It's Monday, and Cassie time. Things are moving for Cassie. If you remember last week she was about to talk to Matt, and having a difficult time finding the words. Last week ended with Cassie starting to tell Matt why she wanted to see him. Here's the next installment.
Matt stared at me, his expression difficult to make out in the darkness. He must have been unable to see my face either because he stood and headed for the light switch.
In a panic I reached out and grabbed his arm as he walked by. “Matt, can we not have any lights on? It’s easier for me to talk to you like this.”
Matt stood still, completely still. I let my hand drop from his arm, feeling as awkward as I have ever felt in my life – and given some of the episodes during my marriage, that’s saying something.
“Do I need to get more wine, or maybe something stronger like scotch before I listen to what you have to say?”
I shrugged, not sure of my reception. Not sure of anything in truth. “Maybe, I could use another drink. This is harder than I thought.”
Without another word he strode inside, leaving behind an air of something indefinable but definitely not good. I realized I was wringing my hands and tried to stop myself. Instead I started pacing, Barney happily accompanying me on my back and forward path.
Had I left it too late? Did Matt no longer want me? Was he trying to find a way to tell me that and was that why he needed a drink? Or maybe he knew what I was going to say and needed a drink because he was going to have to shatter my illusions. That was it, he felt that I should say my piece, but then he was going to tell me I was too late.
No, Matt was too kind for that. If he no longer wanted me he wouldn’t make me go through the process of telling him I was finally ready. He wasn’t cruel. Perhaps going to get a drink was a delaying tactic, and when he came out he would tell me that we could only ever be friends. Or - my heart sank at the thought - maybe he met someone new and was about to start a relationship with her, and needed to tell me so.
It couldn’t be that, I was the one who wanted to see him. Please don’t let it be that. He must be having second thoughts about a relationship with me and who could blame him?
As I spun on my heel to begin the short trek back along the deck Matt emerged from inside. He was carrying a bottle of scotch and a fresh bottle of red wine in one hand, and two extra glasses in the other. A wave of emotion swept over me at the sight of him. How could I not have realized how dear he was to me?
In silent question he lifted the hand holding the bottles. I cleared my throat nervously, “Scotch please, not much though or I’ll fall asleep.”
Matt didn’t reply, just set down the bottles and glasses and poured two shots of scotch, one small and one generous. He handed the small one to me as I approached, picked up the second one and knocked it back in one swallow. I stared at him, my own glass frozen on the way to my lips. I had never seen Matt do that before and it made me even more anxious.
Matt sighed, reaching out with one hand to stroke my cheek. It felt like someone gentling a flighty horse, and worked on me almost as well. I turned my cheek into his hand and felt some of the anxiety leave me.
“Cassie, you’ll be the death of me. Don’t worry, I’m not turning into Nathan. I’m dreading what you’re going to say and needed some dutch courage.”
My heart sank again. He didn’t want me any more, that was why there was this strange feeling in the air.
“Maybe I should just go home.”
Matt poured another stiff shot, propelled it down his throat with what seemed to me to be an expert flick of his wrist (one day I was going to have to ask him about his youth), before he captured my hand, leading me to the bench seat behind the table. He sat and pulled me down beside him.
“No, we should get this out in the open, clear the air, so we can get on with our lives.”
“Our separate lives?” My voice was small, so small that Matt leaned closer to hear me. His movement brought his hair near my face. I resisted the temptation to stroke it, instead lifting my glass to my lips with a shaky hand. Sipping the fiery liquid did seem to help so I sipped some more.
“We’ll always be friends, just the same as it’s always been.”
At Matt’s words I could feel bile rising in my throat. He was rejecting me, saving me the ignominy of telling him how I felt. He was being kind, as he always was. He was a truly wonderful man and I had lost him because I waited too long to tell him. I was crushed, this was not how I imagined the evening would go.
I had to leave, I couldn’t sit there and pretend everything was fine. I swallowed the remaining scotch in my glass, grateful for the way it burned down to my stomach. It strengthened my backbone, gave me the courage to stand.
“I think it’s best that we forget this night ever happened. I have to go. See you around Matt.”
I put the empty glass down on the table and turned to leave.
“Cassie? We haven’t talked yet. We should sort this out.”
I turned back. “Sort what out? You said we will always be friends. So friends we shall be.” I brushed away the tears that formed at my words, angry at my emotions. Life was a lot easier when I was disconnected from emotion. I turned away again, turned back, hesitated.
“Cassie?” Matt was on his feet, his expression difficult to read in the darkness but his voice conveying puzzlement.
“I’m sorry Matt, sorry I waited too long, sorry I didn’t know how I really felt for so long, sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, sorry for what can never be now.”
The world swayed in front of my eyes, whether the effects of the scotch or the tears I wasn’t sure. I hesitated for a beat longer, then turned and headed off the deck towards the side gate. I didn’t want to go through the house, I just wanted to get away.
“Cassie!” To my dismay Matt was following me. Of course he would, inherently thoughtful he would want to be sure I was ok. I didn’t want him to see how un-ok I was. I ran, reaching the gate and fumbling with the latch.
“Cassie! Don’t run away, what did you mean?”
I got the gate open and ran down path to my house. Barney, thinking it was an adventure, lolloped at my side and Matt came behind me, still calling out to me and getting closer with every step. I ran harder, my only thought to get away.
Matt caught me as I reached my gate. He swung me round to face him but I pulled away.
“Just let me go Matt, I’m fine.”
He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close, so close I could feel his heart hammering in his chest, matching the frantic pace of mine.
“You’re not fine Cassie and I’m confused. What did you mean you waited too long, what did you mean you didn’t know how you felt about me? Weren’t you going to say that you don’t think a relationship between us would be a good idea?”
I stared up at him, shocked out of panic. “What?”
“Isn’t that the point of the evening, why you were so distracted and distant?”
“You thought I was going to tell you we couldn’t have a relationship?”
Matt nodded, a short, stiff inclination of his head. “Why else would you be so distracted? I mean you even forgot to feed the dogs.”
“But you said we could always be friends. You wanted me to know that it was too late.”
Frustration roiled off him in waves but Matt didn’t move, didn’t change his expression.
“I said that because I could see it was where you were headed and I wanted to save us both that conversation.”
I blinked, slowly. And blinked again. This was too confusing.
“Matt, I wasn’t going to say that.”
“No. I was distracted because I was scared of what I was going to say, scared in case it was too late, in case you rejected me. And then you did reject me.”
Matt’s heart, which had slowed to a normal rate, sped up again. Mine reacted to his, matched the pace.
I stared up at him, waiting for him to say something else. But he didn't say anything else. He kissed me, like I've never been kissed before.