Feisty Francesca

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#49 Purple-haired angel nurse

“Hey!” Joshua says, opening the door without his crutches. “I haven’t seen you in forever! God, Fran, you’re soaked. Come in, let’s get you warmed up.”

I follow him and take off my wet coat and boots, shaking out my umbrella on the sidewalk. Stupid thing broke a few blocks back, making the idea to walk over to Joshua’s place suddenly feel like less of a good idea than it seemed when I left my apartment.

I haven’t seen Joshua in almost two weeks, not even for band practice. I’ve totally been bailing on him, Yord, and Marcia, but I just know I had to stay away from him until I felt a little more like myself. Thomas was hurt when I told him I didn’t want to be with him, not right now at least, and I know myself well enough to realize that if I saw Joshua before I had myself back in check I might end up sleeping with him as well, only to tell him that I wasn’t ready for another relationship.

I don’t know if I want to be with Joshua or Thomas, I really don’t. I like them and I think there are some feelings there, but I learned a lot from my relationship with James. He wasn’t the only one to jump in too soon. I was still so messed up over Aston when we met that I wasn’t in the right place to be with someone. The whole relationship took way more effort than it should have. He was right to end things with me.

That doesn’t mean I don’t miss him. Because I do. So much.

I saw James two days ago, and he looked better than I’ve ever seen him. He came over to give me back the stuff I left at his place and to end things amicably. I gave him back his stuff as well, even the shirt I had been sleeping in after he broke up with me. It’s one thing to allow yourself to mourn the loss of a relationship for a week and a half, wearing his shirt when you’re at home on your own after a long shift, but it’s another to purposefully keep said shirt when he’s over to pick up his stuff.

I know I need to move on, so I washed and dried it before he came over and gave it back to him, along with everything else he kept at my place.

I never had to do that with a guy before. I never had a boyfriend before, after all. Aston only had a toothbrush at my place, and I’m pretty sure that one is still in a drawer somewhere. He never kept stuff over at my place other than the occasional boxer short he left after fucking me. Leonard never kept anything at my apartment. Neither did Mustafa or any of the other guys I’ve been with.

James was my first in many ways, and I miss the hell out of him.

He told me he misses me too, but he still stands by his decision. He’s not going back on the apps for now, not ready to go back to dating. James is on his own and he likes it.

I know that it’s what’s best for him, and in a way I’m glad that I could help him get to that place in his life, but I just wish that some other girl could have done that for him, so I could be with him right now. He seems sure that we’re not right for each other, but he sure felt like the right fit for me before he told me that we needed to break up.

I never even got to meet his family. That’s a first he ended up taking away from me. It hurts more than I thought it would.

“No offence, but you look a little worn,” Joshua says, taking me in while I shake out my wet hair and sink down on the loveseat that is my favorite spot in his apartment.

“Thanks,” I say, rolling my eyes. He’s right, of course, but I did just get out of a long shift at the hospital. I just wanted to see my friend, talk to him, tell him what has been going on since I stopped coming around, stopped showing up for band practice, stopped answering his calls and texts. “Hey,” I realize, “you’re walking around normally!”

“Yeah,” Josh says with a happy look on his face. “I’ve got a few weeks of therapy left to make sure my leg is all the way back to normal, but then I can go back to running, even. It’s so nice to not have to stumble around with crutches anymore.”

“You look good,” I tell him, and I mean it. He got his hair cut, and while it’s still an adorable mess, it doesn’t fall into his eyes anymore, making his blue eyes seem lighter.

Joshua makes us our favorite coffees and hands one to me with a small smile. “I’m happy to see you, Franny. I was scared you were finally cutting me out of your life, to be honest. Did James stop being okay with us hanging out?”

I shake my head and take a sip of my cappuccino. “James and I broke up.”

“Oh shit,” he says with wide eyes, sinking down on the couch. “I’m so sorry to hear that, Fran.”

That reaction surprises me a little. Didn’t he say he was into me? Did he already meet someone else?

Joshua smiles knowingly. “Look, just because I like you doesn’t mean I want you to be hurt. Yeah, part of me hopes you’ll end up with me, but James made you really happy, most of the time. I just want you to be happy. With or without me.”

“Jesus,” I mumble, looking down at my coffee. “You’re only 22, Josh. It took James until his 30th birthday to get his shit together. How are you this mature already?”

“Maturity has nothing to do with age,” Josh answers calmly. “And I guess I’ve just had an easy life. Parents still alive and together, lots of money to burn, this huge apartment even though I’m still in college… What do I have to complain about?”

“Well, you did go through your own horrible heartbreak,” I remind him. I know about his past with Jasmine from Shaughna, and he’s told me bits and pieces of how his ex treated him. She was a miserable bitch, and they were together from their senior year of high school all the way through the first half of college. That’s a long time. Longer than I’ve ever been with anyone.

Joshua shrugs. “I’m not going to let Jasmine determine who I am. Besides, Shaughna was kind of my rebound from that, I guess. I thought for a minute she was going to be my next girlfriend, but looking back I was too messed up back then. She really did me a solid though by making me see who Jasmine really was, and building up my confidence.” He lets out a soft laugh. “In a weird way, she brought me you. I was only involved in the fight with Melchior because I was talking to her, catching up. And then there you were, a purple-haired angel nurse, kneeling over me while I was totally out of it.”

“Purple-haired angel nurse,” I repeat, grinning. “Great name for a band.”

“Yord thought of twenty more names for the band,” Joshua tells me. “Don’t worry, I vetoed them all. He and Marcia really miss you too, you know. Please tell me you’re back in the band.”

“I never left,” I assure him. “I just needed a break for everything and everyone. It had nothing to do with you, or the band, or anything other than me needing to work through my break-up without… without messing up even more than I already have.”

“How did you mess up?” Joshua asks, reaching out to put a hand on my knee.

I shiver, and pull away from him, needing some space so I won’t do something stupid like I did that night with Thomas. Then again, I’m not drunk right now, and this is Joshua, the voice of reason in my darkest hours. We’ll be fine.

“Why did you and James break up anyway?” Joshua asks when I remain silent. He pulls his legs underneath him, getting comfortable on the couch while also giving me the space I need.

“He realized he needs to be on his own.” I shrug. “I don’t think he ever really loved me the way he should to be with me. I don’t know. We saw each other a few days back to give back each other’s stuff, and he’s doing better than ever. He’s in therapy, and he is focusing on himself, learning how to be on his own instead of losing himself in girl after girl.” I didn’t tell Thomas any of this, but Joshua already knows about pretty much everything that happened between me and James, and I know he would never make a snide remark to James if they ever run into each other. It’s nice to talk about this with someone who was there through it all.

“I think he really did love you,” Joshua says thoughtfully. “I know I only met him a few times, but the way he looked at you… I don’t think any of that was fake. Love isn’t always enough, though. I loved Jasmine, but I still broke up with her, and it was the best thing for both of us. Sometimes love just isn’t enough. Not when you’d both be better people on your own.”

“Fucking hell, Josh.” I throw a pillow at him, making him laugh. “You’re a regular Dr. Phil, aren’t you?”

“Are you calling me fat and bald?” he asks, chucking the pillow back in my face.

“Oh yeah, look at you.” I gesture at his body, letting my eyes move over him. Yeah, I still think he’s hot. Good to know. “You look just like him. Could be twins.”

“Aside from the mustache,” Joshua adds, wrinkling his nose.

“Can you even grow one?” I tease.

“Hey, I’m 22, not a goddamn baby!” He winks at me. “Do you like facial hair?”

“Depends on the way it looks on a guy, I guess.” I loved Leonard’s scruff back when I was dating him, but on James I loved the clean-shaven look.

We chat about what he’s been up to the past two weeks, his classes, the band, and it feels just like it always does. Safe. Comfortable. Familiar. With a hint of sexual tension that has been there since that morning I woke up in his arms.

“Did Thomas try to hook up with you yet?” Joshua asks suddenly, when he’s in the kitchen making us some more coffee. He turns around when I don’t answer and nods at the answer my silence provides him. “I figured. That guy isn’t exactly subtle is he?”

“No, he isn’t.” I sigh and rub my eyes. “We slept together the day James dumped me.”

“Wow, okay, now I get the messing up comment from earlier,” Joshua realizes. He hands me my second cappuccino and puts his caramel latte on the table, sitting down on the edge of the couch so he can put his hand on my knee. This time, I don’t push him away. “He didn’t take advantage of you, did he?”

I shake my head. “We were just stupid and drunk. Not his fault.”

“And now he’s hoping this means you’ll be with him, isn’t he? While you’re just trying to work through the pain of things with James ending?”

“Stop Dr. Philling me,” I grumble, squeezing his hand. “Yeah, that’s pretty much what’s happening.”

“Is that why you cut me off for over a week?” Joshua asks. “To make sure we wouldn’t make that same mistake? I hope you know I’d never make a move on you when you’re that vulnerable, Franny. If we ever get to that point, I want it to mean something. I’d rather never kiss you at all than have it meaning nothing.”

“Stop it.” I’m starting to tear up. “I’m four years older than you. I’m supposed to be the wise one!”

He chuckles. “You’re not supposed to be anything other than yourself, Fran. And let me tell you, you’re pretty damn perfect in my eyes, including all your cute little quirks and faults.”

“Can we talk about something else?” I wipe away my tears. “Like… Did Marcia and Yord confess their undying love for each other yet?”

“Not yet,” Josh replies, taking his hand off my leg. “I was waiting for you to come up with a master plan to push those two together. It’s so obvious they both want it.”

“Exactly!” I’m getting excited now. “What do you have in mind?”

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