We are at “K”; not quite caught up but close. This will be the last one for tonight (although it’s already tomorrow…but there will be more tomorrow…er…today. ha).
All of the stories are linked. Some are better as standalones than others. If you’ve missed any and want to read them, you can catch up here.
Brian tempted me with a Dairy Queen blizzard: Mint oreo. I said, “Yes.” Of course.
He still knows me so well.
It’s too cold for DQ blizzards, but he jacks up the heat in his pickup truck and we drive around until he comes to an unfamiliar dirt road. I glance at him.
“Where are we going?” I’m half-afraid it’s a make out spot and we are far too old for that.
He glances at me with a strange smile.
“Oh, you’ve become an axe murderer and are going to do me in?”
“Do you in?” He laughs.
I suck on my straw, but a cookie bit has evidently gotten stuck and I’m getting nothing so I start sweeping the straw through the creamy goodness and use the straw like a very, very small spoon.
He pulls into an opening. “What do you think?”
“Do you see the kalmia?”
I grin because for all of his good-old-boyness Brian is a botany nerd, a scientist, the most-likely-to-appear-in-The-Big-Bang-Theory of all of us. “Regular people would call that mountain laurel.”
“Yeah, but neither of us is regular.”
“Uh, speak for yourself.”
He jabs me lightly, playfully with his elbow. “With all of this kalmia—”
“Laurel,” I say and then slurp my blizzard.
“Imagine the color in May and June. A spectacular place for a house, right?”
I stiffen. I bite the end of the straw and stare at the wide-open space surrounded by an Appalachian grove of mixed wood. He wants to live here with me, I realize. We haven’t even gone to the bay and suddenly I am feeling stifled. I feel him staring at me expectantly. And I have nothing. I don’t know if it’s because I feel blind-sided, but I suddenly feel sad and annoyed and irritable.
Exiting the truck, I brace myself for the March wind that kicks at me. I love the smell of the woods, the white pine mingling with ancient earth, but I also feel strangely handcuffed by it. I turn in a circle like a lackluster Sound of Music Maria. No, I don’t see—or feel—myself living here.
Something must show on my face, although I tried to keep it neutral.
“You don’t like it,” Brian says.
“No, it’s a beautiful bit of land,” I say.
“If you’re thinking about it for me, I don’t think it will work.”
“Because of me or the land?”
That’s the question, isn’t it? I think. “It’s not you—”
He laughs. It sounds a little bitter. “Please don’t say, ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ Not now. Not after Christy’s left.”
The wind slaps at my face. A strange awakening.
“Not after Christy’s left?” I feel a little nauseated, like he was using her as a back-up plan in case he and I failed.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he says.
And, yet, I know he did because I know him, I know him better than I know anyone, and any hope that I had, or he had, for us, just disintegrated. He doesn’t want to be alone. But who does, really? All of the red flags that had always risen when the possibility of a relationship between us surfaced, bounded across my vision now.
“It’s not too late to win Christy back. She really loves you.”
“Our trip to the bay is off?”
“I think so,” I say. “Please go after her. You two were good together.”
He nods. “Sure.”
The problem with your best friend falling in love with you is that you end up losing a really big part of yourself when you don’t return his love, not the way he deserves, anyway.
As we leave the clearing, I glance back as the sun sets, leaving the meadow in a golden hue. I imagine that house. The couple and their children. Their laughter. Their dog. Their love. I don’t see myself there at all.
I hope I see myself somewhere, anywhere, soon.