Let's Get Textual (Page 1)
Unknown: Are we still meeting tomorrow?
I stare at the text on my phone, brows pinched in confusion because it’s not a number I recognize.
Then it hits me: Liam must have a new number…again, and he must have forgotten to tell me…again.
Brothers are so much fun.
Me: Yep. What time again?
* * *
* * *
Me: I’ll be there.
Tossing my phone onto the empty pillow beside me, I think back to our conversation on Wednesday. I could have sworn he said two-thirty because he’ll be across town and there’s no way he could arrive by two, but maybe he changed his mind? Either way, I’ll make it. I love my bi-weekly lunch meetings with my brother.
“Babe, you done yet?”
An unfriendly muffled response filters through the bathroom door. I want to argue back, to say something equally as unfriendly, but it’s no use.
“Whatever,” I mutter, rolling on my side and reaching over to flip the lamp off.
I lie awake, watching the minutes tick by on the clock on my bedside table. Ten minutes later, Caleb tiptoes in from the bathroom and takes a seat on the edge of the mattress. He sits there for another two minutes, wringing his hands together, before he slides into the bed to lie beside me.
He doesn’t say anything; neither do I.
We’re at that point in our relationship—you know, the one where it’s more of a hassle to be together than to be apart. To be honest, we’ve coexisted in this place for about a month now. Caleb’s words have become curt, and I haven’t been a peach myself. We haven’t been intimate in weeks. Nothing in our relationship says relationship anymore. We’re simply biding our time until we can’t take it a second longer.
I can’t take it a second longer.
“What?” His response comes out clipped, like he’s already done with this conversation before it’s begun.
Another sign I’m about to ask the right thing.
“What are we doing?”
He sighs, and I can feel him run a hand over his face. “I’m not sure anymore, Delia.”
“Should…” I lick my dry lips and push out a worried breath. “Should we break up?”
Caleb rolls my way. On instinct, I reach out to brush away the lock of blond hair that falls over his eye. He grabs my hand, halting my movements, and I meet his stare. His dark blue eyes are sad, like he knew this was coming.
I know what he’ll say before he says it.
“I think so.”
Caleb gathers me into his arms as the tears begin to fall.
I’m sad, and though it shouldn’t, it surprises me. We’ve been together for six months now—quite a run when it comes to college relationships—and, well, I’m used to him…used to his touch, his smell, his smile. I’ll miss him, but I know he’s right. We should break up, especially before we start hating each other, which is exactly where we’re headed. We’ve started picking fights, waiting and begging for the other to call it quits. We’re too comfortable, too scared to call this what it is—over.
“I could have loved you, you know.” His voice cracks and I pull away to find his eyes are glistening with tears of his own. “If we were at different points in our lives, if we didn’t have all this s**t waiting for us on the other side of graduation, we could have been good together, Delia.”
“We really could have.”
Caleb sighs. “I’m sorry.”
“Do you…” He gulps. “Do you want me to leave?”
“Can you stay? Can you hold me one last time?”
His smile is sweet, and it reminds me of the day I first met him at the campus coffeehouse.
With a backpack slung over shoulder, his hair disheveled, and a wrinkled dress shirt partially unbuttoned, he gave me the same smile he is now and asked if he could share my table with me. I had glanced around the shop, certain it had to be a joke.
I was a nobody. Everyone knew he was a somebody.
“Excuse me?” he asked, surprised I was questioning him.
“Why do you want to sit here?”
“Uh, my backpack is heavy as hell.” He hiked it up for show. “And there’s nowhere else to sit in the entire shop. Everyone’s here working on their finals and I’d like to do the same…if you’d be kind enough to let me sit with you.”
I peeked around, noting he was correct in his observation; the place was loaded with students, heads bent and noses stuck in books.
With reluctance, I caved. “Fine,” I said on a sigh. “You can sit here…on two conditions.”
“Name ’em, pretty girl.”
“Amendment: three conditions. No calling me pretty girl. No talking.” He bobbed his head like he’d known that was coming. “And no asking me out.”
He smirked, and it was one of those stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks smirks. “You assume that’ll happen?”
Waving a dismissive hand, I said, “With my sparkling personality, it’s bound to. Now sit and be quiet, mystery man.”
I pinned him with a glare. “No talking, and I know who you are, Caleb Mills. You play baseball.” His eyes lit up, so I added, “And I hate baseball.”
Caleb chuckled, took a seat, and didn’t say a word the rest of the afternoon.
Our “accidental” study dates continued for a week, then he asked me out. I said yes and we’ve been together since.
I wish with everything I have I could say Caleb is the one, but he’s not. I’ve known for a long time now, but I’ve been too scared to do anything about it. He’s a great guy—smart, kind, focused—and above all, I know he cares for me. I know he loves me, but it’s not in the kind of way we both need him to. I don’t love him that way either. We both know it. We’re better as friends, as Caleb Mills and Delia Devlin, not as Caleb and Delia, the “cutest campus couple to make it” as we were voted for the school gossip ’zine last spring.
“You promise we’ll still be friends, Delia?”
I smile against him. “I couldn’t imagine anything else, Caleb.”
Liam: I’ll need to reschedule our meeting and move it to next week.
Meeting? Reschedule? Why does my brother sound like a big business mogul and not the middle school teacher he is?
Ignoring his weirdness, I shoot over a quick response.
Me: Works for me. Let me know when you want to meet.
* * *
Liam: I’ll be in touch.
It’s official: he’s acting strange.
A shuffle of feet pulls me from the response I begin to type. I click off my screen and peek up to find Caleb emerging from the hallway, overnight bag slipped over his shoulder and box in his arms.
I give him a sad smile, and he returns it.
“I think that’s everything.”
“Come on, Delia. You don’t have to say anything. This is mutual, right? We work better as friends. We pushed for romance where we shouldn’t have, and this is for the best. We agreed, remember? So no more apologizing. Let’s have coffee and then you can give me a hug and walk me to the door. Deal?”
I wipe the errant tear rolling down my cheek and smile at what a sweet man he can be. I’ll miss that side of him. “Deal.”
He sets the box on the floor near the door and strides into the kitchen like we’re not breaking up right now.
“So, how’s life?” Caleb teases as he places his mug on the counter and takes a seat next to me.
“With wit like that, how could I ever let you go?”
He takes a sip of his coffee and smiles at me over the rim of the mug. “I know, I’m a catch.”
“You’re something, Caleb.”
“I’ll miss you.”
I grin. “I know.”
We sit together in silence. You’d think it’d be awkward or sad, but it feels comfortable, like we’re old friends.
After another cup of coffee each, Caleb stands with finality.
“I guess this is it.”
“I guess it is. Let me grab my coat. I’ll walk you down.”
He holds up a hand. “No, there’s no need for you to go all the way down there.”
“Delia, come on. Let me have my pride, huh? I don’t want to do the walk of shame with my ex.”
I grab at my chest, tears beginning to fill my eyes again. “That word sounds so harsh.”
“No, ex. It stings.”
“It’s what we are.”
“I know, Caleb. I know.”
He spreads his arms wide and I smile, falling into them. He wraps me in the saddest hug of my life; I know it will be the last one I share with him that will ever feel this intimate.
“Don’t be a stranger, okay?”
He kisses the top of my head then lets me go. I wipe away the tear that’s managed to streak down my cheek as he picks up his bag and box of things.
I grab the door for him and watch with sadness as he steps over the threshold.
“Smile for me, pretty girl,” he says, turning back to me. “It’s not over. It’s the beginning of a new adventure.”