mother said, immediately putting her arms around her. "I know it's tough. But we'll be okay."
"I'm sorry," Angela sobbed.
"Me too, honey, me too." This time, she heard the grief in her mother's voice.
She didn't know what had changed or why things had to change, but they had, and there just didn't seem to be any way to fix them anymore. She thought about chemical reactions in science class – they were irreversible, final, never to be undone. Sometimes better things emerged, but sometimes, all that was left were ashes.