Off Limits(9)

By: Lola Darling


“Of course I do. We went for drinks at that rooftop bar, and the cute waiter hit on you.”

“That was four months ago, Chloe. Did you know that? Four months. I live less than a twenty-minute drive from you. That’s weird, okay?”

“It’s been a really hectic few months,” I mumble halfheartedly. “As soon as things calm down a little—”

“Things are never going to calm down. Not until you make them. You need to start prioritizing your life, too. Not just your career path.”

I bite back an easy for you to say. Because that’s not fair. Heather doesn’t want the same kinds of things that I do. She’s happy to run her flower shop, spend her days arranging bouquets for weddings, and take as much time off as she wants to travel, explore, eat out, go on dates.

Sometimes I wish I could be more like her. But every night when I close my eyes, I can still picture Mom’s place. The crappy closet of an apartment she was stuck in. The ramen noodles she lived on, except when I forced better food on her during a visit. She spent her whole life indulging—buying whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, and working a crappy retail job, maxing out credit cards to support herself.

She spent the last years of her life in a hovel.

I need to avoid that. I need to do better. And I need to support her, too. It might be her fault she’s broke, but I’m not letting her suffer just because she wasn’t a practical kid.

That’s my job. Being the practical one.

I thought Heather and I could bridge the gap between our lives, but maybe we’re just too different. Sometimes lately, I’ve started to wonder.

I guess she’s been wondering too.

“Heather, I’m sorry that it’s been so long since we hung out,” I say.

She cuts me off. “Don’t. Don’t apologize. Don’t say it’ll change. It never does. Call me when you’ve decided I’m worth something, okay?”

With that, the call disconnects, and I’m left standing barefoot and alone in the middle of my huge, expensive, gorgeous kitchen, holding a spoonful of slowly melting ice cream over a tub that’s freezing the fingers off my hand.

I click the phone off, toss it on the counter, and pace out into my living room.

Normally, this apartment makes me happy. It’s a constant reminder of how far I’ve come, and everything I’ve managed to make out of my life. The hardwood floors, high ceilings, and leather furniture strewn with cozy fur blankets and comforters is everything I used to dream about as a kid, watching home decorating shows on my parents’ crappy black-and-white TV, in our rundown living room that converted to my bedroom at night, since we could only afford a one-bedroom place.

Now, the TV takes up my entire wall above the fireplace, and I can totally immerse myself in any movies or shows I choose to watch.

When I have time to. Which, admittedly, is pretty much never.

I sigh and cross the room to slump onto my couch. Out the window to my left, the lights of San Francisco sparkle in the distance. But in here, I keep the lights off, and my head buried in the pint of ice cream. Ice cream that I need more than ever tonight, even though, after that phone call, it’s pretty much lost all its flavor for me.

What am I doing with myself?

But I already know the answer to that. I’m building a better life. A better future than my mom’s. No matter what it takes.





Four





Max





“And then, I shit you not, she says ‘So are you coming to my place, or what?’ Can you believe that worked?”

“I really, really can’t. Sure you didn’t just dream that part?” I lift my beer for another swig as Marcus aims a slug at my arm. It doesn’t even interrupt my drink. “Weak, Marcus.”

“Whatever, man, you’re just jealous. How long has it been since you got any action?”

“None of your business, that’s how long.”

Across the table, Jim whistles in response.

“So that’s at least six months to a year, don’t you figure, Jim?” Marcus shoots back, though he’s grinning as he picks up his own pint glass.

“That, or someone’s hindered by the non-fraternization policy,” Jim points out, and hoists his eyebrows significantly at me.

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