#11 Fuck him out of my system
Peter slumps down behind his desk, looking worn and older than he normally does. It was a busy day, and we had to put down two dogs and a cat, which always sucks. It normally doesn’t get to him like this, but the last dog we euthanized belonged to this really sweet 13-year-old girl who was crying the whole time, and who insisted on staying with her pet while he blew out his last breath. Even I got a little misty-eyed over that, and I never cry.
“You okay?” I ask Peter, patting his shoulder.
“No,” he grunts. “I got dumped. Again.”
“Oh man,” I say, sitting down on his desk, facing him. “Same woman from last time?”
He nods. “She wanted to try again, but that was a mistake, obviously. I just… I don’t know. I guess I might be getting a little lonely with old age.”
“You’re not old,” I say with a smile. “You will find someone. You’re a catch.”
He rolls his eyes. “Sure. Perpetual bachelor, almost 60, receding hairline… It’s a miracle I’m not off the marker yet.”
“Come on, I’m taking you to dinner,” I decide. “You need to pig out on some pizza and have a few beers. It’s not like I’ve got anything going on either, so I’m free as a bird. I bet Delilah will come too. Let’s hang out tonight.”
“You two young girls shouldn’t waste your night on an old man like me,” Peter says, shaking his head.
“Come on, Peter, I could use some fun as well,” I insist. “Just say yes.”
“Okay,” he says with a sigh. “Fine.”
I groan when I realize that the restaurant Delilah has been raving about for twenty minutes is Giovanni’s. The restaurant Michel works at. Which she knows. Stupid bitch.
“I’m not going in there,” I state, giving her an angry look.
“It’s about time you and Michel stopped being stubborn and got back together,” she insists, parking her car across two spots. She couldn’t even park her car between two lines if her life depended on it. I love the girl, but she’s the worst driver ever. Me and Peter both wanted to be the ones to drive tonight, but she insisted that since we both need a drink way more than she does, she’d be the designated driver. I regret giving into her now.
“We’re not getting back together,” I grumble, getting out of the car when she and Peter do, even though part of me wants to stay inside, skulking like a little kid. “I’m over him.”
“Sure,” Peter says, laughing. “Even I don’t buy that, Trace.”
“And if you’re truly over him, you won’t mind seeing him, right?” Delilah says, sticking out her tongue and laughing. “Come on, you know you’ve gotta face him at one point. Besides, I don’t even know if he’s working tonight. I might just be Kieran and Jacob in the kitchen. And Michel never leaves the kitchen anyway. Come, on Trace, I’ve been craving the pasta from Giovanni’s for weeks!”
I know I’m gonna lose this fight, so I follow them inside and sit down in the booth that Michel and I used to eat at when I visited him for his early dinner before his shift started, right after mine ended. It was hard to find enough time to see each other sometimes, but we tried to make things work. We tried so damn hard, but it wasn’t enough.
Fuck, I’m sad again. I’m gonna need to hit up Thomas again, or I’ll end up texting Michel tonight. It’s been weeks since we ran into Michel at the launch party, and he’s called me every night since, but I never pick up. He hasn’t shown up at my apartment or my place of work, which I’m grateful for. I might cave if he catches me at a bad time.
Thomas has been a wonderful distraction. Ever since we hot high and told the sad stories about the people we’re trying to get over, we’ve both let go of the last of our inhibitions. He has no problem whatsoever with me sometimes needing to watch porn when we do it, and I don’t mind begging him for minutes before he allows me to come, so we both get exactly what we need from our arrangement. It’s still Michel I think of when I masturbate, though, so I’ve stopped getting myself off completely, and rely on Thomas for all my orgasms now. We haven’t had any other heart-to-hearts, and I don’t spend the night with him anymore, but we text when we’re in the mood or are having a hard time with something. Last time, all he sent me was an eggplant emoji, and when I sent back a peach, he was at my place half an hour later, fucking me into oblivion.
Maybe this is the perfect arrangement for me because I don’t need to be intimate with Thomas. We’re not in love, not even close, so it’s perfectly okay with both of us to say goodbye and both fall asleep in our own apartment after getting each other off. We hang out sometimes for an hour or so after having sex, watching TV and joking around in our underwear, eating chips, but we don’t have heavy conversations about our lives, he doesn’t force me to talk about my past like Michel tried to so many times, and he doesn’t have any expectations of me. I wish I could have had this with Michel, but Thomas is the next best thing. Hell, he’s fucking hot and he gets me off every single time – even though it sometimes takes so long that he needs so take a few minutes so his fingers won’t cramp up and his tongue won’t fall off from exhaustion, but he never complains about it.
The guy is my saving grace for sure.
A waitress shows up at our table, and Delilah and Peter order pasta, but I go for the dish that Michel added to the menu a few months ago: a calzone with lots of mushrooms. I love mushrooms and he knows that. I’m pretty sure this dish only exists because of me, and I love that. It reminds me of how sweet he is.
Damn, I still miss him.
“Tell us about the woman that was stupid enough to dump your ass,” Delilah orders Peter, patting his hand with a sweet smile on her face. “She must be a bitch.”
“Nah, I’m just difficult,” Peter says with a sigh. “She said that she can’t be what I need, and that I’m not truly open to being in a real relationship, and she might be right. I’ve been on my own for so long now that it’s hard to change my routines.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being alone,” I say, sounding bitter even to my own ears. “At least that way you won’t feel like a huge disappointment the whole damn time.”
“We’ll get to your issues in a moment, honey,” Delilah says, shaking her head at me. “Peter is up first. Tell us about her, Pete.”
During the appetizers, we listen to him bitch about the woman he was dating, and while she sounds alright, I think he’s better off without her. Then again, I think most people would be better off alone. I know I am. I love Michel, and I have a lot of fun with Thomas, but I’m not sure I will ever want another real relationship. Maybe that’s just not for me.
I didn’t even hear anyone come over, but suddenly my calzone is right in front of me, and I look up to thank the waiter, the words dying on my tongue when I see a familiar dark shape, his deep brown eyes intent on mine.
“I figured it was you when I saw the ticket said extra mushrooms,” he says with a small smile.
“Hi,” I breathe, feeling like I’m going to pass out soon. Damn, he looks good.
“You never pick up when I call you,” he says, stepping slightly to the side when the waiter brings over Delilah’s and Peter’s pastas. “I’d really like to talk to you. Are you free tomorrow night?”
“Yes,” I say without thinking about it. “I mean, no.”
“Trace…” He sighs, his smile wavering. “I miss you.”
“She misses you too,” Delilah pipes in.
“No, I don’t,” I bite out, glaring at her. “I’m dating someone new.”
“The guy with the man-bun?” Michel asks, his hands balling into fists. “You’re still seeing him?”
“Yeah,” I lie. Technically, I am still seeing Thomas, but not the way Michel thinks. Sure, we fuck like bunnies, but I’m not truly dating him. He’s just a really hot distraction.
“The other times when we broke up…” Michel looks away from me for a moment, squeezing his eyes shut. “Did you… I mean… Is this the first time…?”
Oh God, he thinks I’ve been screwing guys left and right the past five years. “No,” I say softly, not wanting him to think our whole relationship was a lie. “Never. For five years, there was only you.”
“And now there’s him.”
“Yes,” I agree. “Now there’s him.”
Michel lets out a deep, shuddering breath. “Enjoy your calzone. I need to get back to work. You look good, Tracy. It was nice to see you again.” With that stupid, polite sentence, he takes off, leaving me staring at his retreating form until the door of the kitchen swings shut behind him.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I tell Delilah the moment she opens her mouth. “Let’s just eat.”
Dinner is a little tense at first, but Peter does a great job at keeping up the small talk, and I’m grateful he’s here. He puts an arm around me and presses a kiss to the top of my head when we’re having coffee after dinner, and I lean into him for a moment, closing my eyes. I don’t have any family left, but Peter sort of feels like an uncle to me, and I’m grateful for him. He doesn’t have any kids and his brother doesn’t have any either, and he treats me and Delilah like we’re his nieces or something. Delilah has loving parents and three siblings, but I don’t, so I’m extremely glad to have both of them in my life. I don’t have many friends – most people think my closed-off nature is off-putting, so I cherish the ones I do have.
When Delilah drops me off at my apartment after taking Peter home first, I text Thomas before I’m even at the front door. I send him three separate emoticons: a peach, a splash of water, and a question mark. He replies with an eggplant and a smiley face. I let myself into my apartment building with a smile, planning to change into some sexy lingerie before he gets here.
That plans goes straight out the window when I get to my front door, seeing him leaning against with a smirk on his face.
“Beat you to it,” he says, grinning.
“I take it you had a rough night too?” I ask while I unlock the door to let us in.
“Joshua is moving to London,” Thomas says with a deep sigh. “And instead of breaking up with him, Franny is encouraging him to go and determined to try the long-distance thing for a year.”
“Well fuck,” I say, taking off my coat and shoes just like he is. “Delilah conned me into eating at Giovanni’s tonight and Michel came out to give me my food, because he could tell from my order alone that it was me. He told me he misses me.”
“Well fuck,” Thomas echoes, already walking into my bedroom. “I think you need this even more than I do, then.”
“Damn right I do,” I agree, taking off my shirt before I even make it into the bedroom. Thomas is stripping down as well, flopping down on the bed in nothing but his boxer shorts, looking at me with hungry eyes.
“It’s getting easier,” he says while he watches me step out of my jeans. “Me and Franny, I mean. For a second, I hoped that she was going to dump Joshua and come back to me, but when I realized that she’s going to stay with him even though he will be across the ocean, it didn’t hurt as badly as I thought it would.”
I groan and unsnap my bra, throwing it at him. “Well, good for you. I wish I could say the same.” The look of hurt on Michel’s face when I told him that I was seeing someone new is burned into my mind, and I hate that I’m hurting him, even though I know it’s necessary for him to move on.
“Come here, baby,” he says, opening his arms and winking at me. “Let me make you forget all about him. I will fuck him right out of your system.”
Now that sounds like a plan.