Amy saw it. The grimace on Luke’s face let her know that he was aware of his dilemma.
“Hey Amy, long time no see. I hear you’ve been busy with your nail festivals or what have you,” Jessica said, throwing a little dig at Amy.
Amy smirked and following Erin’s lead, she trod over to Luke and reclaimed her seat next to him.
“Hey baby, did you miss me?” Amy said pulling a snare from Jessica.
“I did,” Luke said pulling her chair closer to him. “What took you so long?”
“Oh, just a little girl talk, but I missed you too, so I’m back. Who are your friends?”
Erin wanted to laugh and high-five Amy at the same time. Making Jessica irrelevant had gotten under Jessica’s skin. It was evident by the way Jessica bared her teeth just slightly.
“So, you’re going to act like you don’t know who I am?”
“Jessica,” Luke said taking his attention to her. Jessica glanced down at him and the icy look she held softened immediately. Everyone at the table noticed, and it made Amy so uneasy, she could practically crawl out of her skin. “Some other time, yeah?”
As if being chastised by her master, Jessica straightened her shoulders and nodded swiftly then her and her clique walked away. Amy tried to control the suffocating feeling she had but it was no use. Her throat had clogged, and her stomach tightened.
“Wow, that was really interesting,” she said.
“I had no idea she would be here.”
“Neither did I,” Caleb said for clarification.
Amy’s throat was still tight. “Does that matter,” she said to Luke holding her voice steady. Amy didn’t want to get loud or cause a scene in the pizzeria, but she was steaming.
“So that’s who you’ve been talking to?”
Luke sighed. “Sweetheart.”
“Answer my question Luke.” Her tone was no-nonsense.
“Yes,” he stated.
Amy nodded. “Okay.” She looked over at Erin then to Caleb then back to Erin who both held empathy in their eyes. “I guess that’s that. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve just lost my appetite.”
Amy rose to her feet and Luke’s heart tugged in his chest.
“Please don’t leave,” he said standing up right behind her.
“Amy,” Erin said also trying to stop her.
Without another word, Amy tucked her purse under her arm and turned around then left the restaurant.
The doorbell jingled when she stepped out and only stillness lingered in the night air. With her exit she inhaled a deep breath needing to steady herself since her nerves were on edge. She took a few steps and leaned against the brick building just as the doorbell jingled beside her.
Luke sailed out, a man on a mission; his brawny arms and muscular physique unhidden behind the Ralph Lauren shirt he wore. Quickly, he glanced to the side and saw Amy then strolled over to block her view of the street.
“Let’s talk about it,” he said.
“What is there to talk about, Luke? I mean, I honestly have nothing to say.”
“Please don’t do this.”
“Don’t do this? Me?” she pointed to herself. “What about you, Luke? Did you ever think one time that what you’ve done could hurt me?”
“It’s not like I cheated on you with her.”
Amy stared at him for a long stretch of a moment. “You did,” she said.
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
Amy had to laugh to keep from crying. “Don’t be so dramatic he says.” She licked her lips and swept a strand of hair out of her face that had fallen from her makeshift ponytail. “You know what, you’re right. That’s why I left. Didn’t want to be a drama queen. So, why are you out here? I’m trying to clear my head.”
“Look, I’m sorry this happened. I’ve apologized over and over. I thought you forgave me.”
“Get out of my face, Luke.”
Luke’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Get out of my face before I scream bloody murder because you know damn well if I had known you were talking to Jessica James, this conversation would’ve gone differently. Now get out of my face!”
Luke shut his mouth and gritted his teeth. He let out a frustrated breath.
“I’m not leaving you out here on the sidewalk.”
“Why? I’ve been taking care of myself for six years, while Jessica James has ‘been there for you when you needed her,’” Amy rolled her eyes, “give me a fucking break.”
“What do I need to do to make this right?” He stepped closer to her. “Amy.”
“Don’t,” she said holding her hands up. “Don’t touch me.”
“You know, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. If I had of known you needed me, I would’ve been, but now I have the pleasure of having one of the town’s most bitchiest bitches flaunt in my face that she was there for my man when I wasn’t.” Amy shook her head. “How could you? Huh? Better yet, put yourself in my shoes—”
“I already have okay!” Luke tossed his arms up and his outburst took Amy by surprise. She rolled her eyes again as anger seeped into her bones.
“I know I fucked up, but Amy, you gotta tell me what I can do to fix this.”
“Honestly, Luke, I don’t know if there is anything you can do.”
“Then how do we move past it?”
“Maybe we don’t.”
They both quieted down and the silence around them grew larger.
“You can’t be saying what I think you’re saying.”
“That really depends on what you think I’m saying. So instead of guessing I’ll just say it. We shouldn’t be together.”
Silence engulfed them again and Luke’s eyes widened.
“Don’t do this.”
“I didn’t do anything, Luke. You did. I loved you. I trusted you, and you betrayed me. I don’t know if I can get over it. I don’t know if I could ever trust you again. Who’s to say now that you’re back in town you won’t sleep with her.”
“Amy you know me better than that. I can’t even believe you’re bringing this up.”
“Well I couldn’t believe you were having an affair behind my back.”
“This hardly constitutes as an affair. Jesus, Amy.”
“What, just because it wasn’t physical means it’s not an affair? Newsflash Luke, people have emotional affairs all the time. You think I didn’t see the way she calmed down and melted instantly when you called her name. She was quick to obey you and why?” Amy held her hand up to stop Luke from responding. “That was rhetorical, I already know why, because she’s actually in love with you.” Amy shook her head in disgust. “What’s worse, you’re going to sit up here and act like you don’t know it.”
“I’m in love with you,” he said.
It made her go silent and drop her face to the ground. Her body shook with sorrow and a tear slipped from her eye. “Damnit to hell,” she murmured upset that she’d shown her vulnerability. “You say you love me but—”
“I fucked up! I know it, but please, baby…” Luke sank down to the ground, his knees hitting the payment with a thud. He didn’t even flinch. “Don’t do this to us. We can work through this. If we were married, you wouldn’t be able to give up this easy. We would have to figure out a way to get past our problems.” He grabbed her hands and linked their fingers. “Together.”
Amy stared down at his pleading gaze; her heart ricocheted against her breastbone. “But we’re not married, and since you’ve shown you can’t be faithful, marriage is not an option for us.”
It was a stab in his chest with the sharpest knife she could muster.
“I’m leaving now, please don’t follow me.”
Amy sidestepped him and went back inside the pizzeria. Feeling lost, Luke tried to figure out what had just happened. They’d made up and been in a good place, then in walks Jessica, again, for the second day in a row. He never imagined she would be a thorn in his side and he regretted every phone call he’d made to her. But there was something else that bugged him. Amy didn’t understand his plight. She wasn’t there and didn’t know the things he’d witnessed and been privy to. If it were not for Jessica, on those rare occasions, he could’ve possibly lost his mind.
Being linked to someone outside his setting was calming for his spirit, but Amy didn’t know, and he didn’t feel he could tell her that. It wouldn’t make things better but only hurt her more. Now, he was trying to figure out if there were a way out of this. He couldn’t lose her. He wouldn’t. Rising to his feet, Luke marched back to the door when it opened, and Jessica walked out bumping into him.
“There you are,” she said, an easy smile growing on her face.
Annoyed he lashed out. “Don’t you have something else to do than stalk me?”
Jessica jerked backward. “Excuse me,” she said incredulously.
“I think you heard me.”
“Oh, I get it. Now that you’re back home, you don’t need me anymore. It was okay while you were overseas, but now, I’m stalking you?”
Luke couldn’t seem to catch a break.
“Jessica, you knew from the beginning we were only friends. I have no desire to be with you. I’m with Amy. I don’t understand the confusion.”
Even though it hurt her feelings, Jessica didn’t show it. Besides, she could have any man she wanted, even Erin’s man although Erin thought Caleb was safe.
“Okay, I never said otherwise, but here I am the one to lash out on when all I’ve done is be there for you.”
“You’re right and I appreciated you, but you should’ve given me the chance to contact you. Showing up the way you did at the airport was an ambush and I have the feeling you showing up here was no coincidence. I don’t know what you’re doing, or what kind of games you’re playing, but consider me a disengaged player. I don’t need your friendship anymore.”
Luke gritted his teeth and retracted. “I didn’t mean for that to come out so cruel, but Jessica, cut me some slack. I can’t be your friend anymore. I was wrong for befriending you in the first place. I’m sorry. I know you may feel like I used you, but I want you to know that I didn’t. I genuinely cared about our friendship, but some things aren’t meant to go past a season, and ours has ended.”
Jessica folded her arms and leaned into her hip just as the door chimed again. Erin, Amy, and Caleb walked out. They all glanced over at Luke and Jessica.
“Luke I’m going to take Amy home,” Erin said still uncertain about whatever was going on between Luke and Jessica.
Luke reached out to Amy, but she moved out of his reach and continued across the street to the parking lot. Erin followed her, but Caleb lagged watching Luke observe Amy’s disappearing form.
“You good brother?” Caleb asked.
Luke wished he could say he was, but truth be told, he wasn’t. Not even close.