For the short introduction to this story, please go here.
I remember coming up the escalator with such a feeling of anxiety pushing me forward. We had been friends, why was I so nervous? I still remember exactly how I felt the first time I ever laid eyes on Luke two years before. I suppose it was mainly attraction. Yes, it was mainly attraction. But nothing ever happened. We only hung out outside of school two times. We never flirted. I had no reason whatsoever to believe that this meeting in the mall would lead to anything romantic. So, why were there butterflies in my stomach? The second I saw him, I wanted to kiss him. Those dark jeans with a black and grey striped shirt and a black hat. He only wears black. Like Johnny Cash. He smiled at me and I felt my stomach melt down to my feet. God, he was adorable. That’s one thing I always liked about Luke. He appears to be such a badass, but when he smiles I know there’s nothing to fear. Don’t get me wrong, Luke is a badass. But his gentleness is what always reigned in our relationship. That night, Luke accompanied me to several different restaurants and businesses so that I could put in applications. I drove Luke around Orlando in my little white truck. I wondered if he was impressed that I drove a truck. We smoked together. It was so strange that the entire time we were at school together we would both sneak out to the same spot to have a cigarette but we never did so together. Let’s be honest though, he visited this spot much more frequently than I. And we never knew why we would pass the other driving out to that spot. We certainly never spoke of it in front of any one else. So, it was still strange driving down I-4 with the windows down with Luke Jones while he smoked a Camel Light and I puffed on my Camel Menthol.
That night we ate dinner at Chic-fil-a and proceeded to meet up with our friend Aaron who had also gone to college with us. But then we went to Howl at the Moon, this schmoozy piano bar on International Drive. There we connected with my friend Katie, my best friend Heidi and her new boyfriend, Brad. How could we have known that Heidi and Brad, too, would marry and the four of us would become such great friends? I wanted so badly for Luke to think I was cool, so I became reserved. Looking back I realize how ridiculous that was considering he had already known me for me. Silly, spontaneous me. But even still, I acted reserved. Luke was acting differently. Was I making that up? No, he never would have placed his hand on the small of my back before. I don’t even think we ever hugged before. So yes, he was acting differently. My desire to keep myself demure was ruined shortly thereafter when Heidi and Katie asked me to “catch up” and proceeded to guide me in drinking a giant fishbowl drink by myself. Within ten minutes I was anything but reserved. I don’t remember a whole lot over the next few hours at the bar, other than the likely possibility that I did the Macarena on the stage by myself, but I do remember being in Aaron’s parking lot throwing up in the bushes. I yelled for them to go away and leave me because Luke kept trying to come over and comfort me or hold my hair or something. I know now how tremendous of an action that was for him considering he has the worst gag reflex known to man and if he even hears someone throwing up he’s likely to follow suit. Of course, I didn’t appreciate that then.
Once inside Aaron’s apartment, we all three crawled onto Aaron’s bed to watch Hot Fuzz. Luke was in the middle. We laughed, and joked, and reminisced. I even jokingly asked for a “hand check”. Months later, Luke informed me the irony in the timing of that request. The second that I requested a hand check just happened to be the second that Luke was reaching over to hold mine. I’m still not sure he believes that I didn’t know. A while after we finished the movie Aaron showed us the two full size couches in two separate rooms for Luke and I to crash on. But we didn’t use them. One of us laid on a full size couch while the other laid on the love seat beside it. We stayed up the entire night telling stories and playing thumb wars. Luke finally asked the question that I had been dreading. A few weeks before when Luke had called me to see if it were true that I was moving back home from Pensacola, we ended up staying on the phone for over four hours. It was during this conversation that I confessed I had walked away from my faith. I told Luke the truth, that I no longer loved God nor wanted anything to do with him. And that if Luke and I were going to spend any time together I would prefer that we not talk about it. I think that Luke waited the entire night to bring this up because he wanted to see how I acted and interacted with everyone else. Hearing my language and seeing me throwing up a night times worth of drinks probably showed an obvious difference in my spirit. Neither of us remember much about the conversation except that it didn’t seem to scare Luke off. We both dozed off for about an hour after the sun rose before we all woke up. Aaron left for work while Luke and I went to Cracker Barrel together. He bought my breakfast. Sausage and hash-brown casserole. After breakfast we sat in the parking lot for about an hour listening to music and talking some more. Luke reluctantly had to leave because his family was throwing his brother a birthday party. My drive home was completely normal and the same as any drive home from a fun night. I decided not to consider the possibility of a relationship with Luke because I doubted he wanted to be in a relationship with a woman who hated the God he loved and served. Plus, I was okay with us just being good friends because let’s face, Luke is fun to be around. But Luke’s drive back to St Augustine was the polar opposite of mine. As he listened to “Call Me On Your Way Back Home” by Ryan Adams, he couldn’t believe how badly he was finding himself missing me and was already thinking of excuses to call me again later that day.