"So, how are you doing?" Kelly asked, popping a french fry in her mouth.
I shrugged, fiddling with my napkin. "Better. The first couple of days kind of sucked as evidenced by my little 'Girl, Interrupted' moment on your couch. . .and I had the requisite incoherent sobbing moment on the phone with Curtis. I think I scared the shit out of him. He said he's flying up to Portland."
Kelly chuckled. "Should I call him and let him know you've crawled out of the Bell Jar?"
"Nah," I grinned, picking up my sandwich. "Curtis likes to be the white knight. Besides, I am DYING to see him and short of selling my eggs on craigslist there's no way I can afford a ticket to California any time soon."
Kelly raised an eyebrow cynically. "Sweetie, not to be harsh but at your age those eggs would be giving off sulphur fumes. They wouldn't get you a bus trip to Salem." I flipped her off amiably and stirred my iced tea. "So, what was the dealio with Dylan McRenner? I never really got the whole spiel the other night."
"He and his ex wife want to try to give it one last try for their daughter. They'd decided to get back together in October for Katie's birthday and give her the holidays as a family." I smiled. "She's going to be thrilled."
Kelly frowned and picked at her burger. "Are you sure? I mean, if they didn't get along before isn't it just better that they stay apart?"
"It wasn't that they fought all the time," I said. "They got married because she got pregnant with Katie. They love each other, but were never really IN love. Then she cheated on him, he moved out, they got divorced. . .but they still get along and communicate really well. They're friends."
"But is that enough?" Kelly asked incredulously. "I mean, wouldn't Katie rather have two parents that are madly in love with each other?"
I shook my head. "Kell, kids don't care. If you ask any kid if they'd rather have happy parents living apart or miserable parents under the same roof they'll pick miserable every time. Kids don't care if you're romantically fulfilled, they just want you THERE."
"I guess." she said, chewing pensively. "But it sounds like his heart really isn't in it. So, are they just going to disappoint Katie all over again, or will she be glad they at least made the effort?"
"I don't know." I replied. "They decided this whole arrangement about a year ago. . ."
ONE WEEK AGO:
"We decided this whole arrangement a year ago." Dylan muttered, staring at his hands. "It just seemed like we owe it to Katie to give her a shot at a real family."
"You do," I agreed. "you're doing the right thing."
He laughed bitterly. "Yeah, it felt that way a year ago. But things happen." He looked up at my face. "You happened."
I shook my head. "This is your daughter, Dylan. She is the one relationship you CAN'T screw up on. You need to do what you think is best for Katie."
"But when do I get to do what's best for me?" he cried.
"When she's eighteen?" I squeezed his hand reassuringly. "She comes first, D. She has to always come first."
Dylan flashed his crooked smile. "You know this would be a lot easier if you just yelled and called me an asshole."
"Oh, believe me, it would be a hell of a lot easier if you WERE an asshole." I agreed. "Then I could just talk trash with my friends, listen to shitty Kelly Clarkson songs, and lie on my couch watching Lifetime movies."
He peered at me critically. "Wait, how is that different from what you do now?"
I leveled him with an icy glare. "You are not allowed to be funny." I said "We're having a moment."
"Yeah." he chuckled "I'm gonna miss that. I just wish. . .I just wish I knew I could still see you. Just. . .meet you for lunch or. . .something."
I let go of his hand slowly. "But you can't. You know you can't. Not if you want to make an honest effort at this."
"I know," he sighed, rubbing a hand through his hair. "Rachel and I agreed we would try this for a year. I want so badly to ask you to wait for me. . ."
"But you can't." I interrupted. "You know that. It's not fair to anyone involved to ask me to do that." Dylan agreed and we sat in silence for a moment. "Tell you what." I laughed. "Call me in a year and we'll see where we are."
Dylan shook his head sadly. "You'll be gone;" he muttered "someone else will come along and find you."
"I don't need to be found." I replied "I found myself a long time ago."
"Did you really say that?" Kelly gaped "Dude, that's some serious Dr. Phil shit right there, yo."
I snorted disdainfully. "Pfft! Dr. Phil? Bitch, please. I totally got that line from 'Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew'. Anyhoo, the sentiment is the same. It's nice to have someone to share your life, but I don't need someone to complete my life. Sometimes we all need that reminder; especially when we're blinded by things like chiseled biceps and an ability to quote Judd Apatow movies."
"So, that's it then?" Kelly asked taking a sip of her Diet Coke.
"I thought so," I said, spearing a cherry tomato on my plate. "Then he called me last night in Vegas and said he told his ex he wasn't going through with it."
Kelly sputtered on her Diet Coke and did a classic spit-take over the remainder of my salad.*
Wha -- WHAT!?!?" she shrieked. "So, are you guys back together? What the hell!?!?"
I pushed away my soda-bedaubed plate with disgust. "I told him to take some time alone. I think he needs it."
Kelly gaped in shock. "B-but, but he knows how to fix things. . .and. . .and kill flies. . .and he looks like Dylan McDermott and doesn't think your friends are mental. . ."*
*Yes, he does.
I stopped Kelly with a wave of my hand. "All true, and all things that will still be there down the road. But he hasn't really been out of a relationship for any extended period of time since his divorce. That first year that I was on my own was tough and it was lonely as hell sometimes but I learned so much more about myself and what I was capable of. It was an amazing experience and I think he needs that right now."
Kelly shook her head in awe. "Look at you, being all grown-up and shit. So, will you still see him from time to time."
"Of course!" I nodded. "He's a great guy and I care about him. . .a lot. He just needs this time to sort some stuff out in his family and his life."
Kelly pondered this quietly. "So, can you still use him for sex?"
"Ummm. . .no."
"Whore." I said, flicking a crouton into Kelly's lap.
Kelly snagged the crouton and lobbed it back like Kirby Puckett shagging a line drive. "Frigid bitch."
"Hey!" I cried "I DO have a certain level of morality!"
Kelly snorted with derision. "Yeah, you gotta get rid of that. Morals are a real cock-block."
"I'll bear that in mind, Jenna Jameson." I countered and we continued our meal in affable silence.
Do I know what's down the road for me? For Dylan? For. . .any of us? Not really. What I do know is that either way, we're all going to come out on top. After an initial pity-party and the requisite "nobody-loves-me-I'm-going-to-go-eat-worms" debacle, I realized something very important. If a man as bright and funny and kind as Dylan saw something in me, then someone else will too. If Dylan and I ultimately wind up together, that could be great. But even if we don't, he will always be my friend, and that's pretty damned great too. And the most important thing I've learned over the past five years is that while it's nice to have someone to share life with, I no longer need someone to complete my life. For the first time in a long time, I am no longer searching. I am complete.