After returning from our practice dive, we laze around in Micah's basement. Micah's halfway through a bottle of his parent's scotch. Kelly's back to playing Zpocalypto and Reggie and Ashley have disappeared.
Jake's there, but he's sitting on a folding chair on the other side of the room, watching from the shadows. Kelly reamed him on the way back for not telling us we could use the air in the goggles in an emergency. Jake claimed he was going to, that he wanted to drill into our heads not to rely on it, but it's clear that Kelly doesn't believe him. "What else have you forgotten to tell us?"
The tension is thick in the room, and I can tell Kelly's just waiting for another excuse to say we're all nuts for trying this. I'm relieved when Ash and Reg return and she grabs my arm and drags me upstairs to find something to eat.
I look for anything with protein, but all I can find is an open bag of stale peanuts. I take a handful and start munching on them. Meanwhile, Ash digs into a carton of mint chip ice cream.
"Want some, Jess?" she asks, holding it out so I can see how badly freezer burned it is. I shake my head and mumble something about keeping my girlish figure. Sugar and I don't play well together. A moment on the lips, as they say, forty minutes on the treadmill. With my metabolism, even three solid hours a week of high intensity hapkido training can't keep an ounce of chocolate from turning into a pound of butt-lard.
Ashley, on the other hand, seems to be able to subsist almost exclusively on a diet of sugar and caffeine. She never exercises, much to my amazement, and yet never seems to gain a pound. Granted, the girl isn't exactly skinny to begin with, but neither is she fat. Her five-foot-five, hundred and twenty pound curvy frame is one hundred percent energy. She burns more calories just breathing for five minutes than I do over an entire tourney weekend.
"Besides, it looks too much like zombie flesh," I tell her.
"Mmm, yum," Ash replies, and we both laugh, even though it's obvious why zombies happen to be on my mind. "You'd think Micah's parents would have more food around," she complains. "At least not expired food. Even the milk in here is old and chunky. What does Micah eat, anyway?"
"Duh. Take out," I say, pointing to the overflowing trashcan.
I've never met his parents. Micah says his father is constantly away on business and his mother is constantly out of the country visiting relatives in Texas or Arkansas. According to him, she's pretty useless.
I know all about useless mothers, have had plenty of experience with one myself, but it seems to me that Micah's really only half correct: If his mom is useless, then didn't that make his father just as bad? He's never around either.
I'd once privately mentioned this to Kelly, but he just changed the subject. Of course, he'd had his hand stuck up my shirt at the time, so I couldn't be sure his response actually counted for anything.
"Honestly," I said, as he struggled with my bra, "has anyone ever seen his parents?"
"Really, Jess?" he complained. "You really want to talk about Micah now?"
"Not him, his parents."
"They're real. Don't worry about it."
There's certainly enough evidence supporting their existence: the pictures hanging on the walls and sitting on shelves, the female hygiene products in the bathroom (yeah, I'm nosy, so just shoot me). Micah's an only child so they can't be anyone else's but his mother's. Plus, the packages addressed to them that I occasionally see sitting around on the counter.
Ashley gazes mournfully into the empty ice cream carton. "Think we should make a run to the grocery store?"
I shake my head. "It's almost dinnertime."
She shrugs, then sets the carton carefully down on top of the trash bin, being careful that it doesn't topple the unsteady heap. I'm tempted to go over and gather the top of the bag and take it outside, but I know Ash would just tease me about being so motherly.
She grabs my hand as we head back downstairs. "I'm nervous about tomorrow," she says. But before I can respond, we're back downstairs, and I can sense she doesn't want me to say anything about her confession. Still, I squeeze her hand to let her know that I understand and feel the same way.
The party breaks up shortly after that.
"Meet back here by seven tomorrow morning," Reggie tells us. "High tide peaks at four, so we'll have till about ten to take advantage of the outgoing current. That means we should be suited up and in the water by eight thirty. Nine, at the absolute latest."
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