“Happy birthday, Diane.”
A simple silver ring is handed over.
“Eh? Jared, this is….”
“It’s not expensive or anything special, don’t worry. I just thought you’d like it.”
The smile on her face spoke volumes, and he grinned back (relieved?).
“I want you to meet him.” I announced, walking into David’s office without knocking, catching him off guard as he sipped his coffee.
His choking on his drink and surprised expression made me laugh as I walked over and sat down comfortably on the chair next to his desk with my hands on top of it. Once his choking subsided, he cleared his throat (the confusion still etched on his face, but I expected it).
Since we were busy with clients the past few weeks, neither David and I had been able to chat like we used to. He knew I was dating the same guy, but he didn't know much else besides that. It was why I was bothering him about it now. After regaling Michael with all sorts of stories about my best friends, he started to drop hints about wanting to meet them.
“Who, exactly, do you want me to meet?” he asked, adjusting his glasses on his nose.
“Michael. I want you to meet Michael.” I replied; a happy smile stamped on my lips. The way one of David's eyebrows told me the smile might have been too happy to be believable but I liked Michael enough to enjoy his company and want to have him introduced to at least one of my very best friends. I thought that was happy enough. Too much and it might be taken away from me. "I kind-of like this one, Dave."
He didn't buy into my besotted tone, but he didn't say anything to refute it either. Instead, he leaned back into his chair, folding his hands against his chest, eyes narrowed and calculating.
“Things are going well with this guy, huh? You’ve never wanted me to meet any of the guys you ‘date’.” David said, making quotation marks with his fingers and giving me a look. I rolled my eyes at him.
“Could you please not give me that tone and just meet him?”
He shrugged, turning back to his paperwork. “I’m just saying – you’ve been out with this guy for about what? A month and a half? Almost two whole months? I realize that that’s the longest you’ve gone with a guy but, come on… not to sound conceited or anything but you would never introduce me to anyone you just kind-of like.”
“That is being conceited, David.”
“Yeah well, I’m your best friend. You put me in that position, Dee, so I think I've every right to be a little judging of your would-be love interests.”
I sighed. Alright, he had me there. I’ve known him for years and entrusted most of my darkest secrets in his care. It would be a lie if I said that his opinion didn’t matter to me because it did. He was my brother, my family. We may not be related by blood but my trust in him went just as deep. I looked down at my hands, staring at my fingers.
But I would never introduce just anybody to him. David had to know that.
“Are you looking for a way out?”
His question surprised me. “What?”
“I won’t think badly of you, you know… if you’re just looking for a way out from your feelings.” He reached over and ruffled my hair, “It’s a dumb-assed idea of course, but I won’t think badly.”
I glared at him; resisting my hand through my hair, fixing it and sighed again. “Hey, come on now. Michael makes me laugh and-and he doesn’t push me to think or talk about things I don’t want to think or talk about. He takes me on fun dates and brings me flowers!” I showed him a picture of the bouquet Michael left at my doorstep that morning. David nodded.
“It’s easy… to like him.” My hands fell to my sides a second later. My tone was flat. Even I wouldn't believe me.
“He also makes it easy to forget him too, eh?”
I made a frustrated sound and stood up. I knew perfectly well who David was referring to.
“Why do you have to bring him into the conversation? I only wanted to tell you that I liked somebody nice and want you to meet him.” I wrung my hands, frustrated, as David looked at me gravely. “It was four years ago, David. I think my… time for Jared has expired, don’t you?”
David stood up as well, hands in his pockets. He put a comforting hand on my shoulder and sat me down again. I let myself be seated and waited for him to speak. David seemed to be collecting his thoughts.
“Dee, if I knew you were over Jared, I would be jumping all over the idea of you finally wanting me to meet a good guy in your life…”
“But?” I supplied for him, my heart sinking at every truth his words carried. David gave me a sad look, and for a moment, I wanted to truly hate him for it.
“But you’re not, and you know it yourself. That’s why you’re still wearing that” – he pointed at the chain around my neck, a ring I haven’t worn in four years concealed under my blouse. He pulled it out and I looked away, guiltily.
“I’m sorry for what I’m telling you right now. It’s just that – Jared’s my friend too. And if Jay finds out that you want me to meet him…” he shook his head, “he’ll know.”
“He’ll know what? And why would this affect him? He has a fiancé!”
“Yes, he has a fiancé – but you should see through that better than anyone.”
“What do you mean?”
He sighed. “Nothing. Look, I’ll meet the guy you're dating, Diane, because you’re my best friend and basically my little sister and because I am fairly curious.” He smiled genuinely, as though to soften the blow. “But just promise me this – promise me, you’ll look into your heart before anything else happens.”
I shook my head. “Funny. There’s nothing much to look at because I don’t have my heart right now.”
David nodded. “That’s what I’m saying.” Kneeling and meeting me at eye level, he pulled me into a hug. I welcomed it, letting a heavy sigh (and my pent-up frustration) out silently.
He hugged me tighter.
“You have to decide whether you’re willing to get it back.”
A Phone Call between Monica Sullivan and Jared Wyatt:
Monica: Oppa! You called!/
Monica: To what do I owe this honor? Have you talked to Diane yet?
Jared: [tersely] I didn’t call you for that.
Monica: Well, you really should. There’s no point in being in love with someone and not saying anything. Since I became friends with Summer and Yana, they tell me that she’s been seeing someone. You really should get moving.
Jared: Monica. Just shut up for a minute.
Monica: Okay... what is it?
Jared: When our parents told us about our engagement, you pulled me aside and asked me for a favor. Do you remember?
Monica: [suddenly serious, somber] Yes. Does... does that mean that you...
Jared: I found him.
Standing outside someone’s door is a bad idea but hiding in the shadows was even worse. I pulled my jacket closer to my body, sighing. I can’t help this situation, though; it was embarrassing enough to come here after a talk with Monica. I might as well go through with it.
Diane wasn’t home yet.
“Are you just going to stand over there?”
I look around me and saw Yana’s head popping out from her window next door. I waved at her, and she waved back, shaking her head at me.
“Well, are you?”
“Yeah,” I reply shortly, looking away. She laughed.
“Whatever you’re going to say to her, be sure to say the right thing. She deserves that.” When I didn’t answer, she laughed again. “You’re even worse than when David confessed to me!”
“Shut up, Yana.” I mutter under my breath but the anxiety in my heart didn’t settle.
Was I going to confess to her? And if so, what was there to confess – other than the fact that I feel lightheaded when her name is mentioned or that I missed her the whole time I was away? That didn’t mean I had something to confess. It just meant that I… cared.
I was pondering this when I heard someone walking towards her door. I waited patiently, sneaking a glance at who it was. It was Diane, of course –
“Thanks for walking me all the way home, Michael.” With her date. I looked away, my fists clenching.
The man beside her smiled, holding out her bag in a flourish. “Anytime, Diane. Goodnight.”
Alright, he looked harmless enough.
He leaned towards her, and I felt my temper rising. I would have shown myself if she hadn’t moved away. I felt relieved somewhat.
“I’m going to introduce to you my best friend, okay? You know the one. David Sutter?”
Introducing him to David after only two months? I swallowed a lump in my throat. So it’s come to that.
Michael (at least now I know his name) nodded, ignoring her uneasiness and pushing it off lightly. He laughed. “Looking forward to it. Goodnight, Dee.”
She waved at him, and finally with a (chaste?) hug, he left. I let out a breath, looking back at her, asking myself if I should still talk to her. I studied her for a moment, willing for a sign (that is if I believed in those).
Diane tucked her hair behind her ear before clasping something around her neck. She sighed, and looked down to it – my gaze followed.
My lips are turned into a smile when I realized what it was. That was enough.
She started. “Who- Jared?”
I gave her a nod. “Yeah.”
“What- what are you doing here?” She looked confused, and I had the strong urge to pat her head and make her feel better. Just like I used to. I kept myself in check.
“I wanted to see you. You’ve been avoiding me since I came home.”
Diane smiled slightly, embarrassed and a bit… sad? She breathed deeply, pulling her bag closer to her body as if to protect herself. But from what?
“Caught that, huh? You were always sharp around people’s actions.”
She shook her head. “I’m not avoiding you, Jared. I just – can’t be around you right now.” She laughed softly. “You wouldn’t understand.”
I stepped closer to her. She didn’t move away. “Then explain it to me. You know how I don’t like not knowing.”
“We were close for years. You should know me very well. Don’t act like you didn’t know.”
I sighed. Of course. “I never expected you to. I was horrible back then.”
Diane laughed. “You still are. Though that never really stopped me from being your friend… and besides, the heart doesn’t choose who it –” she stopped, pacing herself even though I already knew what she meant, “- cares for.”
“I missed you.” I heard myself whisper. Her eyes widened for a moment before they softened into a kind of sadness. I took a (tiny) step closer.
Diane looked up at me with her sad eyes. I stared right back at her, waiting. The time seemed to pass by as we looked at each other. I felt at ease somehow, staring into her eyes. She always had that affect on me.
“Don’t say things you don’t mean, you jackass,” Diane whispered, smiling slightly. I grinned slightly at the old nickname, brushing her cheek softly with my hand. She closed her eyes…
I don’t know what came over me next. I don’t know how my lips found their way onto hers, kissing her gently while my hands came to rest on her cheek and on the back of her neck. I don’t know why her hands came up to stop me for a moment before they settled softly on my chest and she responded. I don’t know why my heart felt like bursting as I held her, and why I felt defeated (and confused at the disappointment it brought me) when she pulled away with unshed tears in her eyes…
All I knew was what she meant when she spoke, her voice breaking slightly:
“It’s been years.”
I looked at her, swallowing. I felt angry (at myself mostly), confused (at her) and betrayed? Diane shook her head, looking away and turning towards her door. She stopped just before she opened it. Her eyes went back to search mine. I stood there waiting.
“I want my heart back, Jared. I can't do this again. I won't. You need to give me my heart back.”
I blinked slowly, feeling a wave of regret rush through my body. Summer was right.
“No.” I stared back at her. “You can’t.”
And then I turned and left before she could reply.
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