“How often are friends supposed to call each other?” I ask Kara as we walk into Brody’s on Saturday night.
Considering I have so many memories of Dylan and this bar, I wonder why I even suggested our girls’ night should be here. For some reason, however, it feels right. I feel closer to Dylan by being here and I’ve missed the guys behind the bar.
Mike grins and waves as he sees me walk through the door, as does Sam and the rest of the bartenders. I’m almost tempted to go up and ask them if they need a hand, but they seem to have it under control from what I can see. Besides, Kara would be pissed at me for skipping out on girls’ night when she had to ‘tear herself away from Gary’. Kara’s words, not mine.
Kara points over at Tori and Danni, who’ve once again beaten us here.
“I don’t know. Depends on the friend. Once a week. Once a month. Once a day…”
“Dylan is calling me every night.”
Kara stops walking. “He is?”
I told Kara about Sunday’s conversation with Dylan, but I haven’t had the chance to catch up with Kara since then. It’s a little difficult when I’m on the phone to Dylan every night until late. Of course, what’s late for me is even later for him. New Zealand is two hours ahead of Melbourne, which means he can’t be getting to sleep any earlier than two in the morning.
“Well, that’s interesting.” Kara’s reaction is as sceptical as mine was when Dylan first suggested it.
“Do you think it means anything?”
“You know what you’re doing is dangerous, right? Being friends with him when you should be getting over him is just insane. And now you’re talking every night and wondering if he’s going to call you? This has heartbreak written all over it.”
“I’m already heartbroken.”
Kara gives me a pointed look before she starts walking again. “Exactly.”
“It’s not like I can fall any more in love with him, or get my heart broken any further.”
My friend’s headshake is not encouraging.
“Uh oh,” Tori says as soon as Kara and I get to the table. “What’s wrong?”
“Claire’s convinced that talking to Dylan every night on the phone is a good idea.”
“That’s a terrible idea,” Danni says.
Danni and Tori know how I feel about Dylan because Kara told them. Though Kara says she only confirmed the girls’ suspicions. Because the only person who didn’t know I was in love with Dylan was me.
“It’s fine,” I assure them.
Actually, I’m not at all sure it’s fine. I’ve never been friends with Dylan James. I’ve gone from trying to convince myself I hated him, to admitting I was in love with him, and now I’m trying to be friends with the man.
“It’s Saturday night. How do you know he’s not going out with Lana again?” Kara asks.
“He’s going out with the group, but he says he isn’t planning on hanging around if Lana gets drunk because he seems to be the one who ends up having to look after her.”
I don’t miss the look Tori, Danni, and Kara shares.
“Listen, I wasn’t sure I could be friends with him. I’m still not sure I can be. But you convinced me I needed to take this timeout from the list. How was I supposed to know it would end with all my self-delusions when it comes to Dylan being popped? I’m still coming to terms with how I feel about him. I’ve loved him since I was sixteen. Honestly, I’m not sure I can be any more messed up over the guy.”
“What if he does end up hooking up with Lana?” Tori asks.
“Or someone else?” Danni asks.
“He’s not going to remain abstinent, Claire,” Kara says. “He’s not a saint. You’re not there and he’s going to want sex. Long-distance never works.”
“We’re not doing long-distance. We’re just friends.”
“And you’re going to be okay when he stops calling you because he’s porking some other girl?”
No, I won’t be okay with him having something with someone else. In fact, I don’t know how I’d talk to him, knowing he was getting his needs met from someone else, but I agreed to try and be friends with him and I don’t want to go back on that just yet. Not until I have to.
“He never promised me anything and I’m going to start looking for someone as soon as I’m over Dylan.”
Tori’s look is that of a concerned mother. “Which may be never, Claire.”
I rub my temples. “Can we not talk about this anymore, please?”
It’s on the tip of my tongue to tell them they’re never happy with anything I do, but I’m aware they’re just worried about me. Pouting and acting like an unhappy child isn’t exactly warranted in return. I’m an adult who can make my own decisions and that means acting like one. In all likelihood, I will end up hurt, but it’s my choice. I’m going into this friendship fully aware it will probably bite me in the arse.
It’s not like I have all that many choices on how to handle this. Dylan and Austin are still friends, so technically Dylan will never be out of my life completely. He’ll come back to Australia and I’ll see him again at some point.
After everything that’s happened, it’s not like I can go back to deluding myself about my feelings or treat Dylan like some kind of pest. If I don’t want to become bitter, twisted, and hateful towards him, talking to him is my only option.
I’d rather have him in my life than not. Friendship is just the best option out of a bunch of crappy ones.
“Fine,” Kara says. “But I need a drink.”
“I second that,” I say.
Tori stands. “Let’s get our drink on, then.”
I’m still out with the girls at Brody’s when Dylan calls. Knowing the girls will give me a hard time about answering the phone to my new ‘friend’, I grab my phone and tell my friends I’m going to the toilet. As soon as I’ve moved away, I pick up the call.
“Jesus, it’s loud there. Where are you?”
“I’m at Brody’s with the girls. It’s a Saturday night, so it’s busy. Well, you know how it is.”
He doesn’t respond straight away. “Yeah, I know. God, I wish I was there right now.”
I wish for that exact same thing. “I’m sure you’re having your own crazy Saturday night.”
The way my chest constricts speaks volumes of how much I hate the idea.
“Actually, that’s why I called. I wanted to let you know I’m home safe and sound. No photos were taken and no one got drunk and pawed me.”
I smile, even as sadness rattles through me, shaking my bones. He might not be hitting on other women yet, but he will eventually, won’t he? My friends are right. How can he go any length of time without sex, and why would he want to when he doesn’t have to? He hasn’t made me any promises. Dylan has never given me any reason to believe he’s looking to settle down with me eventually. He’s never suggested we might have a future together. The only future he’s talked about is travelling with me.
And where would that lead us? If I did what he asked and went with him, how long would it take before I wanted to come home and settle down? Eating through my savings so I can spend more time with a man who’s never expressed any interest in settling down – all the while falling more and more in love with him – just seems…crazy.
“Claire, are you there?”
“Yes. Yes, I’m here.” Even if my head is miles away, with him.
“How’s your Saturday night so far?”
I look back at the girls and then at the door of the bar. Before the girls see me and make me change my mind, I walk out the front of Brody’s so I can hear him better.
“Just fine? No Dylan 2.0 there, putting the moves on you?”
I wonder if he hates the idea of me hooking up with someone as much as I hate the idea of him hooking up with someone. “No Dylan 2.0 yet.”
“Yet. You make it sound like it’s just a matter of time before my replacement shows up.”
Replacing him is impossible. “No one could annoy me as much as you do, if it’s any consolation.”
Truthfully, he doesn’t annoy me at all. In fact, through our conversations this week, I’ve realised we have a lot more in common now than we had months ago. I enjoy hearing him talk about his work when he calls. I actually know what he’s talking about when he mentions the rush he gets from doing some things. By comparison, my job is beyond boring to discuss. Moreover, I’ve actually been feeling a little bored and restless at work this week.
He snorts. “Good to know.”
“Hey, I’m just trying to put your mind at ease.”
“You could put my mind at ease other ways, you know.”
“You could tell me what you’re wearing.”
I giggle. To my own ears, I sound a little bit drunk and a lot flirtatious. Okay, I have had a few shots and a beer and I do feel a little tipsy. The guys at the bar have been taking good care of me tonight. But Dylan is a friend now, which means I should probably dial back the flirtatiousness. He’s asked me that damn question every time we’ve spoken, however, and tonight I’m under the influence enough to ignore what’s sensible and answer him.
“Something you would have liked for its easy access and colour.”
“Fuck me, you’re wearing that berry-blue dress, aren’t you? The one you wore at Shameless?”
His voice is pure sex – half growl and half husky-flirt. Heat arrows low in my belly as the rest of my body springs to attention, ready for his touch. Dear God, I’m insanely hot right now, and more turned on than I have the right to be with him so far away.
“That’s the one,” I tell him, my voice as full of sex as his.
He groans. “I’m so hard right now. I’m going to be jerking off to the image of you wearing that all night long.”
The words rush over me, arousing me further and setting off an avalanche of mini contractions inside me as I think about him pleasuring himself. Imagining him gripping his big hard cock and stroking himself makes the deep throb between my thighs and my tingling nipples unbearable.
I meant to chide him, but I sound as turned on and desperate for his touch as I feel.
“Just so you know, I’ve been jerking off to our highlight reel every night, but it’s going to be worse tonight. I might actually damage myself. I don’t think it’s going to go down.”
I laugh, still aroused like crazy. Only Dylan can get me so worked up and amuse me all at the same time.
“The next time I see you, you’re going to pay for teasing me this way.”
I can’t breathe. “Really?”
“Hell yes, you deserve to be punished.”
What does that mean? And what is he doing? We drew a line in the sand the moment he left and now he’s crossing it.
“I thought we were friends, Dylan.”
“I’ve never wanted to fuck a friend so badly in my life.”
Me neither, but what am I supposed to say to that? We’re currently living and working in different countries and I have no idea when I’ll see him again.
“Claire, what are you doing out here? Please tell me you’re not talking to Dylan.”
Guilt racks through me as I looked up to see Kara standing in the doorway of Brody’s.
“Sorry, I’ll be in in a minute, Kar.”
“Uh-huh.” My friend taps her foot impatiently.
“Dylan, I have to go. It’s girls’ night and Kara’s waiting for me.”
His sigh is full of disappointment, but I’m relieved to end our conversation. I have no idea what we’re doing and my confusion level is at an all-time high.
“I guess I’ll let you go then. Promise me you’ll dream about me tonight.”
Does he have any idea what he’s doing to me right now? Does he know he’s giving me hope that will probably end in my heart being broken more than it is already?
“Good night, Dylan.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that he will, but as to what this all means between us – well, I have plenty of doubt about that.