For many reasons, it feels wrong to be seeing Cam again. I think of Bryan and how I still haven't heard from him, despite calling him again after my meeting with Kent. Bryan and I weren't official, but it's still weird to be seeing my ex while Bryan could still be in the hospital.
Then again, Cam had been there for me after the accident. He was there when I woke up. He'd wanted to talk to me and had made effort to see me, so I feel obligated to meet with him.
That doesn't mean I'm giving him another chance, though.
I make sure to get to Marcella's--an incredible Italian place--first. This is unlike me, but I want to make sure Cam knows I'm calling the shots now. I pick a round table by the open windows. When he walks in, I want him to see me immediately. I tousle my hair mindlessly. I didn't do anything to it after my shower, partly because I was too upset from the meeting with Kent and partly because I didn't want Cam to think I was trying to impress him. When we dated, I always made the effort to wear dresses and makeup. Now I'm in jeans and a tank top, but I am wearing heels. The heels make me feel powerful. Like a woman, not like a girl who had just lost her job and been in a motorcycle accident.
I see Cam through the open windows when he walks by. My eyes follow him, and I have to admit he looks good. Quickly, though, I make my face stony and wait.
He sees me as soon as he walks in and smiles a tiny bit. I wave him over.
As he approaches the table, he looks as though he wants to hug me. He hesitates, then sits down.
"You beat me here." The surprise is evident in his voice. He knows me well; I hate being the first to get to a restaurant.
"Yeah, well," I say, arranging my silverware, "I'm a new person."
"Accidents do that to a person."
I purse my lips and look at him. "Is that what you came here to talk to me about? The motorcycle crash?"
"No." Cam shakes his head. "But I will say you scared the absolute shit out of me."
"I'm sure my mother would agree with you."
"I saw her there," Cam tells me. "At the hospital, I mean."
"Was she happy to see you?"
Shaking his head, Cam manages a laugh. "Testy tonight, Ryan?"
I lean forward into my elbows. "Let's see. My ex, who broke up with me and left me hanging, all of sudden wants to be back in my life because the timing works for him. I was in a crash this weekend and I am unemployed as of today." I lean back, satisfied. It's almost therapeutic listing all of the woes in my life. "You tell me if I'm allowed to be testy." The words taste good coming out of my mouth. I have more anger bottled up than he thinks.
Cam is quiet for a moment, and I don't blame him. "Technically," he says finally, "you invited me tonight. It's hardly all about my timing."
I want to argue, but the waitress comes with our drinks. In a few drinks, my sangria is half empty.
"About the job," Cam says. "What happened?"
So the whole story comes out, from having more work than the office can finish, to Kent only hiring one new assistant, to my complete lack of knowledge and interest in formulas and spreadsheets, to me returning to my writing and ultimately the meeting in Kent's office.
"That's not fair," Cam says quickly. "You were hired to write, not to enter data."
"I know," I say. My drink is gone, and I ask for another. "But I don't know what to do. It's still so fresh in my mind that I hardly believe it," I admit.
"I think you should just move on," he tells me.
I wait for him to laugh. "Wait, you're serious?"
Cam nods. "They completely wronged you, but it sounds like to me you're better off starting over. Don't give them the time of day. Focus on finding a new job." He swirls his drink, thinking. "But what do I know about any of that. Maybe talk to your mom."
That's not a bad idea. I haven't told her about losing my job yet, mostly because I'm embarrassed and in shock. I wonder how'd she'd react?
Our food arrives and both of us focus on eating. The silence between is isn't tense, as I had expected it would be. It's almost comfortable.
But not comfortable enough. "Emma said you wanted to talk to me," I say after a bite of meatball. Cam looks up, surprised that I shattered the silence.
"I did," he says. "I still do." He takes another bite.
"Why?" I try to keep the bitterness out of my voice. "You finally feel guilty for the way things ended?"
Cam shrugs. "Not finally. I always felt guilty. I was just too proud to admit it." He crosses his arms, a defensive gesture. "I hated that my family split us up. You know I have a rough relationship with them."
"Your family didn't split us up," I tell him indignantly. "You did."
"Because I had to defend them!" He shakes his head. "You don't understand."
I sit back and look directly into his eyes. "No," I say. "I really don't."
The rest of dinner is relatively silent. Our waitress comes by to offer dessert, which we decline. "I'll take the check," Cam offers.
"No, we'll split it." The waitress leaves, and I look at Cam. "This isn't a date."
"It's not," he agrees. "You're still dating the guy that almost killed you."
I feel the blood rush to my face. "Nice, Cam. Real nice. Insult the guy in the hospital."
At this rate, we're never going to be civil with each other. Why did I even invite him tonight? Nothing is going to change.
"Look, Ryan. I didn't come to yell at you or to offer you job advice or to make up for how I treated you. I'm here to apologize." He reaches for my hand, and I let him. "I'm sorry."
He seems sincere enough. I shrug. "That's more than I could ask for, I guess. Thank you."
Gently, I let go of his hand. The waitress brings our check--just one check, they always do what the guy says--and Cam grabs it. "You don't have to."
"I know," he says, placing his credit card down. "Thanks for meeting me."
"Is this what closure feels like?" I blurt.
To his credit, Cam doesn't even look surprised by my outburst. "I don't know," he says. "Do you feel any better?"
"After tonight? About us? Yeah, I guess I do," I say after a beat.
"And you wouldn't... consider giving me another chance?" I can't tell if he means it or if he feels like he owes it to me to grovel a little. His expression is unreadable.
I look at him and think what would happen if I said yes. Cam was there for me in the hospital, when I was at my worst. He makes me laugh, and there's an undeniable chemistry between us. But sometimes that isn't enough.
I shake my head. "I'm sorry. I just... don't think it would be for the best. I care about you, but..." I try to word what has been swirling around my mind for weeks. "I needed you to defend me. I needed you to fight for me." I shrug, trying to act more nonchalant than I feel. "I don't think we'll ever see eye to eye."
"I understand." Cam stands up. "Can I at least walk you home since you wouldn't let me pick you up?"
I agree. We start the short walk, and I think about how this might be the last time we see one another for a while. Or ever.
We've barely walked five hundred feet when I spot someone familiar going the other direction on the other side of the street.
It's Marie. And a woman. I quickly decide it must be her girlfriend. She's pretty; blonde and petite, with good style. I mentally praise Marie. I almost shout across the road but decide against it. I don't want her seeing me with Cam and assuming we're back together.
When we arrive at my apartment building, I turn to Cam.
"I'm glad we got to talk tonight," I tell him honestly.
"Me too." For a second I think he might kiss me, but the feeling disappears quickly. I'm not sure if I should feel relieved or empty. Right now, I feel a little bit of both.
I grab his hand and squeeze it. "Thank you for everything."
Nodding, Cam squeezes my hand back. "Thank you too."
I release his hand and start to back away. Our meeting really hadn't gone as planned, but really, what had I been expecting? Cam and I have a connection, but we've dragged our relationship on for too long.
Maybe he's right. Maybe I need a fresh start.