Whoops–I totally dropped the ball on this one! Here’s the final part to my story “Twenty-Five Years.” (Here are the links to Part I, Part II, and Part III.) Comments are always appreciated. I hope you enjoy it!
Finally, Lucy’s chatter died away. Lucy flipped through magazines idly and ordered several drinks. Catherine sipped ginger ale. An hour passed.
“We are friends, aren’t we, Katie?” Lucy finally said.
Catherine didn’t look at Lucy. “Are we?”
“Well, I think we should be. My goodness, we both dated Kent, didn’t we?”
Catherine paused. “I suppose so.”
A voice crackled over the speakers. They would be landing in a few minutes. Lucy looked over her face in the mirror of a compact. “It doesn’t really matter which one of us ended up with him, does it?”
Catherine leaned back in her seat. “I suppose it doesn’t. He broke up with me before he ever dated you, anyway.”
Lucy snapped the compact shut. “Well, not exactly.”
Catherine looked at her. “What do you mean, not exactly?”
Lucy waved her hand. “Oh, it was nothing, really. It’s just–”
“Oh, didn’t he ever tell you why he broke up with you?”
“No. He never gave me a single reason. He just said it was over and left.”
Lucy sighed dramatically. “Well, if he didn’t see fit to tell you, I don’t see why I–”
Catherine seized the pink purse on Lucy’s lap and gripped it till her knuckles were white. “What. Happened.”
Lucy snatched her purse away. “It was just supposed to be a one-night thing! We never thought I’d get pregnant!”
Catherine blinked. “Pregnant.”
“Of course, we had to get married.”
“My goodness, Catherine, for a girl who went to college for half a year, you’d think you’d know more words!” Lucy laughed.
Catherine jumped when the wheels of the plane suddenly hit the ground; she’d barely noticed the descent. Lucy was still talking. “You know, it’s really a very regular thing for kids to do these days. I know you and everyone else would think I’m some kind of whore, but goodness, it was prom night, Katie! What else were we supposed to do! You were out of town and he didn’t even have a date. It’s not that big of a deal. Can’t we just…”
Catherine shoved her book back in her bag, Lucy’s words hitting her like knives.
“I mean, I don’t know why it even matters anymore; goodness, it was more than twenty years ago! I don’t see why–”
The seatbelt sign finally clicked off. “Goodbye, Lucy,” Catherine said, jumping out of her seat, across Lucy and into the aisle.
Catherine shoved past the mass of passengers.
“Katie, you should give me your home address! I’ll send you a Christmas card!”
Catherine elbowed her way out the door of the plane, into the snaking gray corridor, the floor shaking with her pounding steps.
Catherine hurried through the gate, her head down, until she reached a payphone. She dug five quarters out of her pocket and fed them into the machine as she picked up the receiver. She punched each number forcefully.
Three rings. “Hello?”
“Catherine? Did you make it there safely?”
“Bill, is it too late?”
“What? What are you talking about? You don’t sound like yourself.”
“Have we ruined everything? Is it really over? Is it too late to pretend everything never happened?”
“Catherine, slow down. What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about our marriage, Bill.”
Bill paused. “Well, we’re already halfway through the divorce.” There was silence as they both waited. “Yeah, Katie. It’s too late.”
Catherine hung up the receiver without another word and stared at the phone.
Finally, she slung her duffel bag over her shoulder and started for the door, her face hardening into deeply etched lines.