Thursday, July 14, 2016

Chapter 29 (7/15/16)

The next post is in the works.  I don't know the exact day I'll be posting, but it will be early next week!

On Sunday I had brunch with Erica, Kelly, and their husbands.  Hanging out with two married couples could easily turn into a 5th wheel situation, but more often than not, it ended up with the guys talking about guy stuff while Erica, Kelly, and I talked about our stuff.  I liked both of their husbands a lot too, which helped.  I was quietly filling Erica and Kelly in on my evening when suddenly John and Darrin fell silent.  “Telling secrets over there?” Darrin, Kelly’s husband, asked us jokingly.
“No,” I said, at the same time Kelly said, “yes”.  We all laughed.  “I was just telling them about my date yesterday.”  For simplicity’s sake, and to avoid having to refer to Ryan as my fuck buddy, calling it a date seemed like the best choice.
“He cooks!” Erica said pointedly, cocking an eyebrow at her husband John. 
“Well, how wonderful for him,” John replied.  “And for you too, I guess,” he added, looking at me.  Then he grinned and looked back at Erica.  “Trust me, it’s better for everyone if I don’t.” 
The guys got bored quickly with our conversation and went back to talking to each other so I could finish filling Kelly and Erica in.  “You are in so much trouble,” Kelly said, once I’d finished.
“What?  Why?” I asked.
She and Erica exchanged a look.  “He cooks?  He’s good in bed?  He’s attractive?  And emotionally unavailable to boot?  Come on, Jenna.  Good luck not catching feelings for this one.”
“It’s a little rude to suggest that emotionally unavailable is my type,” I said, slightly irritated.  Kelly and Erica exchanged another look, frustrating me more.  “So I spent a lot of my life with one person who was emotionally unavailable.  That doesn’t mean that’s a thing I look for in potential partners!  If anything, it’s made me more aware of it and how much it sucks.  I’m glad he was honest with me from the start about it.”  My voice was getting louder, and John paused and glanced at me.  I slumped a little in my seat, trying to calm down before I got angry.
“I’m sorry,” Erica said, even though she hadn’t been the one talking.  “Look, we love you.  We’re really happy that you’re happy.  Given the relationship you just got out of, we’re just worried about you and don’t want you to get hurt again, that’s all.”
“I’ve seen the guy twice, and you guys are already fast forwarding to me falling in love with him and him breaking my heart.  That’s not fair to me or him,” I pointed out, my voice calm now.  “I appreciate you both wanting to look out for me and wanting me to be happy.  I’m not upset with you.  I know you love me and worry about me and I appreciate that.  But let me see how this plays out before we jump the gun, okay?  I’m not interested in dating him.  I just want him to cook for me and sleep with me.”  Despite Erica and Kelly’s assumptions, the only feeling I had was attraction.  In fact, I found him a little weird and kind of annoying.  They weren’t completely wrong though—I knew I’d have to be careful.
“Okay,” Erica said.  She looked at Kelly, who nodded.
“I’m sorry,” Kelly apologized, which was rare for her.  “Are we good?  Do we need to go outside and trade a few punches like men?”
I laughed and shook my head.  “No, we’re good.  We were never not good.  Just don’t be a dick and we’ll stay good!”
“Deal,” Kelly said, grinning.  The rest of brunch was uneventful, and I was grateful for my friends looking out for me, even if they were sometimes a little misguided in how they went about it.  They had seen firsthand what my divorce (not to mention the months leading up to it and the months following it) had done to me, and I knew they just wanted me to be happy.
We were leaving the restaurant when my phone rang with a familiar name I hadn’t seen on its screen in quite some time.  I said goodbye to Erica, Kelly, John, and Darrin, and walked to my car, debating whether or not to call Grace back.
Grace was the wife of one of Kevin’s friends from college.  She was part of a small group of 4 or 5 couples that we saw fairly regularly while we were married.  I became pretty good friends with most of the people in the group, especially the women.  Grace was the one I grew closest too, and we occasionally hung out one on one.
Once news of our divorce traveled through the group, I stopped getting social invitations from them .  I shouldn’t have been surprised; they were Kevin’s friends first.  And now, looking back, I can imagine they were in a really difficult position.  Plus, I was reasonably certain that Kevin didn’t actually tell his friends we were divorcing because of his compulsive cheating.  So who knows what kind of bullshit they were told.  None of that stopped me from missing them.  They were my friends too, and it hurt to lose them because I decided to finally stand up for myself and get out of a terrible marriage.
Grace hadn’t left a message, and curiosity got the best of me.  I sat in my car and called her back.  “Jenna?” she asked hesitantly, when she answered the phone.
“Hi, Grace,” I replied.  The rush of feelings when I heard her voice made my voice shake a little.  I was nervous, relieved, angry, and happy all at once.  I missed her a lot, I had no idea why she was calling, and I was suddenly incredibly angry at her for abandoning me after the divorce.
We were both silent for several seconds, then Grace said, “What are you doing today?  Do you want to get coffee or something?”
“I would love to.”  The words were out of my mouth before my brain even fully processed that Grace wanted to see me.  I pushed off a small nagging voice in my head that suggested that maybe, just maybe, Grace’s intentions weren’t good.  Grace didn’t have an ounce of bad intention in her, and I knew I was just being paranoid.  “When are you free?  I’m downtown right now, but that’s probably not convenient for you.”
“I could be downtown in 15 minutes,” she replied, surprising me.  “Just tell me where.”
I picked my favorite tiny coffee shop downtown, just two blocks from where I was currently sitting in my car.  I then spent the next 5 minutes nervously waiting in my car, checking the time every 30 seconds.  Finally, I got out of my car and began to wander around outside.  It was a gorgeous day, and the walking relaxed me.  I took a long, meandering route to the coffee shop we were meeting at, and got there just a couple minutes before the time she’d promised to arrive.  I got in line and ordered a medium nonfat chai latte, then found a place to sit.
Grace walked in just as I was sitting down, and I caught her eye and waved.  She waved back, smiling nervously, then gestured to the counter.  She was going to get a drink first.  I nodded and focused on my chai, which was too hot to drink.
When Grace arrived at the table I’d picked, I debated whether I should get up and hug her.  She hesitated too, seeming to wonder the same, but then sat down abruptly.  “Hi,” she said.  She looked really nervous.  It had been so long since I’d seen her, since she’d last reached out, that I didn’t blame her.  I was nervous too.
“Hi,” I replied. 
We both just looked at each for several seconds, then she finally blurted out, “I’m really, really sorry that I haven’t even talked to you since we found out you guys were…” she paused, as though she wasn’t sure if she should say it out loud.
“Getting divorced?” I finished for her. 
She laughed nervously and nodded.  “Yeah.  He told us that…well, it doesn’t matter what he told us.  I should have just talked to you about it.  I knew what he told us didn’t seem like you, but everything got weird so fast and I just…I screwed up, Jenna.  And I understand if you’re really angry with me.  And with all of us.”
“I was never angry,” I said truthfully.  “I was hurt, though.  I guess I wasn’t super surprised, but that didn’t make it hurt less.”  Knowing full well that I would probably regret asking this, I continued, “What did he tell you guys?”
Grace blushed slightly and shook her head.  “It’s so ridiculous.  You don’t know what he was saying?” I shook my head.  She groaned.  “Okay, well, he told us all that you had a drinking problem and refused to get sober so that you guys could start trying to get pregnant.”
I blinked in surprise.  Of all the stories I’d imagined him possibly telling people, that wasn’t one of them.  I could see him telling people that I cheated on him, but not that I had a drinking problem.  “What the hell?” I said, anger quickly replacing my shock.  “Are you serious?  And people believed that?”
Grace cringed slightly.  “I’m not sure any of us actually believed it,” she said quickly.  “But he seemed so torn up about it that I guess we all assumed that you did something pretty awful.  I’m sorry, Jenna.  Now that I know what really happened, I feel really shitty for just taking him at his word.”
“Wait, so what do you think really happened, and how did you find out?” I asked.  In the months following my divorce and social ostracization, I had assumed he was spreading lies and I’d thought about reaching out to Grace, but there was no way to defend myself without throwing Kevin under the bus.  Since he was friends with them first, I had decided to be the bigger person and let him have his friends, at the risk of my reputation.  I also figured there was a chance that they wouldn’t believe me and I’d slip even lower in their eyes.  So I took my new status as their social outcast and kept my mouth shut, sticking with the friends who had been by my side the entire time.
“One of Nate’s friends knows someone you work with.  Rachael, maybe?”  She paused, looking to me for confirmation.
“Yeah, Rachael is a friend from work,” I confirmed. 
“Well, I guess Rachael mentioned something about going to some rock climbing thing with a friend who was divorced and somehow they put the pieces together.  And Nate’s friend reported back to Nate, who then asked Kevin about it, and Kevin ended up telling him the truth.  That he cheated on you.  More than once.”  She stopped abruptly, looking at me worriedly.
“I’m not fragile, Grace, it’s fine,” I reassured her.  I wasn’t surprised Rachael hadn’t told me about this.  She was super forgetful.  She’d probably randomly remember in a few weeks and tell me then.  “So…” I said, not sure where to go next.
“This was a few weeks ago,” Grace said, filling the awkward silence.  “The guys don’t seem to care either way, but Kevin hasn’t been hanging out much since then anyway.  I don’t know why.  And we—I mean, Emma, Sam, Rayne, and I—have been talking about reaching out to you since before we even found out.  But we were worried you’d be mad—and you should be.  I would be.  And the more time that went by, the weirder and weirder it got.  After hearing that though, I knew I had to try.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry that we shut you out.  And I’m sorry that we didn’t question his version.  And I’m sorry that I waited so long to reach out to you.  I miss you, Jenna.” 
I didn’t say anything at first.  I was overwhelmed by her out of the blue call, overwhelmed by what he had told them, and just kind of overwhelmed in general.  Taking my silence as a negative response, Grace started talking again.  “And I completely understand if you don’t want to accept my apology.  You have every right to be angry and if you don’t ever want to see any of us again, I get that.  But I was wrong, and I couldn’t let any more time go on without telling you that I was wrong and I’m sorry.”  She paused, then looked down and said, “I can go now that I’ve told you that.”
Grace started to stand, and looked surprised when I put a hand on her arm.  “Sit down and stop being ridiculous,” I said.  “Thank you.”
“For what?” she asked, confused.
“For calling.  For apologizing.  For acknowledging that you were wrong.  That’s one of the most real and honest apologies I’ve ever gotten.  I was hurt by what happened, but I also understand why it happened.  I would hate to be in the position that you guys were in, having to choose or try to figure out how to manage navigating a friendship with two people that just got divorced for ugly reasons.  I don’t know how I’d handle it, but I’m sure I’d make choices that would end up hurting at least one of the people involved.  It’s impossible to avoid.  I accept your apology, Grace.  It means a lot to me and I miss you.  All of you, but especially you.  And I’d really love to have you back in my life.”
Grace grinned and we both stood up and threw our arms around each other, earning a couple glances from people around us.  Grace, who had always been a crier, was teary when we separated and sat back down.  “I’m such an idiot,” she said, shaking her head.  Then she got quiet for a second before saying, “Emma and Charlie are having a cookout next Saturday at their new house.  We’d love if you came.”
I hesitated.  As much as I wanted to go and see everyone again, I wasn’t sure if I could handle them all at once.  I had no idea how anyone else felt about me.  I didn’t know if Kevin would be there.  And would it be a bunch of couples and then me?  Seeming to read my thoughts, Grace hurried on.  “Justin is out of town this weekend so I’ll be flying solo, and Rayne and Andrew won’t be there.  It’ll just be me, Emma and Charlie, Sam and Nate, and I think a couple of people that Emma and Charlie work with.  And Kevin is on call next weekend, so he’s not coming.  Not that we’re only inviting you because he’s not going to be there.  I would have invited you either way, but I know it might make a difference to you.”
I laughed and her quick justification.  “I’d like to come,” I said honestly, “But this is all a little sudden and overwhelming.  Can I have a couple days to think about it?”
“Oh, of course,” she replied immediately.  “Yes, take as long as you need.  While you’re thinking about that, can you think about if you’d want to have to dinner or brunch or go shopping with me sometime in the near future too?  Because I’d love to make some real plans with you.”
“I don’t have to think about that, I love brunch!” I joked.  Grace laughed.  “Seriously though, brunch next Sunday?”
“Yes, please!” Grace agreed.  We made plans, and then we decided to quit while we were ahead and get on with our respective Sundays.  I wasn’t sure if I was quite ready to see half of the old gang at a cookout together, but I was definitely glad to have Grace back in my life.


  1. This post was so well done! The awkwardness of the situation and the resolution were perfect

  2. Wow, I didn't see that coming! Can't wait to read about the adventures of Jenna re-connecting with her old friends!

  3. Kevin has some serious balls. Wow. Not that it will matter, but it would be nice if she would call him on it. mum

  4. I'm glad we got to find out what Kevin was saying about her! I was so curious when Jamie mentioned it earlier on.

  5. I am glad Jenna reconnected with her friends, but I worry about her running into Kevin. It sounds like it is unlikely because she and Ryan are just FB's, but I wish Kevin WAS coming to the party she could stroll in with Ryan on her arm.