Chapter 4: Pete
I blinked. I could not believe she said yes. Kate said yes to me taking her out for coffee.
What the hell?
I couldn’t question my good luck. I didn’t want to take it for granted. So I forced a smile that hopefully masked my shock at her agreement and nodded my head.
“Great,” I said. “Why don’t you…” I wasn’t sure how to tell her that her face needed some work before she could leave the office without coming across like an asshole.
“I know,” she murmured shyly, something else that struck me as odd and unlike her. “I’ll meet you in the lobby. Give me a minute if you don’t mind.”
I was almost afraid to leave her alone because the last thing I wanted was for her to change her mind. But I nodded. She needed time to herself to get a grip on her emotions and I knew she would. If I could rely on Kate to do anything, it was to be strong when she needed to be strong. And Kate knew she needed to be strong at work.
When she met me in the lobby fifteen minutes later, she looked fresh-faced. No one would have known she had been crying before. But I did. I knew her like the back of my hand. And those eyes gave her away.
I smiled as best as I could and waved at her. She forced a smile and headed over. In silence, we headed out of the building and across the street. She made it a point to avoid touching me. Anytime I stepped in, to dodge a fellow passerby or a puddle she quickly sidestepped, keeping distance between us. She didn’t even want to accidentally bump shoulders with me. I didn’t want to admit that it hurt but it did. I refused to show it though.
We grabbed our coffee and took a seat in the corner.
“How are you?” I asked.
She gave me a look, slapping pink packets of sugar against her palm before ripping the paper and dumping the contents in the coffee.
“What kind of question is that?” she replied.
I deserved that answer.
We started talking, and I felt like we fell back into our old selves, the place that we were before her brother had died.
“Kate, it’s none of my business,” I said after a good half hour of catching up, “but I can tell that something going on with you. I want you to know that regardless of what happened between us, I’m here for you.”
I reached out and placed a hand on hers.
At my touch, the tears came fast. And from there, she told me everything: how Blake passed away, how Blake’s wife wasn’t handling it well, the effect it was having on her.
I pulled her into my arms. I couldn’t help it. And when my eyes dropped to her lips, I knew I was going to kiss her.
Before I could, however, my phone rang, pulling me back into reality, focusing my attention on her words.
“That was the worst pitch I had ever given in my life, Pete,” she continued, her fingers gripping the plastic coffee cup so tightly I was worried it might burst, shooting coffee everywhere. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised, considering the type of day she was having. “You were there. You saw what happen. There’s no way they’re going to give me that account after that.” I watched as she tugged her fingers through her hair.
“I don’t think anyone noticed,” I said as politely as I could.
She gave me a glare that told me to cut the bullshit.
“Okay, you’re right,” I said, taking a sip of coffee. “It was pretty bad, Kate. I don’t understand what happened. This isn’t like you.”
“God, Pete,” she said again, bursting into tears. This time, they were silent, she removed the ponytail from her hair and used the blonde locks as a curtain so nobody would be able to tell she was crying. “I mean, look at me! Look at the scene I’m making right now. I just… I feel as though my life is spinning out of control and for whatever reason, I can’t stop it. I can’t get a handle on it. And when I try, it makes everything worse.”
She buried her face in her hands and continued to cry as silently as possible.
Kate wasn’t a pretty crier nor was she a quiet one. And Kate had the decency to know that. I had never seen her cry in public before but at least she was making an effort to control herself.
“Kate,” I murmured, stroking her forearm. It was difficult to do with her hands over her face but I made an effort to try. “Talk to me. I’m here for you. I know we don’t have that type of relationship anymore and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there for you. As a friend.”
I nearly choked on the last three words. There was no fucking way I wanted to be just friends with her.
I knew I couldn’t say the right words to make her feel like everything was going to be okay. I wouldn’t even pretend. I wouldn’t even bullshit. But I wanted her to know I meant what I said.
Using the hand that was already touching her forearm, I gently tugged her over to me. She gave me a look but scooted her chair closer to me so I was able to take her in my arms where she proceeded to ruin my collared shirt with her tears.
I could always buy more shirts. But who knew how much time I’d have left holding Kate in my arms? The time with her was priceless.