I spent last night in a daze, cuddling with Ava on the couch watching her favorite shows and trying not to think about anything except Dora the Explorer’s terrible haircut and fashion sense. After Ava went to bed, I finished half a bottle of wine, flipped through Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and avoided texts from Steph and Kayla, also letting a call from my mom go to voice mail. They didn’t know anything and I wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible. My father, before my mom left him and he jetted across the world to India to do charity work (wish I could have done that after Phil ditched me) used to tease me about my pride. My mom and I both suffer from it, never admitting our faults, never asking for help.
But now in the cold, grey light of day, as I’m able to sleep in for a bit and explain to Ava that her mother will be home with her for the next while, I know I have to face the music. I need to get my life on track as best I can. If I can do it without anyone’s help or anyone feeling sorry for me, then all the better.
I spend the morning going through Craigslist and a bunch of other job sites before the anxiety becomes too much and I take Ava to a playground in Little Saigon. After, we get Pho and I keep checking my phone, hoping to hear back about something already. It’s maddening applying for jobs. Each time I read a job description that I fall in love with, I become obsessed with it. All my hopes go riding on it as if the job will make my life a million times better, as if I even have a chance. Not being able to put Rusk on my résumé really put my career a step back, too.
After the fifth text gets ignored, Steph finally calls me just as I’m putting Ava down for a nap. I close the door to the room, take in a deep breath and answer the phone.
“Hey,” I say brightly. “You never call.”
“Because you usually answer your texts,” she says quickly. “Where have you been?”
“Here,” I tell her.
“Like in California, or somewhere more specific?”
“Are you okay?”
This is why I didn’t want to talk to Steph. She usually has a sixth sense about things.
“Mmmm.” A non-committal answer is best.
“You’re still coming out tonight, right?”
“Nicola!” she says. “I haven’t seen you for weeks.”
That’s true, though that’s more on her end. She’s been super busy with her new online business. She used to run her store, Fog and Cloth, in a bricks and mortar location but went online to go with the times. But, as it was for the company I used to work for, it hasn’t been easy. It’s very competitive and she’s a two-woman show so far, having only one person working for her in the warehouse. I rarely see her, especially coming into the summer season.
“Look,” I say, pushing my hair behind my ears and eyeing the bottle of wine on the kitchen counter. I’d give my left boob to have a glass right now but I wouldn’t dare with Ava under my care. “Something’s come up and I don’t have Lisa to sit right now.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But I want to know.”
I roll my eyes. “Well, you always want to know.” I take in a deep breath. “Okay, promise not to make a big deal about it?”
“Actually promise you won’t talk about it? At all.”