The blathering idiot didn’t have an answer when she asked him a week ago, and he didn’t have an answer now.
It had always been the woman who fell out of love with him or maybe had gotten fed up with him, had her fill, and walked away, saying she had fallen out of love with him.
He did wonder now if Xenia asking was because she had heard something Zoey, Xenia’s mother. Had said.
Was Zoey falling out of love with him?
If so, what was he supposed to do? In the past – though there were not many of them, there were a few – the woman had announced it after the fall had taken place, saying things like: “It’s not you, it’s me.” Or, “I think we should spend some time apart.” This type of announcement usually came after they had already been apart a month.
In other words, the fall had already taken place and his heart’s shins were the ones getting barked.
“I hear that when you fall in love, that can hurt too,” Xenia said. “Has that happened to you?”
They were sitting in an ice cream parlor, the leaves already falling, but the temperature staying up. At least it felt that way to him. She had come back to the subject she had started talking about last week, just before he took her back to Zoey. He liked spending time with Xenia. She usually didn’t judge him, or at least didn’t judge him too harshly.
He had to think about that, too. Had he fallen in love with Zoey or had they just sort of got along well enough to stay in each other’s company – at least some of the time?
The blathering idiot felt a sudden desire – a pang really – to call Zoey and say with as much force as he could muster, “I love you!” Blurt it out even before she said hello.
Yes, that’s what he would do. He wouldn’t think about it anymore: he’d just do it.
He’d just do it: right now. In person!
He bolted up from the chair, knocking it over. “Come on.”
Xenia had not finished her sundae. She brought a spoon full of sundae up to her mouth, and said in a muffled voice: “Where?”
“You’ll see,” he said.
They walked west and as they got closer to the house Xenia lived in, she said, “It’s too early to take me home. Mom’s still studying.”
“This will only take a minute.”
“No,” Xenia said. “You don’t understand. Mom’s studying.”
The blathering idiot stopped outside the gate at the end of the sidewalk that led up to Zoey’s house.
He paused and looked at Xenia. She was frowning and he thought he saw some sweat on her forehead.
“Is she … ah … studying with somebody?”
“Then what exactly?”
Zoey looked away for a moment, then looked back at the blathering idiot.
“She … ah … told me not to tell you this.” Xenia shifted from one foot to the other. “But she’s sleeping.”
“But you were asking me about falling in love and falling out of love.”
“Oh, that. That’s ’cause I sleep in a bunk bed and I keep falling out and hurting myself. I told Mom it’s because I keep having bad dreams. Mom says she can’t wait until I’m old enough to fall in love. Then, she says, I’ll really have bad dreams and hurt myself.”