"Holy Shit, Jenna!" Ellie climbed out of the rover, trying to lower her now-elevated pulse, "Why do you always insist on sneakin' up on me like that?"
"You would've known I'd be here if you'd ever check your damn phone!"
Ellie put her hand on her hip and faced Jenna, "I got called into work this morning."
"Clearly," Jenna motioned toward Ellie's uniform, "I figured that much out."
"Jenna, you know there is such a thing as voicemail? Texting? You know, what NORMAL people do when they can't reach someone?"
Jenna gave her a teasing grimace and stuck out her tongue as if they were third graders. Ellie fiddled with the lock on the front door and they made their way inside. Fozz, her adopted companion, was already there to greet them.
"Down, boy!" She gave him a gentle push back and motioned Jenna into the kitchen. She sat down her bag and keys on the counter and turned back to the woman with wine in hand. “You can put that in the fridge to cool, if you want. I need to grab a bath anyways. I've not had a chance to."
Jenna snorted, "You would have if you didn't sleep in until noon every day."
"Eleven, actually," Ellie mumbled to herself, as she made her way to the washroom.
After a quick, much needed bathing, Ellie returned to the living room in her most comfy pajamas. Jenna had turned on the television to entertain herself.
"Already? Seriously?" Jenna eyed her new apparel, "It's not even six o'clock yet!"
Ellie shrugged, "Hey, don't judge me! It's not like I have any big plans anyway! Now, how about that wine?"
They sat back and relaxed on the living room sofa. There was some chick-flick playing in the background of their conversation. They talked about their usual family drama, about their latest dating fiascoes, and about the newest episodes of their favorite TV shows. The wine they were drinking was a tasty, soft red.
It was treating Ellie well. She felt her muscles relaxing with each glass and felt her cheeks growing warmer. She was just about to ask Jenna about her son's new band when Jenna asked, "Have you heard from Ross in a while?"
Ellie was taken aback. She hadn't talked about Ross since she broke down in front of Jenna when they split. Ellie never minded talking about her past relationships; it was usual girl-talk for the two. But for some reason, hearing his name made her stomach drop. "No... I- I haven't really, I guess. Why?"
Jenna made an expression as if she knew something that Ellie did not; a slight blush appeared in her cheeks. "Well... he's back in town. I saw him at the grocery store last night. I just thought you should know."
Ellie bit her lip and asked, "Was he, uh, with anyone?"
Jenna turned a deeper red before answering. "Yes. But trust me, El, she's---"
"That's okay, Jen. I don't really want to talk about him anymore, if that’s okay," Ellie shook her head and tried to appear unaffected. Jenna looked as if she were going to try and console her. Before she had time to say anything else, Ellie redirected the conversation. "So! How about the new band?"
Jenna rolled her eyes and gave a heavy sigh, before she could respond, she was interrupted by the sound of slamming car doors outside. Ellie muted the TV. "What was that?"
Jenna looked around toward the door. "I dunno.”
Ellie got up and walked to the front door and peaked out. There it was. A big moving van parked across the street in front of the old Walsh house. It had been vacant for a couple of years now, ever since the former occupants upgraded to a nicer house down on Strawberry Lane. The old neighbors were nice, but unusual people. Ellie concluded that they had finally found a buyer. It was too dark to make out the faces or the appearance of the strangers. Ellie quietly shut the door, once more.
"Looks like we're getting new neighbors," she told Jenna who was helping herself to another glass of wine.
"This late at night? Strange. I wonder who they are or if they have a daughter? Tobias really needs a girlfriend! I get tired of him stealing my laptop and locking me out of the bathroom all the time!"
Ellie laughed, "Gotta love puberty."
It was nearly one in the morning before Jenna bid Ellie goodnight and let herself out. Ellie checked to make sure the doors were locked up before curling up on the couch with Fozz. She rubbed behind his ears as he laid on her lap. She had always loved animals and always checked the paper for ads about the rescues at the local shelter. One morning she woke up and saw his adorable face peering out at her from an ad. She called the shelter and had him delivered to her the very next day.
It was love at first sight. He was a wonderful companion. Smart, playful, but calm for the most part. He had to be at least a few years old. He had been abandoned and left at the shelter door with no explanation. She never understood how people did that to innocent creatures. It made her angry and sick with melancholy.
Fozz had fallen asleep in Ellie's lap and she was starting to nod off herself, when she heard the sound of slamming doors again. She left the couch without disturbing Fozz too much, and looked out her living room window. It seemed as if the people were closing up the van and calling it a night. She saw two figures walk through the front door. She pulled her curtains back down and decided it was time for her to call it a night as well.
She took the empty wine bottle and glasses to the kitchen and placed them in the sink. She'd straighten up the place tomorrow. She walked back into the living room to find Fozz still sleeping on the couch.
"Come on, Fozz. Bed." He stretched his paws out before jumping down and following Ellie to the bedroom.
Her mind wondered to Ross as she was brushing her hair before bed. She immediately felt upset with herself for dwelling on him. Why did Jenna have to bring him up now? Why did he have to be back now? Why did it bother her so much? Ross was once a man that she actually pictured herself being with for a lifetime. It was a rare thing.
It was his eyes that first caught her attention, a piercing bright blue. He had perfect teeth that seemed to gleam and sparkle every time he spoke. And it wasn’t just his appearance, although it was captivating; he had always been so humorous. He would have Ellie breathless from laughter. They enjoyed each other’s taste in music, movies, TV, books… The two just seemed to have everything in common. She enjoyed his company; even craved it! He just made her feel better, important, and special. He had never seemed to push her to do anything she didn’t want to do. He never made her feel like a failure the way her family did...
They were in the same dorm hall her first year at the college. They were both undecided majors and took the same schedule for their general classes. He was polite, charming, and he too, came from a family of money. His parent’s owned the art gallery in downtown Pleasantview. They pulled in a fortune through art shows, auctions, and benefits they held there. They were very wealthy and well known to the town.
Even Doris approved of him, which was rare. He was perfect...until he decided to leave town to pursue a more prestigious school. He seemed to leave without a trace--didn't call, didn't stop by—never even hinted at his plans. He only had left a simple note in her mailbox while she was at work.
And that was it.
No closure, no nothing. Just abandoned.
She would have supported him. She would've even relocated herself. But he didn’t care enough about the relationship to even consider it, apparently. Maybe she wasn't good enough for him? She was a dropout and a waitress who was scraping to get by. Maybe it was her 'lack of ambition' that pushed him away. And this made her despise her mother and sister even more...
She shrugged off the unpleasant thoughts about the past and tried to distract herself. She let her mind move to ponder the new neighbors across the road as she got into bed with Fozz snuggling up to her.
She was curious to know what kind of people they would be. Did they have kids? Pets? Were they around her age?
"Maybe I'll go and introduce myself and bring a gift -- a cake? Cookies? Wine? Flowers....?" These were the last thoughts that entered Ellie's mind before she fell asleep.