Over the next two hours, Justin and I just talked, opening up about the things that we’d missed in each other’s lives. I found out that before he moved to New York, he’d actually completed a semester at Berklee College of Music in Boston but couldn’t afford to continue. His parents had refused to fund his education if he chose to major in music. Instead, he moved to New York and took odd jobs and gigs until he eventually went back to school, majoring in business with a minor in music. He told me he met his ex-girlfriend Olivia a few years after he moved there. They lived together for a couple of years and stayed friends even after he broke up with her. She’d been his only serious girlfriend before Jade. He said Jade believes that the ex wants to get back with him, even though Olivia’s with someone else now. In between those two relationships, he’d slept around with his fair share of women. I appreciated his being candid with me, but it still hurt to hear that.
I told him stories about my time at UNH and how I chose to major in education because it felt like a solid choice, not because it was something I was passionate about. I admitted that even though I enjoyed teaching, it felt like there was something missing, something else I was supposed to be doing with my life that I hadn’t figured out yet.
Amped up on the coffee, we had literally talked through the night. I was still wearing the black dress from my date. At one point, I went upstairs to use the bathroom. When I came back down to the kitchen, he was sitting on a stool by the window, tooling around with his guitar.
The sun was starting to rise over the ocean. His back was facing me as he started playing Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles. I leaned against the doorway, listening to his soothing voice. The more I paid attention to the lyrics, the more they seemed metaphorical. The past decade had been like a long season of darkness and regret when it came to Justin and me. This reconnection was really like the sun coming up again for the first time in a long time. Of course, he’d probably just chosen to sing it because the sun was literally rising. Still, I couldn’t help where my mind travelled, especially on no sleep.
Stop falling in love with him again, Amelia.
How exactly was I supposed to change how I felt? I couldn’t. I just needed to learn to accept that Justin was with Jade. He was happy. I needed to somehow figure out how to be his friend again without getting hurt in the process.
When the song finished, he turned around and saw that I’d been watching him.
I walked over to where he was sitting and gazed out. “The sunrise is beautiful today, isn’t it?”
“Really beautiful,” he agreed, except he wasn’t looking at the sun at all.
Jade was arriving tomorrow, and that was making me feel very much on edge.
I needed to talk to someone, so I coerced my friend and co-worker, Tracy, to come for a visit to the island. She met me for lunch at the Brick Alley Pub in town. I hadn’t seen Tracy since right after the school year ended. With her kids’ busy summer schedules, she hadn’t been able to break away until now.
The first half of our lunch date was spent over nachos, giving her the full back story of my history with Justin and rehashing what had happened at the beach house up until now.
“God, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes,” she said. “What are you going to do?”
“What can I do?”
“You could tell him how you feel about him.”
“He’s with Jade, and she’s a really good person. I can’t try to make a play for him right under her nose if that’s what you mean. I won’t do that.”
“But he obviously wants you.”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“Come on…the song he dedicated to you? Sure, he didn’t know you heard it, but clearly he’s got lingering feelings.”
“Lingering feelings are one thing…acting on them is totally another. He’s not going to leave his gorgeous, talented, Broadway star girlfriend, who’d been there for him when I wasn’t, just because some old feelings were rekindled. Jade’s a great girl.”
“But she’s not you. He’s always wanted you. You’re the one that got away.”
“I’m the one that ran away. He won’t forget that. He might learn to forgive me, but I don’t know that he’ll ever fully trust me. It’s not fair of me to expect him to.”
“You’re being too hard on yourself. You were a kid.” Tracy took a bite of her corn chip and spoke with her mouth full, “You said you’re not selling the house, right?”
“No. We agreed to keep it. That’s what Nana would want.”
“Then whether he stays with Jade or not, this house is going to bind the two of you forever. Do you really want to spend every summer for the rest of your life watching the man you love moving on with other women?”
My heart felt like it was breaking in two. Flashes of many summers turning into winters ran through my mind on fast forward. The idea of that sounded daunting. Year after year of unrequited love for someone I couldn’t have was not something I wanted to endure.
“You’re not helping my dilemma. I was hoping you’d talk some sense into me, help me realize that I need to accept things the way they are and move on.”
“But that’s not really what you want, is it?”
No. No, it isn’t.
Tonight was my night off. I didn’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved that I’d be missing Justin play. We’d kept our distance since the all-nighter. It was for the best, since things were teetering on inappropriate that night—at least in my head they were.
Tracy decided to stick around and spend the night at the beach house. With Justin out of the house, she had the bright idea that we should buy some liquor and have a girls’ night in.
We arrived at the house with a paper bag full of tequila, limes and coarse salt. My stomach dropped when I spotted Justin’s car in the driveway.
He was supposed to be working. What was he doing home?
“Shit. Justin’s home.”
“I thought he was working,” she said.
Justin was nowhere to be found when we walked in the door. I dropped the bag on the kitchen counter and went to show Tracy the upper deck. That’s where we found Justin sitting, smoking a cigar with his legs up on the balcony as he looked out toward the water. His hair was wet, like he’d just taken a dip in the ocean. He was shirtless. The top of his boxer briefs was sticking out of his jeans. He looked like a freaking Calvin Klein ad. Tracy’s mouth practically hit the floor when she got a look at him.
“What are you doing here? I thought you were playing at the restaurant.”
Smoke billowed out of his mouth. “I was supposed to be. But the place almost burned down.”
“There was a kitchen fire this afternoon. When I showed up, they told me they had to close to air out the entire restaurant. They won’t be reopening for another week at least. It doesn’t look like I’ll get to play there again before I leave.”
“Holy shit. Did anyone get hurt?”
“No, but Salvatore was a fucking wreck.” He glanced over at Tracy. “Who’s this?”
“This is Tracy, a good friend from Providence and a teacher at my school. She came down to spend the day with me. She’s gonna sleep over tonight.”