When we part, he gifts me with another one of his perfect smiles. “Don’t be a stranger,” he says before disappearing inside. I know I have a ridiculous grin on my face and I don’t care. There’s no one around to see it.
Once I’m home, I can’t stop thinking about him. Did I thank him for lunch? I’m pretty sure I did, but I should text him just in case. It’s an excuse to talk to him, I know, but when you want something bad enough it’s easy to talk yourself into doing it—like cheating on a diet or buying shoes you know you can’t afford. He’s becoming that thing that I want even though I know I shouldn’t. I have the worst willpower. Actually, I have no willpower, especially when it comes to Max.
As I’m going through my contacts to find his name, I see Kia’s number right there, and just seeing her name again makes my heart wrench. We never went a day without texting each other or calling just to say hi. Now I’ll go days without getting a text from anyone. I never realized just how much of my time was spent with her until she was gone. Life is a whole lot lonelier without her.
I put the phone down, afraid I will lose it if I keep staring at her name in my contacts. Her number has been disconnected by now. I can’t even call it anymore just to listen to her greeting on her voicemail. There’s no reason to keep her number on my phone but I can’t bring myself to delete it because it feels as though I’m trying to get rid of her. I’ve even saved all of our texts just to remember how we were together, the jokes, the general silliness of our indelible friendship.
I decide not to text Max after all. Suddenly I feel guilty. In all that time I spent with Max, I wasn’t thinking about how much I miss her. I know that’s what she would want for me. She wasn’t the type of person to expect someone to wallow in grief. More than once she told me all she wanted was for me to be happy. She was so selfless, which is why I need to be the same for her and finish her bucket list without distraction. It was obviously important to her if she went out of her way to plan it out so I got her envelopes after her death.
I grab Pride and Prejudice and for the rest of my day off, I read. I’m so engrossed in the novel that the rest of the world disappears. I still have several chapters left to go, but my eyes burn to the point where I have to stop reading for a while. My mind starts to wander and I picture myself as Elizabeth Bennet, and Kia as her sister, Jane. In this fantasy of mine, we both find true love and get our happily ever afters. Max definitely makes a hot Darcy. But I guess if Kia were still alive, Max would be her Darcy. Even though it was her idea for me to sleep with him, it still feels a little like I’m doing something horrible behind her back. I mean, she was the one who wanted him; enough for him to be on her bucket list.
I have to get out of my head. All this guilt isn’t doing anyone any good and it’s just making me feel worse.
I close the book with a sigh and set it on my chest. Though Pride and Prejudice was on Kia’s bucket list, it’s as though the book was tailor made for my tastes. She was far less of a romantic. In fact, I’m pretty sure she would roll her eyes at this point in the book. For me, Pride and Prejudice is exactly what I need.
It’s ten. Max’s shop will have just closed for the night if I’m remembering the sign of the store hours correctly. Setting aside the guilt I’ve been feeling, I text him to tell him how much I love the book and that it’s unfortunate I won’t be able to do much reading on account of work.
We end up texting all night. We talk about our favorite movies and work and our lives in general. I learn he always wanted to be an artist and his childhood heroes were Da Vinci and Dali. He likes classical music and death metal, and he learned sign language so he could communicate with one of his regular customers who’s deaf. He’s nothing like I expected. He’s kind of wonderful, actually. There are no signs left of the asshole who confronted me when I first walked into the shop. It’s like it was a totally different person.
I’m getting tired and my eyes are straining to read the blurry screen. When I look at the time, it’s after three in the morning, and I have to be at work in four hours.