I tossed and turned until the sun came up and finally admitting that sleep had eluded me, I got up and dressed for a jog. It was a cool morning and I took off down the path behind the house that led towards the bay. The garden my mother had planted and tended so lovingly was in bloom and the air was perfumed with fresh aromas. I hit the stone path and my feet began to pound out a rhythm. With each stride my thoughts became clearer and I realized that this was exactly what I needed. I also realized that I needed to stop letting my father set up camp in my head. I was twenty-six years old. I couldn’t remain under his thumb forever. I thought about Erin. I wanted her in my life, not just today or tomorrow… I realized that I wanted her in my life forever. She was the path to my future but she was also a strong, confident, independent woman and if I didn’t take control of my own life out of my father’s hands, I was going to lose her. I looked around at the acres of land and the houses and the cars and the boats as I ran and I realized that I would rather lose all of this and my position at Hunter Corp. than her. Now all I had to do was convince her of that.
By the time I got back up to the house I was determined to do whatever I had to in order to convince Erin she was more important to me than anything else. I showered and dressed and headed to her apartment unannounced. That in and of itself might annoy her, but I was afraid if I called ahead, she would tell me not to come.
It was just after nine when I knocked on her door. I knocked a few times before the door was finally pulled open by a man wearing nothing but a long pair of basketball shorts. His face was unshaven and his hair uncombed and the first thought I had when I saw him was that I was already too late, she was already moving on.
“Can I help you?”
He was squinting at me, like it hurt to open his eyes. My best guess was he had a hangover. I hope she didn’t leave the party and go to a bar and end up with this loser because of me. “I’m looking for Erin.”
He ran his hand through his hair and squinted at me again. Then he scratched his chin and said, “Seth, I presume?”
The fact that he knew my name was encouraging. I didn’t think she’d be discussing me with a man she’d only just met.
“Yes. Is Erin here?”
“No. But she’ll be right back. Come on in. I’m Grant.”
“Oh! The roommate.”
He smiled, “Yeah, the roommate. Have a seat,” he said, after I followed him into a neat little living room. I sat down on the sofa and he said, “You want some coffee?”
“Um… I really need to talk to Erin…”
“Yes you do,” he said. I suddenly realized by the way he was looking at me that she must have told him what happened at the party.
“Sure, I’ll take some coffee,” I said. “Black, please.”
He disappeared into the kitchen. While he was gone I looked around the little room. The photos on the walls were all of Erin and Grant. They were in various places and they were dressed in everything from formal attire to beachwear. This Grant was a good-looking guy. I suddenly wondered why they weren’t more than just roommates.
“Here you go.” He came back into the room and handed me a steaming mug.
“Thank you,” I said. He sat his cup down on the table.
“Sure, I’ll be right back.” He was only gone about a minute. He came back with a t-shirt on and it looked like he might have splashed some water on his face.
“So where is Erin?” I asked him.
“She went for a run in the park. She’s usually gone an hour or two. I think she left around eight.”
“Oh, I could come back,” I said.
“Listen.” Grant sat his coffee down again. “You might sit there when I tell you this and think “who the hell is this guy and why does he think this is his business?” I don’t doubt that this is going to piss you off, but just so we’re clear; I don’t care. First, I’m going to tell you who I am. I’m her best friend. I love her more than anyone else in my life. I want only the best for her, and I will do anything to help her accomplish her goals. With that being said, Erin cares a great deal for you. She spent an entire week getting ready for that party last night. I don’t know what your father’s problem is and I don’t care but dude, it is not cool for you to stand there and let her be insulted by anyone. I don’t care if it’s the Queen of freaking England. She deserves so much more respect than that.”
He was right. It did piss me off. I was bothered by two things: One was that Erin discussed me with this guy and two that he was a hundred percent right. She deserved better. It’s what I had come here to talk to her about, but hearing this guy say it re-iterated what a cowardly ass I had been. “I know she does,” I said at last. “That’s why I’m here. I hope that she’ll forgive me.”