Did cellphone service even make it out here? Normal cellphone service, that is. It didn’t surprise me that the League’s somehow did, but who knew how Nick had managed it.
I took the call even though I was tempted to ignore it. Mom and I didn’t always get along.
“Mom, I… didn’t expect to hear from you. It’s a program weekend, so I might not be able to talk long.”
“Did I catch you at a bad time?”
She caught me off guard with that question. It depended on your definition of bad. On the one hand, we’d barely avoided meeting up with xenophobic, superpowered killers, and an alternate version of my ex-boyfriend’s stalker. On the other hand, neither one was around right now.
Not that I wanted to explain all of that to Mom. She was still recovering from the last time she got near the superpowered pieces of my life. Shooting Travis a look, I said, “I can talk for a little while.”
He raised an eyebrow.
Over the phone, Mom said, “It won’t take long. I’m sure a Stapledon weekend is demanding enough. I’ve got a small question about Christmas. Will Mary be coming?”
I nearly choked.
I’d dated Mary for about a month and half last spring. To say it hadn’t ended well was a huge understatement. Plus, it was mostly my fault. Plus… I hadn’t told Mom I was dating her.
I did tell Nick, and I might have thought that he’d mentioned it without thinking about it, but I’d never told him Mary’s name.
All at once I knew this was not my mom. This was the mom of some other Rachel, a Rachel who was comfortable enough to tell her what was going on in her life, and a version of my mom whose voice didn’t sound tired, and have a little bit of an edge when she spoke to me.
“I’m sorry. I’ve got to go. I don’t know if Mary’s coming. Could you call back later? Maybe thirty minutes from now?”
Sounding concerned, alterna-Mom said, “Is something wrong?”
“No, I need to go. Just call back, okay?”
“I will. Hopefully when you’re not busy, right?”
“Right.” We said our goodbyes and hung up.
I put my phone back into my pocket with a feeling of relief. The next time I heard it ring, I’d let it go to voice mail. If I were lucky, it wouldn’t ring at all, and her actual daughter would get the call.
Travis nodded sympathetically at me. “Something wrong?”
I said, “You don’t have to pretend you didn’t hear the whole conversation. I just talked to an alternate version of my mom. It was very weird.”
“Sorry. I wasn’t trying to fool you. It’s just, well, you know.” He shrugged. “Think she’ll figure it out?”
“Apparently the other me tells her mom everything. She probably knows if her daughter’s here. I didn’t even try to explain.”
I found that I’d only barely missed stepping on the back of the high heels of the women ahead of me. Tara, Samita, and Rod were ahead of them.
Dammit. I’d gotten distracted. At least we weren’t very far behind.
Travis kept up with me as I stepped onto the lawn of the church we were passing to get around them. “And Mary’s your girlfriend?”
“Was my girlfriend. My very, very ex-girlfriend. It wasn’t working, and I broke up with her.”
We made it around the women, and were only about ten feet behind the others.
Travis smiled at me. “The way you said it, I’d expected you were going to say she broke up with you.”
“I wish. After we broke up, she wanted to talk and talk about it, and I wanted to be done. We ended up shouting at each other in the hallway of the dorm. It’s the single most embarrassing thing that’s happened to me in my life.”
“Yeah?” Travis gave me a slow smile.
When we’d broken up, we’d started a fight at a Christmas party attended by his family, his extended family, and all his neighbors.
“Or maybe a close second,” I said.
“It’s nice to be remembered,” he said.
“For that? I don’t think so,” I said, but I smiled at him.
Calmly, he said, “I don’t even remember why we broke up.”
I thought about it. “I can’t remember exactly why either. I’m sure it was something small and stupid.”
He shrugged. “We were in high school. You can’t expect us to have things figured out.”
“I’m pretty sure we don’t have things figured out now.”
I was going to say more, but a woman’s voice rang out across the block. It said, “All of you stop moving. Don’t do anything until I say you can go.”
Everyone stopped—the people on the sidewalks, the cyclists, and even the cars.