Home > All Your Perfects(5)

All Your Perfects(5)
Author: Colleen Hoover

I wonder if Graham lives close by or if he’s still walking. I flip on my blinker and pull out of my usual parking spot at Ethan’s for the very last time. I head in the direction Graham began walking a few minutes ago. As soon as I turn left, I see him duck into a restaurant to take cover from the storm. Conquistadors. It’s a Mexican restaurant. One I’m not too fond of. But it’s close to Ethan’s apartment and he likes it, so we eat here at least once a month.

A car is pulling out of a space in front of the restaurant, so I patiently wait for them to leave and then I ease my car into their spot. I get out of the car without knowing what I’ll say to Graham once I walk inside.

“Need a ride home?”

“Need company?”

“Up for a night of revenge sex?”

Who am I kidding? The last thing I want tonight is revenge sex. That’s not why I’m following him, so I hope he doesn’t assume that’s the case once he sees me. I still don’t know why I’m following him. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to be alone. Because like he said, the tears will come later, in the silence.

When the door closes behind me and my eyes adjust to the dim lighting in the restaurant, I spot Graham standing at the bar. He’s removing his wet coat and laying it over the back of the chair when he sees me. He doesn’t appear at all shocked to see me. He pulls out the chair next to him with the confident expectation that I’ll walk over to him and take it.

I do. I sit right next to him and neither of us says a word. We just commiserate in our silent misery.

“Can I get you two any drinks?” a bartender asks.

“Two shots of whatever will help us forget the last hour of our lives,” Graham says.

The bartender laughs, but neither of us laughs with him. He sees how serious Graham is being, so he holds up a finger. “I have just the thing.” He walks to the other end of the bar.

I can feel Graham watching me, but I don’t look at him. I don’t really want to see how sad his eyes are right now. I almost feel worse for him than I do for myself.

I pull a bowl of pretzels in front of me. They’re a mixture of shapes, so I begin to pull out all the sticks and I lay them on the bar in the shape of a grid. Then I pull out all the O-shaped pretzels and scoot the bowl of the traditionally shaped pretzel knots toward Graham.

I lay my pretzel in the center of the grid. I look at Graham and wait quietly. He looks at the pretzels I’ve strategically placed on the bar and then he looks back at me. A very slow and guarded smile makes its appearance. Then he reaches into the bowl, pulls out a pretzel knot and places it in the square above mine.

I pick the spot to the left of the center square, placing my pretzel carefully in my square.

The bartender lays two shots down in front of us. We pick them up at the same time and swing our chairs so that we’re facing each other.

We sit in silence for a good ten seconds, waiting for the other to make the toast. Graham finally says, “I have absolutely nothing to toast to. Fuck today.”

“Fuck today,” I say in complete agreement. We clink our shot glasses together and tilt our heads back. Graham’s goes down a lot smoother than mine. He slams his glass on the counter and then picks up another pretzel. He makes the next move.

I’m picking up the next pretzel when my phone starts buzzing in my jacket pocket. I pull it out. Ethan’s name is flashing across the screen.

Graham then pulls his phone out and sets it on the bar. Sasha’s name is flashing across his screen. It’s comical, really. What must the two of them think, walking out and seeing both of us sitting on the floor together, eating their Chinese food.

Graham places his phone on the bar, faceup. He puts his finger on his phone, but instead of answering it, he gives his phone a shove. I watch as it slides across the bar and disappears over the edge. I hear his phone crash against the floor on the other side of the bar, but Graham acts as if he isn’t at all fazed with the idea of having a broken phone.

“You just broke your phone.”

He pops a pretzel into his mouth. “It’s full of nothing but pictures and texts from Sasha. I’ll get a new one tomorrow.”

I lay my phone on the bar and I stare at it. It’s silent for a moment, but Ethan calls for a second time. As soon as his name flashes across the screen, I have the urge to do exactly what Graham just did. I’m due for a new phone, anyway.

When the ringing stops and a text from Ethan comes through, I give my phone a shove. We watch as my phone slips over the other side of the bar.

We go back to playing tic-tac-toe. I win the first game. Graham wins the second. Third is a draw.

Graham picks up another one of the pretzels and eats it. I don’t know if it was the shot I took or if I’m just confused by the turmoil of today, but every time Graham looks at me, I can feel the look trickle down my skin. And my chest. Everywhere, actually. I can’t tell if he makes me nervous or if I just have a buzz. Either way, this feeling is better than the devastation I would be feeling right now if I were at home alone.

I replace the piece of pretzel grid that Graham just ate. “I have a confession,” I say.

“Nothing you say can beat the past couple of hours of my life. Confess away.”

I lean my elbow against the bar and prop my head on my hand. I give him a sidelong glance. “Sasha came outside. After you walked away.”

Graham can see the shame in my expression. His eyebrows raise in curiosity. “What did you do, Quinn?”

“She asked which way you went. I refused to tell her.” I sit up straight and swing the chair so that I’m facing him. “But before I got in my car, I turned around and said, ‘Eight hundred dollars on a word game? Really, Sasha?’ ”

Graham stares at me. Hard. It makes me wonder if I crossed a line. I probably shouldn’t have said that to her, but I was bitter. I don’t regret it.

“What’d she say?”

I shake my head. “Nothing. Her mouth kind of fell open in shock, but then it started raining and she ran back inside Ethan’s apartment building.”

Graham is staring at me with so much intensity. I hate it. I wish he’d laugh or get angry that I interfered. Something.

He says nothing.

Eventually, his eyes lower until he’s staring down between us. We’re facing each other, but our legs aren’t touching. Graham’s hand that’s resting on his knee moves forward a little until his fingers graze my knee, just below the hem of my skirt.

It’s both subtle and obvious. My entire body tenses at the contact. Not because I don’t like it, but because I can’t remember the last time Ethan’s touch sent this much heat through me.

Graham traces a circle over the top of my knee with his finger. When he looks up at me again, I’m not confused by the look in his eyes. It’s very clear what he’s thinking now.

“You want to get out of here?” His voice is both a whisper and a plea.

I nod.

Graham stands and pulls his wallet out of his pocket. He lays some cash on the bar and then slips into his jacket. He reaches down and threads his fingers through mine, leading me through the restaurant, out the door and hopefully toward something that makes this day worth waking up for.

Chapter Four

* * *

Now

Graham once asked me why I take such long showers. I don’t remember what my excuse was. I’m sure I said they were relaxing, or that the hot water was good for my skin. But I take such long showers because it’s the only time I allow myself to grieve.

I feel weak for needing to grieve since no one has died. It doesn’t make sense that I grieve so much for those who never even existed.

I’ve been in the shower for half an hour now. When I woke up this morning, I incorrectly assumed it would be a quick, painless shower day. But that changed when I saw the blood. I shouldn’t be shocked. It happens every month. It’s happened every month since I was twelve.

I’m standing flat against the shower wall, allowing the spray of the shower to fall over my face. The stream of water dilutes my tears and it makes me feel less pathetic. It’s easier to convince myself I’m not crying that hard when most of what’s falling down my cheeks is water.

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