Something in the Way(9)

By: Jessica Hawkins



“You might not be able to hear it, but my stomach’s grumbling,” Manning said.

Tiffany giggled.

“Almost done.” I took a jar of pickles from the fridge, gripped the lid, and twisted. Nothing happened. I flexed my hand and tried again, putting more muscle behind it. The top didn’t budge.

“So no girlfriend and no family. Why Orange County? When did you move here?”

Manning took the jar from me, popped it open, and handed it back. “When I turned eighteen. I like the weather.”

“I loosened it for you,” I said as I concentrated on selecting the best pickle in the jar.

“I know,” he said.

“What do you like to do for fun?” Tiffany asked.

“What d’you mean?” Manning cracked his neck, his eyes conspicuously on the sandwich, as if it might grow legs and make a run for it.

“You’re annoying him,” I said to Tiffany.

“I’m annoying him?” she shot back. “What do you know about anything, Lake?”

I ignored her. For some reason, making Manning’s food had made me brave. Invincible. I had something he wanted. Once I was happy with the placement and position of everything on the plate, I slid it across the counter.

Manning grabbed the sandwich and dug in.

I watched, rapt, as he finished half in four bites.

After swallowing, he took one long swig of soda, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. He must’ve downed half of it. “This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had.”

The way I grinned, I probably looked like an idiot, but I didn’t even care.

“I told you she makes a good sandwich.” Tiffany leaned over and bumped her shoulder against Manning’s. “Didn’t I tell you?”

Manning nodded and wiped his mouth on his shoulder sleeve. I handed him a paper towel.

“Are you in college?” Tiffany asked.

I couldn’t believe she was so brazen—touching him like he belonged to her. Asking him personal questions. I’d put up with my sister for sixteen years, but suddenly I found her unbearably obnoxious. “Are you?” I asked.

“Shut up, Lake. Why don’t you go play with your dolls?”

My face heated. Manning looked between both of us as he chewed.

“I don’t play with dolls,” I told him.

“You have stuffed animals on your bed,” Tiffany said. “You’re like a five-year-old—”

“No, I’m not,” I said in a panic. I didn’t need Manning thinking I was any more childish than he probably already did. “Mom put those there. I don’t even like them.”

“Just go away already,” Tiffany said.

Manning chewed his food calmly, but when he spoke, his words were sharp, delivered in a level, deep voice that left no room for argument. “I told you before, don’t talk to your sister like that.”

We both shut our mouths, but Tiffany glared at me. I felt it, even when I looked away.

“You must not have siblings,” Tiffany said airily, glancing sideways at him. “We fight like that all the time. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“He has a sister,” I said, excited to be in possession of information Tiffany wasn’t.

“Is she in L.A.?” Tiffany asked, giving me her shoulder to face Manning.

“No.” He wiped his mouth with the paper towel and finished off his soda. His plate was empty. “I should get back to work.”

My heart dropped into my stomach. It was over already? I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. “Do you want another sandwich?”

He stood and rubbed his stomach. “I don’t want to say no, but no. Thanks, though.”

“Okay.” I shifted on my feet. “Need some help out there?”

He raised his brows at me. Again, I noticed the flecks in his eyes, as if they were sparkling. “What are you gonna do?” he teased. “You can’t even lift most of the tools out there, forget the materials.”

I basked in the glow of his rare playfulness.

Tiffany followed as he left the kitchen. I went to a window at the front of the house. Manning stood at the end of the drive with her. I willed him to acknowledge me. I was greedy. I’d spent a lot of time with him today, but I wanted more.

He didn’t look up, though. Instead, he said something to Tiffany.

Whatever it was, it made her smile.





3





Lake





Just because my dad wasn’t necessarily a large man didn’t mean he wasn’t scary. Chief operating officer at a pharmaceutical company, he was second-in-command at work and had final say on all things concerning the Kaplan family here at home.

That worked okay for my mom and me. Mom knew how to manage his temperaments, sometimes with just a simple word or gesture. She said he had a sense of humor that most people didn’t get. And I just did what he said. He was my dad. He knew better than I did.

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