“It’s been ages since I’ve been in this library,” Jay said, leaning back in his chair until the front two legs were levitating perilously in the air.
“This library or a library?” I quipped.
I pulled my gaze away from my computer screen at Jay’s admission. Willow Creek Public Library was an old Victorian building the town had renovated when I was a teenager. The computers worked but were beginning to show their age and the silence that permeated the space was only briefly interrupted by the clicking of keys and the rustle of turning pages.
“Well, this place never was your scene.”
“No, but we had some good times in here.” Jay planted his chair firmly back on the carpet, the muted bang earning him a dirty look from a nearby patron. I wondered if that man would have given Jay the same look if Jay had been in uniform.
“I know. I’m even having a bout of deja vu, what with me trying to research something and you distracting me.” I said, turning back to my computer screen. A half dozen tabs were open, each researching one thing: Restorative justice. Yet, even with a name for what I desired, Jay wasn’t much help on the subject. He didn’t know of any programs for restorative justice in our state, nor did any of his colleagues, or so he said. It left me to do the majority of the research while Jay hung around for emotional support. If anything, he was a good source to bounce ideas off of.
“I resent that.” He puffed out his chest, indigent, “I’m an integral part of this operation.”
“Oh? How so.”
“I provide transportation, alcohol, and shelter.” He counted each attribute on his fingers, shoving three fingers in my face, “See, integral.”
“Yet, still impractical.”
“I’m telling you-” Jay’s phone interrupted his retort. He frowned, excusing himself, and I watched him until his form was blocked by bookcases before turning my attention to my own phone.
Three days had passed without a word from either of the Levitt siblings. Part of me wanted to reach out to them, apologize, but the stubborn half always erased my message before I hit send. I had been staying at Jay’s house ever since, and he was a gracious host. He even gave up his bed, after much resisting on my end, and taken up on the couch. Sometimes, like in the morning when Jay was getting ready for work, our routine felt strangely natural. Like I was his wife, brewing him coffee, telling him to be safe, wishing him a good day. Other times, at night, when it was just the two of us, the tension was palpable. It was like we didn’t know what to do with ourselves or say to each other, so instead, we would just put on some show until one of us broke down and offered to make drinks.
I put my phone down when Jay returned. He rubbed his face as he sat next to me, “So, Will, you can’t stay over tonight.”
“Don’t want your girlfriend to know about me?” I asked, cracking a wide smile at him. Jay just stared.
“Oh.” I wasn’t sure how to respond, or why Jay hadn’t told his girlfriend about me, but it felt wrong for him to have this secret girlfriend while he was privy to all the on goings in my life, “It’s fine. I can just stay at home… or something.”
“Don’t be mad at me, Will.”
“I’m not mad. I’m…” But I wasn’t even sure what I was. Disappointed? Annoyed? Jealous? I certainly had no right to be.
“Can we-” A loud ‘shhh’ erupted from behind us and Jay lowered his voice, “Can we talk about this? Tomorrow?” I nodded, feeling oddly numb. “Great. Do you want a ride home?” He asked, rising to his feet.
“Wait, you need to go now?”
“I need to be home when she gets there.” He explained.
“I have stuff at your house. Won’t she see it?” The words felt gross as they left my lips despite our platonic relationship.
“No, she won’t be coming inside.”
I furrowed my brows, stopping Jay’s long strides with a gentle touch to his forearm, “Jay, who is she?”
“Her name is Helen, but you wouldn’t know her. Grew up in Newcrest.” He said.
I held his gaze. That wasn’t what I meant and he knew it.
Finally, he ran a hand through his hair, flashing me a nervous smile, “She’s my wife, Will.”