After the movie, she was even more subdued than she had been during dinner at Flying Wedge Pizza. The evening air was mild and fresh, and they strolled to a Starbuck's nearby.
"Well. That was okay, I guess. But I would have rather seen the action flick." Jay shuffled along beside her, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his overcoat.
She didn't respond. He was cute, but dense sometimes. It was comforting to be with him, but her mind was elsewhere.
"I hear Harrison Ford is excellent. I bet you would have liked it better."
She walked on in silence. Such a boy. She wished she knew what to do about him. It was times like these she found it hard to imagine spending the rest of her life with Jay. They just weren’t on the same page.
He slung an arm over her shoulders and squeezed. "Are you sure you're feeling okay, honey?" Jay asked, eyes quizzical, concern in his voice. "You're so quiet."
She put on an agreeable face. "I'm fine.” She forced a smile. "I liked the movie, didn't you?"
He shrugged. "I guess. For a chick flick."
“I think they’re called rom-coms.”
"Never mind. You didn't get anything out of it?"
He pulled a long face, casting his eyes upward. "Um." His eyes circled, searching. "Gay guys are more style conscious?" He shook his head at her deadpan expression. "They make better girlfriends than girls?" He was trying to make her laugh. She gave him a weak smile.
Kate sighed. She did like that he was lighthearted and funny, but it'd be nice to have a serious discussion with him, for once. "Didn't it make you wonder, even a teensy bit, how you know when you should spend the rest of your life with someone?”
He flashed her a sly grin, and she blinked hard. She didn’t mean to lead him on, she really didn’t. But the closer he got to popping the question, the more she agonized about what was the right thing to do.
“Didn't it make you think about the fact that we waste so much time worrying about..." She waved a hand about, "... about superficial things, like how a person looks, or whether they're from a certain type of family, or their job...?
Jay sniffed and adjusted his coat with a shrug. "That stuff's pretty important. That's what it was about?"
Kate stared at him critically. Perhaps that wasn't a fair question. She knew he did care about those things, more than she did. Maybe she was obsessing. "Didn't Julia Roberts’ character raise any questions for you?"
He sulked. "I thought it was a comedy."
Kate was relieved to spend a relaxed Saturday evening with Jay, even though she'd been avoiding him, and was preoccupied. She'd been resisting his company in direct proportion to his obvious hints about his approaching proposal. But after her traumatic and distressing week, it was a comfort to fall back into their routine even though she was more conscious than ever of his shortcomings. It’s not that she found fault with Jay, only that he left her wanting more.
An image of Simon flashed in her mind, and she pushed it away. Her memories of what they shared fifteen years ago had no bearing on her relationship with Jay. Yet she felt a sense of loss.
Jay brought their drinks and they squeezed onto a couple of chairs against the wall in the crowded café, their backs and elbows pressed against their neighbors, the general buzz of conversation loud enough to force them close together to be heard. She noticed a couple of female heads turn to openly admire Jay, and him return a cocky grin, eating it up.
“Jay?” She felt a frisson of irritation.
He took her hand. “I know what you’re hinting at. Be patient. I wasn’t going to…” he glanced around the crowded, steamy cafe. “What the hell.” Jay leaned closer, dropping his voice. “Kate. You know what I’m going to say. Marry me, angel.”
“Ah, Jay, don’t. I need…” She dropped her head into her hand. “How do you know who you're supposed to spend the rest of your life with?" She peered at Jay earnestly, trying to get through to him.
He grinned and laughed out loud. "Me, of course." He ruffled her hair. "Isn't it obvious?"
She wanted to scream. “Seriously, Jay." She frowned at him. "What if you make a mistake?"
He sobered. "Damn it, Kate.” He set down his coffee mug with a too-loud thunk and turned to face her. "I know exactly what I want. What we have is good. You mean what if you make a mistake?"
“I’m sorry. I have to be sure." She gazed down into her teacup, and twirled it round and round restlessly. "And I'm not."
Jay thrust his face nearer to hers, his voice rising. "I never know what's going on in your head. You’re always pulling away. Why don't you tell me what you're so afraid of?"
"Shhhh." She glanced up and could see him fulminating, his umber eyes glassy under furrowed dark brows. She was aware that other people were looking at them, picking up on their tension. A wave of guilt overcame her, thickening her throat. She dipped her head. Whatever her problems were, he didn't deserve this.
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and pushed the hair back from her forehead. "Let me try to explain."
Jay didn't reply.
She reached out and gently lifted his large hand from his knee, her stomach knotting. She could share something. Open up a bit. "Let me tell you about this guy I went out with."
"What guy?" Jay's expression darkened, his jaw jutting.
Jeez-us. It's a good thing he didn't know about Simon. She squeezed his hand and clarified. "He was my highschool boyfriend." She felt Jay relax a bit. "I was so in love.” Kate gazed wistfully over his shoulder, shaking her head. “At the time I thought he was the one I would spend the rest of my life with."
At Jay's puzzled expression, she quickly concluded her story. "He dumped me quite unceremoniously in the middle of first-year university." The story sounded stupid now. Irrelevant. How could anyone ever understand what she'd been through. "He broke my heart."
Jay's response was a blend of compassion and righteousness. "Poor baby. You think I would drop you like that?" He wrapped his strong arm around her and pulled her close, kissing her hair. "I'm no eighteen-year-old puppy. I want you forever, Kate. I mean it."
She remained limp and unresponsive in his embrace, remembering the utter dejection and lost self-esteem that she'd felt until Simon came along to distract her. "No, no. Don't take it the wrong way." Her voice was pleading. "I know that was only a teen romance. But I was wrong once. And I could be wrong again. So could you." She sat upright and met his eyes with fervor. “We should be certain."
She'd been wrong more than once. Maybe that's all she'd had with Simon, too. A trivial childish romance. It was a lot easier to file away their history when she thought of it that way. Wasn't it? But it felt like so much more, and she couldn’t let it go.
“I need a little more time to think this through.” Now that Jay had asked the question, she had to make up her mind.
Jay heaved a sigh. "Okay. Okay." His voice was tight, determined. "I can't force you, can I? I'll give you the time you need. But know that I am certain. And I'm not going away."
Despite her doubts about the depth of their connection, he was a good man and he truly loved her. It wouldn’t be a bad thing. She should just say yes. She probably would. If only she could trust her own heart.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish