Ellie took him in. Jamie was still just as hot as she remembered. He had olive colored skin, like he spent all his time outdoors, and short, dark curly hair, that looked very close to black but when he tilted his head in the light she could see it was really brown.
His eyes were a piercing blue color, like the ocean, and he was still tall. So freaking tall. She had been straining her neck a little to look up at him and he most have noticed because he then sat down on the stool next to hers. He sat so that he was facing her, and leaned his arm on the counter, and then, not seeming to know what to do with himself, dropped his arm and sat up straight with his hands in his lap.
Ellie just watched him fidget, not sure what to say but wanting to say so much. What was he doing there? Why had he come back? Where had he been for the last three years? Did he still think about her like she thought about him? Did she even have a right to ask that?
“Hey,” he said finally, breaking the awkward silence.
“Hi,” Ellie croaked out. She hesitated. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. He kept looking down at his hands, avoiding her eyes. “I thought about calling but I wasn’t sure you’d answer.”
He looked up and met her eyes. Ellie looked away, and quietly closed the case on her e-reader, not knowing what else to do with her hands.
“I got a job, at the school,” he continued, when she didn’t say anything. “Well, actually, I’m back at school. The grad school. I decided to go for my masters.”
“That’s good,” Ellie said. She was playing with her e-reader, twirling it around on the counter not looking at him. “I’m happy for you.”
“Yeah,” he said. He was quiet for a moment and Ellie didn’t know what to say.
Thankfully the waiter came and brought Ellie’s food, breaking up the awkward silence. Ellie said a quick thank you but didn’t touch her food. She no longer had an appetite.
“Still getting your usual?” Jamie asked.
Ellie looked up and saw he had a small smile on his face that made his right dimple appear.
She shyly smiled back and nodded. “Yup. Same as always.”
“Some things never change,” he said.
“No,” she said. “I guess they don’t.”
She looked up again and met his eyes, eyes she used to love staring into. Eyes that had pierced her soul so many times, making her heart race and her stomach ache. She could write stories just based on those eyes. She had.
“So, you’re a senior now,” he said. “How does it feel?”
Ellie let out a sigh of relief. This was easy. She could talk about this with him. She could breathe.
“Good,” Ellie said and she smiled. “It’s exciting, I think. I mean I can’t believe it’s almost over but I’m also kind of excited to almost be done, you know?”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “I get that. It’s nice to finally have that degree in your hand.”
“Exactly.” Ellie nervously reached for a chili fry and took a bite before pushing her tray over a bit so it sat between the two of them. “Do you want some? I can never finish this on my own.”
He smiled. “Sure.”
* * *
Ellie smiled back and then looked away, concentrating on her fries. She still couldn’t believe this was happening and that she was letting it happen. She hadn’t spoken to or had any contact with Jamie in three years. She removed every inch of him from her life. She unfollowed him on Twitter, unfriended him on Facebook, and even blocked his number. She had done a complete removal of him from her life until it was almost impossible to tell they’d ever been anything more than classmates at all.
Jamie reached over and started eating some fries and they shared the plate, mostly eating in silence. They talked a little bit about what they’d been doing since the last time they spoke. Ellie told him about Erika and Tara and how they were all still friends and Jamie explained how he had applied to multiple grad schools but in the end he knew he wanted to come back to Brownstone.
“I missed it,” he said. “And I’m sure everyone misses their college but I figured if I was going to do the grad school thing why not come back to the place I loved.”
“That makes sense,” Ellie said. She finished off the last fry and took a sip of her soda.
“So what will you be studying?” she asked.
“Creative Writing, actually.”
Ellie must’ve made a face because he laughed.
“Yeah, I know. It’s a bit unexpected.”
“I thought you wanted to do finance.”
“I did,” he said. “I was working for a bank for a couple of years but I didn’t love it. And it was fine. It paid well and everything, but I wasn’t really excited to go to work every day.”
“And writing makes you excited?” Ellie asked, genuinely.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ve been doing some writing on and off but I haven’t really been doing it seriously. Not since…” His voice trailed off as he looked up and met Ellie’s eyes and she knew exactly what he was talking about.
Not since they’d written together in their freshman writing class. Well, really, Ellie’s freshman writing class. Jamie just neglected to take his when he was actually a freshman and had to take it in his senior year in order to graduate. Now that she was thinking about it Ellie realized it was very similar to how she’d met Michael, although what happened with Jamie was totally different. Writing with Jamie had been surprising and exciting and although their stories and poems would probably never see the light of day they had so much fun just being together, the writing almost didn’t matter. Whereas with Michael, Ellie had written some of her best pieces because they were so focused and he was a great editor.
“I didn’t realize you liked it that much,” Ellie said, looking away from Jamie.
“I did,” he said. He paused. “I loved it.”
Suddenly, Ellie wasn’t sure they were talking about their writing anymore.
She started picking up the napkins they used and put them on her tray. Then she grabbed her e-reader and put it back in her bag.
“I should go,” she said. She hopped off the stool and grabbed the tray, making her way to the trashcan by the door. She heard him get up and follow her but she didn’t turn around.
“Ellie, wait. Please!”
Ellie froze with the tray in her hands. She was midway between the door and the counter and she was grateful none of her classmates had shown up yet. She was stuck in an embarrassing state. It was like she suddenly forgot how to move and she couldn’t decide whether to keep going forward or to go back to the one guy that she ever let herself get lost in.
She turned and faced him, holding the tray close to her stomach, as if it was a shield protecting her from him and all the feelings that came with him.
“I can’t do this,” she said. She felt the tears welling up in her eyes and willed them away, not having any hands to swipe at them if they fell down her cheeks.
“Ellie, I just want to talk—”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” she said, shaking her head. “We had fun back then. We—” She paused, unable to say it out loud. “What happened between us…it didn’t mean anything. Okay? It just…it didn’t mean anything and we should forget about it. Forget it ever happened.”
“Ellie, I haven’t been able to forget,” he said earnestly. “I haven’t forgotten anything. I haven’t forgotten you.”
Ellie felt her chest constrict at his words and she had to force herself to breath. He took a step towards her and she took a step back. He froze and the look on his face pained her but she turned away anyway. She forced herself to turn around, throw away her trash, and then walk out the door, without taking another look back.