I tried to get back to “normal”. I started going back to work this week. I needed to keep busy. Dad had hired people to pack up my things at the condo, I just couldn’t go back. So, for now most of my stuff sits in a storage unit as I figure out what to do next. I saw the psychologist again. I think it was good for me to put things into perspective. I may go a few more times. There was no one else I could really talk to about the details of that night. I told her how I felt guilty, that it was my fault. I should never have started a relationship with him so fast and should have seen the warning signs. Part of me was embarrassed, part of me was angry and part of me was still scared.
Jonathan had texted me a few times, to check on me. I know he is worried about me. He did ask me to stop by the store and help him hang the things we had bought at the flea market. I decided to take him up on the offer. While I loved my parents dearly, I was over sharing a house with them every night. I needed my privacy back, my life back. I needed to move forward.
“Jenny! Hey, come in, I’m glad you came.”
“Hi, yes, me too.”
“How you feeling?”
“Jonathan, can I just be completely honest?”
“Yes,” he said confused.
“If one more person asks me how I’m feeling, I am seriously going to lose it! I mean it! I just want to move forward. I don’t want to keep rehashing what happened to me, to us. You know, I just want to be normal again.”
“Yeah, I get it. You’re right we need to move forward. So...I’m going to put you to work, Miss Jenny,” he smiled. “You ready?”
“Yes, please!” I smiled. That’s exactly what I needed, a distraction from my current life, something else to focus on. Jonathan led me over to the new hardware area of the store where he had brought in the new dresser and items we had bought. I sorted the nails and screws into bins according to sizes and placed them in the old trunks. They were going to be sold by the pound. We had picked up an old fashioned scale that fit in perfectly with the theme of the new store. Jonathan had put the radio on and I could hear him ever so softly singing to the song playing. He had a very nice tone to his voice. It was a Blake Shelton song.
I said, “Hey Jonathan! You know what? I could picture you as a cowboy,” I laughed.
“Excuse me ma’am?” he said with a southern draw to his voice. “I think you could secretly be a cowgirl yourself, you know? Maybe, we should go for a horse ride and get you a hat too!”
I laughed at the thought. “A horse? Me? I don’t think so. I’m more of a dog person.”
“Me too! I have always wanted a dog, but Linda is allergic, so we never could.”
“How is she doing?” I asked.
“Jenny, you know how you feel about everyone asking you that question. It’s the same for me when it comes to Linda, you know what I mean?”
I shook my head, “I get it. I won’t ask again. If there’s a change, you’ll tell me,” I said confidently.
“I will,” he answered. “I told her about you,” he hesitated, “I mean just that I had a really good friend to share things with and to talk to. I think she would be happy for me. I think she would want me to move forward too. Is that crazy?”
“No, I think it’s very sweet you talk to her like that and I’m sure she wants you to be happy.”
“You ready to give me some directions on where to hang these things?”
I laughed, “Yes.” For a few hours that night I didn’t think about Ben. I didn’t see Ben in my thoughts or hear his words.
After hanging the last item Jonathan said, “You ready to head home, Jenny? I’m beat.”
“Yes, let me call an uber,” I reached for my phone.
“No, I will drive you back.”
“It’s fine, you’re tired.” I saw that I had several text messages from my Mother. I quickly called her back. “Yes Mom, I know...I’m sorry...Yes, I will. Ok...Ok….I will...Goodbye!”
He asked, “Everything alright?”
“Yes, it’s just my mother being Mom! She was worried, it’s late. Ugh! I have to get a place of my own soon!”
He laughed, “You are lucky you have her to worry about you.”
“Is your Mother still alive?” I questioned.
“No, she passed a while back, my Dad too.”
“Linda’s folks have always picked up the slack, we are very close.”
“That’s good, you have them to count on.”
“Yeah, they are good people.” Jonathan took out his keys, “Listen Jenny, here’s a key to my place. If you need to just get away from it all. I’m rarely there till the end of the night. Make yourself at home, it can be your escape for a while till you find something,” he handed me the key off his ring.
I was so taken back, “I couldn’t, I mean I’d like to but...that’s asking too much.”
“You didn’t ask, I’m offering. Take it,” he insisted.
“You are so kind Jonathan. I really don’t know what I’d do without you. I..Thank you for being my friend.”
“It’s my pleasure, Jenny and the least I can do for all the help you’ve given me with this place.”
“I hadn’t really thought about it as me helping you, this place has definitely helped me. It’s what I think about at night now,” I laughed.
“I’m glad to hear you laugh again,” he said seriously.
“Yes, it feels good.”
“Alright, let’s go,” he said as he turned out the lights.
As I lie in bed, I thought about a lot more than the market, I thought about Johnathan and how lucky I was to have developed this friendship with him. I thought about Linda and how sad that whole situation was for her and her family. I thought about life and how one minute, one decision can change the course of your life, forever. I think I took a lot of things for granted before...before Ben. I’m so thankful for Jonathan, for my family, for my job, and my life. I am a lucky person who has so many positive things to look forward to. I will not let Ben ruin my life. I will not give him that power.
I closed my eyes and must have drifted off to sleep. The next thing I remember is hearing the alarm clock go off. I slammed it off and rolled over. I remembered the soft touch of Jonathan’s hand on my head as he brushed back the hair on my head as I laid on his lap on the front porch. It was so comforting. I imagined his touch on my shoulder, then I saw him lean in and kiss my cheek. I turned and smiled at him as I felt his lips on mine, then his tongue entering my mouth. My conscience broke in, “Stop it Jenny! Get up!!” I stormed into the shower aggravated with my inner self. I told myself I would never again have those thoughts and ruin this friendship between Jonathan and I, NEVER!
Today at work I had made a decision. I needed to buy a car. I had been borrowing Mom’s for the past couple of weeks since I was home. She insisted it was too expensive to Uber back and forth, I had to admit she was right. I texted Jonathan asking if he’d like to go check out a few that I’d seen in the paper. He happily agreed and suggested dinner first.
We went to the local diner and grabbed a quick bite. I heard my cell phone, it was Rachael. “Hello! I’m just having dinner with Jonathan but guess what!”
“What?” she replied.
“I’m going to get a car. I can’t keep taking Mom’s.”
“What? Don’t you think I should?” I didn’t understand the undertone in her voice.
“No, you should.”
“Nothing, when were you going to tell me about you and Jonathan?”
“Tell you what?”
“That you’re dating!”
“What! We are not!” I looked flustered at Jonathan.”Seriously Rachael, what the heck?”
“You spend all of your time with him and when you’re not with him you spend your time talking about him,” she laughed. “You are dating! I think you might even be in love with him!”
“Let’s talk about this later, I have to go. What did you call for?”
“I was going to see if you wanted to get dinner, but I know now that you are busy. So have fun!”
“Bye.” I said sarcastically.
“Everything ok?” Jonathan asked.
“Yes, just my sister being her normal self, nothing to worry about.” I would definitely talk to her later, those words should NEVER be said again! I know she means well, but I have already discussed this with my inner self, I didn’t want to have to do it with my sister too! We are not dating and will not be dating, he is married and has made it very clear that he loves his wife and has made it clear our relationship is a friendship. I’m not messing it up! I tried to focus on what he was telling me about cars.
After dinner, we look at three cars, each of which he said I should not buy! This was harder than I thought it would be but I trusted his decision. He said he would keep an eye out for a good used vehicle for me. Next, I’d need to focus on a place to stay. Maybe I will just rent. I put the condo up for sale with an agent and expected it to sell quickly. As soon as that was settled I would move forward with house searching.
I spent the rest of the weekend at home, with my parents. Mom would be happy if I never left again. She cooked and made my bed as if I were in middle school again.
After work Monday, I had decided to take Jonathan up on his offer. I texted asking if he was at the market, he of course invited me to come over but I told him I really just wanted some me time. I wanted to sit on the couch and watch TV and just be alone for a change. He said to make myself at home, he wouldn’t be back for hours, so I did. I felt a bit awkward at first being in his house alone but I quickly got over it. I had stopped and picked up chinese food to go. I took off my shoes and bra and plopped in front of the TV. It felt good, I was relaxed.
As I looked around the house I could see that Jonathan had taken down all of the photos that used to be up and down the staircase. I remembered seeing them the last time I came in to use the restroom. He also took down the flowered curtains that were in the living room. I guess he needs to move forward and make changes too. It must be so hard for him. There was a picture of him and Linda on the bookshelf. I couldn’t help but study it. She was pretty, they looked happy together.
I wrote a quick note to Jonathan thanking him for my escape and letting him know that I’d left chinese leftovers in the fridge, if he wanted them. It was nearly 9 pm and I needed to head home.
At 10:30 he texted and thanked me for the leftovers. He was working so hard to get this renovation completed.
The days past, I kept busy at work. I never went back to see Ben’s mother again. I felt it was best not to. I also had to fight with my inner self not to check in on Jonathan’s wife, Linda. It just didn’t seem right. I had finally gotten a used vehicle, thanks to Jonathan. My realtor had several showings set up for the condo and life was moving forward for me. I swung by Jonathan’s place a couple more times when I needed me time. It worked out well.
I was just leaving work when I heard my phone ring, it was Jonathan.
“Hey!” he said, “can you swing by the house after work today?”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“I have a surprise to show you,” he sounded excited.
“What is it?”
“You’ll see, I have to go.”
Before I could even say goodbye he had hung up the phone. I could not stand the suspense. What could it be? It was driving me crazy. It can’t be something with the store or he would have said to meet there? Ugh! I hate waiting for surprises!
I pulled into Jonathan’s driveway, I saw the truck out, nothing looked strange to me. I knocked on the back door and then I heard it...barking! “Oh my gosh, you did it...You got a puppy!” I exclaimed as the cutest little yellow lab jumped up at me and began licking me everywhere. “Hello! You are so cute! Yes you are!”
Jonathan laughed out loud, “Come on, lets let him run around a bit, he has a lot of energy!” He threw a tennis ball half way down the yard and the puppy tore after it.
“Is it a girl or boy?”
I bent down and took the ball from her next and continued to throw it down the yard. “She is so cute! I’m jealous.” I noticed an old swing hanging from the tree. “Will it hold me?” I asked.
“Yup.” He came over and began pushing me.
“This is a beautiful piece of property Jonathan.”
“Yeah, I don’t want to leave it. I want to knock down the house and start from scratch…” he went on to tell me all the details that he’d like to do with it as I swung and he played with the dog.
I asked, “What are you going to do with the puppy all day long when you’re at work?”
“I’m going to take her with me. She will be the shop mascot,” he laughed. “And maybe you could babysit for her now and then?”
“Of course! Anytime!”
“What’s her name?”
“I haven’t decided, I just brought her home right before I called you. Help me figure it out.”
“Hmm...maybe Marley. No nevermind that movie was so sad, did you see it?”
“Oh my gosh, you will bawl like a baby!”
“Why would I want to go see it then?”
I laughed, “Cause it was good, but sad. Ok, how about Callie?”
“Umm, no. What else you got?”
“Ginger? I like it! Ginger it is. Come here Ginger!” he shouted. The dog turned and bolted for him.
We laughed, “I think she likes it too,” he said.
“Can you stay for dinner? I could cook for us.”
“Are you a good cook?” I teased.
“I am,” he said confidently.
“Ok, what are you making?”
“Well, I assumed you might say yes, so I stopped by and grabbed some shrimp. Do you like fried shrimp?”
We brought the puppy in and Jonathan began cooking. He insisted I didn’t help him. So I played with the puppy!
Jonathan said, “I think the store will be ready after this week.”
“That’s so exciting! Have you marketed the opening?”
“Well, I was going to hang a sign up,” he said casually.
“You should go bigger Jonathan. Try to get some radio advertisements and put some ads on Facebook and Twitter.”
“I have no idea how to do that Jenny,” he laughed at himself.
“Well, I can do it for you then.” As we ate I took notes and asked him questions about things he’d like to say and things he’d like to advertise as specials for the grand opening. We had decided on doing it on a Saturday when most people were off work.
“Jenny, you are a natural at this. Thank you, again. You always have great ideas.”
“You’re welcome. I would like a free hotdog on opening day please,” I teased.
“Actually, I might need a favor that day?”
“I don’t think bringing Ginger opening day is such a great idea. Maybe you could stop by here and let her out, hang out with her a bit. After you come by the store and get your free hotdog of course.”
“Sure, I can do that!”
Jonathan had made a wonderful dinner, besides the shrimp we had scalloped potatoes and a fresh salad too. I was very impressed with his cooking skills. I was very impressed with him, as always. He and Ginger walked me out to my car. He leaned against it for a minute and then said, “I’m really happy we have become friends Jenny. I feel like for the first time in a really long time, I have something to look forward to.”
“Me too,” I said softly. “You are the first person I want to tell about my day, Rachael’s a bit jealous.”
He laughed, “Well, I can put her to work too, she’s welcome to come by the store and spend time with us anytime.”
“She might actually like that!” I laughed. He seemed like he wanted to say something to me. “Jonathan? Is something wrong?”
“No,” he said quickly. “No, nothings wrong, everything is good, really good Jenny.”
“Ok...I will talk to you tomorrow. Let you know what I figured out for the advertising, Ok?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’d be great.” He started to walk away. “Come on Ginger,” he smiled at me.
I don’t know, there’s something? He...I’m imagining things again. Stop Jenny! I told myself.