Wednesday, 15 April 2015

"The Dating Do-Over" Serialization - Ch. 8

First, get caught up.
Information about the serialization ("The Wattpad Experiment")  
Links to: Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6, Chapter 7

Chapter 8

The next morning, Julie and Viv were on recess patrol. A group of young boys chased a soccer ball past them as the two friends strolled across the yard. It was their first opportunity to chat since the night before.
“So, did you have fun last night?” Julie asked.
“Yes, I really enjoyed the show. It was better than I thought it would be.”
“I meant with Josh. What happened after I left?”
“Miss Nowak,” a little girl said, trotting up to them, “Aidan Brooks stole my doll, and he won’t give it back.” She pointed across the yard at the doll thief. “No!” she screamed, her face contorting with tears. Viv looked to where the child was pointing and saw Aidan smashing the doll into the side of the building.
“Aidan, stop that,” Viv shouted, running across the pavement to him. He looked up and froze, the doll suspended from his hand in mid-whack. Fortunately no damage had been done ‒ yet.
“Why are you trying to break Mia’s doll?” Viv asked in a calmer voice. She knew these two; they had been in her class last year and had bickered all the time. Aiden stared at her with sullen eyes. She could hear Mia’s wails, and looked over her shoulder to see Julie comforting the little girl.
“Mia laughed when Connor got the soccer ball away from me. I fell and hurt my knee, and she laughed at me,” Aiden muttered. Viv squatted to check for injuries. The knees of his jeans were torn, but there were no bloodstains.
“Does your knee still hurt? Do you want to go inside and put some ice on it?” she asked.
Viv rose and put her hand on his shoulder. “It wasn’t kind of Mia to laugh at you, but you shouldn’t hurt her doll. It doesn’t make your knee feel any better. Come on, let’s take the doll back.” She held his hand, and they walked side by side to Julie and Mia.
The girl had stopped crying and was wiping her nose with the tissue Julie had provided. Viv prodded Aiden’s shoulder, and he held the doll out to Mia.
Mia snatched it back and clutched the doll to her chest.
“I think you owe Aiden an apology, too,” Viv said.
Mia stared at the ground. “Sorry I laughed at you,” she murmured. Aiden shrugged.
“Good,” Viv said. “Now, you two go play until the bell rings.” Aiden nodded and ran to join the soccer game while Mia trotted to the jungle gym.
“Another crisis averted,” Julie said.
“So, what were we talking about?”
“Did you and Josh play nice after I left?” Julie asked with a grin.
“We got along fine. He’s sweet, if a little shy. He did invite me to watch you two play ball on Wednesday, though.”
“What did you say?”
“I said yes.”
“Great. I was going to ask you anyway.”
“Only, I’m taking it slow, Julie. I’m pretty rusty at dating, and I’m not sure if he’s my type. I’m not even sure what my type is anymore.”
“That’s fine.” But as Viv turned away to resume patrolling, Julie chanted, “Josh and Vivvie sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” under her breath.
“Oh, act your age,” Viv said, rolling her eyes.

Fortunately, the spell of rain enveloping the city cleared, and the day of the baseball game dawned dry and balmy. Viv sat in the bleachers watching the competition along with a few other supporters belonging to the two teams.
It was a close game, and by the bottom of the ninth, the other team was up and trailing by only a run. There was one out, and one man on second base. The batter had two strikes against her when she suddenly bunted. The pitcher lunged for the ball and fired it to first. The first baseman caught it, and the batter was out. Without missing a beat, the first baseman hurled the ball to Julie on third, but it went wild, and she had to charge after it. The player who had been on second careened past third and was headed for home when Julie snapped up the ball, pivoted, and drove it to Josh at home plate. Josh caught it with a flick of his glove, and the runner was trapped, His only hope was that Julie or Josh would drop the ball as he ran between them. He was as agile as a jackrabbit, but it was no use; they squeezed him closer and closer until Julie tagged him out.
Viv jumped to her feet, screaming and cheering with the rest of the supporters. Josh and Julie high-fived, and then the players congregated on the infield to shake hands. Julie and Josh’s team was in a celebratory mood when Viv joined them for beer and pizza afterward.
There were a dozen of them squeezed around the two tables the waitress had pushed together. Julie sat beside Kim, one of her teammates, with Josh on the other side. Viv sat next to him. The waitress brought pitchers of beer while the team rehashed the game inning by inning. Josh poured some beer for Viv while she laughed at the ribbing Julie was getting for being called “Princess” by the other team’s pitcher.
“That’s because she’s special,” Kim said, hugging Julie. Kim was a pretty, fresh-faced blond a few years younger than Julie.
“I’m glad that someone appreciates me,” Julie said, laying her head on the young woman’s shoulder. “Wow, your hair smells good,” she added.
“You’re probably smelling my lemon and sage shampoo,” Kim replied.
“Nice.” Their eyes met, and they smiled.
Josh picked up one of Julie’s short curls and rolled it between his fingers.
“Your hair smells good, too,” he said. “What kind of shampoo did you say you use?”
“Um, whatever’s on sale.”
“Your hair’s so soft and shiny. Is that your real colour?”
“Well, yeah,” Julie said, nodding her head and jerking her hair from his grasp. She rubbed her sore scalp and deliberately turned her back on Josh. Kim whispered something in Julie’s ear, and she laughed and shoved Kim playfully.
The waitress brought two pedestalled trays loaded with pizza, and everyone started grabbing for a slice. Viv was waiting for her turn when Josh handed her a plate with a large wedge.
“Bacon, olive, and mushroom, right?”
“Right. Thanks Josh.”
“No problem.”
Viv was taking a bite when Kim said, “So, you and Julie teach at the same school?”
Viv chewed and swallowed. “That’s right. We met four years ago when I was subbing at Withrow. Julie put in a good word for me when the school board was hiring permanent staff, and I got the job.”
Kim smiled at Julie. “That was nice of you.”
“I’m a terrific person. Haven’t you noticed?”
Kim laughed and turned back to Viv. “But you don’t play baseball?”
It was Julie’s turn to laugh. “Viv isn’t what you’d call ‘athletic.’”
“Not true. I’m just not into team sports.”
“Unlike me,” Julie said. “My parents put me into every sports camp there was: baseball, soccer, and swimming. Not to mention the ballet lessons.”
“Whatever you’re doing, it’s working,” Josh said with a leer. Julie scowled at him while Viv did a double take. What was going on with him?
“I’m going to the bathroom,” Viv said. She sprang to her feet. “Julie, why don’t you come with me?”
“Be right back,” Julie said to Kim.
“Don’t be long,” the pretty young woman said.
Julie rose, and Josh slapped her on the bottom. The rest of the table were laughing so hard that they missed it, but Viv noticed. She watched Julie glare at Josh.
“I’ll miss you, beautiful,” he said with a grin, but the smile dissolved when he saw the expression on her face. Viv was afraid that Julie would slap him, and lunged to take her friend’s arm.
Now, Julie,” Viv said, dragging her off to the bathroom.
There were two women waiting by the stalls, so Viv pulled Julie to the sinks.
“Did you see what that jerk just did to me?” Julie whispered.
“What’s wrong with him?” Viv asked. “One moment he’s polite and attentive, the next he’s acting like a Neanderthal. What’s going on?”
Julie frowned. “Josh has been acting kind of weird over the last few games. I think it’s because of Kim. We’ve been getting to know each other better, and it seems to bother him. I think he may be jealous.”
“Jealous? I thought he was just your sperm donor?”
“He is. He knows that I would never be attracted to him.”
“It doesn’t make sense. Wait a minute,” Viv said, grabbing Julie’s arm, “is that why you introduced him to me? Were you using me as bait to distract Josh so that you could start dating Kim?”
Julie had the good grace to look away. “Look, Viv, Josh is a really sweet guy, when he’s not acting like an idiot.” Viv sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. “No, he really is!” Julie protested. “He’s kind, reliable, handsome, he’s got a good job, and he really likes kids. You two are perfect for each other. It’s not like I’m asking you to take one for the team here.”
Viv frowned. “But he’s not interested in me. Obviously, he likes you.”
“Well, nothing’s going to happen between us.”
Viv sighed.
“Please? You don’t know how hard it is for a single mom to find a girlfriend. Just give Josh time. I’m sure he’ll come to his senses once he gets to know you better.”
“But what am I supposed to do with him tonight?”
Julie put an arm around Viv’s shoulder. “Tell him you’ve got a headache and ask him to drive you home. Talk to him about his behaviour, and make sure he understands that I’m off limits. Be sympathetic and flutter those baby blues of yours. Once he realizes I’m never going to fall for him, I’m sure he’ll be all over you just like that.” She snapped her fingers before pushing Viv through the bathroom door.
“What if I’m not interested in him?” Viv grumbled, but Julie ignored her as she led the way to their table.
Josh jumped to his feet when he saw them. “I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong,” he said.
“Viv isn’t feeling well,” Julie said, resuming her seat.
Josh looked at Viv. “What’s the matter?”
“I’ve got a headache. Do you think you could drive me home?”
“Sure. No problem. When do you want to go?”
“Now, if you don’t mind.” Viv retrieved her purse from the floor and reached inside for her wallet.
But Josh waved her money away. “I’ll take care of this.” He slid some bills from his pocket and dropped them onto the table.
Nodding to the rest of the group, Viv said, “Good night, everyone. It’s been fun.”
“Feel better soon,” Julie said as her friends bid Viv goodnight. “Give me a call later and let me know how you’re feeling,” she added pointedly.
“I will.”
Josh escorted Viv from the restaurant. They walked to the car in silence, the daylight ebbing from the sky and a warm breeze ruffling their hair. Viv climbed into the passenger seat and waited for Josh to settle behind the wheel.
“Can we go somewhere private to talk?” she asked. “I’d invite you to my place, but my roommate might be home.”
“Sure.” His expression was wary. “We can go to my place, if you like. What’s it about?”
“Let’s just wait until we get there, okay?”
Josh lived ten blocks from Viv in a neighbourhood of bungalows and duplexes. He shoehorned his car into a spot on the street, and they walked past the well-tended front gardens to his home, a grey bungalow with white trim.
Josh unlocked the door and stood aside to allow Viv to enter first. The front room was a living room/dining room combination with a narrow hallway leading into the kitchen. Josh slipped past Viv to turn on the lamps on either side of the couch.
“Can I get you something to drink?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t mind a soft drink.”
“Cola okay?”
“Yes, please.”
Viv had a look around while Josh disappeared into the kitchen. He had done a nice job of making the place look homey. The chocolate-brown couch sat on an area carpet on a honey-stained hardwood floor. A worn leather chair with an ottoman was angled next to the couch, and a bookcase stuffed with books and family photographs delineated the dining area.
Josh returned carrying two full glasses tinkling with ice. He set Viv’s on the coffee table and sat down on the other end of the couch.
“I can guess what you want to talk about,” he said.
“Your behaviour was kind of odd tonight. You acted as if you were Julie’s boyfriend ‒ a really insensitive boyfriend ‒ so Julie asked me to talk to you. Did it bother you when Kim and Julie were flirting?”
When Josh didn’t respond, Viv asked, “Are you in love with Julie?”
His face was incredulous. “What? No, that would be ridiculous.”
“You know she’s gay, right?”
“Of course. It’s pretty hard to miss.”
“She isn’t bisexual, Josh. You don’t stand a chance with her.”
“I know.”
Viv shook her head in exasperation. “Then what were you doing? You were lucky she didn’t kill you when you slapped her bottom.”
Josh’s face reddened. “I didn’t mean to offend her. I guess I was feeling a bit desperate.”
“What do you mean?” Viv slid across the couch to sit closer to him.
“It’s hard for me to explain. I knew that Julie was only looking for a sperm donor when she asked for my help. We discussed it a lot, and she made it clear that she didn’t want me to be a father to her baby. I thought it was a good idea at the time, having someone who was part of me to live on after I was gone. I just didn’t realize how hard it would be after Olivia was born.” He paused, and Viv waited for him to continue.
“The first time I saw her was through the glass window at the maternity ward. I snuck in ‒ Julie didn’t want me at the hospital. When I spotted Olivia, she was waving a tiny hand in front of her face. She seemed to be watching it with those big eyes of hers. I ‒ I don’t know. I just . . .” His voice faltered to a stop.
Julie laid her hand on his arm. “You fell in love with her?”
Josh nodded. “She’s part of me. Hell, she looks just look my mom. Julie didn’t invite me to see her until the first Christmas, when Olivia was five months old. Julie let me hold her, and Olivia held onto my finger and blew bubbles. I didn’t know I would feel this way,” he said, tension in his voice.
“How often have you seen Olivia?”
“Just three times. The first Christmas, last Christmas, and at the barbecue.”
“That’s it?”
Josh nodded. “Sometimes I drive by the house before I go to bed at night just to make sure they’re okay.” He sighed. “I don’t blame Julie. She’s just sticking to her side of the bargain. But when I see her with Kim, it’s like one more person’s getting between Olivia and me. If Julie lets someone into her life permanently, she’s never going to need any help from me. Maybe she won’t let me see Olivia anymore. I thought that if I acted like Julie and I were involved, Kim might back off.” He finally looked at Viv. “Please tell Julie I’m sorry. I know I have no right to interfere with her love life.”
“Look Josh, I know how hard it is to love someone who doesn’t love you back. And I know it’s not the same as being Olivia’s father, but you could have a wonderful family of your own. A caring man like you would make a great husband and daddy.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“Why not?” Josh stared at the carpet. “Are you gay?”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I’m not interested in men or women.”
Viv hesitated. “I don’t understand.”
He glanced at her sideways. “I’m asexual.”
“Oh.” She struggled to think of something helpful to say. “Have you ever . . ?”
“Tried? Yes. A couple of times with women. Nothing happened. I tried to have a sexual relationship with a man once, but I couldn’t get into that, either. I don’t know why. I just don’t get aroused.”
“Have you seen a doctor about it?”
“Yeah. He tested my hormone levels. Said that there was nothing wrong with me, that it had to be psychological.”
“What about counselling?”
Josh shook his head. “How’s counselling going to change me, Viv? Has it ever made a gay man straight, or a straight man gay? I’ve been reading about this on the web, and there are people like me who just don’t care about having sex with others. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with us.”
“No, of course not,” Viv hastened to say.
“Look, I haven’t talked to anyone about this besides my doctor. Not to my family, not to Julie. I told you because I wanted to explain why I acted so dumb tonight, and because I wanted you to understand why I’m not going to be your boyfriend.”
Viv nodded.
 “But I’m okay with the way I am. I don’t feel incomplete or anything. I’m even a bit of a romantic.” He smiled weakly. “That’s why the situation with Olivia is so painful. She’s likely to be the only child I’ll ever have who’s a part of me.”
He got up to pace around the room while Viv watched.
“Josh, I don’t know what to say, other than I’m sorry that Julie won’t let you get closer to Olivia.”
He paused to look down at her. “I know there’s nothing you can do. And please don’t say anything about this to Julie. She’ll only think I’m trying to pull a fast one. Just tell her I’ll stop acting like an idiot around her and Kim.”
“I won’t say anything about you being asexual,” Viv said, rising. They stood face-to-face in front of the couch.
“Thanks. You know, it’s been kind of therapeutic talking to you. You’ve been awfully sympathetic. I hope that we can stay friends.”
“Sure. I’d love to see you in your next show, for one thing.”
“I’d like that, too.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s getting late. Let me give you a lift home.”
“That’s kind of you. Thanks.”
On the drive home, Viv considered Josh’s situation. It wasn’t fair that Julie kept him at an arm’s length, but Viv understood why. Julie came from a big, boisterous, Italian/Irish family that was really close. But although her mother and father loved her, they were very conservative, and got upset when Julie broke the news that she was gay. Their relationship deteriorated even more when both parents objected to her plan to give birth by artificial insemination. Angry that her parents didn’t approve of her, Julie cut them out of her life.
Even Viv and Sabrina, who had been supportive throughout the pregnancy and Olivia’s birth, had to be careful not to say anything that could be interpreted as judgmental. Not that they would, because Julie was a great mom, but she was stubborn and sometimes carried a grudge. It was good that Julie was finally ready to share her life with someone; just not for Josh, if it meant that he would be cut out of Olivia’s life.
After Josh dropped her at the lobby door, Viv sighed. What was she going to say to Julie? She couldn’t tell the truth about Josh’s behaviour, or the real reason she wasn’t going to date him. That wasn’t her secret to share.
It was too bad, though. Josh had looked so good on paper. Julie had shared his score, a healthy 44 out of 50 on the dating do-over scale.
Well, Sabrina was going to have to come up with someone better. Viv had given it a lot of thought, and realized that she was either attracted to a man who needed mothering, or to someone who swept her off her feet and dominated her. Which wasn’t a huge problem unless the guy was taking advantage of her, as Kyle had.
Come on, Sabrina, it’s up to you! Viv thought as she reached the condominium door and steeled herself to phone Julie.


Check back on Sunday, April 19, to see what happens in Chapter 9.

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