Coming attractions, p.11
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       Coming Attractions, p.11

           Robin Jones Gunn
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  Katie could barely breathe.

  “No, Rick doesn’t flirt with me. He’s nice to me, but I don’t think it’s much different than the way he’s nice to other people.”

  “Do you think all the interest is on your side, then?”

  “Yes, I’m sure of it. The interest is all on my side. I wish I could make it go away. Rick loves Katie. That’s obvious. I don’t know why I can’t get that through my head and just move on.”

  “Because your heart is engaged in this. You’ve opened your heart to the possibility of love, and therefore your heart isn’t taking orders from your head on this one.”

  Katie knew she should leave, but she couldn’t make herself move.

  “Do I need to close down my heart then? Is that it? I feel foolish for letting these feelings go on for so long. I’ve really tried not to feel what I feel, but it isn’t going away.”

  “You don’t have to understand what’s going on, Nicole, but you do have to confront it, and that’s why I’m glad you’re telling me all this.”

  “Tell me what to do.”

  Katie could hear Nicole crying. Part of her wanted to dash into the room and scoop up Nicole and say, “He’s available, Nicole! He’s all yours! You can pursue Rick now. I’m no longer in the picture.”

  But another part of her wanted to march in there and stand in front of her friend, shaking her fist and yelling, “How dare you let your heart get all mushed up over my boyfriend when you knew we were serious about each other!”

  Katie felt sick to her stomach. The last thing she wanted to do now was to have her evaluation meeting with Julia. She knew she couldn’t be found standing there in the hallway listening to them.

  With quick, airy steps, Katie turned around and made her way back to the elevator. She pushed the button for the ground floor and exited into the lobby, where a number of students had congregated on the couches.

  Talitha, one of the other RAs, called to her from the open window at the front office. Katie turned and slowed her pace just long enough to point toward the door and say, “I gotta run.”

  “These came for you,” Talitha called back, pointing to a bouquet of mixed yellow and blue flowers.

  Katie leaned her head back and let out a groan. Rick, enough with the flowers! I’m not your girlfriend anymore!

  She waved her hand at Talitha as if to say, “Just keep ’em.”

  Hurrying to the parking lot and to the warm and comforting solace of her car, Katie climbed in, shut the door, and pulled out her cell phone.

  After thinking through her options, she at last sent a text to Julia, apologizing for being late and asking if they could meet another time.

  Drumming her finger on the steering wheel, Katie tried to think how she would respond the next time she saw Nicole. How could Nicole carry these feelings for Rick and still be so nice to my face?

  As Katie dissected the past few months, she saw Nicole’s behavior around her and Rick in a different light. Instead of gaining evidence to convict her friend of being two-faced, Katie realized that Nicole had been herself all the way through. She really had repressed her feelings for Rick.

  It made Katie wonder: Did Rick have repressed feelings for Nicole?

  The two of them were such a better fit than Rick and Katie ever had been. Nicole deserved Rick, and he certainly was worthy of Nicole.

  Why didn’t I see all this before? Nicole really kept her feelings under control. But then, that’s Nicole.

  Katie was having a hard time maintaining her original burst of fury at Nicole’s confession. Nicole had done nothing inappropriate. At least nothing Katie knew of. Nicole hadn’t tried to turn Rick’s attention toward her.

  Katie’s cell phone buzzed. Julia’s returned text message read, “COME NOW.”

  Puffing out her cheeks as she exhaled deeply, Katie muttered, “This isn’t going to be good.”

  Before she could text back a message, another text came through. It was from Rick.


  Katie answered Rick first. “SURE. WHEN?”


  She paused, prayed, and then swallowed a mouthful of emotion before responding to Rick and then to Julia.

  To Rick her answer was, “SURE. MEET YOU AT THE BENCH.”


  Then she turned off her phone, put the key in the ignition, and drove to the upper campus parking lot. Whatever happened next, Katie had a feeling she would remember it for the rest of her life.


  The gravel parking lot on upper campus held only eight cars when Katie parked and strode up the walkway. She was glad not many other people were around. It meant Rick and she could have this conversation privately. She had bumbled so much the previous weekend; this time their communication had to be clear. In her estimation, they both had to come to the same conclusion.

  Rick was waiting, seated on the bench. He didn’t look toward Katie as she approached.

  This was “their” bench, a place where the two of them had sat and cuddled on many occasions. She thought of how they had sat there and watched the sun set behind Catalina Island. They kissed as the sky blazed a vivid shade of burnt orange. Rick said he was proud of them. Proud of their relationship.

  This afternoon the sky was thick with smog and haze. On a day like this, it took a lot of imagination to believe the vast Pacific Ocean could be viewed from this perch on top of the high mesa. Katie’s spirit felt the same thickness and haze. She couldn’t imagine that any relationship with Rick would be left after this conversation.

  Taking a seat on the bench, Katie stared out at the soupy, smoggy vista, waiting for Rick to speak first.

  “Tell me something,” Rick said.

  Katie looked over at his staunch profile.

  “I have gone over every inch of our relationship, and I don’t understand why you said the things you did Saturday night.” He turned to her. His eyes were red.

  Has Rick been crying?

  She thought she had done all her crying, but as soon as she looked in his eyes, a second season of tears assembled.

  “We’ve done everything right, Katie.”

  “I know.”

  It killed her to see him like this. Something inside her screamed, Just slide over! Go to him. Let him put his arm around you. You can make everything go back to the way it was. You don’t have to feel this pain.

  Rick shifted his position and his line of questioning. “I have to ask, as much as I don’t want to know. You have to tell me, Katie. Is there someone else?”

  “No! Rick, no!”

  “Was it the money, then?”

  Katie blinked. “The money? What do you mean?”

  “Were you mad at me Saturday for pressing you about the inheritance money?”

  “No, the inheritance has nothing to do with any of this. It never has. That’s separate.”

  “Then help me to understand, Katie. I don’t get what’s going on. Especially when you’re sitting here, looking at me like that.”

  “Like what?” Her words came out choked.

  “Like you’re feeling as torn up about all this as I am.”

  Katie’s second season of tears released with monsoon effects. She knew she had to tell him the truth. “It’s because I love you, Rick. I love you.”

  His expression melted, and he reached for her hand. Katie didn’t pull away. Rick drew her cold hand to his lips. He kissed her knuckles and then lowered her hand but kept holding it tight.

  “I know we can make this work, Katie. We’ve followed all the rules. I’ve made a huge investment in our relationship. This isn’t the time to pull out. You must understand that. You obviously feel the same way.”

  “Rick, just because I love you doesn’t mean…”

  His jaw clenched. Tears tumbled from the corners of his chocolate brown eyes. His voice was barely a whisper. “We can make this work.”

sp; Slowly pulling back, Katie tried with all her might to keep speaking what she knew to be true. “Rick, listen. You have to listen to me. Making something work or making a huge investment, as you say, isn’t the same as being knit together at the heart.”

  “But you just said you love me. I know you love me, Katie.”

  Katie regretted her words. They were true, but at this moment that particular truth wasn’t setting her free. She let go of Rick’s hand and exhaled as if a connection between them had been released.

  Feeling a little stronger, she said, “Our relationship as a dating couple went as far as it could go, Rick. If you’re honest with yourself, I know you’ll agree.”

  He drew in a deep breath. “I do agree with you, Katie.”

  She felt a wash of relief coming over her. Finally! Acceptance.

  Rick sat up straighter. He seemed more in tune with what Katie was saying and not as torn up.

  “You know” — Rick cleared his throat — “this isn’t exactly how I thought this part of our relationship would go.”

  “I know. Me either.”

  “But you’re right. We couldn’t go on the way we were.”

  Katie nodded and hoped Rick would turn into his gallant self now. He needed to put a final seal on their relationship with his usual strength and confidence. She didn’t want to lose everything they had shared. Not the friendship. Not the memories. Not all the great times. She wanted them to move on from there.

  “I can’t say I liked the way things went down Saturday,” Rick said.

  “I know. I’m sorry I was so blunt and in-your-face in the middle of the night.”

  “That’s okay. You were being honest. That’s you, Katie. That’s how you do things. I accept that in you. I thought I was taking things at the right pace for us, but maybe I should have brought us to this point sooner.”

  “It doesn’t matter now.” Katie felt relieved they could talk about their relationship objectively.

  “You’re right. It doesn’t matter now. What matters is what happens next.”

  “I agree.”

  Rick gave her a look filled with all the wild vigor he had displayed on the football field when they were in high school. His chin was set and firm. With a narrowing of his gaze, he slid off the bench and went down on one knee.

  “Katie, I love you.”

  She froze.

  What? Now? Now you tell me this? Rick, what are you doing?

  Rick reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a ring box. He opened it and in firm, even words said, “This also was my grandmother’s. I need to have it sized for you, but I was waiting until — ”

  Katie sprang to her feet and yelled, “Rick, no. No!”

  He looked lost and confused, stuck there on one knee with a diamond solitaire in his hand. “Katie, I haven’t asked you yet.”

  “Then don’t. Please!”

  With her heart pounding, Katie grabbed Rick by the hand and pulled him to a standing position. “Listen, you have to hear what I’m saying. We broke up! You and I are still broken up.”

  Rick frowned. “I thought you were trying to motivate me.”

  “Trying to motivate you?”

  “I thought you were upset because Marti asked if we had set a date.”


  “Then you weren’t using the breakup as a threat to get me to propose?”

  “I can’t believe you just asked me that. No! I wasn’t threatening you. I would never do that. What I said Saturday night wasn’t a false ultimatum. I’ve never tried to force you to say you love me. I would never press you into a corner so that you thought the only option was to propose. Don’t you know I’m not like that?”

  He pulled back. His jaw clenched. “I don’t know what you’re like anymore, Katie. I really don’t. The way you’ve been acting makes no sense to me. You’re all over the place. How am I supposed to understand what’s going on with you?”

  “This is what I’ve been trying to tell you! You and I aren’t good together anymore. Not for the long term. We’re at odds. Our communication skills are awful. Our life goals are in opposition to each other. Our hearts might be in the right place, but we’re definitely not headed in the same direction. Can’t you see that?”

  The more straightforward she tried to be, the more firmly Rick’s jaw became set. Katie knew he must feel humiliated as well as frustrated out of his skin. Nothing was going to enable her to smooth this over.

  For a fleeting moment, Katie considered tossing in the wild card and telling Rick how Nicole felt about him. But that wouldn’t help right now. And it would betray Nicole’s confidences in Julia. A confidence that Katie wasn’t intended to hear.

  For once in her life, Katie kept her mouth shut. Her heart was pounding and her adrenaline was pulsing, but her lips weren’t moving.

  Rick drew back his shoulders. The lines across his forehead were tight. His mouth was a short, thin line. Katie knew that look. Rick was furious.

  “You know what? I’m done with this. All of it. You and I are through, Katie. It’s obvious we’re not headed in the same direction.”

  Katie’s jaw dropped. She wanted to pop back with, “Hello! What do you think I’ve been trying to tell you?”

  Instead, she let the words of finality come from Rick’s lips so he could take ownership of them. She noticed he had tucked the ring box back into his jacket pocket as if the treasure never had been revealed.

  “It really burns me that we had to end this way, Katie. You have no idea how…”

  He seemed to bite his final words in half and swallow them, fiery and whole, instead of spitting them out at Katie.

  “We’re done.” With brusque motions, Rick pressed past her and made his exit.

  “Rick, wait!”

  He kept walking, brisk and determined.


  He didn’t slow for a moment.

  Katie refused to run after him. She felt a fury rising in her that he would be the one to march off and mark their relationship with this final memory. Instead of calling to him a third time, Katie let him go. This was Rick. The real Rick. She had been saying she wanted him to be his true self and not the stifled Rick who had lost all his fire. If he wanted to make a grand exit, let him.

  Sinking back to the bench and staring out at the soupy bowl of smog in the valley below, Katie tried to decide what to do.

  This is awful. As right as it is, it’s awful.

  Rubbing her forehead, she frowned. Her anger over Rick’s exit had flared and burned off quickly. All she wanted now was to be near a friend. A true, forever friend.


  It took Katie awhile to get to the Ark Bookstore where Christy worked. The early evening traffic was heavy, and one of the main traffic lights wasn’t functioning.

  Just to make sure Christy was at work, Katie called the Ark. To her surprise, Rick’s mom answered the phone. The Doyles owned the café and bookstore, but Rick’s mom no longer managed the bookstore.

  “Katie, how ideal that you should call right now.”

  “I did call the Ark, didn’t I?”

  “Yes, I was just leaving, but no one else was available to answer the phone. Listen, I’m planning a graduation reception at our home and want to order the invitations this week. Do you know how many people you would like to invite?”

  “Invite? I don’t understand.”

  “I thought Rick would have mentioned it to you.”

  “Actually, Rick and I — ”

  “It doesn’t matter. Let me tell you what I was thinking. Since you, Nicole, and Eli are graduating this year, I thought I would host a party at our home for all your family and friends.”

  “Um, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I mean, thank you for thinking of doing this, but — ”

  “Katie, you know it’s impossible to talk me out of hosting a party. I already have worked through the details with Nicole and her mom. Now, do you have an idea how many invitations you would like?
I can help to address and send them for you, if you would like. That would take some pressure off you, which I’m guessing would be helpful right about now.”

  “You have no idea,” Katie murmured.

  “Good. Okay, well, email and let me know how many you want to invite. I’m really looking forward to having everyone in our home. Aside from Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’ve hardly entertained since we moved here. This is going to be wonderful.”

  After an awkward pause, Katie found enough words to say, “Is Christy there?”

  “No, she and Todd left about half an hour ago.”

  “Okay. Thank you.” Katie hung up and pressed Christy’s name on her phone.

  Todd answered.

  “Is Christy there?” It seemed the only line Katie could speak without her over-stretched brain snapping.

  “She’s right here, but the doctor just came in. Do you want her to call you back?”

  Katie found the rest of her words quickly. “Doctor? Is everything okay? What happened? Where are you guys? Are you at the hospital?”

  “No, we’re at the River Rock Clinic. I’ll have her call you back, Katie.” Todd hung up before Katie could pelt him with any more questions.

  At the next light, Katie turned left and headed for the River Rock Clinic. Her heart was pounding yet again. She was certain this was the last of the adrenaline her poor body could manufacture in one day.

  Why would Christy be at the doctor? She’s not pregnant, is she? Is that why Todd went with her? To find out if she was pregnant? Why couldn’t Todd just tell me, if that was the case? Why is he always so noncommittal?

  “Men!” Katie shouted out her open car window as she drove onto the freeway. “You drive me crazy! All of you!”


  At 6:45 that evening, toward the end of one of the most emotion-filled days of Katie’s life, she found temporary solace in a grande chimichanga at Casa de Pedro.

  Todd and Christy sat across from her in the booth as the three of them made their way through a large basket of warm tortilla chips. Katie summarized the last week of her life for them.

  Christy tilted her head. “So Rick walked away with the ring in his pocket and everything left unsettled?”

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