Sophie and I are still looking into each other’s eyes, my words still hanging in the air between us. I’m looking for all of the answers in her expression, but all I can see is fear and confusion. I’ve done my part and now it is up to her to make the next move. Evan can’t say I didn’t try to open her eyes to what he was feeling about her, and I can live with myself knowing I laid it all out.
“What are you talking about?” Her voice cracks and she shuts her eyes for a second as she tries to compose her emotions.
“He came to my room last night after you and Rachel went in yours. Seeing you made him realize he has never stopped loving you. He wanted help deciding what to do about the wedding.” I give my drink a small spin before taking another long sip.
“He’s crazy. What’s he thinking? How could he do this? She’s my best friend. I don’t want to be the reason her wedding gets ruined.” I see her suck in breath after breath as if her body is beginning to panic with each passing second. “What am I supposed to do about it?”
“I guess that depends on how you feel about him,” I tell her. Her eyes, which have been flying around the table focusing on anything but mine suddenly come to a stop and flash with surprise as they meet mine.
“His decision should have nothing to do with how I feel about him. Is he even serious? What’s his plan? If I say I love him he’s going to cancel the wedding or leave my best friend at the alter? If I don’t love him then he’s going to marry her even though he’s in love with someone else?” She rests her head in her hands and closes her eyes again.
“We didn’t really get to that part. He doesn’t know I’m telling you any of this. I told him he was just getting cold feet and he needed to sleep it off. He was pretty drunk, but I don’t think that’s the reason he thinks he still loves you.”
“Oh God. Oh God.” She drops her hands to her lap and then shakes her head slowly looking down at the table. “I can’t be a part of my best friend’s broken heart. Maybe she’d deserve it, but I know exactly how it feels to be left so I could never do that to her.” I start to feel a little panicked myself since she has still not shared her feeling for him.
“When he left my room he seemed resigned to going through with the wedding. I don’t know if he had a back up plan or if he was even still considering sharing his feelings with you. Maybe you don’t have to do anything or maybe I shouldn’t have told you. I just couldn’t live with myself if I held on to a secret that could change your life.”
She reaches for her drink and swallows it down, placing it firmly on the table before lifting her eyes to mine. “Would it make me a terrible person if I didn’t tell Rachel? Would I be a terrible person if I did? DAMNIT! There’s no good ending to this!” Rubbing small circles at her temples, she closes her eyes again and takes a few slow breaths.
“Stop worrying about what’s best for Rachel. She didn’t worry about what was best for you. Listen to your heart. If you still love him then I think you should tell him.” I lean forward and pull her hand away from her temple to hold it in mine. I silently pray that she doesn’t still have feelings for him. I don’t want to push her, but my heart is beating so rapidly I worry it might leap from my chest.
“You’re right. I need to talk to him. I don’t want to pretend this problem will work its way out. It’s not fair to any of us.”
I squeeze her hand and feel all the hope I have leave my body. I just opened the door for her to choose him and now I’m going to watch her walk through it. The waiter returns to the table with our food, but neither of us touch it. We just sit in silence for a few minutes. My phone buzzes in my pocket and I pull it out and read a text from Evan.
Evan: Where are you?
Me: At lunch.
Evan: Are you with her?
I take a minute to decide what to say. His words stare back at me and I hate that I have to be in the middle of something so futile. He might still love her, but that won’t change the person he is. His cheating and womanizing have never been a problem in our friendship because I have never cared about any of the women except Sophie. Now I kick myself for not telling him he was being an asshole sooner.
Evan: I tried to find her. I want to talk to her, but she’s not here or with the girls. Is she with you?
Evan: What the fuck?! Are you trying to hook up with her?
Rage engulfs my body, causing tension to grip every muscle. I’m doing the right thing and he is accusing me of trying to hook up with her. He, who is currently engaged and about to marry someone else.
Me: You’re an asshole. I just fucking told her about your feelings for her. You’re welcome.
Evan: Sorry man. What did she say?
Me: She wants to talk to you.
Evan: I can meet her tonight before the rehearsal. That’s probably the only time Rachel won’t notice.
Her eyes are watching me now as I type out the messages to Evan. Our food still sits in front of us untouched, but the waiter has returned with another round of our drinks. “He wants to meet up with you before the rehearsal.”
“OK.” It’s barely above a whisper and I can see most of the color has left her face. She sniffs and I look at her more closely trying to see if tears are going to fall. I could kill Evan for putting her in this position. “Tell him to meet me in my room at 5.”
“No.” My voice sounds rougher than usual and she flinches slightly as it strikes her. I clear my throat and start again. “I don’t think you should meet in a room. If people saw or found out it would look like you were doing something behind Rachel’s back. Meet him in public, but somewhere far enough away from the hotel that people won’t see you.” I don’t tell her I can’t stand the thought of him touching her or kissing her and being in public is the only way I won’t go crazy while they’re meeting.
She nods her head and a tear falls down her cheek. She clears it quickly as if it never happened. I see her swallow down a lump in her throat before she speaks. “How about the lifeguard tower in front of that seafood restaurant?”
I nod my head and return my gaze to the dim light of my cell phone.
Me: Meet her at 5 at the lifeguard tower in front of The Crab Shack.
Evan: I could meet her in her room.
Evan: We should be alone.
Evan: Is that you or her speaking?
Me: Both. I got you your meeting. Don’t hurt her anymore than you already have.
Evan: I got the message.
We only have two hours until the rehearsal dinner and I hate that any of it is going to be wasted on Evan. “Do you want to head back now so you can get ready? I can walk you down when it’s time and wait if you want.”
“Thank you. I don’t need to get ready. I’ll wait until after I see him. I think I just want to sit here a little longer if that’s ok.” She spins the straw in her drink before taking a sip.
“Of course.” I want to ask her what she’s going to tell him. I need to know if he is going to get a second chance to break her heart again. But every time I look at her I can see the stress and sadness in her eyes and it stops me from pushing the issue any further. As each minute passes, resentment towards Evan builds. “So, have you met some good friends in California?”
Her smile returns and the clenching grip my muscles have on my heart loosens ever so slightly. “Yes. I have two great roommates. We’ve become close friends and I also have a few friends from work. I don’t have a lot of time for socializing so right now I’m happy with the friends I’ve made so far.”
“Sounds like you have really begun to build a life for yourself out there.” I find myself wanting to know every detail of it. Where she lives. Where she works. What she does for fun.
“I love it. I’m never coming back,” she says confidently just before finishing her drink.
I make eye contact with the waiter and he nods his head, quickly rushing over with another one. She smiles at him and spins the straw again, mixing the colorful beverage. “What about you?” She asks. “Same friends? Serious girlfriends?”
I smile at how she tries to tuck that question in among the others so it seems less important than it is. “Same friends. A few new ones, but I don’t have a lot of free time either. No serious girlfriends. What about boyfriends in California?” The ice in my glass clinks together and I reach for the new one that is next to the now empty glass.
“Sadly, no.” She shakes her head and I’m beginning to see the effects of the alcohol in her eyes. “I haven’t dated since Evan. Not on purpose. I just haven’t found anyone I’m really interested in. I guess dating him left a tiny scar.” She holds her fingers up in front of her face to show me how small it is and giggles when she closes one eye and peeks at me through the tiny space. She’s so adorable.
“That’s a long time to go without a date. There’s no way you haven’t been asked out. You’re beautiful, intelligent and hot as hell.” I haven’t even finished with my new drink when the waiter returns with yet another round. The slight intoxication feels good. It makes my heart ache less and my brain get warm with ideas of Sophie.
“I get asked out a lot. I just don’t accept. What about you? Maybe not a serious girlfriend, but do you date often?”
I shake my head slowly. “Here and there, but nothing remarkable. Mostly my friends trying to hook me up and get me laid. I guess they have decided I get a little cranky when I’m putting that part of my life off for too long.” I chuckle and she adds her empty glass to the growing monument at the end of our table. Swiping up the new one she tips it in my direction.
“To being single.” She taps it to mine and some of her drink sloshes out and down my hand. I set my drink down quickly but before I can grab a napkin she pulls my hand to her mouth and licks the cold, sticky beverage from my skin. The warmth of her tongue against the cooled flesh has my complete attention. My body starts to ache for her again as she swirls her tongue around my knuckle before lightly sucking the liquid into her mouth.
As if it was not the single most innocently arousing thing I’ve ever had a woman do to me in a restaurant, she drops my hand and returns to her drink. I lean back in my chair and make a small adjustment, hoping my shift masks the true purpose. Only I think I’ve made the situation worse now that her knee is situated in between my legs and I can feel the insides of our thighs resting close together. This time when the waiter returns she giggles and tells him it will be her last.
The warm buzz of the alcohol and the heat of being so close to her without being able to touch her where I want to is making my thoughts race. My eyes fall on the soft skin at her neck and I lick my bottom lip as I remember the way she tasted last night. With an internal groan I finally give up the fight and ask her what I’m dying to know. “What are you going to tell him?”
She twists her hair up and off her neck as if she’d read my earlier thought. Her eyes are serious as they look into mine and I want so badly to beg her to not let him do this to her again. Why can’t she see he doesn’t deserve her? He’s not even in her league. “I’m going to tell him the truth and hope for the best.” Her words run together at the end of the sentence and I know the drinks are catching up to her.
“What does that even mean?” I hear the desperation in my voice, but I don’t let my eyes look away from hers. I can see the small shrug of her shoulders. Her cheeks are flush now from the alcohol and her lips are plump from worrying them between her teeth. I want to lean forward, wrap my fingers into her hair and pull her mouth to mine. I want to claim her so he doesn’t have a chance to break her again. The only thing stopping me is the voice inside my head that tells me she might still be in love with my best friend.
“It means that I’ll finally get to tell him what I’ve been holding onto for the last four years.” Of course this is when the waiter returns with our bill and asks about containers for our food. I want to scream at him to get away from our table. I don’t fucking care about containers for the damn food. I care about whether or not the girl I’ve been in love with since I was a teenager is going to go back to my best friend. I need to know if I should have hope this stupid doomed wedding is going to finally put an end to my obligation to stay away from the one girl who stole my heart without ever even knowing it.
The death glare I give the waiter does not go unread and he turns and leaves us alone. I open my mouth to ask my question again, but Sophie speaks instead. “Walk me there, but don’t