tagRomanceFirst Love, Last Love

First Love, Last Love


"Oh damn!" I groaned.

"What's wrong?" Kyle asked. I shook my head.

"Nothing," I sighed, but he followed my eyes to the brunette across the bar. Kyle let out a long, slow, soft whistled.

"Man! What a way to start a new year," he said with a shake of his head.

"Tell me about it," I mumbled, and added with another sigh, "I think I'm calling it a night."

"I would if I were you," Kyle replied, and then frowning he added, "I thought she moved?"

"She did," I said with a shake of my head as I stood and paid my tab. "All the way across the country. Last I heard she married a doctor."

"Looks like she's back," Kyle said with a shrug.

"No shit," I said sarcastically.

"She let her hair grow out. It looks good," Kyle said. "But then again, she was always pretty hot." Kyle was my best friend since grammar school, but he never knew when to shut up. The worse part was that he was right. She did look good. She wasn't wearing anything revealing. Yet, even seeing her in a pair of jeans and a sweater was too much for me to handle.

"Later," I said to Kyle. He nodded and turned to a cute blond sitting on his other side. She wasn't alone and her friends were attractive too. I normally would have stayed with Kyle and had fun meeting someone new, but I was no longer in any mood to deal with people, especially women.

I hurried toward the front door. I was so focused on escaping as quickly as possible that I didn't see the waitress carrying the tray of food. I bumped into her, and of course the tray went crashing to the floor. So much for escaping unnoticed.

"Still as smooth as ever," I heard someone say from behind me. I turned slowly knowing full well who spoke.

"Hello, Jodie," I mumbled. She nodded in reply. Jodie had that smirk that I remembered so well and hated so much! Yet, I could also feel my heart constrict as I looked at her.

"Well, are you going to apologize to the waitress or not?" Jodie asked, still grinning. My God! She still had a way of making me feel so small and dense! I blushed and quickly turned to the waitress. I apologized and even tried to help clean up. The waitress looked miffed as hell, but the manager came over and handled it correctly.

"Who was the food for?" I asked once things calmed down. The waitress frowned and pointed to a nearby table. I walked over to the older couple sitting there and apologized to them as well.

"She has you spooked, doesn't she?" the man asked.

"Michael!" the wife said with a shake of her head.

"Pardon," I frowned.

"The cute brunette," he said, grinning. "She an ex-wife?"

"Michael, you never mind your own business," the wife sighed.

"Well?" the man asked, ignoring his wife.

"Ex-girlfriend," I admitted. The wife rolled her eyes.

"Something far more than that," she said, but then she blushed again and quickly added, "I'm sorry!" I looked at the two and couldn't help myself. I laughed.

"Why don't you let me buy you both a drink for delaying your dinner?" I asked.

"Only if you'll join us," the man replied.

"Please do," the wife added, "I've been with this man for more years then you can imagine. Some normal conversion would be wonderful!" The man laughed good-naturedly.

"You might as well," he said. "The young lady is still watching you and obviously has no intention of letting you leave unmolested."

"Unabused," I corrected. They laughed as I sat at one of the two vacant chairs and called the waitress over. We ordered our drinks. I knew my decision to have the drink with them was mostly because I wasn't ready to face Jodie, but it was also at least a little because they seemed like a nice couple.

"So, who exactly is she?" the wife asked once the drinks were served. I sighed and took a pull on my beer.

"My first love and my first heart break," I replied honestly, rubbing my hand through my hair. "I don't understand how you can love and hate the same person so much!"

"It's not as odd as you think," the man said.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" the woman asked pointedly. The man just winked at her and turned back to me. The woman shook her head and smiled.

"So what happened?"

"It was back in high school when I was a senior," I began explaining. I hadn't let myself think about Jodie and high school in a long time. The sight of her obviously brought it all back. "One of my closest friends started dating a junior."

"The young lady?" the man asked. I nodded and he made a shame-shame motion with his fingers.

"It wasn't like that!" I said, but then blushing added, "At least not at first."

"What's that supposed to mean?" the man asked.

"Michael, please let him tell the story in his own way," the wife interjected. I nodded in thanks, sighed and gathered my thoughts once again.

"My friend Tommy really liked Jodie. The day after their first date he came over my house for dinner. He kept bragging on how she was pretty, smart and had a great sense of humor," I continued.

"How did you finally meet her?" the wife asked, and then blushed as she realizing she interrupted. "I'm sorry, but I really am curious."

"In the lunch room the next Monday," I smiled. "She was sitting at the cheerleaders' table and I was at the football players' table."

"Awe!" the man teased. I rolled my eyes.

"Was it love at first sight?" the woman asked.

"I thought we were going to let him tell the story in his own way?" the husband asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Hush!" the wife snapped, surprising me. The husband just grinned.

"For me," I said honestly. "And I thought for her as well at the time."

"What happened?"

"Nothing at first," I replied.

"Nothing?" the husband asked in disbelief.

"She was my friend's girlfriend," I answered, but he kept looking at me until I added, "We flirted a little, but nothing else."

"That's so honorable!" the wife said.

"And stupid," the man added. This earned him a slap on the arm from his wife.

"Maybe," I sighed. "And maybe not. A large part of it was that I really didn't know what to do. I was still pretty innocent at the time."

"So, what finally brought you two together?" the woman asked.

"Valentine's Day and a Sadie Hawkins dance," I replied, smiling as I remembered. "I had just started dating this girl name Lisa. We met at a party a couple of weeks before and somehow ended up making out half the night. She was nice enough, but nothing special. As it turned out, she was also very much infatuated with Tommy."

I took a moment to look toward the bar. Kyle was still talking up the blond and probably didn't even realize I was still in the restaurant. Although, how he could have possibly missed my knocking over the waitress's tray was beyond me.

Jodie was on the other side of the bar, closest to me. There was a small group of guys around her. She caught me looking and smirked again. What a bitch!

"The story," the woman prompted. I turned back to the older couple.

"Well, a week before our school's Valentine's Day Sadie Hawkins dance Lisa broaches the subject that she and Jodie want to try an experiment," I explained. The husband raised an eyebrow. I shook my head.

"Get your mind out of the gutter," I said. "Remember, I was still pretty innocent at the time. We all were."

"So, what was the experiment?" the wife asked.

"They wanted to switch dates for the dance," I sighed.

"Ouch!" the man said.

"How did Tommy take it?" the woman asked.

"About as well as you would expect," I sighed. "He was not happy, but thankfully it was something the ladies came up with, not me."

"So, did you go to the dance with Jodie?" the wife asked.

"Well, Tommy fought it at first," I replied. "But by this time it was pretty obvious that Jodie and I were going to be a couple."

"You didn't act like it was all that obvious back then." I turned at the voice and saw Jodie standing just behind me. Before I could react she moved around to the free chair and sat down without being invited.

"Don't you think it's rather impolite of you to just sit without being asked?" I nearly growled.

"Not as rude as talking about me as if I wasn't here!" she snapped in reply. I sighed and shook my head.

"All right you two," the man grinned. "You're both welcome to stay, but only if you promise to behave."

"And you have to finish the story," the woman added. I opened my mouth to speak, but Jodie spoke first.

"He told me he would go with me if I broke up with Tommy," she said. "So, I did, but he still wouldn't go out with me."

"That's because I talked to Tommy afterward and he said you were still a couple," I put in.

"And that was my fault?" she snapped.

"Obviously," I replied with a shrug. "You weren't clear enough."

"I was so mad when you told me you still wouldn't go with me!" she said, clearly remembering the anger.

"I forgot! Your finger," I grinned.

"Your finger?" the woman asked. This time Jodie blushed.

"I was so angry that I accidentally slammed my locker door on it," she admitted.

"It was bad. She lost the nail," I added.

"What happened next?" the woman asked. This time I took up telling the story.

"Well, to make an already long story short, she had another talk with Tommy and we went to the dance," I said with a smile.

"I told you back then, I always get what I want," Jodie grinned.

"Yes, you did," I replied, losing my smile. "A year later you told me you wanted to see other people and you got that as well."

"Only after you admitted to cheating on me!" she cried, drawing the attention of some people from other tables.

"Bah! I kissed another girl when I was drunk and at college," I snapped. "It wasn't the brightest thing to do, but I told you immediately."

"It was a bit more than just a kiss!" she said nastily.

"Not that much more!" I cried, drawing some of my own attention from the surrounding tables. "I came home every weekend after that and called you almost every day. You were too busy being the 'most popular' girl in high school to bother with me any more!"

"Wow," the man said. "You two are younger than us, but it's not like you're children anymore. This had to have happened years ago."

"You two fight like brother and sister," the woman added, and then frowning added, "Actually, you look enough alike to be brother and sister." Jodie and I smiled at each other despite the argument. This woman wasn't the first one to say it. It was a big joke back in high school. I decided it was time to lighten the atmosphere.

"You know, I got hit on by a guy in my dorm because of her," I said, trying to lighten the mood.

"Really?" Jodie asked with a grin. I smiled and nodded.

"Yes," I replied. "I used to get off of the phone with you and rant about how much I hated you and all women. He took me a little too seriously."

"You always did have a nice ass," Jodie said. I shook my head while the man and woman burst out laughing.

"Oh my," the woman said between laughs, obviously surprised by Jodie's statement.

"So, how come you two never got back together?" the man asked once the laughter died down.

"We did," Jodie said. "Briefly."

"Really?" the woman asked in surprise.

"After college," I added with another sigh.

"We went on a couple of dates and then I didn't hear from him for a month or two. The next thing I heard was that he was getting married," Jodie said, and then looked at me and asked, "How is Faith?" I could tell she already knew from her expression.

"Doing fine with her new husband," I replied.

"I heard she was also heart broken when you left her," Jodie said angrily, but her tone softened when she saw my expression. She realized that had gone too far. "Sorry." The four of us fell silent for a moment.

"What happened with your doctor?" I asked.

"He was married to his job and I wanted more attention then he was willing to give," she joked, but her smile didn't make it to her eyes. Jodie had faced her share of pain over the years.

"You always needed a lot of attention," I teased, trying to make her smile for real. It worked. She actually laughed.

"Look who's talking!" she replied.

"So," the man interjected. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I need to know what happened." He was looking at me. "If you stopped seeing her, why are you acting like she dumped you?"

"That's what I want to know?" Jodie asked. I sighed. This wasn't something I wanted to speak about in front of the couple. Actually, it wasn't something I wanted to speak about at all. Thankfully, we were interrupted by the arrival of the food.

"Well, that's my cue to leave," I said as I stood. The man looked as if he was ready to argue, but he nodded instead when he saw my expression.

"Me too," Jodie added.

"You two are welcome to join us," the wife offered.

"Thanks, but no thanks," I replied. "It was nice meeting you both."

"Good luck," the man said to me with a wink. Jodie saw it.

"He'll need it," she said, causing the couple to laugh again. I walked away, but instead of leaving I found the older couple's waitress.

"Here," I said, handing over my credit card. "Please put their dinner on my card." I'd promised them a drink, but they were such a nice couple that I decided to pay for their entire meal. I was waiting for my card back when Jodie walked up.

"Nice people," she said. I nodded. We stood silently for a few moments.

"Jodie, what do you want?" I finally asked as the waitress returned.

"Just to talk," she replied, her face growing serious. "It's been years and I'm curious."

"About what?" I asked.

"Well, about you," she replied. "About what you've been doing since we last saw each other. I'm wondering how your family is doing. I heard John married Beth. Was the wedding fun?"

"Is that all?" I asked with a raised eyebrow. She smiled again, but it was a sad smile.

"Well, I also wouldn't mind finding out about why you stopped calling me and decided to get married to someone else," she added. I sighed.

"That was a long time ago. Can't we just leave it?" I asked.

"You broke my heart," she replied, surprising me.

"Bull," I said succinctly. Her eyebrows rose for a moment and then her expression turned angry.

"Why would you say something like that?" she asked. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. This wasn't the place or time to rehash old wounds.

"I've got to go," I said. Jodie looked at me and shook her head, but she didn't stop me from leaving.

I walked into my apartment twenty minutes later and went directly to my bedroom. I didn't even bother turning on a light. I was exhausted and all I could think about was my bed. The only problem was that as soon as my head hit the pillow, Jodie face formed in my mind. I was still awake when the sun rose.

* * *

A few weeks later I found myself waiting in my car for Kyle. He ran into a supermarket to pick up some steaks for dinner. Just before he left he grinned and dropped an envelop in my lap. I opened it and slowly shook my head. I hated Valentine's Day. I had for years. I couldn't really explain why, but it always seemed like such a farce. I could deal with and even enjoy the Halloween and Christmas silliness, but Valentine's Day was another thing altogether.

Kyle on the other hand, loved the holiday. He and his ex-wife used to throw a huge party every year that he forced me to go to, but it stopped once they separated. As far as I was concerned it was the one good thing that came out of the divorce.

Kyle had warned me that he was going to start having the parties again, but I hoped it was just a momentary insanity that he would get over. The invitation that came out of the envelope said otherwise. I groaned to myself.

The worse part was that I would have to find a date. No one went to a Valentine's Day party without a date, not unless it was a singles party and I absolutely refused to go to that type of party. It gave new meaning to the term 'meat market'.

For a moment I wished that I hadn't broke up with Jane the week before, but then I sighed and shook my head. It wouldn't have been right to lead her on. We had a good thing for a few months, but a couple of weeks ago I started to realize that she wasn't the right girl for me. I also saw that she was starting to think about us long term.

That would never do. I had no intention of ever committing to one woman ever again. It was just too painful. I'd learned my lesson from Faith. Well, Faith and Jodie.

Thinking of Jodie made me suddenly realize that my decision to break up with Jane happened not long after I saw Jodie again. I groaned. That bitch was still messing with my life!

"Where is Kyle?" I mumbled to myself, but there was still no sign of him.

I needed to think about something else so I tried to focus on the invitation and the Valentine's Day party. I had a sudden flashback to Jodie's and my first date. We were posing in front of a heart shaped background for a picture. We had a great time that day. It was probably the only Valentine's Day I ever enjoyed.

"Oh shit!" I snapped out loud as a thought came to me. Did I dislike Valentine's Day because of Jodie? "This is ridiculous!"

I looked up toward the supermarket door for Kyle again. I wanted to go home. Of course, Kyle was taking his sweet time. I was just about to turn away when I saw her. It was as if the thought of her made Jodie appear. I shook my head and groaned silently.

She was walking out of the supermarket with a full cart. My eyes followed her as if I were in a trance. I watched as she loaded her car with the groceries. She returned the cart to the front of the supermarket when she was done. I thought she was oblivious to me, but as she walked back toward her car she looked directly at me and smiled.

"Close your mouth," Kyle grinned as he entered the car. I hadn't seen him exit the store. "It's hanging open."

"Jodie..." I began, but he cut me off.

"I know," he said. "I saw her in the store."

I quickly started the car and left the parking lot. I drove to Kyle's place in complete silence. I felt his eyes on me, but I refused to speak.

"You know, since you and Jane broke up you might want to invite Jodie to my party," he said. I looked at him as if he were from another planet. He saw my look and quickly became defensive, "Alright! Alright! It was just a thought."

The next few weeks went by in a blur. Work was crazy and I tried to bury myself in it, but everywhere I turned there was signs of Valentine's Day. It seemed like every store was selling heart shaped chocolate or flowers. I inevitably thought of Jodie each time I saw something that reminded me of the holiday.

"So, who did you decide to take to my party?" Kyle asked one afternoon when we met for lunch.

"I haven't," I replied.

"You do know that the party is this Saturday?" he asked sarcastically.

"Yes," I said, and then sighing, added, "I've decided not to go."

"You what!" Kyle cried.

"It's not that big of a deal..." I began, but he cut me off.

"Yes it is!" he snapped. "This is my first Valentine's Day party since my divorce and I want you there." I made to argue, but I could tell Kyle wasn't going to let me out of going.

"Okay," I said with a shake of my head. "I'll show."

"Good," Kyle said, calming considerably. "Now who are you bringing?"

"Maybe no one," I replied. He smiled.

"Nonsense!" he said. "Shelly says she knows the perfect girl for you." I groaned. Shelly was Kyle's new girlfriend. He met her that night I first saw Jodie again at the bar. She was the blond.

"I have no intention of having a blind date for Valentine's Day!" I growled. That was worse then showing up alone!

"Leave it to me," he grinned.

"Kyle..." I began, but he cut me off.

"Just make sure you show up or I'll kick your ass," he snapped. I raised one eyebrow. Kyle and I hadn't gotten in a fight in years, but let's just say he was a lover, not a fighter.

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