“Um, hi. Hi, Braydon.”
“Hello,” he returned coolly.
“Would you like to grab some coffee?” Might as well be a good hostess since I’d arranged this awkward encounter.
“I’m fine.” She sat down, joining us at the table so that she was seated directly across from me and Braydon.
Somehow I found the right words to explain to them both, carefully, that a last meeting seemed to be in order and my goal was to help them move past the tension that still existed between them. Katrina looked hopeful . . . while Braydon looked slightly annoyed.
Once I’d given my little speech, Katrina folded her hands on the table and stared up at Bray. “How have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you.”
Braydon’s eyes locked with mine as if to say I told you so and he released a heavy sigh. “This has to stop, Kat. Why are you still doing this? Trying to contact me through my agency and now getting close to Ellie. It’s been two years.”
Katrina swallowed and looked down, her poise faltering. “All I’ve ever wanted was to understand why.”
“Why what?” Braydon asked.
“Why things ended between us. I thought you loved me, but you started to become distant over time, going away on jobs and forgetting to call me when you landed, and eventually you just . . .” She stopped herself and took a deep, fortifying breath. “I want to know why I lost you.”
Wow. Okay, now we were getting somewhere.
“Fuck.” Braydon rubbed his hands across his face. “Because I was twenty-three years old at the time. Because I was immature. An ass**le. Not at all ready to commit to one girl. And you wanted things from me I couldn’t give you.”
Katrina continued to watch him and listen in silent fascination.
“And there reached a point where I knew you were more serious about the relationship than I was. Once I broke things off, quite honestly your behavior worried me. Calling my parents’ house, questioning my dad about where I was. Breaking into my old apartment and staying there while I was traveling.”
A cold chill zipped down my spine. I hadn’t realized how far Katrina’s odd behavior went.
Braydon continued, “It wasn’t healthy. I thought cutting things off with you cold turkey and not stringing you along was for the best. But when you didn’t relent after a few months, my manager at the agency suggested the restraining order. He said he’d seen these types of things escalate before.”
“Oh.” Katrina looked down at her hands. “I loved you. I just needed to understand what I’d done wrong. I needed closure. And to know you were okay.”
My heart broke for her.
“You didn’t do anything wrong when we were together,” Braydon’s tone softened. “I liked you a lot. I wouldn’t have dated you for eight months if I didn’t.”
“It was nine months,” Katrina interjected.
I watched the back-and-forth between them like a game of Ping-Pong. An extremely awkward and tense game of Ping-Pong.
“Right. Nine months. But, you were ready for more, and I didn’t want to be tied down. We were at an impasse. So I figured it was best to move on.”
“I see,” she said, her voice growing shaky. She looked like she might break down in tears, so I carefully placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Are you okay?”
She blinked back tears and nodded. “Yes. This helps. A lot, actually.”
I looked at Braydon. See, dumbass.
“I spent the last two years wondering what I did wrong and wishing I knew what I could have changed,” Katrina said, braving a glance at Braydon once again.
“Don’t change. I hate to be cliché and say it wasn’t you, it was me. But it’s true. You will find a man who loves you and wants all the things you do. I just wasn’t him.”
She smiled weakly and nodded. “Wow, you sound like my mother. And you’re both right. It’s time to move on and open myself up to new possibilities.”
I wrapped an arm around Katrina and gave her a hug. “Good luck.”
“You guys, too.”
Katrina left a few moments later, and I could see in her eyes that she needed to be alone, probably have herself a good cry. I hoped this experience had been cathartic for her. I could already feel the growth they’d both experienced, even if it hadn’t all sunk in yet.
The mood between me and Braydon was somber as we left the coffee shop. Something between us had shifted and I wasn’t entirely sure what. I’d seen his past and been part of helping him work through some skeletons in his closet. I should have felt lighter, freer, but instead I just felt sad. Sad for Katrina that she’d wasted two years, sad for Braydon that he’d lived as a recluse after his last relationship went so wrong.
I wondered why it took two years for them to have this conversation. But maybe the time was necessary. It provided time for emotions to cool and them both to be a little wiser and more mature to face the consequences of their actions. I was happy to help them solve it. It just still felt so senseless.
“Thank you for that,” he said.
“You’re welcome.” I was just glad it went so well.
“I’m sorry my baggage got in the way of us. I feel like an ass.”
“Guys are asses sometimes. You were young.”
Those pretty baby blues of his latched on to mine. “It’s no excuse.”
I nodded. It was refreshing to hear him take responsibility for his actions. And actually I agreed. He should have had that conversation with her a long time ago. That restraining order may have never been needed. Katrina could have moved on with her life much sooner, and Braydon would never have instituted his rules for relationship-free arrangements. And I might have had an actual shot at dating the one guy I’d fallen for. It all just felt pointless. Then again, maybe the Katrina of two years ago wouldn’t have listened and would have fought hard to win him back no matter what he’d said.
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