“Maria, how about I stay up here and get dinner started while you go to that tenants meeting. I’m still too shaken up about that dude offing himself from last time. I don’t want to go sit down there.” Valissa is seated at the kitchen table rummaging through her backpack and pulling out all of her school materials. She’s been conjuring up an excuse to get out of going to the tenants meeting, but not at all for the reason she’s giving.
Maria looks at Valissa sideways. “Huh…stay here and get dinner started,” she scoffs, unconvinced. “ I’ve known you all your life, Lissa. What are you really up to?” Maria rambles through a drawer to gather a notepad and writing utensil.
“Ugh, why I always gotta be up to something’? I’m a teenager-”
“That’s exactly why-“
“I want to move. I just ain’t got no interest in y’all’s li’l meetin’. Besides, I have homework and tests to study for and –“
“So what were you planning to serve for dinner then with all that going on?”
“I don’t know. Probably some ravioli.”
“Ravioli, Lissa? When have I ever heated something from a can and called it dinner?” Maria closes the drawer and places her hand on her hip while propped against the counter.
Valissa starts to giggle. “You could’ve been having ravioli for dinner, Maria. All you had to do was add some bread and heat up a vegetable or serve a salad. What’s the difference?”
Maria shakes her head and gives in with a chuckle. “You get that lesson done and I’ll worry about dinner when the meeting is over. Hopefully, it won’t run too long.” Maria cradles her pad and prepares to leave.
“Thanks, Maria.” Valissa pretends to review her assignments.
“Thanks nothing. I don’t want any mess out of you, Lissa.”
“Dag, that was quick,” Valissa sighs, noting the sudden shift in tone. “Why don’t you wait until I’ve actually done something sometimes before you start with that?”
Maria opens the door and turns toward her before exiting. “Homework and study. I’m gonna want to know how you did on those tests.”
“And you’re gonna feel terrible when you find out I’ve been doing exactly what I told you I was doing.” Valissa smiles to try and lighten the mood again.
Maria shakes her head again and laughs. “I’ll lock the door.” She eases the door shut and uses the key to lock it, checking before heading to the stairs. In her heart of hearts she wishes things could be the way they were between her and Valissa before the divorce, when they were a family. But Valissa has disappointed her so much. To think too much of anything she says is setting herself up for disappointment. Yet, Maria dare not mention her role in the deterioration of their relationship. She could tend to drink too much. But the reality of it is that she wouldn’t turn to the alcohol nearly as often if Valissa would behave. And if Gabe had been home more. But that’s neither here nor there, now. This is the life that they have now and she can only try to make the best of it.
Meanwhile, Valissa squints trying to look through the peephole on the door. Just a couple minutes more to make sure she hasn't forgotten anything. Knowing her the way she does, if she remembers something after she's started down those stairs she won't climb back up to get it. Kind of lazy. Seems like the coast is clear. Valissa dashes to the entertainment armoire where the phone is placed. Almost without thinking she's dialed and is awaiting a connection on the other end. Finally he answers.
"What took you so long?"
"Don't trip. You know I had to wait for Maria to leave. You close by?"
"I'm exactly where I told you I'd be."
"Give me 10 minutes and I'll be there."
"Hurry up. I've waited long enough as it is."
"Then 10 more minutes ain't gonna kill you. See you in a few."
Valissa disconnects the call all smiles. This is just too good to be true.