My phone vibrates beside me, waking me up on Mazie’s tiny twin bed the following morning.
“Hey,” I say, answering.
“Hey. How are you doing?”
“I’m just… I’m surprised you called.”
“I don’t know. Just the way we left things off I guess.”
“I’m still your best friend.”
“Well, how are you? And where are you? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“I’m at my sister’s.”
“What?” she asks, sounding stunned.
“Yeah. I’m here.”
“Okay… well, that sort of explains things a little better because I was sort of calling you with a bit of bad news. But now that I hear this, I’m assuming you already know.”
“Well… Jack saw Tom at a restaurant with another woman last night.”
I take a deep breath with my eyes closed and try to swallow back the ice-cold pain surging through my chest.
It’s such a strange feeling when you feel pain and turmoil over someone who you know isn’t meant to be in your life anyway.
It’s like… they still owe you the due decency to take care of your heart, even though they’ve given you your heart back already.
“I know that he’s moved on,” I whisper. “He told me.”
“You didn’t tell me!” Opal squawks “What the hell happened?”
“He literally told me that being with me was like ‘trying to revive a corpse’.”
“Oh my gosh,” she gasps.
“And I feel like I can’t write anymore. My brain’s turned to mush.”
“The advice column?”
“They’ve gotten some intern named Bill to take it over for now. Or maybe it’s Pauline. I haven’t been keeping up…”
“Are you going to lose your job?”
“I don’t think Langston would do that.”
“You don’t think?”
“How do you know?”
“Because… well because he told me he has feelings for me.”
“Hold on! Isn’t he marrying Regina?”
“Okay… I’m so confused.”
“He told me they’ve been having a lot of problems.”
“Because of his feelings for you?”
“No… well I don’t think so. Regina doesn’t know about his feelings for me. I’m assuming their problems are unrelated.”
“They are definitely related.”
“Well, how would I know? I’m never in the same room with them while they bicker.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I have no idea.”
“You haven’t spoken to him?”
“We’ve spoken. A few nights ago, he kissed me… and I didn’t stop him.”
“Oh Lord, Lori. Home wrecking now?”
“I am not a home wrecker, Opal. He is the one who made the move. And honestly… him doing that was probably the catalyst that spurred me into going on this trip in the first place. To get out of the office… to just… get away!”
“Do you love him?”
“Do you love him?”
“Why are you asking me that?”
“Because it’s going to help guide me on what I’m going to tell you next.”
“Well, I do. I love him. I’m in love with him. I have been since I was nineteen. I’ve hated every single moment of my life since the day I met him because I wasn’t with him. Because I wasn’t the one he chose to be with. I feel like, at this point, all of the time I spent with Tom has blurred together into a joke of memory. Tom was just there to take up space beside me so I didn’t have to feel alone. And trust me… I already know that none of that is true because I know what a good heart Tom has, but Tom’s deepest levels of love always felt second-rate in comparison to what I wanted from Langston. And I could never have it. And I still can’t have it. Because he’s marrying Regina. And if he leaves Regina for me, I will never be okay with that. I will live with the heaviest guilt on my conscious and it will totally ruin what the love is supposed to feel like… it will ruin how I’ve imagined it’s supposed to feel like in my dreams. I just couldn’t. I wouldn’t. But I love him.”
Opal sits silently on the other end of the phone call.
“What advice do you have for me now?” I ask.
“You should be with him,” she tells me.
“Do it the right way this time.”
“And what way would that be?”
“Wait for him. If he isn’t meant to be with Regina, their relationship will crumble on its own time. When that happens then you can pursue things. You both have spent the entirety of your time knowing each other, dating other people. Wait to see what happens when you are both single for the first time at the same time.”
“That could be a long time. Or it could be never.”
“Take a leap of faith. If you two are supposed to be together, nothing in this world can stop you two from being together. You know that.”
“What if fate, or the universe, or God, or whatever it is up in the fucking sky isn’t what’s at play here? What if we really are just a handful of random human beings, scattered across the surface of this earth, fucking up each other’s lives and never getting anything right?”
“We don’t have to share the same beliefs but you already know how wildly wrong I think you are for thinking of life that way.”
I take a deep sigh and nod my head. “Alright.”
“What’s alright?” Opal asks.
“I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna take a leap of faith.”
“When are you coming back home?”
“I’ll drive back first thing tomorrow morning. I have to figure out the living situation with Tom because I don’t know which of us is going to be staying at our apartment. I don’t know if either of us is going to want to stay there, honestly.”
“Jack and I welcome you to stay here as long as it takes to figure that out.”
“I appreciate that a lot, Opal. Thank you.”
“Of course. I love you, Lori.”
“I love you too.”
We end the phone call on that note.