“You – you what?” I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. This was Jamie, MY Jamie, who had never wished harm to anyone.
He ground his fist into the palm of his other hand and frowned at the floor. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet and dark.
“I wanted to hurt you, to make you feel as bad as I did. I brought Brenda to make you think that I had moved on, that every minute of every day wasn’t spent thinking about you and missing you.” He glanced up. “Wondering who you were with.”
I couldn’t hold his gaze for long, as guilt settled in my chest like a lead weight. My hands twisted in my lap, knotting my fingers, clenching into fists. There was not one word I could think of to say. Nothing was going to make this better. An apology would sound weak and wouldn’t assuage my guilt or his anger, and would probably only serve to make things worse.
He stood suddenly and paced across the living room, sweeping his hands over his hair repeatedly, shaking his head.
“You were everything to me,” he began. “There was nothing I wouldn’t do for you, Alexis. Nothing. If I could give you the moon and stars, you know you’d already have them. Since the day we met, the only thing I wanted to do was make you happy. And what did you do with that?”
Coming to a stop with his back to me, he hung his head. His sadness was radiating off him and I knew I needed to make things better, to try to explain again why I was doing what I was.
“Oh, Jamie. I –“
Before I could even start, he had spun around and was looming over me, his finger pointing menacingly in my face.
“Don’t!” he bellowed. “You don’t get to talk right now, Alexis!”
I shrank back into the couch, my eyes wide. I had never seen him like this. Jamie didn’t raise his voice. He had never tried to intimidate me or threaten me. This was a stranger in front of me, not the Jamie I knew.
He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes and blew out a deep breath. Keeping my eyes on him, I waited.
“Shit. This is not what I wanted. Things weren’t supposed to go down like this.” Turning to face me, he looked down, his brow furrowed. “Yes. I wanted to hurt you. That was my whole plan in coming to the art show. I wanted to make you feel as small, unloved, and insignificant as you made me feel.”
I kept my eyes down, watching the floor as he started pacing again. This had become a surreal situation and one that I didn’t know how to handle. I couldn’t blame him for wanting to hurt me, not really. He didn’t deserve the way I’d treated him, not for one second. Coming to the art show to confront me only made sense.
I frowned. He came to the art show to confront me? But…how did he even know I would be there?
Rising from the couch inch by inch, anger bubbled up inside me. “Jamie,” I murmured.
He whirled around surprised to find me so close behind him. His eyes flew wide for a second then narrowed and he crossed his arms in defiance. I continued to advance on him.
“Jamie…how did you know I was going to be there? I didn’t tell anyone. It was a last-minute decision. It’s not the sort of thing that I generally attend, so I know you didn’t guess.” I jabbed a finger into his chest, my anger overshadowing any fear he had caused a moment before. “How did you know? Do you have my phone tapped or something?”
Rolling his eyes, he stepped around me, hiding his face and putting some distance between us.
“Have your phone tapped?” he scoffed. “Don’t be rididculous! Who do you think I am – James Bond? How would I even do that?”
I followed him and stepped in his path. “Then how? You’re not a damn psychic.”
There was no way I was letting him get away without an explanation and I could tell by his face that he knew it.
“Jesus, you’re stubborn.” Sighing, he relented. “It was Kelly. She told me you were going to be there and suggested that I come talk to you.”
“Bullshit,” I spat. “Kelly wouldn’t do that. She was getting me away from everything, including thinking about you.”
He shrugged. “Look, she knew that neither of us would be the first to reach out and she was tired of getting caught in the middle. So…she orchestrated an ‘accidental’ meeting where we could hash things out.” Looking smug, he added, “She wasn’t expecting me to have my own plan.”
None of this was making sense. I pushed my hands against my temples to keep my head from exploding.
“I don’t understand! There are so many things you just said that are crazy I don’t even know where to start.” I fell back into the couch and stared at the ceiling. Without looking at him, I knew Jamie had sat down and was watching me closely.
I thought again about what he said, and something wasn’t sitting right.
“Wait – when did Kelly tell you where we were going?”
I felt him shrug. “I don’t know. On the phone the night before, I guess. She let it slip and we set it up from there.”
“You were…already talking to her when she ‘let it slip’? Why were you on the phone with her?”
He moved from the couch to the chair across from me without saying anything. I sat up and stared at him.
“How often do you two talk, Jamie?”
Now he was the one who couldn’t look me in the eye. His knee was bouncing and he was suddenly very interested in the floor. “Come on, Alexis. There’s no law that says I can’t talk to Kelly without you. We’re friends, too, you know.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so.” My chest started to hurt. “I would never hang out with one of your friends without you.”
He launched out of the chair and started toward the door. “Jesus, Alexis, can you hear yourself? This isn’t on me, you know. You’re the one who decided to call off the wedding and-“
He froze, but he still wouldn’t look at me.
“I didn’t call off the wedding, Jamie. I postponed it.”
A heavy silence hung in the air and the pain in my chest grew. “What did you mean about Kelly getting caught in the middle? She’s my best friend. There is no ‘middle’.”
He didn’t speak or move, but deflated a little with a long, drawn-out sigh.
Turning toward me with his hands in his pockets, he chewed his lip and tried to explain. “Alexis, none of this was supposed to happen. Like I said, it was never my intention to hurt you. It was only when you backed out – sorry, put off the wedding that things got out of hand.“
“What the hell are you telling me, Jamie?” My stomach clenched and wanted to eject its contents.
Jamie moved toward me, holding out a hand. I took an involuntary step back, the idea of him touching me pissing me off. Just as the bile in my stomach was rising, so was my anger. I could feel it like the mercury in a thermometer, climbing higher and higher.
“Alexis, please, just listen to me –“
He was interrupted by a sudden, frantic knocking at my door that made both of us jump. I wasn’t expecting anyone else – hell, I wasn’t expecting Jamie, and yet here he was. I pointed a finger at him, giving him my most severe scowl, and said, “We are not even close to being done here.”
It was satisfying to see a flash of fear in his eyes.
The knocking continued without stopping, setting my already frazzled nerves on edge. Moving faster, I yanked the door open just to make the noise stop.
“Hey Lexi, you okay?”
My mouth dropped open and I groaned. “What are you doing here?”
Chris stepped over the threshold and grasped my shoulders, looking me over before leaning in and kissing my cheek.
“The way you sounded on the phone had me worried, thought maybe you were in some kind of trouble. I was already in my car and decided to swing by and make sure you were all right.”
His hands tightened on my shoulders and even before I saw the shift of his gaze behind me, I knew things were just about to get really awkward.