Kiss My Boots(7)

By: Harper Sloan

“There are so many things wrong about that statement. Besides, I didn’t threaten his . . . manhood. I just needed my best friend.” Thrusting out my hand, I wait for her to hold hers out before unclenching the tight fist I clamped around that stupid piece of paper. I glance at it briefly as it falls into her waiting grasp and see that the ink has started to spider from my sweaty palms, but even so, there’s no mistaking the name scratched on it.

Leigh’s eyes widen as she reads it. “Oh . . . shit.”

I nod. “Yeah. Shit. That ’bout covers it.”

She looks up from the paper, holds my gaze for a beat, and then looks back down. “Are you going to call him?”

“Are you going to ask stupid questions?”

“It’s not stupid, Q! He called the shop. The shop. He might have been gone for a long damn time, but there’s no way he forgot who owns Davis Auto Works. Even if he really is just looking to get some work done on his shit, he called your shop. You were really upset when he never came back after that summer. Maybe, if anything, you can get some closure with this call.”

I feel a little bad knowing that she doesn’t understand the whole picture—something I’m reminded of when she plays down the heartbreaking pain I felt when he all but vanished. Of course, that’s what happens when you keep things from your best friend.

“There’s a good chance he doesn’t know it’s mine now, you know. The last time I talked to him I had just started working there full-time. For all he knows I don’t even live in this town anymore, let alone own my family’s shop. Anyway, I think it’s past time for closure.”

“That’s a load of bullshit and we both know it. You guys burned mighty hot that summer, Q. You let it mark you. Hell, you keep letting it mark you, even now, refusing to let yourself get close to a man.”

I sigh and drop down to Leigh’s “special visitor chair. It’s wedged between the wall and a filing cabinet because her office is so small, but I know she keeps it in here for me and me alone.

She moves around her desk and sits, still holding the paper in her hands. “Do you want me to talk you out of calling him or encourage you to do it?” Understanding is written all over her face. I know that either way, she will support me all the way through.

I honestly don’t know the answer. “He left me, Leigh. Even though that’s what happened at the end of every summer, that last time it was different. We weren’t high school kids anymore. He said he would be back, even though he was starting university, with med school to follow. We hadn’t ever gone too long without at least checking in with each other when he went home the years before that, but that last summer I give him all of me and he just vanishes. I spent a long damn time pinin’ after him, making a fool out of myself with desperate attempts to reach him. I just don’t understand how, after all this time, I can possibly handle seeing him again. How does he still have this dadgum power over my feelings, Leigh?”

“I think you know why.” She breathes softly.

I don’t answer. I just look down at the paper she’s pushing toward the edge of her desk—the edge closer to me. She waits, ever the patient one, until I relent and take it. Then she starts pushing the phone on her desk in the same direction. I let out a dramatic sigh, but I turn it to face me. I don’t have to put up a brave front, not in front of Leighton: knowing I have her if I fall apart is what made my subconscious mind bring me here to see this through in the first place. Even if she doesn’t know just how serious things were between Tate and me, she’s giving me what I need: her friendship, love, and support.

Before I can give myself time to chicken out, I pick up the receiver and bring it to my ear, moving my fingers over the numbers written on the paper. If my cell hadn’t died earlier, I would be pacing this nervous energy out.

The first ring makes my heart pick up speed, the frantic beat making the hand holding the receiver to my ear shake.

The second ring makes the same galloping heart drop into my stomach.

But it’s the voice that I hear in the middle of the third that makes the rapid beating stop and stall, stealing the breath right from my lungs.

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