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Mallory and the Quest for Quiet

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"Are you mad?"

"It's not a problem," Jessi tells me. I know this is a lie because she's not making eye contact with me when she says it. She's picking up glasses from the coffee table and pointedly taking them into the kitchen to load into the dishwasher. Even if I didn't really know her I could tell she was upset. As I've known her since we were kids and we've recently moved in together, I don't just know she's upset, I know better than to admit it. So I just start helping her tidy the living room, knowing she will eventually tell me what's bugging her.

"It's honestly not a problem," she repeats once I join her in the kitchen, "but..."

Told you.

"But I just had a really exhausting day at work and I feel like it's been a while since we had a quiet evening to ourselves. You know?"

I'm not actually sure that I do.

"Jessi, we've been at home every night this week."

She rolls her eyes at me.

"That's not remotely the same thing as a quiet night in. Monday was game night--"

"You love game night."

Actually we both do. Since we moved back to Stoneybrook, we've instituted a semi-regular board games night with the members of our old babysitting club - or at least the ones who still live within travelling distance. It's always fun catching up with people and Mary Anne makes the best margaritas. The only downside is that Kristy can get super competitive, which is awkward when we have to pick teams. (Claudia is terrible at any sort of trivia game, but she kills at Pictionary.)

"Yeah, and I would never cancel on a week when Dawn was in town, but c'mon, quiet isn't really a word you can apply to a BSC alumni get together can you?"

I grin.

"That's fair, and Tuesday was when the furnace broke, which I totally admit was anything but relaxing."

She gives me a smile, but it's a wobbly one since the furnace breaking was kind of stressful and expensive. I don't make a lot of money as a copywriter and while Jessi gets paid pretty well for what she does, she's freelance, so sometimes the work just isn't available. We can afford this condo without too many issues, but we don't have much money set aside and another emergency like that could be real trouble.

"Wednesday was The Boxes."

I can actually hear her using the capital letters when she says that. Not "the boxes", but "The Boxes". She's talking about when my mom came over to drop off some stuff from my parents’ house. Now that Nicky and Vanessa are both at college, my parents are going to have a spare bedroom for the first time in eighteen years. They're pretty excited about it.

"I did apologize for the boxes."

"It's not The Boxes themselves. Some of those old letters were amazing. It's that your mom was here until nine going through them with you, then once she'd left it took us ages to get everything put away again and it was a hospital day."

She means that she was working at the hospital that day. Jessi learned American Sign Language when she was young and ended up qualifying as an interpreter. I know enough ASL to hold a basic conversation, but I'll never be as fluent as Jessi. She has a real gift for speaking with her body; it's what makes her such a great interpreter, such a talented dancer and such a skillful lover.

God, will I ever be able to say that without blushing? It's so embarrassing that I find talking about this stuff embarrassing. I'm a grown woman for pete's sake!

Anyway, a lot of the time she works at the local college, interpreting lectures for Deaf students. She likes that because she gets to learn all kinds of stuff. Jessi never went to college, but she's taken enough classes as an interpreter that she should have about eight degrees by now! The jobs which aren't so fun are when she has to interpret sad things. That covers most jobs at the hospital and one time even a funeral parlor. She's always kind of drained when she gets home from those assignments.

"I didn't know Wednesday was a hospital day," I say sheepishly. "I could have told my mom to drop that stuff off another time."

"How could you? She didn't warn us she was coming over."

I hadn't noticed that at the time, but thinking back I'm pretty sure Jessi's right about Mom not calling.

"And then on Thursday, Mrs. Warburton next door needed an emergency sitter for Allie and before you say anything I was happy to help out, but it was another quiet evening that didn't happen after somebody showed up on the doorstep."

Allie is our neighbor's four year old. She's adorable, but kind of hyper and strong-willed, particularly when it comes to the concept of 'bedtime'. Her mom said it was a family emergency, but I can't be sure she didn't just want a night's break from the inevitable battle.

"Okay, but that was a one off..."

"And then tonight Adam and Jordan dropped by unannounced and stayed for three and a half hours."

I don't really have a response to that, because they sort of did. It's not like they're very demanding guests though. We just started watching TV together because Friends was on when they arrived and we drank wine because there was a bottle open. It all seemed pretty relaxed to me until my brothers left and Jessi started acting like something was bothering her.

"But it was just a quiet evening in front of the TV."

"But we still had guests," counters Jessi.

I lean back on the counter and think about this.

"I guess I don't count family as guests."

"I know. And I know you're close to your family, Mal and I really like them all. I do! But I feel like since we moved here, they're always coming by unannounced and after spending my whole day mediating between people it would be great if I could come home in the evenings and know that I could have some time that was just the two of us. It's nice to do nothing sometimes."

It's true that things have been pretty hectic since we moved in together, but I hadn't realized how much it was upsetting Jessi. I guess it's partly because my job mostly involves sitting in front of a computer and not talking to people that much, so by the time I get home I'm desperate for company and conversation. Plus, growing up in a family with eight kids means you learn to relax in a crowd. Otherwise I'd never have been able to relax at all. In fact, the only time, I'd had trouble was when...

"Hey Jessi, you remember when I was eleven and I tried to go on strike?"

She grins.

"Yes, you had some big school assignment and tried to quit the club."

"That and my parents were asking me to help out more than usual, yeah. It was pretty melodramatic of me."

"You were eleven," Jessi reminds me. "Everything's a big melodrama when you're eleven."

"Right, and you couldn't pay me to be eleven again, but maybe kid-me had a point. After my strike, everybody became way more reasonable about the demands they were making on my time."

"They did, didn't they?" Jessi slides an arm around me. "And that was just so you could work on a school assignment, what's that compared to spending time with your awesome girlfriend in your awesome new condo that you've barely had a chance to relax in and enjoy yet?"

"Jessi, will you do something with me tomorrow?"

"What?"

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing."

An image of a closed front door. A note in Mal's handwriting is stuck to it saying 'We're on strike. Come back tomorrow. Love Mal and Jessi.'