Worth the Risk

It had been hot for days with no relief in sight. After an abnormal amount of rain and cool days, the heat of the desert showed up and gripped the region.  It didn’t prevent Kate from wanting to be outside and chilling with a friend on a Friday evening. It was preferable to overpriced food and frigid restaurants.

Kate glanced over at Jordan who seemed distracted since she had arrived. Kate was doing her best to dismiss the loneliness that had threatened to swallow her over the last few weeks.

Jordan pushed a wave of blonde hair off her forehead. When they had first met, Jordan was a good distraction, until Kate realized she wanted more from her; more than Kate could give at the time. She needed to be alone and it was good, but she had been alone too long and now no longer for the right reasons.

There was still an awkwardness within her on the rare occasions that she let her mind drift to the past. To that last conversation, as she called it, followed by months of resounding silence. She tried to break the feeling with beer, taking a deep sip of the dark stout before sliding into the chair watching Jordan spinning her glass in a circle.

“What’s wrong?” Kate asked hoping that it was a work thing, not a personal thing.

Cars honked on the main road a few buildings over.

Jordan looked at the rose bushes as if the words she wanted lay hidden in the red and pink petals, “I would not know where to begin.”

“About?”

“The woman I was talking to you about a while back.”

Dammit, personal thing. That was the last thing Kate wanted to discuss. She pressed her lips together briefly before plunging in. “Does she feel the same way about you?”

“Not sure.”

The mobile on the table rattled an incoming message. “Is she seeing someone?”

“I don’t think so, but not totally sure. It’s been a while since we’ve talked. And when we do talk she doesn’t go into a lot of detail of her life. Our conversations stay with safe topics.”

Condensation dripped down the sides of the glasses as the heat dipped only slightly in the late afternoon. The sun on the far side of the building cast long dark shadows across the grass. Kate picked up the phone ignoring the fact that it was rude as Jordan took a long sip from her glass.

For the most part she was ok with hanging with Jordan – rare moments that they were. A weekend hike or meeting up for happy hour somewhere in the city, or more special yet, the occasional grilling with no one around except the two of them.

Their relationship had started out causally a couple years back and ebbed at the edges of something deeper before disappearing in silence and resurrecting into a friendship before disappearing into silence again only to rise like a phoenix. They hadn’t hung out in a long time, so it felt awkward as they tried to build another bridge from not really knowing each other to learning about the little life details.

Most times she could handle talking with Jordan about her relationship – rather her newly failed relationship. It was one that Jordan had asked for advice from Kate on more than one occasion. Jordan and her new ex had little in common and Kate knew from experience that a solid foundation was a must for any relationship to survive.

When Jordan talked of her relationship it was never in positive terms. There was always something wrong or something that needed to be fixed. It was easy to give Jordan guidance since Kate had been in the same place with her ex a couple years back. She had walked the same path and the pain was still fresh so the advice came easy – sometimes too easy.

It was at times like these when she craved to be touched, held, devoured, that made her read into things Jordan said. Hoping that the cryptic way she talked about this mysterious woman she refused to name, would in the end be her.

“If it is something you feel strongly about you should talk to her,” whoever she was.

A few key strokes later and a text was off to the dark land of the information highway.

“What if she doesn’t feel the same anymore? Just because I cannot figure out how to let go, doesn’t mean she couldn’t,” Jordan bit her lower lip giving her an almost childlike pout.

Kate twirled the phone in one hand, fighting to maintain the friendship that she was forced to adopt when Jordan told her that was all she felt for Kate, all she could offer her. They could only be friends because Jordan was struggling to save her relationship.

Jordan pushed at the bridge of her sunglasses, “What if I’m wrong? She probably doesn’t feel the same, but,” she frowned at the flowers, “now and again — I think — like me — there’s still something.”

Kate pressed a button on her phone. Slid the notifications down and collected coins for the slot game she was playing.

“Mmmm,” what was she supposed to say? How did she encourage the one she wanted to be with to pursue another woman?  Kate wished that Jordan would see her for more than a sounding board. It still hurt and she wished it would go away, but with a deep quiet sigh, she said, “You know if you don’t say anything she will move on, if she already hasn’t.”

Jordan looked at her briefly, then nodded trying to slide further into the back of the high mesh chair, her fingers drumming on her leg.

Kate wished she could see the thoughts that swirled in Jordan’s eyes shielded by the shades. Maybe if she could see Jordan’s feelings she could distance herself, give logical detached advice.

“What if she hasn’t moved on?” Kate asked the phone. “Or maybe not completely. It’s possible, like you, she struggles to forget. That you come to her mind when she least expects it. Dwells on it for a while then let’s go because she thinks she has no other choice.”

Dammit, Kate thought. Dammit. This was too close to home.  She slid quickly from the chair, grabbing her beer before retreating inside to prep dinner. Kate pulled the marinating steaks from the refrigerator.

She had to get her act together, she had to stop her racing heart, she had to stop thinking she had a chance. She didn’t, they were over. Their time had come and gone, isn’t that what Jordan said, had said, was still saying. Not that they ever had a time, just a moment. Hell, they barely talked as it was. Just brief disturbances in an otherwise silent world.

All the coincidences were just that, coincidences. It was better not to read into things. The universe put them together once and it was only meant to be once. Everything else was overactive imagination.

She inhaled deeply watching Jordan through the window. Was her hand shaking? The glass was almost empty before it was returned to the table top. Jordan crossed and uncrossed her legs, glancing over at the patio door before yanking her phone from the clip at her side.

Kate pulled a cold bottle from the refrigerator. She paused to watch Jordan, her light hair covering her face as her fingers swiped across the screen. Texting or gaming?

The evening birds chirped from the dark tree tops and music from a nearby apartment jammed its beat over the common yard. Jordan placed her phone face down on the table pushing her blond hair back off her forehead and over the top of her head as Kate stepped back through the door.

“Need help?” Jordan asked making no move to actually do so.

“Nope, I got it.” Kate replied placing the tray on the wood shelf of the grill. The coals were just starting to gray. “Why do you feel so drawn to her?”

Kate turned and watched a small smile crossed over Jordan’s face, “She’s smart, warm, patient, and seems to like the same things I do. Strong, someone that doesn’t need me, but wouldn’t hesitate to ask me for help.”

Kate placed the cold bottle next to the empty glass to cover the sound of her cracking heart. She shouldn’t put herself through this, she racked her brain to find a way to change the subject to something more light hearted like, Aren’t the bees going extinct? or Did you know that California is going to be adrift in five years?

“I just don’t know how to tell her. I guess I’m scared,” Jordan expanded.

“Of what?” Kate pushed the spider web of wishing aside.

There seemed to be an oddly long pause as Kate focused on arranging the coals.

“Of her not wanting me anymore. Of hearing her say that I fucked up. That I’m too late. I don’t know how to start the conversation with her,” Jordan continued her voice laced with frustration. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried, but I don’t think she’s hearing me. Or is deliberately ignoring what I’m saying.”

Kate turned over the steaks leaving them to come up to room temperature, “It doesn’t sound like you talk with her enough as it is. So you’re not saying anything, are you?”

The blond bowed her head at the rebuff.

Dammit, this friendship, if you could call it that, needed to come to an end. Kate couldn’t do this to herself anymore. Kate inhaled deeply, silently, it was time to push Jordan toward the waters that she wanted, it was time to let go completely.

Kate blinked back tears, “It’s possible she’s not understanding what you mean. You said that you’ve told her that it wouldn’t work – on more than one occasion. So it’s highly likely that unless you are crystal clear she wouldn’t hear what you mean because she isn’t looking for it, doesn’t think it’s a possibility,” she shrugged a shoulder trying to figure out how to bring this topic to a conclusion. “If you don’t say anything you’ll never know what she thinks. I think you just need to get her attention — be blunt about what you want.”

“Blunt? What if choose the wrong words?”

Kate chuckled, “I don’t think there could be any wrong words. You just need to find words that get her attention, get her to focus on you and go from there.”

“You make is sound easy.”

“It is that easy.”

“Apparently not.”

“Why not?” Kate wrapped her fingers around the cool glass.

“Because I’ve been trying to get her attention all night.”

The glass hit her bottom teeth as the air compressed around Kate, pressing against her chest, her heart slamming into her rib cage. Beer sloshed over the top of the glass and slid quickly down her throat, she struggled not to choke on it as she tried to recall how to swallow and then breathe.

“Sooooo,” she started pushing down past the anxious air and the fluttering heart of hope as the beer hit the bottom of her stomach. “I’ve been giving you advice all night about how to you should talk to me about your feelings — for me?”

Jordan bit the inside of her lip, finding something fascinating to study on the ground.

Silence drew out as Kate waited. She wasn’t going to put words into Jordan’s mouth. She was hearing things, misunderstanding again…reading into words and silence in a frustrating hope that maybe, just maybe.

Jordan stepped out of the chair, stopping in front of Kate. She slid the dark glasses hiding her feelings to the top of her head.

Kate silently took a deep breath and got lost in the blue eyes that seemed to be searching for answers in her.

“You said you didn’t want me,” Kate said.

“I was wrong.”

“You said you didn’t need me.”

“I lied.”

“You said you didn’t love me.”

“You scared me,” Jordan whispered.

Kate frowned, feeling Jordan’s warm breath float over her lips. The tingling started slowly, spreading from her lips to her chest mingling with the heat of the day making it hard to breath. She pulled back slightly waiting to wake up from the morning dream. Dreams that would come unbidden, at unexpected moments, when she felt the dark hole open in the center of her.

Sirens raced down the main road and the bass a few doors down changed to something heavy metal. Kate could make out her reflection in blue water eyes that waited. She struggled to catch her breath, to keep her heart from racing out of her chest. To wake up.

“Say something,” Jordan licked her lips.

Words flashed through her mind, but Kate couldn’t capture them or put them into context before they were gone. A pop from the grill brought the world back into focus.

Jordan stood in front of her, hands braced on the chair handles, lips wet, eyes expectant.

“I,” what? I’ve waited for this moment for months? I want you. Fuck me. Love me. “I don’t know what to say.”

On paper they didn’t work – shouldn’t work. Despite the common interest, traveling, biking, kayaking, hiking, Irish pubs, and hanging with friends, they had more not in common.

Jordan was Midwest rough around the edges whereas Kate was New England professional white collar. Jordan loved landscaping and getting her hands dirty – working the land. Building furniture or fixing floors in the house, working on her off road truck. Kate was all about proper etiquette, well read, throwing together last minute social events in the blink of an eye. Entertaining peers for networking, socializing with friends on game night, or drinking wine in front of the fire.

Black and white, inside versus outside, silence versus conversation.

But the feeling between them, the spark of the unknown, the pull of wanting more, of needing more had always played at the edges of their interactions.

Kate wasn’t sure who moved first. Soft lips pressed lightly against hers, opening slightly to Jordan’s probing tongue. The world fell away and all that was left was feeling – heat, rapid loss of air, darkness ebbing and flowing from top to bottom, wanting more.

Kate took a deep breath as she put her first foot on the new bridge, “That took you long enough, didn’t it?”

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