Remember in “Paging Dr. Steele” when Allen took Ana to the New Orleans and James went out that night to have dinner with Jose Rodriguez—the “artsy guy” who broke his heart years ago and moved to Madrid? Did you ever wonder what happened that night that had Allen crying in the restaurant and made James double-park his Mercedes to get to him? Well, in honor of Tae Freeman’s birthday (happy belated birthday, Tae!), here’s a one-shot in a point of view you probably thought you’d never see… James.
I Love Him… I Love Him Not…
“So where are you guys going tonight?” I ask Allie once he steps out of the shower.
“I think I’ll take her to the Orleans,” he says, drying his hair. “I haven’t been there, but I heard there’s fantastic food and live music.” He walks around in his towel for a while and I really want to jump him, but the news that I have to tell him will quickly put a damper on that.
“I need to talk to you, baby,” I say, and by his facial expression, he knows it’s not good.
“What’s wrong?” he says, the attorney in him running front and center. I don’t know if it’s subconscious or a defense mechanism, but I can always see when Allen Michael Forsythe Esquire is in the room. I steady myself for the fight that’s about to come.
“Jose called today,” I can barely choke the words out.
“Jose?” he asks, a bit appalled. “You mean Madrid Jose? Jose Rodriguez? The man who broke your heart a few years ago?” He knows exactly where this is going.
“Yes, one and the same,” I respond. He purses his lips before he speaks.
“And?” he says, folding his arms.
“He’s back in town. He wants to meet… for dinner.” I don’t even make eye contact with him. He’s too quiet. I finally raise my eyes to meet his and he glares at me.
“You’re going,” he says more as a statement than a question. I shrug one shoulder.
“It’s just dinner, Allie. He just wants to talk.”
“About what?” he shoots! “About the way he ripped your heart out? About how he ran off to pursue his dreams with no consideration for you? About how you’ve been here for years getting over him and getting on with your life and now he’s back?”
“I don’t know. I won’t know until I get there.”
“Of course,” he says, dropping his towel and quickly stepping into a pair of boxers. Yeah, he had the same thought I did until I sprung Jose at him.
“We’re going to talk, Al…”
“I’m sure,” he says as he pulls his T-shirt over his head. “I’m only too sure that he flew all the way back from Madrid just to talk.”
“He was in Beijing… and he’s back here now,” I say, by means of full disclosure. Al freezes.
“Here now,” he says, with a pause, and I nod. “Here here… as in back here… staying here… in Seattle.” He’s leaving no stone unturned.
“Yes,” I confirm. “He’s been back in town for a few days and he’s working with a travel magazine now, based out of Seattle.”
“How wonderful for him!” Al hisses, his arms folded again. “And you, having waited for him for so long and then finally getting on with your life… why does he want to see you now?”
“He says that he wants to talk. He says he wants to clear the air.”
“Why does he need to clear the air after all these years?” Al retorts. “Why can’t he do that over the phone? Why does he need to see you in person?”
“Al, you know as well as I do that some things just can’t be said over the phone.”
“Yes, I do know that. In particular, I know that it’s more effective to tell someone in person that you made a mistake and you want them back.”
“Al…” I protest.
“What else could he possibly want?” Al continues. “What could he possibly have to say to you after all these years? You mourned the loss of him! Did you forget that you told me how hard that was for you? Did you forget you told me about the endless days and the sleepless nights? What does he want—to take you back and put you through that again until Italy or Japan calls?”
“I don’t know.” Wrong answer. He’s right about everything. He’s right that I thought I couldn’t go on after Jose left. I didn’t want another relationship because I was so in love with him. I got a job, I went on with my work, and I did my best to forget him. We wrote for the first few months, and I secretly hoped that he would be a failure abroad and come back to me, but his letters spoke only of his many successes—of more and more commissions coming from the work he had done. Soon he left Madrid for Italy, and his letters were fewer and fewer. That’s when I realized that he wouldn’t be coming back to me and he never once suggested that I come to him, not even for a visit. That’s when I finally decided to let him go. It took a whole year.
“You… don’t know? What do you mean you don’t know?” All of the anger has disappeared from Al’s voice and he sounds more forlorn than anything.
“I don’t know what he wants, Allen. He just said that he wanted to have dinner and talk. He said that he wants to clear the air.”
“I don’t understand. There’s no air to clear. He broke up with you years ago to pursue his dream. He made his choice. What could he possibly want now—all these years later—except you?”
It’s easier for me to just say that I have no idea what he wants than to even entertain the idea that he could possibly want me back. I haven’t thought about him for years, only enough to tell Allen about the purgatory that was our relationship. Once I let it go, I never thought again about him wanting me back in his life. I dare not even consider it. When he called this morning, I was completely caught off guard.
“Yes, who’s this?”
“You still have the same number after all these years, I can’t believe it.”
“I’m sorry, you have me at a disadvantage. To whom am I speaking?” There was a long pause on the line before he answered.
I remember gulping, trying to get past the lump that instantly formed in my throat. Jose! It’s Jose. After all this time, he’s calling me. How many years has it been? Three? Four? Nine? Fifteen?
“James?” His voice sounds just like it did then. How did I not recognize it before?
“Yes. I’m still here,” I say, trying to sound unaffected. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” he says in a knowing tone. He’s always known me so well. “I’m in Seattle.”
“Oh?” I try to hide the fact that my heart just skipped a beat. “What are you doing here? How long are you staying?”
“Indefinitely.” Shit! Indefinitely! He’s in Seattle indefinitely. “I’m with one of the big travel magazines now. My work has been quite the rage in Europe and now, I can work from anywhere in the world that I want. So… I came back home.”
Home. What does that mean? His family isn’t even in Washington. How is this home?
“I’m very happy for you, Jose,” I say.
“I’d like to take you to dinner,” he says, and I feel the air get sucked out of the room. “Maybe catch up on old times, clear the air about a few things…” Yes, clear the air. Clearing the air is good. What could it hurt?
“Um… okay.” Did I just agree to have dinner with my ex-boyfriend?
“Tonight? We’ll go to Pink’s. I haven’t been there in so long.”
“Pink’s… okay. I’ll… meet you there.”
“Seven.” It’s like I’m making an appointment.
“I’ll see you then. We’ve got so much to talk about…”
I end the call without once telling him that I’m seeing someone else. What does that mean? What does it mean that my heart raced when I realized who it was? That there was a lump in my throat the size of Texas? That I couldn’t breathe and could barely talk? What does it all mean?
“James…” I now realize that I have been daydreaming about the phone call through part of the discussion with Al. That’s not good. I know I’ve missed something important when I hear the next series of questions proceed from his lips.
“Is that what I’ve been? Have I been a stand-in all this time until Jose came back?”
“No!” I answer immediately. That’s not what our relationship has been. I’m sure of that. I have real and true feelings for Allen, but if I’m honest, I never thought Jose would come back. “Allen, no! That’s not it at all!” I think I’ve lost this battle. His eyes glaze over and he puts his socks on, then his pants.
“You do what you need to do, James,” he says, his voice resolved. He’s quickly grabbing his clothes, getting dressed in a frenzy.
“Al, it’s not what you think, I swear…”
“It doesn’t matter what I think, James,” he says flatly. “Do what you have to do.” He’s out of the room and out of the apartment in no time, half-dressed, hair still partially wet. I sit down on my bed and ponder my current situation.
What did I just do? Did I just let my boyfriend leave so that I could have dinner with my ex-boyfriend?
Did I just call Allen my boyfriend? What are we exactly? We nearly live together, but we haven’t put a label on our relationship yet.
Why am I being such a damn pussy?
I’ve made this date with Jose… appointment! Appointment! It’s not a date! I’ve made this appointment with Jose, I guess I better get dressed before I’m late.
I have to screw up my courage before I walk into Pink’s. It’s been years since I’ve seen Jose. Has he changed? Have I? I take a deep breath and walk into the restaurant. I look around for him and it doesn’t take long to spot him.
He’s changed… for the better.
He’s sitting in the corner examining me with those deep chocolate eyes. He’s sporting designer stubble and his hair is cut shorter than I remember and slicked back off his face. His long-sleeved shirt is pushed up to the elbow, showcasing the tattoos I used to love so much.
… Used to…
He’s the same operator he used to be. He’s sitting in the back of the restaurant with a clear view of the door so that he can watch me walk across the room. I get a little tinge remembering how he used to do that when we were dating so that he could make some kind of comment about how well my clothes fit or how nice my ass looked when I got to the table. I sigh, realizing that he has already taken the upper hand, no doubt feeding on the conversation we had earlier in the day. I stand up straight and remember the man who I’ve become since he’s been gone, not the man who I used to be when we were together.
I walk with confidence to the back of the restaurant where he’s sitting. No matter what he thinks, I can’t let him have the control over me that he had when he left. Neither one of us are particularly weak, but I pined over this man when he left me. There’s no way in hell I’m going to let him know that.
“Jose,” I say firmly when I get back to the table.
“James,” oh shit, “you look good.”
“As do you,” I say matter-of-factly. He stands and embraces me. I feel a little warmer than I should but manage to hide it as I return the embrace. He kisses me on my cheek—harmless, except that it’s a little too close to my ear. I break our embrace and take a seat.
“You’ve been working out, I see,” he says. “You’re bulkier… firmer than I remember.” Could he be any more transparent?
“Not as much as I used to, but yes. I get in a workout as often as I can.” He waves the waitress over.
“I’m ready to order now,” he tells her. He rattles off a dinner for two including drinks. I didn’t bother paying attention to what he ordered. I stop the waitress before she leaves and order braised chicken with new vegetables and a beer on tap.
“I ordered the fish for you,” Jose protests, “and the whiskey sour.”
“Oh,” I say feigning ignorance. “I don’t want the fish, I’m sorry—and I can’t drink whiskey. I’m driving.” Jose nods once.
“It was silly of me to assume,” he says. “Scratch the fish and the whiskey, please,” he says to the waitress.
“So how was Beijing?” I ask, going right into conversation when the waitress leaves.
“So, that’s how we’re doing this,” he says. Doing what? I dare not ask out loud. “Okay. Beijing is beautiful. The weather—so-so. I did a lot of work at the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China…”
As he starts talking, I find myself fascinated by the places that he’s been and the sites that he’s seen. He pulled out his phone and showed me some of his most recent work from the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. He’s really very good at what he does. The shots are beautiful and he has a remarkable eye. Next, he tells me about Dubai and the culture shock he suffered once he got there. We eat appetizers and have drinks, talking and laughing just like old times. I feel comfortable with him and it’s like no time has passed at all.
“I slept with a girl in Madrid,” he confesses. I feel a small tinge of jealousy, but not really. I know that Jose is not attracted to women, but why am I jealous at all?
“A girl?” I ask, kind of in horror. He nods.
“I was lonely… and horny. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, so when she got it up, we stuck it in and that was it.”
“I hope you used protection.”
“I did. It was… strange. It was warm. It felt good, but… it was a woman… and she wasn’t you.”
Oh, shit. Now he’s going for the kill. Fine, I can, too.
“Why did you stop writing?” I ask. It’s the one question I’ve wanted to ask over and over.
“Because it hurt too much,” he replies. “The letters made it too hard. I never got over you, James.”
“What do you mean you never got over me?” Now I’m angry. He wanted me as much as I wanted him and he just let me suffer? “Why didn’t you ever say anything? Why didn’t you send for me… or ask me to come to you? Do you know how that felt?”
“Yes, I do!” he retorts. “I loved you! I didn’t want to leave, but I had my future and you had yours and they were in different places!” I stand up and reach for my wallet. I take a few twenties out and throw them on the table.
“I would have followed you! Anywhere!”
I turn around and march out of the restaurant unable to tame my rising emotions. He felt the same way that I did and to ease his pain, he just stopped writing.
“James!” He’s followed me out of the restaurant and into the parking lot.
“That’s a cruel thing!” I shout back at him. “To just cut somebody off that way! I loved you, Jose! I would have done anything to be with you!”
“Including give up your career, and I knew that! Every time I moved, you would have to move. You would never have been able to settle down. You would have followed me around the globe. I knew I would have to work for years, make a name for myself before I was sought after, recognizable, before I could name my own price. Tell me it took you that long!”
It didn’t. I was naming my own price for my work very shortly after he left. I have some of the most powerful and richest clients in the world across several industries.
“Would you have what you have now if you had been following me around the world while I honed my craft? How long would it have been before you were resenting me because I was pursuing my career and you weren’t? You don’t think I thought about this a thousand times?” He says before he turns away from me. He looks glorious—designer blue jeans and a black cashmere sweater. He’s been working out, too, and I feel my resolve weakening. He turns around and looks me in the eye.
“You never gave me a choice,” I say lowly. He chose for both of us and I didn’t have a say in the matter. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so hard had I known his motives.
“I know what you would have chosen,” he says with conviction. “You loved me… and I loved you. You would have chosen me, and at the time, it wasn’t the right choice.” He walks towards me again. “I’m here now, James. I’m not going anywhere. I can name my place. I chose here… with you.” I shake my head.
“It’s been too many years, Jose. So much has happened. So much has changed…”
“James, you can’t deny the attraction. It’s still there. We’re still drawn to each other.”
“No, Jose, I can’t deny the attraction. You look really good and part of me is curious if we would still be good together.”
“We can be, baby. I should have never left you. Can’t we pick up where we left off?” He’s closing in for a kiss and all I can see is Allie.
“No, we can’t,” I say flatly. “I spent a long time getting over you, but I did get over you. Even now with this insane attraction between us, I don’t want you.” I want him. I want Allie. “I’ve met someone, Jose.” He recoils from me.
“Is it so hard to believe?” I say affronted.
“No! What’s so hard to believe is that you went this entire evening, having drinks and eating dinner, chewing over old times, two single guys in the city without even telling me you were involved! Why did you do that?” he accuses.
“Because I’m a fool,” I say solidly. “I heard your voice and all those old feelings came back. I saw you sitting in the back of the restaurant and it was like no time passed at all. I wanted to feel the way I used to. I wanted to see the man that I loved, the one that a yearned for, if only one more time. But it’s wrong, it’s completely wrong!”
“Why?” he shoots. “Why is it wrong? Because you still love me? Because you still dream about me, still want me… so much that you forgot about your boyfriend to come and have dinner with me?” He closes the space between us again. “You know it can be good. I can make it good. We can make it good. He doesn’t even have to know, and if you still want him after one night with me, I’ll walk away and never look back.”
He leans in and kisses me gently. I don’t fight it. I remember how soft his lips were… still are… his tongue as he licked me from head to toe, paying special attention to my most sensitive places. I yearned for his kiss, his touch when he was gone, and now he’s here—back here in my life ready to love me just like he did before.
He breaks the kiss and looks into my eyes, his gaze smoldering, hungry.
“This was our one night, Jose,” I tell him, “and it was good. You’re just as magnificent as you always were, just as manly and beautiful and attractive and sexual. I won’t lie—my body wants you as badly as it always did, but my heart is somewhere else, and it’s speaking louder than my libido. So you need to turn around, Jose. You need to walk away and never look back.” He pulls away from me.
“You’re doing this because I broke your heart,” he says with no malice.
“Yes and no,” I reply. “I’m here because you broke my heart. I needed to see you again, to see if any of those old feelings were still there. I thought they were. Physically, they are. You’re still fucking gorgeous, and you might have had a chance if it weren’t for him. So no, I’m not doing this because you broke my heart. I’m doing this because I really don’t want you anymore. I want him.” He looks into my eyes, then looks down.
“What’s his name?” he asks. I sigh.
“He sounds like a white boy,” he says with nervous laughter.
“He is,” I confirm. Jose’s laughter stops. “He’s an attorney. He’s brilliant, funny, and considerate. He’s handsome and kind…”
“And you love him.” I shrug. A single tear falls from Jose’s eye. “I had to try,” he whispers. I feel bad for him, because I know how he feels.
“I swear I didn’t want this,” I tell him. “I didn’t want you to feel this way and it was selfish of me to lead you on.”
“It’s not your fault, James,” he says softly. “I started it, I know I did. I broke your heart, and I came back here expecting to be able to just…” He takes a deep breath. “You’re a beautiful man. I knew someone had you, I just thought I could take you back.” He wipes his tear away.
“Allen’s a lucky guy,” he says. “Go to him. Don’t make the same mistake I did.” He kisses me on the cheek and hurriedly walks away—the perfect movie departure.
“Goodbye, Jose,” I say before turning around and walking to my CLS.
I almost jump out of the car before it stops running. I’ve got to get to him. He has to know what he means to me. I step inside of the New Orleans, hoping that he hasn’t changed his mind and I have to comb the whole of Seattle looking for him—hoping that he doesn’t find himself in the arms of another man because I foolishly went chasing my past instead of following my future. The hostess is talking to me, but my eyes are combing the room.
Allie… where’s Allie?
He’s not here. I don’t see him. He’s not here. My heart sinks immediately until I turn to the bar area and see that unmistakable frame, wrapped around someone else. I freeze where I stand and my stomach does a million flip-flops. Who’s holding my Allie? Who is he dancing with?
“I see my party,” I say to the babbling hostess and walk past her into the bar. I might as well meet my fate head on. Please, I silently beseech him, please don’t give up on me so easily.
As I walk closer to them, I’m immeasurably relieved to see that it’s Ana that’s dancing with him. I take a moment to compose myself, because I almost felt like my insides were slowly and painfully being ripped from my body when I thought he was dancing with someone else… so close that I can’t even see his face. My relief is replaced with concern when I see that she is nearly holding him up, occasionally wiping tears from his eyes.
Allie… I’m so sorry…
I quickly make my way over to where they’re dancing and cautiously tap Ana on the shoulder. She looks up at me, her curious expression soon replaced with a smile. She lifts Allie’s head off her shoulder and I don’t ever think I’ve seen him look more defeated in my life.
I’ll never do this to you again, baby…
He raises his eyes to me—red and tear-filled—a look of surprise marring his face. All I want to do is hold him, stroke his soft hair and tell him how I feel.
Ana takes my hand and kisses me on the cheek before doing the same to Allie. After whispering something in his ear, she puts our hands together and walks away.
Come to me, Allie… please…
I gently pull him closer to me and embrace him. I’m such a fool. Why would I want to look back at Jose when I have this gorgeous, wonderful man in front of me? He collapses into my arms, his full weight resting on my body. He carried a lot on his shoulders tonight and it was all my fault.
“I’m sorry, Allie,” I say in his ear.
“Forgiven,” he whispers, and I hold him close until the song ends.
“I want to get out of here,” I tell him. “I need to be with you.” He nods and tells me he needs the restroom. I watch him walk away as he goes to tidy up. Then, I go find Ana at the bar. She tells me that he’s not drunk, but he probably shouldn’t be driving. She has agreed to take his car tonight, which is music to my ears because I can’t wait to get him home.
When Allie interrupts our conversation, Ana instructs him to hand over his keys. I momentarily think he’s going to protest, but instead he apologizes for their evening ending so soon. She’s a good person and a good friend to him, and declares that it wasn’t a total loss since she did get a phone number while we were on the dance floor. I take Allie’s hand as I can’t stand not touching him any longer.
As we’re leaving the restaurant, I swear I see Christian Grey sitting in one of the booths. I almost speak to him, but he’s looking at us in horror like it would be the worst thing ever for us to stop and talk to him. What the hell is he doing in a very public place if he doesn’t want to be recognized? I don’t have time to sort through the idiosyncrasies of the super-rich billionaire. I’m more concerned about my Allie.
“Did you valet, James?” Ana asks and I point at my car parked across the street.
“No, I’m right there.”
“James! You’re lucky you didn’t get a ticket—or worse, towed!” Ana exclaims. I look into the starry, glassy eyes of my man.
“It wouldn’t have mattered,” I say, gazing at him. “I had something more important to tend to.” He says his goodbyes to Ana once the valet brings his Jag to her. I take his hand and walk him to my car. After escorting him into the passenger seat and closing the door behind him, I get into the driver’s side. Before he has a chance to buckle his seatbelt, I lean over, take his face in my hands, and kiss him deeply.
“I love you, Allen,” I breathe when we break our kiss. I never thought I would say it to anyone else but Jose. Tonight, I’m certain of it. I love this man.
“Please don’t say things you don’t mean,” he says, his tone cautious and tortured. “I can’t take it… please…”
“I mean it, Allen,” I confirm, brushing my lips against his cheek. “I could never leave you. It would kill me. You don’t have to say it until you’re ready, but I love you, Allie. I love you.” He whimpers in my ear and I feel the tears on his cheeks again. I gently kiss them away as he says the words that make my heart sing.
“I love you, too, James… I love you so much…”
On our drive home, I tell him everything. I want him to know why I went to see Jose, what happened at the restaurant, and how I felt when I thought for one moment I would take him back. I want him to know how the thought of being without him filled me with unending fear and hopelessness. I want him to know how certain I am that even though I once loved Jose very deeply, Allen is the only man for me.
I take my time loving him, tonight—kissing him everywhere and pouring every bit of love into him that I possibly can. I’ll never hurt him again. I can’t stand to see him in pain. There’s no more searching. I’ve found my place. This is it for me. This is where my life and my love begins and ends… with Allie… my Allie…
Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn X AKA Bronze Goddess AKA BG Holmes