“Why did we break up?”
Oops. I had intended to be far more subtle about bringing that up. But I was having so much fun with Chris I had started to forget why I was there.
Blurting it out in such a ham-handed manner was definitely worth it to get a spit-take and a hearty laugh from him, though.
“What?! Where did that come from?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Don’t you ever think about it? Don’t you ever wonder what went wrong?”
He didn’t answer right away but shifted slightly in his chair. He drummed his fingers on the table – a move I recognized as his standard stalling tactic.
“Nothing ‘went wrong’ Lexi. Things end.”
“We were in love though, right?”
A beat. “Yes.”
“So why didn’t it last?”
Chris leaned his elbows on the table and stared at me.
“Because we were 17…? I don’t know. It wasn’t supposed to last forever. It’s called a ‘first love’ for a reason.”
I blinked. “But how did you know it wasn’t going to last? How is a person expected to know the difference between a fleeting love and…and forever love? Is it even really ‘love’ if it doesn’t last?”
He looked like I had slapped him. Damn.
“You…don’t think it was real love?”
Please, Earth, open up and swallow me. Now.
“I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
“Are you having some kind of existential crisis?” He sat straight up, his eyes wide. “You aren’t dying, are you?”
Our eyes locked and then we both burst out laughing. That, apparently, was the cue for the waiter to bring us our checks. Chris tried to grab both of them, but I slapped my hand down on his.
“Don’t you DARE!”
“Come on, Lexi. What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn’t pay for dinner?”
I tried to peel his fingers up off the paper.
“The kind of gentleman who is here at MY invitation. This was my idea. I should be the one to pay.”
He shook his head and refused to budge.
“Don’t be a caveman, Chris! I am perfectly capable of covering both checks.”
He glared at me and I glared right back. If he wanted a staring contest, he’d get one, and he would lose.
“God, you have always been stubborn.” He slid his hand out from under mine. “Fine. But you’re not paying for me!”
I grinned and threw my fists into the air.
He walked me out to my car, showing me pictures of his son on his phone. I didn’t have baby fever – nothing even close to resembling it – but that kid was damn adorable. Curly blond hair, green eyes, chubby cheeks and the biggest smile. The spitting image of his dad.
“He’s almost 5 and he’s my best buddy. I miss him when he’s with his mom, but Angie’s really great with him.”
I handed him his phone.
“Now, I could tell you why that relationship didn’t work out.” He shuffled his feet and smirked at me. “But us?”
Shaking his head slowly, he tucked one of my stray curls behind my ear.
He took a deep breath. “My mom already told me you’re engaged, Lexi. I didn’t come here with any kind of expectation beyond spending time with someone who was an integral part of my life – of who I am.”
I don’t really know what I was expecting from Chris, but he seemed to know exactly what I needed anyway. He opened his arms and I leaned into him, pressing my cheek into his shoulder while he rubbed soothing circles on my back.
“There’s no way to know when love is forever.” He kissed the top of my head. “You don’t read the last chapter of a book first, do you? If you know how it’s going to end…well, what’s the fun in that?”
I sighed and clung to him for a few seconds longer.