The next day, after they left the lawyer, JJ and Lila sat in the Camaro. An agreement had been reached, the lawyer paid, hands shaken, and Tess had embraced Lila long and hard, whispering something into her ear. When they broke the embrace, Tess was crying a little and Lila took her head in both hands and kissed her forehead. JJ and Cody, standing to the side both noticed but were too male, egos still on high alert from the question of ranch ownership, to make eye contact and acknowledge the crazy mysteries of women and their ways.
“We need to address what happened with Tess.”
“Listen, I’m sorry.”
“You’re always sorry, that’s the problem. But you’re never wrong.”
“I’m not even sure we had sex…”
“There you go again. Wiggling out.”
“I’m going back to AA.”
“She told me something you said to her. When you were drunk.”
JJ reached back with his memory. There was too much gray between renting the ridiculous Camaro and meeting the mountain dude in the park (was that even real?). He really couldn’t remember if they had sex or not, and honestly wasn’t even attracted to Tess. Except, maybe… Those tight jeans. She filled them real nicely. And when she walked? Like two pistons…
“Do you want to know what she said?”
“I’m not sure.”
“She said that you told her, no matter what happened with you two, that you’d always love someone else.”
JJ sat quietly, staring straight out the window. They were parallel parked along a main street and cars whooshed by. The minivan in front of them had stickers denoting the members of the family, five Star Wars figures all in a row, two big and three little, holding light sabers. JJ waited for the caustic righteousness that usually came along with seeing self-congratulatory car stickers (Fuck you and your precious family! I hope they turn to the dark side!). But nothing came.
“I wonder,” JJ said. “I wonder who I was talking about.”
“Can you say it?”
“Can you say that you love me?”
“I guess I love you.”
There was this blockage, a boulder stuck in a round tunnel. Water shot through around the irregular edges, but there was a great liquid force gathering behind the rock, urgent and pent up, that needed to flow. Should he sledge off a piece of the boulder and see what happens? Maybe that restrained force would tumble the boulder right down the tunnel and out the other end.
“I love you,” he said.
“If we’re going to try this for real. If we’re going into this together, then we need to know what’s at stake. No more playing.”
JJ took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Now drive us to the airport so we can get back to our lives.”
4 thoughts on ““I Love You.””
Fun fun fun… I am so hooked on this drama machine couple. I did notice a bumper sticker reference that reminded me of one I saw in Florence last year that read “0.0”
I love every JJ chapter, but this one stands out. The progression of Lila and JJ’s relationship is fascinating – a love story that’s anything but cliche or trite. Appropriate shots taken at annoying societal norms (self-congratulatory car stickers). And references that tie together in clever and satisfying ways (“I love you.”, “I know.” – well played). This made my day.
I always dug the crisp dialogue you write … and the unspoken blanks in between … it’s fraught … and Hemingway-esque.
Of course I meant to say ‘dig’, not ‘dug’