I am not a typical romance writer…but I grew up reading Harlequins from my mom’s stash. This was my first real attempt due to a prompt from my one of my genre classes. It is NOT my best work by far.
“What do you mean she is divorced? I thought Emma and Nick were going to be ‘together forever’.” Jack feigned to take a drink not wanting Martia to see how interested he really was. “When was the divorce?”
“About a year ago. Nick decided he would rather be together forever with someone else…about halfway through their marriage.” Martia paused to steal across the room at Emma. “I keep meaning to talk to her and get the details, but she has been out of town dealing with her mother’s estate. I didn’t even know she was back in town until I saw her come in the door. ” Martia gave Jack a knowing smile. “I think she looks wonderful as a divorcee, don’t you?”
Martia had known Jack and Emma from their high school gallivanting days. She also knew he had pined over Emma all through their high school years. Martia and her girlfriend Luise nursed Jack through the heartache of “losing” Emma to that jackass Nick Stroudsburg.
Now Emma was back. And sans Jackass Nick.
“Yea, I guess so.” Jack wanted very much to seem nonchalant about the whole thing. He didn’t want to appear desperate in front of Martia, or even Emma. However, he couldn’t stop stealing small looks her way. Her hair was a lot longer than he last saw her, though still a dark burgundy and he wanted ever so badly to touch it. She seemed a lot thinner than before in the blue dress she wore and he has hoped it wasn’t because of the divorce.
All of a sudden he felt eyes boring into him and turned to see Martia grinning at him. Dammit. Apparently he wasn’t very successful at hiding his feelings. Jack turned his back to Emma and tried to deflect the conversation. “So, when is Luise going to Germany? She said she needed to…”
“Oh no, Jack Robinson. You are not changing the subject. You need to go talk to Emma. You screwed up your chances once, don’t screw it up again and wait until someone else asks her out.”
Jack knew Martia was right, but he just couldn’t do it. Even though it was 10 years ago, he just couldn’t get up the nerve. Martia didn’t know about the time he actually did talk to Emma. When he confessed his feelings. Martia didn’t know Emma had told him that his feelings were not reciprocated.
He remembered her that night, years ago, at the homecoming dance. It was their senior year in high school. She had come to the football game looking gorgeous as usual with her hair swept up in messy bun and burgundy ringlets falling around her face. Jack could still see the simple sapphire dress she wore that came just to her ankles. She never dressed in anything too fancy. He pulled her aside after the game, before the dance.
“Emma, I have to tell you something.” He hesitated a bit, but then his feelings came tumbling out. “I love you, Emma. I always have…” He didn’t get to finish as Emma’s beautiful face fell with each word he said. He knew he made a mistake.
“I love you, too, Jack but as a friend. One of my best friends. I am in love with Nick. We are getting married and moving to Oregon after graduation.” Every word was like a knife in his gut.
Jack shook off the memory and stared at the drink in his hand for a long moment. When he looked up, there was Emma coming his way. She looked right at him with a huge smile on her face.
“Jack!” Emma’s voice was warm to his ears and he could feel his face break into a smile in spite of himself.
“Hey, Emma! How are you! I haven’t seen you since graduation!” He hadn’t intended on hugging her, but she wrapped her arms around him and it would be rude not to return the favor. The hug lingered for a moment and gave him time to savor the connection before she finally, and he thought reluctantly, pulled away.
“I’m good. Really good. I am working for Mrs. Esposito at the moment down at 2nd Chance Books. My divorce was final last September and I decided to come back home.” She looked to him as if she was trying to judge his reaction. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or bad thing.
“Oh, really? You always did like your books. And Nick was a jackass.” He sounded like an idiot to his ears and mentally kicked himself.
“Yea, I did. Still do! And yes, yes he was.” She stopped for a moment of awkward silence before continuing. “What about you?”
“I am actually taking over my dad’s business. He decided to retire early and he and mom went to Italy. They were only supposed to be there a week, but it has been three months.” As their conversation continued, Jack noticed Martia had slipped away before Emma got to them.
Emma began to fiddle with her hair. “Listen, Jack. I am sorry about everything. I was hoping I would see you here so I could make amends.”
“You have nothing to apologize for,” he heard his mouth say, but in his mind all he could think of were the words ‘I was hoping I would see you here’.
“No, really. I would love to make it up to you. Why don’t we have lunch tomorrow?” For the first time tonight he actually looked into her hazel eyes. She was pleading with him without begging. This felt like more than a lunch invitation and he realized that he wouldn’t be able to tell her no.
“Sure thing, Emma. I’m the boss and no one will say anything if I leave. Just name the time.” He said and hoped he wasn’t making another huge mistake.
This work by Idgie Stark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.