The name that appeared on Kyle’s phone didn’t belong to someone he wanted to talk to. So he ignored the call, and the ghastly tone that alerted him to a new voice mail. All simple enough.
His phone rang again twenty minutes later. Then, fifteen minutes after that, and ten minutes after that, and five after—
“Hi, Michelle,” he grumbled.
“Hi-hi,” she bubbled back. Michelle always bubbled. It drove Kyle crazy. “Howya doin’?”
“I’m great. What’s up?” No extraneous words, no extraneous emotion.
“Oh, nothing. Just wanted to chat.”
Kyle hadn’t expected that, but when the words came out he knew he should have. It was just the kind of thing that Michelle would do. Most people in her situation would have only redialed so insistently if, say, Lisa had been in a horrible accident, or needed a blood transfusion, or maybe if she wanted to create some convoluted scenario in which they’d get back together. That last one, incidentally, dwelled far beyond the realm of fantasy. Lisa only made decisions after thorough consideration so she had no need to ever change her mind, and she had decided to dump him.
“Oh,” Kyle said.
“So I was at the mall today and I saw—“
“I don’t actually want to talk to you, Michelle,” Kyle interjected through her yammering. “I mean, not because of anything you did. Just that, you know, I’m not with your sister anymore so… There’s kind of a break, okay?”
Michelle giggled, high-pitched and delicate. “No there isn’t. I maintain really good relationships with all of Lisa’s ex-boyfriends.”
“You maybe shouldn’t, kid.”
“Well, I can’t have any boyfriends of my own yet, so I have to live vi-… vih-… what’s the word?”
“Yeah, vicariously.” Michelle continued with the exuberance of someone even younger than she. “See, you knew exactly what I was thinking. It’s like we’re soul-mates, but for in-laws. What’s the word for that?”
“I hope there isn’t one, Michelle. We’re not soul-mates, or in-laws, and we never were.”
“You’re just saying that because you never got married, but everyone thought you should have, so—“
In that moment, Kyle realized that if he had to suffer the indignity of being dumped, he might as well take some benefit from it. He pulled the phone away from his ear.
In the muffled distance to the end of his arm, Lisa’s wails of “Kyle? Kyle?” grew more frantic.
He stretched his other arm, and with a ceremoniously deliberate pace extended his pointer to the hang-up button.
Naturally, Kyle broke down twenty minutes later, frantically calling Lisa to apologize and beg her not to tell Michelle any of what happened and maybe casually hint what an amazing person he was and that she could do a lot worse and all that, but for the first eight minutes or so of radio silence he felt absolutely righteous.
No commentary on this one, except to say that I have no specific plans for this one, but it could wind up lots of places.