Home > Leaving Blythe River(6)

Leaving Blythe River(6)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

A long pause, during which Ethan had no idea what Glen was thinking. And he really wanted to know. In fact, he needed to know.

She say why?

No just that she’s been wanting to for a long time

Look dude

Another painfully long moment of no new messages appearing.

What? Just say it

Don’t get your hopes up too high. I mean I hope it’s a good thing but now I’m worried. I know you. You’ll crash hard if you’re wrong. Maybe it’s just because you’re the boss’s son

Ethan glanced up to see Jennifer walking down the long restaurant hallway in his direction. She smiled at him, and something inside him melted. And he thought, Right, Glen. Sure. Don’t get my hopes up too high. I notice that advice doesn’t come with a manual of step-by-step instructions.

Ethan had yet to understand how anyone exerted authority over his own hopes. They seemed to chart a course all their own. If anything, it seemed Ethan’s hopes steered him rather than the other way around.

He slipped the phone down into his lap and texted: Gotta go.

Jennifer sat across the table from him and smiled warmly into his face. Ethan looked away. It was the wrong thing to do, but he couldn’t help it. Her eyes and her smile felt like fire. Like the sun, burning his eyes if he tried to look directly.

“You need to tell me all about this big trip you have coming up,” she said.

She plunked her elbows onto the table, laced her fingers together, and set her chin on her hands. And just waited, staring into Ethan’s face.

“Oh, you heard about that.”

“Oh, yes. We’re all looking forward to it. Only five days left to wait!”

“But only my mom and I are going.”

“Oh,” she said, and seemed to stumble briefly. “Right. Of course. But I just meant your dad and I are so happy for you guys. How long have you wanted to see Machu Picchu?”

“Just about forever. My mom got me this picture book about it when I was a kid. I was, like, maybe four. She always said we’d go there someday. She said we’d hike the Inca Trail and sleep in these camps that’re over thirteen thousand feet up in the Andes, and wake up to see the sun glinting off the glaciers. It was just one of those big dream things that get stuck in your mind, you know? But I’m not hiking. Which is hard for my mom to accept. She’s disappointed in me.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s true,” Jennifer said.

But it doesn’t really matter what anybody thinks about it, Ethan thought. She’s disappointed in me and I know it.

“I think when I was four she just assumed I’d grow up to be an athlete like everybody else in my family. But I’m so not. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

“I don’t see why,” she said, her voice oddly light. As if she was trying too hard. But trying to do what, Ethan wasn’t sure. “I’m sure you have other good qualities.”

Ethan snorted. He wanted to look up at her face, but he was afraid of being burned again.

“Yeah, maybe. Maybe someday I’ll figure out what they are.”

“You’re smart. Your dad’s always telling me how smart you are.”

“He says that?”

“Of course he does. So your mom’s hiking but you’re not? How’s that work?”

“Well, first we’re going to spend a few days in Cusco. Getting used to the altitude. And, you know. Sightseeing. And then she’s going to hit the trail, and I’m going to take the train up to Machu Picchu Pueblo, which is right at the foot of the monument. And I’ll get a couple or three days all to myself up there, which should be kind of fun.”

“What about school?”

“That’s one of the best parts. My mom convinced the principal that it would be educational. Like a history and social studies lesson all in one. We wanted to wait and go at spring break, but she couldn’t get off work then. So we’re going now. I’ll regret it when I get back. I’ll have catching up to do. But it’ll be worth it.”

“Of course it’ll be worth it!” she said. “That’s an understatement. Gosh, I envy you.”

Just then something strange happened. Something Ethan would go over untold times in his head in a fruitless search for significance.

Ethan looked up—way up—to see his father smiling down at their table. Literally at the table. Not so much at either one of them.

“Dad? What are you doing here? I thought you had a client lunch.”

“It ended early,” Noah said. “He got called away.”

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