Janine met Lori at the door with a glass of wine in hand. "Here, take this, go sit down. I've been dying to hear what happened!"
Lori laughed, she could just imagine Janine staring at her phone all day waiting to hear that Lori was through meeting with Zach and ready to come over to debrief. She had to admit there were times while she was talking to Zach all she could think was, "Janine isn't going to believe this!" She put her glass of wine down on the side table slipped her shoes off and made herself comfortable on the couch.
"And how was your day?"
"Stop it! Tell me before I burst! Were you right? Are they getting engaged?"
"No. Not yet anyway, it might still happen but it's not what he wanted to see me about. Though it was about weddings in a way."
"Are you relieved? Did you tell him you thought it was about him being engaged? What wedding?"
"Okay, slow down, I will tell you everything then you can ask questions, how's that?"
"Perfect! And go!"
Lori took a big drink of wine and settled even further down on the couch. It was good to be able to relax. She hadn't realized until after she left Zach at the coffee shop how tightly she had been holding herself together. It felt like she had been working out all afternoon instead of sitting drinking coffee.
"Well, I got there early thinking if I was able to sit down and start my coffee before he got there I would be able to relax a little bit and feel more comfortable. Seems he had the same idea since he beat me there by long enough to have already gone through a half a cup by the time I sat down. We did an awkward do we shake hands? do we hug? do we high five? hello greeting. "
"Did you settle on the high five? I think that's the traditional post break up first meeting greet right?"
"Ha! No, we went in for the half hug one shoulder touching light pat on the back. Totally awkward. Anyway then we did the how are you's, how have you beens. Light chit chat. Finally I just asked why he wanted to meet. I figured we should get down to it. He sort of laughed and shook his head, 'Typical Lori. Stop with the pleasantries and get down to business.' I told him I can't help who I am and asked him again. Turns out he needs my help."
"Yep, seems like his mother and Cassie got off to a bad start and he wanted my help in smoothing things over."
"Why does he think you could help with that?"
"Well Trish and I still see each other. We've had lunch a few times since the break up. She even took me out for drinks for my birthday. We've always been close and she made it very clear when Zach and I broke up that she didn't expect that to be the end of our relationship. We never talk about him, she didn't even tell me about Cassie, let alone that she didn't like her. Which Zach found hard to believe."
"I can see that. It's not weird being friends with his mother?"
"Not as weird as you would think. When my mom died Trish was really there for me. She stepped in and helped me fill that void. Gave me that motherly advice thing that I missed so much. She wasn't happy when Zach and I split, but she never took sides around me or even pressured me for my reasons. She's been a good friend.
Anyway, it seems as though Cassie overstepped her boundaries the first time they met and it set Trish off. You know the picture I told you about? Well, seems as though the first time Cassie saw it she and Zach were over to feed the fish and water the plants while his parents were out of town. Zach said he didn't even know she saw it, he hadn't even noticed it was still out and guessed that his mom had forgotten as well. Well when his folks got back they had the family over for dinner to share vacation pictures and Zach brought Cassie. This was the first time they had met her, though they had heard about her."
Lori took another drink of wine and thought about how Zach had looked at the table, the window, the pictures on the wall, anyplace but at her as he told the story of Cassie and Trish meeting for the first time. Lori couldn't help but remember the first time she had met Zach's parents and how nervous she had been. It had been 6 years ago and they went to dinner at his parent's country club. Lori had never seen a place setting with so much silverware before and could feel the flop sweat starting to gather on her upper lip as she realized she had no clue what to do. Trish had leaned over at that point and whispered, "Outside in, top down, follow me if you get confused." This was the way Trish handled everything. She was gracious and giving and kind to a fault. She couldn't imagine what had happened to set Trish against Cassie.
"Dinner went well, Zach said, but after they were done looking through the vacation pictures and hearing all about the adventures they had had Cassie announced that she had brought a gift for his parents."
"Oh well, that's very nice."
"Oh wait...just wait. So Cassie reaches in to her bag and pulls out a framed picture of her and Zach and tells Trish that she thought Trish would want to replace the old picture on the piano with this one."
"Oh she did. Zach said at first his mother was confused which makes him believe that she really had forgotten about the photo still being out but then she was livid. He said you could see her face just change. She gave Cassie a cold smile and thanked her for the gift but she only put pictures of family on the piano and she would find someplace else to stick this picture."
"Oh yes. Zach said from there on out Cassie has been 'that girl' when his mother talks about her, if she talks about her at all. 'Are you bringing that girl to dinner on Sunday? Will that girl be at your BBQ?' He said she's polite to Cassie when they are together, never rude, but not warm at all. Which makes it worse for Cassie. She just doesn't know what to do to win her over and the more she tries the more she seems to make it worse."
"And he wants your help fixing it?"
"At least in not making it worse. He wants me to turn down the invitation to his parent's 40th Wedding Anniversary party. He said he had noticed I hadn't sent back my RSVP yet and was hoping that meant I wasn't planning on going but just couldn't figure out how to tell Trish."
"Were you planning on going?"
"I didn't know I was invited. I knew they were having a party, Trish and I talked about it months ago but I never got an invitation so I assumed that she felt it would be too hard for Zach for me to attend. I completely understood so I haven't said anything about it. But I guess I was on the list, I just didn't get the invitation."
"That's weird, right?"
"Things get lost in the mail all the time right? But now Zach wants me to call Trish and let her know I can't come so it's not bad for Cassie. And I'm not sure I want to. I mean if Trish and Al put me on the guest list then they want me to attend right? And it's their night not Cassie's. But I'm not dating Zach anymore and Cassie is so I should be the good person and step aside so Trish and Cassie have a chance at mending fences. But then would Trish be madder if she thought that Cassie was the reason I didn't come? And am I completely over thinking this?"
"You over think something? Never."
Lori tossed a pillow at her friend, "Hey! Be nice or I won't tell you the rest!"
"There's more? Go on, go on!"
"So I tell him that I will think about it, but I'm not sure. He says that's all he can ask. Then he asked me what I thought he wanted to tell me. So I told him."
"You told him? Oh wow, what did he say?"
"He said he was a little insulted. That we had been together for 6 years and he thought it was odd I would think he would propose to someone after just a few months. I told him I would have thought it was odd that he would start dating someone a week after we broke up but he did that so odd things happen. He asked how I knew when they started dating so I confessed to looking up her page after our meeting. I told him that she really was lovely and it did look like she cared deeply about him and that I was glad he was happy but that it had still hurt to see how soon he moved on."
"What did he say to that?"
"That I had made the choice to leave so he really didn't have any other options but to move on. I told him I understood logically but that it still hurt. He said he hadn't intended to start dating so soon it had just happened. And that he had never meant for me to find out like that."
Lori teared up a little while she told Janine. Just like she had when Zach had told her. She hadn't wanted to but couldn't help it. It had hurt. And she knew she had no right to the pain, but it still was there. She would have been okay if Zach had been more of an asshole about it all but when he saw that she really had been hurt he had softened his face and reached out to touch her hand while they talked.
"Awww, honey, I'm sorry."
Lori pulled herself back together, "It's okay. It was the right decision to break up. I know it and he knows it. We just want different things right now, he is ready to settle down and have kids and I am not sure I ever will be. It's too big of a difference to have between us. I needed to let him go so he can find that family he wants since I am not going to be the one to give it to him. But anyway, that was the big meeting. More wine!"
As Janine went to get the bottle Lori thought about the last thing she and Zach said to each other as they left the coffee shop. She had promised to consider his request and he thanked her. Then he took a deep breath and looked like he was steeling himself against a coming attack and asked her when she had stopped loving him. Lori reached out to touch his cheek and told him, "I will let you know when it happens." Then she turned and walked away.