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Chapter 13

Joe

I was sorry it ended the way it did. I hated losing Cassie over something so stupid. I guess the question was, did I want her in my life if we were just friends, and could never be more than that. I didn’t know. I didn’t even know after last night if that was an option.

First things first, I guess I should see if she would even talk to me. I headed out and down the stairs and stopped outside her door finding it impossible to knock. I was getting ready to walk away when the door started opening. I braced myself for the tongue lashing I was sure to get.

The door opened and Chris was standing there. His clothes were the same from last night and his shirt was untucked. Cassie was behind him watching him leave. She was in a robe I had never seen before.

Chris was shocked to see me standing there. He looked at me and then back at Cassie. He just shook his head. “I’m sorry Joe. I know after Janelle you will never forgive me again. “I’m sorry.” He said and then he left and walked away without another word. I watched him walk away and then I turned to see Cassie standing at the door.

“Joe, it was a mistake.” She said but it didn’t matter. I was already walking away from her and whatever we used to have together.

Cassie

He walked away. He didn’t say anything, he just walked away. I shut the door. We would work it out, we always did. I needed to forget about last night, but how could I. Chris loved me last night, he loved me all night.

When I got home I still had his jacket and his card was in the coat pocket. I called him and told him where I lived and to come get his coat. If he showed up, I wasn’t letting him leave. If he didn’t, well then he didn’t.

He buzzed the door and I let him in and met him outside my door. I held his coat behind me and wouldn’t let him get it without going through me. When our lips met in the hall, it was fire. I needed that heat and more so dragged him inside and we made love all night.

This morning, he wouldn’t even look at me. He made me promise not to tell Joe, so I did, just wanting him to get back into bed with me. But when he looked at me a look of disgust was on his face. I had no idea what was going on.

“What is wrong? Last night you wanted me, and I wanted you. What’s the problem?” I asked.

“Janelle,” He said getting dressed.

“Who the hell is Janelle?” I asked getting upset thinking he was married.

“Joe’s girlfriend from college. Joe loved her and I knew that, but she kept coming on to me, so we slept together, and then Joe found out. He didn’t speak to me for years. If he finds out about this.” He said sweeping his arm across the room, “He’ll never forgive me.”

“It’s not him I care about,” I cried trying to get him to understand.

“Yeah that’s what she said too. The stupid part is, I care about him, and I did it again. I can’t believe I did this. I can’t believe you did this to him. He loved you.” Chris screamed at me.

“I didn’t love him.” I screamed back.

“That was your mistake, and now we both are going to pay.” He said pulling himself together and walking out of my bedroom. I grabbed a robe and threw it on and ran after him.

“How is it my mistake when I don’t love him?”

“If you cared about him at all, even as a friend, you wouldn’t have hurt him like this, but you did, and I did. Neither one of us deserves him. He’s too good for me and he is especially too good for you. I need to get out of here and away from you.” Chris said opening the door.

When he did the world stopped. Joe was standing there. Chris’s whole body sagged. He looked back at me with a disgust I had never seen before and then he looked at Joe.

“I’m sorry Joe. I know after Janelle you will never forgive me again. “I’m sorry.” Chris said and then he left and didn’t say another word to me.

Joe watched him go and he was so pale. My heart did bleed for the look on his face.

“Joe, it was a mistake.” I said but he didn’t listen. He just walked away from me. He needed time to understand, that’s what he needed. We were just friends. We would be alright; I would make sure he knew we were still friends.

“This is Cindy, leave me a message.” The voice said again. I left the message again for her to call me. I told her it was an emergency. She still hadn’t called.

This day had sucked. I felt terrible. Chris wouldn’t answer his phone when I tried to call him and neither would Joe. Now Cindy was not answering. I even tried Mark and got nowhere. It’s like they were all ignoring me.

I went up and banged on Joe’s door ready to have it out with him, but he wasn’t home. I had no idea where he was but he wasn’t here.

I didn’t understand how this whole thing exploded like this. Joe and I weren’t a couple, we were just friends, so why wasn’t it feeling that way?

“You didn’t answer your phone all day yesterday?” I accused Cindy as she entered my office and shut the door.

“I’m sorry Miss Lewis. I didn’t realize we were required to be on call for the business.” She said evenly.

“You’re not. I was trying to call you all day. I needed to talk to you.” I said to her.

“I believe Miss Lewis, that anything you have to say to me, we can discuss here at the office. Is there a certain project or account that I can help you with?”

“Cindy, don’t act this way. Yes, I know I hung up on you in the restaurant, but it was just a thing. I need you to talk to me.”

“Answer one question for me?” She asked and I happily agreed. Anything to get her to talk to me.

“Did you sleep with him?”

“Who,” I asked even though I knew the answer.

“Joe’s friend, did you sleep with him?” She asked again.

I could lie to her, but I would never do that to her or us. “Yes, I did.”

“I see. Miss Lewis, if you need me for anything business related, just memo me. Will there be anything else?” Cindy said standing.

“No miss Barton, that will be all.” I said and she left my office, and me too, as tears fell down my face.

Three days and he still wasn’t answering his door. He wasn’t answering his phone and Cindy wasn’t talking to me either. My work was starting to suffer. Chris finally answered his phone and after he got through screaming at me I told him about Joe and how I was worried.

I got a text later from Chris saying Joe was fine and that he wanted nothing to do with either one of us ever again. Then he said he wanted nothing to do with me ever again either. My world was crashing around me and I had no one to turn to.

Finally, on the fourth day while I was banging on Joes door his neighbor next door came out and looked at me. He was an older guy, but I had seen him before. “If you’re looking for the guy that used to live there, give up, he moved.”

“He was just here three days ago,” I said not believing the man.

“Yup and two days ago about ten young men came in and packed everything up and moved it away. They were done like in two hours. It was the damndest thing I ever saw. All those young guys working like the devil themselves were pushing their buttons. The place was completely empty. The super said he will be leasing it out as soon as he can.” The man said to me and even though I didn’t want to believe him, I did.

“Thank you,” I said walking away.

I went back to my apartment and threw myself on my couch. I started crying, but there was no Joe to come to my rescue, and there never would be again.

Joe

“So what’s up my boy?” Thomas asked standing above me as I was lifting weights.

“Mr. Updyke,” I said replacing the weights and standing up. I wasn’t expecting him and I had no idea why he was in town.

“What’s up Joe?” He asked again a little more persistently.

“Oh just lifting weights, trying to keep up with the guys.” I said.

“Nice try, as you can see the place is emptied out. Now tell me the truth. What is going on?” He asked again and I crumbled back on the bench.

“Cassie, she slept with my best friend. I guess she was serious about letting me know we never had a future. So I’m working off steam.” I said.

“I see. Will you forgive her, or him?” He asked me.

Would I? “No. Chris has done this to me before in college, so I can never forgive him now, I did once, and look how that turned out. Cassie, well she was trying to hurt me. It wasn’t like it just happened, she meant for it to happen, so no, I won’t forgive her either.”

“Well forever is a longtime my boy. Maybe you just need to remove yourself from the situation for a while. My other offer still stands. Why don’t you try it while you’re figuring things out, and we can see how it goes? Ready to take on a new adventure?”

Was I? Probably not, but the idea of getting away for a while, that did sound good. “Why not.”

“Great, I will get you a flight in the morning.” Thomas said.

“Wow, that quick? I have so much to do.” Is said feeling overwhelmed all of a sudden.

“Nothing that can’t be taken care of from Oklahoma. I’d just throw you in my jet with me, but I am headed for Boston and then on to DC. Get your ass to OC and meet with Tammy tomorrow. She’ll have your new duties ready as soon as you get there.” Thomas said slapping me on the back.

“Yes Thomas.” I said.

“That’s better, now get cleaned up and say your goodbye’s in this city. It may be a long time before you come back.” Thomas said slapping me one more time and walking away.

I took a shower and shaved. Plans were made. The flight left first thing in the morning and some of the guys were going to pack up my apartment and put it in storage for me until I could figure shit out. I already had decided I wasn’t going to see Cassie; it was too hard.

I did need to tell a couple of other people though. The first one would be easy, the second not so much. I waited as long as I could and then I picked up the phone.

“Hello,” the female voice said on the other end.

“Hey Cindy,” I said back.

“Oh Joe, I’m so sorry, I tried to keep her from doing something stupid. I want you to know I haven’t talked to her since that night, well, except for today when she called me into her office and reamed me out. I made it clear to her that all we had now was a working arrangement. Joe I can’t believe she did that to you.” Cindy rambled out.

“Look Cindy, I don’t want to come between you and Cassie. You were right, I got hurt, and you tried to warn me, but that’s not why I’m calling.” I said catching my breath in between the deep sighs of pain.

“Why did you call Joe?” She asked, and I could hear the fear in her voice.

“I need you to promise me something before I tell you. Can you do that?” I asked.

“Anything,” she said quickly.

I believed her. “You have to promise to not tell Cassie any of the rest of this conversation.”

“If that’s what you want Joe. I promise.”

“I’m leaving Cindy. I need to get away for a while. I don’t think I will be coming back.” I said fighting back the sobs.

“Oh Joe, what will you do?”

“I’m going to the main club to take on some new duties. Mr. Updyke has been trying to get me to do this for years, and I never wanted to leave. Now, well, there is no reason to stay. Don’t tell Cassie. I can’t see her again.”

“I won’t Joe. Are you going to be all right?” She asked the concern evident in her voice. More concern than I ever remembered hearing from Cassie.

“I will be. Take care of Cassie for me. I need to know you will look after her. She is special Cindy, and I need to know she will be looked after. Promise me?” I pleaded.

“Why? Joe she hurt you worse than anyone has a right to hurt someone. Why make me promise that. Right now I can’t stand to be in the same room as her.” Cindy said back to me.

“Please Cindy, until she finds someone to do it better than you, please?” I begged.

“Fine, but I’m not happy about this.” She explained.

“I know. Thank you Cindy, for everything.” I said getting ready to hang up.

“Joe, please call me and Mark once and a while. You’re our friend too.” Cindy begged back.

“I will, I promise. I just need to get past this first. I’ll be ok. Talk to you soon Cindy.” I said finally.

“Good bye Joe.”

“I don’t understand. Why are you leaving?” Rhapsody cried.

“It’s a work thing. I have to go.” I said tearing her off of me.

“Oh bullshit,” She cried.

“Rhapsody,” Mamma Jade screamed.

“I’m sorry, but he has been putting off that promotion for years. I’m not a little girl anymore. I know what it is, even though none of you will tell me. It’s that bitch.” Rhapsody said.

“That’s enough young lady. Get to your room.” Charles screamed.

Rhapsody ran from the room crying and I was crying too. I never meant to hurt any of them. I didn’t, it just happened.

Mamma Jade pulled me down to sit next to her. She looked at me hard and I knew she knew what this was about. Like mother like daughter I thought.

“She hurt you bad, didn’t she?” Momma asked.

“It’s the worst hurt I’ve ever felt. I feel like I will never be whole. When you lose that one love you thought you would never have, well, like that. I just don’t know where I will go from here.” I said sobbing.

“I’m sorry Joe. I agree with Thomas, this time. It may be good to get away for a little bit and let yourself heal. We will be fine, and your table will always be here for you when you come back.” She said.

“I don’t know if I will be back,” I said between tears.

“Hush darling, you will be. All my boys will be back sooner or later. For some it will just take a little longer. As long as it takes, we will always be here.” She said patting my back.

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