August 29
4:30 p.m.

“Nat, you’re wearing that?” Gwen wants to know.

“What’s wrong with black jeans and a black T-shirt?” It’s my favorite outfit and it’s someone I don’t know a thing about.

“Well…he might take you somewhere nice. You did say that he had…”

“Gwen, I’m doing him a favor. I’m not changing.”

“What if he’s going to murder you?” Gwen wants to know.

“Then I really don’t want to mess up a nice outfit.”

Gwen’s laughing. “I mean…give me his number. I want to make sure I know where you are.”

“How about putting a chip in me, and then you can keep track of me.” My mom and Gwen are always so worried about me.

“You know…that’s not a bad idea…”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I was joking!” The look in Gwen’s eye scared me. I could see her hauling me off to get a chip in…where do they put the chips, anyway?

“Nat, it’s just that you’re so naive. Any guy could tell you something…or do something…and you wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings…”

“Gwen, I’m really able to take care of myself.”

“Nat, you’re too nice…remember what happened in the office with Mr. Stetson Hat?”

“That was just once. I’m better about that type of stuff now.”

“You take care.”

“I promise.” I’m worried as I know Gwen’s right. I don’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings…especially when someone says they’re a Christian and what if I misread what their intentions are? Not that Jimmy’s a Christian…if he’s a friend of Frankie’s, he wouldn’t be one. A real one, at least. What is a real Christian? Those who call themselves one are so self-righteous. It’s better not to call yourself anything. Why not just live your life out and let someone else tell you what they think you are?

I’m looking at myself in the mirror. Nope. No one would call me a Christian or a PK. Appearances can be so deceptive, but, as my parents always say, God looks on the heart. So glad for that. And them.

___________

5:00 p.m.

“Hi Natalie!”

“Hi…”

“Jimmy. You don’t remember me, do you?’

About two inches taller than me, dazzling smile, hazel eyes, and…nope, didn’t remember him at all. But, then again, that day was so crazy who would have remembered anything?

“Sort of…in a vague way.”

“You’re just like Frankie said. Beautiful and honest.”

Frankie said that? My heart skipped a beat.

“Uhm…thanks.”

“Frankie said to check in on you. He told me you worked at the church and that I could reach you there.”

Jimmy’s got a really nice car that I’m climbing into. A really nice car. A really, really, really nice car. A Lamborghini. Maybe I should have worn something different.

“Thanks for joining me. I thought it would be fun to connect with my best friend’s girl.”

I didn’t know that he was Frankie’s best friend. And how do I tell him that I’m not Frankie’s girl. At least, I didn’t think I was. Frankie has been AWOL. I have been too, but mostly him though, because if he had kept contact, I would definitely do so too. I know this about myself.

“Anywhere particular you’d like to go?”

“Nope. You invited me…surprise me!” This is going to be a long evening.

Jimmy thinks this is funny. “You’re not like any other woman I’ve met.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“It was meant as one.” I’m enjoying the ride and don’t want to talk any more.

A longer ride than I expected. It’s towards the beach and…I don’t believe it! Jimmy’s pulling into…the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay!

“Jimmy…this…I’m not dressed…” Gwen’s going to say, “I told you so!”

“You look perfect.”

____________

7:45 p.m.

If I was like one of Jimmy’s girlfriend’s whom I had met, I would say, OMG. OMG. Jimmy’s been the perfect host and the view is spectacular…and the food…

“Here’s your desert, ma’am,” the waiter’s putting this amazing desert in front of me. Did I mention chocolate? With chocolate drizzles all over the plate. Lava Chocolate Cake and petals of roses…

“Jimmy, chocolate? How did you know?”

“I can tell you’d love this.”

“This is amazing. Thanks so much…” I’m diving into my cake.

“I can see why Frankie loves you. You’re so natural.” He reaches over and wipes the dripping chocolate sauce on my chin.

“Oh thanks. I’m a complete mess, aren’t I?”

He’s relaxed and smiling.

“Frankie thinks you like to play around…kind of a player.”

You know how you’re watching an old black and white film reel…and suddenly, it all comes to a grinding halt as the film breaks and there’s nothing but a blank screen with flickering spots on it? That’s how it felt. Frankie thinks I’m a player? I couldn’t think of anything else. My mind’s spinning. So much is making sense now. No wonder he hasn’t called. He was just playing around. And now it’s over. My parents and Gwen were so right about him. I feel…numb.

“This chocolate is divine.” I’m thanking God that I didn’t choke on the piece of chocolate cake and hoping my face isn’t registering my inner turmoil. “Frankie said that…hmmm.”

“Well, not exactly in those words.”

“No worries. Frankie and I are friends.”

“But you haven’t heard from him in a while, have you?” Jimmy’s all smiling and I’m hugely uncomfortable now. It’s like he’s enjoying himself.

“We keep in touch. Just been busy.”

Jimmy’s paying for the dinner—I wish I had bought the most expensive item on the menu.

I try to call Frankie. No response.

“Thanks. I heard you think I’m a player. Everything makes so much sense now. Hope you enjoyed yourself and it was worth it.” My text to Frankie.

“Gwen. Horrible. Jimmy says Frankie says I’m a player.”

Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.

“You’re popular. You’ve got a ton of messages coming in.” Jimmy’s checking my phone. I’m covering it with my hand to keep him from seeing who the messages are from.

“Yeah…just turned on my phone. My sis likes to keep track of me.”

“You’re pretty attached to her. Have you thought about getting your own apartment?”

What? Who died and made him king of my life? We’ve known each other all of, what, a minute?

“I’m happy and enjoying myself.”

I’m reading the text from Gwen. “Don’t trust him. We’ll talk when you get home.”

Second text from Gwen. “Smile and don’t say anything else.”

I’m reading the text from Frankie. “What? I would have answered but I’m working?”

Yeah. Right. Frankie working? Probably on some woman.

Second text from Frankie. “What kind of jerk do you think I am?”

The worst, Frankie. The worst.

__________

9:05 p.m.

I’m hurt and I’m stunned and I’m confused and I’m…I’m actually crying. “I meant nothing to him…nothing at all.”

Gwen’s trying to console me. “No, you did…do.”

I’m getting a call. “Maybe Frankie’s trying to reach you.” Gwen’s hopeful. Even though she doesn’t like Frankie, she hates to see me so upset.

“What did you say to Frankie? He texted me. He’s really angry.” Jimmy’s demanding.

“I just told him what you said.”

Gwen’s making all these gestures, trying to get me to hang up. “What? I was just joking?”

“Joking? What do you mean joking?” That’s such a horrible thing to do.

“Yeah. Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

“Thanks. Bye.” Miss Nice Girl hangs up nicely. Why didn’t I tell him off?

“What was that about?”

“Jimmy. He said he was joking. But maybe there’s some truth in what he was saying…he’s just backing off because he doesn’t want Frankie to get mad at him for telling me the truth.”

“Nat, you’re wrong. Frankie does care about you. My guess is Jimmy’s jealous of Frankie…wants to cause trouble for him. I think he’s jealous of how close Frankie is to you so thought that since he’s in town…he’d just stir things up a bit.”

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

“How was he at the party when you first met him?”

“Nice, I guess. I didn’t want to go…but Frankie said Jimmy really wanted him to…so we did. And then, he took Frankie off with him…” Maybe Gwen was right.

“And you were left alone and called Mom to pick you up. Sounds like Frankie told Jimmy you didn’t want to be there so he dragged him away from you. Jimmy’s jealous that Frankie puts you before him.”

“But…if that’s true…that’s pretty sick, Gwennie.”

“Jimmy’s pretty self-centered. Immature. Wants everything his way, when he doesn’t get what he wants, he doesn’t think twice about twisting something. He thinks it’s funny…likes to stir things up. But Nat, it’s evil, mean, and hurtful.”

“Why would anyone do that?”

“Some guys aren’t happy when they can’t get what they want…and they don’t want anyone else to be happy. He probably has a truckload of issues. He might even be envious of Frankie…hard though that may be for me to imagine.”

“I thought only women behaved that way. You know, jealous-catty like. Why would he go out of his way to be so cruel?”

“You’d be surprised at how men can behave.”

“I am such an idiot…why did I believe Jimmy? Gwen…”

“What?”

“Frankie’s not going to talk to me again.”

“What do you mean?”

“I sent him this text. It wasn’t very nice…it was awful. Gwen, Frankie’s never going to talk to me again. I feel this in my heart. I wish I could do things differently. I’m so sorry about how things ended.”

“Nat, God’s going to work things out…in his time. Let it rest.”

I. Love. My. Sister.

I love God.

And in my mind, I hear this song…