Drew spent the days until Friday mostly daydreaming about what might happen that night. The minutes of each day stretched into hours, the hours seeming like days unto themselves. Each time he would check his phone or his computer at work to see what time it was, sure that at least an hour had passed he would see that it had only been minutes.
When he arrived back at his grandmother’s after work each day it was even worse. He didn’t work on his brother’s story as he promised himself he would. He didn’t outline, or try to find leads, or even try to create a framework for what, exactly, this story was going to be. Instead he simply paced around his room and thought about Emma. About Friday. About what Friday could mean; not for his brother’s story, but for himself.
It felt strange for another girl to suddenly inhabit a space in his mind that had, not so long ago, belonged exclusively to Sara. Yet despite these feelings for Emma he also recognized that she had very quickly become the first real friend he’d had in years. Before Sara there was Mary, and before her there was Caroline. Over course of seven years he had moved seamlessly between these three girls, never stopping to find himself a life, never stopping to find friends, never stopping to find himself.
He hadn’t had friends in a very long time. And now he had one - a good one, one he felt he could trust enough to share a mind-shattering experience with - and he was screwing it up by feeling too much, too fast. He knew he needed to pull back, to think logically. But logical thinking was never something he’d had a talent for. And back home in Reynolds, with the rest of his life still upside-down back in St. Louis, it was something that proved especially hard.
And as each day passed, and he got to know Emma better, the two of them connected in a way that he couldn’t quite understand. Inexplicably, they had a lot in common. She had recently left a relationship herself, with a man she was supposed to have married, and wanted to run away from Reynolds just as Drew had ran away from everything else. She also shared his passion for journalism, for telling stories that were important, of acting as the voice for those who didn’t have one of their own. It was something the two of them talked about at length during many late nights that week, sometimes at her place, sometimes at his.
Yet there were moments - sometimes several hours - when he would feel a strange sort of shame, and wonder if everything he was feeling was one-sided. Then the shame would deepen, because he wasn’t quite sure what it was he was feeling. And yet he somehow found that in some ways he seemed to know this girl - whom he had only just met - better than he had ever known Sara.
He knew on the outside what it would look like to anyone else; Emma had been nice to him, had been friendly. He was newly single and alone for the first time in nearly a decade. So of course there would be feelings, anyone else would say. Of course he would latch on. Yet Drew knew that this wasn’t the truth. It was the truth with Sara, and before that with Mary, and before that with Caroline. He knew those sorts of feelings well, and this thing - whatever it was - with Emma wasn’t that.
With Sara and Mary and Caroline his feelings for them stemmed from three places: he was lonely, he was horny, and these girls showed immediate interest in him. He got to know each of them later, not really learning what kind of people they were until he realized he didn’t like what kind of people they were. With Emma, though, it was the opposite. From the moment they met she laid herself bare, put her real self forward. He knew immediately that with her, what he saw was what he would get.
And he liked what he saw.
There were also moments when he caught himself lost in thought about this very topic at work, and would snap out of it only to find Emma staring at him, head cocked to the side, smirking. As if she knew what he was thinking. As if, somehow, she could read his mind. She never said anything, though, instead starting a conversation as if everything was normal.
By the time Friday finally did arrive, though, it suddenly felt as if it had come much too fast. He was not prepared to actually go on a date (but is this a date? Drew wondered constantly) with this girl who had occupied far too much space in his thoughts over the past few days. He suddenly felt like a creep; if she knew how often he thought about her then she would probably cancel their date (or whatever it was) and never speak to him again, even as “just a friend.”
That was what he was thinking as he sat at McCormick’s waiting for Emma to arrive. That it was ridiculous of him to feel so much so fast, that it was weird how often he found himself thinking about her, that maybe this wasn’t a date at all and that maybe he had misread every signal he had gotten from her since the moment the two of them met. Maybe there were no signals at all.
But then Emma walked through the door of McCormick’s. Drew was sitting in a booth facing the door. They locked eyes immediately; she smiled at him and waved. As she sat down all of his thoughts evaporated from his brain and the only thing on his mind was how happy he was to just be around her, regardless of whatever label ended up being placed on whatever their relationship turned into. All of the things that had filtered though his head all week were suddenly no longer important. He had found Emma - or maybe she had found him - and she was in his life, and all at once he knew that this was all that actually mattered.
The ghost of his dead brother, and the conspiracy implicating his uncle, were the furthest thoughts from his mind. Yet deep underneath the pure happiness he felt just by being around Emma, he knew that those thoughts were bound to surface, whether he wanted them to or not.
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