Maybe I was changing. I couldn’t believe I had actually said that to Tam and Adrian. Who was I trying to fool? For me to change, I’d have to get over Jay.
“So everything is moving right along,” Trent said with a proud smile and I smiled back with a nod.
“Sounds amazing,” I told him and it really did. Trent was a youth worker, had been working on an outreach program when we met and had made great progress over the past few months. Unlike me who was stuck in the same place I ever was.
We chatted a bit more about his work and life in general but the whole time I was aware of Jay. I noticed when he stopped talking with Adrian and Tam and went and joined Mitch and Ben. Then I noticed when he left them to approach a woman at the bar. I noticed him ducking his head to talk to her. I noticed him letting her touch his shoulder, his chest. I noticed him lead her to a table where they sat, their heads close together. I noticed him smiling and laughing. I noticed him touching her hand, her shoulder.
“Are you okay Dee?” Trent’s voice jerked my attention back to him and I flushed guiltily. This was just like the time we’d dated, I had been too fixated on Jay to give him the attention he deserved. “You look a little pale,” he added, brushing the back of his fingers against my cheek.
“Just a headache,” I said, only a slight lie. Head, heart, close enough. “I think I’ll call it a night.”
“I’ll walk you out. I was planning to leave anyway,” he said to forestall my protest.
I looked over to where Tam and Adrian were sitting close together and when I had their attention waved to let them know I was going. Then I let Trent take my arm and lead me out and I didn’t look back. I knew it was rude to leave without saying goodbye to Mitch, Ben, and Jay, but they were all busy anyway, didn’t need me interrupting them.
Outside the bar Trent turned to me with a sad smile. “So you’re still hung up on that guy then,” he said and my mouth dropped open a little.
“I ah,” I started to stutter and he laughed gently.
“It’s okay Delilah, your secret is safe with me.”
He was so sweet, his voice so gentle, his eyes so kind. I choked out a laugh, feeling strangely relieved that some one else knew. “It’s ridiculous.”
Trent shook his head. “No. It’s his loss. Whichever one of your friends it is.”
I wasn’t ready to admit who it was. Mark had known but that had been an exchange of mutual trust since he was just as messed up as I was. “You’re sweet to think that.”
“Hey, you’re a catch,” Trent interrupted as he slipped his arm around my waist and gave me a brief hug. “Come on, I’ll give you a lift home.”
I looked to the curb where his bike was waiting but I wasn’t ready to go home.
“Thanks but I think I’ll walk.”
Trent gave me a long look, a frown creasing his brow. “How about a ride instead? We can go for ice-cream.”
Two hours later I climbed the stairs to my apartment, a smile on my face. Trent had been great company and the ice cream had been out of this world. Best of all, I hadn’t spent the time thinking about Jay and what he was doing. Wondering if he’d made a connection with the woman from the bar. Or if he’d moved on from her and flirted with another one. I had reminded myself a time or ten that we had an agreement, and he would let me know if he had made a connection.
I was prepared for that, knew it would happen eventually. I was actually surprised it hadn’t already. The Jay I knew was looking for love, wanted the happy ever after fairy tale that his parents had. In the meantime he’d really taken to our friends with benefits arrangement, he was sticking to the rules with a vengeance. He was… leaning on my door?
My breath caught, my heart fluttered. “Jay?”
His head jerked up and he shoved his cell into his pocket, a smile flirted with his lips. “Dee.”
“Did you send a message?” I hadn’t checked, not after the way I’d last seen him.
“No, ah that wasn’t…” he shook his head, shot me a nervous glance. “Can we go inside?”
Was this… had he made a connection? Was he here to tell me it was over? He stepped to the side and I fumbled with my keys.
“Here.” His hands covered mine, the heat of his body surrounded me and I let my eyes close for a moment.
The locks clicked and the door opened then light flared as Jay reached past me and flicked the switch.
“Come in,” I said needlessly as we both walked inside. “Drink?” I offered as he shut the door.
“No. Thanks,” he said absently as he walked over and took a seat on the couch.
I tried to act naturally, strolled over to the table to empty out my pockets and asked, “Did you have a good night?”
I braced myself for an announcement that he’d met somebody but all he said was, “It was fine.”
He looked casual though a little tense and the suspense was killing me. “Why are you here Jay?”
“I was waiting for you,” he said with a shrug. “Thought you might want to talk.”
Me? I frowned. “About what?”
“We agreed that if either of us… wanted to move on, we’d tell the other right?”
“Right. So are you here to tell me…” I couldn’t even say the words.
“Me?” He laughed and shook his head. “No baby, no way.”
His tone said I was crazy and I let out a slightly strangled laugh of relief. “I saw you at the bar Jay, it could be you. Why would you think I-”
His smile faded. “I saw you leave Dee. I also heard what you said to Tam and Adrian about maybe being ready for more.”
“That was nothing,” I dismissed. “I was tired of comments about my… lifestyle.” True, but not the complete truth. “And Trent’s just a friend.”
Jay looked at me for a long moment, judging me it felt like. “So we’re good?” I finally asked to break the silence.
He grinned, that grin that melted my heart every time. “Always.” He patted the couch beside him in invitation. “Want to watch a movie?”
“Sure. Why don’t you pick while I get changed?”
I came out in yoga pants and a slouchy tshirt and Jay let out a soft wolf whistle.
“Funny guy,” I rolled my eyes and sat down beside him, grabbing the remote and getting things started. Jay lifted his arm and a I slotted in against his side, rested my head on his shoulder, let out a satisfied sigh. While our friends with benefits arrangement was amazing and I loved the benefits, I missed this aspect of our friendship. Just sitting together, watching a movie.
As if he read my mind Jay’s arm tightened around me to hug me and he said, “This is nice.”
“Mmm,” I agreed and patted his leg. Then before I chickened out I asked, “Would you stay tonight? Whatever happens,” I added quickly. “Will you stay?”
“Like a pj party?” He tugged my hair teasingly and I snorted.
“Since when do you ever wear pjs.”
He laughed, and it was almost like normal. Except I was thinking about being in bed with him, with nothing between us. All night long.
“Do you want me to stay or not?” he chided with another gentle tug.
“Yes please,” I said primly.
And he did.