You know that one little word, smell, phrase- you know the ones- the ones that trigger a memory you try to forget but just cannot seem to let go. You argue with yourself about why you feel the way you do, and you are aware you should be over this by now but you just can’t seem to let it go. You know this other person on your mind is a million miles away and does not remember a single thing about you. You know, you have no chance in hell, yet here you are thinking about them and feeling that funny little beating in your heart. The one where you're not sure if it's a heart condition or the idea of that person. You daydream about all the possibilities, you have your children’s names picked out already. Ok, maybe not that far, but pretty close. The thought of that person just brings you so much joy and contentment, and sadness, and heart ache at the same time. You are happy for them and their place in life, but you just wish you held a place in it as well.
Yup, it was going to be one of those days for me unfortunately.
It’s finally fall in the South, which was a big deal. That means that it may be 95 or it may be 65, depending and you may or may not need bug spray still when out at night. It was the beginning of the work week for me. I was packing my lunch and rushing to gather all my things and get out the door. As usual, I was running a little bit behind, I had a lot on my mind this morning. I had not been in a classroom in approximately a year. I had to get back in the swing and get on track to becoming an independent professor. As a 25 year-old assistant history professor and living historian, I thought I was doing spectacular considering. I stepped outside and locked the door. I looked over to the townhouse across the way as the wind caressed my face. If I was sappy I would say like a lover, but I’m not really a romantic anymore. The wind caught a few leaves, and they lost the battle, landing on the pavement below. Watching the leaves float down to the ground, a familiar face popped into my mind. One that I had been trying to shut out for a long time. Drew Cooper, the man I should be making breakfast with in the mornings on the weekends. I walked to my car with that last thought and small frown on my face.
One Year Ago
I was sitting at a table in a crowded restaurant, waiting anxiously on my best friend to arrive, there was something that I really needed to tell him. All these years we had been neighbors and I had never fessed up the way I felt. He was perfect in every way, at least to me. The one thing I did not like was how frequently women seemed to end up going home with him. That always made me feel a little sick when I saw another ditzy girl winding her way up the stairs with him. I was jealous, naturally because I had been in love with him silently. It was his fault for not noticing that I was there. We shared everything, everything but the things I wanted to share. Therefore I decided it was time to tell him how much he meant to me. The waiter kept checking up on me, seemingly irritated that the other half of my party had not arrived. I kept checking my phone thinking, where was he? I looked up one last time at the rush of cold wind, just my luck, getting sat by the door so I could freeze to death. I saw him step through the door, dressed immaculately as usual. He could be in a wet paper bag and that would not take away from how gorgeous he was. Drew had a smile on his face, I smiled and stood up, pulling my arms in front of my body, clearly nervous. Even as an adult my figure bothered me. I was overweight, and nearly 6 feet tall, not exactly someone you can easily lose in a crowd. I also had allowed my hair to grow and it brushed my waist when I let it free. At this moment it was wrapped into a tight bun at the nape of my neck. Drew stepped closer and gave me a side hug, drawing me back to the present. As he stepped aside, I noted that he had a guest. Oh… wonderful.
A very petite redhead stepped out, and I was informed that her name was Lissa. She stated that she was glad to meet me, but judging by how she was looking at me, I doubted that. “It’s lovely to make your acquaintance Lissa, my name is Dawn.”
Drew pulled out her chair and then proceeded to seat himself after her. I sat down as well. Today was my birthday and I was really starting to feel shitty and lonely. The couple, not seeming to notice me, sat down at the table and went through the process of ordering and getting food. He made light conversation with me, which his dusty ass date managed to interject herself into as much as possible. “ I was thinking,” Lissa said, Maybe we could go to a few bars tonight or maybe we could go clubbing.” I looked at Drew and shook my head no. I waved my hand to get the attention of the waiter. “Check please!” I quickly shoved my debit card into the holder the waiter was attempting to hand me. It's my birthday and I ended up paying for the dinner. So much for small surprises. Drew gave me a concerned look. “You should come out tonight, it will be fun, after all you are half-way to 30!” “Drew, may I speak to you for a moment alone,” I asked quietly. He looked up and his sky blue eyes were fixed on my face. “Are you ok?” I shook my head and stood, nodding to Lissa politely. I had lost my courage once again. “Nevermind, you guys run along and have fun tonight, we can always catch up at work or perhaps I will just shoot you a text.” Drew frowned and stood grasping my arm, which I quickly removed from his grasp. He frowned and sent me an apologetic look. I just nodded and departed wishing them a great night. I could hear her making snarky comments about my odd behavior behind my back. I closed my eyes and focused on breathing deeply, trying to control my tears of frustration threatening to slip out.
Drew was amazing and he deserved the absolute best and even though I knew I did not deserve him. I could tell him anything totally judgement free. He was always there with a kind word when I had a rough day, or I needed to call someone totally “shmammered, ” to keep me focused on something so I wouldn’t crash my car and die. Bad decision I know, I winced just thinking of the repercussions of that last scenario had I actually crashed my car. I just got hung up on him somewhere along the way and now he was the person I thought about with a stupid smile on my face. I got into my car and like the secret sneaky creep I was, I sank down into the seat and watched them walk out together, her practically sucking the tongue out of his mouth. I rolled my eyes and folded my arms pouting a bit that I did not seem to get any romantic attention from the one man I felt comfortable with.
I shook myself back to reality as I watched the car drive away with them tucked inside of it. I turned on some tunes and rolled the window down a bit to feel some crisp fall air. It was my favorite season, I just wish I had more friends to hang out with and enjoy myself. I was too serious and too much of a recluse, I needed to get out more. I was humming Hall and Oates to myself as I drove down the dark, quiet country roads and eventually back to my apartment. Once home I stripped down into comfy clothes and sat down with my favorite raunchy romance novels and a glass of wine. Nearing 1 am I crawled into bed and sent a text to Drew telling him how nice it was to see him and I appreciated him sacrificing some of his date time, and that his date seemed very nice and I hoped they had a wonderful time. I tucked my phone under the empty pillows next to me, pulled my glasses off, tossed them on the bedside table, turned off the light and fell asleep.
I wake up two hours later to blaring music coming from under my pillow, I drag my phone out and look at the time as well as the caller. It’s 3:40 AM and Drew’s name is lit up along with about 15 notifications. I answer the phone sleepily. “Hello.” Drew yells into the phone “ Helloooo! It would appear that we are both super drunk and we cannot drive and uber does not come out this far” I sigh, “Maybe Lissa could ride your dick home, I say under my breath, before speaking up and asking“What about Lyft?” I hear muffled conversation in the background and light moaning. I pull the phone away from my ear for a moment, then place it back at the sound of someone shouting “HELLO DAWN, HEYYY.” “Yeah, I’m still here, do you need a ride?” I ask as I pull my glasses on and start looking for clothes. I pull on a pair of black leggings and a sweatshirt over my head with a sparkly purple pumpkin. He sighs and says “Yes, please come get us.” I say, “I'm on my way, send me your location.” A little ping indicates he is sharing his location with me. Of course they are in the middle of nowhere. They must have gotten a ride out there or driven themselves. I screenshot the location because I know he will need his car the next morning. I get into my car and roll the windows down a bit to help me stay awake. Some time later I arrived at a bonfire. I can see a blazing fire and hear little snips of conversation and laughter. I text Drew and wait for him to get in the car. In the distance I hear loud cursing, curious I get out of the car and stroll through the field closer to the fire. I immediately spot Drew in a tussle with some redneck asshat. Miss thing is standing on the sidelines smoking casually with a cheap bottle in her hand. I make my way into the tussle and get between the fighting men. Pushing the wanna-be cowboy away so I can make sure Drew is ok. He pushes my hands away and attempts to engage the other guy again. I drag him back to the car with me and get him to agree to stop and just let me take him home. “There will always be other girls, this one is definitely not that important.” He looks at me and I notice the corner of his lip is bleeding slightly, I ball my sleeve up in my hand and begin to dab at his lip. He hisses in pain and grabs my wrist. “I wasn’t fighting over the girl, I was fighting over what was said about me.” I nodded even though I did not understand and held up my finger. “I will be right back ok, just one sec. With that I go back over to Lissa, I grab a couple bills from my wallet and throw them at her feet. “For your ride back to whatever shithole you crawled out of. Keep the change bitch.” She smirks and puts the bottle up to her lips once again. I walk away and get back into the car with Drew. I see that his head is against the window and he's slightly snoring. I turn the music down when I start the care and make the drive back home. The sun is just appearing on the horizon, the sky is all shades of purple this morning. I look over at Drew’s sleeping form and smile. Counting this as one small victory.