Catch up here.
I hit play on the CD player.
From day one I got things wrong
One day I’ll get things right, maybe
I never thought I knew the answers
While the whole world thinks they might
A playful knock comes from the door and I reach over to open it. J.D. is standing in the doorway grinning.
“Hi.” I smile.
“Hey, babes.” He kicks his slippers off to the side and pulls me into his arms as he swoops his head down to plant a quick firm kiss on my lips.
I step back and hand him a plate of spaghetti with pan toasted garlic bread and a glass of wine from my desk. We move to the futon and sit sideways facing each other with our drinks on the floor.
“I can’t believe you did this on a hot plate and that you never cooked for me before,” he says after his first bite.
“I never had the space before,” I remind him.
“True.” He gulps down some wine. “I love it.”
“Shut up and eat.” I smirk.
He chuckles. We eat quietly for a few minutes before he inquires, “Are you doing anything Saturday?”
“How do you feel about meeting my dad?”
I freeze mid-spaghetti-fork-twirl. I gulp as I feel the blood drain from my face into my gut.
“You don’t have to,” he assures me and covers my knee with his hand. “He’s just asking to meet you.”
“I always thought I’d meet your mom first.”
“We’d have to go to Maui for that. She hates coming here since the divorce.”
I draw the fork out of my mouth and stare at my plate while chewing.
“You don’t have to meet him this weekend. It was just a thought.” He pauses. “We could go to Maui instead,” he suggests casually.
Food stops halfway down my throat. My body racks in a coughing fit and I drop my fork to cover my mouth.
“Are you okay?” he asks reaching down for my wine then holding it out to me.
I cross my legs, balance my plate on my lap then accept the glass. I sip between coughs and pound my chest with the side of my fist. I lock eyes with J.D. as the coughing subsides. “Are you high?”
“You know I don’t smoke, Ari.” he answers seriously.
“I was being sarcastic,” I state pointedly. “We just started dating again and you want me to meet your parents. Wait. You want me to fly to Maui with you to meet your mom.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” he queries innocently.
“I don’t think I’m ready for it.”
“Like I said, I asked because my dad is asking.”
“He never asked to meet me last time.”
“He did. I just didn’t tell you.” He picks up his glass.
My eyes widen. “What?”
“I thought asking you to meet my parents back then would mean committing.”
You know you’re going to have to meet them sometime.
“Ask me again in a few weeks.”
“That’s fair. I wouldn’t be opposed to meeting your family,” he adds nonchalantly.
“They’d be all over you,” I warn.
“All part of the new do-whatever-it-takes, yeah?”
The left side of my mouth slowly lifts. “Have you met another woman’s family before?”
“No worries,” he deflects and leans over pecking my cheek then takes my empty plate from me. “I’ll do the dishes,” he declares as he stands and walks to the bathroom.
“Impressive,” I proclaim then straighten my legs and rise to my feet.
I saw the decade in, when it seemed
The world could change at the blink of an eye
And if anything then there’s your sign
Of the times
I put the leftovers away singing along with Mike Edwards. I take the pots to the bathroom and set them on the counter to J.D.’s right as he adds a plate to the dish rack on the counter to his left.
“Thanks, Babes,” he chirps. “What video are we watching?”
“Highlander, Backdraft, or Dead Poet’s Society. Unless you want to walk across the street to the video store for something else.”
“I haven’t seen Highlander.”
“I must rectify that right now.” I step out to the TV and quote, “’There can be only one!’”
“I’ll be right back,” J.D. says after we order drinks and seat ourselves at the bar of The Row Bar.
I turn to my left on the stool and watch the early evening crowd of downtown business people in their colorful aloha shirts and frilly tailored mu`umu`u for Aloha Friday.
“Ari?” a male voice asks from J.D.’s stool behind me a minute later.
I maneuver around and my heart stills a beat as I face a tall slender man with almond-shaped hazel eyes, high cheekbones, and a mop of long layered black hair.
“Howzit, Lance,” I greet him shocked.
“Can I buy you a drink?” he asks timorously.
“No, thanks,” I answer flatly as the bartender sets a Guinness in front of me and J.D.’s Killian’s Red in front of Steve.
“You here with someone?” He glances at J.D.’s beer.
“Oh.” He shoves his hands into his jeans pockets. “How you doing?”
“I’m well. You? How’s Jamie?” I ask attempting to show interest then take a pull of the rich dark beer.
“We broke up a while back.” He gazes at the ground.
“Sorry about that.”
“Not your fault.”
“Couldn’t be. I haven’t seen you in nearly four years,” I utter edgily.
“I’m sorry,” he says contritely and makes eye contact.
“For what?” I narrow my eyes.
“Ah. The letter,” I repeat drawing out the last syllable. I slug down more of the thick liquid and notice J.D. approach through my peripheral vision on the right. “J.D., this is Lance,” I introduce them as J.D. reaches between us for his beer.
They shake hands. J.D. switches his glass to his right hand and slips his left arm around my waist.
“I should go,” Lance says uneasily.
“Wait.” I turn to J.D., “Give us a few?”
“Sure,” he says and leaves a smooch on my temple. He eyes Lance warily before heading for an empty table.
Lance sits down. “Boyfriend?”
“Something like that,” I reply guarded.
“Ari, don’t be like this,” he pleads.
“Distant and hostile.”
“You made it perfectly clear in the letter you didn’t want to be friends anymore, Lance.”
“I said I’m sorry.”
“Not accepted,” I declare tersely.
“Oh, come on, Ari.”
“No, Lance. Our breakup was mutual-”
“Jamie-“ he tries to interrupt.
“Don’t fucking blame, Jamie,” I raise my voice. I point my index finger at him. “It was your choice. You wrote the letter.” I breathe in evenly to compose myself. “You didn’t even have the balls to tell me in person.”
“Because I still loved you.”
I tremble and fight making a fist while heat rushes through my body. “If you knew you still loved me, what the hell were you doing with her?” I ask seething.
“I thought she was what I wanted,” he answers meekly. “Ari, we used to be best friends.”
“And you put an end to it.”
He stares at his lap while rubbing his forehead with his fingers. “I’m trying here.”
“Trying to what? What were you hoping to accomplish here?” I demand.
He drops his hand down to his side and lifts his head. HH“Honestly, I was hoping you were alone.”
“And that I’d welcome you back with open arms after surprising me like this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Yeah,” he concedes.
“In your dreams.”
“We loved each other once.”
“We did, but it’s a fucking shitty thing to say you’re still in love with someone yet don’t want to hear from them again because you want to be with someone else. Fucking shitty, Lance.” I hop off the stool, drink in hand, and head for J.D..
“Who is he?” J.D. asks, weaving his fingers into mine as I sit next to him.
“My ex.” I lower my eyelids and inhale deeply as he squeezes my hand.
“The guy you dated last year?”
I meet his gaze. “Before I met you.”
“What did he do?”
“We were friends when we broke up. He brought his new girlfriend with him to visit after I moved into the dorms freshman year. A few days after the rape I returned from work and found a letter from him in my mailbox that he delivered. He was still in love with me, but wanted me to leave him alone so he could be with Jamie.”
A thin blonde server places a thin crust Margarita pizza and a chicken quesadilla on the table. “Do you need another drink?” she asks as she sets empty plates and silverware in front of us.
“Please,” I answer abruptly. I release J.D.’s hand and grab a slice of the pizza then place a napkin in my lap.
“Guinness for her and Killian’s for me,” J.D. specifies.
“You got it.”
J.D. serves himself a slice. “So Lance isn’t with Jamie anymore,” he prompts.
I swallow the food in my mouth and take a swig from my glass. “He apologized for the letter.”
“And you didn’t forgive him.” He lifts his glass for a drink.
Our server returns with fresh drinks. “Thanks,” we say in unison before she leaves.
“Does it matter?” I ask agitated as heat rises inside me again.
“I’m just wondering why you would forgive me and not Lance,” he answers calmly.
“It’s different,” I reply while I push my empty glass aside and drag the new glass into its place.
“How?” he presses. “I was in love with you and pushed you away. He was in love with you and pushed you away. It’s the same.”
“When you pushed me away you didn’t tell me you were in love with me first. And he cut ties with me when I really needed someone I trusted,” I say brusquely. I take a deep breath before continuing, “J.D., the rape was just one reason why I didn’t have a boyfriend when we met. Lance was the other.”
“I’m sorry, babes.” He says lovingly, caressing my shoulder. “I understand why you’re so mad, but I also get his side.”
“I’m not prepared to deal with him right now.”
“You weren’t prepared for me either,” he reminds me.
“You found me out after we ran into each other to make amends with me. He’s been here the entire time, never called me to apologize. Now he makes an effort after a chance meeting here.” I wash down my last bite of pizza with more Guinness then take a quesadilla triangle and cut off a piece with my fork. I stab the small bite with my fork pretending it’s Lance.
“You know I’m right.”
“You are,” I admit begrudgingly.
“Don’t let it get to your head. Your jealous boyfriend move didn’t escape my notice.”
“Me? Jealous?” he feigns innocence.
I give him an intent look.
“Maybe a little. I had no idea who he was or if he was hitting on you,” he explains.
“You know I can handle myself.”
“I know full well you can handle yourself.”
“There’s hope for you yet.” I smirk. “Right now, I’d rather meet your dad than talk to Lance again.”
He raises his eyebrows. “I can make that happen,” he says enthusiastically.
©2013, Debi Smith