Just one of the guys, p.44

Just One of the Guys, page 44

 

Just One of the Guys
 



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Page 44

  Author: Kristan Higgins

  My mouth opens and closes a couple of times. “What?”

  “You’re the one who said we had too much to lose, remember?”

  “But things are different now, Trevor. You can’t—”

  His voice is sharp and hard and wrong. “You were right, that’s the thing. We’ll never disappoint each other this way, Chastity. We’ll never break up. Never get divorced. ” He takes a step back, the anger draining out of him. “You can do better than me, Chas. ”

  “There is no better than you. ” I say it with my whole heart, but he just shakes his head.

  “You know how it would be. Firefighters make next to nothing. I’d be working two jobs, taking all the overtime I could get, and you’d start hating me after a while. Like your mom and dad. ”

  My eyes flood with tears. Again. He has a point.

  “If we stay apart, we won’t end up like that,” he says, his voice gentle now. “I lost Michelle, I lost my parents, I don’t want to lose you, Chastity. I can’t. ”

  “Trevor,” I whisper. “I could never hate you. I love you. I’ve always loved you. ”

  And that’s when the bleeping phone rings. Not the cell phone under the couch, but his land line. We stare at each other as it rings once, twice, three times. I can feel the blood being forced through my heart, the pulse thudding in my throat. Trevor’s machine clicks on.

  “Hi, babe, it’s me. Just wanted to make sure we were still on for tomorrow. Call me. Love you. ”

  Trevor closes his eyes, and his shoulders sag. I have my answer.

  “You know what, Trev?” I ask, my voice just above a whisper. “I’m gonna go now. ”

  “That’s not what you think,” he says.

  Oh, for Christ’s sake. Of all the stupid things to say! Suddenly, my temper comes crashing through, and I’m buzzing with fury. “Really, Trev? Because what I think is that Perfect Hayden wants you back. And all that ‘don’t want to lose you’ is utter bullshit. But just in case it’s true, guess what? You did lose me. Just now. ”

  “Don’t say that, Chastity,” he warns.

  “Bite me, Trevor,” I snarl. “I’m not your sister, I’m not your best buddy, I’m not your girlfriend. You’re right. Someone out there loves me, wants me, thinks I’m great. So get the f**k out of my way and let me go to him. ”

  He does just that.

  I WALK ALONG THE FEEDER CANAL. Correction. I stomp along the feeder canal, furious. I’m so angry I’m practically levitating. Wish I had a punching bag I could lay into right about now. God! Did I learn nothing twelve years ago? Did I not remember how relieved Trevor was to break up with me? Fool me once, Elaina likes to say, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’m a bleeping idiot.

  I sit down on the edge of the bank, the dew seeping into my jeans. My hands are shaking, and my cheeks are wet with angry tears. The tree branches rustle with a passing breeze, and a police siren sounds on the other side of town. I sniff, then fish a frayed tissue out of my pocket and blow my nose.

  At least I know. I put it all on the line, all my love and wanting. At least I said what I’ve wanted to say forever. I told Trevor I loved him. There’s no “what if” anymore.

  Things he said filter back into my consciousness. That he couldn’t lose me. Twelve years ago, when I was eighteen, I’d said that to him. There’s too much to lose. And I do understand what he means…that if we’re only friends, we can stay friends forever.

  But we’re not only friends. I love him, and I offered him that love, and it wasn’t enough to overcome that fear of his. The fear of being alone. Of losing another person in his life. Keeping things safe is what Trevor prizes most.

  It’s just that I thought maybe I was worth a little risk.

  My breath is still hitching out of me in shocked little sobs. I can still feel Trevor’s skin against mine, still taste him, but to him, it’s a mistake. That hanging out at my house once in a while, watching the Yanks and shooting pool, means more than what just happened. That I’m more precious to him if I just stay one of the guys.

  And then there’s bleeping Perfect Hayden. He once loved Hayden enough to ask her to marry him. He loves her enough now to be, at the very least, considering that again. Hayden is worth two tries. I’m worth none.

  My cell phone rings, startling me. Maybe it’s Trevor. Maybe he’s sorry. Maybe…

  Nope. “Hi, Ryan,” I say.

  “Hello, sweetheart. ” He pauses. “Are you crying?”

  Fresh tears spurt out of my eyes. “A little,” I admit, guilt and shame washing over me.

  “Is it your mom?” I don’t deserve the concern in his voice.

  “I—yeah. ”

  “Want me to come over? I’m done at the hospital. ”

  I wipe my eyes on my sleeve and look at the stars. “No, thanks, Ryan. I just need to be alone, I think. ”

  “I understand,” he says. “But I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

  “Ryan?”

  “Yes?”

  “I’m really looking forward to going away this weekend,” I say truthfully.

  “Me, too. ” I can hear the smile in his voice. “Good night. ”

  “Good night. I love you, Ryan. ” I wince as I say it. Even though it’s not untrue, those words mean something very different from when I said them to Trevor a half hour ago.

  CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

  SOMETHING’S DEAD IN ME. Now that’s a pleasant thought to have on a romantic weekend with one’s gorgeous boyfriend, isn’t it?

  Ryan and I check into the SoHo Grand Hotel, a place so stylish and swanky that the maids are better dressed than I am. But apparently Ryan is a regular, because the concierge greets him with, “Wonderful to see you again, Dr. Darling. ”

  We are shown to our painfully chic hotel room, a corner suite with minimalist furniture and stunning views of the city. “This is beautiful, Ryan,” I say after he’s tipped the bellboy/aspiring actor who is nearly as handsome as Ryan himself.

  “Well, I wanted it to be special,” he acknowledges a little sheepishly. Then he kisses me and glances at the bed. “Care to…?”

  “You know what, Ryan? I’m a little tired,” I say. It’s not a lie. The truth is, I’m tired of comparing the two men in my life. Correction. There aren’t two men in my life, are there? There’s just this one.

  We lie on the beautiful, sleek bed, holding hands. I tell him a little bit about where I hung out when I was a graduate student, places I ventured when I worked in Newark and came to the city for fun. He talks lovingly about his endless residency at Columbia Presbyterian, his horrible hours, the little Thai place that he frequented, the parts of Central Park where he relaxed.

  Looking at Ryan, I don’t feel the soul-wrenching ache I feel—felt—for Trevor. There’s a lot to be said for that. If I’m not mistaken, Ryan is going to pop the question this weekend, and I’m going to accept. Enough beating of the poor proverbial already deceased horse. The dead thing in me will harden and crumble away into tiny bits. Just like it did for Mom.

  We have drinks in the lounge, stylish, deliciously expensive drinks (who knew a martini could cost $25?) and head up Broadway to see Wicked. It’s wonderful. I love the show. Ryan agrees that it was excellent. Then we have a late dinner at yes, the Rainbow Room. Because my boyfriend is a wealthy surgeon, I feel no compunction about ordering filet mignon and another gold-standard martini. Later, we dance to the orchestra and, of course, Ryan is a smooth dancer.

  “You’re good at this,” I say, smiling up at him, since I had the sense to wear flats.

  “Ballroom dancing lessons were part of my education. Seventh grade,” he confesses.

  “I’ve never danced with a guy who really knew what he was doing. ”

  “You’re pretty good yourself,” he says, giving me a quick kiss.

  “I love you,” I tell him, more for my sake than his.

  “I lov
e you, too,” he says. “In fact—” he releases my hand to reach into his breast pocket “—I’m hoping you’ll do me the honor of being my wife. ”

  What song is playing? I don’t recognize it. Ryan smiles beautifully and slides a chunky diamond ring onto the fourth finger of my left hand.

  “It’s gorgeous,” I say, and it is, platinum with an emerald-cut stone flanked by two smaller diamonds. Stunning, like something out of the New York Times magazine.

  “Will you marry me?” he says, more for protocol than anything else.

  “Yes,” I say, and I wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him, and the people around us applaud and smile.

  This will be my life, I think as we stroll a few blocks. The air is dry and clear, a light breeze swirls through my hair, the smell of bread perfumes the air. All around us, Manhattan sparkles and hums. I hold up my hand to inspect my ring, and Ryan grins. “My parents will be very pleased,” he says.

  “Really?” I say, and he laughs and squeezes my hand. Visions of Thanksgiving and Christmas with Dr. and Mrs. Darling (and Bubbles) float through my head, as surreal as a Salvador Dali painting. “Mine will be, too. ”

  “Of course,” Ryan says. I try not to roll my eyes. Instead, I picture Ryan holding his own at our Thanksgiving touch-football game which, though it sounds Kennedy-esque and good-spirited, rewards creative, dirty, after-the-whistle type hits. Of course, we wouldn’t want to injure Ryan’s gifted hands, so he might have to excuse himself. Still. It could be fun.

  We sleep in the next morning, go out for brunch and spend the afternoon shopping at Saks, mostly for Ryan, to be honest, who needed a few new suits, though he very kindly buys me some fabulous underwear and a pair of peach silk pajamas (perhaps a comment on the ancient Yankees T-shirt I usually wear to bed). We return to our hotel, where I call my mom and tell her the news.

  “Oh, Chastity!” she cries. “Honey, that’s wonderful! Wonderful!” She offers to invite the boys and their families over for dinner the next day so Ryan and I can come and announce our engagement live and in person.

  “Sure,” I say. “Sounds great. ”

  Ryan calls his parents, too, and I talk to Mrs. over the phone. “Please call me Libby,” she says. “And I can recommend some very good designers for your dress, darling. ”

  Dr. gets on the phone, too. “Welcome to the family,” he says heartily, and I try to forget that he’s seen me naked.

  Then Ryan takes the phone and fields questions about dates and locations and that kind of thing. I drift over to the window of our swanky room and gaze out at the Empire State Building.

  Is this really me, I wonder? It doesn’t quite feel real. I don’t belong in a hotel like this one. The ring, though it sits well on my finger, looks like a prop from a movie. Though we’ve been gone less than twenty-four hours, I miss home. I miss Buttercup.

  “I better call my dad,” I say when Ryan hangs up from his parents. I glance at my watch. It’s after five, and Dad’s on nights this week, so he should be at the firehouse. With Trevor, as usual. I don’t think about that.

  “Well, actually, your father knows,” Ryan smiles. “I asked for his permission. ”

  “Oh,” I say. “Well, that was…old-fashioned of you. But nice, I guess. ”

  I dial my father’s cell. “Are you happy, Porkchop?” Dad asks. In the background, I can hear the crackling of the radio, a few voices.

  “Oh, yes,” I say. “Definitely. ”

  “Trevor, guess what? Chastity’s marrying her doctor,” Dad calls. I wait for the stomach pain. None comes.

  “Best wishes, Chas,” I hear Trevor say after the briefest pause.

  “Trevor says ‘best wishes,’” Dad relays.
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