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That was the moment they decided to look remorseful. “But my hope is if you just remember when we are hanging out that there are three of us, then it won’t feel so … frustrating … when I’m around you two.”
“Maybe you’ll find someone,” Lidia said. Hearing it from her stung. “I have a few friends who … “
“You will not set me up on a date!” Paul didn’t bother trying to hide his frustration or annoyance. He took a breath in an effort to sound more calm. “Listen, you know what happened last time I had a girlfriend. I’m just not ready to try that again.” I don’t think I deserve to have anyone in my life, let alone someone like you.
He couldn’t shake the feeling he was going through some sort of cosmic punishment. The universe knew where he came from. It knew his background. It knew the monster he could be if he were given the chance. It actually did him a favor showing him that potential. Knowing he probably should’t be in a relationship didn’t do anything for the loneliness he felt.
“Well, if you realize you’re ready, I’d like to help you try and find someone,” Lidia said. It was like being suffocated with a hug.
Paul offered a fake smile. “Thanks, but I think I’ll know when I’m ready. When that time comes, I’d rather not make this mistake again.” He pointed at the two of them. “What we tried to do was have everything. And that’s not how it works.”
“Why not?” Jordan asked.
“Because you can be in a relationship or a friendship, but you’re one person with only so much time,” Paul said. “Trying to let me tag along just puts more pressure on me and emphasizes the fact that you’re settling into a pretty serious relationship. Are you guys really thinking about getting married?”
They looked at each other. A lifelong friendship made it pretty easy to read Jordan’s expressions.
“You’re not just thinking, are you?” Paul asked.
Lidia gave him a shy smile, but Jordan’s head sank. One wanted him to be happy and excited. The other knew how little Paul appreciated change. Paul couldn’t do anything to affect that smile though.
“How long have you been engaged?” Paul asked.
“I asked her last night,” Jordan said.
“Isn’t that … “ Even as frustrated as Paul felt, he knew his question was rude. It didn’t stop him from asking it. “I didn’t think you’d get serious with a woman who wasn’t Christian.”
They looked at each other in that same guilt-ridden fashion. Oh.
Lidia looked at him. “Jordan was very up front about his beliefs. From the beginning he talked about how important his faith was and how it affects every decision. One of the things that I liked about him was that he was a man of conviction.”
Sure, he’s willing to dump you over a sky bully, but at least he’s up front about it.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Jordan cut in sharply. “I’ve known you long enough to know when you’re mentally ripping someone apart, and I don’t deserve it. You’re trying to make it like we had some huge debate in the middle of our relationship. That’s not how it went.”
“The truth is I had questions,” Lidia explained. “Part of what helped us come closer together was how easy he was to talk to about God.”
“And now you’re a Christian, too.” Paul muttered.
“I was baptized last week,” she confirmed. “And no, it wasn’t some ultimatum to get married. I didn’t even know he was thinking of asking until he did last night. We’ve been growing together in faith, and our relationship grew stronger.”
“You were just using me as an intermediary tool for an argument,” Paul said.
“Dude!” Jordan said. “You’re mad, and you feel left out. We’ve treated you like a third wheel, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to be a jerk. We asked you out tonight to tell you the news. We know where we stand in regard to the faith. But we’ve been able to stay friends because we know how much we can count on each other, and I need to count on you now.”
Paul shut his eyes, trying to think about a friend who almost never asked him for anything. He reminded himself how often Jordan had sacrificed for him. He reminded himself that he was the one who wanted Lidia and Jordan to be together.
“Can I just be honest?” Paul asked.
They looked at each other again. Then Lidia turned back and nodded.
“I want to be happy for you, and a part of me is. Tonight just sort of went south. I know you’re happy together, and I want you to be, but I’m not in a place to celebrate right now. Can we maybe try this again later? I’m just still processing the fact that you two are doing this, and honestly I’m jealous. I need to get my mind right so I can actually be happy for you.”
Jordan smiled at him. “That’s fair, and I’m sorry tonight didn’t work out the way we planed.”
Paul stood. “I’m not exactly prone to letting things go like they should.” He held out a fist for Jordan to tap. As he did, Lidia added her hand.
“Oh!” She yanked her hand back. “Is that a ‘you two’ sort of thing? Did I interject.”
Paul laughed. “No, I’m just saying goodbye. You two should try and enjoy the evening. We’ll do this again when I’m not so resentful.” So maybe never.