Blurred Lines Page 63

Her face is elated as she listens to me, and I can’t help it, I think my chest puffs a little, because she also looks proud.

She returns to the brochures, riffling through them more quickly now. “Have you thought about what your specialty would be, or are you going to start general, and—”

She breaks off and I tense, knowing what’s going to happen.

Parker looks up, and this time her face is confused. “These are all in Seattle.”

“Yeah,” I say, shifting in my seat and trying to play it casual. “They’ve got some great schools up there, and—”

“And they have some great schools here. In Portland,” she says stubbornly. Cutely.

“But Seattle is only a two-hour drive,” I counter. “Close enough for an easy weekend trip.”

Hence its appeal. Close enough to be, well, close to Parker. To be there for her. But far enough to give us both a little bit of distance.

Far enough to get over her. I hope.

“But what about your job?” she says. “You just said that you—”

“There’s a spot for me in the Seattle office. They said it’s mine if I want it.”

“You’ve already talked to them?” Parker looks stunned. “How long have you been thinking about this?”

I hear the question she’s not asking:

You didn’t tell me?

I understand her confusion. Because once upon a time we’d told each other everything, but now that I can’t tell her everything, I have to be, well…careful.

It’s self-preservation.

And maybe it’s completely selfish, but going to Seattle is one way that I can continue to be Parker’s best friend and to maintain all of the best parts of our friendship without completely destroying myself in the process.

“Well, I’m happy for you!” she says. “And I love Seattle! I’ll come up all the time, and you can take me to Pike Place Market, and we can—”

I see the tears welling up, and put a hand over hers. “I just need the change, Parks. You get that, don’t you?”

She sniffles. Squeezes my hand back. “Yes. And if this is what you want, I’m happy for you. Truly.”

I smile, because I know she means it. Because over everything we’ve been through, that’s one rather crucial detail we’ve each learned about the other person. That we’ll put their needs first. Always.

We both jerk our hands away when we realize that we’re all but holding hands in our office parking lot. So, okay, not everything’s exactly like it was. We don’t touch anymore. Or when we do, accidentally, it gets weird.

By tacit agreement, we don’t talk about my possible Seattle move for the entire ride home, focusing instead on the latest recall of my company’s running shorts that apparently have been linked to a rather unfortunate rash.

“Lance and I can pick you up tonight for karaoke,” she says. “Seven?”

“Nah. I’ll meet you there,” I say.

I’m doing pretty good with the Lance-Parker relationship. As well as can be expected. But I avoid hanging out with just the two of them as much as possible. Again, it’s a self-preservation thing.

The rest of my afternoon passes quickly. Gym. Shower. Take a call from my sister and listen to her ramble all about the uh-mazing new guy she’s dating. Do laundry, which I hate more than ever.

I’m still living alone. I keep meaning to put up an ad for a new roommate, but over time I start fantasizing that maybe Parker will come home, and I find an excuse not to do it.

It’s like I said. I really need to get to Seattle. Need to get on with my life and get my relationship with Parker back to a purely platonic, non-longing kind of place.

By the time I show up at the karaoke bar at seven, my mood is veering toward irritable, and I’m wishing I had said no to the invitation.

And then it gets worse.

The seating arrangement ends up with Lance between me and Parker.

Night. Mare.

Thankfully the rest of the group is hyper and fun, and I feel my spirits start to lift despite the fact that Lance won’t stop fiddling with Parker’s earring like a total weirdo.

I talk to Parker’s new friend Eryn, whom I’ve apparently met before but don’t remember. She’s actually kind of funny in a very forthright, Oh my God did she just say that kind of way.

Parker finally manages to detach her ear from Lance’s fingers and the girls all traipse onstage to sing some girl-power anthem I’m only vaguely familiar with, while all the guys at the table take the opportunity to drink heavily in case we’re next for getting dragged onstage.

“You know, I’ve never tagged along when Parker’s done the karaoke thing,” Lance shouts in my ear. “Always thought it was stupid. But she’s really good, huh?”

I nod, because hell, yes, Parker’s good, and this shrieking song doesn’t showcase it all. It’s mostly a bunch of them jumping around and shouting.

My brain’s already running through our usual duet options when it hits me that maybe a duet with Parker is off-limits now.

As Lance just told me, he’s never come out with us before on our karaoke nights, which means he hasn’t seen just how good Parker and I are onstage. Together.

And suddenly I want to show him how good we are.

I want to show Parker. I want to remind her.

But the duet opportunity never presents itself. Lori and her new boyfriend sing an off-key version of “Yellow Submarine,” and it’s terrible.

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