My heart was pounding. I hadn't seen Jeff in over a year even though we had made numerous attempts to meet at our special spot. The last time we tried, Jeff's jeep broke down and the money he would have spent on our meeting ended up going to his transmission. I couldn't make sense of the way he had changed. It's not like he didn't love me anymore, but he just wasn't the same. Something subtle had crept over him. His letters were awkward. And even his voice sounded different like he had been sick or something.
"Are you sure you're going to be there?" I asked and fumbled with my phone charger cord that was too short to reach my phone from where I was sitting. It was raining outside and the noise against the metal roof of my house made it hard to hear Jeff trip over his words with his answer.
"Yeah...of course, I'll be...I mean, you know I can't wait to see you."
I hesitated. "Is there something you need to tell me?"
"What is going on? I know I keep asking you, but you're just...different."
"Nah, nah. I'm good. Just tired is all."
"I'm just making sure. I took the time off from my job and class. I won't be able to do that again for a while after this."
"I got you. It's all good."
The drive to the hotel took the better part of the day, but I was glad to not have to cancel the trip this time.
After I got checked into the hotel, I got on my laptop to take a better look at the National Park Jeff said he wanted to take me to. His gesture was so romantic, but I was worried it was going to be too cold to picnic there. Fantasies of marriage proposals danced through my mind, and it made me smile.
"Girl! I bet he's gonna pop the question. Mmm-hmm. You better have good underwear on and your hair did!" Allie squealed. She was my BFF and was always trying to play fairy Godmother with my love life.
"Ugh, I'm nervous. I haven't seen him in so long."
"Yeah, well get ready to have your head explode. You know he's gonna keep you in bed all night!"
"Allie! You're too much!" I blushed and we laughed.
Jeff was supposed to meet me at the bar of the hotel so I got off the phone with Allie and headed to the bathroom to get ready. I brought three different types of eyeliner just in case, and a premium highlighter I had just gotten in the mail that was on backorder. I needed to look my best, and that also meant I needed to smell my best too. Three long pumps of perfume mist hit my face, chest, and bikini area.
"Hey, gorgeous," Jeff said in a deep raspy voice. "Did you make it to the hotel?"
He sure knew how to put a big smile on my face. "Yes, I was just getting ready." I could hear noise and other male voices in the background. "Where are you?"
There was only a short pause before he answered me, but clearly, someone was there with him, which was confusing because he was supposed to be at the hotel too. "Huh?" He asked. He wasn't paying attention.
"Where are you?" I asked and moved over to the window of my room to look out at the parking lot below. The wind had kicked up and the well-manicured trees lining the sidewalk danced in the blustery gusts.
"I'll be there soon. I'll meet you in the lobby." Jeff said in a hurried voice.
"Wait, I thought you were meeting me in the bar?"
"Alright, I'll see you soon. Love you." He replied and I could hear laughter in the background.
"Wait, where?" I wanted to clarify but he hung up before he heard me.
What the hell?
I took the elevator down to the main floor level and made my way over to the lobby. Only a couple small sections of floral print sofa chairs were available to sit in by the gas fireplace. The lobby was busy but not as busy as I would have expected it to be for a weekend.
I waited, and waited some more. I must have looked at my phone a half dozen times, but nothing came through except the bluish-white neon glow of the time. No texts. No calls. No communication.
Where are you?
I went from confusion to worry to downright anger. I couldn't understand why he stood me up. Of all times to stand me up, why did he make me drive all that way to not show up? I had taken time off of work and class, and that wasn't cheap! I was so furious by the time I went back to my room, that my face had turned beat red.
Ding. A text came through.
"Where are you?" It was from Jeff.
"What do you mean where am I? I waited for two hours for you in the lobby, and you didn't show up! Where am I? Where are YOU?" I texted back, and all I could think of was how he was acting, which was just like he used to during his party days. Is that why there were other guys in the background?
I waited for a reply but nothing else came through. I tried to call but it went to voicemail immediately. I wasn't sure if I should leave, or stay, or try and figure out what type of game he was playing. I had spent a year listening to excuses as to why he couldn't or wouldn't show up to our meeting place. And when we finally had gotten to a point where we could make it happen, he ghosted me.
Thank goodness, it was a real friend this time. "Allie, he ghosted me!" I admitted through angry tears. "Allie? Hello?" Static was all that replied.
What is going on?
Ring, ring- This time it was the hotel desk calling on the phone in my room. "Hello?"
"Ma'am, we're so sorry, but we overbooked your room and we only have a vacancy for you for two days instead of three. But we are happy to accommodate you with one of our better rooms at no additional cost. It's a suite on our fourth floor."
"Oh, okay. Actually, I don't know if I'll be staying the full three days." I said and went to the bathroom to pack up my makeup I had left on the counter.
"We're sorry to hear about that ma'am. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you a refund for the overbooked day, but we are happy to offer you a credit voucher for a future stay with us."
"Um, okay. You know, I'll just take the room upgrade. Yeah, that sounds good actually." If I was going to be ghosted, and already had the time off from everything, I was going to make the most of it. Jeff was not going to ruin the trip I had worked so hard to take.
"Of course, ma'am. We'll make the arrangements for you. Thank you. Please let us know if there's anything else we can do for you."
I hung up the phone and wanted to vomit. I could sit there and dwell on the obvious cause of my sudden mistery, or, I could make the most of my night instead. I decided to freshen myself up and go down to the bar anyway. If I was going to stay, I was going to grab a drink like I had intended.
"What'll ya have?" The bartender asked.
"Oh, oh wow." I muttered to myself and cleared my throat. He was cute! "Uh, what do you have on tap?"
Unfortunately, I didn't hear a single word he said because I was so distracted by his Brittish accent, so I just pointed to the beer on tap I thought I'd enjoy the most.
"You got it. We're closing in a half hour just to let you know."
"Oh, okay." I replied but I couldn't really hide my disappointment. The last thing I felt like doing was hide in my room and dwell on the misery of my life.
The rest of the night was a bit of a blur but I blamed that on the three beers and two shots I drank before I was kicked out. I did at least get some kind of satisfaction from going on social media and blocking Jeff from all my accounts.
My hangover wasn't the worst I had had. But before I had an opportunity to reach for a pain reliever for my headache, my phone blew up with texts from Jeff.
"Go away Jeff!" I yelled into my pillow. The curtains were still drawn closed so I had no idea what time it was. When I realized it was the middle of the day, I felt dreadful. I slept half the day away!
Ring, ring- It was Jeff for the third time. This time I answered his call.
"Where are you?" Jeff asked. He was furious.
"Why don't you tell me where you are? I waited for you all night but you never showed up. You never called me. And all my calls to you went to voicemail. You wanna tell me why you turned your phone off?" I barked but immediately regretted it, because it made my head hurt worse.
"My phone was on all night. I've been looking for you."
"Apparently not hard enough." I jabbed.
"Look, I don't know what game you're playing, but I'm not going to play it. "
"You're the one playing games. I booked this hotel two months ago. I told you where I was going to be!" I shouted.
"And that's where I"m at!" He shouted back.
"Fine, tell me then, what hotel are you at?"
"Ambrosia Inn, just like you told me."
"Yeah, that's where I'm at. Look, I don't know what game you're playing, but I'm done. I spent everything to make this happen, and I'm not doing it again. We're done!" I shouted and started to cry but did my best to cover the sounds of it.
Jeff never said another word. He hung up and didn't call again. I couldn't believe I had fallen for his games. All I could think of was how we had first met when he used to brag about all the women that came and in and out of his life. He was so proud of himself for the way he'd seduce them, and then leave them hanging.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to make the most of my trip, and see if the cute bartender was working again. He was.
"Hey, what'll have?" He asked and met me with the most heart-melting smile. Again, I just pointed to a beer on tap I thought I'd like, and fell into the present moment of where I was. No classes. No teachers. No bosses. Just me, and the bartender staring back at me. The air felt electrified, and for the first time in a long time I felt desired.
Ben decided to ask me out that night, and I couldn't resist his invitation. Ironically, he insisted on taking me to the National Park the next day, which happened to be his next day off. He wanted to have a picnic, so I didn't miss out on one of the things I looked forward to most.
Ben and I hit it off almost immediately. We never ran out of things to say, and there was no awkward silence between us, even though we had just met.
It wasn't until we got to the lookout point of the park that my life came to a screeching halt.
"Jenna?" A voice called out to me. Who in the world would know my name out there? Ben and I turned around.
"Oh my God," I uttered. It was impossible. It couldn't be.
"So is this why you didn't show up?" Jeff challenged and immediately postured himself to get ready to fight.
"What are you doing here? You stood me up!" I yelled.
"You know what? You're not worth it. All my friends told me you were playing me. I guess they were right." Jeff said and spit at Ben's shoes. He puffed up his chest and rolled up his sleeves.
"Jeff! What are you talking about?" I shouted and started to cry. Ben was confused and wasn't sure if he wanted to leave or stay. He knew I had waited for Jeff to show, who never did. But he also didn't really know me. So it was clear from the look on his face he wasn't sure if I was telling the truth.
"Hey dude, I know she waited for you but you didn't show up." Ben said to Jeff and tried to calm the situation.
"Ambrosia Inn, South. See? You told me this is where you were going to be." Jeff said and brought up the map on his GPS. "I waited all night in the bar for you."
We all looked at each other and Ben looked over at me. By now, I expected my mascara was smeared under my eyes and my nose was glowing bright red. I hated the way I looked when I cried.
"Jenna, we're at Ambrosia Inn, North." Ben said.
"North?" I said and looked at Jeff. He was so furious he couldn't look at me. Up until then, I had accepted the reality that Jeff and I were done. "You mean, we went to different hotels, thinking we went to the same one?" I added.
Jeff looked at me with the biggest look of disappointment and I couldn't help but keep my resentments for him too. He had still turned his phone off and didn't call me until the next day. "My phone died. I expected to see you, so I didn't go up to my room to charge it until it was so late. By then, I decided not to call you."
"I don't know what to say." I admitted and looked over at Ben. Then I looked at Jeff.
Ben looked at me with an expression of caution and I could feel him pull away, which was the last thing I wanted him to do.
"Jeff, I gave you so many opportunities to be with me. I know I sent you the right directions. I"m sorry, but this isn't going to work. We're done." I said. I couldn't believe I said that to him, after so long of wanting nothing but to be with him. But I said it none the less. I meant it too. I saw him standing there and other than feeling horrible, I didn't feel the need to make things right. I was so hurt by him. This last situation was the last straw. Whether it was intentional or not, he left me hanging because the timing was off, the meeting was off, and we crossed paths without even meeting in the middle. I was one that believed in signs and I was done trying to make a square block fit in a round hole.
Jeff rolled his eyes, gave me the middle finger, and walked off. I felt sick but knew I made the right choice to not stop him. I looked over to Ben, and he stepped over to comfort me with a gentle hug. "Do you like barbeque? " He asked.
I smiled and put my arms around him. "I do." His chest was so warm and it was exactly what I needed to feel okay.
Ben reached up and stroked my chin with his fingers, and then leaned in for a soft kiss. "Everything happens for a reason." He said and he was right. I put my phone on silent, threw it in my pocket, and stood there with Ben overlooking the expansive vistas before us.
I went on my trip to meet my love after all that time waiting, and as fate would have it, I did meet him after all.