Sunday

Ted+Kelly, Part 8: Putting It ALL Out There

When you're hot, you're hot and I have to keep moving.  Just published part 7 and though it's late for a mama with 3 early risers, I have to get back to this.  This is one of my favorite parts.  I hope you enjoy it but even if you don't, I will!

In case you're new to this fun:
Part 1 (In which you wonder how this story could end the way it did.)
Part 2 (In which I'm suddenly available.)
Part 3 (In which the descriptions of bowel issues leave you dumbfounded.)
Part 4 (In which you're suddenly as in love with Ted as I was.)
Part 5 (In which I send signals so mixed, they should be canned and marketed as nuts.)
Part 6 (In which Ted begins to become a fixture in the life of Kelly)
Part 7 (In which Ted feigns disinterest to reel in his lady.  Yeah, that happened.)

*****

Standing with a plate of sloppy joes and tater tots in my hand, I looked around for a seat.  In walked Ted, wearing a brown polo shirt with yellow and white stripes.  He was freshly shaven and looked like he'd had a hair cut since I saw him two days ago.

He motioned that he was going to pay and get food and I pointed with my chin and a smile to two chairs open in a circle of mutual friends.  I sat down and put my purple backpack on the seat next to mine, the arms of the low lounging chairs touching.

"Hey ladies," I said to the circle of friends already seated.  The room was spattered with friends from our complex and the institute as well as a few unfamiliar faces. LFAB had a way of bringing people in.

"Hey Kelly Belly," Karin said.  She rarely called me that unflattering nickname and never meant it cruelly.  No one else utilized it.

"How are you, Kare Bear?" I put my plate on my lap and my cup on the floor.

Karin was eating small bites off her plate while looking around. "Goood. Where's Ted?  I don't often see you somewhere without him far behind."  Truth.

"Um, he just walked in.  He's getting food."  I turned and spotted him in line.

Karin and I talked about some of her workplace drama at Black Bart's Steakhouse where she both served up the grub and sang.  There was always a juicy little bit of drama to share.

Without asking, Ted removed my bag and sat next to me.  I was already halfway done with my food.  I was starving and though the sloppy joes surprisingly hit the spot, my tots were long gone.

Karin and Ted exchanged their greetings and my hand slyly slid to Ted's plate, perched precariously on the arm of his chair.  Must. Have. More Tots.

"Hey.  Have some tots, why don't you?" Ted encouraged me sarcastically.  But I still stole his tots. I smiled, lips pursed, mouth full of crunchy-potatoey-goodness, cheeks full and round with a grin.

Some friends in our circle finished and went out the back door to visit with friends eating outside while Karin and I continued to chat with those still seated.  Done with my plate, I was leaning back in my chair, which angled towards Ted's.

Karin nodded in understanding as I vented some of my anxieties about the upcoming event I was in charge of. "I know I have most of it ironed out and everyone on the staff is jumping in to help but I don't know that I will breathe easy until the banquet is over."

"I don't blame you," Karin said.  "It's kind of a big deal.  But at least you have your dress and it's super hot."  That was reassurance I could always use.  I was self conscious about my dress for the end of the year award banquet for student government.

Ted chimed in again, as he did occasionally. "Heck yeah it is.  But it's Kelly so of course it's hot."

"Oh gosh.  Well, thanks for the vote of confidence," I turned and smiled at Ted.

I reached down to the floor for my back pack and turned my phone off silent.  I was waiting for a few calls and didn't want to miss them.  I sat back, upright in my chair, as Andrea, Karin's sister started talking about a game night her apartment was having that weekend.  I rested my arm on the armrest of my chair when I suddenly had goosebumps shoot up my left arm and across my neck.  I was relatively sure the hair on my left leg was now 1/4 inch longer than the hair on my right leg.

I looked towards my hand out of the corner of my eye and saw just Ted's pinkie finger rubbing, intentionally, against mine, caressing my own pinkie finger.  He continue to listen to Andrea talking, nodding, agreeing, and suddenly, in one smooth sneak attack, his fingers wrapped around mine.  His hand was now resting, not on his own arm rest, but around my hand.

His body language was relaxed, as if this was normal and nothing had changed, and he continue listening to Andrea and Karin, but he was grinning like a fool!

What was he doing?!  Who just DID that, took hold of someone's HAND in broad daylight at LFAB at the INSTITUTE where almost every person they knew was eating lunch??  And the hand of someone who was going on a mission?  The hand of someone they weren't dating?  And why, oh WHY, did I have this inexplicable physiological reaction?  Just the brush of Ted's smallest digit against my own hand sent a wave of attraction over me I had neither expected or had time to interpret.

But while all these absurd thoughts flew through my head, Ted just sat there, holding tight, smiling like he was certain he had the winning lottery numbers.

Karin turned towards me to comment on game night and her eyes nearly fell out of her head.  She was obviously expecting to see Ted holding my hand as much as I was expecting Ted to hold my hand.  But she kept her cool.

"Can you make it, Kelly," she asked with a surprising calm.

"I doubt it but it sounds like a ton of fun so if it ends up I can, I'll totally be there.  It's been forever since we've had a good game night." I kept it cool. "Right, Ted?"

"Yeah, a really long time," he said, with a sideways glance.

Ted checked his watch, on his other wrist. "Ugh, I gotta get out of here.  I have to let Barry's dogs out.  I'm watching them for him while he's out of town."  This was a friend of Ted's.  Such a peculiar guy but Ted's friend, which wasn't at all surprising to me.  "Can I give you a ride back to the Ghettos or to your office?"  I had my car so I didn't need Ted's help getting back to the Mormon Ghettos - the nickname of our apartment complex - or anywhere else.

"Nope," I said, "I drove, but I need to get going to, pretty soon."

"OK," Ted said as he stood.  He squeezed my shoulder once, in front of his captive audience.  "Give me a call later when you're done for the day."

"Mmmhm.  I will," I told this hand-grabbing man.  And smiled.  And watched him walk out.

Not a moment passed after he walked through the double doors when Karin's head snapped back towards mine. "WHAT was THAT? Is that, like, a new thing or are you holding out on me?"

I smiled and shook my head. "I couldn't tell you what that was.  But it's definitely new.  And I really do need to go, but we will for sure talk later."

I stood and Karin gasped, "Seriously? OK. Tonight.  Like, right when I get home from work."

The drive home from the institute was short but it was long enough to make up my mind.  I could NOT date Ted.  I was going on a MISSION for goodness sake!  Not to mention my plate was fuller than Thanksgiving day with school, work, and church stuff.  Maybe I had lead him on, but this could not happen.  I just recently got out of a relationship, a relationship that had almost ended my friendship with Ted to begin with.  I would just have to explain this to Ted.  The sooner the better.

Because, really...SO WHAT if Ted made me laugh?  So what if he was always doing super kind things for me like taking me out of ice cream after a long day or changing the spark plugs in my hopeless vehicle?  Did it really matter that he was unbelievably handy and skilled at every form of maintenance in existence?  No.  And yes, he was a thoughtful friend who would regularly text me to see how work meetings and tests had gone.  He had essentially memorized my schedule and found ways to pop in to say hi even when he worked crazy hours and had a full class load. And he gave good hugs, the melt-into-them kind that made things feel better.  It just did not matter.  I told Ted at the dance - I told him! - that I was unavailable.  Kind of, I kind of told him that.  I mean, I meant to.  That was essentially what I had tried to say.  Sort of.  Ish.

So this just had to be stopped.

I needed to head into my office before my next class but I could not do that before ending this sequence of events.  I sat on the steps to my apartment, grateful for the calm of a gentle Flagstaff breeze, and I dialed Ted's number.  It rang and I got butterflies in my stomach.

"Hey babe.  What's going on?" Dang him!  Dang him for sounding so casual and easy-breezy-hand-holding-absurd.

Those butterflies in my stomach where big.  Like, massive monarchs or something. "Heeeeey. I was hoping to catch you.  Glad you answered.  Are you too busy with the dogs to chat for a minute?"

"Nope!  I've got all the time in the world.  Just heading out with the dogs now.  What's up?"

I took a deep breath and exhaled forcefully. "Ted.  You just held my hand.  At the institute of all places.  In front of a ton of people."

Ted laughed, "Yeah, and you liked it!"

His overconfidence was funny and sometimes endearing but it wasn't making things easy.  Neither was the truthfulness of his statement.  I bolstered my courage with all my reasons and these terribly truthful true reasons this could not work out.

"Well now, that's neither here nor there.  It was just a really bold thing to do for two people who aren't dating."  That was a good start at putting my foot down.

Ted would not relent. "But we should be.  Dating.  I'm not one to beat around the bush.  I like you Kelly.  You know that I like you.  I want to date you. I've wanted to date you, I think, almost since I met you. I want you to be my girlfriend.  And I think you want me to be your boyfriend."

OK, that was cute. But Ted did not understand so it was my job to explain things to him.

"But Ted, you really don't want to date me.  You just think you do because you don't understand all the circumstances and details.  It just will not work out."

Ted laughed a bit. "Oh yeah?  I doubt it.  But go ahead and explain it to me."

This man should be careful what he asked for.  Fine.  I'd explain it to him.

"Fine but you can't talk until I'm done."  That seemed fair. "Can you agree to that," I asked, hoping for a simple response.

"Yes," Ted agreed.  "I can do that.  Go ahead."

I stood, prepared to pace, as I was wont to do whilst listing things.

I dove right in. "I am going on a mission.  You know that, I know that.  The Lord told me to prepare for the temple to go on a mission and I've been doing that.  I am going to mission prep and I have my mission papers and I'm working on them.  I have dental and doctor appointments scheduled."

I paced feverishly along the sidewalk along the parking lot.  "That aside, I'm insanely busy.  Like, one million credit hours of classes and three - THREE - jobs.  I have a lot of stuff to worry about for the end of the year and I'm trying to wrap it all up successfully so I can put everything on hold to serve a mission.  So... yeah, I have a ton of classes and a tons of jobs and church and institute and I seriously just don't have time for a relationship."

I paused.  I guess that was all I had to say.  I knew I was too busy to date anyone and now Ted knew it too and we could just put this behind us.

"Yeah but," Ted sad after a moment, realizing I was done, "none of that business or mission prep has kept us from spending time together so far.  I'm really busy too but we have found time to spend together so far.  I don't think it's the issue you're making it out to be.  I'd really like to date you, Kelly."

He just didn't get it.

"OK, but then there's other stuff.  I promise Ted, you don't want to date me," I said, hesitantly.

"Yeah? Like what," he asked.

I didn't want to do this but he was just not getting it. I could tell I needed to lay out all my flaws or he would never understand the severity of the situation.

"Like what?  Like a lot of things!  I would not be a good girlfriend for you. I am not good at commuting.  I end relationships quickly because I just am flighty.  I am bossy and I know I'm bossy.  I don't like that about me and I try not to be but you're going to see how true it is.  I totally run on my own time table and I expect everyone else to follow suite. Also, I am obsessive about list making, like sometimes to a fault.  I've made lists of lists I have to make. And, truly, I'm not very nice.  I interrupt people a lot when they talk, more than I should, and though I try to empathize, I often think of all these kind things I want to say to people too late, when I think about the conversation later.  I know I don't come off as nice because of  that.  Because no one wants to hear kind things about a conversation they had 2 hours ago, totally out of context.  So, I think I come off as self centered or unkind or a bad listener.  I really don't think I'd be a good girlfriend to you and you deserve someone who will be awesome.  So I really don't think this is a good idea."

It was a jumbled mess and it was disgustingly honest but I did not want to hurt Ted.

I heard a dog bark and I heard a deep breath on Ted' end of the line. "Are you finished," he asked.

"I am.  I, I think I am," I replied.

"Good," Ted said. "My turn.  I think, no, I know, that you are way too hard on yourself.  I'm probably way more flawed that any of that.  I'm just a regular guy from Arkansas who says all the wrong things. And even if all those things about you are true, I still want to date you.  I really want to give it a try. If we crash and burn and the whole thing is just crappy, so be it. I still really want to date you."

I was confused and a little amazed, but the corners of my mouth turned upwards and I walked back towards my apartment after a good pace.

"What do you say, Kelly?" Ted asked, hopefully.

"I don't know what to say," I said, incredulously.  "I was not expecting to have this conversation today.  But, yeah, OK.  Let's give it a go.  I've given you fair warning of how crazy I am.  So as long as you know that, I guess it's a proceed at your own risk situation."

I could hear his smile through the phone.  "OK then.  You're crazy, but OK. So this means you're not going to chew me out if I try to hold your hand at Crystal Creek when we go out for lunch tomorrow or even at the institute?"

Ha! That was good.  Reel a girl in with her favorite sandwich place.  This was a good response that made me feel like I was talking with my friend again.  It felt just like before, with humor and warmth and honesty.  All of that.  But better.  

No comments: