"I get it now," my good friend Kara finally said after a long moment of silence, "you're crazy. Not the endearing and kind of cute kind of crazy that was fun when we were kids, either. No, you're bat shit insane."
I sighed and let my head fall into my hands. My curly hair was so tangled from a few rounds in bed with the most attractive guy either of us have ever met that I'd need a shower to fix it. "I know," I moaned. Hickeys marred my normally perfectly clear skin. My entire body was sore. My hangover was of the magnitude I hadn't experienced since my twenty-first birthday over a decade ago. I knew from the disapproving looks of the other customers in the tiny café that I was a poster child for what they hoped their lives would never come to. "What do I do?"
"Well, you could start by apologizing," she offered.
"I ran out on him the second he said those words," I responded, unable to repeat them.
"Because they weren't true."
"You've been friends for over half of our lives. It's possible."
"Not with Brent."
"Is he even capable of love?"
"Seems like it."
"He's a manipulative bastard."
"You find that to be a redeeming quality, god knows why."
I tugged on my hair, pulling it back into a messy bun. "Well, yeah. In men I sleep with. Guys like Brent don't make good husbands or fathers."
"No, you're right. He's got to be absolutely wrong for every woman on the planet."
"He can't be right for me."
"Because I'm supposed to marry someone as… as… together as I am. The man is thirty-five and working as a cook."
"So your only problem with him is that he isn't some corporate big shot like you?" Kara was frowning.
I sighed. "Well, when you put it that way I look like a horrible bitch."
"And I wouldn't be where I am if I weren't," I stated matter-of-factly. Sure, I'd stepped on a few heads to get my job. Six figures make me feel better about it, though.
"Why does he have to make as much money as you do?"
"He doesn't. That's statistically unlikely. It's just… what if he's after my money?"
"Do you love him?"
I didn't answer for a long time. "I don't know. Far as I knew, I just wanted to bang his brains out since high school."
"And now that you have?"
Kara took my hand and smiled weakly at me. She was a good friend. She loved me even though I was a terrible person who did bad things once in a while. "I know, that's how it always is."
"I don't like it. There's no security in it."
"You weren't secure when you were climbing the ladder."
"No, but then I had too much to gain and nothing to lose."
The woman sitting across from me laughed. It was musical. "And now all you have to gain is happiness and you could always write up a prenup."
I sighed. "So, sorry is a good place to start?"
"Something like that. I've gotta get going. Meeting in twenty. Call me later, girl." She stood, gave me a quick hug, and dashed out of the café. I scowled after her when I realized she hadn't paid her half of our tab. With a deep sigh, I left money for the check and a tip before leaving myself.
An hour later, I was standing in the lobby of the tiny restaurant Brent cooked at. It was a nice place, I decided. The food was not so cheap that riff raff came to dine there on a daily basis. The wait staff wore ties and the cute little girl at the front door wore a tasteful black dress. I looked over the menu as I waited for chef Brent to come running in response to the page the girl had sent.
"So," she began awkwardly, "what company do you rep for?"
I raised an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
She motioned to the skirt suit I was wearing. "You don't dress like a delivery girl."
I smirked at the girl. "I'm the CEO of Seracorp."
The girl's jaw dropped unattractively. "Oh." To her credit, she recovered quickly. "Is Chef Brent expecting you?"
"No," he answered for me. "I was not." He looked good even with no sleep and in a dirty double breasted jacket.
I bit my lip. "Hi, Brent," I said quietly.
"Alexis," he responded with a nod. His voice was not nearly as warm as it was when we'd woken up.
"I'm sorry," I offered lamely.
"What would you be sorry for?"
"For leaving. I shouldn't have."
"I see." The look in his eyes told me that he wasn't going to make things easy for me. I couldn't blame him.
"I'm really, really sorry. You caught me off guard. I didn't know what to do." I took a step toward him. My heart broke a little when he took a step back to keep the distance between us. "I... messed up."
I sighed. "Brent, I'm really bad at this crap."
"Seems like the only thing you're really good at is stepping on and alienating people."
I felt like I'd been punched in the face. My jaw fell open. "I deserved that."
"Damn right you did."
"I ran. It was a really bad way to react."
I sighed and took another step toward him. He did not step back. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and prepared myself for rejection. "I love you."
I nodded. "Yes."
I rubbed my temples. "Well?"
"Do you have anything to say?" I stared him down. Once I'd decided to do something, I always saw it through.
"Running away when I said the same thing to you was not the best way to tell me so."
I frowned. "Fair point."
"Are you sure this isn't just another one of your logic survival of the fittest things?"
"Because you're incredibly attractive and your IQ is in the ninety-second percentile?"
"How blunt of you."
"It is a contributing factor as to why I think you would be a suitable mate and father of my children, but not why I love you."
He nodded. "All right, then."
He was smirking. "Yeah."
The hostess, who had been watching us so silently that I'd forgotten her presence, spoke up. "Aw, tell her you love her too, Brent."
I stared at her blankly.
"I love you, too, Alexis."
I smiled and ran to kiss him. It was the most unprofessional moment of my life since the drunken stupor the night before that started the whole mess. No one I knew was there anyway, but if there was they could just kiss my ass. I was happy for the first time in far too long. The only thing that would ruin our moment was the ladyfingers that Brent needed to pull out of the oven.
I left a few minutes later with the promise to discuss our relationship over dinner after we both got off of work. I was headed to my own job half a day late. I would catch hell for it, but even the prospect of angry coworkers couldn't keep me from feeling like I could walk on water.