He took a breath and sniffed a little, “I bought a red eye ticket to New York and stayed in some nasty hotel by the airport until the draft. Once I knew I was coming here to Texas, I flew here and found an apartment and finished my classes online. I called my dad and told him what had happened, he wasn’t pleased but said he understood. I flew in for finals, but didn’t go to graduation. I couldn’t risk seeing her. Then I just threw myself into football for the last six years, always wanting to call her or send her flowers or go and see her, but I was and still am, afraid of what she will say or do.”
Kevin sat listening to his friend completely shocked by what he was saying. He never would have guessed this! Jake never hinted at this in all the years they had known each other. It explained why he would date, but never more than that. And one woman was persistent about wanting to marry him, but Jake never gave in.
“So she never contacted you after that day? Not to tell you off? Anything?”
“She called me one time in early June, but I let it go to voicemail. I didn’t have the balls to pick up or call back. I still have the message and I listen to it all the time, just thinking about how bad I fucked up, how bad I hurt her and what could have been…”
Jake messed with his phone and pulled up the saved message. He turned up the volume, set it to speaker and pressed play.
“Hey Jake...It’s me...I need you to call me, there is something we need to talk about. Please... It’s really important… Jake, even if you never call me back, just know that I will always love you. You were my first for so many things and I will never stop loving you no matter what may happen in the future. I’m not mad Jake, I just want to talk...Good luck with everything… I love you Jake…”
Kevin could hear the woman’s voice waiver a little when she said her last line. He let out a deep breath he didn’t even realize that he was holding as he looked at his best friend. Jake had a look of devastation on his face as he listened.
“Damn Jake...I don’t really know what to say… Are you ok?”
“I don’t know. I have been thinking a lot about her over the last few weeks and even dreaming about her. When Coach suggested that I think about going home, I got scared, but excited at the thought. I need to mend things with my Dad, badly. And then I could see her and that excites me. But what if she had moved on and is married? I don’t know if I could handle that, Kev...I just don’t know…”
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Kevin spoke, “What if you go home, talk with your dad and then I fly out a few days later to help distract you in case she has moved on?”
Jake thought about that and liked the way it sounded, “I could leave tomorrow and drive home. If I leave early, I can be in by 8:00 or 9:00 tomorrow night. I could spend Wednesday with my Dad and get things squared away, and then you can fly in on Thursday. I will pick you up from the airport. What do you think?”
Kevin nodded, “That’s a plan. I will talk with Ashley and let her know what’s going on. She will be glad to be rid of me for a few days!”
Jake laughed; he loved his best friend’s wife. She was a good woman who kept Kevin in line, which he desperately needed. Kevin was two years older than Jake, but not nearly as mature. Ashley made him be a better man and Kevin loved his wife deeply. She was a strong, smart, beautiful woman who was a Labor and Delivery nurse at the state’s biggest hospital. She was way too good for Kevin and he knew it.
They set the plan and Jake went to pack after Kevin had left. He also left a message for his PT to recommend someone in Colorado to see while he was gone, which he didn’t know how long that would be. He packed some nicer clothes since his dad liked to go out and eat at high scale restaurants that required jackets and ties. Jake ordered in some more Thai food, showered and went to bed early.
He woke up early and was on the road by 4:30. Hell, his favorite coffee shop wasn’t even open yet, so he had to settle for a bad cup of fast food coffee on the road. He made excellent time as he drove, very thankful for satellite radio to keep him occupied as he drove. He crossed into Colorado at 3:30 that afternoon and only had a few hours more to go. He had stopped a few times along the way to eat, and do some exercises for his knee.
At 7:30 that night, he pulled onto the street where he grew up, surprised that nothing had really changed. He pulled in the long driveway, and followed it around to the back by the garage and parked. He got out and stretched out his knee, then went to the front door and rang the bell. He didn’t want to scare his dad by walking in as he hadn’t told him he was coming. Plus he wasn’t sure how his dad would react. Michael Doogan was a strong, fair man, but he had been hurt and Jake just wasn’t sure what he would do when he saw him.
The front porch light came on and the massive oak front door opened. Jake smiled at his dad, as his dad just stood there, gapping at him.