Home > We Are Okay(16)

We Are Okay(16)
Author: Nina LaCour

“Who are the bowls for?” Mabel asks.


She nods.

“I want to get your parents a present, too,” I say. “Do you think they’d like something from here?”

“Anything,” she says. “Everything here is so nice.”

We look at some things together and then I make another round and Mabel drifts back to the bells. I see her check the price of one of them. Ana and Javier keep flowers in every room of their house, so I take a closer look at a corner of vases.

“How’s this?” I ask her, holding up a round one. It’s a dusty-pink color, subtle enough that it would work in their brightest rooms.

“Perfect,” she says. “They’ll love it.”

I choose a gift for myself, too: a pot for my peperomia, in the same color as Ana and Javier’s vase. I’ve kept my little plant in its plastic pot for too long, and this will look so much prettier.

The potter is sitting at the counter now, making notes on a piece of paper, and when I take the vase up to her I’m seized with the wish to stay. I hand her my ATM card when she gives me the total, and then I work up the courage to ask.

“I was wondering,” I say as she wraps the first bowl up in tissue paper. “By any chance, are you hiring?”

“Oh,” she says. “I wish! But it’s just me. It’s a tiny operation.”

“Okay,” I say, trying not to sound too disappointed. “I just really love your shop so I thought I’d ask.”

She pauses her wrapping. “Thank you.” She smiles at me. Soon she’s handing me the bag with the wrapped-up vase and dishes, and Mabel and I head back onto the snowy street.

We hurry past a pet store and a post office and into the café, both of us shivering. Only one table is occupied and the waitress looks surprised to see us. She takes a couple menus from a stack.

“We’re closing up early because of the storm,” she says. “But we can get you fed before then if you can make it quick.”

“Sure,” I say.

“Yeah,” Mabel says. “That’s fine.”

“Can I get you started with some coffee or orange juice?”

“Cappuccino?” I ask.

She nods.

“Same for me,” Mabel says. “And I’ll just have a short stack of pancakes.”

I scan the menu. “Eggs Benedict, please.”

“Thank you, ladies,” she says. “And just, excuse my reach for a second . . .”

She leans over our table and turns the sign in the window so that it says CLOSED on the outside. But on our side, perfectly positioned between Mabel’s place and mine, it says OPEN. If this were a short story, it would mean something.

The waitress leaves and we turn back to the window. The snow is falling differently; there’s more of it in the sky.

“I can’t believe you live in a place this cold.”

“I know.”

We watch in silence. Soon, our coffees arrive.

“It’s so pretty, though,” I say. “Isn’t it?”

“Yeah. It is.”

She reaches for the dish of sugar packets, takes out a pink one, a white one, a blue. She lines them up, then reaches for more. I don’t know what to make of her nervous hands and faraway expression. Her mouth is a tight line. At another point in my life, I would have leaned across the table and kissed her. At a point further back, I would have sabotaged her, scattered the packets across the table. If I were to go all the way to when we first knew each other, I would have built a careful pattern of my own and both of ours would have expanded until they met in the middle.

“Can we return to the reason I came here?” Mabel asks.

My body tenses. I wonder if she can see it.

I don’t want her to list all the reasons I should go back to San Francisco, back to her parents’ house, because I know that they’ll all be right. I won’t be able to fight against them with any kind of logic. I’ll only look foolish or ungrateful.

“I want to say yes,” I tell her.

“But you can. You just have to let yourself. You used to spend half your time over there anyway.”

She’s right.

“We’ll be able to see each other on all our breaks, and you’ll have a place you can always go home to. My parents want to help you with things when you need it. Like money or just advice or whatever. We can be like sisters,” she says. And then she freezes.

A drop of my heart, a ringing in my head.

I smooth my hair behind my ear. I look at the snow.

“I didn’t . . .” She leans forward, cradles her head in her hands.

And I think of how time passes so differently for different people. Mabel and Jacob, their months in Los Angeles, months full of doing and seeing and going. Road trips, the ocean. So much living crammed into every day. And then me in my room. Watering my plant. Making ramen. Cleaning my yellow bowls night after night after night.

“It’s okay,” I say. But it isn’t.

Too much time passes and she still hasn’t moved.

“I know what you meant,” I say.

Our plates of food appear on the table. A bottle of maple syrup. Ketchup for my home fries. We busy ourselves with eating, but neither of us seems hungry. Right as the check comes, Mabel’s phone rings. She drops her credit card onto the bill.

“I got this, okay?” she says. “I’ll be right back.”

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