Audrey looked at her phone and reread the text from Matt. She needed to respond. Honestly, she would like to go to a movie. The idea of hanging out with friends who knew nothing about her current situation and getting lost in a fictional story was very inviting.
She thought about Trevor’s suggestion of inviting him to come along. She would love to share an arm rest and a bag of popcorn in a movie theatre with Trevor again. He would get along really well with her friends too. For sure he would have a lot in common with Matt since they both played football.
But it would be impossible to hang out with Trevor just as friends, especially after he’d confessed the depth of his feelings for her. As much as she would like him to come along, it just wouldn’t work out. It would be better to keep her distance from him.
Plus, if she was honest with herself, she had to admit that it seemed like Matt had a crush on her. It could be awkward having Trevor there even though Matt never flirted or treated her as anything other than a friend. But she could see it in his eyes when he talked to her. Even as they were studying psychology, discussing Pavlov’s theories about dogs salivating at the sound of a bell, his eyes would sparkle.
She made sure to never spend too much time alone with him. She didn’t want to give him the wrong idea about their relationship, and she didn’t want him to fall for her. Her heart was definitely falling for Trevor.
But in his text, Matt made it clear that it would be a group hanging out tonight. It’s not like he was asking her to go on a date.
There was no reason not to go.
She texted him back, and soon they had the details worked out. They were meeting at a theatre close to Bethel since that was a central location for everybody. Matt lived about twenty minutes further south of Audrey’s hometown, so he suggested that he’d pick her up on his way.
“It doesn’t make sense for both of us to drive,” he had reasoned. She knew that he was just being logical—not looking for an excuse to spend extra time with her. But she felt uncomfortable about it just the same. She didn’t want it to feel like a date. So she invited Darcy to come along.
Audrey looked out the window for what felt like the hundredth time in the past fifteen minutes, watching for Matt’s car. She peered over at Trevor’s car parked in his driveway next door. She wondered what he was doing at that moment, wishing she were with him, cuddled up next to him on the couch watching TV or down in their game room playing video games. She hoped he wouldn’t look out his window to see her climbing into Matt’s car. She especially didn’t want Trevor to get the wrong idea about her relationship with Matt.
Darcy came bounding down the stairs bringing with her a light scent of perfume. She looked pretty. Her light brown hair fell in soft curls around her freshly made up face. Darcy was an expert when it came to make-up, and she had done a professional job tonight at making herself appear to be at least three years older than her actual age of sixteen. “I’m ready. Is he here yet?” she asked, breathless.
“Not yet.” Audrey left the front window to put on her boots and coat. As she buttoned up her coat, she wondered when her growing belly wouldn’t allow her to button it up all the way; she hoped it would be a long time. She couldn’t hide her baby bump forever. She needed to tell her parents soon, and then she would tell her college friends. She dreaded that day. But this night was all about relaxing and having fun.
Headlights shone into the front window. “He’s here.”
“Cool. Is he as cute in person as he is in his football picture online?”
Audrey rolled her eyes. Her sister was as bad as every other girl at Bethel. She laughed and then answered honestly. “That picture doesn’t even come close to doing him justice.”
Darcy squealed and it reminded her of Destiny.
“Now compose yourself. No more squealing.” Audrey opened the door and hollered to her parents that they were leaving. They called back telling them to have a good time.
It was freezing outside. Even all bundled up, Audrey instantly began to shiver. She ran to the passenger door and let herself in.
Darcy climbed into the back seat. “Hey, Matt. I’m Darcy.” She didn’t waste any time on introductions.
Matt grinned at her in the rearview mirror and Audrey noticed how his eyes twinkled. He seemed amused by Darcy. The exchange put a smile on Audrey’s face. She glanced over at Trevor’s house and was relieved when she didn’t see him looking out the window. She was being paranoid. Of course he wouldn’t be lurking by the window, watching Audrey’s every move.
“Is that where Trevor lives?” Matt seemed to read her mind. He knew all about Trevor. Audrey had told him about how the two of them had grown up next door to each other. There had been a few times that she’d stepped away from their study group on Sunday nights for T-time.
“Yep.” She didn’t offer too much information and hoped he wouldn’t ask for more. Tonight was supposed to be about forgetting her problems with Trevor and just having fun.
“Do you wanna see if he can come with us? Sorry I didn’t think of that sooner.”
“No, that’s okay. We talked about it, but he’s not coming.”
Matt accepted her answer without probing. The subject quickly changed to football, with Darcy asking question after question about what it was like getting hit so hard or deciding which play to run. She was clearly enamored.
The movie theatre was packed. A lot of great movies had come out over the holidays. It took the group a while to agree on which movie to see, but they finally settled on a comedy. Their group included eight people, five guys and three girls, including Audrey and Darcy. They were all Bethel students, with the exception of Darcy, and Audrey knew them all very well.
She was so thankful for the great friends she had made so far her freshman year. This particular group was an especially easy bunch to laugh with. Besides Matt, Audrey knew two of the guys and the girl from psychology class. One of the other guys also played on the Bethel football team, and the other guy was Matt’s roommate. A fleeting and very depressing thought came that she may not finish out the year with them, but she quickly brushed the thought away. Tonight was about having fun.
Audrey found seats a few rows from the back of the theatre. She scooted all the way to the end of the row, and the rest filed in behind her—first Darcy, then Matt, and then the rest. Audrey was sure that Darcy was ecstatic to be sitting next to Matt. She did little to hide her emotions. As soon as they all sat down and were situated, Darcy reached over and squeezed Matt’s arm. “I get to share an arm rest with a handsome quarterback.” She wasn’t flirting, just being herself, lightheartedly joking around. Matt joked right back. “I apologize in advance if my rippling biceps take up too much room.” They all laughed. Darcy fit in perfectly.
The movie started a few minutes later. Darcy leaned over and whispered that she was going to get popcorn and candy. “Do you want anything?
Audrey dug a ten dollar bill out of her coat pocket. “Just a Coke.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
Darcy stood up and shuffled out of the row, squeezing past everyone.
Matt stood up. “I’ll go with you, Darcy.”
For a reason Audrey couldn’t put her finger on, she felt a twinge of jealousy as she watched Matt and Darcy walking off together. They would only be gone a few minutes buying snacks. And what did it matter to Audrey anyway? It’s not like Matt belonged to her. Audrey had to admit that in a way it was flattering to have Matt pining over her, although her heart definitely belonged to Trevor. It had to be stupid pregnancy hormones messing with her emotions. She shook her head in an attempt to shake away her irrational thoughts. Soon Matt and Darcy were back, and Audrey chided herself for her fleeting jealousy.
The movie was hilarious; Audrey couldn’t remember the last time she’d laughed so hard. It was good to find respite from her dismal problems. It was great to reconnect with her sister too.
Laughter filtered through the hallways of the theatre as the group made its way out to the parking lot. Audrey suddenly realized her bladder would never last the thirty minute drive home. “You guys go ahead; I’ll catch up with you.” She turned toward the restrooms.
“Wait for me.” Darcy darted to Audrey’s side.
Matt, continuing to walk with the rest of their friends, called over his shoulder that he would pick them up outside the front of the theatre.
Audrey rushed into the rest room, feeling a sudden sense of urgency, and claimed the nearest stall. She wondered if this was also a symptom of pregnancy.
After washing her hands, Audrey touched up her lip gloss. Darcy stood beside her and did the same.
“Your friends are great.” Darcy rubbed her lips together, evenly distributing the shiny gloss.
“Yeah, they’re fun.”
Darcy crossed her arms and a sly smile crept across her face. “You didn’t tell me that Matt has a thing for you.”
“What?” Matt had done nothing all night to show any special interest in her. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t act so surprised. This can’t be news to you.”
Audrey tried to play dumb. “What makes you think he has a thing for me?” She looked at her reflection, combing her fingers through her hair.
Darcy smiled and shrugged. “Because he told me so.”
“What? He told you?”
“Well, not in so many words.”
So Darcy was reading into things, just like everybody else. Oddly, Audrey felt slightly disappointed. “Okay, what exactly did he say?”
“So when we left to get snacks he asked me if you were okay. I asked him what he meant, and he said you didn’t seem like yourself tonight.”
Audrey didn’t like where this was going. She held her breath, hoping Darcy didn’t say anything about her pregnancy. She’d be mortified!
“I said you were fine.”
Audrey breathed out a sigh of relief. So far, so good.
“Then he asked me if you’re interested in Trevor.” Darcy raised an eyebrow. “You know there’s only one reason a guy asks that question—when he wants to know if your heart is available.”
Audrey’s palms became moist with perspiration. “What did you tell him?”
“The truth.” She winked at Audrey. “I said you guys are just friends.”
Audrey didn’t know what to say or how to feel. “Then what did he say?”
“Then a smile spread across his gorgeous face and he said, “Audrey’s a great girl.””
“Well, it doesn’t matter. Obviously, I’m not interested in dating anyone right now.”
“You’re such a heartbreaker.”
“Let’s go. He’s probably waiting for us.”
Matt pulled up just as Audrey and Darcy exited the theatre building. The cold air took Audrey’s breath away.
“Shotgun.” Darcy raced to the car. She opened the front door and hopped in before Audrey had a chance to respond.
As Audrey slid into the back seat and buckled her seat belt, she caught Matt’s eye in the rearview mirror. He smiled, and Audrey caught a glimpse of that familiar sparkle in his eye. “Now I know why you’re so competitive. You have to keep up with this pistol of a little sister.”
“Is that a bad thing?” Darcy feigned insult.
“Not at all. It’s … endearing.”
“Endearing? That sounds like a word my grandpa would use.”
“That’s because I’m so mature.” Matt puffed out his chest.
“Whatever!” The girls said in unison.
The night continued with a lot of friendly banter and easy laughter. As Matt pulled into the Chapmans' driveway, they all seemed reluctant to let the night come to an end. Matt turned to Audrey. “Do you have any plans for tomorrow?”
Caught off guard, Audrey wasn’t sure how to answer. Was he asking her on a date? No, he wouldn’t do that with Darcy sitting next to him in the front seat.
“I’ll be driving practically right past your house on my way to the Mall of America. My mom needs me to pick something up for her at Nordstrom. I thought maybe you could come with if you’re not busy. I mean, I’ll feel a little awkward in the women’s clothing department. You can help me navigate my way around.”
“Oh, um …” Audrey searched her mind momentarily and was unable to come up with a reason not to go. “Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll be around.”
“Well, thanks for the ride, Matt. It was nice meeting you.” Darcy unbuckled her seat belt and jumped out of the car. “C’mon, Audrey. It’s late, and you need your beauty rest.”
Audrey guessed Darcy wanted to get her in the house to ask why she agreed to a date with Matt. She wasn’t sure that it was a good idea either, but Matt was a friend. Friends hang out at the mall together. No big deal.
Matt waved. “Bye, Darcy. See you tomorrow, Audrey.”
Audrey rushed into the house ahead of Darcy. She wanted to get up to her room before Darcy would have a chance to tell her again how stupid she was.
But Darcy wouldn’t let her get away that easy. She stepped between Audrey and the staircase. “You’re leading him on, you know.”
“Whatever, Darcy. We’re going to the mall. It’s not a date.”
“To him it’s a date. He didn’t invite me.”
She had a point.
“You can’t deny that he likes you. He inquired about your relationship with Trevor, and then he asked you to hang out with him again—two days in a row. You need to set him straight. Let him know you’re not in the market right now.”
“Nice, Darcy. And I suppose you want me to tell him that you are.” Audrey regretted it as soon as she said it. She knew Darcy was just being honest. But she didn’t want to hear it. “Fine. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
Darcy stepped aside, allowing Audrey to pass. “Thanks for letting me tag along tonight. I had fun.”
“I had fun too.” Too bad it was time to get back to reality. Audrey turned to go to her room.
“Audrey?” Darcy’s voice wasn’t more than a whisper. She breezed up the few steps separating the girls. “Did you tell Mom and Dad about…your situation?”
Panic surged through Audrey’s veins. “No, and you better not even think of—”
“Calm down. I won’t say anything. As long as you tell them soon. They need to know. You need their help.”
“I’ll tell them when I’m ready.” Audrey shot her a warning look.
“I’m only agreeing to keep quiet because they should hear it from you.”
Darcy was right. Her mom and dad needed to know. But not tonight. Maybe tomorrow after she’d get home from the mall. Or whenever she had things figured out.
Read a chapter a day from Bittersweet Goodbye right here on this blog, beginning September 1st, 2019.