Picking up where we left off…
Des sat on the sofa near Kate and pulled her hands from her face. She had to look at him. She didn’t know why, but seeing his eyes only made her tears fall faster. Alex told Des everything. Kate knew that. She saw it on Des’ face.
“Katie.” He spoke her name softly and pulled her into his arms. “I am so sorry I made you come here tonight,” he said, pulling her closer.
“God, it’s so not your fault, Des.” She took a deep breath and finally felt her tears slowing. She lifted her head from Des’ shoulder and slowly pulled away. Looking at his eyes again, she spoke softly. “Sorry, kid. I…” But he wouldn’t let her finish.
“Katie…” He took her face in his hands, gently wiping her remaining tears away with his thumbs. “Sorry for what?”
“I got your shirt all wet,” she said softly, touching his tee shirt on his damp shoulder. She finally cracked a little smile.
“It’s okay, hon.” He smiled for her, wanting to take all the pain away. “You’re okay.”
“I am?” Kate wasn’t sure.
“You are.” Still he held her face in his hands. “Do you want me to pound him?” He smiled. And he actually made her laugh.
“Oh, kid, he’s not worth it,” she said.
He leaned closer to her. “You’re right. He’s not.” Des kissed her forehead. “Tell me what you need. Anything…”
She parted her lips, but before she spoke a word, she saw Nat poke her head into the lounge. When Des saw Kate’s eyes wander, he slowly took his hands from her face and turned around.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Nat’s sarcasm was overly dramatic.
Before Kate could say anything, Des spoke. “I’ll be right there, Nat. Just give me two minutes.”
“Whatever,” she said. “I’m leaving. Just thought I’d let you know.” She sounded annoyed.
“Two minutes,” Des repeated sternly. He stared at her until she left. Once she was out of sight, Des turned back to Kate. He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Katie. Let me go deal with her. I’ll be right back.”
“It’s fine, Des. Really. I’ll be okay.”
“Dammit, cut that out.” He tried not to, but he smiled.
“Cut what out?”
“Stop trying to be so strong all by yourself. You know, you’re allowed to let me help you.”
“I know.” Kate put a hand on his arm and pushed him away. “Go. I’ll be right here. Hoping I don’t look as terrible as I feel.”
“You don’t.” Des stood from the sofa and turned to leave. But before he walked through the doorway, he turned back to her. She looked up and met his eyes. He smiled, stuck his tongue out at her, and disappeared out the door.
Kate sat alone on the sofa taking a few more deep breaths, hoping the teary-eyed look on her face would fade. She spent a long time working to convince herself that she was finished crying. She even began to think about returning to her friends. But before she could get herself to leave that sofa, Alex came over and sat with her again. He shyly touched her arm and smiled.
“You’re not mad at me, are you?” he asked. “For telling Des what happened, I mean.”
“No, I’m not.” She gave him a little smile. “Kind of glad you did… so I didn’t have to.”
“Are you okay?”
“I will be.” That was the best she could do just then. “What happened to Des? Still talking to Nat?”
“Uh… kind of…” Alex hesitated and looked away, but Kate wanted to know what was up.
He turned back to her. “They’re having a bit of a fight. I didn’t hear much, but enough.”
“A fight about what?” Kate wondered. Alex looked away again, but she pulled him back to look at her. “Alex?”
“They’re fighting about you.”
“Of me? What?”
“Kate, Des showed up tonight… with you. Then Nat found out you’re single. And this whole thing with Michael being here and Des rushing to you when I told him about it…”
“Des is my best friend. He always has been.”
“I know that. We all know that. Even Nat. But I guess it still bothers her. I think it always has.”
Kate shook her head. She could feel her tears returning. “It’s my fault,” she mumbled.
“Kate,” Alex sweetly took her hand. “Don’t think that. Nat’s a little… crazy.” He smiled and was happy to see that Kate did the same.
“Thanks, Alex. But I think I need to get out of here. Could you check if you can sneak me out?” Again, she wiped her eyes. “I’m kind of a mess. I want to go home.”
“You’re not a mess,” Alex said. “But yes, I’ll see what I can do. I’ll be back soon.”
Alex left her again. And again she was alone with her thoughts. Nat’s always been jealous of me? We’ve all been together… lots of times. I never realized I bothered her so much. Maybe a little, but not like this. Kate sighed and her mind replayed her earlier conversation with Des about Nat. She knew Des was going to end things with her. God, is it my fault? Did I destroy their relationship?
Kate stood from the sofa and peeked through the doorway. She saw Des with Nat by the stairs. Kate had no idea what they were saying, but she could read Des’ body language like a neon sign. His gestures were intense – running his fingers through his hair, shaking his head in exasperation. Kate knew what all of those things meant. She knew exactly how he felt. And she wondered if he was ending it with Nat at that very moment. And if he was, she felt responsible.
Kate backed away from the door and sat back down on the sofa. She felt terrible. And where was Alex? She had to get out of there.
When she saw a shadow in the doorway, she looked up from her lap expecting Alex. But it wasn’t him.
“Des,” she stood and met him halfway. “I’m sorry.”
“Katie… for what?”
“Alex told me you and Nat were fighting.”
“I swear,” Des said, shaking his head again. “He has such a big mouth.”
Kate tried to laugh. “Don’t be upset with him. It’s my fault.”
“No, Katie,” Des took her hand. “It’s not.”
“Des, go talk to her. I’m okay. Alex is going to walk me out.”
“No, he’s not.”
She looked at Des with confusion. “But I…”
“He told me you asked him to do that. I told him not to.”
“God, he does have a big mouth.” She tried to smile, but she only got halfway there.
“Katie.” Des lifted his hand to her shoulder. “I don’t want you thinking that this stuff with Nat and me is your fault. It’s not. She’s being ridiculous. I came here with you tonight. Not with her.”
“But the fight was about me, wasn’t it?” She knew it was.
“She insists that I have to make a choice. You know, because you’re single now.”
“Des, that’s crazy.”
“That’s what I told her. Please, Katie, don’t worry about it. God, you’ve got enough on your mind.” His hand slid around her shoulder to her back and he pulled her to him. He gave her a squeeze and held her there for a moment before letting her go. “Come on,” he cracked a little smile. “I’ll take you home.”
“What about Nat?” Was she waiting? Did they end it?
“She’s gone,” Des said. Kate wasn’t sure if his words meant more than the obvious, but she let it go. She wanted to go home.
Kate stared out the window in silence as Des drove. Even when he pulled up to her building, she still stared blankly, anxious and upset. She tried so hard not to cry, but she only gave herself a headache. And all her effort was for nothing. A few tears fell anyway. The moment Des parked, she reached for the door handle and spoke without even looking at him.
“Thanks, kid. I’m sorry about Nat. I’ll talk to you later.” Before she could push the door open, he grabbed her arm.
“Katie? Wait. Look at me.”
She lifted her hand and covered her eyes. “Des, please. Just let me go.”
“No.” He took other arm, uncovering her face. Kate finally turned to him. “You’re crying,” he said.
“No, I’m fine,” she lied. “Please, Des. Let me go. I don’t want you to see me like this.”
He let one of her arms go, but he wouldn’t release the other. “Like what? God, honey, I’ve seen you cry. I’ve seen everything with you… our whole lives.”
“It’s just… different. I don’t know… I can’t explain it.” She took a deep breath but it did nothing to calm her. “Des. I’m going to completely fall apart in about two minutes, and I’d really rather do that alone.” She freed her arm from Des’ grip and pushed the car door open.
Kate stepped outside, pushed the door closed, and rushed inside. Two minutes turned out to be an overestimation. She was already falling apart. Hurrying toward her apartment door, she fumbled through her bag fishing for her keys. Her tears fell faster by the time she reached her door making it even more difficult to function… and to find her keys. Exhausted and frustrated, she let out a long sigh.
When she heard footsteps approaching, she stopped trying to find her keys and looked down the hallway.
And she found Des walking straight toward her.