Friday, April 6, 2012

All Or Nothing

Alex Bautista despised Mexican weddings. They were always too damn long.

First there was the gathering at the bride’s house, then the church ceremony, then photos, then the reception and then the dancing. Oh, the dancing.
She glared at her best friend Diana and her new husband Gus for making her suffer through this endless day.

Alex surveyed the crowd of about 300 who had gathered at the civic center hall. She caught her breath when she noticed a pair of familiar brown eyes staring back at her.  Alex jumped from her chair and scurried  right into the ladies’ restroom.
Leaning against the stall door, she tried to steady her breathing. She stared at the white, popcorn ceiling and wished she had never met Eric Padilla.

From the moment he sat down next to her in their college sophomore English class and asked to borrow a pen, Alex was completely head over heels in love. Luckily, he wasn’t the best student and grew to rely on her for notes and homework. Eventually they became real friends outside of the classroom.
Alex was fine with their friendship status and dutifully put up with his revolving door of girlfriends for more than six years. Only Diana knew her true feelings.

“You’re only going to get hurt,” she used to tell her, but Alex would just roll her eyes.
Then three months ago, Eric showed up on her doorstop drunk and needy. She kissed him first. “I don’t want things to get weird between us,” he had said. Alex had assured him that it was just sex, something they both needed that night. She told herself she could handle it, but she was wrong.

So very wrong.
During the ceremony as she stood next to Diana on the altar, Eric met her eyes. He was sitting in a pew toward the front and smiled at her. She scowled at him.

She tried so hard to evade him throughout the reception. But when she finally left the ladies’ restroom, there he was waiting for her.
“Hey,” he said.

“Hey.” Alex tried to smile. It didn’t work.
“How have you been?”

“Um, OK. I’ve been OK.” She pulled up her strapless gown and fidgeted with the bow that rested on her left hip.
“Can we go outside and talk for a few minutes?”

“I don’t think so. Gus and Diana are getting ready to cut the cake and I need to take a picture.”
“You know, there’s a photographer who can do that for them.” He smiled and Alex’s heart melted a little.

“I know that. But I wanted one on my camera.”
Por favor. I promise it will only take a few minutes.” He reached out and grabbed her hand. Her resistance faded.

“Fine. But just for a few minutes.” She walked out the double doors of the civic center and into the brisk October evening. There was a gazebo in the middle of the courtyard and they walked over to it.
Alex shivered as she stood underneath the archway.  Eric came up behind her and draped his suit jacket over her shoulders.

“This will keep you warm,” he murmured against her neck. His hot breath sent shivers down her spine. She closed her eyes and begged her body not to betray her. But it was too late. A little sigh escaped her mouth and she leaned back into him. He took the movement as permission and began to softly kiss her neck.
“Stop,” she whispered.

“Stop what?” His lips traveled to her ear lobe and her knees buckled as soon as his tongue touched her skin.
She moaned this time and that’s when Eric whipped her around to face him. He grabbed her head with both of his hands and began devouring her mouth. Every nerve on Alex’s body electrified with desire. She kissed him back just as urgently.

Aye dios, she had missed him.
“I missed this,” he groaned.

Alex pulled her lips from his. The heat she felt just moments before disappeared. He hadn’t missed her, only what he could do to her. Alex pushed him away.
“I told you stop,” she said. Eric laughed.

“You did, but then your body told me to keep going.” He tried to kiss her again, but Alex pushed him back one more time.
“Forget it, Eric. I told you, no more. No mas.” She started walking back to the hall. Tears stung her eyes.

“Why are you doing this Alex?” Eric ran up to her and grabbed her hand. He pulled her around to face him. His cheeks were still flushed and his eyes dark. But this time they were dark with anger, not passion.
“Just tell me what I need to do or say to make things go back to how they were before.”

“You can’t say or do anything.” Alex could feel the anger building inside her too. Tears blurred her vision and her chest tightened.
“Why not?”

“Why do you think, Eric?”
“I have no pinche idea, Alex,” he cursed. “One day you say you are OK with what happened between us and then one day you stop taking my calls or returning my texts. I go to your house and you don’t answer the door even though I know you’re home. If I say I’m sorry can we just move on?”

“I don’t think so.”
He threw up his hands, turned around and started cursing in Spanish. Alex thought he was going to leave her there. Instead, he turned back and yelled, “What the hell did I do that was so damn awful?”

“YOU BROKE MY HEART!” she screamed.
As soon as she said it, Alex felt a wave of sadness wash over her. The tears spilled onto her cheeks and she started sobbing into her hands.

“I don’t understand. have feelings for me?” He sounded afraid.
The shame was almost too much. Alex couldn’t bare to look at him, but she needed to. She expected him to look horrified or even smug. Instead, his expression was blank. “I…I don’t know what to say.”

She took a deep breath. “You don’t have to say anything. I know you could never feel about me the way I feel about you – the way I’ve always felt about you.”
When he didn’t respond, Alex continued.

“Even when we were back in college, I did everything I could to be with you. I knew you would never see me as more than just a friend and I accepted that.”
“But then we slept together,” he explained for her.

Alex nodded. “But then we slept together and everything changed.  At least for me it did, while you went on like nothing happened.”
He didn’t say anything, only nodded.

“Being around you, especially you and other girls, became just too painful. So I made a choice. If I couldn’t have it all, then I’d have to live with nothing.”
“I never knew you wanted more than friendship from me,” he said quietly.

“Really?” she asked with a laugh that showed her bitterness and doubt. “Because everyone else in the world could tell I was in love with you except for you.”
“You’re in love with me?”

Crap. Alex knew she’d already said too much. “It doesn’t matter anymore. I can’t do this. I deserve better than what you can give me.” Alex turned around and headed for the parking lot.

“How do you know what I can give you? You never asked.”
His words stopped her in her tracks, making her heart jump into her throat. She slowly turned around.

He came up to her. For a second or two, he said nothing.
She searched his eyes and whispered, “What are you saying?”

“I’m not sure,” he said with a half smile. “All I know is that for the past three months, all I’ve done is think about you.  And when I saw you today in the church, my stomach felt weird and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. I’ve spent the last two hours thinking of what I could say to you to get you out here so I could kiss you again.”
Alex let out the breath she had been holding. A single tear slid down from the corner of her eye.

He reached up and wiped it away. “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I really had no idea how you felt. I didn’t even know how I felt until you were gone and it was too late.”
She didn’t dare believe his words. Eric leaned in closer. “Am I too late?”

Alex threw her arms around him and smiled. “Better late than never.”

-- THE END --

**This work of fiction is owned and copyrighted by the author**

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