After the sweet ending of their date night, our heroes are having second thoughts.
Adelie met with Leslie on Sunday afternoon to go for a run in the little nearby park, like they did every week. It had rained in the morning, and there were a lot of puddles on the paths, splashing up high when they ran through them. The first laps were usually spent in silence until they’d found their rhythm, but Adelie guessed from Leslie’s impatient side glances that she was dying to know what had happened at the Marmoset the night before.
“So?” Her friend finally blurted out on their third pass of the statue of General Guisan.
“So what? It was a lovely evening.” Adelie wasn’t sure if she wanted to relate anything more. The mere thought of their kiss still made her lips tingle. She hadn’t heard from him since, and she didn’t know what to think of the whole thing herself.
“A lovely evening.” Leslie huffed. “Adelie, I know you long enough to know that when you’re stingy with words, something more than ‘lovely’ has happened.”
Shoot. There was no way to avoid confessing now. “We danced. We kissed each other good-bye.”
“You let him kiss you? Did he make you drunk to achieve that?” Leslie abruptly stopped and pushed her fists into her pink tracksuit cladded sides. “You said he was honourable!”
“Woah, I didn’t say the kiss wasn’t honourable. And maybe I instigated it?” Adelie couldn’t help but smirk at her friend, even though she knew that this would make her furious.
“You did WHAT?”
She turned and fell back into running. “Leslie, I know that it probably wasn’t the smartest move on my side. It’s just…” She stopped again. “I don’t know. When I’m with him, I just feel good. He has shown me his vulnerable side, and I feel safe enough with him to do the same. I know you just see the unscrupulous womaniser in him, but I swear he’s more than that. So… kissing him was just a natural progression of the events. It felt right then. And he’s a good kisser.”
Leslie’s impression changed from agitated to concerned. “So why do you think it wasn’t a smart move to kiss?”
Adelie tightened the elastic on her ponytail. “Before it was just playful banter. Flirting. Neither of us venturing out so far that we could get hurt. Both playing it safe. This… this has changed now.”
Leslie touched her arm, her blue eyes wide with worry. “Why?”
“Because now the cards are on the table. We need to make our next move, and I hate to say it, but all involved parties could suffer a broken heart.”
The ran a lap without saying a word. Eventually, Leslie stopped again.
“Pardon?” Adelie brushed back a pert strand and gave her friend a surprised look.
“Because I acted stupidly. I just realised that he’s not just a cute boy who goes around and breaks hearts with intention. I never thought that he might do it to protect his own. And that there must be more to him when he manages to win your friendship and possibly your heart. You’re not a fool, and I forgot that too. If you think he’s worthy, I should not berate you for believing so. I’m sorry.”
“Hey, Les.” Adelie pulled her friend into a hug. “I know where you’re coming from. We’re all a product of our experiences. Sometimes this is helpful; sometimes it’s not. You know what – let’s call this off, have a shower and go pig out at Schmitz’s Café. I need some cake.”
Nate found Eddy in the workshop, cleaning the rusty engine he’d pulled out of his latest restoration project.
“Hey man, need any help?”
Eddy glanced up and nodded towards a wire brush. “Sure. What do you want to talk about? Did your date not go well?”
“So what’s wrong?”
Nate took the brush and started to clean a rusty spot on the engine. “I don’t know what to do.”
This made Eddy look up for good. “You’re in neck-deep, aren’t you?” Nate could only nod. “Well, I can’t blame you. If I were straight, I’d fall for her too.”
Nate laughed. “Sure you would, she’s an ex-racer.”
“And pretty to boot. C’mon.” Eddy put down his own wire brush and motioned towards the rickety bench in front of the workshop. He pulled a crumpled cigarette packet out of the coverall’s breast pocket and lit one up. “Sit down. Tell me. What’s the trouble?”
“You know when you’re with someone, and it feels like you’ve known them for ages, even if you haven’t? I feel as if I’ve known her since our nappy days. We just click.”
“Not the worst place to start a relationship from?”
“True. And I really like her. She’s my workshop buddy and my study partner and… and my best friend. I don’t want to lose her. But what if I ultimately find that this relationship thing isn’t for me?”
Eddy puffed a cloud of smoke into the washed out sky. “A true, stable relationship isn’t far away from what best friends are. Yes, you have the sex and the kisses too, but ultimately and hopefully, you and your partner are also best friends. Because if you’re not, once the hormones have settled down, things won’t work out. I can’t tell you what to do. I can tell you what I’ve seen, though. You spent a lot of time with Adelie and a lot less with other girls lately. You already prefer her.”
Nate cleared his throat. “I just don’t want to hurt her.”
“Do you want a piece of advice?”
“Forget about not hurting her. You will, sooner or later. And she will hurt you. This is the thing with being together, you can’t avoid hurting each other. But there’s always the potential of coming out as a stronger couple on the other side.”
Nate stared ahead, more talking to himself than to Eddy. “Is it all worth the risk?”
Eddy slap-grabbed his shoulder and shook him. “Nate, jeez, of course it is. Christ, buddy, people you click with aren’t waiting around every corner! How often have you found a woman willing to spend time with you in a dingy garage?”
Nate leant back, rubbing his face. “Never. The truth is, I’ve never found a woman like her. When she’s around the air tastes better, and the colours are more vibrant. Her smiles… oh god, her smiles. And she has this tiny watercolour kit and is always painting. It’s amazing what she’s seeing and capturing. Do you know how utterly fascinating a glass of water can be? How the light breaks, and how it magnifies things behind it…”
Eddy laughed. “Do you hear yourself? You’re gushing.”