Feisty Francesca

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#25 Thomas throws his hat in the ring

For the first time in my life, my entire living room is filled with flowers. I haven’t been picking up my phone when Aston called the past three days, and I’ve been working so much that I was never home when he showed up. I guess he feels bad, so he’s been sending flowers with cards on them that all say that he’s sorry for being a dick.

“Call the guy,” Thomas says, lounging on my couch with the General on his lap. It’s the middle of the night and I just got home from a shift that went long.

“I’m not even mad at him anymore,” I say with a yawn. I just took a shower – lots of people seems to have ulcers today. Ew. Just ew. Thomas showed up when he heard me come home. He’s a night owl, always playing games or working on new apps way past midnight.

“Then call the guy!” Thomas insists. “You don’t even have a boyfriend, yet you’re living room looks like someone cheated on you.”

“Actually…” I smile and sit down across from Thomas, handing him a beer and taking a sip of my own. “I do have a boyfriend.”

“James stepped up? Good for him.” He doesn’t look too pleased about that. “That’s a first for you, right? That a guy is actually calling you his girlfriend?”

I nod, my heart soaring. I’ve dated guys before, and I think that I’ve been someone’s girlfriend before, more or less, but I’ve never been called a girlfriend. It’s nice.

“So I guess it’s too late for me to throw my hat in the ring for that title?” Thomas jokes, winking at me.

“Please,” I scoff. “You’re not interested in me. You’ve had three years to ask me out. If anything was going to happen, it would have already.”

Thomas looks at me with a weird look in his eyes. “Is that the reason we never got together? Because you think I’m not interested? Are you saying that you’re interested?”

I grin. “Sure, Thomas, I’ve been pining for you all this time. Please marry me.”

“I’m not joking around anymore,” Thomas says, sounding way more intense than I’m used to from him. “I’m seriously asking. Did we never become more than friends-with-benefits because you thought that I didn’t want to be more?”

“Do you want to be more?” I shoot back, not wanting to go down this rabbit whole. I mean, yeah, when we met three years ago, I was interested. Very much so. But it became clear pretty soon that we weren’t compatible, and I shoved those feelings aside so I wouldn’t get hurt. Aside from my first month here, I haven’t considered him to be anything other than a friend and someone I occasionally end up in bed with.

“Yeah,” Thomas says, taking me off guard. “I didn’t think you were interested, but if you are, of course I’d be up for that.”

“W-what?” I grab my beer and take another swig, trying to buy time. How the fuck am I supposed to react to this?

“I get that the timing is crappy with you just getting serious with James and all, but… I mean… I seriously never even considered you’d want to date me for real. I figured you just thought of me as a friend. And someone to make your toes curl when we’re both single at the same time.” Thomas’ light blue eyes are alight with something I can only describe as wonder. “I never thought for even a second that you didn’t make a move on me because you thought I wouldn’t want you to.”

“B-but…” Get it together, Franny. “I’m with James now.”

“I know,” he says, still petting the General while he talks to me. Thank God he’s not making a move on me. I wouldn’t even know how to react at this point. I’ve never seen Thomas this serious. “I’m not asking you to break up with him or anything. If he’s the one for you, then I guess shame on me for not making a move sooner. Just know that if he turns out to be a douche like all the others, I’d be happy to take you out on a date sometime.”

I know I have to say something now, but I’m shell-shocked. Thomas remains silent, just sipping his beer and rubbing the General’s belly, who is totally soaking up all the attention. I just never saw this coming. Not in a million years.

“I’m not on the market for a new boyfriend right now,” I say softly, feeling stupid for the way the words are coming out of my mouth. “And even if I was… I’m not sure if I’d be interested, to be honest. When we met three years ago, I definitely would have said yes, but I know you now.”

Thomas chuckles. “So you’re saying that you would have dated me based on looks alone, but now that you know my personality you don’t want me anymore?”

“No,” I say, not in the mood to laugh about this. “That’s not what I’m saying. I just know what you want out of life. You want a good little housewife who makes you dinner ever single night and who pops out a whole litter of kids, without expecting you to do more than make money and come home late at night for dinner and sex.”

Thomas’ eyes almost pop out of his head at this point. He shoves General Fluffington off his lap and scoots to the edge of the couch, meeting my gaze over the coffee table. “Where the fuck did you get that idea?”

“You told me that many times,” I reply, remembering all those times we got drunk or stoned – back when I still smoked during my days off – and lay on the floor of his living room, looking up at his ceiling like it held all the answers to the mysteries of the universe. We talked about our dreams for the future and he always said the same thing. Housewife, lots of kids, an old-fashioned relationship with the woman in the kitchen and the husband in the office.

“Fran, that’s not me at all,” Thomas says, shaking his head. “That was a joke. I thought you knew me. The real me. I say a lot of shit, like… like that I’m half Mexican. You know I’m not, right?”

I roll my eyes. “Yeah, I do.”

“And you never once believed me when I said that I slept with Jennifer Lawrence, did you?”

“As if!”

He chuckles. “Exactly. You never believe any of the bullshit I say. Why the hell would you believe me when I said that I want some housewife from the last century? Have you met me? Does that sound like the way I want my life to pan out?”

I feel stupid now. I’m not sure why I though he was being serious when he told me that. For three years, I’ve believed that our visions for the future where totally irreconcilable, and now it turns out that we could just have gone on a date three years ago and figure out if there’s more between us than friendship and great sex.

Well, fuck.

“Okay, full disclosure,” Thomas goes on, knowing that I need a moment to gather my thoughts. “A few of my relationships in the past few years ended because the girl I was dating didn’t like me hanging out with you so much. I’m always honest, so every single one of them knew that we used to fuck before I got with them, and they didn’t like that very much. You’re my neighbor, you’re beautiful, smart, funny, feisty… They felt threatened. So they gave me an ultimatum: cut you out or end things with them. I chose you every single time.”

“W-why?” I ask, still not able to form a full sentence. This is so not how I thought my night would go.

“Like I just said, you’re amazing.” Thomas’ smile is genuine, and he’s looking at me in a way I’ve never seen before. Like I’m the only glass of water in the whole world on the hottest day ever. “You don’t even know how great you are, which makes you even more amazing. I love the way you scrunch up your nose when you smell something icky, and the name you gave your cat. You’re a great friend, truly amazing. And you don’t hold grudges. That’s like… the most rare thing ever.” He gestures at the flowers around us. “I mean, come on, Aston was horrible to you, but you just said you’re not mad at him anymore. I bet it only took you five minutes to stop being upset with him, right? You just need a few days to yourself before letting him in again, but you’re never angry at someone for longer than a day or so. Not even Leonard fucking Schwartz. You may talk a big game about hating him, but you still go in every time he calls you to pick up an extra shift. And from what you told me about what happened the other night with Aston, Shaughna was being an extremely crappy friend by bringing Aston along in the first place, but you don’t even seem to be annoyed at her for that. You’re so loyal it’s ridiculous.”

“I just don’t have a lot of friends,” I say, feeling a little weird under so much praise. “I don’t have the luxury of alienating the ones I do have.” I moved miles and miles away from my mother after high school because I got a scholarship for nursing school here and not back home, so all the friends who knew me from before I turned 18 aren’t really in my life anymore. And in college I mostly had friends to party with and study buddies. Aston, Thomas, Shaughna… They’ve been all I’ve got for a long time now. And Joshua, more recently.

Thomas laughs loudly. “Bullshit, Fran. You could have a thousand friends if you wanted to, but you never seem to notice when people try to get close to you. That doctor at your work, Destiny? You told me about her confiding in you about trying to get pregnant, right? She obviously needs a friend and she rightfully thinks you’re the right person for the job, but all you do is wonder why the hell she would confide in you.”

Hmm. I never thought about that. Is he right? Was Dr. Tennille – Destiny – trying to find a friend in me? Does she consider me a friend? To me, she’s just a work friend, but she is a very nice person, and if she’d ask me to hang out, I would definitely say yes. Am I that dense that I don’t recognize when people try to get close to me? Maybe. I didn’t know that Thomas had feelings for me, after all.

“Anyway, cat’s out of the bag now. I like you. And if you ever do break up with James, I sure hope you’ll give things a try with me.” Thomas smiles sweetly at me. “Your time to talk now, Fran.”

“Right,” I breathe, finishing off my beer. “I just… I don’t know, Thom. If you’d told me this before I met James, things would have been different, but I really want to see where things go with him. So… sorry, but I’m not sure how I feel about this.”

“Understandable,” Thomas says, not sounding bothered at all. “It’s my fault for joking about wanting a housewife and enough kids to fill a huge house. Just so you know, what I truly want is a partner in crime, someone to spend my life with, someone who gets me. Maybe one or two kids when I’m in my thirties, if I’m in a steady relationship. I’m not really a house in the suburbs type of guy, but for you…” He shrugs. “Maybe I could be. My future isn’t set in stone. I just want to find the right girl, and then things will fall into place. I’m a firm believer in faith and all that shit. Things will work out the way the should. If James is the one for you, then I know that you’re not the one for me, I guess. If he isn’t… then I sure hope you’ll give me a shot.”

“Yeah,” I say, still unsure how I feel about this. Why didn’t he tell me this years ago? Three whole damn years of friendship and occasional hook-ups, and never once did he tell me he felt this way. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Right.” Thomas gets up and walks over to squeeze my shoulder. “Sorry for confusing you, babe. I can tell that you’re tired. Get some sleep. You know where I live if you want to talk about this some more. Or just to talk about anything, really. I respect your relationship with James and I won’t try anything, you know that. I hope I can still be your friend after this.”

“Of course!” I jump up and hug him. The mere thought of losing him has my heart beating so loud that I can barely hear myself think. He’s been there for me for three whole years. He painted my bedroom with me, helped me pick out curtains, bought me my first houseplant that I managed to kill within a month, hung out with me during lonely nights, went dancing with me, ate all the food in my fridge, got high with me, rubbed my feet after long shifts, texted me funny cat videos when he knew I was feeling down… I love this guy. Just not that way. But maybe… maybe I could. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

“See you later, Fran.” Thomas gives me a peck on the cheek and steps out of my embrace.

The moment the door falls shut behind him, I sink down on the couch and shake my head, not sure what to make of this. I need some advice. Someone to give it to me straight. Someone who knows how I can get sometimes, all weird and up in my head and insecure. Someone who knows Thomas, and James, and me. And preferably someone who is awake at this time of night.

I look around at the flowers on every surface of my apartment and smile to myself. It’s time to let him off the hook. Now is as good a time as any.

“Hey,” Aston says, picking up right away. “Did you get my flowers?”

“We’re good,” I assure him, knowing what he’s truly asking. “You were hurting. I get it. Shaughna never should have brought you along and James knew better than to say something about Annabel.”

“Oh thank fuck.” He sighs deeply. “I was scared I lost you. I know I’ve been a shitty friend, and you’ve been such a rock throughout this whole thing, even though you should be the last person for me to lean on.”

“Like I said, we’re good.” I’m not even lying. We really are. I don’t want him anymore. I still love him, but not as more than a friend. Not anymore. “Aston… I could use some advice.” I go on to tell him all about Thomas, and he curses at all the right moments.

“Who do you like more, James or Thomas?” Aston asks when I’m done. “Because honestly Fran, I think both of them are great guys from what I’ve seen and heard so far. Thomas is more carefree and not as jealous and shit, so that’s good, but I think that James being so intense might be good for you. You need someone to make you feel special, and James seems to be doing a good job at that, whereas it took Thomas three years to finally make a move. Dumbass.”

I realize he’s right. James does make me feel special, but with Thomas there won’t be an issue of jealousy. Then again, James is working through that and he’s been doing a stellar job so far.

“Don’t overthink,” Aston says, knowing that my mind is going a hundred miles an hour. “Just imagine coming home after a long shift, in a shitty mood, just wanting to snuggle up to someone in bed. Who do you want to be in your bed, waiting for you?”

“James,” I say right away. “I really want to see where this goes with him. He makes me feel all…”

“Hot and bothered?” Aston offers. “Ready to jump on his tiny little bedazzled dick?”

“He’s just as big as you are,” I say, smiling to myself. “In fact, he’s hotter than you are, period.”

“Marry him,” Aston says, laughing. “I’m basically hotness on a stick, so if you think he’s even better, you should drop to your knees and propose.”

“I think that that’s what you should do with Annabel,” I say before I can help myself.

“Propose?” Aston asks, sounding incredulous. “Are you fucking kidding me, Fran? I haven’t talked to her in almost a week!”

“Yeah, I know, and you’re a dipshit for doing that to her. You should get in your car and go to her, beg her to take you back. We both know you love her. You’re going to raise this baby, Aston, whether it’s yours or not.”

“I don’t know,” he grunts. “I’m so messed up over this. I don’t want her to see me like this. I want to know exactly what I want before I go over there.”

“Aston, you can’t make up your mind on your own, you need her to talk to about this.” From what I’ve seen so far, she makes him more serious, more willing to make difficult decisions and stop acting like a little kid. He needs her to center him before he can decide what to do about his feelings. “I was just kidding about proposing, of course, but I do think you need to do something to make her see that you’re all in. That you want to be there for her. Please promise me you will at least call her this week.”

“Fine,” he agrees. “I will.”

“Okay, good. Now tell me, how did you even meet this woman?”

We talk about him and Annabel for a while, and with every story he tells, it becomes more and more obvious how much he loves truly her. There’s no way he is going to walk away from her, even if the kid isn’t his. We move on to me and James, and then me and Thomas. It feels good to have my friend back.

“Let’s never fight again,” Aston says before we hang up, making kissing noises into the phone. “Love you, Franny.”

“Same here,” I reply with a smile.

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