“Okay,” I moved the fajitas to the side so I could see her clearly. “Okay. It was with Aaron.” This was fine. This would be fine. This mini-eruption of emotion would pass and we would be back to having lunch, laughing over the insanity of it all.
“Ummm,” I place a tortilla on my plate in an attempt to buy time. “After his divorce.”
“After the divorce that just happened?” She spoke in very precise tones, like a trial attorney who was laying a trap.
I looked through the words for any bombshells, then answered truthfully. “Yes.”
“After that, but before he moved in with me,” she confirmed, her tone growing even colder.
She shook her head slowly, her face turning grey. “Elle, this is not okay.”
“Not okay?” I stared at her, still not quite understanding her reaction. “What do you mean?”
“You and E had a threesome with Aaron?” Her voice grew shrill. “How do you not understand that that is not okay?”
“Because…” I searched for the true source of her anger. “Because it’s fine? Because we’re three consenting adults? It wasn’t cheating. His divorce was final.”
“Right. After his divorce but before he moved out ten days later. So, what? Did you start to hump him on the way home from the courthouse?” Her face reached a new level of red, one I hadn’t seen before. “That’s swell. That’s just SWELL.”
My dread over revealing Aaron’s involvement turned a fresh corner and I hoped, I really, really hoped, that this emotion wasn’t coming from where I thought it was. “What are you so mad about?” I glanced around to see who was in earshot of this meltdown. “We—”
“Because I LIKE him, Elle.”
And… there it was. Made even worse now that I knew he was still hung up on Becca. Chelsea liked Aaron.
That’s why she was swearing off men.
That’s why she was losing weight.
That’s why, right now, her eyes were welling with tears.
How did I not see this? And why… why hadn’t she told me? She could have told me in Vegas, or when we found out about Becca’s cheating, or at any time in the last six years and I would have known. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have gone near him. I never would have told Easton that I liked him watching us fuck, and I never would have put myself in a situation where I knew what his dick tasted and fucked like. I closed my eyes and searched for a way out of this.
“I liked him—I like him—and you took him. It wasn’t enough that you had E. Perfect fuckin’ E. The guy that God handcrafted to check every single checkbox.” She jabbed her finger on the table with each strike against me. “You had to have Aaron too?”
“I—” I didn’t know what to say. And it didn’t seem like an appropriate time to mention that she had screwed Easton too. I glanced toward the exit and noticed every eye in the surrounding four tables, locked on us. “I didn’t take Aaron. You can have Aaron. You could have had Aaron.”
“I couldn’t have had Aaron because he was married, Elle.” She stated the fact as if I was stupid, and maybe I was, because I’d been elbow deep in this dynamic for eight years now and it felt like I’d just been hit in the face with a shovel. “And the minute, the actual nanosecond that he becomes single and lifts his head from Becca’s ass, you’re there. Naked. And it was probably hot. Full of sparks and chemistry and orgasms. How am I supposed to compete with that?”
I swallowed, fighting an overwhelming bubble of guilt and dread. How would I fix this? There was no way to fix this. Initially, I’d been worried that our threesome would dismantle E and me, but this was a new and horrifyingly opposite side effect, one that was almost as bad. “I—”
“Just fucking go. Seriously.” She pointed in the direction of the door and I watched the pale pink tip of her index finger as it trembled in the air.
“You want me to leave?”
Her finger remained suspended. “Yeah. I’m not fucking with you. Go.”
It was sixth grade all over again, when the cool kids told me I couldn’t sit at their table again because they found out I hadn’t started my period yet, and babies had to eat somewhere else. I slid my phone off the table and into my bag, working my way down the tight plastic booth. My fingers bumped against the still-sizzling iron skillet and I bit back a cry of pain. Lifting my hand, I sucked at the burnt flesh and stood.
Around us, there was pure silence.
“GO.” Chelsea pulled her glass closer to her and waved her hand in the air, dismissing me as if I was an annoying child. “Jesus. Stop staring at me.”