Beth remembered again as she walked out to the bus stop. She kept trying to distract herself with busyness but it always came to mind in the lulls, the times when she wasn’t really doing anything: sitting on the bus, before falling asleep, while brushing teeth.
It was cold and wet. The snow from earlier in the day had turned to rain, and she took care to stand far back from the curb, protecting herself from the careless drivers who would unknowingly splash her as they drove by. As she stood in the dark she noticed the puddle in front of her. At first she thought it was just a really deep puddle, because of the way the ripples from the falling raindrops behaved curiously, disappearing into the inky depths before their time. But then she realized that the depth of the puddle shouldn’t change the way that the ripples behaved. Glad of a puzzle to take her mind away from what she had been thinking about, she continued to stare at the way the drops were almost being sucked right into the puddle, like maybe it wasn’t even made of water. She stepped closer to the puddle to allow a woman to pass her on the sidewalk, taking the opportunity to get a better look. She was glad of a reason to avoid eye contact with the woman. It was awkward to meet eyes with strangers as they passed. Instead, she stared deeper into the puddle, and it seemed to grab a memory.
They were sitting at Starbucks. She had just told him her news. The magazine that she had been doing some freelance writing for recently wanted to hire her. It wasn’t quite her dream job, but it was definitely getting close, a lot closer than the job she had here at Starbucks which she just did so she could have time to write. She had been waiting all day to tell him, and when he had finally shown up it had all bubbled out of her, she couldn’t stop smiling as she told him, and her excitement made him smile too. But he didn’t say anything right away, and when he did, he asked the question that she didn’t want to deal with, not just yet.
“But, does this mean that you’ll have to move there?”
“I didn’t really want to get into this right away, but, well, I thought that maybe you could come too.”
“I know it is a lot to think about right now, but it kind of makes sense for you too, I mean, teaching is something you can do anywhere, and you’ll be closer to your family.”
He laughed nervously “I’m not sure that’s actually something that I want.”
She could usually deal with silences without getting uncomfortable, but not this time.
“To be close to your family you mean?”
“You don’t really want to be close to your parents, or you don’t really want to move with me?”
“I…Beth, I don’t really want to talk about this right now. Sorry.”
She forgot to stand far enough back from the curb, and she got some drive-by spray. Normally she would care more, but right now all she could pay attention to was the way the ripples from the car that drove by hardly upset the water in the puddle. It was almost like it was made of molasses. She wanted to touch it to find out, but as she bent down, another memory came to her mind, again as if drawn out by the stickiness of the puddle.
Beth and Susan were already mostly done the bottle of wine. Beth was trying to convince Susan that she and Ben were ok, but she wasn’t really liking where Susan was taking the conversation.
“He said he would think about it, I think he might say yes”
“Beth, honey, I think that maybe he’s just stalling.”
“I don’t know, maybe he just needs time to warm up to the idea.”
“How long were you two talking about moving in together before this?”
“Um, maybe, about six months?”
“Don’t you think he’s had enough time to warm up to the idea?”
Beth was unconvinced. She knew he would come around. He had to, Susan was right, they had been talking about moving in together for months already, but he probably just hasn’t had quite enough time yet. Some people have a really hard time with change, and they take longer to come to terms with it. She let Susan out and finished up the bottle before going to bed.
The next morning, she got up, called the magazine and told them she needed a bit more time to get her things together here. They gave her an extra month.
That was two weeks ago. In that time, she has been calling some local magazines, and some newspapers, but none of them have any openings, except one. Beth was now on her way to an interview for that job, but she was unaware that the bus was late. She was just so fascinated by this puddle.
He had made her dinner. That was a good sign, right? A great sign, she thought. She imagined all the dinners they would share in their new place once they moved. Or even in his place if she moved in here…which she was becoming more and more willing to do. They ate in silence for a while. Finally, he took something out of his pocket and held it in his hand for a while. Beth’s heart stopped. He then placed a key on the table and slid it over to her. She exhaled heavily.
“The key to my place.”
“You want me to move in with you?” She wasn’t actually as happy about this as she thought she would be.
“No, well, maybe someday, but for now, I thought you could just have the key, so you could come over whenever you wanted.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s great, thanks.”
She put the key in her purse and saw the note about her interview tomorrow. Her heart sank thinking about it. It was for a job copyediting at the local newspaper. She had copyedited before getting the job at Starbucks. She was good at it, but she didn’t love it. And a full time job would mean that she wouldn’t have as much time to write anymore. But he had just given her the key to his place.
“Will you stay here tonight?” he asked.
She hesitated. “Actually, I really think I should go home tonight. I have an interview tomorrow.”
“That’s great! I’m sure you’ll get it. Won’t it be great to not have to pour coffee for grumpy people every morning?”
“Yeah, except now I’m going to be the grumpy person getting coffee poured for her.”
He laughed a lot at that. She hadn’t actually meant it as a joke, but she smiled anyways. It was good to see him laughing for a change. She changed the subject.
“Ben, this stir-fry is delicious, can I get the recipe?”
“Oh, we wouldn’t want you to be able to make it without me, now would we?”
She is jolted out of her memory by the felt presence of another person. It is the same woman that passed her before, passing back on her way home from wherever she was. “Still waiting honey?” She asked. Beth smiled and nodded as the woman passed. Strangely, she walked right through the puddle, instead of walking behind Beth and keeping her feet dry. As her feet moved through the puddle, Beth noticed the water moving more like normal water. She looked at her watch and realized she had been waiting for over half an hour. She decided the bus probably wasn’t coming and turned back to walk the two blocks back to her apartment.