Aunt Kandy always said love is a gamble. I guess that would make her an addict, the woman’s been married so many times. She says you chance your heart away in hopes of winning the one person who can make you forget what it’s like to be alone and miserable. But then once you’ve won, the gamble is holding on to the prize.
I don’t believe in monogamy. Not anymore. What’s the point? If what Aunt Kandy says is true, then you can bet the holding on is harder than the catching.
My motto? Relationships are like fish—even the best ones are still slippery, easy to get away. Plus, they just plain stink. Whether you cook ‘em or display ‘em on the top shelf of the fridge for all your friends to see, no catch comes without side effects. I should know.
“I’m taking the aquarium, but I don’t have room in my truck right now. Do you mind if I come back later?”
I look up from the computer screen to catch a glimpse of Raj’s pathetic pout.
Something told me I should have stayed at the library. Pretended to work late. Brownie points with the boss are better than this.
“Yeah. Sure. That’s fine. I have a date later anyway.”
Okay so that was cruel. Even I know the truth is sometimes better left unsaid.
“Oh.” His Adams apple jumps in his throat. “Anyone I know?”
Probably. That’s the thing about traveling in the same social circle. Partners get recycled.
“Well.” He hoists his hiking backpack over his shoulders and picks up the cat carrier.
Funny, six months ago, I wasn’t an animal person. But I miss Marmalade already.
“Guess I’ll be going.” He hasn’t edged from the spot in front of the door.
I sigh and rise from the computer chair, my legs stiff. As I approach, he places the carrier back down on the ground and pulls me into a telltale embrace.
“I’m sorry, Jenna. I wish we could have made this work. I would have liked it if…”
“Don’t,” I say. “People grow apart. It’s a natural progression.”
“We had a great time. That’s over now. There’s no reason we can’t still be friends. When you're ready.”
I pull back and reach up to pat his cheek. His misty eyes make me uneasy. Picking up the carrier, I hand it over and hurry him out the door.
Comforted for just a moment, by the silence. I glance at my watch. Time to pick up where I left off. Just because I don’t believe in monogamy doesn’t mean misery should take its place.
The lineup to get into the restaurant almost makes me want to turn around. What’s the harm in vegging on the sofa for one night? A little bit of ice cream, an old chick flick.
I look down at my big toe. It’s practically begging me to put it out of its misery. I wriggle it instead and flex my arches.
“Cute shoes.” The maitre d’ beckons for me to skip to the front of the line. I ignore the glares of the group of six scantily dressed girls.
“It’s Jenna right?”
“Will your boyfriend be joining you later?”
“Actually, Raj and I split. I’m meeting someone here. Nastos. Shoot I can’t remember his first name.”
“Oh. Sorry. Or should I say have fun?” She winks.
“I always do,” I reply as I follow another waiter inside.
Dark hair, good posture, great suit. A little familiar but, then again, I do have a type. If I could just remember this guy’s name. Guess I’ll have to be clever.
“Mr. Nastos?” I sing, in a flirty tone as I come up behind him and place a hand on his shoulder.
“Jenna. How’ve you been?” My date stands up and turns to face me.
My stomach drops and I force myself to recover, quickly scanning the room. The nearest exit isn’t close enough for me to bolt, without him stopping me. So I stand feet planted, heart pounding in my ears.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “To have to meet like this. I convinced your sister to set this up.”
“I didn’t think you’d see me otherwise.”
He’s right and I’m an idiot.
Nastos? Really? Of all the names I should have remembered.
“Four years has been good to you. Will you sit?” He gestures toward an empty chair and the gleam of a gold band on his finger catches my eye.
“I still wear it.” He smiles. “The girl who gave it to me told me to never take it off.”
Thankful my hand is in my pocket, I slip off the matching pinky ring.
“So?” He glances back down at the chair.
I’m angry with myself for even considering it. There’s a chance—and it’s a pretty damn good one—that I’ll be scraping my heart up off the floor again this time next week.
Okay, Jenna. High school was a long time ago. Get over it already. You’re supposed to be a woman now.
I prepare my poker face and sit down in the chair.
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