Picking up where we left off…
“Do you want to talk yet?” Des asked.
“Talk about what?” Kate questioned him as if she didn’t know.
“Des, I’m really okay. Yeah, it sucks. Michael and I were together for a long time. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought there was a chance… that he was the one. But obviously he’s not.”
“Katie.” He stared at her with his serious face. “You shouldn’t be willing to spend the rest of your life with someone who’s just a maybe. You deserve so much better than that.”
She smiled to him. “You’re sweet. But I really have no idea what I deserve.”
“I do. You deserve better. And you’ll have it. I know you will.” He reached over and slid a hand into her hair. He planted a kiss on her forehead. When he let her go and leaned back, she caught his eyes. I swear, his damn eyes… he makes me almost believe him. But he can’t know the future. Right? Jerk.
When Kate realized their stare had lingered for an oddly long time, she felt compelled to break it. But at the same time, she struggled to look away… until she heard the ringing of Des’ phone.
Des glanced at the screen before answering. “Tom,” he said softly. Tom the bass player. Possibly Des’ second best friend in the world. Kate held a pillow in her lap and listened to Des’ half of the conversation.
“Hey, Tom… yeah, it was good… where? …okay.” He lifted his arm and looked down at his watch. “Yeah, I’m still here… sure… give me some time… no, Katie’s here.” Kate caught him smile when he spoke her name. It brought a smile to her face, too. “I’ll ask her… okay, man… bye.”
Des turned to Kate with a smile. “So,” he said.
“So,” she repeated. “How’s Tom?”
“Glad to hear it,” she laughed.
“He’s with Michelle and Alex.”
Kate spent a lot of time with Tom’s girlfriend Michelle when the boys were out of town. They easily bonded over coffee and stories about the boys. And Kate knew Mish missed Tom when he was away. ‘The apartment feels empty without him,’ she would always say. Kate did her best to be there for Mish, and Mish stood in for Des when Kate needed a friend and he was on some stage somewhere.
Des rested his phone on the coffee table. “They’re having a drink… at The Living Room. Tom says the band is pretty good.” Kate knew the place well. She and Des used to frequent it before he became so successful and busy with his rock star life. “They want us to meet them there.”
“Us?” Kate asked.
“Yeah. When I told Tom you were here, he said to bring you.”
“I don’t know, Des. It’s getting late. I still have to go home and cry for a few hours over my broken heart.” She let out a tiny laugh. She was mostly joking.
“What the hell kind of friend would I be if I let you do that?”
“Um…” She wasn’t sure what to say, but he stopped her anyway.
“Shh. You should come with me. We’ll have fun. I promise.”
“Des, come on. I don’t know…”
Again, he silenced her. “Shh. We’re going.”
Des and Kate snuck in the side entrance of the club. While leading the way, Des turned back to Kate and extended his arm toward her. He didn’t want to lose her in the mass of people. She took his hand. Finally, they made it to the balcony where it was far less crowded… probably because they didn’t let most patrons upstairs. Before letting Des’ hand go, Kate tugged on him.
“One of the advantages of being a rock star, huh, kid?”
He made a face at her and laughed. “Shut up, killer.” Before their banter could progress, Tom approached.
“Hey, Des,” Tom said. “Glad you made it.” He turned to Kate. “Hi Kate.”
Kate smiled to him and kissed his cheek. “Hi Tom. It’s good to see you!”
“You, too. Thanks for coming! Let me get you a drink… want anything special?”
“You know what I like,” she said with a grin.
Kate turned back to Des. His eyes were already on her. “You all right?” he asked, resting a hand on her shoulder.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” she said. “I guess it’s good for me to…” Her words dropped off when someone rushed to Des’ side and tossed her arms around his neck. Kate took a step back.
“Hey, sweety,” Nat said kissing Des’ cheek.
“Hi, Nat.” Des looked almost annoyed. Kate stood in silence until Nat turned to her.
“Hi Kate! Nice to see you!” Nat tried a little too hard to sound like she meant that sentiment. Which backfired. She envied the relationship between Kate and Des a bit too much. They’d been friends forever. That was a bond she found intimidating.
“It’s good to see you, too, Nat,” Kate lied. She gave her a half-hug anyway. It was strange and insincere. Kate felt even more awkward than usual around Nat after the conversation she’d had earlier with Des.
“Hey, where’s Michael tonight?” Nat asked. Well, there it was. Kate had to get used to it. This was the first time she had to hear that question, but she knew it wouldn’t be the last.
“I don’t know,” Kate said, trying not to notice the horrified look on Des’ face. “We… aren’t together anymore.”
“Oh God,” she said. “I’m sorry.” She looked mortified, but Kate didn’t think it was only the awkwardness of her bringing up Michael.
“It’s okay.” Kate gave her a mildly sincere smile. She didn’t want Nat to feel bad. She couldn’t have known Kate and Michael had split up.
They shared some small talk until Michelle came over and stood by Kate. Kate was enormously relieved.
“I’m glad you came, Kate,” Michelle said hugging her. “We’re overdue for one of our very long lunches.”
“I know,” Kate smiled to her. She was itching to give Mish an earful about Michael and his need to be alone. But such an involved conversation would have to wait. Far too many people hovered around and Kate didn’t want to compete with the volume of the band. “Maybe we can have lunch tomorrow?” Kate asked her.
“Yes! I would love to. Things have been crazy. I miss our talks!” Before Mish could say anything more, Tom snuck up behind her and slipped his fingers into her hair, tickling the back of her neck. She nearly jumped and everyone laughed.
“Oh, sorry,” Tom said. He was always teasing Michelle. But they had such a lovely, sweet relationship, everyone knew she didn’t mind.
“Sure you’re sorry,” Mish said with a smirk. She reached to poke him, but Tom squirmed away.
“Watch it, Mish. You’re going to make me spill Kate’s drink.”
Kate reached for the glass. “Let me just take that,” she said. Removing the glass from Tom’s hand, Kate turned back to Mish. “Okay,” she said. “You can torture him now.”
As Mish reached for Tom, she smiled to Kate. “I’m calling you tomorrow for lunch!”
“I’m counting on it,” Kate smiled back.
Kate strolled over to the balcony’s edge and leaned on it. She watched the band, but she couldn’t quite focus on the music. Thoughts of Michael persisted. She was beginning to abandon sadness and move on to anger. She sipped her drink, trying to block out those thoughts. Her eyes wandered around over the crowd, stopping when she saw someone familiar. She tried to place her but she couldn’t. She hated that. Her attempts at jogging her memory were interrupted when Alex appeared at her side.
“How’s it going, gorgeous?” he asked, nudging her shoulder with his.
She laughed at his adorable flirting. “Not bad, honey.” Kate teased him, too.
With a deep little chuckle, he leaned against the balcony near her. “What are you looking at?” He wondered why she was staring so intently out into the crowd below.
“That girl down there… I know her from somewhere. It’s driving me…” She stopped talking and gasped. Her jaw fell open and she nearly dropped her drink.
Alex turned to her. “Kate? Something wrong?”
“Michael. Is down there. That’s how I know her. Oh my God.” Kate turned around looking for an escape. The moment she spotted the open door to the back lounge, she hurried toward it. Relieved to find it empty, she snuck in to hide. She nearly collapsed onto the old beat-up sofa. Her face fell into her hands and she tried desperately not to cry.
When she felt someone sit beside her, she took her hands from her face and looked to him.
“Are you okay, Kate?” Alex asked, taking her hand.
“That girl I saw…” Kate struggled to get the words out. “I know her from Michael’s company Christmas party last year. She works with him. And he was with her. With her.” She took a deep breath. “My God, he just ended our relationship. Yesterday.” She was still in shock. “I guess he’s handling it well.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Kate.” Alex let her hand go and reached for her shoulder. He gently slipped arm around her and gently rubbed her back, hoping to comfort her. She took a few long, deep breaths, hoping and praying that she wouldn’t cry. She felt Alex’s eyes on her and she looked up to meet them. Before she could think a coherent thought, she fell into his arms.
When she slowly pulled away, she tried to smile, but she failed. “Thanks, Alex.” She sighed and looked away again. She tried to collect herself. But it wasn’t going well. And Alex could see that she needed a moment.
“Do you want me to leave you alone?” he asked.
Kate nodded. “I think I just need a few minutes,” she said, trying that whole smiling thing again. “Thanks.”
“Hey. No thanks required. I’ll come back and check on you, okay?”
Kate nodded once more. He gave her a comforting smile and left her.
Kate let her head fall into her hands again. Her mind’s voice begged her not to cry. She kept taking deep breaths, hoping that would help. But it was a lost cause. She felt tears slowly dripping from her eyes. She tried to wipe them as quickly as they fell but she couldn’t keep up.
She felt a hand on her shoulder but she didn’t want to lift her head. She didn’t want anyone to see her crying. But it wasn’t anyone. She knew exactly who it was. She could sense him near her.