Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons Page 40

“Have you called to apologize?” she asked with a snippy air.

“For what?”

“For your rude behavior the other night.”

“My rude behavior?”

“Yes, the way you ran out on poor Austin like that.”

My blood boiled. “Are you serious? You had no right, Violet! You had no right to set me up when you know I’m with Joe!”

“And you know my thoughts on that.”

“It’s none of your business, Violet! I am not six years old. I don’t need you to pick out my friends anymore.”

Violet gasped. “Is that what you thought I was doing when we were little? Picking out your friends?” The hurt in her words made my stomach drop.

I forced myself to take a deep breath. “No, Vi. Of course not. You were just protecting me from the mean kids at school.”

I sank onto my bed, resting my forehead on my palm. How had we started bickering again? Before Momma’s death we’d hardly ever had a cross word, yet when I looked deep inside, I knew it was because I’d never found the strength to stand up to anyone. Violet included.

“So you think I’m tryin’ to run your life?”

My indignation was back. “Well, aren’t you?”

“Rose, it’s just that you’re…”

We both absorbed her silence.

“I don’t want you to live with regrets.” Her voice cracked and I knew she was crying.

“Violet, I have to live my life and make my own mistakes.”

Her superior attitude was back in a flash. “So you’re admitting that Joe Simmons is a mistake?”

I groaned in frustration. “No! I did not say he is a mistake. You’re worried I’m makin’ one, but you can’t save me from mistakes. You have to let me live my life. All of it. The good things and the bad.”

“I can’t bear to see you hurt.”

“But how do you know Joe’s going to hurt me? How do you know that I won’t hurt him? Or maybe neither one of us will hurt each other. Maybe we’ll get married and I’ll move to Little Rock, and we’ll have babies and a house and live happily ever after.”

“You’re moving to Little Rock?” she whispered in horror.

And then I knew the reason she was so adamant I dump Joe. She was scared of losing me. The only tie Joe had to Henryetta was me and the chances of him moving here were slim. If we stayed together and got married, I’d move away and Violet would be alone.

It all made sense now. Austin had been born and raised in Henryetta. Sure, he’d moved away and sowed his wild oats, but he came back to build his life. In Violet’s eyes, Austin Kent was safe and Joe Simmons was dangerous.

My voice softened. “No, I’m not moving to Little Rock.”

“But Joe wants you to?”

I hated to put a deeper wedge between them, but I wasn’t going to lie. “Yes.”

“See! I knew it!” The tears in her voice softened her accusation.

“Violet, I told him that it’s too soon. We’ve only just started datin’. But I can’t promise that I won’t move to Little Rock someday, just like you can’t promise you won’t.”

“I most certainly can promise that! Mike’s takin’ over his father’s construction business when he retires next year. We were born in Henryetta and we’ll die here.”

I sighed. “Well, it must be nice to have your life planned so nicely.” The uncertainties of my own life were exasperated by Violet’s carefully laid-out world.

She gasped again, which caught me by surprise. I’d been genuine—I hadn’t meant to hurt her.

“I have to go, Rose.” Violet sounded like she was choking.

“Wait! I have to tell you something first.”

“What?” The icy tone was back.

“I’m going to spend the weekend in Little Rock with Joe. I’m leaving tomorrow after jury duty and I’ll be back Sunday night.”

Her silence was frightening. After several seconds, she cleared her throat. “I see. And what do you plan to do with Muffy?”

“Well, I plan to take her with me.”

“To a condo? Doesn’t Joe live in a condo in downtown Little Rock?”

I wasn’t sure why I was so surprised that she’d paid that much attention to Joe’s details. “Well, yeah, but we’ll take Muffy for walks.”

“Muffy will hate drivin’ in a car for hours.”

“I think she’ll be fine.”

“All right. Fine. I’ll watch her.”

My mouth dropped open in shock. “What? I didn’t ask—”

“That dog gets left inside that hot box you call a house all day long while you’re at work and then you plan to stuff her into a car and drive into the concrete jungle?”

“Little Rock is not a concrete jungle.”

“How would you know? You’ve never been there.”

Violet always knew exactly how to hurt me, even when she wasn’t trying. “No, Vi. I haven’t. But I’m goin’ this weekend. And I’m staying at Joe’s and guess what? I’m sleeping with him!”

“Rose Anne Gardner! What in tarnation has gotten into you?”

I had a sexual innuendo on the tip of my tongue but wisely chose to keep it to myself. “I’m old enough to make my own choices. If I want to dye my hair purple, I’ll do it. If I want to spend the weekend in Little Rock, I’ll do it.”

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