Here is a bit of background on the scene from Joy:
“The Haunted scene takes place after the Cub's game. Anne and Ethan go to eat and then see Viktor but before then I had envisioned this sexual tension/comic but serious scene where Anne is angry at Ethan for having turned her life upside down but she doesn't want to say it and he doesn't want to say he loves her since he's come back to find Ben in the picture. So instead, Anne eats. And eats. And it wasn't really working for me, but it's funny.”
Thursday, 4:30 PM, Ethan
“Are you going to finish that?” I point to the remains of the enormous pile of onion rings that Anne has consumed along with the cheese and sausage pizza we just split at the little hole in the wall pizza place so close to the El that you can feel the trains rumbling by overhead as you eat. We’re in Evanston where I’ve rented an apartment. But taking Anne there felt like a mistake. A restaurant seemed safer. Pizza seemed safer.
I just had no idea that she ate like this.
“Well, yeah. You need to try some, Ethan.” She plucks one off the plate, shoves it into my hand, then passes me the bowl of ranch dressing. “And dip them in this. It’s killer.”
I try it. It’s not half bad.
We both chew some more, both pretending that this isn’t awkward and that we don’t both remember being chased by Baba Yaga and Viktor and Dimitri to these very El tracks not that long ago. Or that it was on one of those trains that Anne figured out how to work the magic lacquer box that let us access Baba Yaga’s forest and open the door to her hut so we could save Anastasia. It doesn’t take much for me to remember how Anne looked when Viktor almost killed her that day.
Or how I felt realizing what a fool I’d been to trust him.
It’s easier to eat pizza and onion rings and talk about what I’m going to study now that I’m back. Of course we both know that’s not really why I’m back. But neither of us has worked up to the truth.
“See. I knew you’d like it.” She dips another ring in the bowl of ranch, opens her mouth, pops it in, then closes and chews.
“Remember when you made me tea? You still do that? The whole loose tea, tea pot thing?” she asks me around her mouth of onion ring.
“Well that’s good to know.”
“We need to talk, Anne.”
“We are talking, Ethan.”
I frown at her.
“I’m being difficult, right? That’s what you’re thinking. Anne’s being difficult.”
“That’s what Tess keeps telling me, too. Well, maybe she doesn’t use that specific word. But that’s what she means.”
I signal the waitress for a check. This is going nowhere. I need to find out what’s really been going on with her. I need to tell her what I’ve seen. What I suspect. Everything I’ve kept from her in hopes that maybe I could keep it from coming. I am, it seems, no less foolish than ever.
“You know they make great cannoli here,” Anne says as she stabs her fork into the last onion ring and dunks it in the bowl of dressing.
I fish some bills from my pocket and hand them to the waitress who’s returned with the check. “You’re all set,” I tell her. I stand, pull Anne from her chair while she’s still chewing and guide her from the restaurant. Another train barrels by overhead.
“Let’s go out by the lake,” I say. “We’ll walk. I’ll talk. You’ll listen. And we’re going to figure this out, okay. Really. We are.”
“Ben loves me, Ethan. Did you know that?”
Her face is suddenly serious. Somewhere all this onion ring eating has been about this.
“Yeah, he does.”
She pauses, clearly on the verge of saying something more. It occurs to me, certainly not for the first time, how very young she still is.
“I’m sorry that he’s been dragged into this, Anne.”
“He has, hasn’t he?” She swallows. I catch a glimpse of the Anne I really know – as much as I can say I know her. The one who’s smart and funny and brave. The one I kissed a number of times before I left for Europe and who is now seeing a boy named Ben she says loves her.
“Sucks to be him, huh?” she adds.Actually, I think, it doesn’t.