“I’m sorry, Charlotte,” I said, shame twisting my gut until I thought I’d be sick. “I don’t know how to talk to people anymore.”
Her voice sounded muffled, as if she were wiping her nose. “Yeah, I noticed. You’re like a walking internet comment, just spewing whatever pops off the top of your head. You can’t do that with people in real life.”
“Real life,” I snorted. “Is that what I have? Never mind. I’m sorry. For what I said, for ruining breakfast, for making a mess of the damn milk…”
“It’s okay,” she said in a small voice.
“No, it’s not okay,” I said. “Not one bit of it is okay.”
“You’re right, it’s not,” she said. “But you didn’t know. And most people feel the same way. My family and friends…they don’t get what’s holding me back.”
“What is holding you back?” I asked quietly.
“It hurts,” she said simply. “To dig deep for it, to play with my heart and not just my hands? I won’t get up on stage and just play. I can’t fake it, like an actor performing with a script in her hand. It’s not right. I don’t know why I’m like this but I just am and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t give me a hard time, okay?”
I nodded, wishing mightily I could suck back every stupid word I’d spoken. “Okay.”
I climbed carefully out of my seat and oriented myself to the stairs, then let go of the chair, like an astronaut pushing off into the void.
I stopped. “Yeah?”
“You’re not done.”
I froze. “What?”
“You said that you were done. But you’re not. It may feel like it, but it’s not true.”
I didn’t reply. I couldn’t. Was she really saying this to me? After all my blundering, tactless arrogance, she was trying to make me feel better? The depth of her kindness and generosity astounded me, but she was wrong. I was done. I’d had the perfect life and it had been ripped away forever.