Chapter no 55

If He Had Been with Me

“So, did you hear about Thanksgiving?” Finny says. He’s lining up his pool cue with the white ball. He shoots and breaks the triangle in the center of the table. Balls roll in every direction. One falls into the left pocket.

“Does that one count?” I say. Finny shrugs and motions for me to shoot. “We might as well count it since you’re going to win anyway.”

“You don’t know that,” he says.

“Yeah, I do.” I lean over and try to position myself the way he did. “Don’t hold it so high in the back,” he says. “Don’t hunch either.” I

shoot anyway and hit the ball on the side. It bounces off the rim and hits the floor. Finny grabs it and places it back on the table. He opens his mouth to explain to me what I did wrong.

“What were you saying about Thanksgiving?” I say. He looks down and begins to line up for his next shot.

“My father wants me to come over to his place and meet his wife and daughter.” He shoots and the white ball hits the one I think he was aiming for, but it doesn’t go in the hole.

“You have a sister?” I say. My chest feels hot and my stomach sinks. Finny shrugs, and anyone else would think that he could care less. I know he cares. And it’s another connection to rival mine. First Sylvie and now this sister.

“What’s her name?” “Elizabeth.”

“How old is she?”

“She’s four,” he says. I relax a little bit.

“How long have you known about her? Why didn’t you tell me?” He looks up at me again. We’re standing across from each other, on different sides of the table, pool sticks in hand. Around us, other conversations buzz, and balls clack against each other. I know why he didn’t tell me, because we were hardly speaking to each other when she was born. He doesn’t bother reminding me though.

“Your turn,” he says.

“So, you won’t be with us on Thanksgiving?” I say. I shoot and the white ball hits the orange number six, which clacks uselessly against the wall and rolls to a stop.

“No, I will,” he says. “I’m supposed to come over later in the evening, for cocktails and leftovers.”

“Oh,” I say. He shoots, and another ball rolls into the pocket. “You look relieved,” he says. He smiles.

“Would you want to be alone with them all day?” Finny shrugs. I lean over and try to aim.

“Stop,” he says. “I can’t take it.” “What?”

He doesn’t answer, but walks around the table and stands behind me. He lays his hands over mine. They are dry and warm. His hip presses against mine.

“Like this,” he says. He adjusts my hands. I close my eyes. We are still.

His hands press against mine. I take a breath. I hear the clack of the balls.

“Oops,” Finny says. I open my eyes. The ball we were aiming for bounces off the side and rolls slowly to a stop. We straighten and step away from each other.

“I guess I’m too big of a screw-up even for you to fix,” I say. He doesn’t answer me or move to take his aim. “Finny?” I say. He blinks.

“That wasn’t your fault,” he says. “It was mine.” He hands me the cue again.

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