A cold April breeze swept up the alley, causing Jane to tighten the jacket across her body. She was sitting on the wooden balcony outside the kitchen of Wings’ apartment. Were it a month or two later the evening’s chill would have driven Jane inside, but several months of Chicago winter had inspired her to enjoy the feel of outside air.
She turned at the sound of the kitchen door opening. Wings appeared behind the screen door, the sound of the younger girl’s stereo emanating from within. Wings tilted her head, a curious look on her face. “You OK, girl?”
Jane looked up, smiled. “Just needed some air. Be back in a minute.”
Wings pushed the screen door open, walked onto the balcony, the door spring tightening and closing the door behind her, tlling tok-tok. She sat in the empty plastic chair next to Jane’s. “How long’s it been?”
Jane shrugged. “Since when?”
“Since you — you know, thought we all changed the world on you?”
“Ah.” Jane took a quick drink from the beer bottle in her hand. “Couple months. Maybe three. Lost track a while ago.” She turned to Wings. “Why do you ask?”
“Just — I don’t know. You been acting kinda quiet tonight, like you were those first few weeks. But when you started seeing that doctor, you got to being your old self again.” She half-turned to Jane, placed a hand on her shoulder. “But I know you still believe that story you told me that first day. And you still haven’t taken that medicine the doctor said you should take.” Wings blinked. “And Brad . . . ” Her voice trailed off.
Jane drank again from her beer bottle, stared ahead of her. “Brad and I weren’t going to work out. I’d known that for a while — just hadn’t admitted it. To Brad, or myself.” Another drink. “So I gave him back the ring.”
“So, this . . . thing that happened to you.” This was typically how Wings referred to that morning now several months ago, the Kafka-esque moment she heard Mozart playing from her kitchen table. “Did that have anything to do with you pushing Brad away?”
Jane rose swiftly, her momentum temporarily lifting her plastic chair off the wooden balcony landing. “I wasn’t the one doing the pushing.” She drank quickly from her bottle, began pacing in front of Wings. “The thing I couldn’t admit was that the two of us couldn’t go on like we were. It was either take the next step, or call it off. Brad knew it too, but at least he had the guts to make us face up to that fact.” She lifted the bottle to her lips again, and when she realized the bottle was empty tilted her head back and upended the bottle anyway. “But for us to take the next step would mean becoming something I’m not ready to be, a person Brad wants me to become. And I just couldn’t do that.”