Text copyright © 2009 by K.A. Linde

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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Note: This is a rough draft preview of the beginning of Avoiding Commitment. If you are interested in reading the rest of it, it will be available for purchase in ebook form at Smashwords. com, or in print at Amazon. com.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this story and encouraged me to see it through to publication. This is a big, scary step for me and I appreciate your support so much!

Avoiding Commitment

By: K.A. Linde

Chapter 1: Present

Vibrations reverberated throughout the miniscule apartment. The sound dulled and then died, not even registering on the tiny figure wrapped in a heap of hand-me-down quilts her grandmother had sewn together during the Great Depression. Winter was far from blowing in on Manhattan Island, but that never stopped Lexi from surrounding herself with a little piece of home. Again, the electronic noise pierced the early morning silence. She groaned, nearly rolling off the twin sized bed. Her hand fumbled clumsily for the alarm clock, slamming on the snooze button several times before realizing that the damn thing wasn't even plugged in let alone set for an early Saturday morning wake-up call.

She peeled her eyes open searching desperately for the obnoxious noise before zeroing in on her crummy old cell phone. It was situated between a box of old photographs, last night's cup of coffee, and her laptop, which had turned itself off when she hadn't been kind enough to plug it in for the night. She stared across the room debating whether this or anything else was important enough to get out of her cozy nook this early on a Saturday morning as the third ring blared through the apartment. Shoving the covers off of her bare legs, she painstakingly stumbled out of bed, immediately stubbing her big toe on her nightstand. Swear words escaped her mouth and she barely kept from falling over as pain shot through her toe. Reaching out for the cell phone, she extended her arm and barely saved it before it vibrated over the side of the cluttered desk.

"Mmm hmm?" she mumbled groggily into her phone before succumbing to the throbbing pressure in her foot, and collapsing on the grey area rug she had borrowed indefinitely from her college roommate when she had moved out.

"Lexi." It was a statement not a question. The voice was vaguely familiar almost seductive, but it was ridiculously early so she wasn't going to blame herself for not immediately recognizing the deep masculine tone.

Lexi pulled the phone from her ear and looked at the time. She groaned when she saw it was only six; four hours before she had to be awake. The number glaring blindly from the screen wasn't programmed into her phone, but this came as no surprise. She had accidentally dropped her phone in a toilet two months earlier when left alone in a nightclub. The phone had miraculously survived, but none of her numbers had. She had spent the next week recovering: the numbers and consciousness.

The fact that she didn't recognize the number wasn't what perplexed her, but that it wasn't a local New York area code. Strangely enough, it was an Atlanta area code, and the only people she still talked to from home were her parents. When she had replaced the numbers in her phone, she hadn't retained a single Atlanta phone number other than those. After moving to New York two years ago, she had tried to let go of her past and move on to what she hoped would be a bright future.

"Lexi, are you there?" the unidentified voice repeated into the phone. "I know…"

"Who is calling?" she asked cutting him off abruptly mid-sentence. "Do you realize it's six o'clock in the morning on Saturday?" she questioned mystery man further. "Some people do like to sleep in," she spoke sharply into the cell phone adjusting her seat so as to assess the extent of her injury.

"Yeah, look, I'm sorry," he implored her. "I didn't mean to bother you. I would have never called if I didn't absolutely have to. I feel really bad about this Lexi. I hope you aren't still angry at me, but I really did have to call you," he said sincerely.

She almost felt bad for speaking so severely to him especially since she was too groggy to recognize the voice. And to be honest, she thought he sounded a little pathetic. She rubbed her tired eyes before allowing herself to speak again. "Sorry," she mumbled. "Who did you say this was again?" There was silence on the other line. She sighed heavily knowing that silence meant that this wasn't going to be someone she wanted to speak with. "Look I dropped my phone and it erased all of my contacts. You're not in my phone."

Silence ensued on the other line before he emitted a tiny sigh and said, "Lex, it's Jack."

Chill bumps broke across her arms and neck as his name registered and she was able to finally place the voice. The sound of her heart palpitating inside her chest could be heard out the door, down the hall and quite possibly outside in the nearby construction zone through the jackhammer slamming against the concrete…not to mention through the phone. Her mouth felt like she had been chewing on chalk all night and her stomach had suddenly been assaulted by butterflies whacking their tiny wings violently against her insides. All she could do was cough in disbelief. Her mind was whirling with indescribable possibilities for the purpose of his phone call - each new idea seemingly more ridiculous than the last.

Deep down, she knew her reaction was not only uncharacteristic of her usual cool demeanor, but also completely uncalled for. So what if she hadn't heard a word from him since their last encounter over a year and a half ago? That didn't mean that he couldn't drop her a line at six o'clock in the morning on a random Saturday. After all, they had been friends…of sorts for nearly six years now.

"Look, I know I shouldn't have called so early. I didn't mean to intrude," he said quickly.

She was terrified that he might hang up after only a few short minutes of his time. "What? No. Of course you're not intruding. I just wasn't expecting…well you. I wasn't expecting you," she could hear how breathy and uneven her voice had gotten and wanted to kick herself with her hurt toe for being such a girl sometimes.

"Yeah. I'm sorry I've been out of touch." She didn't even want to think about what would happen if he had meant to be out of touch. Maybe he never would have called her again. "It's just that I need you."

She froze not able to comprehend what she had just heard. Her mind poured over the countless possible interpretations of this statement. "You what?"

"I mean, I need you here."

Her eyes bulged out. She could feel them drying out, but somehow couldn't bring herself to blink. She couldn't process what he was saying. He needed her? Not just needed her, but needed her there with him. Needed her home. She shook her head realizing she must be misunderstanding him. There was no way that after everything that had happened between them that he would ever call her like this. "I'm sorry…what?"

"I'm not getting this out right. It's kind of hard to explain. Do you have a minute?"

She glanced around her tiny room watching as specks of light began to filter in through the window. She visualized her planner, which was filled to the brim with meetings and luncheons Monday through Friday, and then her measly Saturday with only a haircut for company. All she had was time. "It's six o'clock in the morning. No sane person has plans this early on a Saturday. Go ahead Jack," she said letting his name roll off her tongue the same way he had…she stopped herself. No point in letting her mind venture there.

"Are you sitting down? This is kind of a strange story."

"Uh…yeah I am," she said glancing around her tiny apartment. Her bedroom walls were covered in cracking soft green paint that had probably been there since the dawn of time, and a collage of hooks and holes from previous tenants. Her floor was scattered with dirty laundry and destroyed textbooks. The sparse amount of furniture she had been able to haul up the seven daunting flights of stairs still managed to make the space look cluttered, something she had never quite been able to figure out. "So…uh…what is this strange story?"

"Okay well just hear me out, because I promise I wouldn't have called and bothered you if it wasn't for a reason I thought was worthwhile." He sucked in a long deep breath before continuing. "I've been dating this girl back home for nearly a year and a half," he began coughing a little at the length of time that they had been together. "She's really great. Actually, I think ya'll would get along. Anyway, she is really into uh…marriage. She talks about marriage all the time. It's like the girl was born to get married," he said all in rapid succession. "And…well…you know me."

She did know him. He despised the idea of marriage. The idea of being tied down to one person suffocating under the monogamous bonds forced upon you by a legally binding document. Knowing that after that moment, there was no turning back except, of course, for divorce. She was pretty sure that the only thing he hated more than marriage was the idea of divorce. Breaking up was disparaging enough without the added effect of divvying up possessions, possibly children, moving out, starting a new life, and not to mention court fees, custody battles, and worst of all, lawyers. She giggled a little on the inside at that last thought. "Yeah, I know. Mr. Anti-Commitment," she said only half-joking.

He breathed out heavily. "Well now that you mention that, that's kind of what it all boils down to."

"What? The fact that you have the capability of convincing and persuading women for an indefinite amount of time to hold out for you until you break their hearts?" she asked coldly. Really, she had no idea where this was leading. Why was he talking to her, of all people, about possibly marrying his girlfriend? He hadn't spoken to her in ages, and she was pretty sure her opinion on marriage was irrelevant to his decision. After all, her opinions on relationships, in general, had always been irrelevant.

"Yeah," he replied very softly into the phone. She almost hadn't heard him. "Yeah, that's what this is about." She waited for him to elaborate. After a brief pause, he began to explain the mess he had gotten himself into. "My girlfriend asked me if I wanted to marry her. Not like a proposal or anything," he quickly corrected, "more like a question to see where our relationship was headed. I didn't have an answer for her. I mean what kind of guy has an answer for that? But as you know…I mean because of my parents…the thought of marriage tends to make me run head first in the opposite direction. She pinned me down though, and said she would leave me that second if I didn't have an answer for her. That really took me off guard."

Lexi felt like she was sitting on the edge of her seat about to witness a train wreck. Any girl who had ever tried to pin him down for anything experienced instant rejection like a blow to the face.

"So I told her that was what I wanted."

"What?" she couldn't help asking helplessly into the phone. "You told her you wanted to marry her?" Her mouth was dropped open forming a little oh of disbelief.

He chuckled a little at her reaction. "I told her that I could see myself marrying her, but that I didn't want to commit to it just yet especially since we had only been dating for a year and a half. Luckily, she took that as a positive answer and didn't break up with me. Then comes the part of the story where you come in."

"Me? I don't see how I could possibly come into a story about you marrying someone else. What we went through wasn't exactly marriage potential Jack. It's not like I can tell you what you should do in the situation," she said jumping the gun before she would let him ask for any advice.

"No, Lexi" he chuckled softly, "she wants to meet you."

This, however, was not something she had been prepared for. "Jack, I'm really confused here. I think I must have missed something. The girl that you are dating that you want to marry wants to meet me. Why? I'm so…insignificant," she said trying to be earnest and sincere. She couldn't even think about the different times her and Jack had tried to find the time to form some semblance of a relationship. Nothing had ever worked, and the last time… She stopped herself again from entertaining the thought. The hole that Jack had been left still ached when prodded, and she avoided irritating the wounded feeling that crept through her.

"Don't say that. You know you're not insignificant." She let silence settle between them not wanting to be the first to speak next. After awhile of listening to her breathe heavily, he spoke again. "Anyway, she got this idea in her head that she wants to meet every girl that I've dated for any significant amount of time. She wants to find out why I was unable to commit to them so that she can figure out why I'm not committing to her or so she thinks. And don't go saying that this doesn't apply to you either because we didn't date. I never mentioned you to her, but she heard about you from Kate."

Lexi recoiled at the mention of Jack's ex-girlfriend. "So by the way you say that, I'm guessing you actually went through with this insane decision. You are letting this girl pick and pry through your past just so that you don't have to commit to marrying her right now?" This was low…even for him.

"It's not like that," he stated defensively. "I let her talk to them, because I wanted to show her that I had nothing to hide. Well when Kate mentioned you and I didn't, you can guess that she wasn't terribly happy."

Lexi help nodding even though she knew that he couldn't see her. Of course, she wouldn't be happy. Any female would be unhappy with the description Kate had probably bestowed upon her. Knowing the way Kate felt about her, it probably went along the lines of temptress, devious, manipulative, conniving, two-faced whore with a few added expletives just for good measure. "So Kate told her what happened which is how she got my name, but we were never um…together," she said not certain if that was the correct word.

"She doesn't seem to care. She seems to think that since I didn't tell her about you, that you somehow must hold all the answers as to why I am the way that I am. I tried to tell her that the last I had seen or heard from you had been before we'd even started dating. This girl is almost as persistent as I am though. So, I guess what I'm saying is that I need you Lex," he said using his pet name for her. "I need you to meet Bekah and convince her that I'm worth keeping around."

Lexi rolled her eyes to the ceiling in exasperation. She didn't even want to consider whether or not he was worthkeeping around. But, nonetheless, she mulled the idea over. She was, in fact, overdue for an Atlanta trip to visit her family, but she had never had the intention of seeing Jack, especially not if that included being forced to parade around with his fiancé-to-be while explaining their history. Pass on that. "You've failed to explain how any of this is my problem," she stated as firmly as possible. "It's not like I can just dash away from my busy schedule to take a wonderful jaunt in the park with you and your girlfriend or fiancé-to-be or whatever the hell she is. I have other things to do. I'm kind of busy or have you forgotten?"

She could practically feel him cringe through the phone. "I know you're busy, but I thought that maybe since school hadn't started, you might be able to take some time to come down and visit."

"Actually, I got an internship for the summer. I have been working my ass off trying to save up for my last year. I don't even know if they would let me have the time off. I've never seen anyone take time off, and I don't particularly want to be the first one," she stated telling only a partial truth. The other three interns had all taken time off throughout the program, but it had been at the beginning before things had really started to pick up. Lately, no one had had time to breathe let alone think of taking a weekend rendezvous out of the state. She may have had nothing planned for the day aside from her haircut, but that hardly kept her from being on call.

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize," he said quietly. "I guess I'll just have to tell her that you weren't able to take time off. Just, please let me know if you happen to change your mind. It really would help me out immensely."
He was always so good at making her feel bad for not making the decision that was of the greatest benefit to him. "I'd really like to help," she said, lying through her teeth. "There's just no way. I can't get the time off, and even if I could, there's no way I could afford a plane ticket down there," she said off-hand.

"I wouldn't have you buying your own ticket," he said quickly. "You'd be doing me a huge favor. Of course, I would take care of you…uh…it…the ticket."

"Oh," was all she could get out. The last time she had seen him he was just out of college, poor, and practically starving for a job. Of course he would be doing significantly better financially a year and a half later. Unlike her - sitting in a hundred thousand dollars or more of debt from school with a year left to go.

"But I guess I'll let you get back to your morning. Sorry for waking you up so early. You have my number now," he said as if that solved all the issues. "You can use it if you want."

"Right. Okay. Thanks," she stated callously.



She hung up the phone closing it with brutal force. Somehow, she restrained herself from flinging the stupid thing across the room. Instead, she quickly added his name into her contacts despite the nagging urge to erase his number and all recollection of the phone call and of him.

Lexi ground her teeth in frustration. She couldn't believe that after all of this time that this was why he was calling her. He had called her because he was in love with another woman. Well he hadn't said that, but it didn't matter. Jack didn't contemplate marrying someone without due cause. She shook her head hoping she would wake herself from the nightmare of what she had just heard. When that didn't work, she pushed herself off the ground, careful not to put too much weight on her sore toe, and stalked out of her bedroom into what only a resident of New York City would consider a living room.

In all truth, the living room, dining room, and kitchen were all compacted into one puny space with two doors leading into the bedrooms on either side. Grimy yellow paint crusted the walls with navy smudges appearing more prominently in some places where the last occupant had been courageous enough to paint over. The crown molding was cracked and grungy. Her roommate's sofa, which luckily had a maroon cover to hide the seventies-esque pattern, took up the majority of the room. Two large bean bags, one brown, one turquoise, sat to one side, and a black Ikea table donned the other. A brown coffee table, left over from the previous owners, which Lexi had never gotten around to replacing, was cluttered with old newspapers, coffee stains, and seemingly endless dents from late nights playing quarters. The only thing that was remotely spectacular about the living room area was the 32 inch Samsung flat screen television her parents had given her as a move-in present. A Playstation 3 rested under it that her parents claimed they had only given her because they didn't think it worthwhile getting a Blu-ray player for only a hundred dollars less. She had known better than to argue.

Dusty wood floors creaked as she moved towards the kitchen to begin brewing the pot of coffee she so desperately needed. An off-white, not particularly energy-efficient refrigerator sat along the far wall closest to Lexi's door. A window was etched into the wall just above the aluminum-plated sink giving a glossy view of the street below. Lexi prepared the coffee and water, switched the pot on, and then leaned back against the cool counter running her fingers through her brown matted waves.

Her breezy Saturday had turned from encouragingly relaxing to a spastic panic attack in the span of a short fifteen minute phone call. She guzzled a cup of the steaming brown liquid as quickly as she could muster, before moseying back toward her room to take a shower. Despite drinking the coffee black, the caffeine had barely hit her. She knew by the time she was out of the shower, any signs of consuming it would be all but completely dissipated. She scrubbed her body vigorously with expensive cranberry liquid body soap. After applying only a tiny bit of shampoo through her long tresses and rinsed, she cut the shower off, dried off, and slicked her hair back into a high ponytail. She threw on a pair of red collegiate running shorts, a flimsy black tank that revealed an inch or so of her tan toned abdomen, and a pair of Nike Shox. Making her way back into the kitchen, she poured the remaining pot of coffee into a travelers mug printed with her University's logo and scribbled a quick note for her roommate since this was the one morning she had actually woken up before her.

Forgoing a cab, Lexi trekked on auto-pilot across town haphazardly knocking into eager tourists staring skyward. She remembered being one of those clueless people when she had first arrived in town two measly years ago. Now, she could navigate the city as well as any homegrown she knew, except her best friend, Chyna.

That was precisely who she was after as she meandered down Park Avenue on the way to the Upper East Side. Often she wondered why Chyna even bothered to hang out with her. Perhaps she considered her to be a pet project. After all, they were as close to opposites as they could get. Deep down Lexi knew that she meant more to Chyna than that. It was just hard to imagine anyone like Chyna hanging out with a nobody like her.

Lexi and Chyna had met nearly two years ago standing in line at a nightclub. Well, Lexi had been in line. Chyna was someone who absolutely refused to be subjected to waiting outside at a club, when there was fun to be had on the inside. Lexi was next in line wearing a low cut top, black mini skirt, leggings, and crocodile high heels. She had been freezing her ass off in the forty degree weather, which felt more like twenty, for the past hour. Chyna arrived at the front entrance of the same locale gliding out of an onyx colored town car, and directly through the rope, not even bothering to give the bouncer a complimentary kiss on the cheek.

Lexi, having seen one too many of these girls flounce in front of her, began throwing a fit screaming about another skanky whore taking her place inside. Surprisingly enough, Chyna stopped in her tracks, turned towards her, and began questioning her about her statements. Lexi repeated herself smiling through chattering teeth the whole time. The bouncer appeared as if he was preparing to kick Lexi to the curb, but Chyna put her hand out. After a few seconds demanded the bouncer allow Lexi inside the establishment. They had pretty much been inseparable after that night.

Lexi planted herself in front of the front steps to Chyna's apartment building, smiling at the doorman as he recognized her. "You're here early Miss Lexi," Bernard said opening the door for her signaling for her to enter.

"Yeah, I had a pretty disturbing morning to be honest, Mr. B."

"I'm sure it was nothing you can't handle."

"Thanks, but you give me too much credit," she said producing a smile. "Chyna upstairs?" she asked before stepping through the entranceway.

"Yes ma'am."

"Alone?" she threw the question over her shoulder.

He smiled that all-knowing smile and winked at her. Lexi laughed wondering if someone like Chyna ever slept alone.

Lexi took the elevator to the top floor listening absentmindedly to the classical ballad playing through the speakers. As she exited, she found Chyna's door and slid the gold key into the lock twisting it until it gave. Swinging the door open, she smiled inwardly at the new renovations Chyna had effectuated into her foyer.

Her tastes were constantly changing, and with a trust fund somewhere around the nine digit range, why not readjust one's life, home, and wardrobe whichever way the wind blew. For the time being, a cut crystal vase overflowed with seasonal flora on top of a square, white, sculpted table, that came up to nearly her waist, was situated in the middle of the entranceway. She prayed she hadn't tracked in mud or sidewalk grime on the freshly waxed marble floors as she strode into the sunken in living room. Lexi couldn't imagine a space that contrasted with her apartment more than Chyna's den. In square feet, the area was bigger than Lexi's entire residence. The carpet was a pure white that was constantly steam cleaned to maintain its perfection. A sofa, loveseat, and recliner – all a matching set of soft black leather – centered on an entertainment center that rivaled a movie theatre. Original oil paintings, Chyna had collected while traveling throughout Europe, decorated three of the walls, and black and white photographs floated in a collage of frames against another.

Advancing across the room and through the arching hallway, Lexi made her way towards Chyna's room. She cracked the door open, peering into the expansive area to see if Chyna did in fact have a companion in her king-sized four-poster bed. "Chyna," she whispered into the darkness. "Chyna, wake up sleepyhead."

A deliberate grunt sounded from the other end of the room. "Go away."

"Get your tiny ass out of bed. Is there someone in there with you? I'm not afraid to come do jumping jacks on your five million thread count sheets," she tauntingly said, with surprisingly more enthusiasm then she thought she was capable of that particular morning.

"You wouldn't," a muffled cry emanated from the darkness.

"Come on. How well do you know me?" Lexi questioned.

The covers instantly flew to the foot of the bed and Chyna popped her body up. "All too well," she said swishing her glossy black hair over one shoulder.

Lexi pursed her lips with envy as Chyna slung her long olive-toned legs over the edge of the bed and hopped down. With the genetics of an Italian supermodel, Chyna was enviable from head to toe. Chyna felt more comfortable sauntering around her apartment in skimpy La Perla lingerie than probably anyone else in existence. But, why not? She was rail thin with large perfectly perky breasts and a petite ass that didn't even look remotely fat in white ultra skinny jeans. Her flawless complexion had never seen a blemish. Her large emerald eyes could look smoky and seductive one minute, then cute and innocent - well marginally innocent - the next. She was one hundred percent her mother's daughter in appearance and her father in personality which explained why she didn't get along with either.

Her parents had made a bloody mess of their divorce when she was in high school spreading their filth and personal affairs all over the tabloids. She wasn't sure why they had gotten so angry. Chyna had known since she was ten years old that both of her parents were having affairs. It had been pretty obvious. She couldn't understand why they hadn't realized that as well. But they hadn't. Or at least they had pretended they didn't, possibly for her sake. But more likely, they looked the other way to hold on to some semblance of why they had gotten married in the first place. Money. Love. Who knew? Now her father couldn't look at her, and her mother couldn't be around her.

"What are you doing here so early? Unbelievable Alexa," she chided, using her friend's full name as always. "You know I need a minimum seven hours of beauty sleep or I look like shit all day. Do I look like I went to bed at midnight?"

Lexi smiled at her. Chyna looked like she had never gotten less than seven hours of sleep in her life. Even the days she had gotten less than seven hours of sleep, she still looked drop dead gorgeous. "Oh wow, I'm sorry," she said in mock repentance. "You look like an ugly old hag this morning. Perhaps you should sleep for another three hours."

"You're right," she nodded. "I've only been sleeping for four hours."

Lexi sighed dramatically. "The world will end."

Chyna poked Lexi's shoulder playfully. "Shut up, you."

"Bernard said there was someone with you?" Lexi asked cocking an eyebrow at her.

"Oh, phew on him. What do I pay him for anyway? I threw that boy out hours ago," she said smiling mischievously. "Now, what in the world are you doing here so early? Our hair appointment at the salon isn't for a few more hours." Lexi brushed the flyaways behind her ear anxiously. "Oh God, it's a boy," Chyna squealed in excitement. "Tell me everything!"

Chyna always got this excited when Lexi found someone new. Mostly, she figured because it happened so infrequently it was cause for great excitement. Ever since she had moved to the city, she had just been too preoccupied with school, that guys had been placed on the backburner. Every now and then, she would go out on dates with guys from class or someone Chyna recommended, but in general she always thought it best to play it safe. When it came to her luck with men, Lexi tended to avoid the situation entirely.

"Well, it's kind of a strange story," she began, realizing she had mirrored Jack's words exactly. Chyna nodded enthusiastically, bouncing on her toes in anticipation. "Well…do you remember Jack?" she asked tentatively forcing herself not to wince when she said his name.

Chyna's faced clouded over and a creased formed between her eyebrows. "Oh no, not him," she said pleadingly. "Please tell me that this has nothing to do with him."

"What's wrong with him?" she asked strangely enough finding herself getting defensive.

"Alexa, Alexa," she scolded, "do you not remember yourself after that boy left?"

Lexi did remember. She could still feel it every time she thought about him. When she stumbled across a picture of them together or passed a particularly cozy looking coffee shop, that was when she remembered the most. Only in the past six months had a numbness started to take over that feeling. Sometimes it still hit her fresh over a year and a half later. How he was capable of eliciting such emotional and physiological responses when they had never really been together was beyond her. She was even more amazed that she had turned him down over the phone after no contact for that long. If he had called for anything else, she was certain she would have crumbled.

"Yeah, I remember," Lexi said softly.

"Well then why would you bring him up?"

"He called me," she said brushing her hair back several more times before meeting Chyna's disapproving eyes.

"And?" Chyna asked a look of firm protectiveness taking over her features.

Lexi sighed, and then quickly gave Chyna the run down on the mess Jack had gotten himself into. Then followed it up with what he had requested of her. She forced all the words out in quick procession not allowing Chyna to get in one word edge wise. When she had finished, she breathed out heavily and looked up to find Chyna staring at her curiously. Somewhere throughout her story, Chyna's features had changed, softened. Lexi wasn't quite sure what it meant. "So yeah, that was my early morning. Sounds great doesn't it?"

"You turned him down?" she asked. She could tell that Chyna found this hard to believe. After everything she had been through with Jack, she still hadn't had feeling for anyone that rivaled their relationship.

"Yeah, I did. Aren't you proud?"

"I think you should do it," she stated simply.

"What?" Lexi asked bursting from her comfortable lying position across the bed. "This morning is just nuts. Jack calls, and then you, of all people, tell me that I should go visit him and meet his fiancé?"

"Fiancé-to-be," Chyna quipped letting a naughty smirk creep onto her face.

"Whatever! Just explain this to me. Why should I go see him? Nothing good ever comes out of me being around him. I know this and you know this. The whole world should know this. Give me one good reason that I should go see him." Chyna couldn't be serious! After all, she had been so proud of herself for successfully turning him down for once in her life.


"I don't need closure," Lexi stated stubbornly.

"Come on. Honestly, Alexa. I'm not sure you have ever gotten over this guy. I've tried ridiculously hard to get you into a relationship. Sure, you've dated a few of the people I've thrown your way, but it was never anything substantial. You need to move on, but how can you do that when you're still hung up on a guy you haven't heard anything from in two years? Oh wait…you can't!" she exclaimed cocking her head to the side to really examine her. "Now you've been through some rough times, and things got you down for awhile. I get it. I've been there too, and I understand. Maybe not with a guy, but my parents and I have all those issues. You need to go down to Atlanta and have a nice time visiting your parents. When that's over go meet this girl, tell her exactly how much of a scumbag he truly is, and then get the hell out of there."

Lexi hesitated and then nodded. "Maybe you're right."

"No, I know I'm right," Chyna said hopping off the bed and moseying into her walk-in closet. Lexi stayed seated for a minute going over Chyna's argument. The girl had a point. After everything she had gone through with Jack, maybe this was exactly what she needed, even if it wasn't what she wanted.

After a minute, Lexi joined Chyna in her closet and gazed around at the disaster that had ensued after only a few minutes of Chyna's presence. Five shirts and two dresses had been flung across the floor; two shirts landing on a white suede chair and a dress was strewn on top of her three-fold standing mirror and platform. Tossing her sheer maroon babydoll to the ground, Chyna secured a matching La Perla balconet bra and shimmied into a black dress that didn't come close to reaching mid-thigh. Looking at her reflection in the mirror, Chyna crinkled her nose in disgust and threw the dress to the ground. She snatched a forest green dress from atop the mirror and pulled it over her head. She tilted her head at the image before her pursing her lips in approval.

The entire time this wardrobe fiasco ensued, Lexi remained lost in her thoughts. She knew that Chyna had made sense with her statements, but how could she ever face Jack. Once she had realized who was on the line, she had nearly hyperventilated at the sound of his voice. How would she react when she saw him in person? She didn't really know. But she rarely turned down a challenge. "Ok, I'll do it."

"I knew you had it in you," Chyna said sliding on a pair of brown strappy Jimmy Choo sandals and exiting the closet. "Now go make that phone call while I do my hair and makeup."

Lexi gulped as Chyna walked into her bathroom, likely not to surface for another thirty minutes, at least. She'd agreed to do it; now she just had to calm herself down enough to call him. Her palms felt slick with sweat as she sat down at the mahogany writing desk and pulled her phone out of her black designer handbag. She hesitantly flipped it open and scrolled through the address book. Lexi was thankful, at least, that she had added his number to her phone this morning instead of erasing it from her memory forever, when she landed on his name: Jack Howard.

Finally, she worked up the courage to press the button, then immediately hung up. Her hands were shaking so furiously that she nearly dropped the phone when she pulled it open again. Taking a few breaths to try to calm herself down, she finally punched the send button again. Listening to the number ring through twice nearly unnerved her. Finally, the line clicked over.

"Lex," Jack said with surprise evident in his voice. "I didn't expect to hear from you again."

"You implied," she began her voice cracking slightly with the effort of keeping calm, "that I could call you."

"Sure. I said you could call me. I just never thought you actually would."

"Yeah, I'm full of surprises," she said trying to play off her apprehension.

"Always were," he said quietly.

Lexi sighed before venturing forward. "My internship ends in two weeks. I will probably be coming to Atlanta to see my parents sometime after that. So I guess…what I'm saying is…that I'll do it. I'll come see you," she paused before allowing the last part of her sentence to roll off her tongue, "and meet your girlfriend."

K.A. Linde