Monday, July 18, 2016

Chapter 32 (7/18/16)

Look for the next post on Wednesday or Thursday!

I woke up on Saturday nervous as hell and rethinking my plan to attend the cookout.  I has serious qualms about it being at Emma and Charlie’s house.  Of everyone in the group, Charlie and Kevin had always been closest, and I’d been least close with Emma.  I fired a nervous text to Grace.  “Are you sure Emma and Charlie are okay with me coming?” 
Grace didn’t reply right away, so I got up and got in the shower so I didn’t just sit and stare anxiously at my phone.  When I got out of the shower, I had a response.  “Emma is the one who said I should invite you if things went well.  Everyone is looking forward to seeing you,” she assured me.  That soothed my nerves a little bit.  I spent the day running some errands and making my famous taco dip that was always requested at get-togethers.  Nothing like a little bribery to smooth things over. 
Grace had offered to pick me up so we could go together.  I had taken her up on it because the only thing that made me more anxious than going to this cookout was walking in by myself.  When she arrived, I gave her a quick tour of my little house.  She seemed excited and didn’t say a word about the neighborhood, which I was grateful for.  “I love it, Jenna!” she said, as we walked out to her car.  “It’s so cute.” 
“Thanks!” I said.  “It almost didn’t happen, actually.”  While she drove, I told her the story of how I’d already signed a lease and given up on my house hunt, when Mike had called out of the blue with this one. 
“It was clearly meant to be,” Grace said, and there was no hint of sarcasm in her voice.  I wasn’t even sure that Grace knew what sarcasm meant.  She certainly didn’t ever use it.  Her name was fitting in that sense. 
As we pulled up in front of a gorgeous house that apparently was Emma and Charlie’s new house, I felt slightly sick.  “I know it’s easy for me to say, but don’t be nervous!” Grace said, reading my silence.  “Seriously, everyone is looking forward to seeing you.  But I get why you’re nervous.  I won’t leave you alone unless you’re comfortable, okay?  And any time you want to go, just tell me.”
“Okay,” I agreed.  “Thanks.”  Knowing that Grace understood my nervousness helped, but I briefly questioned why I was even here.  I should have listened to Kelly, not to Erica and Ryan.  Then I shook my head, took a deep breath, and looked at Grace.  “I’m ready,” I told her.
It was surreal following Grace into Emma and Charlie’s new house.  Emma was in the kitchen, gathering some plates and utensils, and she immediately put everything down when she saw us.  “Hi!” she said cheerfully.  She walked over, and we stood there awkwardly for a minute.  It was as if she wanted to hug me, but wasn’t quite sure.  My hands were full with my platter of taco dip, so I couldn’t hug her anyway.  Instead, she squeezed my forearm and said, “I’m really glad you came, we missed you.”
I smiled, some of my anxiety drifting away.  “Thanks for inviting me,” I said.  “I definitely missed you guys too.  What should I do with this?”
“Is that your taco dip?” Emma asked excitedly.  Then she looked up at me and solemnly said, “I swear I didn’t invite you just for your taco dip.”  We both laughed.  Emma had a quirky sense of humor that I appreciated. 
“It is,” I confirmed.  “I made a double batch, because you’ve been deprived for so long.”
Emma cheerfully took it out of my hands and led us out onto a large deck.  It wrapped around the back and one side of the large house.  They had a table set up with a bunch of food on it and she arranged my dip and its chips there, shifting things to make some room.  I saw Charlie on the other side of the deck, tending to the grill.  Sam and her longtime boyfriend Nate approached as Emma was directing us to coolers that held beer and soda.  “Hi, Jenna,” Sam said shyly.  She was always the quietest of the bunch, and she looked just about as nervous as I was. 
“Hi,” I replied, smiling at her.  She came over and hugged me briefly, then retreated back to Nate’s side.  “Hi, Nate,” I said.  Nate quickly wrapped me into a tight hug.  Of the guys in the group, he’d always been one of my favorites. 
“Jenna, it’s good to see you,” he said, with his arms around me.  “I’m really glad you’re here.” 
“I’m still working on how I feel about it,” I said jokingly, “But I think I’m glad I’m here.”  Nate laughed and released me, looking me up and down.  Not in a creepy or lecherous way, just in the way you look at someone you haven’t seen in awhile.  Charlie heard our commotion and made his way over.  He smiled tightly at me and shook my hand as he greeted me.  So awkward.   I didn’t miss the dirty look that Emma shot him, either.  So, not everyone was happy to see me.
There were a couple people wandering around that I didn’t know.  They must have been Emma and Charlie’s friends from work that Grace had mentioned.  Emma hurried back into the house to get the abandoned plates and utensils, and Sam trailed her in to help.  Grace and I went to the coolers lining part of the deck railing and found some drinks, while I made a mental note to be careful how much I drank.  The last thing I needed was to get fucked up and ridiculous in front of these people that I hadn’t seen in forever because they thought my ex-husband divorced me because I wouldn’t stop drinking so we could have children.  I felt a stab of irritation when I saw Charlie throw a judgmental look at the beer in my hand. 
Emma and Sam came back out and Emma pressed plates into everyone’s hands.  “Get some food!” she said cheerfully.  “Burgers and brats will be done in a little bit, right babe?” she called to Charlie.
“Yep,” Charlie responded, not turning away from the grill, which he’d returned to with Nate in tow.  Emma pursed her lips briefly, then put a bright smile back on.  I immediately began to wonder if I should just go.  But before I could process that thought, Emma was nudging me towards the table, which I now saw contained veggies and dip, fruit salad, deviled eggs, my taco dip, and a variety of other sides and appetizers.  There was enough food to feed three times the amount of people that were here.  I grabbed a few things and then sat down at the large table in the middle of the deck with Grace, Sam, and Emma.
“You look so good,” Emma said to me immediately.  “Have you lost some weight?”
“She looked good before,” Sam pointed out gently.
“A little bit,” I said, feeling kind of awkward again.  “I started running and taking some dance classes.”
“Well, you did look good before,” Emma said, nodding at Sam.  “But you also look good now!” 
“Thank you,” I said, smiling and taking a drink of my beer so I didn’t have to say anything else.  I noticed all the eyes at the table went to the beer in my hand, and I quickly set it down. 
Sam noticed and she smiled apologetically at me.  I returned her smile and turned my attention to my food.  Everyone started talking about something that had happened the last time they got together, and I just listened quietly.  I had no idea what they were talking about.   Eventually one of the other couples there wandered over, and I introduced myself to them.  I chatted quietly with them while Grace, Sam, and Emma continued talking about whatever they were talking about. 
When Charlie announced the food was ready, I asked Emma where to find the bathroom.  She directed me to it and I stood up.  Grace gave me a questioning look, but I just smiled.  I really did need to use the bathroom. 
On my way out of the bathroom, I ran into Nate in the kitchen.  He was getting ice out of the freezer.  “Did I tell you I’m glad to see you?” he asked, grinning.
“I think so,” I replied, smiling back.  “This is kind of weird though.”
He nodded, then his face got serious. “Look, Jenna…I’m really sorry about everything that happened.  I’m sorry about your divorce, I’m sorry that we all abandoned you, and I’m really sorry that we didn’t question his story.  We were all really awful and we don’t deserve this second chance.”
“Thank you,” I said.  “I appreciate that.  I missed you guys, and I won’t lie, it sucked to be abandoned by so many people in the midst of the shittiest thing that’s ever happened to me.  But I’m doing really well now, and I know you were all in a tough spot.”
“Yeah, I hear you bought a house,” he said.  “That’s really cool.  Are you dating anyone?”
I laughed.  “No, not really.  I mean, I’m dating a little, but nothing serious.  No one worth mentioning, anyway!” 
“Is dating as terrible as I remember it being?” he asked.
“Probably worse,” I confirmed.  “I’m just trying to have fun with it.”
“Good, that seems like what you should be doing,” he said, smiling warmly.  “Well, I’m glad you’re here.  Come get some food!”  I followed him back out onto the deck.  Charlie, who was now sitting across my empty chair, eyed us warily.  I grabbed a hamburger, some sides, and a new beer and sat back down in my chair.  Charlie’s eyes shot to my beer, and I looked blankly at him while I opened it and took a long drink.  He shifted his eyes away and I turned my attention to my food.  I was starving.
“So what kind of dance classes are you taking?” Grace asked, pulling me into the conversation.  I shot her a grateful look and told them about my dance classes.  Charlie remained silent and appeared to ignore me the entire time.  I sighed.  I knew winning them all back over would have been too good to be true, but I didn’t think Charlie would be openly hostile to me.
Emma noticed too, and she leaned over and whispered something to him.  He shook his head stubbornly and gave her a dirty look.  Emma pursed her lips and then turned away from him.  I caught her subtle eye roll just before she re-engaged in the conversation.  It was enough to quiet me down for a little while again. 
After everyone finished eating, part of the group moved down to the yard to play some lawn games.  I stayed up on the deck with Grace and Sam and one of Emma’s work friends.  After a little while, Emma’s work friend joined the group down in the yard, and Grace announced that she needed to use the bathroom.  She glanced at me and I waved her off.  When it was just Sam and me, Sam said, “I’m sorry that Charlie is being cold.”
I shrugged.  “I didn’t expect him to welcome me back with open arms,” I said.  “He’s one of Kevin’s best friends.”
“Yeah, well, he doesn’t have to be an ass about it,” she replied.  I raised my eyebrows in surprise.  Sam didn’t swear much.  She shrugged and said, “Well, he is.”
I laughed.  “It’s fine,” I said.  “I mean, it’s not fine, but I understand it.”
Sam and I sat quietly for a minute, sipping our drinks.  Then she said, “I’m sorry for not standing up for you or getting in touch with you.”
“Thanks, Sam,” I said.  “It sucked, but I understand that too.  And I’m glad Grace reached out, and that you guys wanted me to come today.  It’s been kind of a weird day, but not as weird as I was anticipating.”
“Nate really missed you,” she said.  “He stood up for you from the start, just so you know.  When Kevin told us that stupid story, Nate told him to his face that he didn’t believe him.  It caused some tension and some hard feelings.  Nate and Kevin don’t talk much anymore.  He feels terrible for not reaching out to you.” 
Nate and I had gotten along from the moment Kevin introduced us.  Never in an inappropriate way, just as great friends.  I was never interested in anything more with Nate, and as far as I knew, neither was he.  Losing him and Grace had been the worst part of my divorce.  “Thanks for telling me that, though I’m sorry he lost Kevin because of it,” I said honestly.  In my ideal world, we could have all stayed friends and no relationships would have been lost…but I knew that was unrealistic.
“He always said he liked you better than Kevin anyway,” she said with a shrug.  “I did too, but it’s hard.”  I knew exactly what she meant.  I was surprised that I wasn’t more upset that everyone felt terrible for not reaching but never did anyway.  I really did understand, and at this point it wasn’t worth it to hold a grudge. 
Grace came back out and grinned at us.  “I think I might be ready,” I said to her quietly. 
“Okay,” she said, nodding.  She didn’t even question me. 
“Oh,” Sam said, as we stood up.  “Jenna, I’m thinking about throwing a surprise party for Nate’s birthday.  I’ll keep you posted, okay?”
“Sure, that sounds great,” I said, smiling.  Grace and I said goodbye to Sam and walked down to the yard to say goodbye to everyone else.
Once we were in the car, Grace looked at me with concern.  “Did something happen while I was in the bathroom?”
“No, not at all,” I said.  “It was just enough for the first time back, you know?”
She nodded.  “Got it.”  She paused and then said, “Well, almost everyone was happy to see you.”
I snorted.  “I expected it from Charlie,” I said with a shrug.  “He never really liked me much even when Kevin and I were happily together.”
“I think he knew what Kevin was up to, honestly,” Grace guessed.  “He’d never admit to knowing it, but if anyone knew, it would have been him.”
I didn’t respond.  I didn’t know what to say.  I had never considered that someone might have known and just…not told me.  But why would he?  His loyalty was with Kevin, not me.  I frowned and looked out the window. 
“Jenna, I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry,” Grace said.
“No, it’s fine.  It just hadn’t occurred to me until you said it.  I’m just processing.  I’m actually glad I went, despite Charlie.  I mostly had fun, and it was nice to see Emma and Sam and Nate again.”
“Justin’s bummed that he missed you,” she said, turning onto my street.  “I hope you’ll come to Nate’s party.  Kevin will probably be there, though.”
“I don’t want him to stop me from living my life anymore,” I said.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Grace grin.  I didn’t know how I’d do at a party with Kevin there.  Especially if Charlie was there, being Charlie.  But I also didn’t want to miss Nate’s party.  Sam, despite her quiet and slightly shy personality, threw great parties. 
“Well, we’ll definitely keep you in the loop,” Grace said, putting her car in park in my driveway.  “Are we still on for brunch tomorrow, too?”
“Definitely,” I said. 
“Okay, well I’ll see you tomorrow then, and I’ll let you know if we do anything else fun soon!” 
I thanked her for driving and got out.  I felt relieved as I let myself into my house.  I’d had fun, but it was definitely awkward, especially with Charlie’s cold shoulder.  I’d been out of the loop for long enough that I didn’t really know what was going on with anyone.   I was glad I went, though.  Hopefully next time (if there was a next time) would be easier.


  1. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Charlie knew what Kevin was up to; stupid "bro code." If I was Charlie's wife, I would be less than thrilled he is hanging out with a grade-A douche like Kevin. hahah

    Love all these bonus posts this week!!!!!! You're awesome!

  2. I don't get why Charlie would be such a jerk to her. Jenna didn't do anything. I get that he doesn't blame Kevin either, but to treat Jenna like she did something wrong is so immature. I hope he doesn't cause any issues for her. Honestly, she's been doing so well, if I were her I'd probably not be too anxious to go getting involved with these people again and stirring up drama, especially things like going to a party she knows Kevin will be at.

  3. I loved this post and it is nice to read about her friends from her married life AND about them acknowledging that they regret the choices they made and are trying to make it up to them.

    If Charlie allegedly knew about Kevin's cheating, it doesn't explain all the judgmental looks at her when she drank beer. That implies he believed the story about her having a drinking problem. Maybe he was at the bar the night she got to out of control and ended up sick at home? Wouldn't that be interesting...

  4. Love all the bonuses! Can definitely relate to Jenna's situation, things get weird in friend groups after a break up. I really want the recipe for that taco dip now!

  5. Poor Jenna, would be so awkward for her!