A week. Seven days. That’s how long it had been since I’d seen or talked to Livvie, and I was fucking miserable. We’d been having a nice lunch with my parents, and then boom. I still couldn’t figure out what had happened. Everything between us had been so good. I’d called her several times, but she hadn’t answered her phone. My parents had kept me so busy that I hadn’t even been able to stop by the diner.
“Gareth, honey, are you ready to go?” My mom called from the living room.
I straightened my tie and shut off the bedroom light on my way out. “I’m coming.”
Going to the theatre tonight no longer interested me. Especially since Livvie wasn’t with me. This was something I’d wanted us to do together. Without her, I didn’t really care if we went or not. I grabbed my coat and shrugged into it. My parents stood by the front door, and exchanged a glance.
“Son, is everything okay? You haven’t seemed like yourself this week.” The heavy weight of my dad’s hand rested on my shoulder.
“Livvie and I got in a fight last week. After we all went to lunch. She asked me to take her back to the dorm, and then suddenly we were arguing out in the parking lot. Now she won’t answer her phone when I call.” I released a heavy sigh. “I think we broke up.”
“Honey,” my mom spoke. “You’re so busy dividing your time between your work and your studies. Maybe it’s for the best. She’s probably distracting you anyway.”
I jerked back. “What? No. Livvie isn’t distracting me from anything. We both work and study hard. When she’s not in class or working, she comes over here sometimes, and we have study sessions together. If it weren’t for her helping me focus, I’d probably be behind in my classes.”
My father cleared his throat. “What your mother is trying to say is that maybe you and she are spending too much time together. Some people just need a break from each other for a bit. Do your own thing for a while.”
“But I don’t want a break from Livvie.” They didn’t understand. “I like spending time with her. Being with her makes me happy. She makes me happy.”
“Gareth,” my mother said my name in that placating fashion that always drove me crazy.
My gaze darted between the two of them. “What’s going on? Don’t you not like her or something?”
My mother sighed. “It isn’t that we don’t like her. I’m sure she’s a very lovely girl. But ever since you met her, you seem to have lost your focus. She’s all you ever talk about. You’ve been ignoring your friends. Even Ryder. All your time is spent with her. It’s just not healthy.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Gareth Michael,” my dad barked. “Don’t speak to your mother that way.”
I ignored him. “For the last eight years, I’ve busted my ass between baseball and keeping my grades up so I could get a scholarship to a good school. I’ve done everything I can to make you two proud of me by working hard.” My fist hit my chest. “I’m twenty-three years old, and I’m already an administrator at a rehabilitation facility. How many other people can say that?”
“No one is saying you haven’t worked hard for what you’ve accomplished. Your father and I are proud of you,” my mother intoned.
“Did you know that Livvie was worried you wouldn’t like her. She freaked out when I picked her up and told her we were having lunch with you guys. But I don’t told her not to worry,” I laughed without humor. “She was right though, wasn’t she? I thought she was just nervous at lunch with her short answers and reticence, but now I can see it. You didn’t really even try to get to know her.”
My parents cast nervous glances between each other. “Gareth, we know what new relationships are like. We just don’t want you to get so caught up that you lose focus of everything you’ve worked so hard for.”
I just shook my head. “You don’t know Livvie. She wouldn’t let that happen. There isn’t anyone more determined to succeed than her. I’ve never seen a person more dedicated.”
Neither of my parents said anything more. They’d told me countless times they only wanted what was best for me. What they didn’t understand was, that was Livvie. She was what was best for me. And for once in my life, I planned on being selfish.
“Look. Why don’t you two go to the theatre. I need to go talk to Livvie.”
“Go. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
My mom kissed my cheek and my dad patted my shoulder, and then they were gone. I hopped in my car and headed for Joe’s. The parking lot was packed, and it took me a minute to find a spot in the back near the dumpster. I pulled my jacket up on the walk to the front door. It had gotten a lot colder since our hayrack ride a few weeks ago.
I stood inside the door, my eyes scanning the restaurant for Livvie. Finally, I spotted her. Her hair was pulled in her usual work ponytail. The white, tucked in shirt hugged her curves. Tonight, she looked frazzled and tired. I could see the faint circles under her eyes like she hadn’t been sleeping well. It didn’t matter. She was still beautiful to me. I didn’t see any empty tables near her, so I found another one and sat.
A male server came over and took my drink order while I watched her. He came back with my raspberry lemonade, and before he could leave again, I stopped him. “Can you get a message to Livvie over there for me? Tell her Gareth is here. I know she’s busy so she doesn’t have to come talk to me. Just let her know I’m here.”
“Sure, no problem. I’ll be back to take your order in a minute.”
He disappeared into the kitchen. Within a minute, Livvie stepped through the swinging door, her eyes scanning the dining room until they landed on me. For a second, happiness flashed across her face, but then was gone. It stung, but I smiled and waved anyway. She glanced to her tables, and then quickly made her way over, her ponytail dancing around her head.
“What are you doing here?” She whisper-yelled.
“I’m eating dinner and waiting for you to get off work so we can talk. You’ve been ignoring my phone calls.”
“You can’t just sit here all night.”
I shrugged. “Sure I can. I’m a paying customer.”
“Well, I don’t want to talk to you.” Livvie spun away, but I grabbed her hand before she could make her escape. She looked down at where I held her and then back up at me.
“Please, Livvie,” I pleaded.
Her shoulders sagged, and she tugged her hand away. I let her go. “Fine. Look, I have to get back to work.”
I held my hands up in surrender. “I’m not going to get in your way. I’ll stay right here until you get off.”
She strode away without another word. Shortly, my server came back and took my order. I sat quietly, eating, and watching Livvie work. Throughout the night she cast several glances in my direction. After what felt like days, she started sweeping her section and filling up the condiments and sugar containers on each of her tables. She was going a lot slower than she usually did. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why.
Eventually, she was done and couldn’t avoid me any longer. I met her halfway. “Can I give you a ride to the dorm?”
She hesitated before nodding her head. “Thanks.”
We walked out to my car, and I opened the door for her, closing behind once she had settled in.
“How did your test go?” I asked once we were on the road.
Livvie glanced at me with a surprised expression, like she couldn’t believe I remembered. “I think it went okay. We won’t get our results back until Monday.”
An uncomfortable silence descended. I was trying to figure out where to start. Livvie beat me to it.
“Weren’t you supposed to go to the theatre with your parents tonight?”
“I canceled. Told them to go without me.”
“Why? You should be spending time with them. They’re only here for another week.”
“Because coming to see you was more important.”
She swiveled in her seat. “What? No. They’re your parents, Gareth. They came here to see you.”
“I know they did, and I’ve spent every day this past week with them. And I’ll probably spend tomorrow and the rest of the time they’re here with them as well. But tonight, I needed to see you.”
“Because I didn’t like fighting with you, Livvie. I’ve missed you.”
Her words came out on a whisper, so soft I barely heard them. “I missed you too.”
I wanted to reach out and touch her hand, but something held me back. Maybe the need to know why she shut me out instead of talking to me.
“I talked to my parents tonight.”
“About?” she asked hesitantly.
“You. Me. Us.”
She swallowed. “What did you say?”
“I told them how wonderful you are. How happy you make me.”
Her smile was a little sad. “Sometimes that isn’t enough.”
“It is for me. All my life I’ve been the good son. Did what I was told. Not because I was a pushover, but because it made my parents happy. My mom got me into baseball. It was tough, but fun. And I saw how happy it made my dad. Especially because I was good at it. So good, I got a scholarship.”
I pulled into the dorm drive and parked the car. Livvie had turned toward me and was listening intently.
“I went into hospital administration, because it made both my parents happy. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my work a lot. It hit me though over the last week, that everything in my life has been to make other people happy. Except you. You make me happy. For once, I’m doing something for myself.”
That was it. I had to touch her. I reached across the console for her hand. I threaded our fingers. She didn’t pull away. Our eyes met. “I want you to be selfish as well, because I think I make you happy too.”
Tears filled her eyes, and she nodded. “You do. You do make me happy.”
Livvie launched herself across the car, and I wrapped my arms tightly around her holding her close to me. I pulled back and brushed the fine hairs that had escaped her ponytail back off her face.
“I think I’m falling in love with you, Livvie.”
She smiled and my heart skipped. “I think I am too.”
Cradling her neck, I lowered my mouth to hers. This was all I needed right here. Love.