#30 She’s a keeper
Yord roars with laughter when I’m done telling him, Joshua and Marcia what happened. Marcia smacks him on the back of the head and tells him to be quiet.
“What did you say back?” Joshua asks, looking at me with a weird look on his face.
I throw up my hands. “I just kissed him. I couldn’t exactly tell him that I didn’t actually mean to tell him loved him, now could I? And I didn’t want to say it back, because that would be a lie, so I just kissed him and then we had sex again, and he was looking at me like he was trying to convey to me how much it all meant to him, and he kept saying how amazing it is that we’re so in synch, and how much he likes making love to me.”
Yord laughs again, earning him another glare from Marcia.
“You should have just told him he misunderstood,” she says, shaking her head at me while she runs her fingers over her keyboard.
We’re all in Yord’s garage, supposedly to have band practice, but I’ve been confiding in them about my love life ever since I arrived, too full of what happened yesterday to talk about anything else.
“Yeah, I know, but I can’t take it back now!” I exclaim, pacing up and down the garage, pulling at my hair.
“You could,” Yord says with a shrug. “He’s gonna flip his shit, but you could still tell him.”
“James doesn’t flip his shit,” I bite out. “He’s this really mature, collected guy. He would be sad and hurt and he’d want to talk through our feelings or something.”
“He sounds amazing,” Marcia says with a sigh. “Tell me again why you don’t love him?”
“I’m not saying I don’t love him,” I say, sinking down on the stool next to Joshua and putting my head on his shoulder with a sigh. “I like him, and I have feelings for him, and I’m falling for him, but I’m just not quite there yet, you know? I need like, I don’t know, a few weeks? A month? I don’t know. All I know that I was definitely not ready to tell him yesterday. We’ve only been together for seven weeks!”
“Yeah, but the guy has a key to your apartment,” Yord reasons. “And you’ve got a key to his, and he made it clear from the start that he moves fast and always dives in the deep end, right?” He chuckles when I nod. “You can’t blame the guy for falling for you, nor that he thought you were trying to convey that to him through music. You played him a goddamn love song!”
“Yeah, but it’s a song about loving someone like you’re going to lose them,” Joshua says, stroking my back to comfort me. “It’s obviously about her dad.”
See? Joshua gets it. I’m not crazy.
“Her dad?” Marcia asks.
“Yeah, my dad died when I was 15,” I explain, sitting up but keeping Joshua’s arm around me. “Car accident. Mom and I had a hard time getting back to normal, and he’s kind of the reason for my stage fright.” I tell them the story about the talent show and even Yord isn’t making fun of me anymore when I’m through.
“Well shit,” he grumbles. “And James knows all of that?”
“Yeah, told him all about it on our third date.” I look at Joshua with a little smile. “That was the night after I ran out of your apartment crying, remember?”
“No,” he teases with a smile. “I don’t remember. I’ve had so many girls running out of my place in tears that I don’t remember what particular time you’re referring to.”
Yord laughs at that and shakes his head at his friend. “Dude, that’s only funny because it’s true. Remember that girl you slept with a few months ago? Betty or something?”
“Betty?” I ask, nudging Joshua with a grin. “Do tell.”
Joshua rolls his eyes. “Just some girl I met on one of the apps. We went on a few dates and I took her home, but turned out she cried a lot. During sex. After sex. Under the shower. In the kitchen while I made her coffee…” He grunts. “I couldn’t exactly throw her out like that, so she stayed for nine hours after we slept together, and even then she barely kept it together when she walked out. That was the longest day of my life.”
We all laugh at him, not just Yord. Marcia giggles so loudly that she ends up snorting, making us all go into hysterics from the sound of it.
“Are you that horrible at sex?” she asks Joshua, wiping tears from her eyes. “Poor thing.”
“Oh no, that wasn’t the problem,” he assures us with narrowed eyes. “Trust me.”
Yord bursts into laughter again, and Joshua gets up to smack him on the back of his head. His cast was taken off a week ago, and although he still needs to use his crutches when he walks longer than a few minutes, he can move around again. Hitting Yord is just one of the many things he can do without trouble now.
“We should play,” Marcia decides, already playing a few notes on her keyboard. “Unless Franny needs to talk her through another problem she totally created herself?”
“Shut up!” I stick out my tongue at her and roll my eyes. These three idiots make me feel young and fun. I love them for it. But they suck at giving advice. I still don’t know what to do about James.
We play for an hour, but then it’s time for me to go home and eat something before my shift in the hospital starts. I’d normally call James to see if he’s home, but I don’t want to see him before I sort myself out, so I go to my own apartment and pig out on the couch with a bag of chips and leftovers from last night.
Right on cue, Thomas knocks on the door and I call out for him to let himself in. He grabs himself a beer and sits down next to me, General Fluffington between us, begging for a bite of the salmon I’m shoving in my face. Tough luck, General, this is no cat food.
“That smells good,” Thomas says with a hopeful look at the bowl I just put in the microwave.
I roll my eyes and feed him a bite before going back to making sure I’ve got enough food in my system to get me through the first hours of my shift. When I’m full, I hand Thomas the rest of the leftovers and he happily finishes them, digging into the bag of chips I’m having for desert right after.
“Get your own food,” I mumble with my mouth full of chips. “I need sustenance for work. What your excuse?”
“I could smell the food from my place and I’m too lazy to cook.” He grabs another handful of chips before I can get the bag out of his reach. “Did James make that salmon?”
“Yeah, yesterday.” I wince thinking about what happened before dinner. Stupid me. Stupid song. Stupid three little words.
“What’s wrong?” Thomas asks, immediately picking up in the change in my mood.
He asks a few more times, but I’m not going to tell him. Not this time. This is between me and James. Well, and Yord, Joshua and Marcia, but that’s not the same as telling Thomas about it. I don’t want to cross that line, not when I know that Thomas would love nothing more than for me and James to implode so I’m free again. We just got our normal banter and easy-going friendship back. I’m not going to complicate that by unloading my problems with James on him.
I leave for work a little early, contemplating going by James’ place after all, even for just a minute. I may not love him yet, but I do miss him when I’m not with him. Things were so weird when he left for work this morning, and I don’t want to head into a 12-hour shift with things so off between us.
Making a decision, I run to his place as fast as I can and let myself in to save time, hoping he’s here. He only had a short shift today, filling in for a colleague, so he should be home.
“Franny!” His whole face lights up when he sees me. “I didn’t think I’d get to see you until after your shift!”
I open my mouth to say something, but then I see that he’s not alone. There’s a guy on the couch next to him, holding up a beer to me in greeting. His dark brown eyes take me in with curiosity in his gaze, lingering on my nose ring.
“Oh, hi, sorry to interrupt,” I say, my cheeks heating up.
“Not at all,” the guy says, getting up to shake my hand. “I’m Elijah Reed, I’m on the force with James.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m-”
“Oh, I know who you are,” he interrupts with a grin. “You’re Francesca Berger, the cute nurse with the purple hair that swept Tyson here off his feet and made him into a loved-up mess.”
“Shut up, Reed,” James says, not at all bothered by his friend calling him out on talking about me at work. He hugs me and kisses me sweetly. He tastes like nachos and red wine, and I find that oddly enticing. We deepen the kiss for a moment, but then we both remember that Elijah is still right there on the couch.
“I need to go,” I tell James, giving him one last peck on the lips. “I only have five minutes before my shift starts, but I just wanted to say hi.”
“That’s so cute,” Elijah comments, sipping his beer. “She’s a keeper, Tyson.”
“Trust me, I know.” James winks at me. “Good luck at work, baby. Love you.”
Oh shit. Are we already saying it in passing, like it’s no big deal? I really fucked up royally yesterday, didn’t I? There’s no going back now.
“Love you too.” I have to force the words out, but they sound pretty sweet nonetheless. Maybe I can just fake it until the words are actually true. He never has to know. Surely I will be able to say the words without feeling sick to my stomach soon enough, right? He’s amazing, I’m already falling for him, it’s only a matter of time before I truly love him.
I run all the way to the ER, arriving just in time. I kick off my clothes, change into my scrubs and get right into the nitty gritty when two drunk guys walk in, one of them with a knife in his shoulder. You gotta love the ER.