-:- Rewind to “I miss you” for the fourth response -:-
“I miss you,” he says.
Beth hears his deep inhale, like he’s trying to suck back the air, as if that can take the words back. She can’t speak, and apparently neither can he. Her stomach drops and tries to furrow through the Lexington soil beneath the house’s foundation, and she feels something clench inside her as he works up a monotone to say “Study the - “
“I miss you, Benny.” She stumbles over the words, but in her memory conjures the comfort of sitting in the bar with him in Ohio, the feel of his face buried between her shoulder blades in New York, and as soon as she says it she knows it’s true. And frankly, she wants him to cut the chess talk; she doesn’t need it.
She coughs, and it’s like the smoke has dislodged from her chest, and she can breathe but also her head is spinning, because what the hell? Where does this leave them now?
“You just said you can’t come to New York,” he says, almost nonplussed.
“Come to Kentucky, if you want,” Beth says instead, the words leaving her more easily than she’s comfortable with. “The Kentucky State Championship is next week.”
“The state championship?” he repeats slowly. “I could come. For the state championship.”
He won’t be able to enter, he’s not a resident, but it doesn’t matter. She understands what he’s saying. Or hopes she does. “Please, Benny.” And please don’t leave right after, she adds silently. Instead she says: “I just finished most of the house, it’s habitable.”
“When do you want me there?”
“Whenever you can make it.”
“I can be there tomorrow.”
The phone call ends with both of their heads languishing with something they dare call hope. He cares for her, and she respects him, and he misses her, and she misses him, too.
Is it enough? It might just be.