Hold On Tight
[Ten] What If
Haley entered the fancy New York restaurant, her mind still buzzing with the events that transpired that evening. From the shock of getting asked out by her boss, to the fact that her best friend was encouraging second chances for the man who broke her heart into thousands of pieces… she almost didn’t notice that the hostess had been talking to her, her tone boarding on annoyance.
“Miss? Do you have a reservation?”
Haley’s cheeks flushed. “Yes, I’m so sorry. For Ian Black? He should already be here.”
The hostess’ face flashed with surprise before she straightened her back and nodded her head slowly. “Yes, of course. Follow me.”
Haley chuckled at her reaction, knowing that it most likely stemmed to the fact that Ian probably dined there alone most of the time he had gone there. Her friend had never been one to seek out company, always being more than fine to be on his own. It was why he had no problem moving to New York right after graduation, not feeling the same attachment to the people – and to the city – she had come to call home over the two years they had been in school. Though he had finished their friend group of 9, he was never as involved, or invested, in sharing every moment with them. Instead of coming out to bars for birthdays, or engagements, or just nights of getting together, he would stay home, fully okay with having a night in to study a little harder or to work on the endless projects he seemed to be working on at any given moment.
She was led upstairs and onto a private balcony that overlooked the lights of the city, and her heart literally skipped a beat when the back of his head came into his view, his back to her as he took in the sights. She let her eyes wander over his body – his wide shoulders, his taut backside. Ian had always been attractive, since the day she met him, but it seemed that has the years had flown passed, he just became even more devilishly handsome. And so terribly out of reach.
He must have heard her heels click on the cement floor because as soon as she stepped off the carpet from the third-floor dining area, he had a wide, excited smile pointed in her direction. He barely let her get close to the table before he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a hard kiss.
Haley melted into it, loving these moments when she could have him for a couple of days without the world crashing in on her – when it was just the two of them, without fear or doubt or guilt about what they do when she was in New York.
She had met him in Boston. He sat next to her in a handful of English classes, and though they weren’t really friends – she had a hockey boyfriend that preoccupied her while he was always lost in school and his notebooks – he had become a piece of her when they reconnected in Dallas. She hadn’t known he had gone to UNT, and he was too shy to ever go up to her, so it wasn’t until Literary Theory their second semester in the graduate program that they got to know one another again. When he made the move to the big city to further his writing career, a career that had proved be a successful one for not only him but her as well – as his go-to editor and liaison for the publishing company
His grip on her waist tightened as their kiss heated up. She pulled away with flushed cheeks, letting her arms wrap loosely around his neck as she looked into his strikingly green eyes. Oh, how she wished she could fall in love with him.
She can’t remember how their friendship turned into what they had now. One second, he was her familiar face in a new city, a piece of Boston that she could cling too when it all got a little too much. The next, she was making trips to New York in between relationships, spending hours in his bed as she let herself imagine a what if she could never have.
Ian smirked. “So, am I finally getting you full time?”
Haley’s heart gripped. It wasn’t his fault, after all, that he couldn’t ever be hers.
Briefly, a flash of chocolate brown eyes looked back at her, and for the first time in a long time, whatever dance her and Ian had been engaged in made her feel a little guilty. She couldn’t answer him as they made their way to their seats, Ian always choosing the one right next to her, as close as he could possibly get without hindering either one of them eating. It wasn’t until he looked at her again, this time the light slowly dimming from his eyes, that she forced herself to say something, anything, to stop what was going to happen next. She always hated this part of their dalliance – the momentary goodbye before the next fall.
“I knew you were never going to take the job, Hal.” He interrupted her quickly. “I knew the minute Melissa told me she had recommended you for the position.”
Her heart broke a little as he shook his head sadly. “I know what Dallas means to you, we had this conversation when I decided to leave and wanted you to come with me. I don’t think you could ever leave, and though I wish and hope that someday I could change your mind, I know that there is something – someone – there that I could never really compete with.”
Haley looked down at the dark grey table cloth, letting her finger draw invisible circles as she tried to calm her racing heartbeat. She hated this. Hated it. “Who told you.”
“Brayden called a couple of days ago when you were in your crazed editing mode.” Ian shrugged as he moved his gaze from her face to the darkening sky above them. “This was always going to happen, whether he was traded there or not. I didn’t think it was going to take five years, but I know you, Hal. He’s the love of your life.”
Her head snapped up and she knew her eyes were blazing with a wave of anger he had never seen from her before. “He is not the love of my life. He doesn’t deserve to be the love of my life. Yes, he found me, and yes, I want to hear him out about why he did the shit he did. I want to know who he is now because I could see that something had changed in him the last time we spoke, but don’t call him the love of my life. He treated me like dirt – like I was this horrible secret from his family and this unwanted participation trophy in front of his friends. We were a walking cliché. All he cared about was hockey and I was too fucking blind and in love to see that I deserved better than being an afterthought.” Haley’s voice wavered from the emotion she could feel coursing through her veins. “Yes, I loved him. He was the first man I think I’ve ever really loved, and I was in love with the future I had painted of us together, but I didn’t know better. I do, now.”
Ian smiled sadly at her, looking at her with eyes that could see something she didn’t. “Haley, he was the love of your life. Deny it all you want, but that anger you still feel? That pain and that need to know what happened? He’s always going to be your what if.”
She was at a loss for words. They hadn’t really talked about what happened with Tyler. Though he knew – knew everything that the others didn’t – he never pushed her in one direction or another, letting her make her own decision on the matter. He never judged her when she lashed out and was always there when the crushing weight of it all became a little too much. They definitely didn’t have conversations that lead to talking about them like this one seemed to be doing.
“Ian, you’re my what if.”
That stopped him, and she knew that they were going to have an end all talk – one that was surely going to leave them both in tears.
Hey all! I am so sorry for being so sucky. I have been going through some personal stuff that has made writing pretty much impossible, but it's all coming back slowly. It's my "new years resolution" to finish my two stories on here, and that's what I'm determined to do, so you'll be seeing more of me (: (other than just as a reader).
Let me know what you think about Ian! This character has a pretty special place in my heart, so be kind ahaha.