Chapter Seventeen: Sappily Ever After

I sat on the couch in Gabe's living room, staring blankly ahead, as Emily tried to get me to snap out of it. She wasn't having much luck, because in addition to what she had said about Gabe being in love with me — I assumed that Gabe was the "he" she meant — the entire living room was filled with tiger lilies.

"Tiger lilies," I said finally.

"What?" Emily cut off her monologue and looked around, at the vase after vase after vase of tiger lilies. They were spilling over the edges of tables and were piled in corners and on top of the old tube-style television. "Oh. Those. Yeah. Gabe's been buying them like mad lately, ever since you ended up in the hospital from that horrible incident. He meant to send them to you, he know, but he never got up the nerve to do it. Did something happen between you two?"

I looked at her, then — really noticed her for the first time. "Why are you here?" I asked. "You're never here. Don't you live in Hawaii? Gabe goes and visits you there. So why are you here?"

"Oh." Emily shrugged. "Spencer and I are getting a divorce. It's not a big deal, really. We're parting on amicable terms. It's just…not working out. We're not in love anymore, and we can't seem to get that love back no matter how hard we tried. So we're getting a divorce. We have a prenup, of course, so I shouldn't be getting anything, but Spencer is giving me some money to get set up on my own, anyway, and of course I have the money Grandpa gave me in his will. I'll be okay. I mean, it's sad, but I'm not devastated."

I sighed and sank back into the couch. "I wish I could be more like you."

"Really?"

"Yeah, really. You just…move on. I brood. I mean…okay, here's the thing—" And then the entire story poured out, for the second time that night. This time, I didn't leave anything out. I told her about how I had slept with Gabe and how he had come after me and punched out the guy at Roxy's, and how, well everything had gone wrong after that, and it was all my fault.

"You're an idiot," Emily said, but she didn't say it in a mean way. It was just a matter-of-fact statement, and quite frankly I had to agree with her.

"Yeah," I mumbled. "Yeah, I really am."

"But so is Gabe."

That surprised me. I had been blaming this whole mess on myself. "What?"

"Yeah." Emily examined her nails, as if she didn't even have to put any thought into this. "I mean, think about it. He likes you. Like, he really likes you. He's been crazy about you for ages. I know, because he's told me, on multiple occasions. He said he was just waiting for the right moment to make a move. But then this Nate guy came back, and instead of telling you something like, 'Hey, Jamie, that guy is a douche, but me? I'm crazy about you and totally available, so why don't you give me a try instead? We're obviously compatible, and if it doesn't work out, we can still be friends,' he decided to help you go after this guy."

"Well, he didn't really help me go after Nate…"

"Did he stop you?"

"Well…no."

"There you go." Emily waved her hand as if that had proved her entire point. Maybe it had. "So, you and Gabe are both idiots. But obviously you are the guy who has more initiative in this relationship."

"Why do you say that?"

"Look around. He's spent tons on all these flowers, and never had them delivered. But you? You show up with beer and a game and food, all the types of things that Gabe likes — and yourself, of course. So, I think it's your move."

"And what do you suggest I do at this point?"

"Well," Emily said, pushing herself up off the couch, "I suggest that you go get him."

xXxXxXx

What Emily meant when she told me to "go get him" was actually that I should wait at the house and put my super-awesome zombie-beer-food plan into action while she went to Pulse and got Gabe. I think Emily only endorsed this plan because she wanted to get dressed up and go out. This was okay with me, though, because she'd said that she would go over to an old friend's place afterward, leaving me alone to deal with Gabe. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, because while she was leaving me alone with Gabe, it also meant that she wouldn't be there as a buffer in case I completely and utterly screwed up.

No, Emily was gone, and I was completely and utterly alone.

Unfortunately, my plan didn't go into action quite the way I had intended. I'd stuffed the Chinese food in the fridge, because Chinese food reheats better than any other food in the entire world, and had set up the game. The intro video was playing over and over again as I was sitting there, staring at it and the six pack of beer, and then I eventually slipped into sleep. Healing from a near-death experience really takes it out of you, and Gabe didn't get home until really late.

So when I woke up, it was because Gabe was shaking my shoulder, and damn it hurt! I slapped his hand away and slowly sat up. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.

I squinted at him, eyes not used to the bright light he had flicked on, and said, "Well, I know I've been a bitch lately, and I came to make it up to you." Which was true. It just wasn't the whole truth.

"So you brought a zombie game." He looked at the TV, and then back at me, skepticism in every line of his body.

"I rented it, yeah. I mean, you don't have this one yet, it just came out, and I thought we could play some. Oh, and I brought that beer you like, and some won ton soup and egg rolls. Those are in the fridge, I'm sure they'll reheat just fine. So, do you want to play, or—"

"You talked to Emily."

"No, I didn't."

"You're lying."

Damn. A few weeks away and I had managed to forget about Gabe's freaky truth-telling abilities. Lying wouldn't work with him—and wasn't I supposed to be telling the truth, anyway?

"Okay, fine," I said, looking away. "I talked to Emily. She let me in."

"And what did she tell you?"

I knew better than to go there. "I'm not telling you," I said, crossing my arms over my chest. "Girl code."

"Girl code?"

"Yeah. It's like bro code, but for girls." I looked back at him. "So, do you want to play zombie games or not? I mean, I came all the way out here to just drill me about your sister? If you want to know what she said, maybe you should ask her."

"She went to spend the night at a friend's." Gabe plopped down next to me, grabbing a controller and handing me the other one. "Let's slay some zombies."

And so we did. We navigated through various levels of the game, killing the undead as we went, hardly ever exchanging any comments. When I died for the fifth time, I swore and tossed down the controller. "This game is hard!"

"Yeah, it is." He put down his controller two and turned to look at me. "So, is this it?"

"Is this what?"

"Is this it? Do we just go back to the way it was? Like nothing ever happened? Because Jamie, looking at you, it's kind of hard to forget."

I made a face at him. "I wouldn't expect you just to forget it," I said. "I know that would be…well…impossible, so I'm not going to ask it of you. But I meant what I said before. I've been a bitch, lately, and I shouldn't have been. You didn't do anything wrong. I shouldn't have just…walked out on you."

Silence. This was not exactly how I anticipated this conversation going.

"I'm not working at Roxy's anymore," I said abruptly.

"I know."

"What?"

"I went back. You know, the day after. I was going to rip Roxy a new one, maybe track down that bastard that grabbed you. I'm not sure what the plan was beyond that, but she told me that she fired you."

"Yeah…not exactly my finest moment."

More silence.

"Thanks for telling me," Gabe finally said.

"I have some new job applications," I said. "And I'm looking for a new place to live."

"Really? What happened to you and Nate?"

"He's kind of a jackass. Why didn't you tell me?"

Even more silence. It seemed to last forever, stretching into the distance. Gabe wasn't looking at me anymore; instead, he was staring at a point over my left shoulder. I had this incredible urge to wave my hands in front of his face to see if he would look back at me, and barely resisted. "Well," he said finally, "you were in love with him. I didn't want to get in the way of you being happy."

And that is why I love Gabe. Because even though I was doing something incredibly stupid and incredibly bitchy and he was getting hurt because of it, he let me do it anyway. Because he thought it would make me happy. Slightly misguided? Possibly. But incredibly sweet anyway.

"I wasn't in love with him," I said.

That was enough to get him to look at me. He scrutinized me for a long moment, and then his face suddenly got taken over by an expression of wonder. "You're not lying," he said.

"No, I'm not. I'm trying to do less of that, these days. I mean, all it got me as a stay in the hospital after…well, you know, so I guess I won't go there." I licked my lips, looking for the next thing to say. "What's up with all the flowers?"

"They were for you. I just…didn't know if I should send them. I thought if you and Nate were an item…"

"We're not."

"Yeah. You said."

"I don't love him."

"You said that, too. And it wasn't a lie. Nice to know."

"I don't love you, either."

"You're not—" He blinked at me, then leaned forward, looking at me with even more force. "No way," he finally said. "No way. I must be wrong."

"About what?"

"For a moment, I thought you were lying." He laughed, but it was a forced sound. "Ridiculous, yeah?"

I raised an eyebrow.

"You were." He didn't believe me. I could tell he didn't believe me. "You were really lying."

"Yeah. I was. Shocking, I know."

"Jamie?"

"Yes?"

"Shut up."

And then he kissed me.

-fin-