Ring! Ring! Pause. Ring! Ring!
Determined to save my virginity, I gave one last-ditch effort. “Please let me answer it. You never know who it might be.” I squeezed my eyes shut, begging God for redemption.
“It’s probably just some telemarketer,” Gavin refuted, “but, fine. If it’ll make you happy, go answer the phone.” He rolled to the side of me and released a hefty barbaric, “Humph!”
Recognizing my freedom, I scrambled to my feet and sprinted across the living room and through the dining room. “Hello?” A mysterious calmness commanded my voice as I answered the phone.
“Hey, Hope, this is Amber. You know, from school?”
“Oh, yes. Hi, Amber. I haven’t heard from you in a while. How’s it going?” I tried showing interest in her call, but my mind struggled to compute her words. You’ve never called my house before.
“Yeah, it has been a while, hasn’t it?” She laughed an artificial response. “Everything’s fine, but enough about me. I’m actually calling because I need something, and I figured you may be able to help.”
“Oh?” I waited for an explanation.
“Yeah, I’m looking for Gavin. You haven’t happened to see him today, have you?”
I practically choked on her question. “Gavin? As in Gavin Jacobs? Why are you looking for him?” My unspoken thoughts added, I’m an odd go-to person. Why would you expect to find him hanging out with me?
Giddy and eager to share, Amber replied with gossipy overtones. “Well, do you remember Jill from our junior high days?”
I’m not sure what she has to do with our conversation, but…. “Yes. Of course, I remember Jill,” I answered.
“Well, she’s over at my house right now, and she’s trying to find him. You know they’re dating, right?”
Everything inside me went cold. “Um, no, I hadn’t heard. Last I knew, he was single.” I turned and stared at Gavin, still lying on the floor.
“Oh, no! They are quite the item,” Amber boasted of first-hand knowledge. “Anyway, Jill got into town earlier than expected this afternoon and has been trying to locate him so they can meet up. We’ve called all over town, but nobody seems to know where he is. It’s like he just fell off the face of the earth.” Amber sounded beside herself. “He just happened to mention your name in passing the other day, so I figured we’d try your house as a last resort. Is he with you?”
Instant betrayal began turning my insides into knots. “As a matter of fact, he is,” I divulged. “He came over for lunch this afternoon and just happens to still be here. Would you like to speak with him?”
“Oh, that would be wonderful!” Amber exaggerated. “Jill will be so happy!”
Oh, no she won’t, I wanted to shout. If she knew what he’s been up to, you’d take that sentiment back in a heartbeat. I cringed as the innocence of my afternoon morphed into an ugly, bitter, tainted memory engulfed in guilt and shame. I touched my lips, as if doing so would erase the feel of Gavin on my skin. I am NOT that kind of girl. I did NOT just kiss another girl’s boyfriend. How could he put me in this position? I shook my head, repulsed by the thought.
“Here, Amber. He’s all yours.” I crossed the room and shoved the cordless phone into Gavin’s hand. Gavin looked up, baffled by my mood and confused by the sudden change in my behavior. “Your girlfriend’s looking for you,” I answered his dumbfounded expression. “You know, Jill?” I crossed my arms, feeling a scowl form on my face.
Sitting up, Gavin took the phone, running a loose hand through his hair. “Hey, Amber! This is Gav. What’s up?” Perplexed by the call, his voice carried a somewhat irritated tone.
“Hey Gav, whatcha doin’?” Amber’s nosiness carried halfway across the room.
The scowl on my face deepened. What does that matter? It’s none of your business what Gavin’s doing. I stared at Gavin in disbelief.
“I’m just having dessert,” he answered, winking at me. Patting the floor, he motioned for me to join him.
“Absolutely not,” I whispered, shaking my head.
Surprised by my rejection, he lipped his response. “Why not?”
Isn’t that obvious? I wanted to yell. You just used me to cheat on your girlfriend. The reason should be blatantly clear. I stared at him, annoyed by his lack of remorse.
“Well, when are you planning on heading this way?” Amber continued her investigation. “Jill’s at my house right now, and she’s waiting for you to come over so she can be with you.”
Gavin rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m not really sure why you felt the need to track me down,” he answered, “but my afternoon plans don’t involve Jill, and I’m kind of in the middle of something at the moment. Can we talk later?” He looked at me, as if apologizing.
“But we’ve been trying to get ahold of you all afternoon,” Amber nagged. “Can I give Jill an approximate time? Say thirty…forty minutes?” Amber’s emotional theatrics escalated the real drama unfolding in my heart.
“No,” Gavin snapped. “Stop trying to trap me with your antics. My afternoon plans do not include Jill, and I’d appreciate you backing off.”
Irritation grew in Amber’s voice. “So, what am I supposed to tell Jill? She’s really wanting some one-on-one time with you, Gav.”
“Tell her whatever you like,” Gavin retorted, “just stop bugging me about it. This is not the time or place. Can you understand that? You need to give me some space.”
“OK,” Amber sulked. “We’ll see you whenever you get here.”
Gavin grunted a gruff “whatever” then handed me the phone. I returned it to its charger, then stood by the kitchen sink for a couple minutes, mulling over what had just happened. Nothing I could piece together made sense. Overwhelmed and distraught, I forced back my shoulders, took in a deep breath, and pretended to own the smallest amount of dignity while walking back into the living room.
“Sorry about the call. I had no idea Jill would try hunting me down,” Gavin tried making amends. Frustration spelled itself out across his face. “I thought coming over here this afternoon would give me a break from everybody else’s expectations for a few hours. Guess I was wrong,” he sighed.
Looking at him sitting on the floor, the sadness in my heart deepened. “Yeah, guess I was wrong, too.”
Gavin stared back at me, unable to read my emotions. “What do you mean by that?” He touched his lips as if reliving our intimacy.
The abuse of my trust resonated through my bones until I felt like vomiting. “Your girlfriend, Gavin? Really? Your girlfriend? I’m not that girl! I have never been that girl. You know that! You, of all people! I trusted you. I trusted you not to hurt me.” Disgust dripped from my words. “And to add to that? I feel cheap. Used.”
“This isn’t that.” The hurt in his eyes begged me to believe him.
“Then, please, enlighten me. Because, by what I just heard, you still have a girlfriend. Go ahead and tell me how you didn’t just cheat on her with me.” I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth, even as I spoke them.
He winced at my accusation. “It’s not that simple.”
My eyes widened. “It most definitely is that simple! Either you have a girlfriend or you don’t. There is no in between. I’m not sure how you could be more cut and dry.” Tears choked my speech, an overwhelming loss engulfing my senses. “Are you still dating her or aren’t you? I want the truth.”
Gavin stared into my eyes. Glancing down at his hands, he finally risked my judgment. “I broke up with Jill at the beginning of the summer—just like I told you outside,” he answered. “Apparently, she doesn’t want us to be over, but I’m telling you the truth. We’re not together any more, and I’m not leading her on. I had the difficult talk with her, and I’ve been very up front with her about my feelings and us being through, but she won’t take no for an answer. Not much I can do about it. That’s why I’ve been feeling trapped.” His whole countenance sagged. “I don’t know what else you want to hear. This is not how I saw today going.”
Slumping onto the couch, I hung my head, trying to deconstruct the truth. “And what about us? What is this?” I motioned to Gavin and then myself. “How did we get here?”
Gavin shrugged then lowered his eyes. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? How do you not know? You’re the one who started all this after telling me not to wait for you. Remember that conversation not too long ago? I respected your wishes. I moved on, even though I didn’t want to. But you came back. You sought me out. Today is your doing.” Bewilderment wrapped itself around my heart, wedging doubt into my pores. “Just a few minutes ago you were confident there was a future for us—that there was something real going on between us. And the way you just kissed me….” I couldn’t find words for the level of passion that had sparked between us. “You made me want you.” The threat of tears constricted my throat. “I feel so stupid!”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” he repeated.
Trying to salvage my dignity, I swallowed hard and pointed to the door. “I need you to leave. Just get your stuff and go,” I instructed. Gavin’s eyes met mine, but he didn’t fight my request. Gathering his wits about him, he stood and headed to the front door, slipping on his loafers and stepping through the doorway. I followed close behind.
Turning to face me, Gavin looked me in the eye. “Hope, please don’t be mad at me. I would never do anything to hurt you. You have to know that.”
“Do I?” I stared at him in disbelief. “You just took advantage of me—and not in some small kind of way.”
“That’s not what I was doing,” he defended himself. “It’s just that, well, you’re not someone a guy would mess around with; you’re someone a guy would marry.”
The look on his face drove the ache in my heart to the point of actual physical pain. “What does that even mean?”
Gavin dug his hands into his pockets and sighed. “That means I have a lot of stuff to sort through before I can commit to you—to anyone.” His eyes searched mine for something to give him hope. When I didn’t answer, he added, “You deserve a guy who will treasure you and treat you like gold. Please don’t let me stand in the way of you finding that.”
I stared back, astounded. “Why can’t that be you? For me, it’s always been you. You know that. That’s not new news. Why do you think I’ve waited so long for you to figure things out? I don’t want some other guy. I want you.”
He shook his head, rejecting my reality. “I’m not the guy you think I am, Hope. I’m not the man you want.” Shame coated his words. “You need to find someone who’s worthy of you. That’s not me.”
Anger rose from my broken heart. “No! You do not get to make me feel and sound crazy,” I retaliated. “I did not just imagine that kiss…that look in your eyes…the way you touched me…the way you wanted me…the words that came out of your mouth. That was you. That was all you!” I pointed to the living room, wondering if I had just stepped into another dimension.
“I can’t explain what happened in there,” Gavin accepted responsibility for his actions. “I shouldn’t have allowed things to go as far as they did; but, I did, and I’m sorry. Blame me. Be angry at me—I give you my permission—but, please don’t let this keep you from moving on and having the life you deserve.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I paused and looked at Greg, driving home the importance of the moment. “There are pivotal moments in everyone’s life when you know the moment you’re standing in is changing life as you’ve known it and life as it will be. My moment was staring back at me, larger than life. It shattered years of hopes and dreams, trust and friendship; and I was devastated.”
Greg nodded. “That’s a very mature understanding.”
I shrugged. “It changed me. Something inside has never been the same.”
“With good reason,” Greg confirmed. “Is there more?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“You don’t get to kiss me like that and just walk away,” I fumed. “That wasn’t just a kiss in there, and you know it!” I struggled to maintain my sanity. “I deserve a better answer than that. You owe me that much!” My words echoed off the neighbors’ houses, reverberating at my core. I pressed the palms of my hands against my temples and willed my world to stop spinning. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to forgive you, Gavin. There’s no undoing this. There’s no going back.”
Gavin cringed, absorbing my hurt. “I agree. You deserve a better answer, but I just don’t have one to give you,” he apologized. “I am so sorry. This isn’t about you. It’s me.” Sadness filled his eyes, his words empty and forlorn. “I wish I could give you more—I really do—but there’s nothing for me to give.” He dug his hands deeper into his pockets, remorse forming an impenetrable barrier between us. “I won’t blame you if you never speak to me again. I deserve that.”
Irritation and betrayal twisted my insides into a massive knot as I forced myself to look him in the eye. “Oh, don’t worry,” I promised. “I won’t blame me, either.”