You know what sucks? Having a boyfriend that is a bona fide god in human clothes - I know, you're thinking "and this sucks, why?" Just stick with me - and wishing, with each passing day, that he was someone else. That it was someone else's arms around you. Someone else's laugh in your ear. Someone else's lips on your own. And it especially sucks when you know it was basically that very same someone else's idea that you date the blonde god!
Well, okay, maybe Cooper didn't suggest Tad in particular. But man, did he suggest I date someone. Anyone! Other than him, of course. And I can take a hint. I really can. I don't need a house to fall on my head. He's not interested. And so my days of swooning over someone who's never going to swoon back are over. O-V-E-R!
I walk across the street toward New York College - Fischer Hall in particular - breaking off a piece of my Strawberry Frosted Pop Tart and popping it in my mouth. It's still cold outside and I need a sweater and light jacket. But it's not so cold and snowy anymore that cars aren't out and about, if the honking in my ear as I cross the street is any indication. It's been exactly one month since Cooper told me he didn't want to be my rebound guy. Why, as I walk to my job, am I still thinking about it?
Probably because I kidded myself into thinking - okay hoping - that maybe Cooper wanted me to get myself a "rebound" guy because he wanted more than that with me someday. But I know deep down that that's not it. That can't be it! He didn't want me. Plain and simple. Rebound guy. Ha! Cooper could never be just a rebound guy. Not when I've known him nearly half my life. Not when he's saved my life in about every way possible, so many times, over and over again. Not when he's always been there for me. Not when he's become such a great friend. A best friend. He must be well aware that HE, of all people, could never be a rebound guy. Of all things!
He's unfortunately the love of my life (unfortunate because I - not being five-foot-ten, one hundred and twenty pounds and a rocket scientist slash bathing suit model - am not the love of his life, but just a kid-sister-like pal). Never a rebound. I'm not even sure Tad's a rebound. Maybe I'm not the rebounding type. Or maybe I'm relieved that my relationship with Jordan is finally really over and he's married and has finally stopped bugging me. So there's nothing to rebound. I'm not hurt anymore. From the moment I'd moved into Cooper's brownstone, I'd known that my life would change for the better.
Who rebounds against that?
Well, it could be worse. I guess. I mean Tad really is a nice guy. And he really is godlike. I'm not just saying that. The man's perfect. So really, it so could be worse.
Like I could be dating someone whose career is selling hotdogs on 5th Avenue (not that there's anything wrong with that, I love hotdogs!) and he could have a second family on the side that I don't know about (like in the Pilot's Wife!) and he could turn out to be a serial killer that targets Death Dorm residents and then I'd have to investigate (um, obviously), and eventually I'd be putting my own boyfriend (and all those career aspirations of his) behind bars for life which, let's face it, puts a real damper on a relationship.
So I just have to remember that Tad is great! Tad is second-family-less, and a vegetarian. He's a teacher, too, which says a lot about him. He wants to mold the minds of our future. That's very respectable. Maybe it's not as exciting as, say, investigating crime, but we can't all be investigators. Actually, I think I've proven a couple of times that we can all be investigators, but… well, that's not the point!
What is the point? Just this: the man I love doesn't love me back. So what am I supposed to do? Does it even matter who I'm with or if I don't feel MUCH for him?
"Hey," Tad says, as I walk into my office, seeing said godlike boyfriend sitting in my chair waiting for me. He's smiling. And he really does have a nice smile.
"Tad!" I say, throwing the remainder of my pop tart in the trash can, hoping he didn't see it.
He just smiles. "You don't have to do that," he says, standing up. "We all cheat occasionally."
He looks at me in a way that makes me a little nervous. Why would Tadmake me nervous? Probably just because I've been thinking for the past ten minutes about how I deeply wish our relationship… well, wasn't happening, but that I instead was in one with the man I really love. "On our diets, you mean," I say.
He smiles, stands and kisses me on the cheek. Instead of answering though, he confirms that we have a date later, at Fitness World.
Ah, Fitness World. Treadmills. Bicycles. Elliptical machines. In a word? Hell.
I smile, though, assuring him we're still on. And he leaves.
And for some reason, I just want to cry.
"You're just different with him," Magda explains later, as I sit, drinking water and eating a banana.
"How so?" I ask.
She eyeballs my food and beverage choice.
"Because I've decided to diet? Mags, just so you know, if I ever do decide to let this man see me in all my glory, it's not going to be with all this extra baggage!"
"You never cared before," she points out.
"Well before, I was with the same guy from when I was a fifteen. Then, I was with… oh that's right, no one," I say smartly. "This is my first boyfriend since Jordan. My first boyfriend in my adult life. Pretty much my first boyfriend ever. For some reason, I just feel like Jordan doesn't really count. I was young. I honestly had no idea about anything."
Magda raises an eyebrow.
"Okay, fine, he counts. But do you see what I mean? This whole thing with Tad, it's nerve-wracking. I don't know what to do. I'm not comfortable with him. I thought slimming down a bit couldn't hurt with the whole feeling sexy and comfortable thing."
"You are sexy, Heather. You had confidence before and that only added to it! Why don't you dump him, if he makes you uncomfortable? Then you can tell Cooper you've gotten the whole rebound thing out of your system," she says, winking and smiling, as if in on a secret.
I decide to let her in on one, though. "Mags. Cooper and me… it's not going to happen. Please stop reminding me of that."
"You should ask him how he feels about all of this," she says, like she thinks differently about this fact. "About you dating Mr. Tad."
"Believe me," I say. "I know how he feels about it."
"I bet if I asked him…"
"You won't! You can't! Mags, promise me you won't say anything to Cooper about any of this. Ever."
She sighs and rolls her eyes dramatically. "Fine," she says with a flick of the wrist. I catch a glimpse of her newest nail design - white stars on red and blue nails, and I smile.
At the end of the day, at least some things stay the same. At least some things can make me smile.
I realize halfway through the day that I've forgotten my workout clothes for Fitness World at home and have to run back to get them. As soon as five o'clock hits, I'm out the door of Fischer Hall, my favorite brownstone my destination.
I miss it these days. Tad keeps asking me to stay over. The funny thing is, attractive as I find him, and new as this is, I just want to go home at night. But I don't. I stay. I want to give my relationship with Tad an honest go. I mean, if I can't have Cooper, isn't Tad a really great consolation prize? Do you know how many women would probably slap me upside the head for having the gall to refer to him, Tad Tocco, as a consolation prize? But to me, that's what he is. But if I didn't even know Cooper, I think I'd be pretty excited at this situation I'm in. This relationship.
So I stay, so many nights, make excuses every time Tad tries to move our relationship to the next level, and I barely sleep. I think of Lucy. I think of my dad, even. And finally, I think of him. Cooper. And sometimes the thoughts ruin sleep for me for the night. But other times, the thoughts comfort me so much, I fall asleep, feeling safe… and for some odd reason, loved.
"H-Hey," Cooper says, when I walk through the door. He looks surprised to see me. And why not? I'm barely around anymore.
"Hi," I say lightly, trying to sound happy. Lucy runs down the stairs and nearly knocks me over, and then proceeds to kiss me all over my face, wet, sloppy kisses. I smile, bending down. Again, I just want to cry. Is it weird to miss my dog this much? But she is so great. She just wants to see me, and wants me to pet her and feed her and let her out to pee. She has such simple goals in life, and the happiness she feels with the accomplishment of each one is so amazing. I wish people could be like Lucy.
I wish that if Cooper did like me, he could just knock me over with kisses the minute I walked through the door. But that's why Cooper is Cooper and Lucy is Lucy.
"I've missed you," I say, trying to keep my emotions in check. I kiss Lucy and rub her ears. She falls to her back so I can rub her belly. I laugh and get right to it.
"She's happy to see you," Cooper says quietly, bending down. He looks at me in that way… like he's studying me.
"I'm happy to see her," I say. And you,I add to myself. I try to stop staring at his perfect face.
The panting on the ground makes it easy to just divert my attention and look at my loving little companion.
"I really miss you," I say again to Lucy. I bend down and kiss her again.
"You okay?" Cooper asks. He can probably tell I'm about ready to start crying. He's always had this strange ability to read me. Although the fact that I'm now sniffling can't possibly hurt. Only an idiot wouldn't know that I was near tears.
"Yeah. I just really miss her."
"You haven't been hom--around much," he says. I look up at him. How I wish I could say what I'm thinking. You know - I'm not around much because you wanted me to date someone else! I'm trying that out, I hate it, and this guy wants me to spend every night with him!
Instead, though, I say, "Yeah. I know. I feel bad… for Lucy. I hope she's not taking it personally! If I could take you with me, I would," I say, staring at Lucy again.
Cooper looks down at Lucy and then at me. Once again, he says nothing that could let me know how he's feeling. Why does he have to be so mysterious? Why doesn't he just tell me things? He straightens up and stares ahead for a long moment. I can see the muscles in his jaw tighten. Finally, he looks down at me. "Yeah, well, I've got to run. Don't forget to lock up."
I laugh at that.
"What?" he says, annoyance flashing in his blue eyes.
"Have I ever forgotten to lock up since I moved in?" I ask.
"As a matter of fact --"
"--Coop, that was one time in my first week here! We had a sit-down discussion, I promised up and down I'd never do that again, and I haven't."
"Well I thought maybe you'd forgotten how to do it, since you're not really in the habit of locking my door anymore," he says coldly.
I stare up at him, shocked. "Our door," I say quietly.
"Right," he says.
And then he's gone.
"Sure, Magda, he's just inches away from telling me he loves me," I whisper to no one.
Lucy sits up and kisses my face, just as I begin to finally cry.