Trying to push this problem up the hill
When it’s just too heavy to hold
Think now’s the time to let it slide
So come on let it go
Just let it be
Why don’t you be you
And I’ll be me
Let It Go by James Bay
“I kissed him,” I say. “I just jumped on top of him and kissed him.”
Tina nods. “You did that.”
Lucy frowns. “It’s a whole different take on the drunk dial…the smashed snog.”
“Why did I do that?”
“Because he’s really cute?” Lucy offers.
“Because you’re inebriated,” Tina says.
“I don’t think he kissed me back,” I say.
Someone just tossed me into a cold shower that not only sobers, but thrusts me unwillingly into frigid reality. Damien is breathing hard like he just ran to join us. Like maybe someone called him to make sure we arrive home. Like someone cares, but not too much, not passionately, just enough to be a friend, to let it go.
Lucy smiles. She likes Damien. A lot. He’s the bad boy who librarians, some librarians, secretly pine for. Tina snags Lucy’s arm.
“You’re obviously here to walk Clare home, so we’ll get a cab,” Tina says and then they both hurry to where three taxis wait a half of a block away. Lucy glances back in remorse.
“Dominic sent you.”
Damien nods, while evaluating my condition. “He said you’d been drinking and thought you could use some help getting home. You seem okay to me.”
“Your voice sobered me up pretty quickly,” I say. “Where were you that you got here so quick?”
“Shooting pool in Flannagans.”
“Thanks for the gesture. And, thank Dominic, too. But I don’t need you to see me home or pick up any pieces or anything like that. I get it. I kissed him. He sent you. Case closed. I get it. Truly.”
I turn in the direction of my apartment building, still fifteen blocks away. That lovely little bubble I’d luxuriated in just moments before bursts around me. Despite my best intentions, despite thinking myself fierce and strong and prevailing, I am just a slobbering puppy. I chide myself for dancing in the fantasy world of true love and happily-ever-afters, all of those dreamy Prince Charming mirages that evaporate when mixed with a healthy dose of reality. Maybe I should read true crime novels instead of fictional romances. Maybe I could function better in real relationships then. Or kill trying. Naw.
Damien walks alongside me, but doesn’t talk. He’s wearing scuffed brown work-boots. His ripped, faded jean legs slouch over them. He pulls a cigarette from his pack, puts it in his mouth, but doesn’t light it.
“You can talk to me, if you want,” he says.
He shakes his head. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but your feelings. Crap. My man card’s going to be taken away.”
I smile despite myself. “Your man card, huh. Well, don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone that you want to braid my hair and talk about boys and feelings.”
We exchange smiles. He sighs.
“My little brother is a lot of things, Clare. He’s a good guy, but too trusting. He doesn’t always see truths even when they’re blazing neon signs. He’ll stick with Tansy. He’s convinced himself she’s his true love. Whatever in the hell that means. He says she’s always there for him. Forget the fact that she’s a lying manipulator. He doesn’t see it.”
“You do talk feelings,” I say. “But, you know, I got it. Really. No worries. I think maybe I thought I was doing better than I am.”
“It’s the alcohol, Red. You’re fine. I think you’re better than fine.”
I glance at his profile, his aquiline nose, full lips, the lashes any woman would kill for. Maybe he’s not who I perceived him to be either.
When we get to my building, I take the first stair and turn to face him, wondering if my next words will be a mistake. “Would you like to come in for coffee or maybe a martini?”
“Very tempting, Red, but not tonight. I am definitely going to hit you up for a raincheck, but when I do, my little brother is going to be the farthest thing from your mind,” he says.
I nod. I’m not sure what he means, but that’s okay. The doorman opens the door. I turn slightly and wave to Damien. He removes the still unlit cigarette from his lips and nods, raises his hand, and then starts walking back into town. I watch his slouching form until he disappears from view. I think he’s right. I am just fine.