A moment of silence passed between Gabriel and Chachi before Gabriel said, “That shouldn’t have happened,” but made no move to distance himself from her.
Chachi nodded, “I know, but it did.”
Gabriel searched her face and smiled, “And it was great.”
“So what now?”
Gabriel shook his head, “I’m not exactly sure.”
“Well,” Chachi started, “We can, A. Pretend this never happened because 1. It could just be the alcohol. And 2. I don’t want one kiss to mess up what you and Leah have. Or B. We can continue to explore these feelings and see where it may or may not go.”
Stepping away from Chachi, Gabriel crossed his arms and thought for a moment. “I can already tell you option A is not gonna work for me, but I also don’t want to lead Leah on. I do love her, but–”
Cutting him off, Chachi said, “You don’t have to figure things out right now. How about we call it a night and talk about this later, okay?”
He nodded before giving her a hug and a kiss on the forehead. “Night Chachi.”
Chachi listened as he walked back into the living room and told Leah he was ready to go. She waited until she heard the door shut before going into her room and flopping down on her bed. She pressed the heels of her palms into her eyes and said to herself, sighing heavily, “I hate being the adult sometimes.”
Chachi was laying on her bed with her eyes closed when she heard her bedroom door open.
“I don’t have enough energy to even open my eyes, so whoever you are, please go away.”
Chachi felt someone sit on her bed, and then Melanie spoke, “What’s the matter, Chach?”
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“It wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with what transpired between you and Gabriel, would it?”
Chachi sat up quickly. “You saw that?”
Melanie nodded. “Ohhhh yeah! Talk about McSteamy! Which is why I’m confused why he left with Leah? … Unless he’s coming back?”
Chachi flopped back down. “Idk. He said he didn’t want to pretend like it didn’t happen, but he also implied that he didn’t want to end things with Leah just in case things between us don’t work out. And I’m at the point where I don’t really care what he does as long as he comes back to me, someway, somehow.”
Surprised, Melanie asked, “You really like him?”
“Why didn’t you tell anybody?”
“Tell you what? That I’m a walking cliché? That I’m in love with my best friend who, or course, has a girlfriend? There’s nothing you could have done or can do about it, so can we just drop it, please? I’ll let you know if anything happens, but until then, I would really like to be alone.”
“Well, you kinda are hosting a party …”
Chachi groaned. “I’ll be out in a few minutes. And please, not a word of this to anyone?”
Melanie nodded, “Of course. But just between you and me–and I’m not just saying this because you’re one of my besties–he’s gonna come back, Chach. It may be out of pure curiosity, but you have this magnetism that’s hard to resist which is undeniably what attracted him in the first place. From there, the rest is up to you. Stop being so concerned about other people’s feelings. Be selfish for once in your life and tell him you want him!”
Melanie left the room and Chachi allowed herself a few more minutes of wallowing in self-pity before rejoining her friends in the living room.
Eh eh eh eh … If you’re ready come and get it! Nah na nah na nah na nah na nah na nah na. If you’re ready come and–
Chachi fumbled for her phone, pressing answer without looking at the caller ID.
“Hello?” she croaked.
Chachi squinted her eyes at her alarm clock: 5:27. She shut her eyes and said, “Go away.”
“But I’m outside. At least let me in. It’s kinda chilly.”
Chachi groaned and sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She was exhausted, having only fallen asleep about an hour and a half ago, but Gabe had come back and was waiting for her, even if it was at this God forsaken hour.
“Give me five minutes,” she said and hung up the phone.
After a good stretch, she began to navigate her room in the dark, grabbing the first pair of socks and pants she could find. She slipped on her Chucks, threw on a jacket, fixed her ponytail, grabbed her keys, and was out the door.
Gabe was sitting on the front steps waiting for her.
He smiled, “Good morning, Chachi.”
She glared daggers at him and started walking.
Catching up with her, he said, “I’m sorry. I know you’re not a morning person. I tried to wait, but I couldn’t. I needed to see you.”
Those words coming from his mouth should have made her weak in the knees, but she was still too tired and too angry that she was awake at this hour to fully care. She gave him a look that said Go on.
“I mean, I guess … Leah was the first person I met when I got here. We were both new, so we kinda just stuck together; and you see the end result. But then I meet you, and it’s like: you’re funny and intelligent, and I can talk to you about all these things that most other girls shy away from. We have the same vision for the world, and you don’t agree with me just to keep me complacent. Obviously, you’re absolutely beautiful–inside and out–and I find myself thinking ‘What if I met her first?’ and then, ‘Dude, you have a girlfriend who you care about immensely.’
“So here I am just confused because I know that I love Leah, but I also know that I’m insanely attracted to you. At first I think that’s it: it’s just attraction, but then we kissed and it felt like more. It felt right, like … the first two pieces of puzzle that you found fit together. However, like you said, it could have been the alcohol talking, but if it wasn’t, I don’t wanna pass up this chance.”
Chachi stopped walking, and Gabriel stopped with her. She turned to look at him, and just stared for a moment, thinking.
Her head was telling her to let it and him go, to just stay happy being friends. That way she wouldn’t get her heart broken if she gave him a choice and he didn’t choose her, but she remembered what Melanie had said: Be selfish.
Melanie was right: she was always putting other people’s feelings before hers. She deserved at least a shot at getting what she wanted. She wanted Gabriel, and if she couldn’t be honest with him, who else could she trust?
Chachi took a leap of faith, stepped towards Gabriel, took his face in her hands and kissed him gently. When she pulled away, she looked him in the eyes and said, “This may be hard for you, but it’s easy for me: I want you. I want us. I want this. Even though I hate the morning, I will take walks every day at 5:30 in the morning as long as they’re with you. I want to hold your hand on those walks. I want you to put your arm around my shoulder and kiss me softly on my temple, and I know I’ll smile because I’ll be happy that I’m with you.
“I know I kinda gave you the idea that I would be the other woman until we figured things out, but I won’t. I don’t and shouldn’t have to hide my feelings for you. I want to be able to kiss you without fear or regret that someone might see us or someone else’s feelings might be getting hurt. I love you, Gabriel Ryan Núñez. I want you to be happy, but I won’t be your second best.
“You know where I stand. The rest is up to you. I’m gonna go back to my apartment and go back to sleep. You know how to reach me if you need me.”
Chachi turned and walked the way they had just come, leaving Gabriel and his decision with him. All the way to her apartment, she hoped that she hadn’t but her heart out on the line for nothing.