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"Ginger, is that really you? Where are you? Why aren't you returning our calls? We've been so worried!"
"Yes, it's really me." The cheers I heard coming through the phone were so loud that I had to hold it away from my ear.
"Can you hear that? You wouldn't believe how many people are here. More and more come every day. You're practically famous now!" Bonnie shouted into the phone and I could hear the happiness in her voice.
"Oh Bonnie, I'm glad that you're having fun, but I don't want to be famous. I just ... I just want to be happy."
I could hear more voices than I could ever count saying things about how sweet that was and how happiness would find me when I least expected it to.
Bonnie tried to talk louder than the crowd that was surrounding her. "Well, I don't think it matters if you want to be famous or not because you are. They're talking about you on the news and the radio every day. People are driving from hours away just to come to the bar. Everyone wants to be able to say that they were here when you called."
"Oh, Bonnie." I exhaled loudly. "You really are having fun, aren‘t you?" I asked wondering how everything had gotten so out of hand.
"Are you kidding? I'm having the time of my life! We all want you to come home though. We miss you."
"Bonnie, I need to tell you something..."
"Oh no, Gail's pushing her way through the crowd and she looks pissed. I think she's about to let you have it."
“No! Bonnie, don’t…”
I heard shouts and lots of movement as Gail wrestled the phone away from Bonnie. I considered hanging up, but before I could Gail's voice came booming over the phone.
"Ginger, just what do you think you're doing? We haven't heard from you in days! You can't keep refusing to return our calls. You're out of your mind and we need to be able to contact you!"
I noticed that for the first time, there was no background noise at all. Gail had managed to scare an entire bar into being quiet and now she was directing her wrath toward me. I was scared, too!
"Gail, I'm not out of my mind. There just hasn't been anything new to report."
"I don't care if there is anything new to report or not. We care about you not your stupid old boyfriends. You have to take our calls. Or, at least call us back so that we know you're still alive."
I could feel the tears building up and tried to fight them. "Gail, I want to tell you that..."
"Oh crap, here comes that guy from the news again. I don't know why he keeps showing up, cause I've warned him to stay away. Well, if he thinks I'm going to stand by while he does another report about how crazy you are, he's mistaken. Here talk to Linda!"
"Gail! Listen to me..." I tried getting her attention, but it was too late. The only thing I heard was her yelling at the poor guy from the news as the phone she had been holding fell to the floor.
"Hello? Are you still there? Ginger, is this you?" Linda's voice came over the line.
"Hey, Linda, it's me. What is going on there?" I questioned.
"Well, I'm not really sure right now. I was late getting here. It looks like Gail is trying to beat up the cute guy from the news. There are tons of people watching and cheering her on. Can you hear them?"
"I think I can. Linda, can we talk, seriously?"
"Oh, you have no idea how seriously we need to talk? Hang on a minute. Let me get somewhere that I'll be able to hear you better."
I heard the sounds of Linda pushing her way past other people, then there was a knocking sound, a door opening and the distinct sound of a toilet flushing.
"Okay, can you hear me?" Linda asked.
"Linda, are you seriously going to try and talk to me while you're in the bathroom?" I demanded to know.
"Why would you say that? I'm not in the bathroom!" Linda tried to sound indignant.
"I heard the toilet flush!"
"Oh my God, okay, so I'm in the bathroom. Big deal! I'm not inside a stall or anything. I just ducked in here because I didn't think you would want anyone to hear what I had to say."
"Okay, so I am in a stall, but that's just because I don't want anyone to see me in case you start crying or something." Linda explained.
"Good grief! Why would I cry and why would my crying make you hide?" I was exasperated.
"Chad is back."
At the exact moment Linda announced this it started raining harder. I stared out the window and tried to swallow the tears that were building up at the mere mention of his name. Chad. The man who caused the heartbreak that led me on this ridiculous journey.
"Ginger, did you hear me? I said that..."
Cutting Linda off before she could say his name again, I yelled, "I heard you!" After taking a breath to calm myself down I asked, "How do you know he's back? Have you talked to him?"
Linda lowered her voice and said, "No, I haven't talked to him, but his truck is back at your house and I've driven by to see the lights on inside. It has to be him, doesn't it?"
"Yes, I'm sure it is him. He's probably just getting the rest of his things out while I'm away." I tried not to sound too disappointed at the thought of him removing all aspects of himself from my life.
"I don't know. I think he's staying at your house. Oh, what if he's moved in with the new girl? Do you want me to check it out for you"
"I just don't care anymore." I said as tears slid down my face.
"If you don't care, why does it sound like you're crying?" Linda wanted to know.
"There's something I need to tell you. It's about my trip to Seattle..."
"Are you having a fabulous time? I've heard it's beautiful out there! Wait, Grace just came in. Here talk to her while I pee."
I could hear Linda handing the phone to Grace and Grace announcing that she would be in the hallway. Thank goodness Grace got the phone out of the bathroom!
"Ginger! It's Grace! I think Gail may be getting arrested for beating up the cute news guy. Do you want me to take the phone outside so you can hear her yelling at the cops?"
I didn't want to laugh, but I couldn't stop myself. "No, that's alright. But if she does get arrested, could you make sure she spends the night in jail before you guys go bail her out?"
"For you? Sure, we can do that! Hey, my boy toy is motioning for me to come to the bar. Here, talk to Brent."
"Too late, Ginger. It's Brent. You aren't going to believe what I learned from the blog today."
"I've already heard. Chad's back and living in my house." I closed my eyes and squeezed the bridge of my nose as I waited for Brent to confirm that Chad had moved his new girlfriend into my house.
"What? Chad's back? When did that happen?" Brent sounded genuinely surprised.
"Isn't that what you were going to tell me?" I opened my eyes to see that it was raining harder than ever.
"No, I was going to tell you that the writer guy you met, Alden, got mugged in New York."
I sat up straight in my chair. "Alden? Alden got mugged? Oh my God, is he alright?"
"I don't really know. I think he got beaten up pretty badly. Someone posted it on the blog I started. He's in the hospital."
"Brent, I have to go..."
"Wait, I need some kind of update for the blog. Have you found the guy you were looking for in Seattle?"
"Oh God, Brent, I can't get into this right now. I have to go. I'll be home in a few days and I promise to come clean about my Seattle trip then."
"OK, but what are you going to do now that Chad..."
I didn't hear the end of Brent's question. I had already hung up the phone and started packing my suitcase.
Alden was hurt and in the hospital. I needed to get to New York. I needed to know that the man who had taken care of me was being taken care of too. If he would let me, I would be the one to do it. I would take care of him.