“Shall I return the call?’
“Yes,” Billy says. “She can’t grab you over the phone. Do it.”
He’s wrong, of course. Billy is seldom wrong—smug, happy, content—that’s Billy—but seldom wrong—except about this, about my sister, about Monica.
Even though he’s seen her in action, he is not afraid. I don’t get it.
“She called you,” he says, encouraging me one more time before he goes out to get on the ladder to clean the gutters. It’s fall, the most beautiful autumn we’ve had in years—the oaks and maples exploded into color at almost the same moment, and the little sumac at the corner of our yard is redder than a witch’s lips. Now the orange and yellow leaves have crowded together in our gutters where Billy will scrape them out before a rain turns them into a reeking clump of mold. He’ll throw them on the grass, rake them into piles with all the other reds and golds, pack them into compostable bags, and line the bags up on the curb for the trash guys. Probably whistling the whole time.
I hardly understand my Billy. I told him that once and he said, that’s why you love me so—took it as a compliment, not the faint criticism I’m ashamed to say was my intent. And he was right. I do love him because he is happy when he doesn’t need to be and even shouldn’t be. Cheerful. Whistling. Like now. And, as I said before, he’s seldom wrong.
He could be wrong about calling Monica. What does she want of me? She already grabbed me with her two-word message: Call me, she said in the imperious voice I know so well. Call me.
In my mouth those words would be subservient, begging, pitiful. In Monica’s, they are an order.
I wait until he goes outside, then I pick up the phone, have it in my hand, look at it, almost ready to do it, but I can hardly breathe.
I call her. The phone is ringing, and it’ll be okay. Billy said so, and he is always right.
© 2012 Kathleen Coskran