Julie stared at me from across the table, giving me those fuck-me eyes that she had been giving me all night and a tense smile that had asked me a million times where I had been the last month. I didn’t want to come tonight, but she asked me out last minute and I needed a damn drink.
Mia had been on my mind all last night and all today. I could barely think straight at work. All I could hear was her voice uttering those words over and over and over. I just want you for sex. Those words had haunted me for years.
I knew Mia had spoken out of anger and fear and stress, but… it still hurt.
I took another sip of my wine and sighed to myself. The waiter came over with a wide smile on his face. “Did we decide on dessert?” he asked, placing two boxes of our food on the table.
Before I could decline, Julie smiled widely at him. “Yes, please. Do you have a menu?”
The waiter handed her the dessert menu, and I pushed my hand into my pant pocket, grasping my phone, wishing that she’d text me. I didn’t go see her today like I should have, if I wanted her to know that I was serious about this.
Melissa had mentioned they were off to another party, so I decided to keep my distance. All I wanted was to help her. I couldn’t stand watching her get used by Mason. I couldn’t stand listening to her sound so desperate on the phone with her father. I couldn’t stand how hurt I felt that she didn’t want my help.
It was a pride thing. It was embarrassment. It was sorrow.
It fucking hurt.
I wanted to help her, but I couldn’t help someone who didn’t want help. Mia had to decide what she wanted for herself.
“So,” Julie started, gaze lifting to mine from the menu. “What do you want?”
“Anything is fine,” I said, trying hard not to seem too uninterested. Julie was a nice girl, she just wasn’t for me.
She twisted the menu in my direction and pushed it toward me. “They have chocolate cake and cinnamon apple pie, ice cre--”
“Chocolate cake,” I said to keep her quiet. I couldn’t get my thoughts to stop racing.
She let out an exasperated sigh and closed the menu, grasping my fingers on the table. “Stop tapping them.” She tilted her head at me, eyes softening. “What happened? Why won’t you tell me?”
I clenched my jaw and pulled my hand away from hers. Don’t flip out on her, Michael. She had done nothing wrong. I balled my hand into a fist and pushed it under the table. “It’s personal.”
“So personal that you could barely message me for the entire month?”
My jaw twitched. What was I even doing here? I should have stayed home or went to the hospital to try to clear things up with Mia. Not went out on a fucking date with someone I didn’t even want to be with from the start.
My phone buzzed in my pocket, my heart lurching in my chest. I grasped it through my pant pocket, hand itching to answer it because I knew it was Mia. Nobody would call me this late, except her.
But I didn’t interrupt dinner to check my phone. I… The phone continued and continued to buzz. I pulled it out of my pocket to see Mia’s name flash on the screen. And before I could stop myself, I answered it and put it to my ear.
It was rude.
But it was Mia.
“Michael,” Mia said, followed by the sound of something pounding around her--rain. “I know that you probably hate me right now, but I don’t have anyone else to call. I… I… Melissa and Mason are drunk and she tried to force me to hook up with someone at the party and I can’t get back to the hospital and I--”
Her voice came out so quickly that I could barely hear what she was saying. “Mia, slow down. What’s wrong?”
“Mia?” Julie said, eyes wide, cheeks flushed. She was giving me a look that I had only ever seen Melissa’s mother give me before… pure wrath. “Who is Mia?”
I took a deep breath. “What’s wrong?” I asked Mia again.
There was silence on the other end of the phone, and I could hear her choppy breaths. “Oh,” she said quietly. “You’re… out on a date.”
My heart ached, hearing the disappointment in her voice. “Tell me what’s wrong and I--”
“No,” she said quickly. “No, it’s okay. I don’t want to bother you. I’ll walk home.”
“It’s pouring outside,” I said, glancing at the rain pouring down out the window.
“Have a nice date. Sorry for bothering you.” And, then, the line went silent. I swallowed hard, trying to remember what party Melissa said that she was going to tonight. Something had gone wrong, Melissa had fucked something up, and Mia sounded so damn hurt.
I pulled out a few bills from my wallet and threw them on the table, stood and grabbed my suit jacket. “I have to go,” I said to Julie, stuffing my wallet back into my pocket.
Her big blue eyes widened at me. “Now? We’re just about to start dessert.”
I gazed down at our table, the to-go boxes set to the side, the piece of cake she so desperately wanted to share in the middle, the glass of unfinished wine I knew she didn’t really like--that she drank because I did. “Everything is paid for, Julie. Don’t worry about it. It was great seeing you again.”
Without even saying goodbye to her, I pushed through the door and ran out to my car through the rain. Maybe I was a fool. Maybe Mia really wanted me for sex and nothing more. But, even then, I would still go pick her up because I didn’t want her falling into a loveless relationship with someone like I did. I wanted to see her happy. I wanted her.
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