Authors: Tom Perrotta
Tags: #Fiction, #Literary
There was a beautiful symmetry to their game, as if a single person were occupying both sides of the table, hitting the ball to himself in a kind of self-sustaining loop. Except that one of the players—Scott, the one on the right—kept searching out Jill’s eyes in the lull between volleys, carrying on a silent conversation, letting her know that she hadn’t been forgotten.
I’m glad you’re here.
I’m glad, too.
The score was tied eight to eight. Scott took a deep breath and hit a wicked spinning serve, slashing his paddle down on a sharp diagonal. Adam was caught off guard, leaning to the right before realizing his mistake, lurching all the way across the table to make an awkward backhand stab, hitting a feeble lob that barely cleared the net. And just like that they were back into the rhythm, a steady, patient
the white blur bouncing from one orange-padded paddle right back to the other.
Maybe another person would have found it tedious, but Jill had no complaints. The chair was comfortable, and there was nowhere else she’d rather be. She felt a little guilty, picturing Ms. Maffey standing by the entrance gate of the Ginkgo Street compound, wondering what had happened to her new recruit, but not guilty enough to do anything about it. She could apologize tomorrow, she thought, or maybe the day after.
I ran into some friends,
she could write.
There’s this cute boy, and I think he likes me.
I forgot what it feels like to be happy.
* * *
was dark when Kevin pulled into the driveway. He turned off the engine and sat for a few seconds, wondering what he was even doing here when he could have been back at the Carpe Diem with his teammates, celebrating their hard-won victory. He’d left after a single beer, his festive mood dampened by the text he’d received from Jill:
I’m at a friend’s. In case ur wondering, Aimee moved out. She said to tell u gdbye and thnx for everything.
In a way he was relieved—it was easier not to play the heavy, not to have to ask her to leave—but the news saddened him nonetheless. He was sorry it had happened like this, that he and Aimee hadn’t had the chance for one last morning talk out on the deck. He wanted to tell her how much he’d enjoyed her company, and to remind her not to sell herself short, not to settle for a guy who didn’t deserve her, or get stuck in a job that didn’t give her any room to grow. But he’d told her those things on numerous occasions, and just had to hope that she’d been listening, that his words would have sunk in by the time she really needed them.
For now, though, he’d just have to add her name to the list of people he cared about who’d moved on. It was getting to be a long list, and it contained some pretty important names. In time, he thought, Aimee would probably seem like a footnote, but just now her absence felt bigger than that, like maybe she deserved a whole page to herself.
He got out of the car and headed across the driveway to the bluestone path that had been Laurie’s first big project when they moved into this house. She’d spent weeks on it—choosing the stones, plotting the winding course, digging and leveling and fine-tuning—and the results had made her proud and excited.
Kevin paused at the edge of the lawn to admire the fireflies that were rising like sparks from the lush grass, lighting up the night in a series of random exclamations, turning the familiar landscape of Lovell Terrace into an exotic spectacle.
“Beautiful,” he said, realizing even as he spoke that he wasn’t alone.
A woman was standing at the bottom of the front steps, facing in his direction. She seemed to be holding something in her arms.
“Excuse me?” he said. “Who’s there?”
The woman began walking toward him at a slow, almost stately pace. She was blond and slender, and reminded him of someone he knew.
“Are you okay?” he asked. “Can I help you?”
The woman didn’t reply, but by now she was close enough for him to recognize her as Nora. The baby in her arms was a complete stranger, the way they always are when we meet them for the first time, before we give them their names and welcome them into our lives.
“Look what I found,” she told him.
Also by Tom Perrotta
The Abstinence Teacher
Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
. Copyright © 2011 by Tom Perrotta. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The leftovers / Tom Perrotta. — 1st ed.
1. Life change events—Fiction. 2. Psychological fiction. I. Title.
First Edition: September 2011
First St. Martin’s Press eBook Edition: August 2011