Photo credit: Anant N S via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Juan and I stood at the counter in our favorite pastry shop deciding on which desserts would do the least damage to the calories we had sweated out at Zumba. I ordered the apple nachos while Juan took the zucchini brownies. We headed for our usual table near the window.
“How are you feeling these days Lily?”
“Fine, I’m doing fine.”
Juan took one of his brownies and placed it to my lips so that I could take a bite. Then he promptly shoved the rest of it into his mouth. Since we’d met at the gym last year, Juan and I had become fast friends and always hung out after yoga and Zumba. Full of energy, upbeat and positive, I always looked forward to our “dessert time”.
“Are you telling me that you didn’t cry at all after you broke it off with him?”
I shook my head.
“Of course I did. I threw myself a pity party for a few days and second guessed myself a lot but I’m fine now. Without a doubt, I know that I did the right thing.”
I nodded and stabbed at an apple wedge that had the most caramel. This time it was my turn to let Juan sample my order. I brought the fork to his lips and he was more than happy to open wide.
“Hmm, that is delicious! Has he tried to call you?”
“Yeah but I don’t picked up.”
“Girl, you are made of steel. I wish that I had that kind of willpower. Every time I vow to never speak to Nikos again, I always cave in and take him back,” Juan said, shaking his head. He seemed slightly disgusted with himself but a grin quickly spread across his face as he looked over my shoulder.
“Well, if you’re looking for a new man, there is a delicious one in the doorway who can’t keep his eyes off of you…”
Curiosity killed the cat and I immediately swiveled around to who Juan was talking about. My heart raced and then quickly sank as I recognized the sheepish smile that greeted me.
I turned back to Juan.
“That’s not a new man. It’s Matt.”
Juan choked in his mouthful of brownies.
“Are you shitting me?” he whispered. “You didn’t tell me that Matt was such a babe! Did he know that you always come here after class?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I mentioned it to him more than once.”
“Hmm, does he know about me? Boyfriend looks a little jealous. ”
“What my ex-boyfriend-who-wasn’t-really-my-boyfriend thinks is none of my concern.”
“If you say so Lily,” Juan shrugged, sounding unconvinced. “Are you going to talk to him?”
“No. There is nothing left to say. And in any case, my heart is not ready to deal with him.”
“Well, it looks like you won’t have a choice. He’s coming over here…” Juan whispered as he kept watch over my shoulder.
I held my breath until Matt was standing next to our table. Matt gave me another weak smile and then acknowledged Juan’s existence with a nod.
Matt glanced down at Juan, giving him a look that clearly said that he should disappear. But when Juan made an attempt to get up, I took his hand and forced him to stay seated. I ignored Juan’s are-you-crazy? look.
“I already said what I had to say a few weeks ago.”
“Lily, you didn’t even give me a chance to say anything – you simply up and walked out. And since you won’t return my calls or texts, I decided to find you. Would you at least hear me out?”
Poor Juan sat there looking all sorts of uncomfortable and pretending as best as he could to be invisible.
“If you have something to say Matt, you’ll have to say it in front of my friend.”
Matt shook his head in exasperation but pulled a chair over from another table to sit down between us. I watched his chest heave as he took a deep breath.
“You know that saying about not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone?”
I had never seen Matt with such a serious demeanor. His voice was low and his eyes searched mine for a clue to my thoughts.
“Of course I do.”
Matt looked down at his feet.
“Well…I now know what that really means, what it feels like. It’s exactly what I’m living right now.”
I swallowed the bubble that had formed in my throat and kept my tone as emotionless as I could.
“I told you after our first few dates that I don’t jump into bed with just anyone – I have to have feelings for a guy first. Serious feelings. If you want to date other girls, play the field and sleep around, that’s your prerogative. But I’m not going to stick around waiting to see if I’m just a second choice that you are settling on. If I want to waste time, I prefer to do it alone.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Juan cover his mouth in shock. Matt exhaled deeply, reached over for my hand and looked me straight in the eye.
“Lily, you have ruined me for wanting to be with anyone else. I was living my life just fine until I met this girl who ruined my player philosophy and that girl is you. You are all that a man could hope for. I’d rather have a love that I know is real…I..I love you. And like you said, our future is now. Would you please give me a second chance to make things right?”
Speechless, I glanced over to Juan whose face was lit up like a Christmas tree. His eyes were misty and implored me to forgive and forget.
Love had burnt me one too many times in my past. And when it truly scorched me the last time, I vowed to learn from my mistakes.
But now, love was forcing me to make a decision, a choice much more important than what sweet dessert I wanted to take a chance on this time around.
I felt Juan and Matt’s expectant eyes burning holes into my soul as they waited for me to say something…
Continuation next week: “Keep On Walkin'”
All Rights Reserved©2016 Marquessa Matthews. Adapted in 2018
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