Tide /tid/ noun: The alternate rising and falling of the sea due to the attraction of the moon and sun.
The sun was burning the back of my neck as I helped Ryan rebuild a seawall that had long seen better days. We had to bring the machinery onto the beach to get it done. Where the home was located didn’t have a big beach which meant we had to wait until low tide. Our timing couldn’t have been better, turned out that it was a rare ultra-low tide, something I had never paid attention to despite living on the coast most of my life. It was cool though, seeing what usually lay under the ocean now exposed.
Ryan was sitting in the excavator. The man had serious skill that he loved to show off. He could pick up a broom in the bucket teeth and sweep a job site, that’s how precise an operator he was. I was okay, I could work a jobsite with the best of them but Ryan’s technical handling was show stopping. He knew it too. If it wasn’t for the tide crunch, he would’ve done something insane on the beach to prove it. As it was, he had one eye on the ocean as the water slowly pulled in.
I’ve worked in some crazy environments. It was just a year ago I’d been in Alaska, working on boats. If you’ve ever scuba-dived off the coast of Kodiak you know how brutal it can be. Yet, working on the beach during a rare, early season coastal heat wave was turning me inside out. But there I was, on the ground doing whatever was needed because Ryan had asked.
“Jared’s struggling with the dump truck, can you help back it in?” Ryan shouted from his seat. “We gotta move. We have thirty minutes before the ocean comes and repos everything we have.”
I could’ve pulled Jared from the truck and done it myself but I decided to guide him instead. Ryan needed guys who knew what to do and Jared wouldn’t learn if I did it for him. So, I showed him a few tricks that would help move the Kenworth on the sand a bit easier, then stood in his line of sight and encouraged him backward. I could tell he was nervous but he managed just fine.
We ended up getting the rest of the wall rebuilt and everything off the beach just as the waves started lapping at our feet. Everyone stood around the work trucks, doing the final packing. I grabbed a sweatshirt from behind my seat and wiped the sweat from my neck and face.
“Stop by for dinner tonight. I owe you.”
I tossed the sweatshirt behind the seat and closed the door. “Pass.”
Ryan inhaled. I knew he wanted to argue—he’d been after me for a while—almost a year already. I could feel him watching me, waiting for me to make eye contact so he could reprimand me. Penn, you can’t run away forever.
And I wasn’t. I wasn’t running away at all. Ryan thought I was still angry and upset about Nash leaving. I wasn’t. I’d been over that for a long time. What Ryan didn’t understand was how much I had learned and changed in the last year.
Yes, I had a hard time when Nash disappeared. I had a lot of questions. I spent a lot of time that first month trying to figure out what happened. Nothing made sense. Last I’d talked to Nash, things were good between us. Better than good. They were the best they’d ever been.
I remember flying into Eugene then rushing off to Cam’s baby shower. She knew Nash was flying in and I wouldn’t be staying long. She’d actually encouraged me to go. At that point, no one in my family knew that things had become pretty official between us, no one except Cam. If she could trust me with the news of getting pregnant, I could trust her with Nash.
When I came back from the bathroom in time to say goodbye, Abby asked me where Nash was. I glanced at my watch. “Probably at his Dad’s. I’m actually getting ready to head over there right now to surprise him.”
“What?” Abby frowned, confused. “He’s here. I just talked to him by the patio door ten minutes ago.”
Excited, I took off to look for him. I walked every inch of the house, garage, and yard. I even went to the cottage in case he was there. When I didn’t find him anywhere, I leaned against the kitchen counter and called him on the phone. I couldn’t wait to see him.
A second later Ryan came around the corner holding Nash’s phone. He had an incoming call with my name and picture. I grabbed the phone from Ryan, so confused. “He was here?”
Ryan shrugged. “So Abby says. I haven’t seen him though.”
“I’m going to stop by his Dad’s house. I’ll see you later.” I pocketed the phone and left.
He wasn’t at his Dad’s. In fact, his dad was just as confused as I was because he’d dropped Nash off at Lon’s earlier and hadn’t heard from him since.
“He was there,” I told him. “I didn’t get a chance to see him before he left, but he left his phone.” I pulled the phone out and handed it over.
His dad pushed it back. “You keep it. He’ll be calling it soon and I’m sure he’d rather you answer than me. If for some reason I see him, I’ll have him call you.”
I could tell Mr. Cushman was worried but he also knew his son was an adult and that was enough to calm his nerves. I left and drove through town. I was so worried about Nash. I tried to figure out what could’ve happened that made him leave before saying hi or bye for that matter. It had to be serious.
I practically chewed my thumb nail off on the way home. I waited for him to either call me or his phone but neither happened.
I didn’t sleep that night. I didn’t sleep much at all after that.
Nash was literally gone.
It was three days of pure anxiety and panic before I realized he was fine. I stopped by his Dad’s house when I still hadn’t heard anything. He was incredibly awkward when he answered the door.
Oh, yeah, he did stop by. He hasn’t called you yet? Hmm, strange. I know he’s been busy with a bunch of stuff.
Turns out Nash was fine. Clearly we weren’t fine and I had no clue why.
One day I got a text from Logan asking where I was, that I needed to drive through town—past thirty-second street—pronto.
When I saw Nash running down the road like it was just any old Tuesday, I lost a bit of my shit. My brain was rolling so fast I didn’t know what to do. I pulled off the road and waited. I just needed to know.
The look of pure hurt and anger in his eyes when he saw me stopped me in my tracks. I was still upset that he’d ghosted me, but I couldn’t understand why he felt the way he did toward me.
He was upset because I didn’t tell him about Cam. Which I would’ve understood if it had been any of his business. To be completely honest, I would have thrown Cam’s trust to the wind if I’d known how upset Nash would be. I would’ve told him before he left for Thailand. I would’ve told him the second Cam told me. Hell, I would’ve paused her mid crying confession—called Nash, put him on speaker phone, then let Cam tell both of us at the same time.
When he left me on the side of the highway, I was still pissed though. And I was pissed every time I saw him after that. Then I was pissed when I didn’t see him anymore.
The cookie didn’t crumble the way I wanted to but it crumbled nonetheless.
Nash’s leaving taught me a lot. He was a tide to me. In high school, Nash was a tsunami. He was so big and powerful in my head that he overwhelmed me. That impact left a big impression, one that was hard to shake. He was perfection in everything he did and who he was and what he strived to be. He lived above reproach; as a freshman and all the years that followed.
After he and Lee married, the tide went out. The feelings were still there, the sand was wet, but I was busy with my own stuff so he was out of sight, out of mind. Every few years the tide would come in. I’d run into him at one function or another. We didn’t even have to talk, just being around him for the evening was enough to cause a change of tide.
My family, assuming they were being helpful, would show me videos and posts he put online. It hurt but it also only ever made him shine brighter.
Then the tide would recede.
When the tide was low, I was so sure I was over him. Sometimes I was sad about it, other times I felt relieved. But I was over him—until it changed again.
The thing that remained constant was how I viewed him. He was perfect. I think the reason I had such a hard time letting go was because of how much I respected him. He chose to live a top-shelf life. It couldn’t have been easy but he did it and I envied that about him.
I don’t think I ever viewed Nash as a flawed person until he left. The shattering of his illusion made the blow of his loss even worse. It also made his leaving easier. It was a hell of a lot easier to get over someone who wasn’t a God in my mind. Instead, he was a fucking asshole.
My family didn’t believe I was over him. But I was. The tide was gone—so low the sand wasn’t even wet anymore. I didn’t blame them for rolling their eyes behind my back. So many years they watched me get rollercoaster sick over him. It was a long drawn out version of picking daisy petals; I love him, I love him not.
I told everyone to let it go. I was tired of their pity eyes and pity dinners. I was traveling on occasion if a good welding contract came through but mostly, I was focusing on things I wanted to focus on. I was building my business; expanding into neighboring towns. I was even dating, kind of.
For the first time in a long time I was doing things for me. I wasn’t traveling for work to escape my personal life, I wasn’t sticking around to appease my family, I wasn’t doing anything for anyone else. Some of my personal investments may have failed miserably, but investing in one’s self is always a win.
“You should really come to dinner. It’s been a while,” Ryan pressed.
“It’s been a week.”
He took another calming breath. I could practically see him run his tongue across his teeth the way he always did when he was reeling himself in. “You’ve been extra bitchy lately. Just fucking text him back already.”
I stopped what I was doing and faced him. “I told you before. There’s nothing to text.”
“Except there is. He asked you to meet for coffee. He wants to hash things out.”
“I wanted to hash everything out a year ago,” I reminded him. “Now there’s nothing left to hash out. He jumped to a pretty wild conclusion then cut me out of his life. I got over him, which was a big fucking relief. So, boom, unhashed.” I smiled when I heard him inhale and exhale again. I loved that I could still rile him up after all these years. A weird brother quirk, I guess.
“Then tell him that. Meet with him and tell him how big of a douche was and how over him you are.”
“What’s the point?” I asked. “What difference will that make?”
“You can get it off your chest.”
“I don’t have anything on my chest,” I said, firmly.
“Yeah,” he placated. “Sure.”
“And you wonder why I don’t want to come over for dinner.” I said, my voice rising in frustration. I tightened the straps harder than needed. “This gets old after a while, you know? I’ve let it go, so should you.”
Ryan stepped around until he was standing in front of me. “No. Just fucking deal with it, Penn. If you’re so over him then fucking tell him. I dare you.”
“I’m not thirteen. This isn’t truth or dare. Any obligation I had to respond to him was thrown out the window a long time ago. I am over him. If I wasn’t, I would’ve responded weeks ago and I would’ve already met with him. He doesn’t have the same pull anymore. Okay?”
Ryan shook his head and tossed whatever was in his hand into the back of the truck. He couldn’t even be bothered to put it away properly. “You’re just throwing it all away. All those years and it comes down to this? It’s a fucking shame.”
“Oh my god,” I yelled. “This isn’t about me anymore. It’s about you, so why don’t you guys call him? It’s clear you all miss him. Don’t use me as an excuse to try and get him back. Do what you want; invite him to dinner, to game night, to whatever the fuck you want. You already did when you went to Portland behind my back to see him. We both know there’s two Costco’s closer to us. Cam crossed the line, too. You all crossed the line because you have no respect for mine.”
I finished what I was doing then got in the truck and left. I loved my family but they didn’t know the concept of space and boundaries. It never bothered me before but I was kind of a sheep back then. Now I had a spine and no one knew what to think or what to do.
My decision to skip dinner had nothing to do with my argument with Ryan. We always argued, it’s a family thing. It had more to do with having personal plans. I did meet up on Sunday for golfing. It wasn’t something we did often but they were being unusually persistent and I knew neither of my brothers would let up until I gave in.
Our tee-off was at ten. It took me a while to find my clubs, like I said, we didn’t golf often. It took me another ten minutes to air hose the cobwebs off before tossing them in the bed of the truck.
When I arrived at the club, the parking lot was pretty full. It was a beautiful day after all. My brothers were waiting at the bottom of the hill by the indoor driving range with two goft-carts.
“Let’s get a move on. We don’t have all day,” Logan shouted when he saw me walking down. I decided to walk slower, just to piss him off and laughed when I heard him make a snarky comment under his breath.
I slung the bag off my shoulder and strapped it to the back of the cart next to Logan’s bag. I would’ve ridden with Ryan but he has a thing about driving. I also had a thing about driving but Logan didn’t. He’d rather down a few glasses of scotch from the drink cart than worry about driving the course.
He moved over so I could slide in behind the wheel. I fired the electric beast up and started toward the fairway when Ryan shouted after me. “Slow down cowboy, we’re waiting on our number four.”
I stopped but didn’t bother backing up. Logan and I had a great view of the course from where we were.
“Are we doing nine or eighteen holes?” I asked as we waited.
“Probably eighteen.” His response made me groan. “What?” he asked. “You got plans or something?” He sounded almost disbelieving. What a crazy world when Penn has plans that they know nothing about and that don’t involve them.
I looked at my watch and calculated how long it would take to play a lazy eighteen plus drinks and food after. It wasn’t looking good for me. I pulled out my phone and shot off a text. When I looked up, Logan was watching me.
“What?” I asked. He looked suspicious and anxious all rolled into one. He grabbed his drink from the cup holder and looked away. I slid my phone back in my pocket and continued to stare out over the fairway as we waited for whoever Ryan had invited. “Who’s pairing with Ryan, anyway? Eddy?”
Logan was still drinking, taking the longest damn pull I’d ever seen. Then I heard the oh so familiar laugh and Logan’s eyes widened. It was obvious now that he was avoiding looking or talking to me. “Wow,” I said, completely shocked by their audacity.
“I told him it was a bad idea.”
“I’m sure you did,” I replied. And I was, but I didn’t think that was the end of their conversation and I was sure Logan was fully supporting whatever Ryan had planned.
A few minutes later Ryan and Nash pulled up on Logan’s side. “Everyone ready?”
Logan lifted his glass and made some weird, grunting noise—an awkward cross between a whoop and can’t be too excited or Penn might punch me. I on the other hand, drove off without saying much of anything—or anything at all for that matter.
I don’t know what they were hoping to accomplish by inviting Nash and not telling me about it but I knew one thing, it wasn’t going to end the way they wanted. I’d be cordial but I wasn’t looking at rekindling anything. I wasn’t even looking to be friends again. But I would play a round of golf if that’s what they wanted.
We stopped at the first hole and everyone got out. Ryan went first because he always did. Nash stood next to me while we waited for Ryan to get on with it.
“Hey,” I replied, not taking my eyes off Ryan.
Nash slipped his hands in his khakis. “You’ve been busy?”
“Yeah, real busy actually.”
“That’s awesome,” he said in a way that sounded genuine. “Traveling much? I know you said you were in SoCal, anywhere else?”
“Yeah, a few places here and there.”
“Nash, you’re up!” Ryan shouted. I could feel Nash watch me for a moment before grabbing his driver from the other golf-cart and walking to the tee.
I played amazing. Every shot went right where I needed it to go. I wasn’t typically a very skilled player. I think it had something to do with me being relaxed and not caring. It was almost like the less I tried, the better I played.
My brothers entertained Nash and I stayed to myself except when they purposely pulled into a conversation. It really wasn’t terrible. Nash was easy to be around and the holes passed quickly.
It wasn’t until the eighth hole that Nash approached me again and not for lack of trying earlier. I was sitting in the cart waiting for my turn when Nash slid in.
“I’m kind of putting my foot down right now,” he said. “I texted with little or no response, I called and got sent to voicemail, so now I’m here. I’m not dumb, I know you’re avoiding me and that’s fine. I get it. But I’m still here.”
“I haven’t been avoiding you, I just don’t think there’s anything left to say. Getting together and talking about things that should’ve been discussed a year ago seems pointless. We’ve both moved on.”
“We’ve both moved on?” Nash said, waiting for the punchline.
“Well, you moved away and I moved on. So yeah, I think it’s safe to say that’s a good definition of we’ve moved on.” Nash was about to say something when I cut him off. “Looks like it’s my turn.” I got out and grabbed a club, it wasn’t the best choice but I wasn’t about to walk back to re-select.
Despite not having a great club, I had a good shot—something my brothers moaned about. When it was Nash’s turn, I walked back to the cart and watched from there. His skill was on the same level and ours and his shot was decent for a holiday golfer.
Logan and I were about to take off to the next hole when Nash stopped us. “Hey Logan, mind trading me places?”
I gave Logan my deadliest look. It didn’t stop him and he didn’t look all that remorseful as he got out and smiled at Nash. “Totally, seats warmed for you.” Logan had an extra jump in his step as he ran and slid into Ryan’s cart. I could only imagine what they were gossiping about.
Nash was barely in the cart when I stepped on it. He jerked and grabbed the door frame to stop himself from falling over.
“Nice try,” he laughed as he righted himself in the seat. “But I’m still here. You’ll have to try harder next time.”
Despite myself. I smiled.
“Hey, there he is!” Nash said, shouldering me. The second I stopped smiling, he noticed. “Okay, then. Wow.” He straightened and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry everything got so screwed up between us.”
I shrugged like it was no big deal, like I hadn’t struggled to the core of my existence for months before finally breaking free.
“I’m sorry,” he said again.
“For what exactly?”
“For jumping to conclusions. For not coming to you first.”
“For assuming that I’d have sex with Cam while I thought there was even a slight chance of something with you? For assuming if I did get her pregnant, you wouldn’t be the first person I told. That I would hide something of that proportion from you? I mean, seriously Nash,” I half shouted. “How low you must have thought of me, that I could come visit you overseas and act so carefree and happy…almost as if I wasn’t going to father someone else’s child. It’s crazy.”
“When I saw you with Cam, the way you kissed her and touched her belly, all I could see was Lee and Paul.”
Ryan and Logan were watching us, they’d heard every word. Ryan motioned with his hand that we were wrapping things up and heading back. The scrimmage was over. He and Logan took off towards the clubhouse.
We were alone. I leaned back, took a deep breath, and rubbed my face. “I understand how that hit home for you. I even understand why you assumed what you did. But I’m not Lee. Never was and never will be. If you weren’t able to separate me from him, then maybe it was best we didn’t work out.”
Nash hunched over, ran both his hands through his blonde hair, and groaned. “It has nothing to do with not being able to separate him and you. That’s not even close, Penn. You were everything and more. You were there before the split, during the split, and after the split. And I can’t possibly explain how thankful I am for that. But I missed a big part of the healing process because of it. I didn’t know how bad I needed to be alone and single until I was in Portland and thriving. It was huge for me.”
I continued to stare ahead and ran my hands over the steering wheel. “You being in Portland was huge for me, too. It put things into perspective for me. I had unrealistic expectations when it came to you and what you represented to me; to my life, to my future. You were always a tide to me, flowing in and out and turning me upside down as you did. When you left, I realized—maybe I was standing too deep to begin with.”
“Well, there’s a reason they say everything happens for a reason—there’s so much truth to it. We both benefited from the last year, maybe that’s the most important thing and everything else is white noise.”
“Maybe,” I said, though I fully agreed. I had moved forward but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still holding on a little bit.
“So, are we in agreement?” He asked. “I apologize, you forgive me, we put that entire thing in the past and start fresh?” My thoughts must’ve played out on my face because Nash raised his hand. “I don’t mean it like that. I’m not asking to just forget everything that happened. I’m just asking to try and put the past behind us. You were more than just a best friend to me and I’d like to salvage what I can.”
The group playing behind us finally caught up so I released the break and started toward the clubhouse. I wasn’t sure how to respond but I figured the truth was best.
“I’m finally at a place in my life where you don’t affect me the way you used to. I’m not sure I want to rekindle a friendship that could jeopardize how far I’ve come. And honestly, I have no intentions of going back.”
We passed a group of golfers we knew and waved. Nash bit his thumb nail as he thought about what I was saying. He still hadn’t replied when I pulled the golf cart into the drop off zone. We both got out and grabbed our bags. Well, I grabbed my bag while Nash grabbed Logan’s, then we started up the hill.
“If nothing else, I’d like to try for something of the friendship variety. That would mean a lot to me.”
I looked at him walking by my side, both of us wearing khakis, polo, a glove, and clubs slung off our back. Even though we’d never golfed together, it reminded me of all the things we had done together and how well we went together. There was no denying I enjoyed every second I’d ever spent with him. The question was, could I be friends with him?
I was confident the answer was yes. It would be difficult—you didn’t love someone for that long and walk away unscathed. But for the first time ever, I was in a solid place, one where Nash Cushman didn’t pull me limb for limb every time he came around.
“This whole thing is throwing me for a loop,” he said as we walked closer to the club house entrance. “I think I was being presumptuous and maybe a little arrogant, but I kind of thought I’d show up, you’d be mad for a minute, but then things would go back to the way they were.”
“Oh, so you thought I’d rollover the second you showed up?” I half teased.
Nash smiled. “I mean, I kind of hoped. And that’s pretty douchey of me, I know that. But I was hopeful.”
It was douchey of him to assume he could walk back into my life and use the feelings I had for him as a tool to get what he wanted. Still, I opened the door and let him go first.
He smiled that famous Nash smile. “You’re not going to roll over, are you?”
I let the door close behind us and shook my head. “Nah. I’m too old and the ground is unforgiving these days.”
Nash frowned though it was more playful than genuine. “Can I at least buy you lunch? You know, a peace offering and gesture of friendship?”
“Thanks for the offer but Ryan’s going to put it on his club tab.”
Nash stopped me. “I’m serious, Penn. I really want to talk. This was a nice start but that’s all it was—a start.”
I wasn’t sure I agreed but I wasn’t going to start an argument. Ryan and Logan were seated at a table for four. They had fresh drinks in their hands and were laughing about something. When Logan saw us, he waved us over.
“We ordered a round of burgers, hope that’s okay?”
I don’t think either of my brothers saw it but Nash cringed. I knew he’d rather have a garden burger or something with less meat. I got up, found our waiter, and ordered Nash a black bean burger.
The table was a little awkward when I got back. We were all navigating the new dynamic. Despite the weirdness, we settled well. My brothers were happy to be around Nash and I wouldn’t reign their parade. I could suck it up for them even if they couldn’t extend me the same courtesy.
As the food arrived my phone beeped. I excused myself and walked outside. I stood there for a minute before the taxi pulled up and he got out looking good in jeans and a button up.
“How was the drive in?” I asked.
“It was nice. Traffic wasn’t bad at all,” Jason looked around and whistled. “This place is nice.”
“It is,” I agreed. “Lunch just got served so we should probably head in. Just a heads up—my brothers invited Nash.”
Jason laughed; he knew about Nash. “Sweet, meeting the brothers and the ex-boyfriend at one time. Nothing like a good old fashion awkward lunch to round out the weekend.”
“We can go somewhere else, it’s not a big deal.”
Jason waved me off and started towards the door. “No, it’s cool. It’s not that big of a deal. I gotta ask though, are we wanting to make him jealous? Play it cool? I’m down for whatever.”
“Nah. I’m not trying to play games.”
“Boo. Sometimes you’re no fun.”
“I’m plenty of fun,” I said, pinching his ass and making him laugh.
I hadn’t told either of my brothers that Jason was coming because it wasn’t that big of a deal. But if I’d given them a heads up, they would’ve made it into one. By the time we got to the table, everyone was watching us.
“Jason, these are my brothers; Ryan and Logan. And this is Nash,” I gestured. “And this is Jason.”
Everyone stood up and shook Jason’s hand. They were friendly and welcoming but I could see the shock and confusion in their eyes. I knew I was going to get twenty-questioned the second they had a chance, until then, I was going to relish rendering them speechless. It happened so rarely.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Ryan said as everyone sat down. We had to shuffle our seats to accommodate another person. The table was square and not flattering for a party of five but we made it work. I moved the extra burger—the one that had originally been ordered for Nash—to the spot in front of Jason. Ryan didn’t miss it and looked at me like what the fuck.
“Are you from around here?” Logan asked.
“Vacationed here as a kid a few times but I grew up in Eugene.”
“Is that where you live?”
Jason shrugged. “I live all over.”
“Live all over?” Nash asked. I could read Nash like a book. He was shocked by Jason’s presence, a little hurt, but trying his hardest to accept what was going on.
“Yeah, I travel constantly for work.”
“What do you do?” he followed up.
“I’m a lineman.”
We ate and they interrogated Jason. Question after question about everything under the sun. I’d warned him it would be coming but he took it in stride. It was one of the things I like about him. He was laid back, fun, carefree, and didn’t get worked up about much. He didn’t even bat an eye at Nash. In fact, when he wasn’t being interrogated, he was talking to Nash.
After a while I excused us. While Jason was saying goodbye to Nash, my brothers looked at me like they were positively going to wring my next the next chance they got. I simply smiled, put my on Jason’s back, and pushed him toward the door.
“Your brothers don’t like me,” he laughed as we neared my truck and got in.
“They don’t know what to do with you.”
“No kidding, that much was obvious. I could feel their curiosity boiling. On a different note, I totally get it.”
I looked at him as I pulled out of the parking lot. “Get what?”
“Nash. I can see why it was easy to be hung up on him for all those years. He’s pretty awesome. I started talking to him with the intention of, I don’t know, kind of being an asshole? But he was just so cool. Did you know he’s run marathons in over eight countries? And that he lived in Thailand for over half a year teaching English?”
“Yeah, I’m familiar.”
“Shit, I’m sorry. Of course you know,” he cringed. “So, you didn’t know he’d be here today?”
“Not until he showed up.”
“Kind of a dick move on their part. Good thing I came and helped you steal back the upper hand. Oh, how I’d like to be a fly on the wall when they see you again.”
I smiled. He was just so chill.
A minute later we pulled up to my house and got out. Another minute and we were naked in bed.
Jason left the next morning. He had a three-week job near Redding.
The next time I saw my brothers, they had questions.
“So, Jason huh? Seems like a cool guy. Is he a new employee?” Playing coy was not Ryan’s thing.
“He’s a lineman and travels for work. Did you not listen to him?” I asked.
“Sorry, what I meant to ask was who the fuck is Jason?”
Ryan looked at Logan. “A friend he said.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Logan asked. He seemed genuinely upset about being in the dark. “We wouldn’t have invited Nash if we’d known.”
“You shouldn’t have invited Nash anyway. And I didn’t tell you because there’s not much to tell.”
Logan scoffed. “You having a boyfriend isn’t a big deal?”
“He’s not my boyfriend, he’s a friend.”
“Since when do you bring friends around?”
“Since he was in town and we had plans to hangout but you two insisted I go golfing.”
Ryan watched me and I could see all the hope drain away. He had spent so many years trying to get mine and Nash’s orbits to align and, in that time, I think he genuinely began to love Nash like a brother. I had no doubt his intention came from a place of love but I think he was finally seeing that it wasn’t going to work out. It wasn’t just my loss; it was his too.
“Is Jason really just a friend or are you guys more?” he asked.
“Our label doesn’t concern you.”
Ryan and Logan looked at each other and came to some sort of an agreement, or resignation maybe.
After that, things went back to normal. I saw Jason occasionally. We had a good friendship but anything more than that was purely physical. I don’t think either of us was interested in more than what we had, but what we had was amazing sex.
Yeah, after Nash left, I realized that holding on to that part of me, waiting for the right time—rather it be the right person or marriage—was not working out. It wasn’t an isolated thought or anything. It actually wasn’t a thought at all until I met Jason. We met in SoCal and after a week of hanging I decided to throw caution to the wind and I never looked back. He was great, experienced, and super versatile. He loved sex and I don’t think there was anything he wouldn’t try. And he didn’t have a weird reaction to my lack of experience, if anything, he was excited to show me the ropes. And show me the ropes he did.
There was no pressure between us. We had our own lives and, when things aligned, we spent time together. After meeting my brothers, he even came to Sunday game night.
The thing that did change was Nash. Suddenly, it was like he was best friends with Ryan or something. It seemed like he was spending every one of his days off in Lincoln. I didn’t care. No one seemed to be pushing like they normally did. I’d see Ryan and Nash together in town, sometimes Nash would be at lunch when I arrived. Occasionally he’d be at the house for game night, including once when Jason was there. Nash was a little uncomfortable but that was his deal, not mine.
There were no weird looks or gestures from my family, no strategic seating arrangements, and no accidental pairings. It was like Nash was a part of the family on his own merit. I honestly didn’t mind. It was all very natural.
Nash and I never did get a chance to talk more. Nash tried, I’ll give him that, but my family was always around and I wasn’t sure I had much more to say. I felt like anymore digging and I’d hit water. I really didn’t want to mess with the tide again. I was happy on dry land.
I was sitting on my deck after dinner one evening, enjoying the peace and quiet when Ryan showed up. It wasn’t unusual, he came around a lot, more than anyone else. He pulled a chair up to mine and sat down. Five minutes passed before he finally spoke.
“I need a favor.”
I took a sip of my beer. “Sure, what’s up.”
“I promised to pick Nash up in Portland on the seventieth—”
“But you have—”
“I know. I totally forgot about my licensing appointment until about an hour ago.”
Which meant he wanted me to pick up Nash. Which was ridiculous.
“He’ll be on his way home from the Rockaway Beach job that day.”
“Abby? Jane?” I asked. “Your mom?” I’d have suggested Cam but I was still bitter that Cam had ever talked to him in the first place.
“Or you could just do it. This isn’t a ploy, Nash. I know you’re over him. Can you just pick him up?”
“Why can’t he drive here? I put three-grand into his car while he was overseas. It shouldn’t be causing any trouble.”
Ryan waved me off. “No, nothing like that. He’s lending the Suburban to Joe for the weekend. Joe is taking a group of guys on a whitewater rafting trip.”
“Why doesn’t he just stay in Portland instead of coming here? It’s not like we’re going to be here anyway, we’re heading—” I groaned when I realized what was going on. “He’s coming?”
Ryan smiled and sickly sweet.
It was rare we had a family vacation that was strictly family. Still, it was a bit shocking to find out that Nash would be in Hawaii with us for two weeks. That seemed like a long time. Part of me wanted to see if Jason was free to come, too, but I knew he wasn’t. Even if he was, I didn’t want him to go. I enjoyed my time with him but two weeks was a lot.
“So, you want me to drive to Portland and pick up Nash so he can come on vacation with us?”
“Ding, ding, ding,” my brother sang. I looked at him skeptically, making him roll his eyes. “I promise. Nothing fishy. I genuinely forgot about the licensing.
Yeah, okay. I could pick up Nash. I think I’d done a pretty good job at proving how over him I was. What's the worst that could happen?