Emily gently placed her foot on the brake pedal as she approached the red light. She made sure she was completely stopped before she got too close to the white line. Emily, impatient as usual, started tapping her fingers on the steering wheel.
“La, la, la...” she looked around boredly. Across the street a man struggled to lift his bag of flour into the trunk of his car. Another man, whom Emily presumed to be homeless, walked across the parking lot with his single backpack on his back. He went over to the first man’s car and grabbed the other corner of the bag. Working together, they heaved the bag up into the trunk. Smiling, the first man reached into his pocket and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. He held it out, gesturing for the other man to take it. The homeless man shook his head and held his hands up. After a minute of them both refusing to give in, the homeless man finally did. With a grateful look on his face, he took the money and placed it in his back pocket. He wrapped the first man in a big hug. boredly. Across the street a man struggled to lift his bag of flour into the trunk of his car. Another man, obviously homeless, walked across the parking lot with his single backpack on his back. He went over to the first man’s car and grabbed the other corner of the bag. Working together, they heaved the bag up into the trunk. Smiling, the first man reached into his pocket and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. He held it out, gesturing for the other man to take it. The homeless man shook his head and held his hands up. After a minute of them both refusing to give in, the homeless man finally did. With a grateful look on his face, he took the money and placed it in his back pocket. He wrapped the first man in a big hug.
The sound of another car pulling up beside her caused Emily to look away. She glanced over at the car next to her. It was a black truck. Suddenly, the window--which was level with the windows of Emily’s jeep--started to roll down. Emily’s jaw dropped. She blinked rapidly and rubbed her eyes.
“It can’t be him,” she shook her head in disbelief. The driver of the truck looked over at her.
“Emmy! It’s you!”
Her face turned as hard as stone, and she turned away. The light turned from red to green and she stepped on the gas pedal. She heard him call after her, but she didn’t care. Emily turned right and drove away from the black truck.
. . .
“I can’t believe him!” Emily exclaimed. Her hand rested on the cup of coffee that was quickly cooling down. “Just showing up again, acting like everything was fine!”
Across from her Sofi took a bite of her chocolate croissant. “Maybe he just thought that you would give him another chance,” she suggested, although it was barely understandable because of the food in her mouth. “I know that you, you know, kind of hate his guts, but I also know my brother. He wouldn’t come back here if he didn’t think he could make things right.”
Emily’s face scrunched up and she looked down at the table. Her phone buzzed in her back pocket. She pulled it out. “Sorry, I’ve got to run!” She stood up and started to put her jacket on. “I’m late for work! See you tomorrow!” Emily shouted behind her as she ran out the door of the small café.
. . .
The keyboard made little clicking noises as Emily typed on it, but it didn’t compete with the sound of pouring rain outside. A knock at the door broke through the noise. Emily sighed but still got up from the kitchen table and closed her laptop. She walked over to the front door of her cape cod-style house and opened it.
Her face immediately turned into a scowl.
“Hey Emmy! Long time no see, huh?”
“My name is Emily. What are you doing here?” she demanded.
He looked surprised. “I just, you know, thought I would stop by. Say hello.”
“Did you ever think that I might not want you to say ‘hello’?” She knew she was being rude, but in her opinion, she had every right to not be all warm and friendly with him.
Emily started to close the door, but he stuck his foot in. “Can I... step inside? It’s kind of pouring out here. Besides, we’ll have a chance to talk some more.”
“No,” she said firmly.
“Why are you so mad at me, Emmy?” he whined.
“If you don’t know then I honestly don’t know why you came back, Luke,” Emily had a distant look on her face.
“Listen, Emmy, I’m sorry. I know I made some mistakes, pretty big ones...”
“Forget it,” she shut the door now, and he just stood there biting his lip.
Emily waited until the door was latched shut before she leaned against the door. “I can’t believe him,” she whispered to herself while shaking her head. “He hasn’t changed a bit.”
She stood up and went into the kitchen. Turning off the burner on the stove, she took the kettle she had started earlier off. Emily took two blue mugs down from the cupboard and poured some of the steaming hot water into them. She pulled out two mint tea bags and stuck them into the mugs. After stirring for a minute, she took a deep breath. Mint had always had a calming effect on her.
Emily picked up the two mugs and went into the living room.
“Emily, who was at the door?”
“Oh,” she started, “No one, Dad. I brought your tea,” Emily said, setting the cups of tea on the side table next to the lazyboy her dad sat on.
“Mm hm,” he smiled knowingly. “You know who called today? Mrs. Mathews, from the apartment across the hall. Guess who she saw back at the Matterson’s garage?”
“I give up,” Emily finally said. “Who?”
“Luke Matterson, that’s who,” Emily’s dad dared a glance over at his daughter.
Emily’s hands tightened around her cup of tea. “Hm,” she murmured, looking down at the floor.
“I don’t know why he came back,” he continued. “He knows there’s nothing left for him here.”
Emily stood up. “It’s late. I think I’m going to go to bed now.”
“Alright. Good night.”
“Night, Dad,” Emily replied, but her mind was somewhere else. She went down the hall and went in the second door on the right. Once again, she leaned against the door. Sighing, she slid down to the floor. A terrifying thought came to mind.
She agreed with her dad that Luke should never have come back. But then, why did she feel like she wanted to defend him?
. . .
Luke watched Emily shut the door, and it was like a slap in the face. He stood there for a second, shaking his head in disbelief. Finally, he sighed and pulled up his hood. Luke ran to his truck, trying his best to shield his face from the rain. When he got to his truck, he fumbled in his pocket for the keys. After Luke sat down in the driver’s seat, he sighed in frustration and rested his head on the steering wheel. “I blew it. I completely blew it.”
. . .
Luke hesitated for a second before walking into the kitchen of his sister’s apartment. “Sofi?”
Sofi turned around from the dishes she was washing in the sink. “What do you want?”
“Can I... ask you something?”
She put the dish cloth down and sat down at the kitchen table. “Ooh, this sounds important. Shoot.”
Luke went over and sat down too. “Okay, here goes,” he took a deep breath. “Why does Emily hate me so much? I mean, you’re her best friend. Has she, I don’t know, said something to you?”
“Oh boy. She doesn’t exactly... hate you. She just... dislikes you.”
“But how do I get her to forgive me?” Luke asked desperately. “I tried to apologize. She just shut the door in my face.”
“You know, you sound really pathetic right now,” Sofi pointed out. “And on the note of getting Emily to forgive you... have you even tried asking her how she’s been in the last two years? A lot has happened to her.”
“Well, it’s not like she’ll tell me if I tried to ask now.”
Sofi sighed in exasperation. “Do you just want me to tell you?” Luke nodded. “After you just up and left, she finally got over it, got over you. Emily got into medical school two hours away from here. Three months after that, her mom passed away in a car accident.
“Emily took a few weeks off from school and came back. She and her sister got in a big fight a few days after the funeral, because her sister’s husband got offered a job in Australia, and they decided to move there. Emily’s dad couldn’t live alone because of his diabetes. Emily was mad at Meghan because she expected Emily to give up med school to move back here and live with their dad. Long story short, she’s trying to juggle online classes, taking care of her dad, and working at the after-hours clinic way too much for way too little pay.”
Luke hadn’t said anything the whole time Sofi was talking, and now he sat there with his mouth hanging open. “Wow.”
Sofi had stood up and wiped her hands on her jeans. “Yeah: ‘wow’. So maybe cut her some slack for not running back to you as soon as you come strolling back into town.”
Luke gulped, then nodded. After standing up, he paused at the door. “And Sof?”
“Thanks for letting me stay in your spare room,” he looked down at the floor. “I know I messed up, but you still gave me a second chance. It really means a lot.”
. . .
Emily anxiously clasped her hands together. Hand shaking, she rang the doorbell. After a second, the door started to open. “Oh, thank goodness you’re home, Sof! I really need to talk to-” She stopped all of a sudden when she saw who was really at the door.
“Hi,” Luke said, almost shyly.
“What are you doing here?” Emily asked, her voice shaking.
“I’m, um, staying here. With Sofi.”
“O-okay,” Emily tried to inconspicuously wipe a tear from her eye. She started to turn around. “I should, uh, probably go-”
“Wait!” Luke called out. “Are you okay? Do you... want to wait for Sofi? She just went to the grocery store.”
Emily sniffled a few times, then slowly nodded her head.
“Okay,” he replied. “You can come into the living room.”
Emily slowly walked past Luke into the living room and sat on the couch. She put her head in her hands.
Luke shoved his hands in his pockets. “Do you need anything? Like, a glass of water?”
“No,” she whispered. Out of nowhere, she started shaking. Her whole body trembled. It took Luke a minute to figure out if she was laughing or crying—the answer was crying. She started to sob silently.
“Did something... happen? What’s wrong?” Emily was not the type of person who cried for no reason.
She looked up and rubbed her eyes, trying to wipe some of the tears again. Luke picked up a box of tissues from the coffee table and held them out to Emily. She reached up and grabbed a few. “T-thank you.”
It took her a minute to gather herself, but finally she sat up straighter and tried to act composed. “It-it’s... my dad. He... had a heart attack,” she put her head back in her hands. “They-they won’t let me see him.” Emily started shaking slightly. “He’s not doing good. They... say he might not make it-” her voice hitched. “Not make it through the night.”
She started trembling again. The front door opened and closed. Sofi walked into the living room, her arms loaded with grocery bags. She went over to Luke and grabbed his arm. “What did you do?” Sofi hissed, looking over at Emily.
He put his hands up in surrender. “It wasn't me! It’s her dad...”
. . .
Emily had been sitting in the waiting room for five hours. She couldn’t eat, drink, or sleep. She glanced over at the clock. It was currently two-thirty in the morning. Emily looked over to the door as two people walked in. She bolted up. “Meghan!?”
Emily ran to her sister and wrapped her in a big hug. “I can’t believe you’re here!” she pulled back. “Wait... how are you here? I thought it was really hard to get a plane out of the part of Australia where you live?”
Meghan smiled. She looked the same as the last time Emily had seen her, two years ago when they had their fight. “Luke bought me a plane ticket. I... just want to say that I’m sorry.”
Luke gave them some space and went to sit down on the other side of the room.
“I’m sorry for expecting you to give up on your dream so that I could like out mine,” Meghan continued.
“I’m sorry too,” Emily confessed. “I was so fixed on not compromising that I let it get between us.”
Meghan smiled and wrapped Emily in another hug. After a minute Emily walked over to Luke.
Luke looked up, surprised. “For what?”
“For buying Meghan that plane ticket.”
“Oh. Listen, Emily. I’m really sorry, for everything. I know I made mistakes-”
“Mistakes?” Emily cut him off. “You proposed to me, then disappeared the next day. Your note said you needed “space”. You stole my dad’s car!” She threw her hands up.
“I’ve been trying to tell you!” Luke replied. “I’m sorry. But I’ve changed. I thought... I thought maybe if I... brought your sister back, you would... start to see that. I'm trying my best to, I don't know, become a better person. I’m not asking for things to go back to the way they were... you know, before. I’m just asking for us to be friends.”
Emily seemed to think about it for a minute. She turned so she was facing him. “I can’t promise anything. But... I can try.”