“What do you mean, it doesn’t smell right? Like the last person took a shit in your fridge or something?”
Cleo rolled her eyes, switching her phone from one ear to the other as she picked up the whistling kettle and poured the boiling water over the tea bag and into the mug.
“Don’t let the water get all the way to boiling,” Edie interrupted themself to scold Cleo. “Your tea is going to taste like ass.”
“It’s green tea, it already tastes like ass,” Cleo said, bobbing the tea bag a couple of times. “Anyway, no, not like that. I’m not really sure how to describe it. It’s like something is missing.”
“I mean, you were gone a month,” Edie said, their voice more gentle now. “It makes sense that it smells different. You haven’t been there cooking or anything. Have you lit any candles yet?”
“Yeah, all my usual ones,” Cleo replied. “You’re probably right. It’s just…weird, you know? It’s too sterile.”
“It’ll go back to normal. Cook a couple of meals, use your usual shampoo in the shower. It’ll be fine.”
“Do you think maybe it’s-“
Cleo stopped herself, but Edie clearly knew where she’d been going with it.
“Yeah, I think it’s your breakup too,” they said, answering the unspoken question.
Cleo groaned. “Have you talked to her at all?” Edie asked.
“I haven’t,” Cleo replied. “I should. I wasn’t exactly fair to her the last time we talked.”
They were quiet for a second.
“Well, I’m about to take a bath and head to bed,” Edie said. “So I guess I’ll be leaving you to your weird-smelling apartment. Text me if you need to talk later.”
“Thanks,” Cleo said, her mind now racing. “Good night.”
Edie hung up and Cleo set her phone down, taking a thoughtful sip of her over-steeped tea. It tasted nasty, but she barely noticed.
Shit, she really did need to talk to Jenna, didn’t she?
She opened her text thread with Jenna.
Are you around? Can we talk?
Jenna replied a minute later.
Yeah. You can call me if you want.
Cleo called, her heart pounding as the phone rang. Jenna picked up on the second ring.
“Hi,” she said, sounding a little cautious.
“Hi,” Cleo said.
“What did you want to talk about?”
Cleo took a deep breath. This was it, possibly the only chance. “I wanted to say I’m sorry,” she said. “For the things I said to you when you…when you broke up with me.”
Jenna was silent for a second. Then she sighed.
“I never lied to you,” she said softly. “I never meant to lead you on or anything, but I thought I was always honest.”
“You were,” Cleo admitted. “And I think I misread it. I just…I just liked you so much and felt like our connection was so strong that I thought you would change your mind or something. Or decide before school ended. You’d do these intimate things, you know? And I’d be like, there’s no way she doesn’t feel the same.”
“I’m sorry too,” Jenna said. “If I gave you mixed messages with those things. I just liked your mom. And I liked you too.”
The past tense felt physically painful and Cleo took a deep breath trying to keep her voice steady.
“That’s why I asked you not to do it,” she said, relieved her voice didn’t shake. “That, packing my lunch, all those cute little things you did. They were significant to me. Were they important to you?”
Jenna was quiet for too long. Cleo waited a moment in the silence, then cleared her throat.
“Cleo, I’m sorry.”
They were silent for another second. “I’m going to go,” Cleo said finally.
“Thanks for talking to me. Take care.”
Cleo hung up and set her phone down on the couch. She took a sip of her tea. Still gross, now cooling. She didn’t feel good, exactly. But she definitely felt better.
It was really over now.