But then he’d crawled into bed with her in the middle of the night and put his arms around her and she’d broken down. All she’d wanted in that moment was to stay right there in his arms forever, to ignore everything in her head telling her this was never going to work and they were too different and wanted different things, and just give in to the warmth and security of his arms.
The impossibility of that had made her burst into tears. Her, Alexa Monroe, who never cried.
And when he said sweet things about making it work, she’d lost it completely and sobbed so hard she’d hiccupped. She knew what his version of “making things work” was—they’d just keep going the same way they’d been going for a while longer, a few more weeks, a month even, before she’d get his breakup speech and he’d disappear.
But she wanted so much for it to be true, that he did want to make it work for real. She wanted him to love her and for them to push through all of their problems together because they loved each other enough to be able to do it.
So she cried to mourn what could have been, how good his arms felt around her and his chest felt against her face, and how she would never get to feel that again. Her tears had revealed her feelings for him even more than words could have.
How humiliating. She’d cultivated her poker face for years, and in the most important moment she’d had in years, it had betrayed her in the worst possible way.
She’d woken up this morning with his arms still around her. She’d been too scared and ashamed to face him and have to see the look of pity on his face, or listen to his platitudes about how it wasn’t her, it was him, and how he hoped they could stay friends. So instead, she’d tiptoed out of his apartment early this morning and dragged her suitcase blocks away so she could get a cab to the airport.
Was that cowardly of her? Probably, but she’d rather be a coward than break down in front of him again, and in broad daylight this time, so he could see how bad she looked when she cried.
And then once she actually got to the airport, she had to pay way too much money to get her flight changed from her original one. Maddie, God bless her, had asked no questions when she’d texted her to pick her up from the airport.
Maddie was waiting at the curb when Alexa walked out of the airport. Maddie took a long look at her face when she got in the passenger seat.
“First: are we going to your house or my house?”
Alexa considered as Maddie drove out of the airport.
“Do you still need my car until you can pick yours up tomorrow? If so, my house.”
“Okay.” There was silence as Maddie got on the freeway toward Berkeley. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Alexa dropped her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes.
“I don’t know. I just want to be somewhere and not not cry.” She sighed. “I’ve spent the past five hours doing everything in my power to not cry. At his house, at the airport, on the plane.” She checked her phone again to see if he’d called. He hadn’t. “Now I can at least stop fighting it.”
Maddie reached for her hand and squeezed it.
“You want me to drive through In-N-Out on the way?”
“I’m not really hungry.”
Maddie shook her head.
“Now I know you’re in a bad place. I’m getting you In-N-Out whether you like it or not.”
When they walked through Alexa’s front door, everything in her house reminded her of Drew. The couch where he’d cried on her shoulder. The towel he’d stolen from the hotel for them to lie on in Dolores Park, now hanging up in her bathroom. The coffee table where he’d set her coffee while she was working. The hoodie that he’d left here on his impromptu trip and that she’d “forgotten” to bring back to him this weekend.
She lowered herself down on the couch and put her head in her hands.
“Lex.” She felt Maddie’s hand on her shoulder and leaned into it. Maddie wrapped her arms around her. They sat there like that on the couch for a while, not talking. Eventually, Alexa sighed.
“You were right—I want some French fries. You got us ketchup, right?”
“Of course.” Maddie ripped the bags open and unpacked the food on top of the makeshift place mats. “Now. Talk to me.”
Alexa dropped her head into her hands.
“Oh, Mad. I fucked it all up.”
Maddie pulled her head onto her shoulder.
“It was all going okay. I mean, we hadn’t talked about anything, but the weekend was fine. Great. And then we went to the 4th of July party.” She thought about the party, and the humiliation hit her all over again. “And all of these other women . . . They were so nice . . . but they said . . . and he didn’t . . . I’d had too much sangria but . . .” Oh, look, she was sobbing again. Maddie folded her into her arms and let her cry on her shoulder until she was too tired to cry anymore.
She sat up and took a sip of her drink and ate a handful of cold fries.
“I guess I should start over again.” She told Maddie the whole story, except for the part about the sex they’d had when she was weeping. That seemed too intimate, too personal, even to tell Maddie. She managed to get through the whole thing without crying, but she’d probably cried out all of her tears.
“Honey.” Maddie stroked her hair. “Alexa, I love you. I would do anything for you. You know that, right?”
She sighed and nodded. She’d heard this before from Maddie. Enough to know to worry about what was coming next.
“Okay. Why didn’t you just tell him how you felt about him? And tell him what you wanted? Why did you just disappear this morning?”
She pushed herself to the other side of the couch.
“I knew what he was going to say, okay? I didn’t need to hear it.”
Maddie looked at her. She didn’t smile, or raise her eyebrows, or tilt her head. She just looked at her and wouldn’t let her look away.
“I was scared! Is that what you want to hear? Okay, fine: I was scared to talk to him! I was scared I would pour out my heart and he would tell me he hoped we could stay friends, I was scared I would see in his face when I started talking that he felt sorry for me, I was scared I’d lay myself bare for nothing, and I was scared I would reveal my whole self to him and he would avert his eyes.” She sighed. “I was scared.”
Maddie wrapped her back up in a hug.
Alexa rested her head on Maddie’s shoulder. Oh, look, she did have more tears in there.
Maddie sat up.
“Does cookie dough ice cream go better with red or white wine?”
Alexa half laughed, half sobbed.
“I guess we’re about to find out.”
Drew saw Kat on his run, but he dodged behind a truck at the last minute to avoid her. He got home in as shitty a mood as when he’d left. He ordered an enormous Hawaiian pizza and opened a bottle of rum, mostly because Alexa hated both. By seven p.m. he never wanted to see another pineapple, but he finished the pizza just to spite her.
Not that she would ever know, but maybe somewhere she had a terrible taste in her mouth and it was thanks to him.
He dragged himself into the hospital on Tuesday morning and managed to avoid having a conversation with anyone but his patients and their parents until almost one o’clock. Of course that’s when Carlos burst into his office.
Fuck. He was grumpy and hungover. He didn’t need to deal with Carlos.
“Never learned to knock, huh?” He kept his head buried in his stack of files.
“How was the rest of your weekend? Everything cool with you and—”
Drew didn’t even want to hear her name.
“Leave it alone, Carlos.”
Carlos moved the stack of books Drew had put on the guest office chair to the floor and plopped down in the chair. Drew scowled. He’d left those books on the chair to keep anyone from sitting there. He should have known that that wouldn’t stop Carlos for a second.
“No, really, what happened? She looked pissed at the party even before you said—”
Drew looked up from the stupid files.
“I said leave it alone, Carlos.”