Will shook his dark head, looking so downtrodden that I picked up Tom and sat next to him. The cat made a small mew and walked across my lap to his master.
“I can’t. You’ve seen what happens when I’m off them.”
Something stirred in my chest as I looked at him. It was selfish of me, but I wanted the old Will back, the one who constantly invaded my personal space and who was impulsive and said the wrong things. My heart hammered as I let my hand fall on his arm.
He went rigid under me. “I meant what I said, Natalie. About being professional.”
My cheeks burned, but I didn’t let go of him. “B—but—”
“I know what kind of girl you are,” he said, sliding his arm out from under me.
“What?” My heart sank at the look he gave me.
“You’re just fishing for the most eligible bachelor so that you can please your parents. You’re toying with the possibility of going back to your ex, and you’re playing around with me. That’s why you lied about me. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t interest me at all.”
The cold, hard rejection slapped me across the face. I couldn’t breathe. The tears fell fast and before I knew it, I was sputtering an apology.
His eyes widened when he realized what he had done. “Oh, shit. Natalie—”
I stood up from the chair and ran to the bathroom; to the one place he couldn’t follow me. Once I closed the door, I burst into noisy tears and quickly grabbed a handful of paper towels to stifle my sobs.
Am I five years old? Why am I crying over a guy rejecting me?
Maybe it was because I had blown it with a man who should have been way over my league. William had seen enough of me and decided rather quickly that I wasn’t what he was looking for. I was not good enough for him. Man, did that fucking hurt.
“Natalie, I’m sorry,” he said through the door.
What happened to the guy who came to the restaurant?
It was startling how little control I had over my emotions, and I suddenly wished for my own magic pill that would make me not care. It was so embarrassing. I could hear it in his voice. Oh, poor girl. I didn’t mean to make her upset—I just told her the truth!
I hated myself in this moment. I looked in the small, rectangular mirror and wanted to punch my worthless face. Grow up. Grow the fuck up and stop being so pathetic. I wiped my face angrily.
“Natalie,” he kept knocking. “Natalie!”
I opened the door to see Will standing in front of it, looking stricken. “What?” He flinched at my tone. “Look, that was uncalled for. I’m really sorry.” He raked his hands through his hair and I couldn’t help but admire the muscles shifting under his t-shirt. “Can we just start over? Can we just be friends?”
“Really? You’re going to give me that line?”
“I wasn’t trying to hit on you. I was just being nice. There’s no need to be so cruel.”
Will’s face blazed like the setting sun. He let out a tortured moan. “I know, I’m really sorry. I’m in a really weird mood.”
I sighed angrily. It was more important to get along with him. “Fine,” I said, sticking out my hand for him to shake.
His chest heaved with a sigh and he smiled in relief. He took my hand and squeezed it.
Just friends. That’s what you wanted anyways, wasn’t it?
It was time to stop pining over the men in my life. I wasn’t going to chase after men anymore, not until I figured out what I wanted. This trip is going to be fun. I was going to be an adult and move on. That’s it. Professional relationship.
You don’t interest me at all.
My smile fumbled and the slightest quiver shook my bottom lip. I’ve never been hurt like that in my life, and it was going to be the last fucking time.
That’s what I told myself, at least.
Will kept a civil attitude the entire flight without a single sarcastic comment. I suspected that guilt was eating through his insides, though if this was how the rest of our trip was going to be; I was in for a lot of boredom. Ironic, really. I was determined to get along with Will. This wasn’t going to ruin the trip. I would have a fantastic time—so what if he didn’t want me? But it was slightly depressing to be so close to him.
I followed Will through the confusing maze that was Heathrow International, Tom the cat occasionally let out the smallest of meows in his cage propped on our luggage. We were getting a lot of weird looks.
“Where are we going first?”
He glanced back at me. “Um, first we need to get to Paddington station.”
The train in Paddington would take us to Cheltenham, and afterwards we needed to rent a car to take us to the first location of our British tour: the Cotswolds.
I was a bit sad to leave London. After months of listening to Jessica rave about the city, it was hard leaving it behind. I’ll come back, someday.
William had clearly been here before. Within minutes, we were speeding away on the Heathrow Express and arrived shortly at Paddington station. We disembarked the train to find ourselves under a massive dome. I caught my first glimpse of the London Underground. Hundreds of people milled around the ground floor, buying coffee and pastries from the stalls and relaxing in chairs. On a glass table, a flock of pigeons attacked an abandoned muffin. I was surprised to see a shopping mall within the train station, but I followed Will across the platform to the train that would take us to Cheltenham.
My energy should have been completely shot, but I was really excited to be traveling to the first location where I would think of a concept for my first design. It was going to be really labor intensive. Will wanted the websites to be redesigned, so I would be creating banners, avatars, and logos. I also would design the newsletters and draft write-ups for each location. It was exciting. I’d never had such a huge project before.
As we approached the train, Will handed me my ticket. As promised, I was going to be riding coach.
“Well, see you when we get there.”
Will rolled his eyes at me, as if he could hardly believe that someone could be so slow. “I’m riding in the same car, Natalie. I didn’t actually buy first class tickets for myself and not you.”
He chuckled to himself and walked down the length of the train. I sighed and followed him. Well, at least he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
Inside the train, we took seats that had a table so that Tom could sit on top. His yellow eyes glowed through the slits of the cage. A plaintive, low meow warbled through the recycled air.