Forever (This)(3)

By: J.B. McGee



“Whatcha doin’?” Joe asks.

We’ve not spoken since the wedding. The wedding, where I was a complete and total bitch hell-bent on pushing him away. I plop down on the sofa, hanging onto each of his words like they are the last molecules of oxygen on this earth to fill my lungs. “Procrastinating. You?”

“Bradley just left.”

“Right. Saturday. Fishing. Did you catch anything?”

“Yeah. Some Crappie and Bass. Next time you’re in town we can have a fish fry.”

My heart flutters. “Yeah.” Because that wouldn’t be awkward at all. “Did you need something?”

Silence.

“Joe…”

“I’m here. I heard you’re moving.”

Oh. “Yeah. Next month.” I rub my hands over the faux suede of the couch. Gabby and I both moved away for a bit to attend undergraduate college, although Gabby’s still not finished. She transferred school and got married. I, on the other hand, moved back to this house to attend med school at the Medical College of Charleston. Recently, I decided to transfer to a shorter program at Mercer, in Georgia. Ryan’s residency was moved there. “I was attempting to pack when you called. Hence the procrastination.”

“So…things are serious with Ryan?”

Cut right to the chase, why don’t you? “We’re not moving in together.”

He breathes into the phone, sending shivers through my body. “That wasn’t an answer. It was a statement. Answer my question.”

I suck in my bottom lip between my teeth, then swallow.

“Because even if you’re not going to live together, the fact you’re transferring programs and moving to the same hospital is a statement I had hoped I’d never need to decipher.”

“Joe.”

“Sam.”

“Don’t do this.”

More silence.

The thumping of my pulse is loud and hard, the rhythm matching his breaths. “Does he make you happy?”

“I wouldn’t be with him if he didn’t.” I get up from the couch and start to pace. “Give me a little bit of credit.”

“So. This. With us, it’s just friendship for you?”

“Isn’t it?”

He chuckles. “You should get an award for evading questions.”

My lips curve up as I stare through the window at a toddler in a ruffled monogrammed bikini walking with her parents toward the beach.

“Say something, Sam.”

“I don’t want to have this conversation with you because…I’m not in a position to tell you what I think you want to hear.” I tuck my hand under the arm, holding the phone. “There. I said it. And now this is awkward.”

“You think you saying that made this awkward?” I shake my head. “Because the wedding didn’t exactly go as I thought it would, and you’ve given me the fuckin’ silent treatment for weeks.”

I pull out a chair at the dining room table and plop down. “Because whatever this is, we’re teetering a fine line.”

“Don’t you think if you were meant to be with my brother, you wouldn’t have the need to walk a fine line with another man?” Heat radiates throughout my body and my face flushes. “But you know what? Go ahead and move to Mercer with him. You’re making a mistake.”

“Me moving to Mercer isn’t a mistake. It’s a shorter program. Plus, it puts me closer to Gabby.” To you. “You can’t argue that. I know you’re probably thinking of some retort, but there isn’t one.” I’m feeling pretty proud because it’s not often one can make Joe speechless.

“Do you need help moving?”

“Haha. The more muscles the merrier, I suppose.” Muscles. Joe’s, Ryan’s, and Bradley’s all lifting boxes and furniture in the Charleston humidity? Sign. Me. Up. “So. Does this mean we’re good?”

“I’ll never be good with you being with my brother.”

“Joe.”

“We’re good.” The words and tone of his voice contradict each other. “I gotta get ready to go open the club.”

Everything in me wants to say, “See you in a month.” To hang up and not speak to him until I see him here moving my stuff.

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