And as much as it hurt to hear, as inadequate as it made me feel at the time—he was right.
I’m not that girl anymore.
I drag my eyes from his shirt to his face. “Billy . . .”
he puts his finger to my lips, brushing them softly. he closes his eyes and takes a breath. Neither of us moves for a moment, caught up for a few final seconds in the enchantment of the past.
Then he speaks, breaking the spell. “Being here with you? It’s awesome. As good as I remember—better, even. It feels . . . it feels like we got to take a ride in the DeLorean.” his hand holds my face tenderly. “But it’s okay, Kate. It was just for a minute. And now we’re back to the future. It doesn’t have to mean anything more than that. It doesn’t have to change what we have now, ’cause that’s pretty awesome too.”
I nod, relieved. Thankful that Billy knows what I feel without me having to say the words. And that he feels the same.
he smiles. “I should get you home, before Carol calls out the dogs. Or worse—Amelia.”
I chuckle. And hand in hand, we leave the roller-skating rink and all of its memories behind.
Twenty minutes later, Billy pulls into the back parking lot of my mother’s diner. We sit in the truck silently, side by side.
“You want me to walk you up?”
“No—it’s all right. I can manage.”
he nods slowly. “So . . . is there gonna be like . . . weirdness between us now? Because we tongue-wrestled for a couple minutes?”
Like I said before—Billy always did have a way with words.
“No. No weirdness. No worries.”
he needs further confirmation. “You still my girl, Katie?”
he doesn’t mean in the girlfriend way. he means in the friend—the best friend, who happens to be a girl—kind of way. In case you were wondering.
“I’ll always be your girl, Billy.”
“Good.” he turns his head to the windshield and looks out.
“You should really think about California. I think it would be a nice change for you. A clean break.”
he’s right, in a way. California would be a blank page for me.
No memories. No painful run-ins. No awkward conversations.
And with my résumé, I don’t foresee finding a new job to be too much of a problem.
That being said . . . I have connections in New York. Roots.
And I’m not sure I want to sever all of them. So like every other aspect of my life at the moment, I don’t know what the hell I want to do.
Sound like a broken record, don’t I? Sorry.
I put my hand over his on the gearshift. “I’ll think about it.”
he puts his other hand on top of mine. “You’ll figure it out, Kate—I know you will. And it gets better. You won’t hurt like this forever. I speak from experience.”
I smile gratefully. “Thanks, Billy. For everything.” Then I climb out of the truck and he drives away.
After letting my mother know I’m back, I head to my room. I shut the door behind me and lean against it. Exhausted.
Talk about a long frigging day.
My mother’s cleaned my room. Not that it was messy before, but I can tell. The pillows are fluffed just a bit more, and my cell phone sits neatly on the nightstand.
I kick off my shoes, pick it up, and turn it on. Despite my hissy fit earlier, it still works. I stare at the numbers. They’re lit up. Calling to me. Taunting me.
It would be so easy. Just ten quick digits and I could hear his voice. It’s been forever since I heard his voice. My hands shake a little. Like a junkie, needing a fix—just a taste.
Do you think he’d pick up?
Do you think he’d be alone if he did?
And that’s the thought that kills the craving. There’s no way I’m calling.
Still . . . I don’t listen to my voicemails often. Usually I just check the missed call list. I delete my voicemails even less.
I scroll down the screen, to the date I need.
And press play.
“Hey, babe. The golf outing ran over. I was gonna stop and pick up a bottle for later. You want Dom or Philipponnat? You know what?
On second thought—screw the champagne. You taste better than both of them put together. I’ll be home in five minutes.”
I close my eyes and let his words wash over me. Drew has an amazing voice. Calm and soothing—but devilishly seductive at the same time. he totally could’ve gone into radio.
I press another button.
This time his tone is teasing. “Kaate, you’re late. Tell Delores to pick out her own goddamn shoes. You’ve got a boyfriend who’s sitting in a big, frothy Jacuzzi all by his lonesome. Come home, sweetheart. I’m here waiting for you.”
If only that was true today.
There’s more—some are quick and to the point, some are downright dirty. And I listen to every single one. he doesn’t say “I love you” in any of them—but he doesn’t have to. I hear it in every word. Every time he says my name.
And I can’t help but wonder how this all happened? how did we get here? And can we ever go back?
I don’t cry. There just aren’t any tears left. I curl up in the middle of my bed. And Drew’s voice lulls me to sleep.
The next afternoon, Billy and I are in the back room of the diner, sharing a plate of fries. he’s working on a new song and he thinks better on his feet.
See him there? Walking from one end of the room to the other, mumbling and humming, and occasionally strumming the guitar strapped across his chest?
I sit at the table. Trying to think my way out of the pit of despair that is now my life.
As Billy crosses toward the door that leads to the diner, something catches his eye in the round window at the top. And he backs away. “Oh, shit.”
I look up. “What? What’s wrong?”
Then the door bursts open. It slams against the wall and then stays in place—afraid to move an inch. Because there, standing in the doorway in all her pissed-off glory, is my best friend.
Oh, shit indeedy.
She’s wearing red knee-high leather boots, tight black pants, an embellished black top, and a short, black-and-white faux fur jacket. A myriad of Louis Vuitton bags hang off her shoulders, matching the large wheeled one trailing behind her.
And the anger in her amber eyes makes them sparkle like freshcut topaz stones . “Does someone want to tell me why I had to hear from my mother that there was a Three Musketeers’ reunion going on in Greenville that I wasn’t invited to?”