Sophie let her body fall backwards onto her bed. The bedsheets were fresh out of the dryer, and smelled like cleanliness. She could hear James’ soft breaths mingled with anticipation on the other end of the line; she could see him in her mind’s eye.
Her third eye showed her James was most likely sitting by his window, from where he could gaze at Mr. Whitman as the renowned poet gazed off into the distance. James was also most likely frowning; deep worry lines etched into the middle of his forehead, grimace pulling at his pink lips. With a bit of imagination, Sophie’s third eye could also clearly picture him wearing that forest green sweater he owned, in which (Sophie privately thought) he looked rather dishy, as her new friend from New England would say.
“Sophie?” James spoke, interrupting Sophie’s daydream. His voice was unsure. “Are you…still there?”
“Yes, yes,” Sophie eased his worries. “Of course, I’m still here.”
“James…” Sophie trailed off.
“Sophie.” said James.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Sophie said finally, her first assertive sentence in this conversation.
“Well, I beg to differ. I think it’s a perfectly good idea!” James protested. “Soph,” He continued, and Sophie’s poor angst-ridden heart ached at the use of his affectionate sobriquet. “Just because we aren’t together anymore, doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends.” His voice was plaintive, pulling right at Sophie’s already very weak heart strings.
“Plus, Baron said the theme for his Masked Masquerade Social this time is camp. What does that even mean? Like boy scouts?”
Sophie laughed breathlessly. “No, James, not boy scouts. Dressing in camp means dressing in a very theatrical and deliberately hyperbolized fashion. Gaga wore a dress of real meat once, I think.”
“Wouldn’t that have stunk?” James asked, laugh in his voice.
Sophie grinned. “Oh, you should see the pictures of the people who had to sit next to her.”
James laughed. “See, Sophie, this is exactly the kind of thing I don’t know. If it were up to me, I’d probably have put on my green boy scouts’ shorts from seventh grade and gone to Baron’s Masked Masquerade Social with a basket of cookies on my hip. This is why I need you.”
“From seventh grade?” Sophie echoed. “Those shorts would be real short then, no?”
“Yup. Real short.”
Sophie dispelled her impure thoughts with an exhale. “Anyhoo, coming back to the point, I don’t think we should, um, go shopping together.”
“Why not?” James asked simply.
“Because!” Sophie’s mind was blank. She didn’t have a rational continuation to that because. What, should she just tell him that she can’t shop with him for outfits to Baron’s Masked Masquerade Social because that would mean having to hang out with him, and see his face outside of school, and interact with him, and that would not be healthy for her because then she would want to do more of it – keep wanting to see him, and interact with him outside of school – and that wasn’t right!
Because…because…she’d already hurt him once. And if they started hanging out again, they would eventually get back together again – it was bound to happen – and then she’d probably have another fuckin’ identity crisis, and she’d dump him again, and he’d get hurt all over again. And maybe this time, his faith in love will be lifted once and for all, and he’ll never fall in love with anyone ever again, and he’ll never get married, or go on a honeymoon to Italy, and he’d die a lonely man in a lonely room, all alone –
“Sophie! See, you can’t even come up with a decent reason for the sake of it.” James’ voice interrupted Sophie’s supertrain of thought.
She sighed. Sat up in her bed. Folded her free arm across her chest.
“Look, James, I don’t know. Okay? I just don’t know. I’m absolutely fucking clueless. I’ve no idea what I’m doing, and I just don’t think it’s a good idea for me to see you when I’m such a mess, okay? I’m like all over the damn place right now.”
James was quiet.
“I just need time. I guess.” Sophie said to fill the heavy silence.
Isn’t five months enough time, though?
The question lay unanswered in the opaque space between the two people. Just a boy and a girl, how did it get so complicated? Sophie wondered sadly.
“Alright.” James’ voice was tender; always understanding, always forgiving.
“Take care, Soph. Will ya?”
“I will.” Sophie replied in a small voice. “You as well, James. Take care of yourself.”
James cut the call first. The first time he’d done so. Usually, Sophie was the one who cut the call first. It was a small thing, totally trivial really. But Sophie felt hurt anyway. Stupid, too – because she knew she had no right to be upset over it.
She fell back onto her violet bedsheets, groaned into her white pillows.
Would love always be this painful?