Page 27

I have nothing. Not. One. Good. Excuse.

“Hey…” she reaches across the table and squeezes my hand “…don’t cry. It’s not the end of the world.”

“But what if it’s the end of us?” I grab the cocktail napkin from under my drink and use it to blot my eyes.

“You think he’s going to break up with you because you forgot his birthday?”

“No, I …” Oh god, I can’t even say it, but I try anyway. “I think he could break up with me because when he seemed upset about me going out with you tonight I asked him what crawled up his butt and died.”

“Oh …” Erica wrinkles her nose. “That’s not good. You should go. You’re just wasting time.” She glances at her phone. “It’s already eleven. You have one hour to make sure he gets the best birthday blowjob ever. Go. I’ll order you a ride.”

I can’t stop the tears. It’s not just Griffin. It’s his whole family. I feel like I’ve failed all of them today. What kind of girlfriend forgets her boyfriend’s birthday? What kind of girlfriend says what I said to him earlier?

Nausea twists my stomach. How could I do this?

“What’s his address?” Erica asks while tapping the screen of her phone. “You do know his address, right?”

I nod, wiping more tears away while mumbling his address.

“Okay. Five minutes. Blue Camry out front.”

I stand, wobbling a bit on my heels. “Thank you.”

“No problem. Good luck. Let me know how it goes. I work all day tomorrow, but I have a few breaks if you need a shoulder to cry on.”

I hope I don’t need a shoulder to cry on, but I’m not sure this will end well.

*

I text him on the way.

He doesn’t reply—doesn’t even read it.

I call.

No answer.

The knot in my stomach pushes more acid up my throat, and I can’t stop the slow leak of tears. The driver lets me off in front of his house. I’ve had too much to drink. My eyes are swollen and surely streaked with mascara. No explanation. No gift. Not even a card.

Nothing.

I’m here with nothing to offer him on his birthday—what little is left of it. The front door is locked so I knock. A few seconds later I ring the doorbell. The porch light flips on and he opens the door. I’ve never felt anything but love from this man—until now.

“I’m a terrible person.”

He stares at me with a cold, dark gaze, holding a blanket around his waist. I know he’s not wearing anything beneath it because he sleeps in the nude.

It’s been a long week and all I want to do is let him strip me down and collide into each other with the insatiable desire we’ve always had between us.

“I know sorry won’t make up for what I’ve done.”

It’s like I don’t even exist. His expression holds no emotion. It’s numbing and heartbreaking.

“But I am … I’m so sorry.” Another tear manages to escape when I blink.

His gaze roams along the entire length of my body. He’s getting a rare glimpse of me in a short black dress with high heels and my hair pulled into a high ponytail. I need it to be enough for him to step back and let me inside.

It’s not. I can see that when his icy glare returns to my face.

“Say something.”

“Like what?”

“Can I come inside?”

He gives a firm snap of his neck to the side and back again.

“Your mom reminded me of your birthday a few weeks ago. I just forgot because of everything that’s been going on. And then I went to the doctor today because you asked me to, and I cleaned my apartment because deep down I know you hate how messy it is most of the time, and I just …”

I’ve never had a love like this to lose before now. How am I supposed to know what this is? Feelings of stupidity and inexperience mix with fear. Are we breaking up? Is that what this is? It doesn’t feel like a fight. If I turn and walk away, I don’t think he’ll chase after me. And that’s why I can’t walk away. I have to plead my case until there’s nothing left to plead.

He steps back and my heart surges with hope because he’s going to let me in, but then—

Clank!

The door shuts in my face and my heart shatters right here on his front porch.

“Griffin!” I bang the door and try to turn the handle, but it’s locked.

The light above me goes out and it feels so final.

“I’m sorry! I love you!” I continue to bang on the door. A few dogs bark in the distance as I wake up the neighborhood in my desperation. “Please let me in! I don’t want us to be over!”

Sobs rip from my throat. This hurts. Nothing has ever hurt this bad. Not even when my father died.

“I’m so … incredibly … sorry …” I whisper while resting my forehead and fisted hands on the door.

*

The next morning I order him a fruit bouquet since he’s not a flowers or a cookie bouquet kind of guy. I text. I call.

Nothing.

I spend the day mourning and hating myself for being so insensitive. Every time I hear a noise in the hallway, I rush to look out my peephole, but it’s never my grocery store guy. Desperation gobbles up all sense of self-worth and dignity. I’m ready to trade my soul to the devil to get my guy back.

By the next morning, I’m at the very bottom. After taking a shower, I check my pulse to see if I still have one. There is no life in me right now. I can’t think about Nate and every finite detail I know about his past. I don’t have Griffin and … Fuck. Me. It hurts everywhere.

Something pulls me to my car. I’m pretty sure it’s desperation. I’m drowning in it. That same pathetic force leads me to his neighborhood, but I don’t pull down his street. Instead, I park a block away and worm my way toward his house, staying one street over so he can’t see me if he’s outside mowing the lawn or working in his garage. This is a new pathetic low, even for me.

I squint to see through the trees between two houses. He’s mowing his lawn, a usual Sunday chore. Instead of confronting him again, I make the short walk to his parents’ house. If I’m going to make this right, I need his parents’ forgiveness too.

“Swayze! What a lovely surprise.” Sherri answers the door, all smiles. “Come in.”

Words fail me. I wasn’t expecting this kind of reception.

“Where’s Griffin?”

Surely my wide eyes and slack mouth says it all. “Um …”

“How’s your friend?”

I follow her to the kitchen where she pours me a glass of ice tea.

“My friend?”

“Yes. Griffin told us something really important came up with your friend. We missed you at the birthday party.”

He lied for me … or for him. I’m not sure what this means.

“She’s … uh … fine.”

“Good to hear. So what are you up to today?” She gestures to the deck.

We go outside and sit in the glider chairs. Scott’s running the weed eater in the backyard. It must be the Calloway yard day.

I have an out. Griffin’s lie gives me one. But I don’t know how this will end if I don’t confess. And I can’t let this go on any longer.

“Griffin lied.”

Sherri gives me a confused look. “About what?”

“I forgot his birthday.” My eyes burn. It’s a race to say what I need to say before I break down. “And I could list all the reasons why I forgot it, but they don’t matter. I love him and I should not have forgotten his birthday. And I made it even worse by saying something I should not have said when he seemed upset about my other plans on Friday. Then …” My emotions tighten around my neck like a noose. I can’t get another word out.

“Oh, sweetie…” Sherri reaches over and rests her hand on my arm “…you made a mistake. It’ll be fine. Griffin loves you.”

I try to swallow, but the emotions are too thick so I just shake my head.

“Yes, he will. Have you tried talking to him?”

I nod several times and wipe the tears before they make it down my face. “H-he’s so mad.” Biting my lips together, I try to regain my composure.

“I’m sure he’s just disappointed. That’s all I saw in him on Friday. Just give him some time to get past it. I know he’ll be ready to patch things up. Scott used to be the same way when we were first married. He’d shut down. I learned to let him have his space. The good news is they grow out of it as they mature. Griffin is still learning how to navigate a serious relationship. He’s going to make a few mistakes along the way—overreact. You both will.”

I nod again and before I can get it together, Sherri comes over and pulls me into her arms and I fall apart. When I manage to piece my emotions back together, I apologize to her. She quickly waves off my attempts to make amends like I have no reason to apologize. We spend the next hour chatting about Griffin’s sisters, their boy issues, and my turning down the temporary teaching job to watch Morgan full time.

Griffin hadn’t even shared that with her. I want to believe it’s to make sure I always look good in their eyes, but after Friday, I’m not sure what to believe.

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