Me: Look, I fucked up when I was younger and I’m trying to make up for it. You know I care about her, so would you please help me out here? I fucking gave Luke your number.
Tessa: I’ll give it to you, but you need to know that Reed got her number too. I don’t know if she sees him like that, but heads up. He’s a nice guy and he’s never made fun of her. He’d be good for her.
Fucking Reed Tennyson. I should’ve knocked his ass out when I had the chance.
Me: I’d be good for her. Reed can go fuck himself.
Tessa: Easy, tiger. I’m secretly pulling for you if it helps. 205-555-7991
Me: Thanks. I owe you.
Tessa: I know.
I’ve never been nervous about anything involving women. Never. But right now, a simple text message is terrifying me.
Me: Hey it’s Ben. I was wondering if you wanted to hang out sometime this weekend.
Shit. That sounds like I’m asking her out. Which is what I really want to do, but that’s not part of this new friendship route I’m trying to establish.
Me: Not like a date or anything.
Damn it. That just sounds shitty, like I need to clarify that I’m definitely not asking her out. Shit.
Me: Just as friends.
I chuck my phone to the end of the bed. I should just throw it outside to keep from making a further ass out of myself. It beeps and I dive for it like my life depends on it.
Mia: I don’t know.
I half expected that type of response. And I was locked and loaded.
Me: A certain knight is requesting time with his favorite princess. You wouldn’t want to disappoint him, would you? He’ll probably cry for days when I break the news to him.
Mia: Wow. Did you really just use your son as bait?
Me: I did. I’m desperate.
One, two minutes go by and I’m starting to sweat.
Me: I just want to spend some time with you. I’ve made you smile a few times and I think I can do it again if you’ll let me. I’m just asking for a chance, Mia. If you hate the guy I am now then I’ll leave you alone. I swear.
Fifty three seconds later, she responds.
Mia: Okay, fine. But I get to pick what we do.
I pump my fist into the air.
Me: Fine with me. What did you have in mind?
Mia: There’s this medieval dinner show I passed on my way here the other day. I think it was off two exits before Ruxton. Has Nolan ever been there? He’ll get to see knights jousting and stuff.
Holy shit. Nolan’s going to lose his mind. Why do I not know about this place?
Me: No, but that sounds awesome. Do I need to make reservations?
Mia: I’ll take care of it. Saturday work for you?
Every day works for me. I’ll rearrange my entire life at this point.
Me: Yeah. I’ll pick you up. Just let me know what time.
Mia: Okay. I’ll text you after I book it.
Me: I can’t wait.
She doesn’t respond to that, but I don’t need her to. The only thing I need is the chance she’s now willing to give me. I can finally show her the man I am now. I can make up for all the hurt I’ve caused her. All the pain. I’ll earn her friendship before offering her my life. It’s hers anyway. She just needs to take it.
* * *
Ben: I can’t wait.
Me either. I wanted to type, but I didn’t. I wasn’t just looking forward to spending time with Nolan, who just so happened to be the cutest kid on the planet. I wanted to be around Ben. I didn’t want to fight it. I knew I couldn’t keep shutting him out. I didn’t want to hate him for things he did to me years ago. Not when he definitely wasn’t that guy anymore. It’d be different if he was. That hate would be justified. But he’s nothing like the old Ben. He doesn’t talk to me like that same boy. He doesn’t look at me like that same boy. And he definitely doesn’t make me feel like that same boy. I’d be a total bitch if I didn’t at least give this Ben a chance. So that’s what I’m giving him.
Saturday wasn’t coming soon enough for me. I’ve never felt anxious about doing something with a guy just as friends before. But this was Benjamin Kelly we were talking about. He’s seen me naked. Completely naked. And now he wanted to hang out like we haven’t brought each other immense pleasure.
He came just as much as I did that night so I’m taking credit for that.
How the hell am I supposed to navigate a friendship with a guy that I can’t stop fantasizing about? I’ve had guy friends before. It’s doable. But I’ve never gotten butterflies over those guys. I’ve never felt like I might actually combust just being in the same room as those guys. And I’ve definitely never wanted to bang the hell out of those guys.
Speaking of boys that wanted to be friends with me, I promised Reed that I’d meet him for lunch today. We’ve talked on the phone a few times since the day at Rocky Point. He was really sweet and funny, and when he asked me to hang out with him, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. He picked a sandwich shop in town that I was familiar with. Tessa and I ate there several times when we were younger with her parents. I spent the morning in the pool with her, not being able to sunbathe because the heat was enough to make you pass out. After a quick shower, I drove into town and parked my jeep next to Reed’s truck. He was already seated at a table when I walked through the door.
“Hey, how are you?” I ask, walking around the table as he stands up to greet me. He gives me a hug which I’m not expecting but it isn’t awkward. And it definitely isn’t anything other than a hug you’d give a friend, which relieves me. I’m hoping this really is just a lunch between new friends and not anything more. I’m not interested in anything else with Reed and I don’t want this to become uncomfortable. He ends our one armed hug with a pat on my back. Very non-date like.
“I’m good. I ordered you a shrimp salad sub. I hope that’s okay.” Reed smiles at me as he takes his seat and I take mine. He has the lightest blondest hair I’ve ever seen, almost white, that falls in his eyes with a bit of curl.
“Yeah, thanks. That sounds delicious.” I take a sip of the water he had also ordered for me. “So you were off work today?” Reed had mentioned a few days ago that he was a laborer for his father’s construction company.
He nods. “Yeah. Business is kind of slow right now. But it should pick up soon. We’re usually slammed in the summer time.” Our sandwiches are placed in front of us and we both take a bite, chewing behind our smiles. “What town in Georgia are you from again?”
“Fulton. Smallest town in the world.” I swallow my bite and take a drink. “It’s a military town. The air base is really the only thing in it besides a Walmart.”
“Have you ever been on the air base? I bet they have some really cool planes there.”
I shrug. “I’ve only been on it a few times. They’ll show movies there at the theatre for a dollar, but it’s always like three months after their original release date.” I take another bite of my sandwich. “I don’t think given the choice I’d choose to live in Fulton. It’s mainly a lot of old people that are retired,” I pause and grin slyly. “And Marines.”