The Whole Truth about Half-Dates
by Sherry Morris
Our smiles and eyes are far too wide as we lie and call this a girly spa weekend. Detox skirts a touchy truth—my sister needs real rehab. I sip some celery-chard-spinach caulk that’s supposed to cleanse my insides. It makes me silent-gag. I crave a Dirty Martini. Regret I promised Mom I’d be supportive and teetotal too.
It’s hot. We’re poolside in parasol shade, pretending everything’s cool, pretending nothing uncomfortable shimmers between us. Laura clutches what she calls her bible. Says she’s making progress, has almost finished Step Four. I nod like I know exactly what that means. Her lips move as she reads or maybe prays. She marks her place with a yellow ribbon. Tucks the book away. Tells me she’s going on a half-date next week.
‘What’s that?’ I ask. There’s a funny taste in my mouth that’s unrelated to this gawd-awful shake.
Laura’s eyes dart and dive. She hides skittish hands between her thighs—her trademark sign she’s trying not to lie.
Her words gush fast, then slow.
“It’s when you have dinner with a guy. Go to a movie. Or a show. As friends. Even though . . . you know . . . there’s history.”
“How much history?” I ask, calm as I can. Glad sunglasses hide my eyes.
“It’s a half-date,” she repeats, her voice far away. “What’s past is past.”
Steve’s a chronic disease. Their latest break-up too recent to call past. Memories of previous fallouts flash: Laura high on crystal meth, throwing furniture from their second-floor apartment; a Xanax zombie rocking at our parent’s place. She’s agreed not to live with him but struggles to live without him. This half-date plan sounds half-baked.
“Friends,” I spit. “As if.”
“I’ve got a puppy,” she says, switching subjects. “Mom’s agreed.”
Apparently, a dog creates routine, gives focus, keeps her on the wagon, off the drink-drug rollercoaster, and all those other clichés I wonder if she, herself, even half-believes. It’s a lot of responsibility for a four-month-old labradoodle.
“Chuckles is my salvation,” she says.
“Christ,” I mutter.
“He’s stolen my heart.”
“I hope he buries it far from Steve.”
That’s cold, but I’m the one that found her on the floor, unconscious, choking on vodka vomit.
“Mom says I get to keep Chuckles by sticking to the rules.”
“Which are?” I ask, wondering if Mom even knows.
“I can’t get back with Steve.” She swallows like she’s sipping a shitty shake too.
“We’ve moved to a friendship phase—”
Fully fed up, I interrupt. “What does Steve think this is?” I say.
She pauses. Looks away.
“Puppy Power is strong,” she whimpers. Her eyes ricochet.
I sigh. Nothing’s half as strong as the lies we tell ourselves.
It’s up to me to take the next step.
I stand. Dump the shake into the trash, unwilling to swallow any more crap.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Missouri, Sherry Morris (@Uksherka) writes prize-winning fiction from a farm in the Scottish Highlands where she pets cows, watches clouds, and dabbles in photography. She participated in the BBC Scottish Voices writer program and is supposed to be finishing a script. Her first published story was about her Peace Corps experience in Ukraine. She reads for the wonderfully wacky "Taco Bell Quarterly."
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