After Jay leaves, I schedule my surgery. I don’t know if it’s out of fear for how I’m feeling about Jay or because I genuinely want the pain to stop. Either way, I immediately regret making the appointment. It’s only a matter of time before my mom finds out and Brian will show up. I need to figure out where my head is at and what I’m going to do. A part of me wants to stay. I want to be happy again. I want to have these amazing people in my life. But the other part wants to run. To run away from my feelings for Jay. To run away from ever letting my mom ruin my friends. To accept that I will never have love in my life – not from the person I want the most. I’m such a chickenshit.
Saturday evening, we all meet up and drive over to the fall festival in town. The air is cooler, and I wear my favorite fall outfit. A comfy dark orange sweater on a pair of dark blue jeans with my favorite boots. We’re walking down a trail, enjoying the beautiful fall colors when Letty links her arm through mine and holds hers out to Min. They link arms and we slow down, putting some distance between us and the guys. They’re not paying any attention to us and that’s exactly what Letty wanted as she says, “Things between you and Jay seem to be improving.”
“They are more manageable.” I say. Min leans forward and rolls her eyes at me.
“More manageable, my ass.”
And why weren’t we friends before?” Letty laughs.
“I think I preferred it when you two didn’t care about being friends.”
“Nope, I like how things are.” Replies Min. “So, more manageable?”
“I’m not getting my hopes up.”
“If I recall correctly, you did this very same thing in North Isles.”
“Yes, but things are different now. I don’t see a single hint of him having any sort of feelings towards me except friend ones.”
“But he stayed the night. He took care of you.” Argues Letty.
“It doesn’t mean he has feelings for me. We were friends before we fell in love. And he’s just happy to have me back as a friend.”
“I don’t think that’s 100% true.” Says Min. “He looks at you differently. When we went rock climbing and you fell. I’ve never seen someone descend as fast as he did. He didn’t even wait for the instructor to help him.”
“He was just worried, you all were.”
“Yes, but- Letty help me out.”
“I’m with Min on this one, Lils. He looks at you differently. I don’t think you have to worry about rejection. It’s the same look he gave you at the beach. The same ‘I want to make sure you’re okay’ type of actions that he did there.” I understand where they’re coming from, but they haven’t watched him actively pull himself away from me. Forcing himself to not touch me, even though he wants to. It’s possible that his heart still wants me, but his mind knows better. His mind knows I will only bring heartbreak, and Jay deserves no more of that.
“Why does this seem familiar?” Asks Emmet. We all look up to see that the boys have come to a stop and are all looking at us, half annoyed.
“Look if you want in on the sentimental girl talks then you have to be a girl.” Letty replies.
“What is he talking about?” Asks Min.
“We did this back in North Isles.” I say.
“On our beach weekend when we went hiking.” Adds Letty.
“Alia and Letty like to hang back and keep secrets from us.” Says Micah. I remember that morning. Letty and I were upset with each other, but I can’t remember why. I just remember separating from the boys and wondering how I got so lucky to have a friend like Letty.
“Don’t be jealous.” Retorts Letty as we finally reach the group. I feel Jay’s eyes on me as if he wants to know what we were talking about. I hope he didn’t hear a word, but he likes to eavesdrop.
“We’re supposed to be going through this together.” Says Emmett.
“Since when do you care about this stuff?” Asks Letty.
“Because I do. Now come on.” Min and I exchange glances, wondering what’s up with Emmett. I look to Micah, Vance, and Jay who just shrug their shoulders but have smiles on their faces. Emmett takes Letty’s hand and leads the group up to the top of a hill. The sun is setting behind them and he whispers something to her that makes her smile. We all stand a few feet from them and it takes everything within me not to ask what the hell is going on. Micah pulls out his phone and begins recording. I watch as Emmett turns Letty to him, holding both of her hands. “Letty, from the moment I saw you I was head over hills for you. I knew I wanted you to be my girlfriend, but then a lot of things got in the way. When Alia came into our lives and you became our friend again, I thought that this was finally my chance to ask you out. But I got cold feet every-single-time. At the beach. At the amusement park. Every single day at school. Then after Alia left, you had enough, and you demanded to know if I had feelings for you or not. I was baffled. I couldn’t believe it. And I hated that I had chickened out all those times. We could have had more time together. But I don’t want to regret wasting any more time, and I don’t want to have cold feet about this.” He reaches into his pocket, lowers down to one knee, and opens a ring box. “Letty Adams, will you marry me?” Letty nods her head, tears streaming down her face.
“Yes! Of course, I’ll marry you!” The smile on both of their faces is incredible as he places the ring on her finger. He rises to his feet and envelopes her in a hug. I look over at Min, who has her head resting on Vance’s shoulder, both watching the scene before them. Micah stops the recording, and we all clap and whistle. Letty runs to Min and I, shrieking as she shows us the ring. The guys give their congratulations to Emmett, who looks like he was going to pass out. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a pinch of jealously. I look to Jay and see his eyes on me. I wonder if he’s thinking about the same thing as I am. If I had stayed, would this have been us? Would we have lasted? We’ll never know, but I like to think we would have. After the excitement dies down, Letty and Emmett hold hands the entire time as we go through the festivities. Vance and Min do the same – making the rest of us feel like third wheels. “Well, I feel left out.” I say as we walk through a maze, the couples in front of us. Without missing a beat, Micah offers his arm to me and I loop mine through. “Why thank you.”
“Hey, now I feel left out.” Says Jay.
“Would you like my other side?” Asks Micah.
“No.” He says. “I would not.” My breath catches as Jay loops his arm through my free one. A big smile on his face. “There. Now we’re all a couple.”
“We might get some weird stares.” Says Micah.
“I don’t care. Better than looking single.”
“Why didn’t you invite a girl?” I ask.
“Because this is a family event, not an ‘only been on a few dates’ event.”
“Oh, so you are dating someone?”
“No. Micah is though, which is why he didn’t bring him tonight and we’re all stuck in this three-way.” I force the smile down – happy to know that Jay and that girl from the other band didn’t end up dating. But I know it doesn’t mean he’s not talking to any girls.
“Don’t say three-way.” Micah cringes as I laugh.
“Wait, you’re dating someone?” I ask.
“We’ve only been on a couple of dates. But yes, his name is Ethan and he’s very nice.”
“Awe, you have to show me pictures.”
“I don’t want this weekend to end.” I say with a sigh.
“Because there are only five weeks until the competition. We still have another song to create.”
“How’s the second one coming along?”
“I feel like it's finished.” I look up at Jay, who nods his head in agreement. “I need to tell you something.” They both look at me and my heartbeat quickens. “I scheduled my surgery. For Friday.”
“That’s great!” Says Micah.
“So I guess I need to start working on our communications paper.”
“Don’t forget the coffee during our last week.”
“Did you two make a wager?” Asks Micah.
“We did. Now Jay has to pay up.”
“I will. Don’t worry. I keep my promises. I’m happy you’re having the surgery done.”
“It’s going to put me out for awhile. Making it harder to work on the music.”
“Lean on us, Alia. We’ll get the third song written. I promise.”