"...Please leave a message after the tone-"
She half tossed- half dropped her phone on the couch and leaned back over the arm, looking out the window. The rain was pelting at the pane now, rattling the glass.
Maya sat back up and stared at her phone, screen starting to fade from inactivity. It would be pointless to call him again; he wouldn't answer.
She stretched out long, knees cracking after sitting so pent up for at least 45 minutes. The phone lit up with a notification, and she pounced.
She let her breath fall from her chest and pushed up, the couch squelching. Maya smiled a little. It was a sound that always made Mark laugh, even as they grew up into their 20s. Her face dropped, exhausted from the change of shape, and she slowly padded to the kitchen, looking for any distraction.
The orange glow of the lights flickered, threatening to go out completely. Maya quickly back tracked and plugged in her phone.
Just in case he calls back. If the power goes out, at least he could still reach me.
The kettle was clicked on, reaching boiling point. Blueberry tea mix was already in the steeper, and Maya had two bottles in her hands.
"Bourbon... or vodka?" She weighed the two options, raising one bottle higher than the other. Before any more thought went into it, the kettle reached temperature, and the lights flickered again. She quickly poured the water into her wonky ceramic cup, from a pottery class she took years ago. It was amazing how the cup had withstood years of use, several moves, parties, friends, lovers, breakups... still all in one piece, mostly. A small chip broke from the rim. Mark insisted it added character, and enhanced the aroma of the contents.
Thoughts of Mark had her reaching for the bourbon, but just as the first drop hit the tea, Maya pulled away.
What if he needs me?
She pushed the bottles to the corner of the counter, picked up the mug, and went back to the couch. Her phone was dark, the only notifications useless to her.
A chill coursed through her bones, and she grabbed the throw from the rocking chair. She hadn't stepped outside since this morning, but the weather was getting to her.
He must be drenched.
It was only a short walk from the front of her building to the gravel parking lot, but the rain had been coming down so hard it was nearly impossible to see across the street. Mark had been so explosively angry, it was a wonder he could see at all.
Her stomach twisted and she took a small sip of tea, trying to quiet the unease inside of her.
The mug was set down, and the phone was picked up for some instant gratification. Maya set up the mug beside a lush, green, plastic plant, and took a photo. A nice auburn filter was swiped over top.
Keeping the cold at bay on this rainy day #cozy #cozyvibes #rainyday #teasolveseverything
Maya examined the photo, deemed it acceptable, then stopped and hit the little 'x'. Yes, she was sure she wanted to discard. This is what started this whole mess in the first place.
She scrolled through her feed, not seeing any of the posts. Instagram's endless scrolling mechanic was a satisfying, instinctual process that required no thought. So of course Maya's thoughts wandered elsewhere.
"He says he wants to meet you. He says he's sorry, Mark."
"Bullshit!" Mark was already standing, putting distance between him and the person who was always supposed to have his back. "You do remember what he did to me, right? How much that affected me?" How much it still affects me?
Maya was curled in a defensive position on the couch, her knees shielding her chest. "I know, it's been eating you up! For your sake, he needs to be forgiven."
"He's not your father to forgive." Venom dripped from his mouth, and Maya was truly scared. In the 22 years of knowing him, she had never seen him so infuriated, not even when his father cursed him out and stormed away when they were 17.
Maya stood up, ready to take on her role of comfort. "Mark, please-"
He slapped her outreached hand away as he turned around. "Do NOT touch me." The force of his words knocked her back on the couch. "How did he even reach out to you?"
Chris has seen the photo Maya had posted of her and Mark laying side by side in a wildflower field, at a small farm they paid probably too much money to go take corny photos at. He had commented 'You two look so grown up!'
Maya hadn't replied to the comment, but she did reply to the direct message that came a day later.
Chr.Leit63: Hey, Maya. Not sure if u remember me. I'm Meghan's, well, I guess Mark's dad. Glad to see you are doing so well! Gotta say, time sure flies by. I feel like an old man, lol!
Maya had been baffled. This was the man who screamed at her for influencing his daughter before storming away, dragging his ex wife through a tumultuous court case for letting Mark transition. She remembered the nights with no sleep, holding him as he sobbed, broken from the rejection from one of the people he looked up to the most. Anger flooded her veins.
Maya_lavend3r: What do YOU want? You are a despicable man! Can't you accept the damage you've done and move on??? Fuck off.
Ch.Leit63: I know. That's why I messaged you. I really messed up. I owe you an apology, and I really owe one to mark. Sheila won't pass along a message for me, would you?
Maya_lavend3r: Over my dead body!
She was finished with the conversation. At the time. Maya didn't block him; she thought that was the end of it. Chris messaged about a week later.
Ch.Leit63: I'm sorry. I know how wrong I've been. Let me apologize.
Maya_lavend3r: you're wasting your apology on me. go beg your son for forgiveness.
CH.Leit63: I'm trying. I can't reach him anywhere. You're my last hope, Maya.
That's when Maya started to be swayed. If Maya was his last effort, he must have tried many other ways to get in contact with Mark. Maya also knew how much Mark missed his dad, even after all this time, even after all he put them through.
It took another three conversations with Chris to fully make up her mind. She would approach the topic with Mark, that's all she could promise. Maya could not guarantee Mark would be receptive to the idea, which Chris seemed to accept. He would not stop thanking her as soon as she agreed. Maybe this was the right thing to do.
Here, biting her lip, she could barely get out the word "Instagram." It was not the right thing to do.
Mark's chest shuttered, trying not to cry, or scream, or become incoherent. "You've been talking to my sperm donor on Instagram?"
Maya could only nod, her voice caught in her throat.
"After all this time, he wants to apologize? What would that do? Does he think I'm going to forgive him after he tried to push me in the closet? After he cost Mom thousands of dollars on a stupid court case? After he spat in my face?" His whole body was shaking, he balled his fists at his sides, throat straining to hold back anguished calls.
Maya shook her head. "I'm sorry," she barely whispered.
"No," Mark said, strained but clear. "You don't get to ask for forgiveness too. I thought I could count on you, Maya. You've been with me through everything. And now..." he shrugged, and tears bit at the corners of his eyes.
She reached out for one of his fists, but he yanked away. "Mark please..."
"I need to go." He slid on his shoes, not bothering to secure them to his feet, and grabbed his keys from the counter.
“Wait!” She sprang up off the couch after him, but he was already through the door and barrelling through the hallway. She padded over the faded carpet in her bare socks.
Mark took the stairs two at a time, too blinded by emotion to see anything. He thrust through the front door of the lobby, and was instantly drenched. He didn’t even realise it was raining. The thundering downpour matched the pounding blood in his head. Mark crunched across the gravel parking lot, and slammed his car door hard enough when he got in he briefly wondered if he could open it again. An ark of tiny stones followed him as he peeled off of the property.
Maya had stopped in the lobby. Mark was hellbent on getting away from her, nothing she did would stop him.
Her phone flashed dark from inactivity, bringing her back to now, an hour after Mark had stormed off. She had stopped scrolling at some point, her phone eventually falling asleep.
There was a ball in her chest. She tried to breathe it out, but her air hitched in her throat, and suddenly there were tears on her face.
He has every right to be angry. He hates his father. He must hate me.
Her tears were still hot as they fell onto her hand, but quickly dropped in temperature as they slid down, leaving little trails of salt for other tears to follow.
I am a terrible friend.
An ember of rage swelled inside of her; at herself, and at Chris Leitner.
She pressed a button and brought her phone back to life, and swiped to her Instagram DMs.
Maya stared at her phone, trying in vain to write a scathing message to Chris. Anything to take him down a peg, make him feel a fraction of the hurt he caused Mark. As she shook, it suddenly became clear. She selected his profile, then the three little dots, then the big red button.
He doesn’t get to know what happened. He lost that chance when he walked out on Mark and dragged him through hell.
With Mark’s sperm donor blocked, Maya had to find a way to slowly earn her best friend’s trust back.
At just that moment, two things happened. The lights flickered, then cut out completely, leaving Maya in the darkness. OR, what would be the darkness if her phone wasn’t blinding her, an incoming call taking up her screen.
There was a few seconds of silence on the other end, aside from the sound of violent rainfall. Finally, “Can you come get me?”
“Mark,” Maya breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes I’m sorry, I- yes, get you? Where are you?”
“I’m in the ditch by MacAthy road. I’m fine, I’m fine, but my car isn’t moving til this storm is over.”
“I’m on my way.” Maya sprang up, and fel around on the coffee table for her keys, knocking the mug to the floor. Miraculously, it bounced a few times then settled, the most damage done was the little puddle of tea on the floor. Maya didn’t even notice as she put on her shoes.
“I blocked him.”
She could feel Mark stiffen on the other end of the line. “Good. Now, hurry up, I’m drenched!”
Maya had never been so happy to get soaked on the way to her car.