Food, Cats, and Being in Love

I don't want to think about it
I don't want to talk about it
When I kiss your lips
I want to sink down to the bottom
Of the sea


17. Chapter Seventeen

I was really not looking forward to another weekend alone. As winter break approached, I found less and less time to spend with the people I liked. Or at least the ones who still liked me. Kat was home from school but she was spending time with her family and so was her brother. Jaime had gone to visit her grandparents in Colorado and Sean hadn’t called or spoken to me since that day in the library.

I was supposed to be going home the following weekend so I could spend Christmas with my family. I hadn’t told them that Vincent and I were working together. I kind of didn’t want to tell them. Not because I thought they’d be mad about it, but because I really didn’t want to share him with them. I liked that we were building a friendship separate from them. Part of me knew I should probably tell Paige, but I couldn’t work up enough courage to do it.

“Is something wrong?” Vincent asked me the next Friday when he was over for dinner. I watched him spear a potato on the end of his fork.

“It’s nothing—just not looking forward to the weekend,” I explained.

“Why not?” He took a bite and chewed, but kept his eyes on me.

One thing I’d always appreciated about Vincent, is that he always gave people his undivided attention. Even when I was a nobody in high school and he was super popular, he always looked at me like I had something important to say. He had a lot of respect for people. And as a result, I had a lot of respect for him.

I took a sip of the wine I got to go with dinner. In truth, my book was supposed to have a budget. Wine wasn’t really on that budget. It was meant to be made with things that were readily accessible. I put in the book that you could use any old bottle of red wine, but in truth, I’d spent a lot of time at the store choosing the perfect wine to go with the meal. I wanted it to accentuate the food. I wanted it to taste extraordinary.

I liked the way Vincent’s face lit up every time he took the first bite. I liked the way he made a little sound at the back of his throat, almost like a moan. He said it was his favorite meal so far. But he always said that.

I hesitated to answer his question. I didn’t want him to realize just how lonely I felt now that Sean hated me. I told him life had been great since the last time we saw each other. Which was under a bit of a painful circumstance. The last time I saw him when we were kids he’d been hurting.

I told him I’d spent the past five years as happy as could be. I worked, went to school, finally found friends who didn’t make me feel like garbage. But I was just as lonely as ever. I’d had my heart broken by an idiot at school. And the one guy I thought I had the potential to love, got jealous and took off at the first sign of it. My love life was a failure. No, I was a failure. I quit school just because a guy made me feel awful. I couldn’t even go to my own library now because of a guy. And I didn’t want to tell Vincent that the only reason I got the book deal in the first place is because I wussed out of culinary school in the first semester.

I cleared my throat. “Just don’t have any plans for the weekend. Everyone is busy,” I told him. “Not really looking forward to it. Also, I have to go home next week for my mom’s stupid Christmas Eve party. Which I made the mistake of promising to cater.”

“No wrestling matches scheduled for you and Reg this weekend?” he asked. I laughed.

“He doesn’t wrestle much anymore these days. He just wants to be fed all the time and plops his fat body down in the hallway when I’m trying to get to the bathroom at night.” He smiled.

“I know what you mean. I don’t have any plans either.” He went back to his food and I considered asking him to come back over the next night too. I had a whole book of recipes I had to get pictures of. But I didn’t want to waste them. As soon as he finished with the photos he’d probably be gone again and I’d lose the first person who ever made me feel like a person. Again.

I cleared my throat again and went back for my wine. He was staring at his plate so I tipped my head back and drained the glass. “More wine?” I asked.

“Please?” he replied.

I went to the kitchen to get the bottle and brought the whole thing back out. I sloshed more wine into his glass and then into mine. We were quiet as we ate. We made small talk here and there. I wondered if we were just running out of things to talk about now or if something was bothering him too. Maybe I’d said too much. Maybe he didn’t like my food and was just too sweet to tell me. I over salted it. I knew it.

When we finished up, I piled my silverware on my plate and then went to the other side to take his. But he reached out and gently gripped my wrist. His hand was strong. His fingers were soft. He looked up at me and our eyes met. I held them for a moment because I didn’t know what to say to him. He seemed bothered by something and I wasn’t sure of what to think about the way his hand was so warm against my skin and I got butterflies in the pit of my stomach.

But then I looked away and lifted the plate. His hand slipped from mine and he stood up to get his camera bag. I took the plates into the kitchen and heard him step in behind me. He’d never really been in my kitchen a whole lot.

I slid the dishes into the sink and felt my heartbeat begin to race. I didn’t want him to leave. I didn’t want to have to wait until later in the week to see him again. But at the same time, I didn’t want to feel those butterflies and that adrenaline. Not for him. Not for the boy who loved my sister so much he stayed with her for two years. Not for the boy who was the father of my biological niece.

But he was the first boy I’d ever kissed. The first person outside of my family who made me feel valid and important. I’d never forgotten each act of kindness he’d shown me when no one else had. I remembered all the kind words, every CD and what they represented, every kiss, and that one final hug of genuine gratitude.

“Pip?” I heard him ask. I liked the way he said my name. He was the only person who ever called me that. Not including Collin. But Collin only called me that because he heard Vincent say it first and thought it was my name. “Are you okay?” he asked. I wiped my hands on a towel and finished off my wine glass. I didn’t drink very much. Definitely not enough to get drunk. And I figured when he was gone I’d probably polish off the whole bottle and be sad for the rest of the weekend.

“I just don’t want you to go,” I thought. But I’d said it out loud. Like a moron. I heard him clear his throat as he took a step back into the dining room again.

“I don’t want to leave either,” he murmured as he went to get his bag. I followed him out into the hall anyway. I didn’t want to be improper or weird by making him show himself out. But he lingered by the door as he looked over the pictures Jaime had stuck on my walls. “Hey,” he said suddenly turning to me. “Since neither of us have anything to do this weekend—do you maybe want to—I don’t know—hang out?” I was momentarily stunned.

“Yeah, sure. Like what exactly?” He shrugged.

“We could go see a movie or something? Just hang out.” Right. Like friends. It was probably best that way. But I nodded vigorously anyway.

“Yeah, I’d like that.” He smiled in relief and then turned to open the door.

“Alright, well, I’ll call you tomorrow then.”

“Good. I’m glad. Or I will be. To hear you. When you call.” I wanted to smack myself in the face. But he just smiled and nodded.

“See you tomorrow then?”

“Yeah.” I pinched my lips before anything stupid could spill out.

“Night, Pip.”

“Night, Vinnie.” I watched him head down the hall and then I shut the door. So I could smack my face on it.



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