Alex dropped her phone into her lap, gnawing on her lower lip. Something was going on with him. The fact that he wouldn’t tell her what made the eternal night seem even longer. A part of her mind worried, but another part wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
Her heavy sigh was followed by the monotone announcement of another departing flight crackling across the P A system. Alex dropped the phone back into her bag with a yawn. The manuscript lay curled in her lap and she dug through the pages in search of the last paragraph she had read. Skipping over a portion of crossed out material, she settled into her stiff chair, bracing her back against the crisp air still creeping through the icy windows. The slow tick of delayed flights leaving stymied her thoughts of being patient. She could only hope to get lost in the story if she wanted the night to pass.
“Just before we left the club tonight, we were all sitting in Laura’s truck waiting for the parking lot to empty. Mel, and I were talking about the next day’s plans when Laura suddenly interrupted us with a weird gasp.
“Trish, there’s that cute guy we met tonight.”
We meet cute guys every night we dance, that cute guy didn’t mean anything to me so I looked to where she was staring.
His glacial blue eyes and crooked smile had not vanished into the night after all. He was still here, leaning against his car and flirting with a gorgeous red head. Laura looked like she was in pain as she watched him and I thought she was jealous of the rather sultry girl. When the girl had turned and waved goodbye to him though, I noticed Laura was actually staring at his car.
She looked at it like it might come to life and swallow her whole, but she quickly snapped her mouth shut and muttered under her breath.
“What is that thing he’s driving.”
While she pulled her truck up beside him Melanie told us the story of the car. She said a few years ago when she first met him, he told her that it was an old body from a 79’ Ford Mustang, but it had only smatterings of primer paint and rust still adorning it. he built the car from spare parts and pure know how about five years earlier. Back then it had been nothing but an empty chasy, and hours of work and patience had kept it running.
“Are you still driving that thing.” Melanie scolded, when we were talking to him through the trucks window. “It was a piece of junk all those years ago, buy yourself a new car.”
I watched his face become ice hard as he glared at us.
“She, works perfectly and her name is Betsy, not ‘it’, or ‘that thing.’
Maybe I’m crazy but I thought it was so cute that he named her. The other girls seemed more flippant than impressed and I shook my head. He named his car, he built it, he wouldn’t give her up, no matter how out of style she was in comparison to the fancier cars in the lot tonight.
Alex’s nose wrinkled when she stopped reading and shook her head again. The page was full of text, blacked out portions, and women’s names, but as she scanned it she couldn’t see a male name besides Mike or a subject beyond the roommates boy troubles. ‘Nice story, different book???” She wrote, once again jumping past more of the black marked page, still wondering where her mom was going with this.
Stretching her legs and back against the chairs stiff frame Alex pulled the bagel and soda she bought from the all night coffee shop out of the paper bag at her feet. With a twist of her wrist and a sidelong glance, she opened the bottle and checked the next flight’s departure time. 3: 20 it reminded her, one more hour. A hunk of the cheese bagel tore off in her frigid fingers as Alex nibbled distractedly while regaining the journals next entry.
Entry # 13 May 7
Laura and I were gone this weekend and its only now that I realize that what happened two days ago changed me and I will look back and wonder why I never bothered to write it down.It didn't seem like anything at the time, but after writing the story I will feel like less of a dork about it and more like it was meant to be.After all, they never call me. Not for real dates anyway. They call me for "Let me cry on your shoulder about the girl i want, can't get, blew it with, or don't understand. But, they never call me like ----- did. “
Alex winced as she pulled her hair yanking the pencil from her ear. “Who, mom? Who called?” She scowled at the page where a name had been blacked out.She glanced at her watch tempted to call her mom and demand the guy’s name. With a tired sigh, she replaced the pencil and went back to the manuscript.
Friday, he called me. He hadn’t been around much lately but we had spent lots of time deep in phone conversations. Maybe that was why I was off guard when he asked if I would go to dinner with him. I was already going to where he lived for a visit with Laura and I thought he wanted us all to get together. He had quietly insisted it be just us that he needed to talk.
My new roommate Anne, teased me that this was a date, but I knew better. Anne will soon learn that friends don’t ask me on dates. They ask for advice or moral support but the ones that want to turn friendship into dating make me nervous and most of them end up needing restraining orders to help them get over it. My mom calls it my tractor beam for losers.
I wasn’t expecting anything different that night as I waited for him at the end of the driveway. Nervous about what all this meant. The nervousness should have been my first clue something was off. When he hugged me too tightly and looked at me like he could see through me, red flags definitely went up. It was just a moment though and before long we were laughing and talking easily and the previous all too intimate moment vanished.
Except... it didn’t, not completely. Every now and then I caught a look on his face, a smile, some expression that made me feel drawn to him in a way I never had before. We lingered over dinner, we walked to a nearby park and talked. It got later and later and I kept trying to remind myself it was time to go, but…
I didn’t want to.
It must have been about two o’clock in the morning when the warm moments we had been sharing late into the night suddenly became charged with nervous energy. Before I was certain of what was happening he had tangled his long fingers into my hair and was kissing me.
Part of my mind wanted to argue at this intimacy, but he’d been so tender, sincere, and genuine in his feelings. He hadn’t wanted advice, or a band aid for a broken heart. He wanted to talk about the fun and friendship we'd had for the last month or so. I allowed my heart to be swept up in the emotions that felt as if they were burning in my chest. I wanted to fight, I knew better than to fall for a friend, but as he released me to catch his breath, he whispered into my ear.
“I’ve wanted to do that for a long time now.”
“How long?” I asked my voice shaking.
“ever since I found out that you were finished with Mike.”
I swear the air was vibrating all around us. Maybe it was just the blood rushing through my ears but the way he said it made me think he meant every word.
“Now, Its my turn to be your best friend,” he said. “Best friends with benefits.”
Better, Alex murmured, lifting her concentration from the page to look at the clock on her phone. She still had twenty minutes before boarding and she took the chance to use the pencil once more. Nice Mom,’ Alex wrote. ‘this ties in well with your opening paragraph. Keep this guy.’ She took a sip from her bottle of soda, finishing off the remnants of her bagel and replacing the manuscript and pencil in her bag. The flight was beginning its pre-boarding announcements and Alex knew she would have to just pace anxiously until the flight was boarded, waiting to find out whether or not she could finish the last leg of her trip.A part of her longed for another delay to flash across the digital feed. It would be all she needed to go back to Las Vegas. The PA system crackled with another flight’s boarding instructions as Alex wrapped her fingers around the straps of the bag on her shoulder. Fate, or destiny, or maybe just luck had rolled the die. She had to make it through this one final flight and she could work it all out.