The heel of my boot tapped rhythmically under the coffee table as my knees bounced up and down. The shot of espresso seemed to be working its magic through my limbs. I eagerly watched the people passing by the window with the collar of their coats turned up. Not too strange for early November. I had to have watched about 25 people walk by. None were him. I checked my phone once again. He was ten minutes late. I sighed. Hopefully, he wouldn’t stand me up like he did last night.
I spent three hours getting ready for dinner last night. The blush-colored lace dress with long sleeves fit perfectly over my wide hips. The leggings complimented my honey brown skin and were accentuated nicely with my nude over-the-knee boots. Soft curls framed my round face. The spirals bounced whenever I moved my head. My face was covered in soft blush, eye shadow, lipstick, and mascara. This wasn’t out of the norm for me. However, I did spend extra time highlighting and contouring, which emphasized my high cheekbones. I wanted to look perfect. I'd even worn the heart-shaped necklace and gold stud earrings he'd bought for me. I hadn't been clear with him before; this time, I would make sure I was crystal.
He’d made his feelings for me apparent. That was the kind of guy he was. We’d known each other since we were kids. Over time, our rapport transformed from friendship to that of the romantic persuasion. From our first kiss, he touched me in a way that no other man had. I loved that I could be myself with him, and had fought my feelings for him every step of the way.
It should have been easy. To love someone who loved you. It’s what normal people do. However, I don’t see myself as normal. I’m complicated; complex in every sense of the word. Yet, he would tell me how much he loved me all of the time. He knew that I wasn’t ready. Past hurt, betrayal, and abandonment had become my friends. Loyalty and dependability were strangers to me. Yet, his love for me never swayed. Maybe one day I’ll get there. He told me he wasn’t going anywhere. I should have known it was a lie.
His job as a Global Media Strategist took him to England for 18 months. I’ll never forget how my heart raced as he looked into my eyes awaiting my answer. My mouth hung open. I couldn’t comprehend how I could leave everything and everyone I knew for over a year. For a man? He was always so optimistic. Even when I turned him down, he was confident we could make it work. He said what we had was as beautiful as a clear blue sky, overlooking lush green meadows. From my perspective, it was more like a huge snow-covered mountain, with falling rocks, and harsh winds. I didn’t want him to leave, but I couldn’t ask him to stay. I had to let him go; and so, he went.
It would only be temporary. Even though I let him go, we still spoke often. The longer the time went, the wider of space between the time we spoke. I convinced myself to move on but found myself comparing every guy to him. It wasn’t just his 6’2 athletic frame and rich cocoa skin. It wasn’t just his round dark brown eyes and the dimple in his cheek when he smiled. It was the way he talked, the way he held me close, the way I felt safe whenever I was with him. I no longer had that security and without it, nothing felt the same for me anymore. Something was missing. After a year, I realized what it was.
Two days ago, he reached out and told me he was back. He sounded excited to see me. The feeling was mutual. Just hearing his voice made my heart melt. Never before had I regretted something so much. I thought about blurting everything out over the phone, then thought better of it. This time I was ready. Wherever he went, I wanted to be there too.
I made the mistake of telling my mother that he was back. She reminded me, as she always did, of how wrong I was to let him go.
“What if he meets someone else?” she’d ask.
I admit, the thought crossed my mind. I’d push it away just as quickly. The thought of him with someone else was something I couldn’t fathom. He loved me too much. This was only temporary. Once I was back in his arms, everything would be okay.
Another first for me was arriving at the restaurant before him. It wasn’t until I was seated that I received his text. He wasn’t going to make it and asked if we could meet for coffee the next day. One part of me was utterly disappointed. The other part of me was simply happy to see him, even if I had to wait another 18 hours. Now, who's the optimistic one?
I take a second shot of espresso. Of his own accord, the barista knowingly brings me a glass of water. The chime rings from the bell over the door. When I look up, his eyes meet mine, and a smile touches his face. I stand up to greet him. I’m not in the blush dress, but he always said red brought out my features, and so I’d worn it today in the form of a long-sleeved V-neck tee, along with denim jeans that displayed my curvaceous figure. The necklace and earrings from last night, however, remain. We embrace and I hold on, not wanting to let go. Finally, I do. He kisses my cheek. That’s weird, but I let it go. I’m just so happy to see him. We sit, and for a moment, stare at each other in silence. He’s the brave one who breaks the ice.
“It’s good to see you.”
I smile. “It’s good to see you too.”
“Gosh. It’s…there’s so much I have to tell you.”
“There’s so much I have to tell you too.” I grab his hands. “I owe you an apology.”
His face scrunches up. “For what?”
I swallow. I’m beginning to feel warm, and my mouth goes dry. Silently thanking the barista, I drop his hand and take a sip of water.
“I should have told you…”
He looks at me expectedly.
“Bryant, I love you, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you this before. I’m such a cliché,” I say with a nervous chuckle. “It took you being gone to make me realize how much I love you, and how much I need you in my life. I can’t imagine my life without you, and I don’t want to.”
I expect him to grab me and kiss me; telling me how much he loves me too. Neither of those things happens.
“Jocelyn…you know I’ll always be there for you. You are a very important person in my life.”
I expect more, but there is none. A beat passes before I speak.
“Um…did you hear me just say that I love you?”
“I did,” he pauses, “and there’s a part of me that will always love you too.”
My curls bounce as I shake my head. “I’m sorry. A part of you…will always love me?”
He nods; as if everything is cleared up.
“Bryant, what’s going on?”
A look I was unfamiliar with crosses his face. His gaze shifts, and he crosses his arms on the table. It takes a moment before his eyes meet mines again.
“Jocelyn…a lot has changed…you know, since I’ve been gone.”
A sick feeling settles in my stomach.
“Like your feelings for me.”
He sighs. “I…”
This time I look at him expectedly. Whatever he is about to say won’t be good, and it will probably break my heart.
“Jocelyn, I’m engaged…”
Just when I thought the knife in my heart couldn’t go any deeper, he continues.
“…and I’m moving to England permanently.”
For just a moment, time stops.
“I’m engaged and I’m moving to…”
“No…no. I heard you, I just…um…I just don’t understand.”
His eyes are filled with sympathy. Still, I press.
“You…how can you be engaged?”
He shrugs. “I met someone else.”
“Yea, no shit, Sherlock.” I spat.
He shifts again. While it was obvious he was uncomfortable, I had no sympathy.
“So…you were lying?”
He seems offended. “What?”
“You were lying before. When you said you weren’t going anywhere?”
He sighs again. “Jocelyn, it’s not like that.”
“Really?” I shout.
“Will you calm down?” He asks irritated. A couple at a nearby table turns toward us. I don’t care. I’m mad as hell now. I cross my arms over my chest and sit back in the chair.
“I should have known all along it was a lie.”
“Jocelyn, I wasn’t lying to you. At the time, I meant it when I said I loved you. I…I’m still your friend.”
“My fr…” I can’t even say the word. Tears are on the brink of my lids. I keep them at bay, refusing to let them fall. Instead, I close my eyes and take a breath. When I look at him, the fury rises again.
"Bryant, I don't want to be your friend," I say through clenched teeth. "I want to be your woman; the love of your life.”
There’s that sympathetic look in his eyes again. Anger wasn’t working, so I tried another approach.
“What about when you said our relationship would last? ‘A clear blue sky and green meadows’ is what you called it.”
“What’s so complicated? Either you love me or you lied!”
“You didn't love me!" He shouts back. The couple now gets up and leaves. The barista gives us a disapproving look but finishes a customer's order.
His words shock me. “Bryant, how could you say I didn’t love you?”
“I got one better for you, Joce, how and when was I supposed to know you did?”
I open my mouth, but no words come out. I want to deny what he said, but my brain freezes. Finally, I find words.
“Bryant I was with you…”
He interrupts me, “That’s not the same as loving someone. Some people are with people, not because they love them, but simply because they’re lonely.”
My eyes narrow. “Are you saying I’m lonely?”
Again, no words.
“Jocelyn, do you have any idea how it feels to be with someone for an entire year and never hear them say they love you? Not even once?”
I shrink in my seat. His words punch me right in the gut; especially so, since I couldn’t confidently respond to his question. My eyes fall.
“Exactly. You didn’t love me, Jocelyn. I’ve met someone who does.”
I was convinced that a slap in the face would have hurt less. Tears are back on the brink. I’m not sure I can hold them in much longer.
“But Bryant, I do love you.”
I frown. “All of the time.”
“No. When did you realize you loved me?”
“When you left.”
His eyes are still locked with mine as he leans forward, peering into my soul.
“So it took you over a year after I had left for you to realize you love me?”
The words sting. What stings, even more, is the fact that I can’t deny it.
"Bryant, what does that have to do with anything. Okay. It took me a while."
“You let me go, remember? So I began seeing someone else. Regina is…”
I cut him off, “Oh? It has a name?”
He rolls his eyes and leans back in his chair. He’s irritated with me, but I don’t care. The feeling is mutual.
“Jocelyn, I didn’t come here to fight with you.”
“Then why did you come here? You’ve already moved on.”
He winces at my words but doesn’t deny them.
“I came to tell you that even though our relationship didn’t work, I want us to remain friends.”
His words slice through me once again.
“And to give you this.”
He hands me an envelope with my name written in pretty cursive writing. Inside is a card. While there are many words, the ones that stand out are February second, Bryant Xavier Millstone, and Regina Marion Hill. My eyes meet his. Once again, I’m speechless.
“I’d like you to be there.”
“People in hell want ice water.”
He sighs. His expression covered with defeat.
I look back down at the invitation and stuff it back into the envelope. I quickly rise.
“Where are you going?” He asks.
“I have to go home and feed my cat.”
He frowns. “Since when did you get a cat?”
I ignore him and wrap my scarf around my neck. He grabs my hand.
“Joce, don’t do this.” He pleads.
Tears at bay I reply, “It’s already done.”
As I walk out of the coffee shop and into the sharpness of the wind, I give myself credit for holding out as long as I did. Not a single tear fell for one whole block. Who was I kidding? If a break didn’t work for Ross and Rachel, why in the hell did I think it would work for me?
Two months later…
I look at myself in the full-length mirror. The plum wrap dress made me look quite regal. I guess it would have been inappropriate to wear white. I started to wear black, but my mom said that would have been petty. Black pumps adorn my feet, and I have on new jewelry. Today is the big day.
I look gorgeous on the outside. My insides however, resemble a knotted shoelace as my heart slowly crumbles. I hadn’t spoken with Bryant since the day I stormed out of the coffeehouse. I had resolved that there was no way in hell I would attend his big day. Pride forced me to change my tune.
I replayed that conversation many times. In my dreams, however, it went differently. There was no her, and without her, there would be no today. I realized he was right. I should have told him how I felt. I shouldn't have allowed fear to keep me trapped. If I hadn't, maybe today would have been our day.
I had just finished placing my lip gloss on when the doorbell rang. That was my date, Erik. Erik Jones could have been an average-height basketball player with rich golden-brown skin. He wore long dreads that made him look ultra-sexy. Even though most women would have found him quite handsome, he wasn’t my type, but he was attractive in a classic sort of way, and he could afford to rent a tux. No way was I going to this shindig solo. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I take a breath and make my way downstairs.
I open the door, and there he is standing in a black three-piece suit with a white vest. His shirt is unbuttoned at the collar, but his jacket is open fully. The black and silver striped tie looks as if he threw it around his neck in a hurry, but never tied it. My eyes drink in the sight of him. Even disheveled, he looks absolutely gorgeous. His toned frame fills out the suit perfectly. His chiseled jaw is set with a serious expression. His gaze is intense, as if the weight of the world is on his shoulders. I want to feel nothing for this incredibly handsome man. My body, however, reacts in protest, and my emotions begin to betray me as well. This is the last thing I had expected.
“Bryant, what are you doing here?”
He steps closer to the threshold. His eyes now filled with fervor.
“We need to talk.”
Perplexed, with a sprinkle of optimism, I nod and allow him to step inside.