My lips twist
bitterly. My father wasn’t enough to break us up. It was my paranoia and cowardice that did, in the end.
“Anyway, in all seriousness, something needs to be done,” Grant says, breaking into my self-recriminations as his face goes solemn once more. “We’re not together anymore, Jessica. This can’t keep happening. Don’t you agree?”
I don’t want to. But…
“Yeah,” I sigh. It just ends up making this more difficult for both of us, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Grant says, and I hear some relief that I agreed with him. “But I don’t know how to stop it.”
“I don’t either,” I say, shaking my head. “All I know is that neither of us can really be trusted around each other unless someone else is present. It’s like I lose all sense of rationality when I’m around you. I just want you so badly.”
Grant grimaces at my words, but nods.
“I thought, at first, that it was just lingering attachments,” he says with a shrug. “You know, since everything ended so quickly three years ago. But it’s happened twice more, all in the span of a week. We can’t just explain this away anymore.”
“No,” I say softly. I look down at my hands. My mug is empty, now, and I wish I hadn’t drunk it so quickly. “But is it impossible to believe that maybe we still want each other?”
The question sucks all the air out of the room. Grant isn’t looking at me. But he also isn’t automatically denying the possibility, either. Finally, he sighs heavily.
“What does it matter?” he asks, and there’s a tired droop to his eyes that makes me feel ashamed for pushing this while we’re both still vulnerable. “My points from last night still stand, Jessica. I don’t want a relationship with you right now. I’m still adjusting to the fact that you’re back in my life. Anything else will just be a needless complication.” He runs a rough hand through his hand. “Though it’s already fucked up enough, isn’t it?”
I smile wryly. “Just a little.”
“Look,” Grant sighs. “Thing is, I do actually want you. You’re still just as beautiful and responsive as I remember. I can’t stop looking at you and remembering everything you make me feel.” He pauses. “But not all of those feelings are good. There’s an awful lot of resentment and bitterness and hurt. You really fucked me over, Jessica. I can’t get over that so quickly.”
“I know,” I say, wincing. “And I’m not going to ask you to. You’re right, Grant. I shouldn’t have even asked. I’m content with being at least friends, or even acquaintances, for Owen’s sake.”
Now would be a really good time to tell him that I want to finally voice the truth of what happened three years ago. Even if he doesn’t want to be with me, he deserves to hear it. I promised Allison that I was going to tell him.
But no words leave my mouth and, eventually, I look away in frustration. Grant doesn’t even notice my inner turmoil. He’s too busy looking at the television, avoiding my eyes.
How could I fix this? Then I realize that I shouldn’t be trying to fix anything. I should be trying to make things easier for us both.
“You said you had the day off?” I ask.
“Yeah?” Grant asks warily.
I give him a small smile. “Want me to ask Allison to bring Owen here when she picks him up for me? We can make some popcorn and watch some movies. They’ll be children’s movies, of course, but still…”
Grant stares at me. And then, slowly, he smiles. It isn’t a large smile, but it’s warm and genuine, and my heart soars at the fact that I could put that expression on his face, even after everything that’s happened.
“Yeah, I’d like that,” he says. He pauses. “Uh… I don’t have any movies.” He scratches the back of his head and gives me a sidelong glance. “We can go buy some? I should have some here, anyway now…”
I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I beam at him.
“Sounds great,” I agree.
It isn’t perfect. But maybe it’s a start. Now all I have to do is dispel the shadow of secrecy still hovering over us. And then, just maybe, we’ll get somewhere.
To say that Owen was excited to visit my place is an understatement. He almost vibrated with joy when Allison showed up to drop him off. When I took him inside, I saw Allison speaking softly with Jessica, but I didn’t really care what words they were exchanging. Owen, who just got more excited when he saw the popcorn and milkshakes we were making, was all I wanted to concentrate on.
Somehow, an entire day slipped away before I realized it. We watched movie after movie, and I was half surprised that Owen stayed awake through each one, his eyes glued to the screen. Jessica confessed, in a low voice, that he normally doesn’t sit still for such a long time, but she thought the combination of seeing me, who he liked, again, and being somewhere completely new, had prevented him from getting up to run around.