Audrey was sure the pitter patter of her heart was audible over the clanking of dishes and chatter of patrons at Snuffies Malt Shoppe. Starry eyed, she gazed at Trevor as she sipped her banana fudge malt and picked at her burger and fries. Trevor was catching her up to speed on all the behind the scenes action of the football team. His love for the game shone through his beautiful blue eyes, and she sat mesmerized by the passion in his every word.
It almost felt like a first date, with butterflies in her stomach and sweaty palms. She had never felt this way around Trevor before. But being reunited after several long weeks apart from him, she realized how much she’d missed him. She had to pinch herself in order to believe she was actually by his side again—well, sitting across from him. A small part of her had wondered if this night would feel awkward from too much time apart—and turning down his offer to start dating. But she was pleasantly surprised to find that today felt like old times, and distance had only made her heart grow fonder.
That morning when he’d picked her up for church, her heart leapt into her throat. His eyes lit up when he met her gaze. Trevor ran to her, seemingly in slow motion like something straight out of a movie. Passersby seemed to disappear as she melted into his embrace. His arms felt strong around her as he picked her up and spun her around, whispering how much he had missed her. She was crazy not to start dating him.
The events of that formidable party were becoming less haunting over time. More of a distant memory. Keeping busy helped the flashbacks to stay at bay for the most part. Maybe soon the memories would feel distant enough that she’d be able to look forward without looking back. Hopefully a day would come when she would forget it even happened. Until that time, she didn’t feel ready to start a dating relationship. The sensible part of her told her that at this point, she wasn’t in a good state of mind to start a relationship. She was damaged goods.
“Do you like your burger?” Trevor’s voice snapped her back to the present.
She looked down at the half-eaten burger in her hand. She was eating like a pig, so hungry she’d felt sick. “Yeah. It’s really good. And messy.” She licked mayo and ketchup off her fingertips. Good thing it wasn’t actually a date. “I’ll buy next time.”
“If you insist. Otherwise it might feel like we’re dating or something.” He winked.
Heat rose to Audrey’s cheeks. He’d read her mind and was teasing her. Two could play at this game. “I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong idea.”
“Ouch!” Trevor placed a hand over his heart. He leaned his elbows on the table, becoming serious. He knit his brow together. “Audrey, please clear things up for me. How is it that you really feel? About us, I mean.” He locked eyes with hers, waiting for her answer.
Suddenly, her burger felt like a brick in her stomach. How could he put her on the spot like this? Hadn’t she made herself clear that she only wanted to be friends? She’d pretty much stomped on his heart when he’d confessed his deep-seated love. Admittedly, once she’d stopped avoiding his calls and texts, she’d been flirty with him as her feelings began to shift. She struggled to come up with a response. She sipped her malt, attempting to appear casual while buying time. Did he really want her to come out and say she was falling in love with him?
“Gotcha!” Trevor laughed. “I had you squirming so bad.” He doubled over in laughter, drawing the attention of people at neighboring tables.
Audrey exhaled. “You don’t wanna know how I really feel about you right now, Buddy.” She lobbed a fry at him, and it landed in his lap. It was so like Trevor to joke around like that. She should’ve known.
Trevor wiped tears from the corners of his eyes. “Let’s get out of here before you get us kicked out.” He fished cash out of his wallet and secured it under the ketchup bottle.
They drove to a park where they tossed a Frisbee under a canopy of autumn leaves. The hours passed far too quickly and soon the sun began to set. They walked slowly back to Trevor’s car, not wanting the day to end, literally dragging their feet. The feelings were undoubtedly mutual. In attempt to lighten the mood, Audrey kicked a small pile of leaves in Trevor’s direction. The breeze swept under the leaves, scattering them all over him. Trevor looked at Audrey and raised a cunning eyebrow.
He ran to a maple tree, raking the red and orange leaves into a pile with his feet. Audrey, anticipating his next move, took off running for the car, her laughter mingling with the soft whisper of the breeze. She tried to open the passenger door only to find that it was locked. Trevor dashed behind her, scooped her into his arms and carried her to the leaf pile.
“Let me go,” she insisted, trying to wriggle from his grasp.
“Never.” Trevor ran for the pile of leaves.
To Audrey’s surprise, instead of throwing her into the leaves, he collapsed into the pile himself while holding her in his arms. They flung leaves on each other, wrestling and laughing.
Audrey pinned Trevor to the ground, not sure of her next move. “I told you to let me go, and now you’ll have to pay.”
Trevor reached up and held her face firmly between his hands. A more serious expression dawned on his features. “Audrey, I’ll never let you go.”
Trevor’s heart pounded against the wall of his chest, the urge to kiss her almost too powerful to restrain. He’d given up on hiding his feelings for her yet respected her wish to remain friends. Reluctantly, he created a space between them, lying back in the cushion of leaves.
“We should go,” he said against his will. “I have studying to do for my physics class in the morning.” He pulled himself up, brushing off his jeans. Bending down, he grabbed hold of Audrey’s hands, helping her to her feet as well. “Today was fun. I’m not ready for it to end.” He watched Audrey out of the corner of his eye, gauging her reaction. He was pretty sure that she was falling for him, but maybe it was wishful thinking.
“I had fun too.” She stuffed her hands in her jeans pockets. “You should come around sooner next time. Six weeks was way too long.”
“So you were counting the weeks without me, huh?” His voice was teasing, but true hope bubbled inside him.
“I missed you, Trevor.” She said it like it was obvious.
They reached the car then, and Trevor unlocked her door. “So you’re coming to the Gopher game next weekend?”
“Yep. Get a touchdown for me.” She slid into the car.
He closed her door and made his way to the driver’s seat. “I’ll pump my fist three times in the end zone. That’s how you’ll know the touchdown was dedicated to you.”
“Seriously?” Audrey squealed. “I’d love that.”
Trevor hoped to make good on that promise. It’s not like touchdowns in Big Ten games were easy to come by.
As they began the drive to Bethel, Audrey’s phone rang. She looked at the caller ID, rolled her eyes, and returned the phone to her pocket. “I’ll call him back later.”
“Him?” Trevor feigned jealousy. “Who is this guy?”
Audrey giggled. “It’s just Matt Cook. We’re in a study group together.”
“Okay. If you say so.” Trevor knew she was telling the truth, but he couldn’t quell the protectiveness he felt for Audrey. Okay, maybe it wasn’t protectiveness. Perhaps it was the slightest bit of jealousy—a reaction to that crazy crush he’d had on her since they were little kids.
Audrey sauntered into her dorm room with thoughts of Trevor dancing in her head. Their day together had been amazing. He made her feel special and safe and happy. All of her troubles melted away when she was with him. It would be a while before they’d spend time together again, but she was in too much bliss at the moment to worry about that.
She sat down at her desk and pulled out her phone. She swiped the screen and could hardly believe her eyes. 15 missed calls. Each of them from Matt—today.
The door swung open, and Destiny came crashing through. “Audrey, Matt Cook is downstairs. He asked me to come get you.” Destiny scrunched her face up and squealed with glee. “He’s so cute!” Then she turned and skipped out the door.
Audrey went down to the lobby and found Matt perched on the side of the pool table, tossing the cue ball in the air while he waited.
“Hey Matt, what’s up?”
He hopped down from the table and raced over to her. “Hey, I’ve been trying to get ahold of you all day. Where’ve you been?”
Audrey wasn’t sure if she should straighten things out with him right then and there. Tell him clearly that she was only interested in a friendship. She decided against it. It would be way too awkward. “I’ve been around. Just busy. Is there something you need?”
“As a matter of fact, there is.” He looked panicked. “We must have gotten our psych notebooks mixed up during our last study group. I have yours. Do you have mine? I really need to study for the exam.” He held out her notebook to her. “And I’m guessing you need yours.”
Audrey expelled a deep breath. “Oh, I hadn’t noticed.” She was so relieved she hadn’t gone into a speech about just being friends when all he wanted was his notes. “I’ll go check. I’ll be right back.” She took her notebook and ran up to the third floor.
She grabbed a green notebook off her desk and flipped through it. Yep. It was Matt’s. She walked toward the door, relieved that she had been wrong about him.
She bumped into Destiny in the hallway. “What did Matt want? He was desperate to see you.”
“He needed his psych notebook. Our notebooks accidentally got mixed up.”
Destiny raised an eyebrow. “Accidentally, huh?” She put a hand on Audrey’s shoulder. “He’s so infatuated with you; he probably did it on purpose.”
Audrey rolled her eyes. “You have a vivid imagination, Destiny.” She pondered the idea of Matt switching their notebooks on purpose. It was preposterous. With his charm, good looks, brains, and athletic ability … he could get any girl he wanted. He didn’t need to chase after anybody.
She returned to the lobby and gave Matt his notebook. Feeling uncomfortable, she told him she’d see him in psych class and turned to go up to her room.
“Wait.” Matt put a hand on her arm. “Do you have time to study? I promise I won’t run off with your notes this time.”
“I better not.” Confused about Matt’s intentions, she needed an excuse to avoid him. “I’m probably more productive studying on my own. Sorry about the whole mix-up. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“No problem. See you tomorrow.” He headed back to his room.
The whole Matt thing was confusing. Honestly, he seemed innocent of all the rumors. There was a good explanation for his incessant phone calls throughout the day—he had been panicked without his notes. There was no evidence to suggest he had switched the notebooks on purpose.
Maybe she would quit the study group. She really did study better on her own. But then she would just be avoiding him, and there wasn’t any reason to avoid him because there was nothing going on.
Destiny was in their room ripe with questions. “So what’s going on with you two? I told him you had a boyfriend, but that I know lots of single girls.” She pointed to herself and gave a dramatic wink.
Audrey could not believe her ears. “You honestly told him that I have a boyfriend?”
“Yeah. I was trying to spare him from throwing himself at you when it’s obvious you have feelings for Trevor Hayes.”
“That must’ve been awkward.” Audrey, embarrassed for herself, Matt, and even Destiny, covered her face with her hands. “What did he say?”
“He just looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. Then he walked away. Maybe he’s shy. He’s so cute.” Another squeal.
“Destiny, please don’t talk to Matt about me anymore. You’ve got it all wrong. We’re just in a study group together. That’s all. And I don’t have a boyfriend—not that it matters.” Audrey rifled through her drawer in search of pajamas.
“I was just trying to help,” Destiny stomped out of the room, her red hair flying behind her.
Audrey rolled her eyes as she had been doing more often these days. Her bed was beckoning to her. A good night’s sleep would help her put things into perspective.
But sleep would have to wait because she had a psychology exam to study for.
Read a chapter a day from Bittersweet Goodbye right here on this blog, beginning September 1st, 2019.