Debra Fran Baker
No one was supposed to be home. Nicole was spending the weekend with some friends and I knew Joey was out with Adrienne or Anita or whatever her name was, and that was to the good, after my mind-blowing talk with the Judge. I needed time to think and to build up a good layer of denial.
But someone was home. Joey sat at his bicycle table, sipping coffee in the mug I'd gotten him for his last birthday. He looked up at me and smiled. His smile was so bright it hurt to look at - or maybe something else was hurting. What did I know? My world was upside down as it was. "Hey, Michael. You're back early."
"Was something wrong with Anastasia?" I walked into the kitchen to fill the mug *he'd* gotten me for *my* last birthday. Mine was mass-produced. He'd made mine.
He looked away from me. "We...ah...we canceled tonight. We sort of...um. Broke up."
I sat down next to him, while the world spun faster around me. "Are you all right, buddy?"
Joey shrugged. "Yeah. It was...it was mutual."
"Joey. I know you better than that. This is not your 'it was time to move on face.' This is your 'she dumped me' face."
"She didn't *dump* me. No woman *dumps* the Joemeister."
"It's your fault, you know." He grinned over his coffee.
"How is it my fault? I've only met Antonia once." Once was more than enough.
"And you hated her right away."
"I did not hate her." This was a complete lie. There was nothing in this woman to like.
"You did. And you were right. Today, I took a look at her, and thought, 'Is this the woman I want to be my daughter's stepmother?' You know, the stuff you've been throwing at my face from the start? And you were right. So, I broke our date and came back."
"How did she take it?"
"Pretty well. She tossed her beer bottle at me. Her light beer bottle." He laughed. He has a warm...I shied away from that thought.
"Did she hit you?"
"Nah. I ducked." His eyes danced. We sat quietly for a few minutes. "So."
"So, what happened with you tonight?"
"Oh. Tonight. Tonight, I had the funniest, weirdest conversation with the Judge." So funny my stomach was in knots just thinking about it. I put down the coffee cup.
"Oh? What did she talk about?" Joey, on the other hand, could gulp his.
"Us as in you and me and Nicole? Or us as in you and her?"
I took a deep breath. "Us as in you and me. She said...and you are going to find this absolutely hilarious. She said that the reason I didn't like Angela was not because of Nicole. She said it was because of me."
"Of you?" He put the cup down.
"Yeah. She said I was jealous because you were dating *her* instead of dating *me*. Is that not the *funniest* thing you've ever heard?"
"You're not laughing."
He looked straight at me. "Neither are you, Mikey."
"No." I took a deep breath and put my hand on my wheel. "Why aren't we laughing? Why is my entire world spinning around like this?"
He put his own hand next to mine, close enough that if I moved my little finger, I'd be touching it. "Maybe because what's funny is that...maybe I said goodb