“Nice to meet you, Samantha. I’m Griffin.”
I stare at his hand hanging in the space between us. My heart almost stopped when my arm brushed his in the checkout lane. A handshake will do me in for sure.
Wedging my fingers in the front pockets of my denim shorts, I grin. “Nice to meet you too.”
“You’re not going to shake my hand?”
My head inches side to side, eyes wide.
He chuckles. “Why not?”
“Reasons … okay.” He withdraws his proffered hand. “I’ll call you and get you some money or figure out a way to properly repay you.”
“Okay.” I clear my throat because I sound like a squeaky mouse. “Okay.” That’s better.
“Later then.” He walks away.
“Oh … no …” I whisper to myself.
There is no way this is possible.
Thousands of cities.
Even more grocery stores.
The most heartbreaking part? It’s been a week since I saw him. A week since he asked for my number. He knew my number … it hasn’t changed. Why didn’t he give me his number? Oh … that’s right, I’m not allowed to call him or know where he lives.
Griffin could be in New Zealand by now. It was an act. Not fate. Not a sign.
Wrong place. Wrong time.
I’ve been to that same store twice since then. He probably now shops at a different store. There’s a Harley dealership here, but I won’t go there. I won’t call.
This past year didn’t rob all of my pride.
At least my furniture arrived, giving my apartment more of a homey feel. Too bad my fresh start already feels stale. It’s going to be a long six months, constantly thinking I could run into him—hoping for it and fearing it at the same time.
I busy myself with design work, join the fitness center down the street, and contemplate applying for my teaching certification here in Utah. I want to teach, but I have a six-month lease.
Aside from the whole avoiding Griffin thing, I love it here. But hide-and-seek is not my favorite game. Then I think … it’s a huge city. He’s doing his best to avoid me, if he’s even still here. Seriously, he could be in New Zealand.
I go back to fate. If I’m meant to stay here, I’ll find a teaching job. It will be a sign.
So that’s what I do. I move forward with my new life.
“Swayze!” my mom squeals when I answer my phone, feet propped up on the balcony railing as I sip my wine.
“Geesh, what is it?”
“I shouldn’t tell you this, but I think you need to know. Don’t freak out.”
I chuckle. “Like you’re doing?”
Her long exhale whooshes through the speaker. This must be serious.
“I had lunch with Sherri today. We rarely talk about Griffin … she’s very secretive. But I asked how’s he’s doing. Nothing specific. She said he’s good. Then she asked if she could be honest with me, like a friend, not like your mom. I said yes.
“She said it’s been rough for him, he likes his job, but he doesn’t really have anything outside of his job. But … are you really ready for this?”
I take a big gulp of my wine. “I think so.” I’m not sure. I didn’t tell her I saw Griffin. Did he tell Sherri we saw each other?
“Last week he went on a date. It’s the first date he’s gone on since you two split. Sherri said it went well, and she’s happy for him. I’m happy for him too. And I want you to be happy as well. He deserves happiness too. I know, deep down, you want that for him.”
A week ago. Was that before or after he saw me? That explains why he hasn’t called.
Wow. This is a special kind of pain. Deserving? Probably. But it still hurts.
Fate is not awesome today.
“Yeah.” It’s all I manage to get out of my mouth. Of course I want him to be happy, but for a millisecond, I wondered if I fit in that equation again. False hope.
“There’s one more thing …”
Oh good. There’s more.
I tip back the rest of my wine, desperate for every last drop.
“She asked about you. I told her you rented a place in Salt Lake City. She turned ghost white. The next thing I knew, she was making up some excuse for why she had to get home. Swayze?”
“Mmm-hmm?” I keep my lips bit together.
“I think that’s where Griffin is at. I think he’s in Salt Lake City too.”
“Yeah…” I run a hand through my hair “…I actually ran into him last week. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you getting your hopes up.”
“Are you serious? When? How … what was said?”
“Not a lot. In hindsight, it felt like the official goodbye we never had.” Half-truth. At the time it felt like the start of something. I misread it. So, yeah, in hindsight, it was a goodbye.
“That had to be hard.”
Not as hard as this.
“A little. I’m good. I’m hoping to find a teaching job. I really love it here. And it’s a big city. I think the chances of running into Griffin again are pretty slim.”
“It’s amazing how much life changes in a year.”
I nod, too emotional to say much.
“I’ll let you go. I’m planning on paying you a visit next month.”
“That sounds great. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
I toss my phone onto the chair beside me and pour another glass of wine.
He’s twenty-four. Of course he’s going to date. I’m a little surprised last week was his first since he left six months ago. But maybe he’s been with other women, just not on dates.
He’s twenty-four. Young. Sexy.
I’d be an idiot to think he hasn’t been with someone else. And while it hurts, I can’t be jealous, or mad, or anything. I chose Daisy because at the time it didn’t feel like a choice.
But here’s the bottom line: Griffin killed Doug Mann to keep me safe. That’s an unpaid debt I will carry forever.
So he can date a million women. He can choose to never text or call me again. It’s the pass of all passes.
I owe him my life. He owes me nothing.
Another week goes by. He’s not going to call.
Exercise becomes my go-to for my mental health. Whenever I start to feel a pity party coming on, I change my clothes and get my ass to the fitness center down the street. And I don’t come home until I’m ready to pass out.
Some days I make the drive into the mountains to climb a long trail. I like the air up there. I like the clarity. I like how small I feel. It’s where I always find perspective again.
“After you,” a young man holds open the door to my apartment building.
“You just move in?” he asks.
“Yeah.” I retrieve the mail from my box at the bottom of the stairs.
He unlocks a box two columns over from mine. “Well, I’ve been here for five years. So if you need someone to help you navigate the area, let me know. I’m in 4A. Sam.” He holds out his hand.
Sam. I grin. He stole my name. Good thing I didn’t make anything legal. Samantha and Sam would never work. I’m not implying I’m looking for anything to work. But since Nate let me go, and Griffin moved on, maybe I should keep my possibilities open for something.
I shake his hand. “Swayze.”
“Swayze. I like that.”
I chuckle. “Don’t. Please. If we’re going to be neighbors of sorts, I want to like you. But if you like my name, I fear we have nothing more to ever discuss.”
Sam laughs. “Fair enough. I hope to see you around soon.”
“Me too.” I smile.
I climb two flights of stairs behind him, and we share one last smile before he continues to the fourth floor while I make my way down the hallway of the second floor, thumbing through my mail. Mostly junk.
As I fish my key out of my pocket, I look up and stop, a little startled.
“Hey,” I say on a breathless exhale.
Griffin pushes off my door, holding up a white envelope. “Grocery money.”
“I gave you my phone number, not my address.” I take the envelope and slip it into my bag.
“Sorry it took me so long to get you the money.” He ignores my address comment.
I slide by him, unlocking my door. He smells of spearmint like he just stuck a new piece of gum in his mouth.
“You didn’t have to repay me at all.” I open the door and drop my bag on the floor.
“I don’t like to be indebted.”
I turn. He leans against the doorframe as I hold the door open.
“You could never be indebted to me.”
The tiniest amount of tension pulls at his brow. Does he know I know?
A little laugh escapes from my chest, a nervous attempt to break this awkward moment. “You don’t have to stand in the hall. You can come inside.”
“I need to get going.”
How long was he standing by my door? He had to have gotten my address from his mom or mine. He could have mailed me the money.
He owes me nothing. Nate said I wasn’t his to kiss. Well, I’m certain no part of Griffin is still mine.
“Okay.” I hold the door open with my hip, slipping my hands into the back pockets of my shorts.
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