I also didn’t really know JC. And while I’d never asked or wondered about his evenings in the Viper, I suddenly wanted to know very badly. I hated that Alyssa got to see him in that environment and I didn’t. I hated that he felt comfortable enough for her to be his messenger. I hated that he felt comfortable enough to give her that particular message.
I hated that he was giving that particular message at all.
I knew I was potentially making a fool of myself, but I asked, “Did anything…unusual happen last night? With JC, I mean.”
“Nope. Same old, same old.”
Which meant…? “So he seemed…okay then?” I pounded my fist against my forehead, realizing how stupid I sounded but not able to control myself.
“I’m not sure what you’re asking me. He was JC. Same as always. Do you have a thing for him, Gwen? He’s hot-to-trot, but I have to tell you—he’s not the guy for a girl like you.”
“What does that mean—a girl like me?” I tried not to come off too offended. But the whole conversation had me turned around. Alyssa wasn’t usually this relaxed with me. This straightforward. This blunt.
And I wasn’t usually so off my game. So easily defensive. So desperate and needy.
“I mean that you’re the type who expects fidelity. The type that would want commitment and monogamy in a relationship.” Another inhale. When she spoke again, it sounded like she was attempting it while holding her breath. “Am I wrong?”
Until I’d met JC, I’d been the type who didn’t want relationships at all. And it had been him who had insisted on monogamy. The idea that he was fooling around with others bothered me, and not just because we hadn’t been using condoms.
I didn’t know how to respond to her question.
When I didn’t speak, she did. “But if you don’t mind being a flavor of the month, go for it.”
I knew I shouldn’t ask. It was the worst thing I could know. “Have you ever been his flavor of the month?”
She laughed. “That’s very funny,” she said, as if I’d purposefully cracked a joke.
Except I hadn’t. I truly wanted to know. Now even more so. Did she find my question humorous because she would never go for it with JC or because she had and everyone knew so why was I asking?
I wanted to dig further, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without seeming like an idiot. And I already felt like an idiot. I’d been dumped for the night, after all. Through a messenger.
“Anyway,” she said. “I’m about to crash. Just wanted to give you the heads up.”
“Thanks.” But I wasn’t grateful in the least.
The next week, I got the notice that JC canceled on Monday. I’d been melancholy and moody since the call from Alyssa, but when I saw the note on my locker as I came in for my shift, my disposition plummeted to something akin to despair. I didn’t have to read it to know what it said.
I read it anyway. Have to cancel. Something came up.
He didn’t even sign it, which incensed me. He couldn’t even bother to write his initials? Was my heartbreak only worth twenty-seven letters of his time?
Really, I didn’t care about his signature or the goddamn twenty-seven letters. I wanted him. In person. Wanted to see him and touch him and kiss him and tell him I loved him. Even if he were only going to tell me he wasn’t going to make it on Wednesday, I wanted him to tell me to my face.
I knew in my gut that face-to-face wasn’t happening. Just as sure as I knew that he was done with me. Done with us. How many notes would I get before he stopped leaving them all together? How many phone calls from Alyssa? How many missed dates before he felt like I’d gotten the hint?
But Norma had said to give him the benefit of the doubt. And while I hadn’t entirely decided to follow that suggestion, it was the best choice I had. What else could I do? I wanted to lash out. I wanted to mourn. By keeping me in limbo, he made those options seem rash and unfounded.
All I could do was hope.
Well, and I could check in at the club the following night.
I never went in when I wasn’t working, but I staged it this time by leaving my phone in the office so that my appearance on a Tuesday wouldn’t seem odd. Of course, after I’d retrieved it, I still hadn’t seen JC. I lingered at the first floor bar, looking up at The Deck. Going up there wasn’t an option. I hadn’t seen Matt, so it was possible he was up there. If I walked in on him with patrons breaking the rules then he’d know I knew about his deals.
And even if he wasn’t, JC could be. And he’d know why I was there. He’d know it was for him.
I went up anyway. Climbed the stairs two at a time and burst into the room like I belonged. There was a group of men drinking and playing cards. Smaller than the time before. Only a couple of women. Everyone was dressed. Matt wasn’t around. Neither was JC.
“He’s not here tonight,” Alyssa’s voice came from behind me.
I turned to find her with a serving tray of appetizers. “Who isn’t?” Like she’d fall for that. We both knew who I was there for.
She smiled with that gleam that said she wasn’t going to play that game. “He has the room booked every week, but sometimes he sends his people without him. Nice making a move, though. You should probably wear something a little more…” she eyed my jeans and T-shirt “…accessible…if you’re going to try again.”
I rolled my eyes and stormed out. It was silly to be so mad since she was so wrong about what was going on with JC and me. But she was right about one thing—I was not dressed to get the guy. I should have planned that a little better.
As for JC’s absence, I was torn. I hadn’t thought through what I’d say to him if I saw him. Mostly because I just wanted to see if he’d be there, not confront him. Finding out that he wasn’t made me feel…better? Like maybe something really had come up, and he wasn’t even in town.
But also, he could have guessed I might have shown up and so he’d stayed away.
Really, I hadn’t learned anything. And I really didn’t have any reason to be mad at him or not trust him. So I’d take Norma’s advice and give him the benefit of the doubt.
For as long as I could justify it, anyway.
By the following Wednesday, I hadn’t heard from JC at all. I barely slept that day, trying to decide what that meant. I wanted to assume it meant we were still on. But it could also mean that he thought that’s all it would take to dissuade me.