I nervously stared him straight in his eyes. He had me trapped in his gaze.
“T-Thanks,” I whispered.
I brought the phone to my ear, Tudor never looked away. “Hello?” I answered weakly.
“Hey, Natasha, it’s Gage, from the show the other night. Arianna’s brother.”
“Oh, yeah. Hi, Gage.”
Tudor folded his arms over his chest, breathing loudly, failing to conceal his dislike of the whole situation. I couldn’t take my eyes away from his magnetic stare.
“Hey, is it a bad time?” Yes, it couldn’t be worse! “No, no, it’s fine. How are you?”
“I’m great, thanks. Even better now that I’m speaking to you.”
“Aww, thanks, that’s sweet of you to say.” Tudor made a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp at that.
"It's true. I’m calling to see if you still wanted to go for coffee? I was thinking tomorrow if you haven’t got any plans, say in the afternoon sometime? I have errands to run in the morning but could call you when I'm done?”
Tash, you need to go. Gage is nice, good dating material. Tudor is a friend, he has made that crystal clear. It’s only coffee, you need to do this to move on. Take a chance.
I nodded, causing Tudor to tilt his head in question. “That sounds great, tomorrow afternoon. Call me in the morning to confirm the place and time and I’ll meet you there.”
I could actually hear Gage smile through the line. “Awesome. It’s funny, when a guy answered your cell I was worried you had got yourself a boyfriend since Wednesday, that I was too late.”
I stiffened. “No... he’s not my boyfriend, he’s just... a friend. I’m completely single.”
Tudor stumbled back, lowered his arms and clenched his fists repeatedly at his sides. I wondered for a split second if he was going to punch a hole in the wall. It certainly looked that way.
“Phew, that’s a relief! I’ll call you tomorrow, for sure. I’m really looking forward to it, Natasha. Have a nice afternoon.”
I finally looked away from Tudor, who was as still as a photograph. “Me too. I’ll see you then, Gage. Have a nice day.”
I hung up and gripped the counter top. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife, so I waited about thirty seconds and turned around. Tudor was still standing in the same place, eyes focused on the floor.
I plastered on a fake smile. “So, I’m all cleaned up here. Shall we go for that walk?” I asked in an overly cheery voice.
He took a shuddering breath and darted his eyes anywhere but at me. “Erm, I-I just remembered that I have to go. I need to be somewhere else after all.”
Hell no, not again!
“Tude, you promised. You said no more awkwardness. Please don’t do this again.” I complained as I moved around the kitchen island towards him.
He squeezed his eyes shut once and then focused his gaze back on me. “You’re right, I did. But I-I can’t go with you today, Tash. I need to go. Please, I need time on my own. It’ll all be fine, don’t worry.” He sounded broken, his voice was just above a whisper and I swear his eyes were misting over.
“Tudor, you told me to go out with him only the other night, remember?” I pleaded, trying to make him understand. He told me to friggin do this!
He smiled, and nodded. “I did and you should.”
He straightened and composed himself, looking normal once again and not in any way affected. “Honestly, Sunshine, go, have a good time, you deserve it. I do need to go, but I’ll call you later, okay?”
He walked over and gave me a weak, one-armed hug. I knew he was lying; sure, he was an actor and his profession was to pretend, but I could read this man like a book!
He shifted away from me to walk out of the door, reaching for his car keys and mobile phone on the bookcase.
I went after him in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the situation, tugging on his arm, twisting him around. “Tudor, please, let’s just go out as planned, we can do this, we can be friends without all the weirdness… Just try, for me, please.”
He stilled and ran a finger down my cheek, eyes tinged with sadness, simply shaking his head: no.
My head fell onto his chest, and I relented and let go of his arm. He leaned forward and kissed my head softly; I could see he didn’t want to leave but he was forcing himself to go.
He walked quickly to the door and simply bowed his head once as a goodbye. I opened it unwillingly, and he left without even glancing back. I watched him disappear around the corner to the elevator and then shut the door.
I slowly released the handle and placed my head against the cold, hard wood. I guessed he was really trying, giving us the space to be friends without the drama, but should it be like this? Should it be this difficult?
I eventually peeled myself away from the frame and began to shuffle back into the living room, resigning myself to a chill-out day after all and trying to remember if I had stocked up on enough Ben and Jerry's ice-cream.
I had only just reached the couch when there was a hard, continuous knock at the door.
Who the hell could that be now?
I reluctantly pulled on the handle, feeling exhausted at Tudor’s sudden departure drama, and stepped back in shock when over the threshold was the man himself. There he stood, like Adonis himself; eyes shining, body tense, strong, determined jaw, and hands braced on the door frame, tension pulsing from his strained muscles.
“Tudor, what the–?” I began to ask.