We Are Young
Ann is in line getting herself a tea. The place is nearly empty. Just how she likes it. The woman behind the counter hands her the cup of tea and the door opens with a jingle. Ann is intent to duck out of the place without whoever it is that came in noticing her.
She hugs her light fall jacket tighter around her midsection and tries to slip past the newcomer.
“Ann?” The woman behind the counter calls out.
“Yes.” The newcomer answers and Ann looks up.
“Oh, not you.” The woman behind the counter points to Ann.
Ann stops as the newcomer turns to look at her.
“Well, I’ll be. Ann Walker, is that you?”
“It is.” Ann gives her a tight-lipped smile. “I haven’t seen you in years.”
The newcomer nods. “You must have been-“ She raises her hand to chest level. “about this tall the last time I saw you. You’ve grown up since then.”
Ann ducks, embarrassed. “You flatter me, Anne Lister.”
“You two know each other.” The woman behind the counter ascertains.
“Yes.” They say in unison. They share a look.
“I should go.”
“We should catch up. Have coffee. I’m going to be in town on and off coming up. Give me your number.” Anne insists before Ann scampers away. She types Ann’s number into her phone. “I’ll give you a ring.” She waves her phone at Ann.
Ann follows up with another tight lipped smile. She grabs her bag, which is what the woman behind the counter wanted to get her attention about before she left.
Weeks pass and Ann doesn’t hear from Anne. She is sure that Anne was just being polite and isn’t really interested in meeting with her. Ann is sure Anne won’t call. She’s sure that Anne is a busy woman and doesn’t need to be caught spending time with a girl that had a massive crush on her as a child.
Anne is catching up on paperwork on the train as she travels. A thought occurs to her as she heads back towards Halifax. Ann Walker. She promised she would call. She picks up the phone and hits call on Ann’s name.
It rings. But no one picks up. Anne doesn’t leave a message.
Catherine is talking about something mundane and uninteresting to Ann. The weather is getting chillier as fall carries on. Requiring multiple layers of clothes, which is to Ann’s advantage. The afternoons are usually still warm though. They sit outside for lunch for maybe the last time this fall at an outdoor café. Ann is mostly watching people as the pass by on the sidewalk next to their table. Catherine is saying something about one of her college friends and a party that they went to. Ann definitely isn’t interested in any talk of any parties. She doesn’t mention this to Catherine though.
Ann spots someone walking down the sidewalk and tunes out whatever party Catherine is talking about. A striking someone. Someone that sticks out like a sore thumb in Halifax. Someone wearing a women’s tailored suit. Someone she recognizes from her youth. Someone she could never forget. Ann watches as the woman gets closer and closer and then pass the table all together.
Ann can’t help herself. She spins around in her chair. “Anne!?” She half-yells after the woman.
Anne Lister stops in her tracks. Someone called her name. A voice she doesn’t recognize. She looks up from her phone and then turns. She walks back to the table she had just past, the voice that just called her name.
She stops at the table. She might not recognize the voice, but she recognizes a young Ann Walker and Catherine Rawson having lunch.
“Ah, Ms. Walker, Ms. Rawson. Enjoying your lunch?” Anne ventures. She looks at the table set up.
Catherine answers. “Yes, I had a lovely meal. I recommend this place. Have you ever eaten here?”
Anne hums. “Can’t say that I have.” Her eyes linger on Ann. Ann silently questions her about not calling to set up a meet up. And Anne shrugs and hangs her head. She eyes at the spread in front of Ann. Her eyes refocus on Ann, looking her up and down. She hasn’t been around this girl in years but when she was a child she was a thin, frail looking thing, who Anne had assumed didn’t eat much. The many plates in front of Ann would indicate that has changed. In looking at Ann, it does seem like she has filled out over the years. “What about you?” She asks Ann of her meal.
“It was good.” Ann looks down at her lap, self-consciously.
“I’ll let you carry on with your meal.” Anne says and takes off.
Ann is disappointed that the meet up was never discussed.
Catherine notices. “What’s wrong, Ann?” She knows her cousin has been extra emotional lately.
“It’s nothing. It’s stupid.” Ann waves her off with her hand.
Catherine turns and looks over her shoulder in the direction that Anne left in and wonders what just happened and if she missed something. She turns back. “Are you sure? She asks Ann.
Ann nods once, resolutely.
Ann is laying on the couch that evening watching some reality show about a vet’s office when her phone rings. It’s not a number she recognizes.
“Hello?” Ann says cautiously, unsure of who is calling.
“Hello. Ann, is that you?”
She recognizes Anne’s voice right away. It’s a voice she doesn’t ever think she could forget. “It is.” She confirms, sitting up. She hears Anne sigh in relief on the other end.
“Good. I just called to apologize. I’m just so busy, you know.”
Ann doesn’t really know.
“I hope I didn’t interrupt and ruin your lunch today. And I’m sorry if I did.”
Ann frowns. That’s the reason Anne is calling. Again, she is disappointed. “You didn’t ruin my lunch. I was the one who spotted you and called out your name.”
Anne sighs again. “Right. Anyway, I didn’t want to seem rude. I had to get going and couldn’t chat anyway. I just remembered I had your number, so I wanted to let you just know that and I’ll leave you to enjoy the rest of your evening.” Anne is ready to hang up.
“Why didn’t you call?” Ann asks nervously. She doesn’t want to seem too noisy. She knows she shouldn’t care so much but it bothers her that Anne has rejected the meet up that she suggested.
“Oh.” Anne pauses. “I did.” That was weeks ago. “One day, a few weeks ago. And you didn’t answer. And then I got busy and had to fly to Italy for two weeks. I just got back yesterday and well then you spotted me today.”
Ann feels silly now. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t know.”
Anne chuckles. “Don’t apologize, dear. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Ann pinches her lips together. “What about now?” She asks bravely. That is not one of her strengths. Bravery. But something about talking over the phone instead of face to face pumps up Ann’s confidence and bravery.
“Oh, well-“ Anne mentally runs through her schedule. She’s not really interested in meeting up with Ann. She just said they should to not be rude. “I’m just in town for today and tomorrow. And I have meetings all day tomorrow. Then I’m back to Paris for two weeks.” Anne explains.
“Oh.” Ann is disappointed yet again. “What do you do? Running all over Europe all the time.”
Anne chuckles over the phone. “Real estate development. It’s a crazy business but I love the thrill that it provides. Deadline, and development and money transfers and getting things in order. I love it.”
Ann sighs, realizing that they aren’t likely to have a little meet up. And that Anne, like she always has been, is a Rockstar, a god like figure who will always be leagues ahead and away from Ann and her simple life. “That’s good. You should love what you do.”
There is an awkward silence before Ann fills it in. She hates silence in conversation and usually fills them before the other person. “Well, good luck and good night.” She says and hangs up. She stares at the phone and realizes what she just said. Why did you have to say ‘good night’. That was stupid. It was the nervousness and that just came out. She didn’t actually mean it. And now Anne probably thinks she’s stupid too. She stares at Anne’s number on her phone. She saves it to her contacts even though she knows that she’s never going to use it.
It’s mid-morning when Ann’s phone rings. She’s surprised to see that it’s Anne that’s calling.
“Ann, I have had a cancelation today. We could meet up for lunch if you still wanted to. I must warn you that I don’t eat lunch though. How about that place you were at with Ms. Rawson yesterday?”
Before Ann can think it through her mouth blurts out dumbly again. “Okay.”
“Good. I’ll meet you at noontime.” Anne ends the call.
Ann is at the café at 11:30. Early because she has nothing better to do and because she is anxious about meeting with Anne. She orders knowing that Anne said she doesn’t eat lunch. She might as well eat while she’s here.
She’s busy eating, the time has passed noon and she even finishes her meal and Anne still hasn’t arrived. At fifteen minutes past, Ann thinks she is being stood up. She’s prepares to pay the bill and leave. It was silly of her anyway to think that Anne Lister would be interested in having anything to do with her. She’s signing the bill.
Anne approaches. “I’m sorry I’m late.” She slides up to the table as Ann is getting up. “You must think I’m a total flake. What with not calling and being-“ She looks Ann up and down. Anne notices something now that she hadn’t noticed in their previous two run ins.
She opens and closes her mouth a few times as she stares at Ann’s stomach. She hadn’t realized. She thought Ann was just a little plump. She’s not sure if she is. “Ann, are you-“ You never asks a woman if she is pregnant. It’s a societal no-no.
Ann rubs her hand over her small bump. “Shocking, I know.” She takes in Anne’s expression. “Yes, I’m pregnant.” She confirms to help get the shocked look off of Anne’s face.
Anne closes her mouth, but her eyes grow wide as it all clicks into place. “Oh, well, congratulations.” That’s what you tell expectant mothers, right.
Ann hums and sits back down. “I was just going to leave. I didn’t think you would show. I already ate.” She looks down at her ever growing stomach. “I was hungry.” What she means is that the baby was hungry and needed food.
“Right.” Ann nods. “And sorry I was late.” She starts to get her wits about herself again. “If I’m early for something, it’s a miracle. If I’m on time I’m having a good day. But, mostly, the hectic life I live makes things pile up and I’m late more often than not.”
Ann nods in understanding. “It’s okay. I don’t have much going on today.”
Anne waves a waiter over and orders a water. “So, what do you want to talk about? I could tell you about my morning meeting, but I doubt that would interest you.” Anne grins over at the girl.
Ann asks the one thing that she’s been thinking about since she saw Anne the first time a few weeks ago. “Do you live in France or Italy? I’ve seen you here more in the last few weeks than I have since I was like twelve years old.”
Anne tries to remember what Ann was like at twelve years. She would have been twenty-four and just finished with college. That would have been when she left Halifax and moved to Paris. A good eight years ago now. She’s built her career in those eight years. “I have a place in Paris. That’s my permanent address, if you will. But my father is ill. And I’ve been coming back to visit him and some of the other family the last two months or so. That is, when I have an opportunity. That’s why you’ve seen me around.”
Ann nods. So, Anne isn’t sticking around.
“You’ve grown up some in the last eight years.”
Ann isn’t the little girl that had a crush on her anymore. It was cute back then. Anne remembers it fondly. Little Ann Walker coming over on her bike with handfuls of flowers that she picked from her parent’s garden. Anne never encouraged her, but always accepted the flowers and whatever other little trinkets Ann would bring to her.
Ann rolls her eyes, embarrassed. “You could say that.”
Anne wiggles her eyebrows. “An adult now.”
Ann looks down at her hands in her lap, shy. “Correct.”
“Oh, come on.” Anne teases. “You’re not a little girl anymore. The last time I saw you, you were a rail thin girl on the verge of womanhood. I’d say that went well.”
Ann scoffs. “Is that how you compliment girls?” She says it without even meaning to. “I’m sorry. I’ve overstepped.” She doesn’t know anything about Anne’s life now. She just remembers vying for her attention and having to compete with Anne’s girlfriend at the time, Mariana. She doesn’t see a ring on Anne’s finger and wonders what her current relationship status might be.
“It’s alright. I’ve been accused of much worse.” Anne says around a wicked smile.
Ann sighs. “Are you still together?” She doesn’t know why she keeps asking these personal questions. The words just keep coming out of her. It’s years old jealousy.
“With whom?” Anne asks.
“Mariana.” Ann whispers.
Anne laughs. “You remember her? Wow. And no. I’m not. I do have a girlfriend though, Maria, in Paris.”
Ann nods. “Oh, okay.”
Anne nods at her. “What about you? What have you been up to? Other than-“ She points to Ann’s belly.
Ann licks her lips, nervous to talk about herself. “Oh, not much. I dropped out of college recently. I’m not doing much of anything at the moment. My life isn’t busy and exciting like yours seems to be.”
Anne nods and takes a drink of water.
“Is your father going to be alright?”
Anne nods again. “He’s on the mend. Had a massive heart attack. And then had to have open heart surgery. It’s a fairly long recovery. He’s just starting to get around the house again, slowly though. I think the toughest part is that he had to change his diet and he is a stubborn old man and that’s the most difficult part.”
Ann nods. “I had to change my diet too. When I found out-“ She looks down at her stomach. “No more crappy food. Healthy stuff for the baby. Though, I do have a little cheat once a week.”
She stares at Ann’s stomach. “Any cravings?” She just can’t believe that Ann is an adult now and that she’s going to have a baby. And at twenty years old. Such a young age.
“Just one. Peanut butter. And I’ve never been a big fan of peanut butter in my entire life. Like, it’s okay once every six months but it was never something I ate regularly or bought to have around the house. But now there is a jar in my cupboard. Somedays, I’ll have to have like just a spoonful and other time I have to have a whole sandwich.” Ann smiles as she speaks.
It’s the first time Anne has seen her genuinely smile. It’s the same smile that she remembers from eight years ago. It seems to stretch out across her entire face and pulls at her eyes. Just now, it’s on an older face. “Bizarre. So, when are you due?”
Ann hums. “Not soon enough. End of march.”
Anne would laugh but Ann doesn’t seem to say it with any humor, so she just nods along. She wants to know more. Most people want to know more about pregnancy and pregnant ladies, but she doesn’t want to seem too noisy. They are, after all, just meeting up for the first time in eight year. For the first time, they are both adults.
It’s not like they were close friends either, eight years ago. They were neighbors and Ann had a childhood crush. That was the bread and butter of it. Now, there’s not much to facilitate a friendship. Anne lives in Paris and is busy as all get out. And Ann is about to be busy becoming a mother.
It’s not like they have anything in common other than the past. And babies haven’t really interested Anne all that much. And she values her precious time too much. She can use her time to make money and make a name for herself and her business. She knows Ann is young and has the energy of a young person to care for a baby. So good for her.
“It really was nice meeting up with you, Ann. I’m sorry I haven’t more time.” Anne stands to leave, and Ann follows suit. “It’s lovely to see you all grown up.” She holds her arms open, offering a hug. They embrace. Ann’s small bump pressing into her lower abdomen. She’d be lying if she said she couldn’t feel it.
Anne takes a step backwards after a moment. “Good luck, with that.” She nods at Ann’s stomach. “Keep me updated on the progress.” She says earnestly. The whole strange interest in pregnancy is peeking through Anne’s carefully constructed facade.
Ann wrinkles up her face. Why would Anne want to know how her pregnancy is going? “Really?”
Anne nods and smiles. “Yeah, sure. Why not?”
Ann shrugs. She didn’t think Anne would care about what happened with the baby. “It’s just- I don’t know-“ She shrugs, again feeling stupid. “Nevermind. Good luck with your real estate.” Anne chuckles at the awkwardness of it all. “And tell your father I wish him well and hope his recovery goes smoothly.”
“Thank you, I will.” Anne tells her. “I must be going now. I have a teleconference in fifteen minutes.” She points over her shoulder in the direction that she arrived from.
“Yes. Go. Do.” Ann nods.
Anne turns with a small smile and walks away.
Ann sighs, grabs her bag, and walks in the opposite direction.