“So, Anna, how was your second date with Mark last night?” Renee asked a week later.
Anna paused in hanging blouses to glance at Renee. “It went great. He took me to see this play the community college was presenting. It was entertaining and quite hilarious.”
“I’m so glad. I hope he’s good for you, I truly do. Ryan said he seems nice enough, but he doesn’t know him well.”
“It’s fine, not like I plan to marry him,” Anna joked. “I’m just tired of always sitting at home alone, and well, I like him okay.”
“Hm… as a friend or possibly more do you think?” Renee asked then.
Renee nodded and leaned on the clothing rack.
“I don’t see it going further than friendship. I mean, I like him okay, but… well, he just isn’t what I’m into I guess.” Anna told her solemnly.
“Mm… not butterflies?”
Anna laughed. “No, no butterflies.”
“Well, maybe that’s all he wants right now too. He did say he’s recently divorced, right?” Renee commented.
“Yeah, about six months ago he divorced his wife of two years.” Anna agreed.
“It’s early days, so he may be only in it for the friendship.” Renee mused. “Honestly though, he sure was looking you up and down that first night and seemed to like what he saw.”
“I looked him up and down too you know, and nice-looking or not, he isn’t for me.”
“You sure?” Renee asked head cocked in question.
Anna gave a nod, “Reasonably so.”
“Alright, I guess you would know.”
“Miss, could you point the way to the changing room?”
Anna turned and smiled at the customer now standing behind her.
Renee answered, saying, “Right this way, ma’am.”
Then they left and Anna went back to hanging blouses.
Time passed by quickly and soon three months had passed.
Anna and Mark, along with Ryan and Renee would go out sometimes, mostly on Friday evenings. Anna had let Mark know early on that she was only interested in being his friend and he seemed fine with it. So, last night had blown Anna’s mind and she needed an ear to bend.
“Renee, I think I might have a problem,” Anna whispered over the phone.
“I’m here for you Anna,” Renee said.
“Could we meet up at the coffee shop and talk?”
“Sure, give me twenty minutes,” Renee replied.
Anna agreed and they hung up.
Twenty minutes later they were seated across from each other, hot cups of coffee in front of them.
Anna felt Renee’s eyes move over her face as she blew on her coffee.
“Girl, you look rough, what happened? Weren’t you and Mark going somewhere last night?” Renee asked.
“Yeah, to see that new play.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right, Ryan and I were going to go with you, but Ryan’s parents showed up in town last minute,” Renee said with a sigh. “Tell me what happened though, because looking at you I know something did.”
Anna took a sip of her coffee, gathering her thoughts. “Okay, so, as you know, Mark and I have been seeing each other off and one for three months. Sometimes just us, mostly with you and Ryan, but it isn’t every moment kind of thing.”
“Okay, so casual friendship,” Renee commented with a nod.
“Yeah, I suppose that’s what you’d call it. Anyway, I enjoy his company, but I knew by the third date that friends are all we’d ever be. I even told him as much and he seemed okay with that, until last night anyway,” Anna explained, blowing out a breath as she leaned on the palm of her hand.
“Why are you just now telling your bestie this?” Renee asked, a pout on her face.
Anna shrugged. “I guess because he and Ryan work together. Ryan is like a brother to me and I didn’t want to cause undue problems.”
Renee laughed. “Yeah, I’ve noticed how protective he is of you. He’d probably beat Mark bloody if he knew he hurt you.” She looked wide-eyed at Anna. “He hasn’t, has he? Hurt you I mean?”
Anna heaved a heavy sigh then as she took another sip of her now cold coffee. “Physically? No. Emotionally? A little bit.”
“That’s a bit cryptic, so explain.”
“You know why I divorced.”
“He cheated on you.”
“Yeah,” Anna agreed with a nod. “Well, after I left Gary, I spent a lot of nights crying and thinking. My thinking took me back over the past year or so and the signs I been oblivious to for that long or longer. Knowing he was cheating opened my eyes Renee, and I was suddenly I am ‘seeing’ everything I’d missed.”
“What exactly did you miss?”
“The late nights, the business meetings away from home. I also remembered little things, like his winks to waitresses, his reappearing during our meals out and his coming back… disheveled.”
Renee’s eyes widened. “You mean he was… while you waited for him?”
Anna gave another nod. “He would leave the table for the restroom. When he’d come back sometimes his hair would be messy, or his shirt still untucked, or his face flushed, and his lips swollen. Oh, Renee, how could I have missed those things? How stupid was I?”
Anna took another sip of her coffee, not wanting to see the pity she sure was written on Renee’s face. Then Anna continued. “Our love life never changed though. We still made love often, almost daily. I suppose I always thought that would change if he were cheating on me.”
“I would have thought so to, but I’ve never been cheated on, so what would I know,” Renee remarked. “So, tell me, what does this have to do with you and Mark?”
“Ah, Mark. Well, he shows off the signs of a man who can’t keep it in his pants.”
Renee sat back, a sad look on her face. “Oh, Anna.”
Anna gave a humorless laugh. “Yeah, I know but I honestly didn’t care because I wasn’t looking at him as a love interest, just a friend. Sadly, last night that changed. He told me he wanted to take the next step in our relationship. He asked me to be his girlfriend.”
“Oh, boy! What did you tell him?” Renee questioned as she leaned in close.
“That’s the thing, I didn’t know what to say! I just sat there staring at him like an idiot. I didn’t want to accuse him of something when I have no real proof, but I also know what I’ve observed. He shows all the signs of being a cheater. So, honestly, even if I were interested, I wouldn’t go forward with it because I’ve been down that road already.”
They sat silently.
Renee looking thoughtful as she sipped at her coffee, then said, “Well, you need to be honest with him, even if it ends what you felt was a good friendship. Tell him what you’ve been through and aren’t willing to go there again.”
“Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt,” Anna muttered.
“Yeah. I say, just tell him, again, that you never wanted to be more than friends and thought that’s all he wanted too.”
“Mm… yeah, that works. He told me he’d give me a few days to think it over so…”
“That’s good,” Renee agreed. “Now I suggest you go home and get some sleep.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Anna said. She felt more at ease since she’d talked about everything bothering her. Maybe she would be able to sleep.
So, standing up, they headed for the door after paying.