june 2020 / san sebastián, spain
what’s the record for the longest someone’s gone without speaking to their entire family ?
she might be a contender for the title. she went from summer to summer with zero contact, and if she weren’t feeling guilty, she’d be impressed with herself. it helped that the adjustment period of training to be a spy ate up all her time, and she would genuinely forget to respond at times — but during the lonelier evenings are when she found it took a little self-restraint not to call home. why she thought she couldn’t do that, she’ll never know.
but now that she’s got no excuse: voicemails are still a thing, right ? either way, she isn’t about to make an actual phone call, and an email’s far too serious for what she wants to say. it’ll be nice for her to really speak, anyway, go on a stream of consciousness kind of thing. she also figures parker might miss hearing her voice ( as much as she misses talking to him ) and it’s the closest she’ll get to being — close.
“ hey, parker. ” she taps, taps, and taps the back of her phone with her forefinger while she struggles to ease into her medley of thoughts. she’s not a pacer, but suddenly she’s roaming around the room as quietly as she can, waiting for the words to come. she should’ve gone to bed two hours ago. it’s hard to think clearly when all you’ve drunk that day are palomas, even when you buffer each new glass with water.
“ i’m sorry i didn’t come home for the holidays, or this summer. i got a little caught up with school — you understand. but i am sorry for dropping off the radar, still. ” and ignoring your texts. calls. emails. ignoring you. “ it’s been quite the semester. i feel like what i needed the most was to go somewhere quiet and recharge. ” that’s why she’s holed up in their san sebastián villa. the scenery’s nice, she has good company ( sound asleep, and even then, adores her completely ), and it’s serene, the way she likes it — but it’s still so lonely. should she tell him that ? she chose this, didn’t she ? she shouldn’t.
“ but i’ve been well, on the whole. gallagher’s not so different from yale, funnily enough, ” she manages to smile when she says that. it’s a bit of a joke, obviously, and she hopes that parker can feel her smile through whatever fuzzy lines connect her voice to his phone. “ i’ve been learning a lot of hand-to-hand combat, which is supposed to be useful. it’s fun for me, oddly enough. but you already knew i liked kicking ass in controlled environments. ”
what else can she say ? she isn’t about to go into an oration about her school year. not this late at night. why’s she calling at this hour, anyway ? why’s she doing this in the first place ?
“ i’m in san sebastián now, but i’ll be in bali next week with luc. then after that, berlin for an internship. i might visit oma and opa while i’m there, too. i haven’t seen them in a while. ”
“ — i haven’t told you about luc. i know i should. maybe not now, not in length, but… he’s kind of my best friend ? i haven’t had one of those since, well, you. but you’d like him, though. we’re a lot alike. ” she pauses, licking her lips. “ he takes care of me. i thought you might want to know that. he takes care of me. ”
not enough, that insidious part of her brain says. i’ve been drinking a lot. i’ve been drinking every day. i’ve been getting good at hiding it. parker, i think i have —
BUZZ ! — ASHER WEST SENT YOU A PHOTO
she looks down at her phone and swipes the notification away, but it does remind her that maybe things aren’t so bad where she is, after all. “ i’ve met a lot of great people here, actually, ” she starts again, phone pressed against her ear, “ jerome, carmen, jo, lohri, and this guy, asher — ”
BUZZ ! — ALEXMUELLER SENT YOU A TEXT
things aren’t bad for her, where she is right now. but she does tend to make it worse for herself, apropos of nothing. but she’s got it under control, doesn’t she ? she always does. and even if she doesn’t, it’s summertime, and she’s earned the right to be… like this. she thinks.
she’s scratching the back of her neck, nervously licking her lips when she goes, “ i just realized, it’s late. it’s midnight here. say hi to gigi for me. she’s probably elated that i didn’t come home, but i still feel the need to check up on the brat, you know ? she’ll probably say something passive-aggressive when she finds out i called you, and not the both of you. ”
“ anyway. i promise i’ll give you a proper call before the summer ends. i probably should’ve done this in the morning, but — vacation brain, i suppose. ” don’t just end it like that, maxine. “ i really need to sleep now, though. i miss you. the both of you. and i love you. ”
that went well.
setting her phone on her nightstand, she curls up beside lucas, and he instinctively wraps his arms around her, half-asleep and mumbling what’s wrong, to which she half-responds with nothing. she’s feeling lighter now — or is it emptier ? when she closes her eyes, she thinks about home and how it feels, convincing herself she hasn’t forgotten.