"Come in," Valerie's voice called from the other side of the door that Jesse had knocked on.
Jesse entered the room and watched as Valerie continued to pack without looking at him.
"Where are you going? We don't leave for another couple of days."
"I know." Her voice was level. "I'm done here though. Quinn is doing an outstanding job on the social media circuit. My blog is just like a secondary footnote. At this point, it won't be missed."
"Well, why not-"
"I've got other things lined up," she lied, closed that suitcase and opened another. "Probably head back to New York and talk to some people that I met at the fashion show."
"Wait, slow down a sec," Jesse moved closer trying to make her look at him. "I really need to talk to you about-"
"I really don't have time. I still have to return the rental-"
He blocked her path when she had tried to step around him. That's when he smelt the vodka.
"You've been drinking."
She swallowed and looked at him.
That sip was not nearly enough.
"I don't think that you should be driving anything right now."
"It was a sip Jesse and I am just fine. Did you want something or what?"
"Like I said, we need to talk."
Valerie shifted her eyes away. She didn't feel ready for this conversation.
"I really don't want to Jesse."
"What's the point? Nothing has changed."
"You don't mean that."
No, I don't… at least not for me.
"Fine, say what you need to say."
He stood looking down at her. She couldn't bear to drag her eyes away from his.
"I've loved her since I can practically remember and it has changed over time, but it's always been there. I waited too late to tell her how I felt- she had moved on by the time that I felt that I could."
I know that you love her Jesse. Any idiot could see it whenever you were in the same room with her.
"It never occurred to me that chicks- girls- ladies, other than her could be anything more than a good time."
"Okay, I get it. She is your one true love. No one else will ever measure up." Valerie threw her hands up and backed away in surrender. She didn't want to hear anymore of his declarations of love for this person.
"Valerie wait," Jesse followed her to where she began to resume slinging the rest of her things in the suitcase. Jesse placed a hand over hers to stop her. She had her back to him and the touch of his hand on hers seemed to be magnified. Her head seemed to swim. "I didn't say any of that. It's just something I never thought of."
"I know I'm not the smartest guy in the world and the girls that I meet all want a good time, so when I meet someone- a woman, that's 'real', I don't see why she would take someone like me seriously. So when you actually talked to me I was honored and considered you a friend."
Their voices were but whispers in the already quiet room.
"Jesse, you're not stupid. You have a very…unique look at things. You don't just spout off a bunch of stuff to sound smart and when you do speak, it's because there's something worth saying. Thing is, I saw you that night- both of you. Nick had mentioned that I should go to that place cause everyone was gonna be blowing off steam before you guys close. I thought that it would be fun. I get there and you're all starry eyed on the dance floor until some blonde interrupts. You guys gave an impromptu performance that was very classic VH1. Glad I live casted it to my blog, but I digress. At first I thought that the blonde was one of your 'fans' but she and Jane talked, and then Jane left… I should have," she shook her head remembering, "but I didn't. I followed. The way you two looked at each other, it was heart wrenching. I saw her walk back to you and kiss you. I turned to leave then, that was all I needed to see. I went back in and ordered a drink. You came in soon after looking shaky."
Jesse closed his eyes briefly. He remembered going back in and seeing Valerie at the bar. She had said something- asked him if he was okay. He had asked her if she wanted to get out of there for a while. She had agreed to go with him and he had gone to the nearest place with a bed. He had needed to get that scene with Jane out of his head and another warm body seemed like the easiest way to do it. Thing is, he hadn't counted on Valerie being there and he hadn't expected to feel anything other than temporary release. Being with Valerie had done more than he had anticipated. What had started out as a way for him to forget something painful had worked all too well and now he didn't understand everything that was going on with himself. He only knew that he wasn't ready to let go of Valerie just yet.
"I realized the next morning after you left that you hadn't come back inside on your own. She had pushed you away. That's the only reason that you had me there." Valerie paused for a moment before continuing. "You put her on this pedestal that- that- well, no one can be expected to live up to that," she mumbled the last to herself.
"Stop," His voice was low… serious.
"Why? I'm only telling the truth. We're friends right? That's what you said friends?" she practically spit out the word with clear disdain and spun away from him.
"You're drunk so-"
"She could have let you go, free and clear, but no-" the young lady cleared her throat and took another swig of her drink. "She had to keep you hanging on… so selfish. She just let you watch as she slid out of your reach. You probably don't even remember what your life was like without her in it do you? Don't bother answering that, it was rhetorical."
"I'll get you some water-"
"No!" she yelled. "I'm not drunk. I'm just- just-"
He reached to take her hands in his and looked down into her very large and scared looking eyes.
"I just hate to see someone being played like this," she finished and tried to move from his grasp, but he wouldn't let her. "Let me go Jesse. I need to get back to my packing." She wrenched herself free and tearfully stumbled her way towards the door that she had every intention of throwing him out of.
"Don't… go…" Jesse's voice was strained.
She paused with her hand over the nob.
You have no idea what you're asking Jesse. I can't be here with you and pretend…it's too hard.
She turned and looked at him. He stood only a few feet away. Try as she might, she couldn't not look at his eyes… the brown were deep chasms that held so much unspoken feeling…it was a shame none were for her she thought before removing her hand from where it had hovered.
"Okay Jesse, let's talk."
She waited and looked at him expectantly.
"The other night-"
"Was a mistake, I get it. You wanted someone else and she wasn't available. I was just a poor substitute."
"Will you just shut up and let me talk."
She pursed her lips.
"I know how it looks, but it wasn't a mistake… at least not to me." He shifted his stance before continuing. "I hope-" he cleared his throat, "I hope that you don't think that it was a mistake either. I like you Valerie."
Valerie wasn't sure what she should believe. No way could he have just 'gotten over' his feelings after one romp, but still… he did look so sincere.