Page 59 of The Keeper


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“And it’s not so bad here after all?” She sounds hopeful asking the question.

“It’s not,” I admit.

We stop and grab a pizza, carrying it the two blocks to my apartment, where I flip on the lights and offer her a beer from the fridge. She accepts it, clinking my bottle with hers.

“I’m glad you’re doing better here.” She seems calm now, subdued. It’s a very different energy than the last time she was here when she seemed so angry.

“It’s been good. I like working with the kids at the music workshop, and the team dynamic is getting better, too.”

“Well, when you deliver shut-outs, I imagine they have to accept you.”

“Perhaps.”

“And the woman in the picture? Does she have something to do with your evolving feelings about Las Vegas?”

I meet her gaze. “She has helped, yes.”

“Do you want to talk about her?”

“Do you want to talk about this guy you’re in love with?” It comes out sharper than I intend because, honestly, I’m not bothered by Em being in love with someone. Not anymore.

Look at me being all empathetic and shit.

“I don’t want to fight, Cal. I want to talk.”

“I don’t want to fight either.”

“Okay, then I’ll go first.” She takes a bite of pizza, chews it, then takes a drink from her beer before talking. “Sometimes, being in a relationship with you is more like being your caretaker than being your girlfriend. It’s exhausting, sometimes, living within the structure you need in order to feel okay or whatever. Since you came here, I’ve felt free. I don’t know if you realize how rigid you can be about your routine, but it’s really confining.”

“My f-friend”—I have to clear my throat—“she’s said things about me being afraid of change. And honestly? I know she’s right.”

“This is the same friend who’s in the picture?”

“It is.” I nod. “Billie is her name. She’s a musician.”

“Ah, so that’s the connection. You’ve always loved live music.” She takes another bite. “I’m glad you have someone here. I know the move was hard for you.”

I take a bite of my pizza, but it tastes like ash in my mouth. Conversations like the one we’re having make me have…feelings…and I don’t know where to put all that emotion. It has to go somewhere, but I don’t know what to do with it.

“You’re a brilliant player with a brilliant mind, Cal.” Emily is sounding as sad as I think I feel. “A genius, really, and so exciting to watch. And you’re handsome. Gorgeous. Amazing body. You’re a poster-boy for hot athletes. And to most people, that aloof, rigid thing probably plays like cockiness, but I know what it really is.”

I tense up because I know what she really means. “But you stayed in it because it was fun to be on the arm of an athlete who makes a lot of money. Yeah, you told me that already.”

“I’m sorry I said those things. I do care about you, Cal. But if we’re being honest, have we ever had that consuming kind of love that people write about? Have we ever had much in common?”

“I guess not,” I admit, my thoughts going to my time with Billie, to the way conversation was generally easy and relaxed. Fun. And I can’t deny how my body responds to her, to the way my mouth feels on hers.

I haven’t felt that way with anyone before, not even Emily, whom I was supposed to be in love with. I may be oblivious sometimes, but I know where this conversation is going. My heart should be broken right now and it’s just…not.

“I feel like you see in black-and-white. Numbers and science. And I need someone who can see in color. Does that make sense?”

“Not really, Em.”

“That’s exactly the reason we should break up.”

22

i felt something

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