Tom didn’t see a reason to wait any longer. He resolved that he would follow V’s advice and show Kate that he was ready and willing to let her break his heart. Even if it didn’t work out, Tom wanted her to know that she was worth that much to him. And V had said that her current relationship wasn’t serious. He’d also show her that he would wait and hope as she had. But Kate did agree to be his date on Valentine’s Day. Of course, that, by rule, would just be as outgoing VP and Lady, strictly platonic. Nevertheless, Tom set it as a goal. He didn’t know the first thing about romance, but if ever there were a night when long overdue kisses happened, that was it. Regardless of the fraternity bylaws.
Kate wasn’t sure what to expect. Tom had an uncanny ability to remember every detail when he was as drunk as he seemed to be last night. Neither would forget that attempted kiss. Up-to-the-minute intelligence from V indicated that Tom was devastated by the news of her relationship with Cooper. Was Tawmmy Luvah really, finally, seeing the light? Hope hadn’t gotten her anywhere so far with him. And she was probably better off with Cooper. He’d chased her for two and a half years and never given up. And now she was enjoying the attention and adoration of a boy who had worked hard for her hand. But thinking of Tom almost crying over her? That awoke something.
He dialed with a case of butterflies. Kate made him wait until the fourth ring.
“Kate! It’s Tom. How are you?”
It was one of the few times they had ever spoken on the phone.
“I’m great, Tom! Having a pedi as we speak. How ya feeling this morning?”
“Oh, fine. Can you talk?”
“I don’t use my feet for that, so we should be OK.”
“Hey, thanks for last night. I mean…for being there. I’ve been thinking about what we talked about…”
She smiled. “We talked about a lot of things. My superior skills at Battleship being one of them. Is that what you mean?”
That she was messing with him was a good sign. Of course she was. Kate was easy, but uncomfortable herself.
“No, that’s not why I’m calling. I’m not going to…Kate, are you free this afternoon?”
All those tears had toughened her. She lied. “Umm, no…Why, what’s up?”
“…I remember what I said last night. And I know that you’ve got someone, and I’m happy for you. But, I…I’m just an asshole, and I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry for? It’s fine, Tom. Not the first time a drunk…”
“…That’s not what I mean. I don’t regret trying to kiss you.”
There was a moment of silence.
“…I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. But I’m really sorry that I hurt you all those times. And if I blew it, I blew it. But you did say you’d be my date on Valentine’s Day?”
“OK. But listen. You can jerk me around. You can embarrass me. And you can break my heart. But I’m still going to try.”
“…I don’t know what to say to that. I’m sorry, Tom.”
“Don’t worry about it. I want you to know, though: I ran away from you because you scared me. I don’t like people being in close, but you…I wanted you in closer than anyone. But I just couldn’t. And that’s lame, I know. V punched me when I tried to explain it. But, that was the reason. It was because you are the only woman I ever thought I could love. Freaked me out.”
Her mouth was open. She pulled the phone away to confirm that the call was indeed from Tom.
“Yeah, I’m here…Thank you for saying that.”
“I won’t keep dropping bombs on you. I…just wanted you to know that I’ve always thought that you were amazing…Perfect…I’ll take any opportunity you give me.”
She winced because it hurt to let him just blow in the breeze like this. But Kate also knew that V was right: No matter how this ended, she had to be hard on him or risk opening herself up for more heartache. Kate couldn’t handle more of that. But still…
Tom laughed. Kate would usually have been busting his balls. He’d rendered her speechless. That was something.
“Maybe we can go grab ice cream some time? I’ll ask you later,” he said.
“We’ll see, Tom. Thanks for calling. You’re such a dick…”
Again, Tom laughed. “Totally. Been hearing that a lot lately…Bye, Kate.”