I could see Jake on the porch outside through the sliding glass doors of the kitchen. It was getting dark outside. I flipped on the switch that controlled the strings of lights that hung from the wooden beams above the tables. They illuminated the porch with a soft golden glow while the moon shone white overhead. He must have gone to his truck to get clothes because now he was out in the cool salty air, snug in a grey, hooded-sweatshirt with a college football emblem on it, baggy shorts and tan, canvas flip-flops. He looked calm and happy with his dark, short hair and the lights now glowing on his face. He was holding something in his hand and looking out at the ocean. The whole back porch was now exciting and sparkly, just because he was sitting out there.
He saw me standing, staring at him from the kitchen and he grinned and I felt horrible. My heart got really heavy and I was suddenly very tired. I thought about just going to my bed and getting under my covers and going to sleep, ignoring all of this and letting it work itself out…my lovely white sheets that let just the right amount of light through when I hid underneath them. Would I ever be able to hide under there again without thinking about Jake’s skin on mine?
I made my way through the kitchen, pushed the sliding glass door open and walked over to sit next to Jake on the bench. He immediately put his arm around me. His warmth would have felt really good if i wasn’t so distracted by the thought of Chris showing up any minute. “Where did you get clothes?” I said.
“I had them out in my truck. It’s parked one street over. I brought you this too.” He held out a CD and I took it and looked at it through the clear plastic case. “It’s a mix CD. I’m not very good at love notes, so I thought, if I did get a chance to see you this trip, I would give you this.”
“I don’t see the songs listed.”
“You’ll have to listen to it. I was going to put Chris’s song on there but then I remembered that I like you.” He grinned mischievously.
I shook my head, “Thanks a lot Jake.”
“Is Luna coming home soon?”
I squirmed a little thinking about what I needed to tell him…that he couldn’t stay. But then I decided to put that off for a little longer. I said, “I talked to Luna on the phone. She thinks that I let you lead me astray, and that I am weak around you. She was really scathing.”
He shook his head and gently tickled the back of my hand. “Odette, what makes you weak is the same thing that makes me weak. We don’t want to be away from each other. We have a connection that most people don’t have. And right now you are struggling with your damn responsibilities and promises to someone else. I think you are being very strong, trying to stick with a man who you don’t even love because you think it is the right thing to do. But that is soul-sucking. Being with me is not being weak, it is being true to yourself. ”
“Huh.” I said. That was weird. Why did he think I didn’t love Chris?
“I don’t expect to win you from him.” He said, taking his arm from around my shoulder and resting his head in his hands with his elbows on his knees. But I do think that, well, maybe you will think about the possibility of leaving him.” He looked up at me with a strange insecurity that I had never seen in him before and I felt my hands going cold. “I want everything with you. I just want to be normal. I want to sit on the couch and eat pizza and watch a movie on Netflix with you. I want to wake up in the morning and go to class while you stay in my bed. I want to take you to parties to meet my friends, they would freak out over how pretty you are.”
I shook my head, “Jake, I’m not a college girl you can take to your parties. I’m not going to stay in your bed while you go to class. I already did all that 10 years ago. You make things exciting but we are never going to be a normal couple. What I want, is to work things out with Chris. He is a good father and he cares about me and he is faithful to me. I can’t keep doing this to him.”
I thought maybe this would make him lose it and that he would storm off to his truck or something in true Jake style. But he said, “Do you love Chris?”
“Yes. I think so, I mean, yes.”
“I don’t understand,” he said, starting to look like an upset little boy. “If you love him, what are you doing here with me?” He suddenly seemed very young, and I felt my age too. I felt like protecting his heart, like he needed someone to take care of him right now. But reality was looming and I obviously needed to do the opposite because it was getting late and I didn’t know when Chris was going to walk in the door.
“Don’t you remember our conversation on the beach?” I said. “I told you to go. The only reason you ended up in my bedroom was because you almost drowned.”
“I still don’t get it.” he said. “You didn’t have to…fu…um…sleep with me. How could you do that, if you still love him?”
“It was pretty easy actually” I said, smiling. I don’t know why I said that. Maybe because I was tired with the heaviness of the conversation. Perhaps I wanted to separate myself from the emotion by joking about it, it was so unbearably overwhelming. He didn’t think it was funny.
“I never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to feel sorry for Chris” he said. “Is this how you act when you love someone? Is this normal Odette behavior? You act like a fucking spoiled 2-year-old”
“What do you think love is, Jake? Do you think it is all fairy dust and magic? It isn’t. It sucks.”
He put his head back in his hands and talked to the floor. “I always believed that when love was real, I mean, completely real, that you don’t need anyone else.”
“Well, I’m not real…remember.”
He sat up again, took the CD out of my hands and looked at it. “I’m keeping this” he said.
“I’m not trying to burst your bubble, Jake. It’s not like you didn’t know what you were getting into. I’m married with a child. That is a huge bond, one you can’t break just by being totally hot.”
“It just doesn’t make any sense” he said, rubbing his hands together like he was totally stressed out. “I mean, what were we just doing in there?”
“You’ve never slept with a girl you weren’t in love with?” He realized I just compared our relationship to his one night stands or whatever he did in his spare time. His face clouded over and the darker side of Jake, the one I knew best, started to come back and I felt instantly sorry, like I had bottled up the good in him and tossed it in the ocean.
“Sure, I’ve fucked girls who just wanted a distraction for a while or who thought I could make their miserable lives better. But you are different, right?” he said, looking over at me, right at my eyes. My heart started to pound, not because I was smitten by him, but because I was really worried about what he was going to say next. He once again had clear bright eyes and it was like he was making a last-ditch effort to salvage our connection.
“Why am I different?” I stammered.
“Because you tear me apart. And the only reason you are able to do that is because I love you” he said.
I sat there as the waves crashed and it was getting really cold out. How did this happen? How could he say that after I just pretty much told him I only slept with him because he is hot. He put his fingers on my chin and turned my face towards him. I kissed him, knowing that this truly was going to be the last kiss.
Then I pulled away from him and stood up. “I think what you love is the challenge. I’m not available to love.” I said.
“It has nothing to do with available” he said.
“Yes, it does. Your so-called love for me cowardly. It is too convenient to love someone you can’t have. You don’t end up having to be in a relationship with true give and take. What you need, Jake, is to find a girl who is in school with you and forget about me.”
“I just told you I love you, Odette” he said, running his hands through his dark hair, still grasping on to whatever he could. “Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Fucking hell.” He looked at me in despair.
It aggravated me. He really never quits. “For one it makes me think you have no idea what love is. For two it scares the crap out of me and for three, I don’t love you, I love my husband and it doesn’t matter how beautiful you are or how hard it is to stay away from you, I’m done here.”
He shook his head, “This sucks” he said. “You should have let me fucking drown.”
“Whatever. I’m done, Jake. Luna just told me that Chris is coming here tonight, to surprise me. You have to go now.”
He nodded, “Great” he said. “Just great.”
And that was it, I could tell. Jake was gone from my life and was not going to be trying anything again. He handed me back the CD. “You may as well keep this to remember when I actually thought you were a cool chick.”
“I can handle cool chick,” I shouted at him. “I just can’t handle, I love you.”
“You are actually kind of a bitch” he said standing up.
“Don’t start with attacking me now. Every time you think I have slipped out of your fingers you turn on me. Don’t do that now, I couldn’t handle it.”
“I’m not actually feeling very invested in protecting your feelings at this point.” Jake said. Then he looked over and I turned my head to see what he was looking at. Rissa was walking up the steps to the porch from the beach. “Hi Odette!” she said. “I wanted to stop in before coming over tonight and see if you needed me to bring anything. I heard Chris is going to be here. Is the whole band going to be here?”
I looked at Jake and we locked eyes for a second. I could see his mind working and he looked over at Rissa, “Hi Rissa” he said. “I’m Jake”
Like every other girl on the planet I could see her surprise at how ridiculously good-looking he was.
“Hi Jake,” she grinned.
‘Listen” I said, “I have to go inside to clean up. I’ll see you later Rissa. Jake, have a good trip back tonight and please be safe.”
I went inside the house and closed the screen door to look back and see Rissa and Jake sit back down on the bench. I thought about going back out there to get rid of her, but then my phone rang and I thought about the hundred things I had to get done in the next 10 minutes before anyone started showing up, so I hurried of to pick up Zoe’s blocks from all over the living room floor.