Chapter 9: Kate
I walked in the restaurant exactly at 6pm. I had already made reservations so we wouldn’t have to wait long for them to find a table for us. I clutched my purse closer to my body, trying to find Jennifer in the crowd of people.
I still couldn’t believe I was actually doing this. Talking out my feelings was not something I was comfortable with and I didn’t intend for it to be a thing I did on a daily basis. However, Pete had made an excellent point: Jennifer missed Blake. She handled it in a much different way than I did. And even though I got annoyed with how she handled things, it didn’t actually make her wrong.
It didn’t take me long to spot Jennifer at the bar. To be honest, I was surprised she had shown up before I did. Jennifer didn’t strike me as punctual and, considering the fact that she had her demons, I figured it would have taken her another half hour to pull it together enough to get here.
But there she was.
And she was actually talking to someone. Someone who looked familiar from behind. Someone I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Jennifer looked somewhat put together. Her hair still needed to be washed but it didn’t look as bad as I thought it did. And her outfi, which must have been what she went shopping for, was on the casual side of the preference of the restaurant but it did its job. It made her look decent.
It was effort. And that had to mean something.
I went over to the hostess and let them know I was here. After she told me the table would be a few minutes, I decided to head over and grab Jennifer so we would be ready when the table was.
However, I felt myself froze when I recognized who she was talking to.
Jennifer was talking to Pete. Like they knew each other. Her hand was on his knee and he was smiling at her. He made no move to push her hand off of his thigh. It was almost as though he were encouraging this behavior.
Behavior Jennifer should not have even been participating in. She lost Blake six months ago. It was my opinion that that wasn’t long enough to get over someone’s death, especially her husband’s. I sure as hell wasn’t over it and I was just his sister. Considering that she couldn’t stop crying and that she couldn’t get out of bed or dress or shower or eat full meals just one day prior, it completely boggled my mind that she would be sitting at a bar with some guy.
Not just some guy, but Pete. My Pete.
And then he laughed.
I knew that laugh.
It had haunted me during our long separation. It had haunted my dreams where he would wrap me up in his arms and make love to me over and over again.
What the hell was Pete doing here? And why was he talking to Jennifer like they knew each other? And why hadn’t he told me he would be here? And why wasn’t he pushing Jennifer’s hand off of his thigh?
Before I knew what I was doing, I stalked over to the two of them. I was unable to control myself. My hands shook, even as I balled them into fists at my side. My eyes were closed off to everything else. I was honed in on them and I couldn’t see anything else.
When I got over to them, Jennifer immediately yanked her hand back. I didn’t think she had ever met Pete but she was looking at me as though she had done something wrong and that made me detest the entire situation even more. Why would she think that? It wasn’t her I was upset with. She didn’t know any better.
“Jennifer,” I murmured, keeping my gaze on her rather than Pete. I couldn’t look at him. I was too angry, too hurt. “Let’s get takeout and go home. We can talk there.”
“Kate,” Pete interjected, leaning forward to try to get my attention.
Jennifer stalled when she heard my name come out of his mouth.
“Jennifer.” My voice was firm when I said her name again. I felt like a mother snapping at her child. “Let’s go.”
“Kate,” he said again, more loudly this time. His hand came to my shoulder which I promptly shrugged off.
“Meet me at our place,” I said only to Jennifer. Technically, it was my place. She just happened to be staying with me. And yet, here I was, insinuating it belonged to both of us. “I’ll grab food. Please.”
She nodded and complied. Clearly she saw that me and Pete had some sort of relationship. Had being the operative word.
When she was gone, I turned to Pete. “I don’t care,” I told him, speaking quickly. “I don’t want to hear it. You and me are done, Pete. This time, there’s no going back okay.”
“But Kate -“
“It’s fine, Pete. What happened, happened. I’m not going to fight with you.”
“I’m not trying to -“
“Just drop it,” I told him. “I already told you I don’t want to hear it.” I was about to head out, ready to walk out when I stopped. “Do me a favor. Don’t talk to me at work. Okay? Just pretend that I don’t exist.”
With that, I walked away. I could swear he responded with something like, “Impossible.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised when Pete didn’t listen to me.
He was in my office before I showed up on Monday, roses on my desk. I opened my mouth, ready to tell him off before calling security, when he stopped me.
“Damnit, Kate,” he said. “You don’t get to throw me out of your office and your life without giving me a chance to explain myself. You did that before when you thought I walked out on you, you’re not going to do it again.”
I closed my mouth and clenched my jaw. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, he was right. I had done that before and it hit me in the ass. The least I could go was let him explain myself. That didn’t mean I’d believed him.
When he realized I wasn’t talking, he took advantage of the situation and gave me a surprisingly short story about meeting Jennifer at the bar, not knowing it was her, and ordering her water when she spilled it on him. She grabbed napkins and tried to dry him off.
“I’m in love with you, Kate,” he said. “I only want to be with you. I don’t want to be with anyone else. And I don’t just mean sexually. I want to marry you. I want to have children with you. I want to grow old with you.”
I felt myself start to smile. “I love you too,” I murmured.
He grinned and rushed to me, wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me into a deep kiss.
I think Mr. Valmores shut the door sometime between the kissing and the moment the vase of roses crashed onto the floor.
It had been eight months. Eight months since I gave the worst pitch of my entire life. Eight months since Pete demanded I hear his side of the story and take him back. Eight months since I had a heart-to-heart with my sister-in-law about my dead brother and how we were both handling it. Eight months since my clouded mind assumed said sister-in-law and new boyfriend were having sex (which was a ridiculous assumption, now that I thought about it). I guess I just made an assumption. I was worried that I had made a mistake about Pete that he wasn’t really ready to be serious after all.
I shook my head.
Just thinking about it embarrassed me.
At that moment, the doorbell rang and one of my friends, Carlene, went to answer it. Carlene was the one throwing me this lovely bridal shower.
Jennifer walked through the door, her chestnut curls springy and full of life. She wore a simple red dress that crossed down her chest and flared out around her hips. It went to her knees. She had on light makeup and cute red flats.
She looked wonderful. Now I understood what Blake saw in her. When she wasn’t consumed with wallowing, she was actually quite pretty. Which I knew. I remember when Blake introduced us years ago.
Perhaps that was another reason why I went off on her and Pete at the restaurant.
That had been months ago. I liked to think I was a different person now.
So much had changed in the past eight months. Honestly, when Pete proposed, I surprised myself by crying. Maybe it was because I never thought I would ever get married. Maybe it was because Blake wouldn’t walk me down the aisle like I always secretly hoped he would – if I decided to get married.
But she was here and she looked well.
Carlene smiled at her and leaned forward. She was probably thanking Jennifer for coming.
In Jennifer’s hands was a small white box wrapped with a silver bow. It was beautiful. She set it on the small table the currently housed my gifts and Carlene ushered her into the room with me and a small group of my other female friends.
I had never been the type to have many friends. I had no idea how Carlene was able to find this many people who said they liked me well enough to not only attend my bridal shower but to actually want to be part of my wedding. I was glad she did, though. It saved me a lot of stress.
“Hi,” she said with a smile, leaning down to pull me into a tight hug.
I reciprocated the gesture with a warm hug of my own.
When we pulled apart, she took a seat next to me. I couldn’t stop staring if I tried.
“You look great, Jennifer,” I said. My voice sounded genuine, and judging from smile that spread across her face, she seemed to pick that up as well.
“Thank you,” she murmured. “And you…” She let her voice trail off and narrowed her eyes at my ring finger. “Can I?”
She took my hand in hers to inspect my princess-cut two-carat diamond. It was white diamond on white gold, a beautiful ring that I made sure Pete was very familiar with before he had a chance to go ring shopping. I would have married him with a wedding ring that turned my finger green but he had asked and I was very specific. I was just lucky Pete took notes and listened to what I had to say.
“Blake would have crashed this party,” she murmured, looking around. “He would have said this was too stuffy a party for you and he would have taken you to a dive bar with karaoke.”
I laughed as tears filled my eyes. That sounded something like Blake would do.
“You know,” Jennifer continued, keeping her voice low. “You didn’t have to invite me to this, just so you know. I’m well-aware that we weren’t friends and that our only real connection was Blake. What you did for me… telling me to get my shit together… I needed that.”
“Maybe I should have said it tactfully,” I admitted as Carlene bustled about, jumping up to check the over. “Tell you to get your shit together isn’t very sensitive.”
“Yeah, but I needed to hear it,” she said. “On a selfish note, I’m here not just to celebrate you but I wanted to know if you would be interested in being friends. Because of me. Because of you. Not because of…” She choked on the word. “Not because of Blake.”
“No.” I shook my head. I placed my hand on my stomach, a secret I had been keeping for a while finally able to slip past my lips. “I want more than just your friendship, Jennifer. Especially considering you’re going to be an aunt.”
Her eyes went wide. “An aunt?” she asked. “But I’m not -“
“You are family,” I insisted. “Get used to it.”
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