Chapter 44: The masher of Riverview Station
A few days later Tammy was alone in her studio when Makayla stepped inside of it, softly closing the door behind her. “You know, Ms. T.,” she said, “I get the very distinct impression that you have been avoiding me.”
From behind her desk, Tammy looked up, and quickly looked away again. “Hi, Makayla! What? No. Why would I—what? No. That’s not even—of course I’m not—why would I—?” It was positively confounding to Tammy how completely void the top of her desk seemed to be at that moment of anything which she might convincingly busy her hands doing.
Makayla sat in the chair right beside Tammy’s desk. “But why?” she said.
“Because I kissed you, that’s why!” said Tammy. “Because I practically molested you, right there in your office! Am I yelling?”
“A little, yes. But that’s okay. You’re an excitable girl.”
Tammy’s forearms hit her desk just ahead of her head. “Oh my God,” she murmured.
Makayla laughed. “Oh, come on, now. I’m just messin’ with ya.’ You didn’t molest me.”
From within the darkness of her arms, the tip of her nose touching her desk, Tammy said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not in right now. Please leave a message, and I’ll get around to molesting you just as soon as I can.”
“Girl, you did not molest me. I know what being molested feels like, okay? An’ that ain’t it.”
Tammy lifted her head. “I’m sorry. That’s all I’ve really been wanting to say to you. I’ve just been too embarrassed to actually say it.”
“What are you sorry for?”
“For all of a sudden becoming, you know, the Masher of Riverview Station.”
Makayla laughed. “Oh, so that was you I saw on those wanted posters they’ve taped up all over this building. I thought I recognized that steely gaze.”
“Listen now, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
“Am I the first woman you’ve ever kissed?”
“Oh, I can definitely say that you are. Yes.”
Makayla put her hand to her chest. “Well, then, first off, do let me say how flattered I am by that.”
“Really? Are you serious?”
“Of course I’m serious. It’s very flattering.”
“Well, yes, actually: it is! You really should be flattered, to be honest. I mean, I’m straight. Or, at least, as far as I’ve ever known I am. But be that as it may, the night that we . . . that I . . .”
“That we kissed, I was just feeling sooooo much love. And so much love for you. And not because you’re outrageously beautiful—although if this whole painting thing doesn’t work out for you, then obviously you could make a fortune modeling. I was feeling the way I was just because . . . I don’t know, because of our talk and everything.”
“We did have a great talk.”
“We did! And I felt like, wow, I’ve actually made a friend. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a real friend before—which I know sounds crazy, but I’ve been sort of realizing lately that that’s true. And I’m not trying to put any weird pressure on you, or anything like that. Please don’t feel freaked out.”
“It was just . . . really nice spending that time with you, is all I’m saying.”
“It was nice for me, too.”
“Okay. Well. Thank you. That’s super kind of you.”
“So you’re okay, right? We’re okay?”
“Of course! I’m just . . . I don’t know. I think I’m just being kind of blown away lately by all the stuff I’m going through.”
“What kind of stuff?”
“Oh, it’s all good. It’s all great. I’ve got this studio; I feel like I finally found myself as an artist; I’m not flat broke anymore—”
“Amen to that, right there.”
“Amen is right. The main thing, I think, is that I feel like, here in Asheville, I finally found the place where I belong. And I just … got carried away with all the amazingness happening to me, I guess.”
“How do ya’ mean, carried away? By kissin’ me?”
“Yes, by kissing you! Talk about … a whole new thing.”
“Well, you didn’t hear me screamin’ or anything, did you? I didn’t punch you out, did I?”
“You know, that’s exactly what a friend of mine asked me when I told her what happened between us. She said, ‘Well, she didn’t scream, did she?’”
“And I didn’t.”
“And you didn’t.”
“Lucky me! Cuz you’re clearly in good enough shape to have done me some damage.”
“Never. We’re tight, you and I.”
“Are we, for sure? Because—and again, you know, no pressure—I really would like to be friends with you, Makayla. I don’t want to have done anything that’ll make you be, like, ‘Yeah, that chunky woman with the beauty school drop-out haircut is nice—as long as you’re not ever alone with her. Because that woman has some serious impulse control issues.”
Makayla laughed. “First of all, you’re not chunky.”
“Ah. Lying to me out of sheer kindness. See? I knew you’d make a good friend.”
“Stop that! You’re not chunky! You’re voluptuous. That is not the same thing. You got curves, girl. Ain’ nothin’ wrong with a little meat on a girl’s bones. Gives a man somethin’ to hang onto.”
“All right; I’ll take that. So we’re good, all the way? You’re not, like, ‘Oh no! Sex maniac on the loose!’”
“Of course I’m not, ‘Sex maniac on the loose.’ Look: I’m a black female artist. Do you think labels have ever been a good thing in my life? Cuz if you do, you’re wrong. What do I care if you’re gay, or bi, or transgender, or one of those on Monday and another one on Tuesday? What’s any of that got to do with what kind of person you are? I care what’s in a person’s heart. What they do with whatever they got in their pants—or whatever they want to have in their pants—is their business. As long as nobody’s causing anybody any harm, it’s all good with me. And you didn’t do me any harm when you kissed me. Like we were sayin’, I didn’t exactly push you away now, did I?”
Tammy felt herself blushing. “No. No. You didn’t.”
“Why would I? It felt nice. It didn’t offend me. It flattered me. Maybe in that moment it could have become something else. Maybe not. Maybe we’ll try it again sometime, and we’ll end up bustin’ my couch and steamin’ up every window in this building. Maybe we’ll never kiss again. I don’t know. And I don’t care. I mean, you know what I’m sayin’: I’m not concerned about it, one way or another. I think you’re a good person. That’s all that matters to me. Are you cryin’ right now?”
“No,” said Tammy, wiping at her eyes.
“You wanna give me a hug?”
“Yes.” Tammy stood up from her chair.
“Okay, just a minute. Lemme just open up the door here real quick. I don’t wanna take any chances with Quick Lips McGraw.”
“Oh, come on! Not funny! That is NOT FUNNY!”
“It was a little funny. But I apologize. I didn’t mean to upset you. Okay? Okay. Now come on over here, baby, and plant one on your mamma.”
“Oh, that is so IT! The moment is over. It’s ended. Get out. Out! I have work to do.”
“Okay, but first—seriously? Have you been outside today? It is absolutely stunning out there. There might be something somewhere more gorgeous than springtime in Asheville, but I’ve sure never seen it.”
“Oh, me neither. Ever. It’s unbelievable. And spring’s finally really begun. All the blossoms are so beautiful. And they’re everywhere you look!”
“So, c’mon on. Let’s go out and get us a little of that heaven before we settle back into work. You wanna?”
“I do, I do, I do,” said Tammy, grabbing her keys out of her desk.
As they were making their way down the two flights of stairs, Makayla said, “Ah, the springtime. The flowers. The birds. The bees.”
“Um … yeah,” said Tammy.
“The birds and the bees.”
“Okay, yeah. Got it.”
“Sometimes the birds and the birds.”
“Oh, come on!”
“Sometimes the bees and the bees.”
Stepping onto the ground floor just behind Makayla, Tammy cried, “Oh my GOD! You really are the absolute WORST!”
“That’s not what your lips were sayin’ the other night!” laughed Makayla, pushing open the big metal door and spinning her way out into the bright, floral-scented, perfectly warm air.
Chapter 45: From the author, 1 year on
[I’m going to skip this “Chapter,” which was basically just a catch-up of the story so far, and a brief introduction to my advice column.]
Chapter 46: Not Ryan
The following Thursday found Tammy arriving at her studio just after noon. Leaving her door ajar, she dropped her purse on her guest’s chair, set her thermos of coffee on her desk beside her laptop, thought for a moment of dashing back outside to spend an hour or eight simply reveling in a day so breathtakingly idyllic she imagined denizens of heaven looking down upon it with jealously, but then sat at her desk, pulled a Village Potters mug from her bottom drawer, poured herself a cup of Ethiopian coffee from Counter Culture that she’d bought at Earth Fare on a whim and which had been causing her ever since to seriously consider moving to Ethiopia, and lifted open the top of her MacBook by way of quickly checking the news before settling into her work.
Locally, she saw, homeless street medics were preparing for any emergency, there was a surge in graffiti along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Asheville Citizen-Times’ awesome advice columnist was helping a grandmother not to sweat too much her son-in-law coming out as transgender.
Tammy closed her laptop, took a deep breath, had another sip of coffee.
The time was upon her to let her muse have her way with her.
Two hours later, she snapped out of wherever it was she now went while painting to find Barry the Architect leaning against her doorway, watching her.
“Hello!” said Tammy. “How long have you been there?”
“Just a little while. I knocked, but you didn’t hear me. But since your door was open, I thought I’d just, well, stand here a while, and watch you. Boy, you really concentrate when you do your thing, don’t you?”
“I guess so,” said Tammy. “Come on in.”
“No, no, I don’t want to interrupt what you’re doin’. I just popped by to say hi real quick.”
“Please, come in. I need a break anyway.”
“Well,” said Barry, stepping into the room, “I gotta say, I’ve been a bit curious to see what it is there you’re paintin’. Is it anything you could show me?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” said Tammy.
“You sure weren’t paintin’ it like it’s nothin’.” He took another step towards her. “C’mon,” he said playfully. “Lemme see it?”
“I mean, you know, I don’t mind if you see it,” she said, suddenly feeling just a tad keyed up. “If you want to, sure. It’s not finished or anything. But almost.”
Barry came and stood beside the stool she was perched on.
He looked at her painting.
He didn’t say anything. And then he continued not to say anything—right up until he said, “Can I buy this?”
“I’m sorry?” said Tammy.
“This. Can I buy it?”
Tammy’s mind—and pretty much everything connected to it—seemed to go into some kind of vapor lock. “You wanna buy this?”
“Yes, I do.”
“But, I mean, it’s not even finished yet.”
“When it is, then. This is amazing, Tammy.” He gazed around her studio at her other paintings. Almost wonderingly, he said, “How come you never mentioned that you’re a genius?” He looked at her again. “That’s the kind of thing you should probably bring up when you’re gettin’ to know somebody.”
Nothing occurred to Tammy to say except, “Oh.”
“So, can I buy this?”
Tammy became aware of how extremely close he was standing to her. He hadn’t shaved in a few days. It looked good on him. “Okay,” she said.
“Wonderful. Thank you.”
“Unless I ruin it first.”
He was now looking at her the way a man looks at a woman he’s about to kiss. The front of his body was touching her hip. “I don’t think that will happen,” he said, nearly whispering.
“I’ve been known to ruin things,” she said.
“Me too. It happens. You know what’s going to happen now, right?”
“I’m going to kiss you.”
“No,” said Tammy. “You can’t.”
He did not seem much dissuaded, though. “No?”
“No. Because you’re buying my painting.”
He raised his eyebrows. “So it’s kiss you, or purchase this brilliant work of art?”
He looked at the piece in question. Having turned back to her, he said, “Which you might ruin, you say?”
“I probably will.”
“Then we should probably put the sale on hold, doncha’ think?”
The moment their lips met Tammy’s back and arms straightened, lifting her into the kiss. She felt her hands gripping the sides of her stool.
The stubble on his face felt rough against hers. She didn’t mind it.
For the first time in twenty-three years Tammy was kissing a man who wasn’t Ryan.
And that man was definitely kissing her back. He had just slid his hand around her waist when Tammy heard someone walk into her studio.
“Yo, girl! I—”
Tammy broke from the kiss to see Makayla staring dumbly at her, at them.
“Makayla!” said Tammy. “Wait! Don’t—”. But Makayla had already spun and left the room, firmly closing the door shut behind her.
Chapter 47: The best kiss
‘With much less physical grace than she would have preferred to demonstrate at that moment, Tammy hastily climbed off her stool.
“Oh my God,” she said. “I’m sorry, Barry. That was my friend. I need to go find her.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Oh, yeah! She just saw me kissing you, is all.” Why had she blurted out that last part? Her manic laugh failed to bring things back to normal. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Of course there’s not! You’re a great kisser!”
“Is that good?”
Another manic laugh, courtesy of Tammy’s nervous system, which was evidently in some danger of blowing out altogether. “Of course it’s good! You bet! How could that not be good? Let yourself out? And I’ll call you?”
“How ‘bout I just follow ya’ out right now?”
“Good plan! Here we go!”
“Do you wanna grab your purse, or keys or anything?”
“No, that’s okay, they’re in my desk.”
Barry looked confused. “Right. But if we’re leavin’ …”
Coming in at roughly the decibel level of a firetruck alarm, Tammy said, “Then I’ll need those things! Good call!” In a moment she was back, purse in hand. Pulling shut the door behind her, she said, “I really am sorry about this, Barry. It’s just . . . my friend.”
“Hey, you don’ have to apologize to me. I understand.”
“I’m not sure I do. Anyway, she’s got a studio that’s down the hall this way, so … .”
Barry pointed in the opposite direction. “And I’m parked right out front, so . . . ”
“So you’ll call me later?”
“You can bet on it. And Tammy?”
“I’m serious about buying that painting. I know real art when I see it.”
All the noise in Tammy’s head instantly went silent. She studied Barry’s face, and found there no guile at all. Nodding slowly, she said, “Okay. We can talk about that.”
When no one answered her knocks upon Makayla’s studio door, Tammy headed outside. And that is where she found Makayla, sitting at a picnic bench in a little secluded area way off to one side of the building. Perhaps it was the thick blanket of gray clouds hanging so heavy and low overhead that caused the gravel beneath Tammy’s shoes to crunch with such isolated clarity as she walked towards her friend.
She silently sat at the table across from Makayla.
“Hey,” said Tammy.
Makayla, elbows on the table, only looked at her from behind the elegant long-fingered hands that were holding her chin and hiding her mouth.
“Please talk to me,” said Tammy.
But from behind her hands, holding Tammy with her large doe eyes, Makayla, almost imperceptibly, shook her head no.
Makayla brought her hands down from her mouth. Folding them on the table, she spoke in a tone that was almost perfectly conversational. “You seem to like him pretty well.”
“No, no,” said Tammy. “I don’t. I mean . . . I dunno.” She shrugged. “He seems like a nice guy. He wants to buy at least one of my new paintings.” Makayla’s single arched eyebrow prompted Tammy to quickly add, “And no, that has nothing to do with why I kissed him. Lower that eyebrow! It doesn’t! The truth is, I really don’t know why I kissed him.”
In the even tone of a detached and even bored clinician, Makayla said, “Perhaps you suffer from some sort of disorder which causes you to randomly make out with people. Ever thought about that?”
“No. C’mon, now.”
“I think you should think about it. A condition like that isn’t something you want to let go untreated for too long. Who knows who all might get hurt with that?”
“Makayla, there isn’t anyone in this world I want to hurt less than I do you. You have to believe me. That kiss with Barry was just . . . I don’t know. A kiss. I honestly haven’t kissed all that many guys before. And it’s been a really, really long time since any guy but my ex-husband kissed me. But it was just a … guy kiss. It wasn’t … it wasn’t—you know.”
“What? It wasn’t what?”
“Are you really going to make me say it?”
With just a hint of playfulness in her voice, Makayla said, “I believe I am.” But then she pulled in a quick, deep breath, and the playfulness was gone. “Or I won’t. Look, Tammy, I don’t want—”
“It wasn’t with you. Okay? It wasn’t with you.” Tammy lowered by half the volume of her voice. “You know what kiss I’ve had in my life that was like the one you and I shared that night? You know how many kisses in my life I’ve felt as deeply as I felt that one? None. That’s how many. Zero. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before. Not even close. And you better believe I’ve spent a whole lot of time between then and now thinking about that kiss, trying to figure out what it was, and what it might mean, and why it affected me the way it did. Ever since it happened, I have been riding questions about that kiss like a horse through the desert.”
“That’s the horse with no name, right?”
“Exactly! This horse has no name! Not for me it doesn’t, anyway. Because how can you name what you can’t understand? But after thinking and thinking about it, you know what I concluded? You know what I now feel—what I now know—that it was about that kiss which, to be perfectly honest with you, made it the most thrilling, exciting, toe-curling kiss I have ever experienced?”
Makayla shrugged a little. “No.”
“That it was with you. That it was with, very specifically, you. It’s all about you. Turns out that horse does have a name. Its name is Makayla.”
Makayla made a whimpering little sigh, and her eyes filled with water. She stood from her seat, walked around the picnic table, and sat beside Tammy, her arms held out for a hug.
When they’d finished their long and tight embrace, Makayla gathered together Tammy’s hands in her own, and said, “So, whatever this thing is—and, believe me, I feel the same way about it you do—you and I are gonna figure it out together, right? We’re gonna see what this is between us, and what it means, or if it means anything at all, and we’re going to do it together. Right?”
Tammy nodded. “Right.”
“And I promise not to get crazy on you, okay? Because from now on, I won’t ever let myself forget that you have a serious kissing disorder.”
“What? I’m glad you have that! It worked for me!”
“You better . . . !” But Tammy stopped when she saw the expression that came over Makayla’s face as she looked over Tammy’s shoulder towards the area in front of the other side of the building, where people parked their cars. “What is it?”
“You’ll never believe who just pulled into the lot,” said Makayla.
It took Tammy a beat to say, “Tell me you’re kidding.”
Makayla looked at her. “I’m not.”
Tammy held her gaze. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” Makayla looked away from her, back toward the cars. Then she put her hand in the air, smiled, and waved.
Tammy tried to instantly vanish into thin air. When that failed she did the only thing left to her, which was to turn and look at the man whom she knew to have been waiting at Makayla’s home, in Makayla’s bed, on the night that she and Makayla had kissed.
“Oh, my God,” said Tammy quietly.
“What?” said Makayla.
Tammy spun to look back at her. “I know him. He comes over to my house all the time.”
Now it was Mikayla’s turn to skip a beat. “I’m sorry—you said what now?”
Keeping her eyes locked onto Makayla’s, Tammy slowly rose her hand up into the air, to begin a wave of her own. Before turning back towards the man, she said, “Your boyfriend is my next door neighbor.”
Chapter 48: The Pride of Asheville
Watching him draw nearer to where she and Makayla were sitting, Tammy flashed back to the first time she’d heard the name Isaac Green. She was standing on the packed deck at Top of the Monk, talking with Maggie and Samantha, both of whom she’d met only hours before. It was New Year’s Eve. She’d been in Asheville less than two days.
“Have you met Todd and Charlie’s next-door neighbor, Isaac?” Maggie had said. “He’s a writer. He wrote a huge bestseller. It’s a memoir about his growing up in Mocksville, a little town not far from here. A lot of his book takes place in Asheville, too.”
“Isaac is a major deal in this town,” said Maggie. “And now you live right next door to him!”
The first time Tammy laid eyes on Isaac was on the day when Todd and Maggie’s father, Frank, who had almost literally just moved into Charlie’s house, caused a two-car fender bender on the thin East West Asheville street directly in front of Charlie’s house. When Tammy answered the knock at the door, she found standing there a tallish man, wearing jeans and a faded red tee-shirt beneath a dark blue parka.
Later, talking to Maggie about having met Isaac, Tammy said, “Good lord, that man is handsome.”
“Isn’t he?” said Maggie.
“His skin is perfect. I don’t think he has a wrinkle on his face. If his goatee wasn’t white, I wouldn’t know if he was twenty or sixty.”
“I think he’s almost seventy,” said Maggie.
Tammy’s mouth dropped open. “What?”
“I’m telling you. He plays tennis, like, every day.”
“That is … I mean, how can he be almost seventy? Has anyone alerted SCIENCE about him? His body looks like … it couldn’t have changed from when he was twenty, or whatever.”
“I know. It’s so amazing. In college—he went to an all-black college in Charlotte, Johnson C. Smith University—he was a big deal athlete. He went to the school on a full scholarship for, I think, baseball and football. But mostly—I guess all through high school, and maybe even through college—he was a long distance runner.”
“Wow,” said Tammy. “Well, that would explain his whole … physique thing. If anything but ridiculous genetic material could.”
“Oh my God. You have such a crush on him!”
“What? No I don’t. What are you—shut-up.”
“You have a crush on Isaac Green! Look at you! You’re blushing.”
“I am not!” But she was.
“Oh, please. I’ve seen strawberries less red.”
“Okay, well, anyway, it’s not like you’d be the first woman to have a crush on that man. From what I understand, back in the day every woman in this town had a crush on Isaac. He was quite the lady’s man.”
“How long has he lived in Asheville?”
“I think he came here right after college. So since, I don’t know, the early seventies, or around there. Have you ever walked around downtown with him?” Tammy shook her head. “I did it once, after we’d had lunch with Charlie. It was incredible. It was like walking around with Brad Pitt or somebody. Everyone—and I mean everyone—knows him. And he knows them. We seriously couldn’t walk three steps without his stopping to talk to someone or other. Homeless people, lawyers, restaurant owners—everyone stopped us so they could talk to him, or shake his hand, or hug him. It took us, like, an hour, to walk one block. If Isaac ever ran for mayor of this town, he would definitely win.”
Since Frank had moved into Charlie’s, he and Isaac had become quite the pair of buddies. At least once a week Isaac stopped by the house, and he and Frank would sip whiskey, and maybe smoke a cigar, and talk and laugh for hours, as if they’d known each other all their lives.
“Isaac is good people,” Frank had once said to Tammy. “Really good.”
And, as Tammy had just that moment learned, the really good, really famous, really charming, really accomplished Isaac Green, now standing at their table, was also Makayla’s lover.
Looking up at him, smiling a smile that she hoped looked natural, Tammy thought, “How small IS this town?”
“Why, lookit here,” said Isaac. “I didn’t know you two knew each other.”
“We do,” said Makayla.
“Makes sense that you would,” said Isaac. To Tammy, he said, “I knew you had a studio out here. I guess that somehow it just never occurred to me that you’d know Kayla.”
“Well, I do!” said Tammy, if a tad wildly.
“Good,” said Isaac. “She’s worth knowin.” He straddled the picnic bench, sitting beside Makayla the way a teenager would. “How’s Frank doin’?” he asked Tammy.
“Oh, well, you know,” said Tammy. Then she realized that that didn’t actually qualify as an answer. “He’s fine. He’s great. Busy! He seems to be meeting with a lot of people lately.”
“Is that right?” said Isaac. “Boy, it is not gonna be long before that man owns half of Asheville. It’ll be the better half, too.”
Tammy laughed, a little too hard.
Issac turned to Makayla. “Hey, baby.” When he leaned in to kiss her on the lips, Tammy found something in the sky far above their heads that she suddenly needed to look at.
Once again, Tammy’s intense desire to suddenly vanish into thin air only left her sitting right where she was, feeling fatter than ever.
“Whatcha’ doin’ out this way?” Makayla asked the Pride of Asheville.
“Just running some errands, and thought I’d swing by here and say hi. Just for a moment, though. Gotta get to a meeting downtown.”
“Housing board. Zoning stuff.”
To Tammy, Makayla said, “As you likely know, Isaac is active in all kinds of civic organizations, and on the board of I don’t even know how many non-profits, and all that sort of thing.”
“I do know that, yes,” said Tammy. By then her brain had pretty much stopped functioning—a fact about which her mouth had somehow not yet been alerted. “Way to go, Isaac!” she said.
If he found her comment anywhere near as pathetic as Tammy knew it to be, he didn’t show it, beyond, perhaps, just the slightest look of confusion. “Thanks,” he said. “So, what have you two been talking about?”
“Nothing!” said Tammy. “Whaddaya mean?” She quickly wondered where she might be able to buy for herself one of those muzzles they put over Hannibal Lector’s face. She needed two of those, at least.
“It was just girl talk,” said Makayla.
“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Tammy, like a robot blowing fuses. “That’s right! Just girl talk!” It was then that she noticed Makayla looking at her like maybe she’d just sprouted two furry little horns out of the top of her head.
“You okay?” Makayla asked her.
Tammy found herself looking at Makayla with an expression which she then felt revealed a little too clearly the reason for which she knew that Makayla knew the answer to that question. When Makayla registered the look in Tammy’s eyes, her posture buckled just a bit, and she reached out across the table to place her hand atop Tammy’s.
For a silent moment Tammy sat looking at the beautiful brown hand, so soft and warm, resting atop her hand, which, at that moment, looked to her like a decades-old Kaiser roll. Then she snapped out of it.
“I’m fine,” said Tammy. She got up from the table. “Sorry I’m being weird. I just have some stuff on my mind, is all. It’s this painting I’m doing.”
“If you haven’t done so yet, Isaac, you have got to see Tammy’s latest work. It’s truly amazing. Her stuff’s gonna end up in a museum one day.”
“Only if they’re using it for a door stop,” said Tammy.
“Stop,” said Makayla gently.
“No, you stop!” said Tammy, with an intensity level that came in somewhere between Overly Caffeinated and Someone Call the Police. She tried to use laughter to pop the giant balloon of awkwardness she’d suddenly floated in the air—and then went right into, “Well, I have to go. The colors call!” Maybe she’d come across a gun on the pathway back to the building that she could use to kill herself. Waving her hand like she was trying to wrangle back her whole arm from its decision to wrench itself from her body and run off to find a life of its own, she more or less yelled, “See you two soon!”
She spun around, and started walking as rapidly as she could back to the building.
She felt their eyes burning into her from behind. She kept walking, too fast, one step after the other. It would be miracle, she felt, if she didn’t trip on the gravel, and go sprawling onto the ground, her big old butt suddenly blocking out half the sky.
That’d be a funny sight to see.
They would try not to laugh at her. But they wouldn’t be able to help themselves. Because if she was anything at all, she knew, it was a clown.