"I'm going to talk to Sarah tomorrow, and then Wednesday I'm going to talk to you."
CJ's words echoed in my head as I woke up from my nap, finally feeling less hungover at 5:30pm. My stomach didn't feel nauseous anymore, instead it was clenched with nerves. The inevitability of what was going to happen dawned on me as the hour drew nearer, and despite having been waiting for this day since sometime last year, I was suddenly nervous.
Everything was going to change. Everything that had been brewing since the summer was about to implode and explode simultaneously. I was nervous CJ wasn't going to actually break up with her, I was scared how he would be after if he did, or didn't. I found myself terrified for the possibility of what new world this would open up between us. I was actually, genuinely scared.
Maybe it was because this meant I wouldn't have to keep my feelings for CJ locked deep inside anymore- what would happen when I opened that box to see what was really there? But then there was another part of me that didn't want to open that box, even without Sarah in the question. I saw what he did to Sarah, could I trust him not to do the same to me? Did I want to trust him in that way? The unknown was looming, and I was about to dive headfirst into it.
Last night was a bit of a blur of a birthday, but I recalled CJ and I on the couch after we went out to the bars: we were cuddled up around each other when he said he was talking to Sarah the next day. It was after I admitted that what he's been doing the past few weeks could be considered cheating. He said he knew.
And before CJ left to go home, it happened again: our faces were mere centimeters apart, and we just paused. Unlike the other moments where we had ended up in this same position, the pull between us was stronger than ever. Any other time, I think we had been both been internally daring the other to make the move, but neither of us did. This time, I could feel something actually pulling us together.
CJ kissed my forehead, and we hugged. In that moment I think we knew that there was no turning back from whatever had been happening the past few weeks. We both knew that on Wednesday, everything was going to change. When CJ first told me that he had feeling for me, he said he didn't want it to change anything between us, and I don't think it changed anything for me, but something changed for him. I had been watching CJ let himself fall for me, and maybe I should have stopped him.
And I was worried what it meant that I didn't.
Are you home?
I was sitting at my kitchen table, curled up with my laptop. It had happened. When I told CJ I was home, he responded instantly asking if he could come over.
Three hours ago, I left my house for a ballroom lesson, knowing that CJ was talking to Sarah. My gut told me that when I left lesson, I was waiting into an entirely new world where the line that kept CJ and I as friends would be erased. For the past couple weeks, the line had been foggy, but now the fog had lifted and no line would be left underneath.
My house had this lovely white porch. Many summer days had been spent on that porch reading, or eating dinner, or talking with my roommates. From the porch, you entered the door to the house, that led to a hallway. You could either walk straight down the hallway to the door to my apartment, or go up the stairs to go to the other two apartments. When I saw CJ's text that he was here, I walked down the hallway to open the door to the house, and saw CJ heading up the porch, his head hanging.
He looked at me as I leaned against the open front door, and I took a step back to open the door further and let him past me. The second I leaned away from the door, CJ threw his arms around me. His head fell onto my shoulder and the force of his hug pushed me against the wall of the hallway. I put my arms around him tightly, not even saying a word. We stood there for a few minutes, CJ crying into my shoulder, until he let go and followed me down the hallway to the apartment door.
CJ barely took off his winter coat before curling up in a ball on my bed. Still in my cheetah print skater dress and drapey cardigan I had worn to ballroom lesson, I curled up behind him, resting my arm across his shoulders.
"Do you have a tissue?" CJ asked, his voice slightly muffled.
"Yeah," I whispered, getting up and quickly grabbing a box from the bathroom. When I got back to my room, CJ was laying across my bed, his eyes bright red. I handed him the box and sat across from him on my bed. After I few minutes I asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"
CJ shook his head.
"Ok," I said, "I'm going to make you a cup of tea, and I'm getting you a brownie."
A few minutes later, I returned from the kitchen with two steaming mugs of camomile tea and one of the caramel brownies my roommate Lauren had made earlier today.
"Thanks," said CJ, with a small smile, and he moved over on the bed so I could lay down next to him. He put an arm around me and we sat there in silence for a while.
"How was lesson?" CJ asked, leaning over me to take a sip of his tea.
"Really good," I said, "We got a motivational speech from Uncle Stevie and Auntie Susan. They told us we needed to be bigger and bolder in our dancing, and that we couldn't fear looking like idiots. They reminded us that we do this to enjoy ourselves, and that one day we won't have this opportunity in our lives," I mused on everything that our coaches, Steven and Susan, had said to us, "They reminded us to treasure every moment. I sort of forgot that. It was a good lesson, it sort of gave me warm fuzzies on the inside."
"That's cool," CJ said.
"We needed the reminder," I admitted, "Our silver cha cha final at Ohio State, it was like Joey wasn't there for it, he didn't smile, didn't put any energy into it, and I couldn't pull him out of it. When we finished the round I had to remind him that we had to dance the rumba like we wanted to win it. He was fine after that, but it was like Steve and Susan were saying: you've got to live in the moment, because we can't ever get them back."
"They're right," CJ said.
We talked about dance, about the rest of my lesson, about this weekend's upcoming competition at Michigan State, and then fell into silence, but it was ok.
"What really sucked was that she didn't care at all that I was hanging out with you again," CJ broke the silence and I bit my lip. I almost wanted to hit him: he told Sarah that he was hanging out with me to make her jealous. He wanted her to care, he wanted her to be mad and want him back, so he had an excuse not to end it. But Sarah didn't care, Sarah didn't care because Sarah didn't like him anymore. It was obvious from the descriptions of how things had been falling apart since the fight at the end of last school year when CJ told her that he had feelings for me.
"I'm sorry," I muttered, not really sure of any kind of appropriate response besides something mean.
"You still make me very confused sometimes, you know that right?"
"This sounds like your problem," I let my lips turn up into a teasing smile.
Our conversation shifted back to life, we were talking like normal for a while, and then CJ took my hand. We held hands, fingers intertwined. CJ's other arm was wrapped around my shoulders, keeping me close. I don't know if I found it slightly ironic that only hours after CJ's breakup did we find each other cuddled up together. A part of me didn't find it weird at all, mostly because this was the norm for Kaitlyn and CJ of the past few weeks, nothing had really changed.
And that last fact in itself was not a good one.
We were cuddled up under my blanket when the conversation turned back to the breakup, "This sucks," was all CJ kept saying, and he cried a little bit more.
"I hate crying," CJ said.
"You'll be ok, CJ, I promise," I hugged him, "Time heals all wounds. You won't be ok right now, you won't be ok tomorrow, but one day you will be."
"Thanks for being there," CJ said, a little few sniffles later.
"This is what best friends are for," I shrugged, "When things get tough, you don't have to deal with them alone."
"You're the best, Kaitlyn," CJ whispered.
"I know," I whispered back.
"I should probably go," CJ said after a few minutes of holding me close, "But I don't want to."
"Whatever you need CJ, you know I'm here for you," I said sincerely.
"I know," CJ said, "Thank you."
I walked CJ out, and a few of my roommates were sitting on the couch in the living room watching TV. Instead of saying goodbye in the living room like normal, I walked out with him through the apartment door into the narrow hallway where he had hugged me earlier. In a moment of deja vu, we hugged again. It wasn't a normal goodbye hug: we held each other tight, and our hug lasted long past an acceptable hug length.
"I'm getting bagels after class tomorrow, if you want to join."
"I'll see if I get out of bed," CJ said.
"You know where to find me if you do," I smiled sympathetically, "I'm sorry, CJ."
"Thank you for everything. Goodnight, Kaitlyn."
I waited until I saw his car drive down the street to leave the hallway.
In the entirety of our friendship, there had been a line separating CJ and I. The past couple weeks the line had been foggy, and now that the fog had cleared, there was no more line. And this was a whole new world.