| “Wow. I didn’t know he was so… arrogant,” Derek said to Marissa as they took a break from their run at the park. They had ran a few laps around the large pond that had lilies and koi fish, and now they slowed to a walk.
“Unbelievably arrogant,” said Marissa. She took a sip of water, and then quickened her walking pace. “He was just so… pushy and… then he was nice, and then he was a jerk,” she said.
Derek had no problem keeping up since he was the one who often motivated Marissa to run. “Well it’s all over now and you came out alive.” He tugged on her arm to indicate for her to slow down. Then he started poking her arms and torso. “All limbs seem to be attached properly, so we know there’s no physical damage from your encounter with him. Now I just need to know if there’s any mental or emotional damage I should be worried about.”
“I don’t know. I’m sure I’m fine.” She tried to quicken her pace again, but he held her back.
“Yes, because you’re always perfectly fine when you run or walk aggressively. You know the only time you ever want to go for a run is when you’re angry. You raced me out the door today. That is not normal.”
With sweat running down her forehead, she said, “Now you think I’m not normal? I thought you liked everything about me? Even my quirks?”
“I love everything about you, Babe, especially when you’re all sweaty and worked up about something.” He made her stop walking so he could peck her on the lips.
“You’re so sweet. And you know, sometimes I want to run when I’m really happy, so it could be that.”
“Let me think about this,” Derek said as he put his hand to his chin and stared off into space, “You just saw the man you love who you were with for four years, and you haven’t seen him in five years, and you need him to sign a contract so that you can give your fiancé your heart. Happy? That’s not really the first emotion that comes to mind. I’ll go with not fine.”
“Speaking of contracts, did he sign it?” Derek looked expectantly at Marissa like a puppy looks at its owner while waiting for a treat, but isn’t sure if he’s going to get one. He wore a sweet and meek expression, yet his strong desire for hope was very evident. Marissa didn’t know how to answer him.
“You’re starting a sentence with well?” He took his time walking over to the nearest bench and Marissa followed him. “He didn’t sign it.”
“No. I’m so sorry, Derek, but he wouldn’t. I asked him, pleaded, told him to, but he wouldn’t. He said he won’t.”
Derek sat in quiet contemplation for a while. Marissa tried placing her hand on his leg, but he pushed away. Then he got up angrily and started pacing, “Why does he still have it? Does he even care about you at all? If he does care about you, he’ll understand that you care about me and want to marry me, so he should be more than willing to sign it. If he doesn’t care about you, then he has no reason to keep it. He can’t be that bad if you loved him.”
“He’s – he’s not that bad. Could you please sit down?”
Derek saw the timid look on Marissa’s face. He knelt down on both knees in front of her and rested his arms on her lap. “I’m sorry, Babe. I didn’t mean to get mad. It’s just that I love you so much and I want all of you. I want all of your contracts. And the most important one is the contract to your heart and you want to give it to me, but he won’t let you.”
Marissa reached out to put her hand on his shoulder, and this time he accepted it. “You have most of me. You have my mind and my body. I want to give you my heart, so I’ll do all that I can to get it for you.”
Derek placed his hand behind her neck, pulled her in close to him, and kissed her hard. It was a fearful kiss. The kind of kiss you give to someone when you know that person is leaving for a long time and you may never see each other again. The kind of kiss you give when you’re afraid of losing someone.
As they pulled away, Marissa whispered, “You’re not going to lose me.”
Derek looked into her eyes and analyzed the hazel color, the tint of green in the bright lighting, the almond shape. He stared into her eyes like this many times before, but Marissa saw the change in his eyes. He was absolutely terrified of losing her.
“I love you too,” she said.
“I didn’t say…” he began.
“But you were thinking it.”
After the run, Derek and Marissa took Chinese food back to her apartment. “I love how it’s so easy for you to be healthy and so unhealthy at the same time.”
“I just ran and had a traumatizing day. I deserve something delicious,” she said as she unloaded the boxes out of the bag and placed them around the living room coffee table.
“You have a boyfriend who is an excellent chef. I can make you something healthy and delicious.”
“I know, but this was faster and I was craving it. Besides, I get to eat junk food for the hour after I work out and it goes right through me. It’s like I never ate anything unhealthy.”
“Where did you hear that? That’s a total lie.”
“It’s true. I read it somewhere.”
“You read things everywhere. You probably saw it on some ad online or something.”
Faye barged into the apartment just then and saw all the take-out. “Chinese food! I love Chinese food. Did you get egg rolls? You know those are my fave.”
Marissa handed her a small box. “We got some just for you. Derek took one.”
“I took one?” he asked while raising an eyebrow.
Faye started eating and then realized she might be interrupting. “Oh, how oblivious of me. Were you two having a moment? Cause, I can leave. I’ll happily take these egg rolls to my room. And maybe some of that fried rice. Ooh, and hand me some noodles.”
“It’s no problem, Faye. You weren’t interrupting. You can eat with us.”
“Good, because I had such a long day and I just need someone to talk to. Two people to talk to is better. It’s about Eddie. He’s just been so distant lately, and you know, I try calling him and texting him and I don’t know what his problem is, but he’s not answering or replying to my texts.”
“If he’s not replying, don’t keep bugging him. If he wants to talk to you, he’ll talk to you,” Derek advised.
Faye was offended by his remark, “I’m not bugging him.”
Marissa gave her another egg roll and said, “Sweetie, he wasn’t trying to offend you, but he is right.”
After she stuffed the egg roll in her mouth, she mumbled, “I’m bugging him?”
Derek waited for her to swallow and then asked, “What happened before he started ignoring you?”
“Last night we slept together and today he’s ignoring me. It wasn’t our first time though.” She giggled to herself, “far from our first time. Maybe he’s tired of me?”
“Or he thinks you’re getting too attached.”
Both Marissa and Faye laughed when he said that. Marissa commented, “Faye doesn’t get attached to guys.”
“It’s true,” Faye added, “Me and Eddie just have a sex thing.”
“Well I could only think of five reasons why he would stop talking to you: He thinks you’ve gotten too attached, he thinks you’re too needy, he’s bored, which is the most unlikely one, he’s found someone else, or he’s gotten too attached.” Derek looked at his watch and realized it was nearly seven. He turned to Marissa and said, “Sorry Babe, but I have to go. I forgot I was supposed to help my little sister with some church thing tonight. She wanted me there at six-thirty.”
“I don’t mind. Go help your sister.” She walked him out and he gave her a quick kiss goodbye.
“Bye Derek!” Faye yelled at the closed door. He quickly opened the door, with a smile said, “Bye Faye. Nice talking to you,” closed the door and left.
“Such a sweet guy. You know he’s probable the sweetest guy I know. You’re so lucky to have him. Anyways, as I was saying. Hun. Hun, what’s wrong?”
Marissa’s face was streaked in tears. She walked over to Faye and sat on a large pillow that was by the coffee table.
“Hun, sweetie. Why are you crying?”
She cried even more at the mention of the word ‘crying’ and then put her face down in her arms. Faye rubbed her back and let her cry for a while. She got up and made some hot chocolate and got the chocolate muffins she had bought earlier. “Here. Now tell me why you’re crying, Honey.”
“I saw Josh today.”
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot. I should’ve had this stuff already prepared. Should I get some chocolate bars from the stash on the fridge?”
“No. This is fine. Thank you.” Marissa got herself some tissue and blew her nose loudly. She took several bites of her muffin and then began, “I still love him. I’m still crazy about him. He was such a jerk, but even when he was being an arrogant jerk, I couldn’t stop the tingling in my stomach. And his eyes are still so gorgeous. That man is gorgeous.”
“So is your fiancé.”
“I know. But Josh… Oh I shouldn’t be talking about him like that. Derek is so amazing. And you’re right, he’s so sweet. The sweetest man I know too.” She blew her nose some more and it seemed like she would stop crying. “The worst part about seeing Josh today is that now I’m not even sure I want him to sign the contract.” She started sobbing again.
“I’ll get the stash.” When she came, she asked, “Honey, why did you two break up? It was love and it was real. What happened?”
Marissa finished off her muffin and drank some hot chocolate to wash it down. Then she took a Kit Kat. “It’s a long story, but I’ll give you the trailer version.” She took some more bites. “We met our freshman year of high school and got together when we were juniors. He was sweet and a gentleman. Mature for his age and the best guy I’d ever known. A year into our relationship I gave my heart to him. A few years later we broke up and haven’t talked since. He – he kind of had this control over me. He chose things for me. At first it was small and I didn’t mind it, but then the things got bigger. He was kind of controlling, but not in the way you think. He didn’t keep me on a leash and not let me see my friends or anything like that. He was never the jealous type. It was just that I made him my world and put him before everything. So, I guess I gave him control over my life.
“When we got to college, he had no idea what he wanted for his future. He lost all motivation by our second year there. I didn’t have a clue about my future either, but I didn’t give up like he did. No college sophomore knows what their future holds. I still don’t know what mine holds. Anyways, he wanted to drop out and travel, find himself. He wanted me to join. I couldn’t. School was just too important to me and I couldn’t throw away my future for him… Even though back then I knew he was my future.”
“So you broke up because he dropped out of college?”
“No, not just that. As I said, he was controlling and he’s always had this kind of control over me. Well, when he decided to drop out, he made me drop out too. It was only for a summer. Before we left, I changed my mind and reapplied and got back in. I guess he never made me drop out, but he told me to. He didn’t ask. He just said, ‘drop out with me.’ So I did for a summer. It took me all summer, but after I realized how much control he had over me, over my life, I knew I couldn’t keep simply doing whatever he told me to. I needed my own life. It was the first time I told him no. So, he left and traveled I guess. I stayed and finished school. I met Derek a little after I graduated and here I am.”
“You did the right thing. I would never let a man have so much power over me. If he wanted me to just up and leave everything for him, I’d be like ‘bye.’ And that’s what you did. I’m proud of you.”
Marissa started tearing up again and reached for a Hershey’s bar this time. “I never stopped looking back at that day I decided to go back to college. I still wonder if I made the right choice. What if I should’ve gone with him? I loved him. I loved him so much.”
“No. Listen to me, Honey. You did the right thing. If you two were meant to be, he should’ve stayed in college for you.”
“He should’ve!” Marissa yelled. Then more quietly she added, “He left me. I told him no and he left me. Why didn’t he stay with me? We loved each other so much, but he didn’t stay for me. He just wanted me to go for him.” “I’m just so confused. I never wanted to leave him… I just knew I had to.”
“Good! I’m glad you two are over. There’s just one thing I want to make sure: Who broke up with who?”
Marissa got a tissue and wiped away a few tears. “I broke up with him because I needed to be me without his control. Then he left because that’s what he needed to do I guess. Maybe we just needed to find ourselves.”
“Well, I love who you found. Look at you – a confident, independent, sexy woman. Josh wasn’t the man for you, but Derek. Now there’s a man, unlike my Eddie. I’m still mad that he hasn’t called or text me back all day.”
“Maybe his phone died.”
“Oh that would be a good one.” They repositioned themselves on their big pillows and Faye spilled all the details of the problems she’d been having with Eddie.
“So why don’t you break up with him?”
Faye looked at her like she was crazy, “Cause then I’d be alone. I have to find another man before I break up with him. And I just have to make sure to string him along so he doesn’t break up with me.”
Marissa didn’t know what to say to that. She got up to throw away all of her used tissues and told Faye, “It must be amazing to be you. So unattached.”
Faye weakly responded, “Yeah. Being unattached is great. For a while.”
“What’s wrong?” Marissa asked.
“It’s just that here you are with two guys who are madly in love with you. Fighting for you. Trying to win your heart. And I still haven’t been in love. Like real deal love, not that cheesy high school stuff.”
Marissa handed her a Snickers, “I guess we’re both in not so great situations. Love sucks. Having it. Not having it. It sucks.” They ate their chocolate and she continued, “But I know you’ll find that one you’ll fall in love with. Maybe he’ll be the one to the sign the contract to your heart before he signs it to your body.”
“It just seems so impossible.”
“What? Have you looked in the mirror? A gorgeous, hott, sexy woman like you, who has a really big booty. C’mon. You have great style, a great smile, and your booty is huge.” They both laughed a little. “You’ll find someone. You just need to open up your heart, and maybe keep your legs closed for a while.”
Faye hit her with a pillow. They had a small pillow fight while laughing, and they Faye finally said, “Thanks, Hun. You really do add sweetness to my life.”
“And you were definitely right about one thing.”
“My booty is huge. Have you seen it lately? It’s hard to find any jeans to fit into. And I try to wear long dresses, you know those cute African looking ones, but it just sticks out more. Nothing can hide that thing.”
“You’re trying to hide it?”
Faye slyly smiled, “No.”
They laughed some more, and then Marissa said, “I need to get Josh to sign that contract.”
Faye asked, “How you gonna do that?”
“Well… he called me after our lunch and we’re supposed to meet for coffee tomorrow after I get off of work.”
“Does the fiancé know about this?”
“I couldn’t tell him. He was so mad when I told him that Josh didn’t sign the contract that I was afraid to tell him I’m meeting him again. Besides, if I convince Josh to sign it tomorrow, then Derek will be too happy to be mad about me not telling him about the meeting.”
“Coffee with your ex? Sounds like it could be a date instead of a meeting.”
“I know, but it really isn’t. It’s casual. Just coffee. That’s it.”
Faye gave her a knowing stare and added, “I’m sure Derek will completely forget about you lying to him.”
“He… might not, but he’ll forgive me.” Faye continued her don’t-be-so-stupid stare. “Stop looking at me like that.” Faye kept her eyes on her. “Stop it. He’ll be happy.” She grabbed another Kit Kat and shoved it in Faye’s mouth to make her stop staring.
“Chocolate… excellent choice of weapon. I surrender,” said Faye.