Tish had been pretty quiet all day. She wasn't silent and she did her job sufficiently, but there was just something a little off. Jen was overly excited about her third date with Jeff that night. He'd kissed her for the first time on their last date and she was gushing about it to Piper. Piper was just as excited for her as she was and Tish was on the edge of the conversation. At one point Priestly thought he heard her say, "I'm really happy for you Jen." He looked up and caught her eyes. Jen and Piper hadn't noticed, but Tish's smile didn't reach her eyes. Something was up.
Priestly ignored it for the time being. They were at work and he'd be taking her out later. He could ask her then. So all day he just kept tabs on her and all day she stayed in the same state.
Finally 8 o'clock rolled around and the two of them ducked out early, leaving the rest to close up without them. She didn't take his hand like she usually did, so he put his arm around her shoulders on their way to his car. As soon as all the doors were shut he turned to look at her distracted gaze with a piercing stare.
"Alright, what's wrong?"
"What?" She replied, snapping back into the moment.
"Something's wrong. You've been in a daze all day. What's bothering you?"
"Priestly, I don't know what you're – "
"No really Tish - don't give me that. I know you… You can trust me."
The first part of this statement was said accusingly, but the last part was said soft - tenderly. It was the soft part that made the denial she'd been formulating die in her throat. She sighed, and then looked over at his concerned gaze.
"It's stupid." She said miserably.
He was still giving her the same concerned look letting her know he wasn't about to drop it. She looked down at her French manicure, then back up at him trying to convey indifference.
"I saw Brad today."
"I'll kill him."
"Priestly – No! I just ran into him at the drug store while I was getting toothpaste. He just, he said some things. They made me think, but it's nothing. I told you, it's stupid."
"No. He's stupid. Anything that makes you this upset isn't though. What did he say?"
"Priestly, it's not import-"
"Tish, what did he say?"
The concern had turned into intensity and anger. This douche had upset his girlfriend. How dare he?
"He just… He asked me who else I'd been with since he'd left. I told him I was in a steady relationship; that I had been since I'd dumped him."
She made eye contact with him, knowing that the statement would create at least a small surge of pride in her boyfriend. She hoped it was enough to make him drop the subject. He reached out and took her hand, rubbing his thumb over her knuckles soothingly while he held it.
"So what did he say in reply?"
Apparently not, damn. She continued reluctantly.
"He said that you would only stay with me until you realized what a piece of useless trash I really was. He said that you were only with me because I'm good-looking and once you wanted something more than a good fuck you would drop me like a rock."
His thumb stopped stroking circles in her hand and instead grasped hers tightly. His eyes became dangerous.
"I'll kill him." He repeated more vehemently this time.
She groaned, pulling her hand out of his.
"I don't need you to kill him. He's not worth it. I don't care about him. I care about you."
He blinked once, mildly confused by the way her mind jumped. He was s till stuck on how much he hated the dead boy's words.
"I care about you too." He said meaningfully, once his train of thought had arrived where hers was. She was silent in the passenger seat, thinking. Finally she responded harshly, without looking at him.
"What do you mean - why?"
"I mean that's why I've been so disturbed all day! Brad has a point! Why should you like me? I've definitely proven to you, maybe more so than anyone else, that I'm nothing but a cheap piece of ass. Why in the hell would you ever want to date me unless it was to get some and then leave?"
"Tish – " Priestly said in awe of her outburst. It took him a few moments to find his voice.
"Tish, I'm not that kind of guy, you should know that by now."
"Well, I am that kind of girl and you should know that by now!" She snapped angrily.
There was a silence. Tish almost started to cry but wiped away the one tear disdainfully looking straight ahead. She was a whore. Why should a nice boy like Priestly like her?
"You want to know why I want to date you?"
She continued staring straight ahead out the front windshield.
"When Trucker told me he'd hired you I was dreading having to deal with some awkward newbie hanging around and having to train you. I expected this scared little girl to walk in and not speak up and shadow me and Trucker around all the time and be a nuisance. Instead, you walked through the door. You walked straight to the back, grabbed an apron, put it on stood right in front of me and shook my hand saying "Hi – I'm Tish.". Later on that same day you told me where the paper towels were when I'd been working there for a year and a half.
You're confident. That's when I knew you were different. You were good different. I like different."
He smirked. She had turned to look at him at some point during this speech and rolled her eyes as he looked straight up at his Mohawk of many colors. Then he continued.
"That's not the only reason why I wanted to date you. You say some of the most sarcastic things and I love it. Do you have any idea how tough it is to find a girl with a sense of humor? I've looked. It's difficult." She tried not to giggle, but his face was so sincere as he nodded that she had to.
"You also care about your friends. You're loyal in that way. You genuinely care about Jen and Piper and Trucker and …well, hopefully – me."
Now she was smirking at him, reluctantly smiling.
"Tish, I have seen you use men before, but you didn't care about them. You care about your friends and I know that you care about me. That's all I'm asking for. I care about you. I care about you because you're smart and you're funny and you can carry your own in any conversation from 80's rock music to the latest government conspiracy theories. Plus I also care about you because you will always come first as my best friend. You'll always be that first and then my girlfriend or my lover. I don't ever want to hurt you. And I don't think you would ever want to hurt me either."
"I wouldn't." She replied meekly.
"Okay." He said happily, taking her hand again and bringing it to his lips.
"Then let's just not hurt each other."
He said it so flippantly with a shrug that was adorable.
"I promise not to drop you for a 'better fuck', if you promise that you're in this because you like me, not in order to use me."
She smiled. Only he could say something so weird and mildly vulgar and have it be a positive statement or better yet a romantic one. She giggled deciding to tease him first.
"Well, I dunno Priestly. I mean, I am only in this for your amazingly good looks."
"Oh really?" He said, raising an eyebrow, "Well, I'm afraid I won't have this Mohawk forever my dear."
"You won't?" She gasped in mock horror, "Oh in that case… " She stopped, a happy glint in her eyes. Priestly waited for her to finish the joke. However she suddenly dropped it and turned serious.
"In that case, I guess I'll have to love you exactly as you are. I promise I'm not using you Priestly."
"I knew you weren't."
He leaned in reassuringly and kissed her, leaving his forehead pressed onto hers after he'd left her lips.
"I love you too."
Tish smiled, her eyes closed.
"That certainly makes things easier."
He grinned at her joke before she kissed him.
Neither thought of Brad or of how he could have been right in any other case. They were too busy proving him wrong to care about anything he'd ever said.