“It’s looking more likely as this assignment moves forward.”
I offered a small smile. “I don’t mind that you were late. I know you work long hours. I knew I wouldn’t see you much when I got here.”
“But you came,” he said, reaching across the table for my hand.
I sat back, putting my hands in my lap. “But I can’t drop everything every time you decide you want to see me.”
His shoulders fell, but he was still smiling. For whatever reason, he was amused. “I know. And that’s fair.”
I leaned forward again to poke at my salad with the fork. “He came to the airport.”
T.J. was quiet for a long time, and then he finally spoke. “What’s going on with you two?”
I squirmed in my seat. “I told you. We’ve been spending a lot of time together.”
I frowned. “We watch TV. We sit around and talk. We go out to eat. We work together.”
“You quit the Red? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t quit. Coby had some trouble paying bills. I took a second job until he got back on his feet.”
I nodded, not really wanting to get too far into that subject.
“Did Trenton do that?” he asked, lowering his chin and looking at my fingers.
He took in a deep breath, just as he was taking in the reality of the situation. “So you mean you spend a lot of time together.”
I shook my head. “No. But we . . . he . . .”
T.J. nodded. “Kissed you. You mentioned that. Is he seeing anyone?”
T.J. raised an eyebrow. “Has he been to the Red?”
“Yes. But no more than usual. Maybe even less.”
“Not at all. Not since . . .”
“He started pursuing you.” I shook my head again. T.J. looked down. “Wow.” He laughed once in disbelief. “Trenton’s in love.” He looked up at me. “With you.”
“You act surprised. You loved me once, you know.”
I closed my eyes tight. “How? How could you possibly feel that way after everything I’ve just told you?”
He kept his voice low. “I know I’m not good for you right now, Camille. I can’t be there for you like you need me to be, and probably can’t for a long time. It’s hard to blame you when I know that our relationship is based on sporadic phone calls and texts.”
“But you told me that when we met. You said it would be this way, and I told you that it was okay. That I was willing to make it work.”
“Is that what you’re doing? Sticking to your word?” T.J. searched my eyes for a moment, and then sighed. He drank the last bit of his white wine, and then set the empty glass down on the side of his plate.
I froze for a moment, feeling like a cornered animal. He’d been giving me the third degree since the server set our dinner on the table, and I was becoming emotionally exhausted. Seeing him for the first time, and then being alone with my thoughts all day . . . it was too much. I was a runner without anywhere to go. My flight didn’t leave until the next morning. Finally, I covered my face with my hands. Once I closed my eyes, the tears were pushed over my lower lids and down my cheeks.
T.J. sighed. “I’m going to say that’s a yes.”
“You know how you know you love someone? You get that feeling that doesn’t go away. I still feel that for you.”
“I feel the same way. But I always knew this would be too hard on you.”
“People do it all the time.”
“Yes, but they talk more than eight or nine times a month.”
“So you knew it was over? Why bring me out here, then? To tell me it was okay that I couldn’t make it work?”
“I thought maybe if you were here, with me, we could both get a sense of what was really going on with you—if it was just too hard because we hadn’t seen each other in a while, or if you really had feelings for Trenton.”
I began to cry into my napkin again. I suspected people were surely staring, but I didn’t dare look up to check. “This is so humiliating,” I said, trying not to sob.
I lowered my hands just enough to look around. He was right. We were the last two customers in the restaurant. I was so preoccupied, I hadn’t even noticed.
“Can I get anything else for you, sir?” the server said. I didn’t have to see her face to know she was curious about what was going on at our table.
“Bring us the bottle,” T.J. said.
“Of the white,” T.J. said in his confident, smooth voice.
“Y-yes, sir,” she said. I could hear her shoes tap the floor as she walked away.
“Not for twenty minutes. We can kill a bottle by then, right?”
“Not a problem,” I said, faking amusement. At the moment, all I felt was sad, guilty, and ashamed.
His small, contrived smile faded. “You’re leaving tomorrow. We don’t need to make any decisions tonight. Or even tomorrow. Let’s just enjoy our time together.” He reached across the table, and intertwined his fingers in mine.
After a moment’s pause, I pulled away. “I think we both already know what’s happened.”
With sadness in his eyes, T.J. nodded.
My eyes popped open when the airplane wheels touched down, and I looked around, seeing everyone around me pulling out their cell phones and texting friends, family, or colleagues about their arrival. I didn’t bother turning my phone back on. Raegan would be at her parents’, and my family didn’t even know I’d been gone.
T.J. and I went to bed as soon as we got back to the town house the night before, knowing we both had to be up before sunrise to get me to the airport on time. He held me in his arms all night like he didn’t want to let me go, but the next morning at the airport, he hugged and kissed me good-bye like he meant it. It was forced, and sad, and distant.
I pushed the Smurf’s gearshift into Park, and stepped out onto the asphalt. Part of me hoped Trenton would be sitting on the cement in front of my door, but he wasn’t.
San Diego had been nearly balmy, and now I was back where my breath was visible. The air actually hurt my face. How does air hurt your face?
I unlocked the door, pushed through it, let it slam behind me, and then trudged to my bedroom, falling face-first into my wonderfully messy bed.
Raegan padded down the hall in her bare feet. “How was it?” she asked from the doorway.
The floor creaked under her as she walked to my bed and sat next to me. “Are you still together?”
“Oh. Well . . . that’s good, right? I mean, even though T.J. hadn’t spoken to you until Trent kissed you, and suddenly he bought you a ticket to California . . .”