Hopelessly Devoted

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Chapter Thirteen: It’s no big deal…right?

Though every bit of me wanted to call in sick the next day, I knew I couldn’t. Darnell was expecting first notes and my future career was at stake. He got his first notes and was thrilled, he even commented on how I seemed to be able to get a deeper insight into a person just from a Q and A. I took the compliment; he didn’t need to know where my deeper insight really came from.

After that, I threw myself into my work certain to make sure my debut as a true journalist was perfect. The article launched with Sunday’s edition and I was free to think about things other than Texas Conrad. The banging on my door woke me from a peaceful sleep. The person didn’t even ring the doorbell, just fist against door. How rude!

“Alright,” I complained, trudging to the door.

“Don’t you take that tone with me Selena Ayers!” Cassey barked from the other side of the door. “You have some explaining to do missy!”

“Yes you do Selena!”

The second voice was Amber’s. I knew it. I figured it wouldn’t be long after the article that they would be after me, but I had hoped to at least sleep until like eleven maybe. I braced for impact and opened the door.

“Care to explain this?” Cass snapped at me, shoving a copy of the paper in my face as she did.

“Good morning to you as well, would you like to come in?” I asked, turning my back on them and heading to the kitchen. If I was going to be interrogated, I needed caffeine.

“Oh, no you don’t girlie.” Amber told me, following in my wake. “We are your best friends and we find out you not only saw your ex, but actually sat down with him and gave an interview and didn’t even hint to us about it!”

“It’s no big deal.” I said nonchalantly.

“No big deal,” Cass mimicked. “Selena, this man did a number on you. Maybe I’m having a hallucination here or something, but I seem to recall lying, cheating, and hurt. So bad in fact, that you tucked tail and took off from your family and friends. Doesn’t that merit a shout out to us when you realize you are going to have to be in his presence again?”

“I didn’t realize it.” I told them, grabbing a soda. “Darnell sent me off to interview one of the ‘big wigs’,” I said, making air quotes as I did, “and it turned out that it happened to be Tex.”

“Oh Selena…” Amber cooed pityingly, “I am so sorry. That must have been excruciating for you.”

“I fainted.”

“What?!” They both exclaimed.

I nodded my head up and down while swallowing the soda. “Yep,” I said, setting the bottle down. “He walked in; I saw him and the next thing I knew I was waking up on the couch in his office.”

Both girls came over to me and wrapped me into a hug. They were treating me like an injured child and telling me they were so sorry. I laughed at their behavior, but I admit…it felt kinda good to be comforted.

“Guys,” I told them, “I’m fine now. Really. I mean, yes it was a shock.” I grabbed the soda and made my way to the living room to sit in the chair. They both took an end of the couch as I continued, “But I knew it was inevitable to see him eventually. Granted, I had hoped to handle the situation a little better.”

“What has Ryan said about it?” Amber asked.

I choked a little on the soda I was drinking before wiping my mouth and answering. “Um…well, he hasn’t said anything about it…other than I did a wonderful job on the article.”

They were both staring daggers at me. I avoided their gaze.

“Selena.” Cassey said, “Tell me you have told Ryan all about Texas Conrad the fourth.”

“He knows about him.”

“Other than what he read in your article?” Amber asked, crossing her arms over her chest and giving me a withering look.

“It’s possible he knows more than what’s in the article.” I admitted, shrugging a shoulder.

“Are you flipping kidding me?!” Cassey shouted, leaning forward to look me in the face, “you haven’t told him about you and Tex…he knows nothing?”

“Look…it’s never come up okay. Why would I want to go through all that? Ryan and I are great. He’s so good to me and we get along and everything is great so why would I want to drudge up the past for no reason.”

“Everything is great.” Cassey smirked, “that’s why you’ve never been intimate with him then, because everything is great?”

“Not every relationship moves at the speed of light Cass.”

“Most don’t move at the speed of snail either. It’s been over six months!”

“We’ve not gotten to that point yet.” I argued.

“Bull!” she shot back.

I pushed my bottom back in the chair and held out my hands. “Fine. Alright fine, yes…I know Ryan would like more. He doesn’t force the issue or say anything, but I can see the disappointment on his face every time things are headed in that direction and I say I need to leave or tell him I have a deadline to make.” I blew a breath up my face that made hair shoot up and fall back down. “I don’t know what’s stopping me. I’m crazy about him, and it seems he feels the same about me.”

“Well…from what I can see, it certainly seems like Tex is the problem, not you.” Amber concluded.

“How is that?” I asked, scrunching my face in confusion.

She leaned forward to match Cass and myself. “Because even though it’s been all these years, and yes, you’ve managed to learn to function…you are still afraid of having to go through that again. It’s obvious. That’s why you passed out when you saw him. You were doing good and making progress with Ryan and thought you would be able to keep making headway, but then Tex just shows up, right when you are getting it together and that fear was made fresh again. He’s the cause of your hesitancy with Ryan, and now he’s going to cause you pause for a possible happy future.”

Truthfully, she was right and that meant I was stuck. With a fling of my hand I told them both, “I’m open to suggestions. What do I do about it?”

Cassey’s hand shot out and snagged mine. “We got you girl.” She said, winking at me.

“Yeah.” Amber agreed, throwing her hand in with our own.

We laughed together. The girls got up from the couch and flung themselves onto my chair. We were laughing and squished together. Both of them gave me advice and demanded I contact them immediately if any future issues come about. As I waved and watched them drive off, I thanked God for my friends. They really are a blessing.

Remember when I told you that I snuck a peak at the calendar and found out that Tex would be at our Christmas function? You do? Well, at least one of us did. Because I sure didn’t.

After Cass and Amber’s intervention I made up my mind to do better by Ryan. He was certainly doing right by me after all. When he made one of our dates a dinner and a movie at his house, I showed up…and… didn’t leave until the next day.

I had gotten up from his couch and stretched. He stood up as well, turning off the television before walking past me and out of the room. I went behind him but when he headed to the door, as he normally did to kiss me goodnight… I took the first of the two stairs to go up to his room.

“Selena?” he asked, “Uh…isn’t it late?”

I stopped and turned to him, a hand resting on the banister. “Yes it is. That’s why I’m heading up to bed.”

“My bed?” he asked, still watching me cautiously.

I let a grin slide up my face. “Is that a problem?” I asked softly.

He didn’t need to be asked twice. “No ma’am.” He assured me as he locked the door and took the steps behind me. When we were in the room, he grabbed my arms gently and turned me to look at him.

“Selena…I,” he took a deep breath and blew it out, bringing my hands up to his lips and kissing them. “I just want you to know that I am in love with you…”

I started to speak but he stopped me.

“No listen…just listen. I know this is the first time I’ve told you, but I’m not saying it to you because of what might be about to happen. I want you to know that I love you…before I tell you that if you are not comfortable… if you are not one hundred percent sure you want to spend the night with me…,” he reached a hand out to caress my cheek and look into my eyes.

“I will still be yours tomorrow, and the day after that…and as long as you’ll have me.”

I grabbed the hand caressing my cheek. “That’s good to know.” I told him just before I kissed his hand and looked back up at him. Smiling slyly I said, “By the way, I expect breakfast in the morning.”

I could feel his hand shaking just slightly in my own. Keeping my eyes on his, I reached up with my left hand and shut off the light. I heard his breath hitch just as I brought my lips to his.

That was two weeks ago.

Tonight we are in our office building having our annual Christmas party. Ryan and I had just finished a dance and he went to get us drinks. I went over to the sofa sitting area to take a break and talk to some office acquaintances.

Ryan was ordering our drinks from the catering service when Tex moved up beside him.

“Mr. James, how are you?” Tex asked him.

Ryan turned to him. “Mr. Conrad. I didn’t know you were coming tonight.”

“Harmon insisted, said it was quite a deal and wouldn’t have us missing it.”

“Well,” Ryan said just as he was given our drinks. “Glad you could make it. Most of our clients do attend the party, but I would have thought…”

“That our company’s people were too rich and pretentious to mingle with the common folk?” Tex finished for him, laughing.

Ryan laughed as well, “I wouldn’t have put it that way…but sort of, I guess.”

“Hopefully you will continue to find that we are just as down home and community oriented as anyone else.” Tex said, noticing his drinks. “I’m sorry,” he added, “You’re here with someone, I’m keeping you from them. I’ll just…”

“It’s alright,” Ryan interjected, “I’ve just gotten us drinks. Come with me, I’ll introduce her to you. She writes for the paper.”

The two of them began making their way toward me, though I was none the wiser.”

“She writes? Have I read any of her articles?”

Ryan laughed, “Actually she’s interviewed you personally.” He told him, and then called out to me. “Babe, look who made it to our little gathering.”

I turned to receive my drink and found Ryan and Tex standing side by side. I stood up quickly, looking from one to the other. Forcing a smile, I took my drink from Ryan and thanked him. Ryan moved over to me, kissed me quickly, and then put his arm around my waist as he addressed Tex.

“She interviewed you as Sel Mayer, but actually she’s…”

“Selena Ayers.” Tex finished, keeping his eyes on me.

“Yeah.” Ryan told him, squinting a little in confusion, “Do you two already know each other?” he asked, moving a finger back and forth between us. “Other than the interview?”

I looked at Tex a moment more before turning to Ryan and saying, “We…”

“Went to the school together.” Tex said over my words. He then laughed a little, and gave Ryan his attention. “Selena was at SCHS up to our senior year, but then she left close to graduation because…”

“My grandmother.” I said, taking my turn to interrupt. “She needed me and, in a way, I needed her.” I shot Tex a leveling look before turning back to Ryan.

“Ah,” Tex said, shoving his hands in his pockets, “Your grandmother’s. I wasn’t quite sure where she lived.”

“Well it’s not something one goes around talking about to just anyone.” I offered.

“Just anyone?” Tex asked, raising an eyebrow at me.

At this time, the DJ mercifully put on a slow song, to which I was able to excuse us from Tex and make Ryan take me to the dance floor. Every time Ryan tried to bring up Tex and our high school years together, I answered vaguely before changing the subject. For the first part of our dance, I was more than aware that Tex was staring at us from the bar. Then, with relief, I was happy to see I couldn’t find him anywhere.

We stayed another couple of hours before Ryan drove me home.

Tomorrow was Christmas and we had agreed to start out with each of our families before coming together for the day. At the door, Ryan held me close and told me how he didn’t want to leave. I giggled a lot as he nipped at my neck and ears. Finally he gave me a long lingering kiss before telling me good night and driving away.

I unlocked my door, walked inside, took off my shoes and placed the keys on the side table. I was still caught up in the bliss of the kiss as I made my way into the living room and flicked on the light. Then I screamed bloody murder!

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