Everything changed the first time she saw Bruce. Liza felt as if that moment altered the trajectory of her life, though she didn’t know why.
“I guess I’m busted,” said Liza, trying to sound amused rather than annoyed.
“Uh huh, you are.”
“I zoned out. I wasn’t really looking at you.”
“Is that what happened in Economics class? You just zoned out and didn’t realize you were staring at me?” asked Bruce. He wore a slight smile, but she knew by the way he was watching her that it wasn’t a rhetorical question.
Liza tried to joke her way out of answering the question. “Yep, you sat down in my field of vision.”
“After class you followed me in your car…”
“No! I was on my way home and I saw you walking.”
“Right,” said Bruce. “Is that what happened last summer when you followed me to the underpass?”
“You know what?! To hell with you! I wish I had left you there!”
“Do you really?” he asked. His calm made her angrier. She needed a cigarette. Liza jumped up and toppled to the ground. The blanket was wound around her legs. Liza thrashed around trying to free herself. She felt like a turtle on its back. Bruce looked down at her impassively, then leaned over and offered her his hand. It was the one with the bent finger. She grabbed it and pulled Bruce right off the sofa. Liza fell back to the floor and he thudded down next to her.
Bruce cursed under his breath. Liza stared up at the ceiling. She felt better. Her anger was dissipating. She looked over at Bruce. He was sprawled on his stomach with his head tilted toward her, smiling. His smile migrated to her face. They lie there grinning at each other.
“Sorry,” Liza said.
“Yanking you off the sofa.”
“Ah. But not for wishing that I’d been beaten to death by a mob of homeless people?” asked Bruce. The smile was gone. He was still.
Liza stared at him. “All right. I’m sorry. I don’t mean that,” she said. They continued to stare at each other. “I…” Just say it. Like a band-aid. Rip it off. “You don’t have to tell me…It’s none of my business how you ended up homeless. But…I need to know what happened last summer. Why did you avoid me after you got out of the hospital?” There.
Minutes passed. Literally. He wasn’t going to answer. Should she say something? Should she threaten to throw him out? Was it a deal breaker if he didn’t answer? She needed a cigarette. If she broke the stare and got up now, he definitely wouldn’t give her an answer.
Bruce propped himself up on his forearms. “Because I was afraid that you would end it with me.”