I walked up the steps of the apartment building. On the seventh step from the bottom, I carefully stepped closer to the left than the middle; it creaked like nobody’s business if you stepped right in the middle. I knew this building like the back of my hand. I ought to; I’d lived here for years.
On the landing, I turned to the right and knocked quietly on the door, almost half-hoping that he wouldn’t hear it, and I could put this conversation off another day. A few moments later, though, I heard heavy footsteps coming my way. He’s home. Damn.
Inwardly, I rolled my eyes at myself. Put on your big girl panties, Alison.
The door opened and there was Josh, just as handsome – in a severe sort of way – as ever. I’d heard of the reputation he’d made for himself. No doubt, he’d made a lot of nameless women very happy; shaking the sheets had never been an area we hadn’t been compatible. Lately, though, I hadn’t heard so much about him from the people at work who hit the bars. Maybe he’d gotten himself together. I hoped he had.
“Hey, Josh,” I said quietly. “Can I come in?”
His face was impassive – not smiling, not glaring – as he stepped back from the door. “Yeah.” He rooted himself in the middle of the kitchen and looked at me as I shut the door behind myself. “Not to be rude, but why are you here, Alison?”
Gone was the friendly tone he’d always had for me before the break-up. Bridge burnt. Roger that. “I wanted to talk to you.” I’d put this off longer than I should have. Luc and I had only told his parents, Loralee, Tommy, and my mom, but it was only a short matter of time before one of those parties let the cat out of the bag. I didn’t want Josh to hear about this from anyone but me. “Josh, I’m – I’ve started seeing Luc.”
At once, his expression darkened. “I fucking knew it.”
“It isn’t what you think!” I held up my hands, begging him to listen. “Please, Josh, I know I was a bitch to you. But I never cheated on you. I swear to you, Luc and I were just friends until barely over a month ago.”
“Feelings don’t just appear.”
“Maybe I’ve had feelings for him for longer, but I didn’t know I did. I swear, Josh – I never cheated on you.”
After a weighted pause, he let out a harsh breath. “I believe you, Allie.” He walked past me and sat down at the bar. “I’m not happy about it, though. Really, you had to pick my cousin?”
I smiled weakly and sat down next to him. “When have either of us been good at picking appropriate partners?”
He snorted softly. “I guess you have a point there.” He looked over at me. “Why are you telling me?”
“I wanted to be the one to tell you.” I sighed quietly. “And maybe a I missed you, Josh. I miss talking to you. I hope, maybe one day, we can really talk to each other again. Be friends again.” Okay, maybe I just couldn’t accept that the bridge had been burnt beyond repair after all.
He shook his head slowly, almost regretfully. “I forgive you for what happened with us – I do. I’m not so stubborn that I can’t admit I was just as guilty as you were. But I don’t think there’s any going back for us.”
“I kind of figured you’d say that,” I said sadly. I gave him a wan smile. “I guess I better get going.” Without waiting for his good Southern manners to kick in, I got up and showed myself to the door.
The second I stepped over the threshold, my phone started buzzing. I took it out of my pocket to see Luc’s name on the screen. I smiled and brought it up to my ear. “Hey.”
“Hey, beautiful,” Luc said in his lovely, mellow voice. “I was thinking we might go out to eat somewhere tonight.”
“You know, that sounds great,” I said as I headed down the stairs. “I’m in Willow Creek now, but I’m about to get in my car. Meet me at my apartment?” After he responded in the positive, I hung up with Luc and went outside. Dinner with my boyfriend was exactly what I needed now.
When I pulled up, I found Luc already outside waiting for me. I smiled as I walked over to him. “You haven’t been waiting long, have you?”
He shook his head and pulled me in for a kiss. “Not long at all.”
I slid my arms around him, leaning into him. “Hey, what do you say we eat at home tonight?”
His eyes twinkled. “I say you have great ideas, Ms. Harrison.”
As we went inside, I couldn’t help but sigh with happiness.