“Call me a glutton for punishment,” Gilbert Snider said as he sat beside me in the cafeteria. “I know you’ve made it quite clear that you’d rather hang out with Lamb or Basney, but mind if I sit down?”
“Of course, you can sit down.” I shifted in my seat to make room for Gil and turned so I could face him, then sighed. “Why do guys think they need to call each other by their last names? It’s weird.”
“I’m sorry.” Gil sat up straight and rephrased his statement. “You’ve made it clear you’d rather hang out with Thomas or Jordan. Is that better?”
“Yes… Gilbert.” I nudged his shoulder with mine.
“Seriously, call me Gil,” he said. “Only my grandma calls me Gilbert.”
“Okay, Gil. How was the powder today? I saw the results from the prelims. Looks like you’re lined up to win your first Olympic gold medal.”
“You too.” He nudged my shoulder back. “Your short program made quite the splash. Was that planned?”
“Not at all.” I sighed.
“You sure weren’t pushing him away.” Gil raised his eyebrows.
“I got caught up in the moment,” I mumbled.
“Are you guys gonna, you know, be exclusive now?” His tone was hopeful that we weren’t.
“I doubt it,” I admitted. “I sort of told him this afternoon that he needed to cut the cord and spend time with other girls before declaring his undying love for me.”
“Really?” More hopefulness was in Gil’s expression, and he raised his eyebrows.
“What are you even doing here?” I asked. “Don’t you have like a zillion girls vying for your attention?”
“You looked like you could use a friend.” His voice softened with compassion.
“Yeah… I guess I could use a friend. Since I just broke up with my best friend.”
“He’ll still be around,” Gil said. “You probably just made your relationship stronger in the long run.”
“Why are you so good to me?” I laid my head on Gil’s shoulder. I barely knew this kid and had dismissed him over and over, but he kept reaching out.
“Like I said, glutton for punishment.” He shrugged.
“Hey, you want to go over to the lodge and beat me at a game of pool?” I suggested. “We’ve been trying to hang out for days. Here’s our chance.”
“Can I hold your hand on the way over there?” Gil asked, rising from his seat and holding out his hand to offer me help up. “If I let go, I’m afraid some other guy will snag you away from me again and I’ll never have a chance to take you out on a date before you get back together with your skating partner. I have a feeling once you guys reconcile, we’ll be hearing wedding bells or at least an engagement ring or something.”
“Very funny,” I said, rolling my eyes. I slipped my hand into his and let him help me up from the table.
“Very likely, though.” He pulled me along with a teasing lilt to his voice. “Admit it.”
“I will admit no such thing,” I teased back.
Just as we were walking from the room hand-in-hand we passed right by Jordan, whose jaw was gaped in horror. The expression on his face was so forlorn I’d have thought someone stole his puppy dog or something. I smiled lightly but kept walking, my heart picking up speed.
A few seconds later we walked past Thomas Lamb, who was leaning against a wall with a smirk. He glanced down at my hand in Gil’s and then raised his eyebrows suggestively. Great. Now I’d given him the impression that I was available. I squeezed Gil’s hand and pulled myself a little closer to him.
“See,” Gil whispered conspiratorially. “I was right to be nervous about losing you on the way to the lodge. We haven’t even gotten out of the cafeteria, and I’ve already had to fight off two potential suitors.”
“You’re so funny, Gil.” I giggled but kept my hand in his and even wrapped my other hand around his bicep, appreciating the strength. Not as much as Jordan, but more than Thomas. Dang it, why can’t I just focus on Gil? One date. That’s all. I can give him my attention for one night at least. That wasn’t so difficult.
Gil was such a nice guy. I didn’t want to lead him on. But I also needed to take my own advice and hang out with other guys a little before committing the rest of my life to Jordan. Which I suspected wasn’t far off. Still, if I was this willing to date other guys, maybe that meant Jordan and I weren’t meant to be a couple. I lifted my chin and kept walking, trying to pull confidence from somewhere deep inside. And failing miserably.
(As always, feedback is greatly appreciated. -Julie)
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