A little after it came out that I was back to seeing Rafe casually, I was called into the common area for a serious talk.
My roommates - Maddie, Charli, and Ariel, were putting me "on trial." It's a thing we do when one of us does something the others don't like. Sometimes it's for stupid things like getting a bad haircut, and sometimes it's... a little more dramatic than that.
I wasn't surprised, but I was a little irritated. Yes, we all know that Rafe is not the best possible person for me to be with. He's crass and annoying, immature and directionless. Sometimes that irritates me, and sometimes I'm sympathetic because I kind of see some of myself in him.
The charge: That I'm selling myself short by dating someone there's no future with. That I'm hurting myself and others by letting him have me whenever he wants without expecting much in return.
My defense: I'm a grown woman and I went into this with open eyes, and it's honestly prudish to say a woman can't enjoy casual sex without feeling like she's being taken advantage of.
Plus, he's not a bad guy. He's smart, he makes me laugh, and, let's not be modest here, he's a great lay.
Do I see myself settling down with him? No, of course not. But fate put me back into my mid-20's, biologically speaking - do I need to be with my soulmate right now? If so, where is he?
He and I know the deal. No commitment, no strings attached. We're honest about what we're doing. Last time, I got antsy because I was craving an emotional relationship he couldn't offer, plus I thought I was going back to the Inn. I had a year of solitude to see if I could make that emotional relationship, and... nothing.
Well, not nothing.
See, that was a big part of Maddie's case against, as she led the prosecution. She felt like I was short-changing Kevin, and that I had cut off any progress we were making toward true coupledom by dividing my attention between him and Rafe. Maddie "ships" me with Kevin.
I told her it wasn't going to happen - Kevin was a rock I couldn't budge. I put all my best moves on him and he never seemed to see me as more than a companion. Nothing I was doing with Rafe violated that arrangement or gave me any reason to feel bad.
"Okay then," she said. "Then why don't you talk to Kevin about it?"
That made me nervous.
Kevin knows that sometimes I'm not available, or that sometimes I have to hurry home for something, but I have never specified that it's so that I can sleep with another guy. I don't really think it's any of his business and he's never indicated to me that it would bother him. And yet, the idea of bringing it up to him did seem very... heavy.
I told him the next time I was over there. I was making risotto and he was watching, giving me those gooey eyes that, in another person would normally mean "I want to jump your bones right now." The guilt was gnawing at me.
"So..." I said as I stirred, "I think you should know I'm kind of seeing someone."
His gaze didn't break. A long pregnant pause held in the air.
"Go on..." he said, his voice hard to read the way men sometimes are.
"Well, it's not serious," I stammered nervously, "But, it's been a while. And I just didn't think to tell you because, well.. it's kind of private and I... wasn't sure what to say."
"Well," he twisted his lips, "You could say, 'So I'm kind of seeing someone.'"
"I mean, you and I are just... friends, right? You don't see me that way, do you?"
The answer took longer to give than I was comfortable with.
I started to say, "I man, you told me--"
"Yeah, yeah," he interrupted, "No, I know. It's fine," he said, in a tone that suggested maybe it's not fine.
"You and I have a really special friendship," I said, cringing inside at what I was babbling, "It was just obvious it wasn't anything... more than that."
"Yeah," he said, and got real quiet, and for a while I wondered if he was mad at me. I wanted to keep talking but I couldn't think of anything to say that didn't sound stupid.
Eventually, the food was done cooking. "Um hey," I said awkwardly, "Can you get some plates down for us?"
He snapped out of his trance. "Oh, yeah, of course. Sorry, I know my kitchen is built for people over 5 feet tall."
"Yeah, I'm used to it," I shrugged.
He set our places, and before the silence crept back in, he said, "I'm happy for you."
"That's what friends say, isn't it?"
"Only if they mean it."
He smiled, "I'm happy for you. I'm mad for myself, because you deserve... well, anything you want. Things haven't changed for me, Val. I mean,in some ways they have, because I could picture... you know. Maybe. Someday. I didn't want you to wait for me, though. I wish it could be me, but... it's not."
I didn't know how to respond to that.
Another long silence was brewing, when he asked, "So when you say it's not serious..."
"You really want to know?"
"I'm your friend, aren't I?"
"Well," I said, "It's really just sex. Sometimes breakfast. One or two dinners. I don't do this sort of thing with him."
"That's good to hear. You ever go ice skating with him?"
"I told you, I can't skate. I'll fall over," I laughed, referring to a previous conversation we had about going to Rockefeller Center together.
"I'll believe it when I see it," he snickered. "So, this guy..."
"We have a good vibe, but he's not boyfriend material. Plus, we work together, so I don't really feel the need to see that much more of him."
"You should quit," he said, apropos nothing.
"And do what?"
"Whatever you're going to do," he said. "You're gonna pour coffee the rest of your life?"
"Well, I was planning on marrying a rich single dad but that didn't work out," I snorted.
Unamused, he pressed on. "I'm serious. Quit your job. Take a business course. Open your own shop. Do more catering. Whatever you want. Please, you'll feel so much more rewarded."
"I... don't think I can," I sighed. "I have no money."
"And you never will at this rate," he scolded. "Weren't you saying you're about to spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgery?"
"Breast reduction surgery. I need it."
"Why not put that off and put that money towards some college courses?"
"Because I'd rather be physically comfortable and broke," I scoffed.
"I'll pay," he said. "Let me help you."
"The last thing I need is a white knight," I said. "Just let me live my life, okay?"
"Fine, no problem," he said.
I grew frustrated inside. He wasn't saying anything I didn't already think, but only I get to think those things. Ill quit the coffee shop when I'm good and ready. When I know what I want. It used to be, I would go from place to place and never think about the future. It was freeing, but I don't want to be that way anymore, so I don't want to quit on a whim only to decide I don't want to run my own business or go to school. And I definitely don't want to be told what to do by a guy I'm not even dating.
Part of me thinks I was just being sensitive - which bugs me because that makes me think this is a product of my gender and not how I am really supposed to be feeling. But God knows there was plenty of folks who thought they knew what was best for me when I was a man, and I didn't listen then either, it just bugged me less. So if my feelings about it have changed, well, that's all part of how I've changed overall. And I've accepted that, so watch out world.
That was back before Christmas. A lot has happened so I'm just getting around to describing it now. But it really affected our relationship. We don't see each other as much, barely text. Oir friendsgip really took a hit and I don't know if we can come back from it. I miss him, but it seems like things just ran their course. That makes me sad, but like he said, I shouldn't have been waiting for him.