Kelly looked at Lily as she hurried away; desperately wishing her new friend would take her along. She didn’t want to have this conversation with Jack – not at all.
She tapped her empty glass. Maybe she should order another mimosa – a double. She finally forced herself to look at Jack. His eyes haunted her. She wanted him so much and she couldn’t have him. “You know, don't have to do this, Jack,” she said as she studied his earnest expression. “I would just rather you didn’t. You truly don't have to apologize again. I understand your position. I accept it, and I am moving on, okay? It would be easier for me, however, if we don't interact at all.”
Jack shook his head. “It wouldn't be easier for me. And as far as my position goes, it's changed a lot since what I said upstairs the other night. I'm hoping you'll give me a second chance.”
Kelly’s heart fluttered. No, no she wouldn’t let herself have hope – not only to be crushed again. “I'm pretty sure this would be a third or a fourth chance, Jack.”
Jack looked at her sincerely and it affected her, even though she didn’t want to be affected by him like this. “I'll take as many chances with you as I can get. Is it even possible?”
Kelly swallowed hard, tapping her glass again. Would it be too rude to interrupt this talk by hurrying to the bar and pouring them back? She wasn’t a big drinker on a normal basis but this awkwardness called for it. “Jack…” She sighed. “What do you want from me?”
“I want … you.”
Kelly couldn’t believe what he was saying. Talk about blowing hot and cold. She wanted him but how soon would he decide yet again that he didn’t want her? “Jack, that’s … nice. But you broke things off with me, remember?”
Jack nodded. “I remember all too well. And I’m sorry I hurt you. That wasn’t my intention. I broke it off because I didn’t want to hurt my daughter but she basically gave us her blessing earlier today.”
“Oh did she?” Kelly said. “That was nice of her. I realize she’s hurting over everything… But the truth is that I’m glad she spoke up.”
“Yes, because she made me realize that you and I are all wrong for each other.” Jack raised an eyebrow and his azure eyes became stormy. Kelly felt surprised by her own words. She hadn’t exactly planned for them to tumble from her lips but now that they had…
“You don’t mean that.”
“I – I do, Jack,” Kelly insisted though it went against everything she wanted and needed. “But the truth is, you still love Phyllis and rightly so. You deserve to be there whenever she wakes up. I won’t stand in the way of that. Summer is right; you belong with your family.”
“No, Jack, I think we’ve said all we need to say. I’m… protecting both of us.” Mostly she was protecting her heart.
“What does that mean?”
“It is what it is,” Kelly said lamely and she grabbed for her stuff.
“Please don’t go.”
Kelly sighed. “I have to.” She didn’t want to but it was for the best. She had been falling in love with Jack – very quickly. She realized now though that she was fooling herself to think he could love her, or need her, back. She would just have to move on again – even if it somehow hurt more than it had with her ex-husband.
“Kelly, I am asking you to stay,” Jack said.
“I can’t.” She then practically sprinted for the exit.
She fumbled for her car keys and was halfway to her Geo when she heard light footsteps trailing after her. She wished for them to belong to Jack but she knew better. She had just dealt the death knell to their all too brief... Whatever it had been.
She turned around to see a sympathetic-looking Lily Ashby moving over to her. “Hey,” Lily said. “How did it go with Jack – or do I even need to ask?”
“It went … Oh, Lily, it went awful.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Me too,” Kelly admitted. “I just need to move on, I guess.”
“I’m sorry that you and Jack didn’t work out.”
“Well, there’s other fish in the sea,” Kelly said, trying to sound blasé.
“Actually… About that…”
Kelly studied Lily’s expression. “What is it?”
“It’s my dad,” Lily said. “He’s as broken up as you are right now – you know, over losing Leslie to someone else. He tries to hide his pain but I know the truth.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Your father seems like a really good man.”
“He is. The best. I really want him with someone who understands where he’s been… What I’m trying to ask, Kelly, is-“
“Oh no,” Kelly murmured.
“I know it’s a lot to ask, Kelly, truly. But would you consider going on a date with my father?”
“Uh …” Kelly was at a loss for words.
“You said yourself there’s other fish in the sea. And not to abuse the metaphor here, but my dad is the best catch around.”
“He just got out of a relationship…”
“And so did you.”
“Well, Jack and I … What we had was so brief, I could hardly call it … that.”
“The point is you and my father are both hurting. You both need someone who understands where you are right now.”
“I don’t think either of us needs a rebound –“
“It won’t be,” Lily quickly cut in. “It could be amazing. And the best way to show Jack what he’s missing out on is to move on with someone else. Or try.”
“Is this what you really want?”
“More than anything. I think you and my dad both deserve a little happiness. If it’s together, all the better.”
“Please, just at least think about it.”
Kelly suddenly spotted Jack emerging from the club. Her heart ached as he looked at her and then turned and walked the other way.
She sighed and looked at her friend. “Lily, I don’t have to think about it any longer. I’d love to go on a date with your father.”
TO BE CONTINUED.