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Paul struggled through the rest of the conversation, attempting to politely contribute if he was asked, and they happened to actually give him enough time to speak. Despite displeasing Lidia tremendously, they left the shop without a puppy.
A part of Paul felt a strange impulse to buy a dog for her. He tried to dismiss the idea, understanding that he really just wanted to do something for her that Jordan wouldn’t, but his principles wouldn’t allow it. More importantly, his friendship with Jordan wouldn’t.
The conversation wouldn’t really drop though. Each time one of them mentioned anything, the other would bring up the whole dog issue as if it were somehow related to the whatever they were talking about in that moment.
“You guys want to eat?” Paul asked.
“I don’t know,” Lidia said, a strange snippiness to her tone. “I’m not sure it’s in the budget, and captain, commander of the dollar says we should think about things before we make decisions.”
“Well we could always just do whatever we want, and then when we can’t afford the things we really care about, like weddings, we won’t be able to because we spent money on things we want on an impulse rather than things we truly want,” Jordan said.
“Or we could eat because we’re hungry!”
They both stopped at Paul’s outburst. “We could actually spend time and have fun together instead of either making doe-eyes at each other and forgetting I exist or arguing with each other and still forgetting I exist! I’ll pay for your food if you just promise to stop using me only to validate whatever idiotic passive aggressive argument you’re trying to win.”
“We’re not ignoring you!” Lidia said.
“Dude, we’ve spoken to you this whole time,” Jordan said.
“And I am not passive aggressive!” Lidia said.
“You’ve spoken to me?” Paul asked. “Other than asking if you’re hungry, what’s the last thing I said?”
Jordan opened his mouth to answer and then stopped.
“And you!” Paul pointed a finger.” You literally just told me to ask captain commander if it’s in the budget. Was that a direct argument or statement?”
Lidia at least had the dignity to drop her head.
“Have either of you asked me a question that didn’t in some way involve me backing you up in some sort of point you were making?” Paul asked again.
Neither of them said anything.
“You two wanna make out? Fine, just don’t ask me to watch. You wanna argue? I guess you can if that’s what you want, but don’t ask me to watch or take sides. Me, I actually want to eat, so I’m going to.” Paul stormed away, for once not really caring if the couple followed him or not.
Had it really come this far? Did he really prefer not being around them? If it meant not having to watch them either fawn over each other or fight each other, yes.
Paul picked a restaurant to eat at and got in line. He managed to get up to the counter and order before his friends found him.
“We’re sorry,” Jordan said.
Lidia flung her arms around him, and it was all Paul could do to keep from screaming. He wanted to be angry. No matter how much he hated resenting his friends and being angry, he wanted it. It didn’t even make any sense, but it was true. But Jordan saying sorry? And Lidia, holding herself against him.
He shrugged her off. She looked taken aback. He wasn’t sure she’d make that face if he’d hit her.
“It’s OK,” Paul said. “I’m just frustrated, and I don’t want you getting out of it with a nice hug and a few words.”
She looked at Jordan for some reason. “I’m sorry. I just … it’s how I apologize.”
“You didn’t really do anything to me,” Paul said.
“How long have we basically ignored you?” Jordan asked.
Lidia glanced from Jordan to Paul and back to Jordan again.
“What is going on?” Paul asked.
“I don’t understand you,” Lidia said.
The words strangely felt like a knife. A part of him, a part he tried very hard to bury, wanted nothing more than for her to understand him.
“You just don’t know him well enough yet,” Jordan said before turning his attention to Paul. “We didn’t do it on purpose, but somewhere in the last few months, we just sort of focused on each other.”
“We don’t want to forget you!” Lidia said.
Paul shook his head. “I get it. I didn’t exactly hang out with Jordan a lot when I had a girlfriend.”
Admitting as much gave him a dose of humility.