Not My Type: Felicity Ch. 04byfirstkiss©
There was no sign of Matt all Sunday morning. Maybe he'd left early. Maybe he'd stayed out all night. I struggled to let go of that latter possibility and tried to convince myself that where Matt had spent the night didn't matter to me. It was stupid to feel hurt—even for a moment. The weekly paperwork provided some distraction but each time my eyes drifted out the window to his vacant parking spot, I had to tell myself he'd be back in time to take me out to Rhiannon and Joe's place. After all, he promised me. But as lunchtime passed and the afternoon rolled away, I wondered if Matt had changed his mind.
A car pulled up to the garage. My head shot up and my hopes sank as a different redhead altogether—a taller one, a slimmer one—climbed out of the car.
I pasted on a smile as he strode towards my office.
"Hey." His voice sounded enough like Matt's to make my heart ache. The two brothers looked remarkably alike except for their size. Where Matt was shorter and broader, Chuck was tall and lean. Matt looked like a mechanic with his wide shoulders and muscular arms. Chuck looked like an engineer, bookish and introspective.
"I was just passing by and wondered if you wanted a ride out to Joe's?"
I closed the ledger and fought to push away my disappointment that the wrong Tanner brother now stood propped in my doorway.
"Sure," I told him, attempting to sound cheerful. I collected the sweater Matt had loaned me and followed Chuck back through the garage. He waited while I locked up.
"Did Matt end up having to do something else today?" I asked when my curiosity got the better of me.
Chuck shot me a guilty glance as he lowered himself into his car. "Sort of. He's not feeling too well."
"Oh, really," I mumbled as went around to my side of the car. The door squeaked open and I had to pull it closed with considerable force.
"I've been meaning to get that fixed," Chuck admitted with an embarrassed laugh. "The list of what's wrong with this antique is endless."
"Bring it round some time. I'll fix you up. I'm surprised Matt hasn't already done it for you."
Chuck put the car in gear. "I've been bugging him to, but he always has something else on his mind."
I wondered what that might be, but I didn't dare ask Chuck to elaborate. After all, I didn't really know him very well. We'd had a few classes together in high school, but that had been more than five years ago.
"Do you still see much of Ann Murphy?" I asked him as the rust-red fields flew by. Ann and I had been friends in high school.
Chuck laughed. "God no, I haven't dated her since I went away to university. Do you see her at all?"
"No, we've fallen out of touch," I admitted. "I'm so busy with the shop. Everyone's gotten engaged and married. They have families now. I'm afraid I wouldn't have much in common with the old gang any more."
Chuck nodded in agreement. "I think I'm one of the few of us who went away to school. When I came back everything had changed. The only one I see from time to time is Megan McMillan when she drives by, and that's only because our parents are neighbours."
I hadn't thought about Megan McMillan since graduation. She was one of those girls who always flew under the radar, like I did. Not nerdy enough to be picked on, but not cool enough to matter. We both travelled in the same social circles and had friends in common. That was about all I knew of her though, other than that her mother and older sister Charlene were interminable busybodies.
"How is Megan these days?"
Chuck shrugged again. "I couldn't really tell you, I just sort of see her in passing. She must work in the city because every time I see her she's going in that direction."
"She's quite pretty you know," I teased gently, laughing to myself as a tell-tale blush crept up the back of Chuck's neck. "If you like that curvy, smart, girl-next-door type."
Chuck didn't answer me right away and I wondered if I'd crossed the line.
"Yeah," he admitted after a drawn out moment of awkward silence during which I sat cursing my big mouth. "Yeah, she's quite pretty. Not that it matters; the Tanners and the McMillans don't exactly get along."
I cocked an eyebrow, sensing a story behind Chuck's admission. "Really? You two always seemed friendly enough in high school."
"Oh, I don't have a problem with Megan. After all, you can't choose your family. The rest of them though? Crazy as loons. Her family has been feuding with mine for generations. Every decade or so one of them tries to refute the property lines between our farms. Or they'll cut a tree down when they shouldn't, build a fence where they can't. Harmless enough, but silly."
I laughed. "Montagues and Capulets?"
Chuck's laughter filled the small car. Sometimes he sounded so much like Matt it was eerie. "I guess so. Without the star-crossed lovers, of course."
As the drive continued, Chuck asked polite questions about the garage and my dad. I found out he was working as an environmental engineer for a non-profit organization and now that Matt had moved out their parents' home, Chuck contemplated doing the same.
"I'm sure your girlfriend would appreciate it if you got your own place," I teased as we drove past his parents' house and turned onto the long lane leading down to the cottage.
Chuck shook his head and chuckled. "Girlfriend? Not me. Who's got the time for that anyway?"
It was my turn to shrug. "I certainly don't."
"But you had a date last night." His simple, confident delivery left me stunned. Obviously he'd spoken to Matt at some point.
"Uh, yeah," I managed to say as I blushed. "A first date."
"How'd it go?"
I considered just how much I should confide in him. I had no reason to lie but Chuck was Matt's brother and clearly they'd spoken about me. I didn't know how much of my conversation with Chuck might get back to Matt.
"It was nice." I hoped my vague answer would discourage any more questions about my date with Ryan.
Chuck said nothing until he parked his car next to the trees behind the cottage. "Looks like everybody's here."
It was a warm, sunny day and the Tanner siblings, Adam, Adele and the Reverend were spread out on blankets in the shade. Matt was no where to be seen.
Everyone greeted me warmly. Even baby Sophie had a cheerful gurgle for me. Rhiannon held Sophie in her arms as I approached them carefully, fearing a repeat of the week before. It would have been easier to pretend she didn't exist, but I was drawn to the beautiful little girl. I suppose babies had that affect on people.
I sat down joined the group in their weekly ritual of recounting how things had been since we were last together. They included me in every conversation, even the ones about Lilly and Adam's impending nuptials, although weddings were hardly a topic I knew anything about.
"Matt still hasn't been by to pick up your dress," Rhiannon reminded me. "Don't let him forget." She looked around the glade of trees, where her various family members and friends were lounging about, drinks in hand, relaxing in the shade. "Where is Matt, anyway?"
"Chuck said he wasn't feeling well," I supplied. "But that's all I know. His car wasn't at the apartment this morning."
Rhiannon bounced her daughter on her knee. "I think I saw it up at the house, actually. Maybe he's having his mum take care of him?"
I mulled over that thought. I never had a mom to take care of me when I was sick, at least not that I could remember. I guess it must be nice to have someone to fuss over you.
"He seemed okay yesterday afternoon when I saw him. Do you think he could have come down with something that quickly?"
Violet's head snapped around, her conversation with Nate and Adele suddenly forgotten. She rolled her eyes and smirked.
"He's not sick, he's hungover. He came over to the house late last night in a piss-poor mood, and then proceeded to drink himself stupid. Don't know what's gotten in to him, but it has to be something big!"
Matt had reneged on his promise to bring me out to the cottage because he was hungover? Anger rose in the back of my throat like bile, but I forced myself to smile back at Violet. The youngest Tanner was much too inquisitive for me to show my annoyance. She'd bombard me with questions or make assumptions as to why Matt had the power to upset me so much.
"Serves him right," Rhiannon drawled, voicing a little of what I'd been thinking.
I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. What in heaven's name had gotten Matt so riled up? I couldn't remember if I'd seen his car at the garage when Ryan had dropped me off. Perhaps he'd already been gone by then. But what if he'd seen Ryan kiss me goodnight? But that wouldn't have mattered to him and it was foolish to hope it had, even for a second.
The idea that Matt had chosen to drink away his problems kept intruding on my thoughts while the others carried on talking. Getting drunk never solved anything. I lived with a prime example of that every day. There was no excuse for Matt's behaviour.
I caught Rhiannon watching me. If she saw through my calm façade, she didn't let on. Instead she tossed her long, dark hair over her shoulder and joined in on Lilly's diatribe about overpriced florists.
I sat still as the voices floated around me. Every once and a while I'd smile and nod at a comment but my attention had drifted somewhere else. Matt's absence created a void no one present and no amount of talking could fill. I imagined the quips he'd fire off and his laughter booming over everyone else's. It was odd hanging out with the Tanner clan and him not being there. Eventually the group broke up to make dinner, and since my offers to help were turned down, I wandered down to the beach.
Seagulls sang to each other as they floated back and forth on updrafts of the warm, August air. The water sparkled a deep clear blue, the sort of sea we only see a few weeks of the year. I sat down, stripped off my sandals, and buried my toes in the sand and watched the waves roll in.
It was so confusing, everything I felt for Matt. I wanted him to be like Ryan, flirtatious with me and easily accessible. I never understood why he wasn't, not when I saw the way he charmed our female customers. Matt always said little about the women who'd come and gone through his life, but I knew there were quite a few of them. In the three years he'd worked at Stewart and Sons, he'd only brought a few girls around to see the shop. It never seemed that any one of them lasted more than a few months.
Was he as lonely as I was? Was it possible he didn't know what he wanted, just as I didn't know?
What Matt would do if I kissed him? If I admitted to him that I liked him? Would he laugh and turn away? Those were the fears that kept me up at night. I couldn't even fathom that he'd do anything other than reject me— not when he'd always treated me like I was one of the boys.
He had been so sweet, so gentle when he touched my cheek. Goodness knows it wasn't the first time I'd smeared my face with muck on the job, so what made Matt act differently yesterday? And then he'd been so surly when Ryan had dropped off the supplies. And that twitch of curtain at the window after Ryan kissed me... I just knew Matt had seen us. Then to find out he'd then gone out drinking and gotten sick afterwards?
I heard someone come up the beach towards me. It was Adele. For someone so tall, she moved with a sinuous grace that was like movement put to song. She stopped when she reached me and towered over me, looking like an angel from a painting. "Mind if I sit down?"
I shook my head. The sunlight glinted off her blonde ringlets as she lowered herself to the sand. Her hazel eyes held a hint of mischief . I found myself smiling at her, despite my roiling insides.
"Can you keep a secret?" she asked.
It wasn't what I was expecting to hear and I laughed aloud in surprise.
"Oh, thank God," she gushed with a girlish giggle at odds her faultless, elegant exterior. "Both Rhi and Lilly are crap at it. I just know whatever I told them would get instantly back to Joe and Adam. Usually I'm really good at keeping things to myself, but I'm practically bursting at the seams. I have to tell someone!"
Her excitement was contagious. I pushed aside my troubles and gave Adele my full attention.
Adele's smile lit up her face, which could only rightly be called beatific.
"Nate and I are getting married!"
"That's fantastic!" I let the news sink in then an odd thought came to me.
"Why can't you tell Rhiannon and Lilly?"
Adele pouted good-naturedly. "I promised Nate I wouldn't. He doesn't want to announce our engagement until after Lilly and Adam's wedding, so we don't steal their spotlight."
"Yeah, but it's killing me!" Adele laughed. "As if waiting to be married to him isn't hard enough."
"Yeah, but you're together," I pointed out, thinking of my own sad circumstance. "That's got to count for something."
"Easy for you to say," Adele muttered. "He's a Presbyterian Minister... technically we can't be together until after the wedding... if you catch my drift."
The meaning of that statement sunk in. "Ohhhh," I acknowledged with a little gasp. "No wonder you're impatient."
"You have no idea," Adele mumbled wryly.
I laughed. "Well, you're lookin' at the most chaste twenty-six year-old on the Island, so yeah I do. And anyway, I'm sure you two still kiss and make-out all the time."
Adele's cheeks turned pink.
"You do," I accused with a laugh. "Well, I won't tell anyone that either. I will be your most trusted keeper of secrets."
She smiled gently at me. "And I can be yours cherie," Adele offered. "If there was something you wanted to talk about."
She let the proposal hang in the air between us for a while. I pondered taking her up on it and then she said, "I know you like Matt. He might not notice, but it's a little obvious to the rest of us."
I closed my eyes and dropped my forehead against my knees, wishing I could disappear into the sand. Here I thought I'd done such a fabulous job of hiding my feelings.
"It's okay," Adele crooned in a reassuring tone as she touched my arm. "He's a good guy."
"Yeah, well he's an idiot too."
"Okay, I'll grant you that. He's an idiot for not noticing. Sometimes we're the most blind to the things that are closest to us."
"What am I going to do?"
"From the outside looking in, it appears you have three options: You take the chance and make your move, you forget him and move on, or you do nothing and continue to live the way you have been."
I groaned in frustration.
"I can't carry on like this much longer," I confessed. I still didn't open my eyes and face her. "Watching him smile and flirt with every other woman on the Island—it's torture!" I raised my head to peek over at Adele.
"A month ago I think I could have convinced myself to move on... but lately... it's weird, but lately Matt's been different. He doesn't kid around with me the way he used to. He's been... nicer."
Adele's smile grew but she said nothing.
"Do you think it's possible his feelings towards me have changed?"
"There's only one way to find out."
My stomach lurched.
"But what if I'm wrong?"
"Then you risk changing the friendship you have with him." Adele tempered her bluntness with a kind smile. "So what you have to ask yourself is: Is it worth the risk for a chance to be with him?"
I groaned again. The small noise of frustration couldn't even come close to expressing how tormented I felt.
"Can I give you a little sisterly advice even though I'm not your sister?"
"Whatever you do, don't wait too long to make a decision, one way or the other. Take it from me, you shouldn't put your happiness on hold just because you're scared." She patted my shoulder then she rose up, casting me in her shadow.
"Love is too good to be afraid of cherie."
Adele walked away, giving me time to let her sentiment sink in.
"What if I'm wrong about this?" I yelled at her retreating back.
Adele spun around.
"Then you do what I once had to do. You pick up the pieces of your broken heart and move on. Either way, it's better than never knowing for sure."
Matt and I said little to each other over the next few days. He apologized for not being around on Sunday but he didn't ask about my date with Ryan and I didn't volunteer any information.
Ryan called a couple of times and each time I managed to postpone our second date. To be fair, work had been quite steady around the garage with new jobs pulling up the second we finished the one we were working on. It was a nice change of pace—not so busy that it felt overwhelming yet busy enough that I lost track of time. Each night I'd get home well after dinner, answer the rare question from Dad about the shop then fall into bed completely exhausted. The days flew by and before I knew it the end of August loomed.
It was a Thursday afternoon when Matt stuck his head in my office door.
"Those two oil changes are done."
I glanced over at the clock. "Already? That was fast."
Matt gave me a broad grin, the old friendly one I hadn't seen in a while. "Piece of cake. Could do it in my sleep."
I nodded, knowing exactly how he felt. Some jobs, like oil changes, were so routine they were practically effortless.
Matt shuffled into the room, shifting from foot to foot. He took off his hat, ran his fingers through his thick auburn hair and settled his hat back on his head.
"I... uh... I know we're busy," he began and then paused. My heart skipped a beat. I wasn't used to seeing Matt hesitate over anything and my imagination ran wild as I wondered what he was worried about asking me.
"Do you think I could slip out for an hour or two this afternoon? I have to pick up my tux for Lil's wedding."
Lilly's wedding! I'd forgotten all about it. I hadn't been out to Rhiannon and Joe's in a couple of weeks, despite Matt's invitations. There had been just been too much to catch up on at the shop and I worried he only asked me to go because everyone expected him to, not because he actually wanted me there.
"That's this Saturday!" How did the day arrive so fast?
"Yup. Makes me glad I moved out of the house when I did. It's chaos at the farm right now."
I could just imagine. Lilly was a bit of a worrier, a trait which she inherited from her mother, if Matt was to be believed. And with the reception taking place at the farm I knew everyone had to be in a tizzy over the preparations.
With an exasperated sigh I said, "So I guess you need Saturday off too." Even though Matt was generally off on weekends, he'd been making a habit of coming downstairs to check if I needed a hand with anything.
"That's okay isn't it?" His ruddy complexion paled. "I did ask ages ago." Somewhere over the past three weeks, Matt had misplaced his sense of humour. He had absolutely no idea I was teasing him.
I giggled, unable to keep up the joke. "Yes, Matt it's okay. I purposely didn't book anything for September Fourth."
Matt's shoulders slumped. "Oh, thank goodness. Lilly would have killed me."
"You can have tomorrow off too," I offered. "We don't have much on the books and I'm sure your family could use a hand getting everything ready."
His sapphire eyes lit up. "Really? Thanks Flick, you're the best! I will be so damn happy when this wedding is over. I promise that by Monday everything will be back to normal."
I opened my mouth to remind Matt that he asked me to go the wedding with him but my pride kicked in. He hadn't mentioned it, so I wasn't going to embarrass the both of us by reminding him of an unwanted obligation.