Today's Reading

"Clara! Phone for you!" someone called above the noises in the shop: the hydraulic torque wrench and the air compressor, the glide and slam of toolkit drawers, the relentless clinking of metal, the ever-present laïko music coming from a grease-covered boom box in the corner, the shouts in Greek and English.

She wiped the stain from her forehead with the dirty towel as she walked over to the phone that hung on the wall. Peter's brother Teddy stopped her with a hand on her forearm.

"It's Ryan," he said. "You might want to take it in the office." Who knew what they'd been saying about her and Ryan. Peter's mother, Anna, could read her face as though Clara were her own daughter and turn an opinion—'I don't think this Ryan is good for you'—into a topic for general discussion. Clara usually found herself offering supporting information without even meaning to, and the entire Kappas family soon knew all her personal business. She didn't mind, though; they were the closest thing to a real family she'd had in a long time.

Clara nodded. The office was little more than a desk against the wall in the waiting area, between the water cooler and the coffeemaker. It was hardly private, but there weren't any customers inside at the moment, and Anna, who was behind the counter writing an order for parts, winked at her and said, in her thick accent, "I'll give you a minute."

Clara sat down and tried not to look at the flashing caller-on-hold light on the phone. She gazed instead at the framed photos on the wall of the Sporades Islands: the family's whitewashed villa, the curved rock beach, the impossible turquoise water.

When she could avoid it no longer, she took a deep breath and picked up the line. "Hey," she said.

"You're not answering your cell."

"I'm working."

"Whatever, Clara. Listen, I'm taking off for a few days so you can pack up your stuff. I really want you to be out by the weekend, okay?"

"Wait, what? Seriously? I thought we were still talking about everything."

"Clara, did you not hear me last night? I'm tired of waiting for you to make up your mind. You just don't want what I do."

"I never said I didn't want the same thing, I just asked for time." She turned her body toward the wall. "Ryan, please."

"I know you needed time, and I've tried to give it to you. But I can't keep putting your needs ahead of mine. I'm ready to move forward. I want a family. I'd like it to be with you, but if it can't be...well, what choice do I have?"

"Look, I love you, Ryan, you know I do. But marriage is a big step. Why can't we just be together? Why's everything such a rush?"

"What is it about making this permanent that freaks you out so much? I know you love me. Why can't you just say yes?"

Clara sighed. She could change this conversation, change her entire life, with just one word. But she couldn't do it. "I don't know. I'm sorry."

"Then we're done. I need you out. I need to move on."

"So you're really going to kick me out? After two years you're giving me, what, four days to move? How do you expect me to do that? And where am I supposed to get the money for it?"

"You know I wouldn't leave you on the street. I found you an apartment in East Bakersfield. I already put down the first and last months' rent. I figured this would make things easier."

"Jesus, Ryan. Couldn't we have talked about it first? East Bakersfield?"

He made a huffing sound. "Do you really care where you live? It seems like all you really care about is that d amn garage."

She balled the spiral phone cord into her fist, fighting the urge to cry again. Was she crying over losing him? Losing her home? Her own indecision?

"The lease and key are on the kitchen table," he said. "When you're out, you can drop your old key through the slot."

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