The Ballad of Lisa and Lacey (Part VIII)
(for Part VII click here)
The next day felt different. It was different. There was something in the morning light that was — was — Lacey didn’t know what it was She opened the curtains to find it. She made the bed. She washed dishes. Lisa called from the airport to say goodbye. “I have to run. Call me if you need me. I’ll talk to you at Christmas.” After that, Lacey found two big green garbage bags. She went through her apartment, filled them up with four months of pizza boxes, trash and her miserable summer. She dragged them thumping down the stairs and threw them out. She registered for school, went to the grocery store, bought real food, and for the first time in weeks, showed up for work on time. That was it — time. Time. That was what was different. It sounded funny when Lacey said it out loud, and she wasn’t really sure what it meant, but it was real — like something touchable.
That year, Lacey went home for Thanksgiving and nearly got outnumbered by the parents, but, fortunately, the brothers showed up and turned them into Grandma and Grandpa. Rescued, Lacey relaxed and very soon she realized that “How’s school?” “Are you cooking anything?” and “We worry about you.” weren’t accusations. They were just questions, and there was nothing wrong with being Lucinda Ann, responsible daughter — or Aunt Lucy — or Wayne, Frank and Jerry’s little sister. In the end, they were all just Lacey, and being Lacey was kinda fun. She relinquished her room and slept on the basement sofa. She peeled potatoes, watched football, played video games and stayed away from the stove. She found some high school friends for drinks and listened to their stories, told a lie or two herself and flirted with somebody’s husband. And she found herself enjoying herself — remembering that real life was normal. Yet — and with no regret — she discovered this world was not her world anymore. Her home — her real home — was three flights up and looked into the street, and she lived her own life there.
She took another shift at the coffee shop for the extra money — four evenings a week instead of three — and spend the other nights studying hard, turning into a library rat the rest of the time. There it was again, time. It seemed to telescope — expanding and contracting to fill the space all around Lacey. Sometimes, yesterday was several weeks ago and sometimes last month was yesterday. But in it all — all the time available — the beginning was France and the next stop was Italy.
Lacey didn’t go to her parents’ house at Christmas. She pleaded work and school and even a little illness and promised to come before New Year’s. Instead, she waited for Lisa, hoping she’d come, thinking she would, planning for her visit. But Lisa didn’t come. She sent a set of Versace luggage that arrived on Christmas Eve with a simple Hallmark card that read “Merry Christmas. See you in May. L.” And she telephoned. And for over two hours on the night before Christmas, they were Lisa and Lacey, talking to each other in the dark, surrounded by the night. Then, in the last week of April — which was two weeks later — Lacey packed a suitcase and waited for Lisa.