It was like déjà vu, driving back to my home town on a Friday. My brother's graduation was at 3 in the afternoon and yet I would arrive with plenty of time to unpack at home and leave with my parents. I would be lying if I didn't admit to being a little nervous about seeing Jesse, but hopefully I wouldn't bump into him and his girlfriend too many times.
Driving gave me plenty of time to think, to remember a few nights ago. Lisa came with me to the Neon Globe, and it was only moments before we met with Joseph and his friends. I must admit he dressed to impress and smelled divine. Meanwhile Lisa wasted no time and begun flirting with one of the guys. Joseph bought us some drinks and begun chatting up a storm with me throughout the night.
I would have been completely engaged in the conversation if it weren't for a moment of distraction that threw me off. While Joseph explained some passionate thoughts towards certain organizations, I thought I saw Jesse walk in the club. As I discreetly followed him with my eyes, I soon realized it wasn't him. Yet even the idea of him right then and there sent my mind off on a whole train of thoughts heading towards a collision. I began comparing Joseph with Jesse and became less and less attracted to him…sadly.
I parked alongside my parents outside the auditorium building. With 20 minutes till the starting of the ceremony, we quickly searched for decent seating. My eyes wanted to scan all over the place, not only to look for my brother but more for Jesse. I forced myself to look down at the floor or at the neatly fixed woman's hair that sat in front of me.
Suddenly the lights changed and some back ground music played. The doors swung open and the first pair of graduates began to walk down the aisle followed by a hundred or so more. They all sat in the first rows facing the stage. Usually these things are so boring to me, but the sight of Josh and Kaleena sitting next to each other made it worth it. I didn't see Jesse walk down for I was disinterested after I saw my brother, so I had no idea where he was sitting.
After the ceremony we were told to move towards the gymnasium for the dinner party. Other than a great back drop for pictures with the graduates they had a self- serving buffet for all the guests; a definite improvement from my graduation. While I was chatting with Kaleena and her mother I saw Jesse from a distance, he stood next to his girlfriend and sister.
Our eyes met for a second but I quickly turned away as if I hadn't recognized him. My brother insisted we make the food line already so I went along. Unaware that we were slightly being followed, I turned at the sound of a voice congratulating Josh. Jesse was giving my brother a hug and his gaze casually fell upon me. We exchanged polite smiles and he gave me a friendly hug as well.
"It's nice seeing you again Micah." He said sincerely.
"You too. Congrats!"
"Thanks…you look great by the way. Well I gotta get back to my table…"
He hesitated to finish his sentence. I can always tell when people mean to say more than they actually do. I wish I could have read his mind to know what he was truly thinking. He looked just as wonderful as I remembered him; dazzling with lively blue eyes that just suck me in each time. How I wanted to be that girl that held his hand at that precise moment.
Back at our table, I was entertained listening to stories while eating. Kaleena's parents were quite the social talkers of our group; they were hard not to love. As I laughed at her father's jokes I couldn't help feel a visual tugging towards my right side. A couple of tables away I spotted Jesse looking back at me, also eating and casually talking with his family.
I didn't know what to make of it, or of his "you look great" comment. Was that quick chit chat or a true compliment? Were all these thoughts in vain? He clearly moved on and so should I. But to what…back to my work?
I'd liked to have reported back to Lisa a fairy tale ending of my weekend but it just wasn't the case. I came back to my apartment feeling more alone and regretful than ever. I swore that that would be the last day I'd feel like that. That night I dove into a nice bottle of wine and drank that baby till I passed out on my bed. Granted I wasn't my sharpest in the morning but my attitude certainly had changed and for the rest of the week I continued to motivate myself with work and no more drama.
I saw Joseph twice that week; he was very pleased with my designs. I could tell he was searching for a hint or clue of interest on my part, but I kept it strictly professional. The last thing I needed at this moment was tangled feelings again; love was not on my agenda.
When I get in work mode life really passes me by. Long hours in my office and then carried on into my apartment, I forget that my friends still schedule fun into their busy lives. I on the other hand see it as a distraction. Why would I go out when I could be having precious hours of sleep, or why would I sleep when I could be finishing this project before its deadline.
I admit I'm turning into a workaholic, and it didn't hit me till my mother called me to tell me that Josh started college this week. Had it been 2 months since his graduation already? Even my boss realized how overworked I was. He gave me a couple of options: either take a few days off and work a little at home or do half days for a week. I opted for door number two…I had always wanted to have lunch in this cute little café in the park down the street but never had the time.
So on my first half day of work, I decided to stop by a small book shop across from the café, my next stop. My mom had suggested a book to me many moons ago and I never bothered to check it out. Luckily I found a copy of the novel and continued to stroll around the floor. I came across the art section and noticed a couple of books on architecture. You could take a wild guess on who popped in my head as I marveled over the building structures and sketches.
As I placed the book back on its shelf I almost froze as I heard someone approaching. He was on the phone saying goodbye, and though the voice was strikingly familiar I couldn't bear to turn and clear my doubts.
"Huh?" I was dumbfounded.
I knew this would happen someday, I just wasn't anticipating it to be this day; I wasn't mentally or emotionally prepared. Before me Jesse stood looking older and …lovely. He had a little scruffy goatee growing on his chin. He wore a white buttoned shirt with a blue vest over it, looking preppy and sharp. I wanted to die. How could I control all the feelings I had now coming to me like wave upon waves. Did my face at least look normal?
"I was wondering when I would bump into you, the city isn't that big!" He smiled.
Jesse seemed surprisingly happy to see me. So calm that it instantly made me feel at ease.
"So what have you been up to?"
"Well I've been swamped with classes and working part time with my grandfather. I actually just hung up with him; he wanted me to pick up a book. What are you doing? Are you busy right now?" He asked.
"No actually. I was going to get a bite to eat across the street…would you like to join me?"
"Yes, I'd like that. Let me first…get this…" He began to search the shelves till he found his selection.
We purchased our books and began to walk slowly out of the shop. Strangely we weren't talking much but we were all smiles. If I was some stranger passing by, I would guess that we were on a first date too shy to say anything. But who knows what Jesse was thinking. I loved this little park. It was only a block but it was a nice resting place for people to get away from the office.
"So where is your building?" He questioned.
I turned back and pointed towards the street behind us.
"The end of that street, red building."
"Ah, I'm over here, the grey one." He signaled to the building across from us. "Third floor. We are pretty close, how come I haven't seen you sooner?"
"I don't usually come out of my office till night. And I don't usually come strolling around here on my lunch break or ever for that matter." I sighed.
"You're a hard worker, I get that. But don't waste this..." He took a deep breath and looked up at the sky and at the trees.
"Who are you? How do you just say something like that?" I was mesmerized by him.
"What?" He chuckled "It's my job to observe everything, space, nature, structures and forms. I've trained my eyes to see the beauty in everything and especially not take things for granted. Like life, there will always be work but there is only one life…make it count."
"This might sound crazy, but I think I was really meant to hear that today." I confessed.
We sat down on these cold white steel chairs and were immediately greeted by one of the waiters of the café. He grabbed our order of drinks as he left the menus on our table. I began to explore the lunch specials yet I felt that tugging feeling again. I looked up from my menu to see Jesse studying me with a smile. I gave him an inquisitive look back.
"So you think we were meant to bump into each other today?" He asked curiously.
"I don't know…but what I do know is that I have been working a lot and I need to find an outlet, a hobby or something to relax…"
"Perhaps find a friend?" he hinted.
I looked at him timidly, wanting desperately to ask him so many personal things and get this casual superficial talk out of the way. Yet before I could conjure up my first question our waiter came back ready to take our orders. We decided quickly and began sipping on our coffees.
"So how's your girlfriend, the painter?" I changed the subject.
"Leah, she's doing well. We're just friends now." His smile grew wider.
"I wish we could just cut the crap and be real here already." I mumbled.
Unfortunately that thought wasn't supposed to escape my lips, regardless it was too late now; he already heard it.
"Very well then, what would you like to talk about? Is there a question you would like to ask…then ask it!" He spoke assertively.
I couldn't bring myself to ask one. I was glad to hear of his split with his girlfriend but I didn't know what to say now. How do we become just friends with our history? Who were we fooling?
"As much as I'd like to sit here and pretend everything is fine and great and that getting together with you is like reuniting with an old friend…it just doesn't seem quite that way. Don't you feel the slightest bit of awkwardness?" I erupted.
"You know…I don't. Moving here is a fresh start for me. I love this city and all it has to offer. And if you're in it, then I'm going to embrace that too. And why not embrace it with a new start as well. Why can't we be friends? I know that we have a lot of work on our hands and hardly any free time…so why not just have someone to hang out and relax with." He explained.
It seemed logical and bizarre all at the same time. Still if he made it sound like it was no big deal than why not? The only thing was I wasn't over him, yet he seemed to just see me as a hang out buddy. We ate our lunch and I continued to convince myself that I could do this. And by the end of our lunch date, if you could call it that, I was glad to have him as my "new" friend again.
This new friend thing was turning into quite the gimmick. I was seeing Jesse regularly at least twice a week. But sometimes I'd see him from afar walking with a particular blonde into his building. I grew suspicious if he would ever mention her, but she never came up in our conversations. Then I wondered if we just weren't going to share our personal love affairs with each other; either case had me dying of curiosity.
If that were the case then I wanted to produce some sort of reaction from Jesse, so I agreed to another get together with some friends. This included a couple of coworkers, Lisa, Joseph and his friend. It was Thursday around 5 o'clock and we decided to all meet at the pub down the street for happy hour. I told Jesse to invite whoever he pleased and just as expected…she came along. I pretended not to care and acted indifferent. Luckily Joseph was still pretty much in to me. I played along but didn't necessarily throw myself at him or anything.
It was time for round two, at the bar I ordered my second drink and was greeted by the handsome devil.
"I see you and Joe have a thing?" Jesse asked nonchalantly.
"Not really…he's a nice guy and he was my client. I don't date clients."
"You said the same thing about dating young guys but you kind of did that…oh never mind that didn't work." He said with a smirk.
Should I have taken that comment lightly and brushed it off? I was confused but felt more dissed than anything.
"What about you and blondie over there?"
"Oh Melony, she's just the intern at my grandfather's company. She's only a few years older than me, and has been very helpful in getting me more acquainted with everything."
"Haha, more acquainted…" I mocked. Like I didn't know what that meant.
"Yes, you know so that I'm more familiarized with the way of things. How is that amusing to you?"
"Oh nothing…just the way you said it. It left room for speculations…"
"Like…"He persisted in getting me to talk, but he knew very well what I was insinuating.
"We should get back…our dates are waiting."
After my clean get away, I went and sat snuggly beside Joseph who was very welcoming. My plan to see any trace of jealousy on Jesse's face was back firing. He hardly even looked over at me; which left me feeling like an idiot. I searched for my phone out of boredom, but as I kept scrambling through my bag I couldn't find it. It was then that I remembered that I had left it in my desk.
I excused myself to the bathroom when in reality I bolted for the door. I needed this time to be alone and refocus my thoughts. I was acting like a complete fool in front of my friends and playing with poor Joseph. Although harmless, I needed to put a stop to that right away.
I needed to put aside the things that I wanted versus the reality of the situation. What I wanted was for Jesse to say that he still liked me and wanted to give us another shot. Yet the reality was that we were both busy and the timing was wrong. Then again the timing was always wrong. No wonder I'm still single, I can never make up my mind.
I walked into my office and plunged into my chair. I stared outside the window into the now night sky. It was nice and quiet; I wouldn't mind staying here and not going back to the pub. I had closed my eyes for 5 minutes when I heard the door to the main entryway blow open. I thought it was Lisa coming to retrieve me but it wasn't. I swung around in my chair to see Jesse leaning against my door.
"So you escaped without a warning."
"I forgot my phone here." I replied quietly.
He seemed unconvinced and came over to sit at the edge of my desk. He began to fold up the sleeves to his baby blue dress shirt, making himself more comfortable while glancing around the room.
"So this is your office…its nice, very you." He smiled.
"That's right you hadn't seen it yet. Did Lisa tell you where to find me?"
"Yes, we're solid like that." He grinned while making a fist in the air.
Jesse was only a few feet away from my chair, leaning and watching me. I began to feel a bit tense. Was he here to talk to me or stay a while; he was impossible to read. I remained slouched rotating in my chair, not very lady like but I didn't care at this point. My black pants had dust finger prints and my beige blouse was wrinkled and out of place.
"What's the matter, not into the guy? Having confused feelings again?" He teased.
I sat up in my chair, not in the mood to be mocked this time in my peaceful little haven.
"Why do you insist in throwing those little comments around? What happened to the 'new start'? Are you holding a grudge against me or something?"
"Hah, no. I'm just kidding Micah."
"No, I get the feeling that there's more behind them."
"I didn't realize I was making you feel bad; I will stop. See all you needed was to say so."
"Well if you want to head back…then go. I'm staying here."
"No, I left for the night."
"What about Melony?"
"She stayed for some more drinks. I was only able to steal some sips off hers since I'm under aged." He laughed.
His laugh brightened the room and my mood. I looked at the clock and it wasn't even 8 yet. Now what to do…
"So are you hungry?" He asked. "What do you say we grab some food and hang out…friend?"
"Sure, your place or mine?"
I then realized that sounded a little flirty, but he played along by simply pointing at himself. Now if only he hadn't given me THAT look when he did it; just when I think I'm over him, I melt again.
Our meetings consisted of getting together for coffee or lunch or even a walk through the little park but never each other's apartments. We took my car since his place was close by and got some Chinese takeout. His place was right in the heart of the city, it's impossible to find a place there let alone a cheap one. It was a rich well- kept building with a beautiful lobby and elevators. While my apartment was more vintage his looked so modern and futuristic.
Jesse told me that before his father decided to become a doctor he was going to be an architect as well; at least that's what his father wanted. The apartment that was now his once belonged to his dad, it was very masculine but not very colorful.
"Do you like it?" He asked.
"Yeah, it's very impressive and... expensive looking."
"I think it gives off a cold vibe."
I took off my black heels and stretched out my toes while sitting on the high stool by the counter. I must admit, the seats could use a bit more cushion. The place was made more of plastic and metals. I was surprised there was carpet flooring; the ground looked more comfortable than the seating.
"So is your bed like this plastic dome or something?"
"Are you that curious?" He said with a smug look on his face.
I blushed right on the spot, grabbing another spoonful of fried rice.
"Sorry was that another inappropriate comment wasn't it?"
"No, I pretty much set myself up for that one."
A while later we were sitting on an actual couch watching a movie. I was tired of thinking and feeling, I just wanted to fall asleep and fast forward till tomorrow, where I would wake up in my own bed and call in sick…sick of work.
"We should do something tomorrow…I'm off." He interrupted my daze.
"Oh like what?" I yawned.
"I don't know lets drive to the beach or something."
"That's a couple of hours away, besides I have work tomorrow."
"Oh come on, don't make me give you the 'live life' speech again." He warned.
"Oh please no…not the speech. I'll call work in the morning then."
"So you're planning on staying over?"
"Umm…no. Did I give that impression? Sorry." I blushed again.
"I was joking, don't worry."
He threw his arm around my shoulder and gave me a playful squeeze; only it sent a shock through my body I wasn't expecting. And then he left his arm there. What was he doing? What was I thinking? All I wanted now was for him to kiss me but that would just mess things up all over again. I would then have to explain what that was about and at this point I had nothing to say about it except that I wanted to.
I forced myself to sit as still as a statue, I kept waiting and thinking what to do next. My heart pounded so loud it echoed in my head and distracted me from the movie. If he didn't do something quick I would have to react upon my impulses which were blinding me by the second. My eyes soon daggered his hand as his fingers began to slightly draw little circles on my shoulder. This drove me crazy, did friends hangout like this?
I slowly shifted my gaze on him; he in turn looked back down at me and smiled. I think he knew. Then I tilted my face upward placing my hand on his face to pull him closer and he met me half way. His kiss was the same as that day, sweet and meaningful. It was also a tad different, mature and guarded. He kissed me because he wanted to but I was unsure of the feelings behind it.
I could see the flickering images from the television as I took glimpses of his face. No longer interested in the movie he began to undo my blouse. Normally this wouldn't be happening with just any guy, not even with Joseph. But this was Jesse and he already knew me. We didn't talk much more but we did begin walking towards his bedroom. I was ready to do whatever this was, and I flung myself on his bed and held on to his pillow as he slid down my pants.
I clenched on to the pillow and grabbed what I thought was a piece of a paper towel, as I pulled it out I observed a yellow laced thong. Immediately putting a damper on my mood… his face was priceless.