Just a Bit Confusing

By: Alessandra Hazard

Hannah was smiling as she took the seat on the other side of Ryan. She really was a lovely girl: blond, pale and pretty serene—not the type Ryan usually went for. “Hey, babe,” she said, leaning in to kiss the corner of Ryan’s mouth. “Miss me?”

“I dropped you off half an hour ago,” Ryan said, but he was pulling her close to kiss her properly. It was a public place, but that never stopped Ryan.

James wrapped his hands around his cup of tea and stared down at the dark surface of the liquid.

“Dad wasn’t in,” Hannah explained after eleven seconds, sounding a little out of breath. “So I figured I’d join you. You don’t mind, James, do you? I’d hate to be the sort of girlfriend who doesn’t let her boyfriend spend time with his friends.”

James smiled politely, still looking at his tea. It was cold already. Maybe he should get another.

“No, I don’t mind.” As if he could say anything else. He glanced at the couple. Hannah was snuggled up against Ryan, her head on his shoulder, her slim hand on his chest.

James smiled again and stood up. “I was leaving, anyway.”

Ryan dragged his eyes from his girlfriend long enough to frown at him. “You’re leaving already? But I just got here.”

“My lunch break is almost over,” James said. Because I drove for forty fucking minutes to meet you for lunch. And you were late, because making out with her was more important to you, and now she’s taking you away again. He bit his tongue, hating this bitterness he couldn’t help but feel. It wasn’t him. It wasn’t.

“That’s a shame,” Hannah said, looking at Ryan with hearts in her eyes.

But Ryan was looking at James, an unhappy set to his mouth. “Don’t think our conversation is over.”

James rolled his eyes with a smile and a sigh. “Let it go, mate. Seriously, you’re like a dog with a bone. It’s not an attractive personality trait. Hannah, tell him.”

“James is right,” she said, taking Ryan’s hand. “Sometimes you can be too pushy. If someone doesn’t want to talk about something, you should respect that.”

“I do respect it,” Ryan said. “But Jamie isn’t just someone.”

“Jamie is late for work,” James said, placing a fifty pound note on the table. “And Jamie really can’t be late.”

“Don’t you work for a company owned by your family?” Hannah asked.

A brittle laugh left his lips. “That’s exactly why I can’t be late. See you later, guys.” He strode toward the door briskly, hoping Ryan would leave it alone.

But of course he didn’t. Ryan caught up with him outside before James could reach his car.


Suppressing a sigh, James put on a neutral face and turned to Ryan. “I’m really running late—”

“Listen to me, you git,” Ryan said, his eyes dark and hard. “I’m not sure what’s going on in that head of yours lately, but don’t do anything stupid, okay? Don’t agree to Arthur ’s plans only because you think you have to.” Ryan lifted his hands to cradle James’s face. Jamie went still, his heart hammering as Ryan looked him in the eye intently. “You deserve better. You deserve marrying someone you’re crazy about. Someone who would love you for being you—not for your money or your family name, but because you’re the best person I know.” Ryan smiled at him crookedly. “Being in love is pretty fucking great, actually. You deserve to find your Hannah.”

Jamie wondered if it would actually hurt more if Ryan stuck a knife in his gut and twisted it slowly. He thought he smiled. He hoped he was smiling. His face hurt, so he must be.

He said, “Sure I will. Later, mate.” He was surprised by how absolutely normal his voice sounded.

He smiled again and turned away.

He walked to his car.

He got in.

He closed the door.

He put his hands on the steering wheel.

His throat worked as he tried to swallow the painful lump in his throat. He couldn’t. A terrible, choked sound came from his throat. His chest began to heave. He pressed his hands to his eyes and breathed in, breathed out.

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