The words on the page in front of Gus may as well have been in Japanese. Though he’d read the same paragraph three times, his brain was unable to truly process what it was reading.
It had been like this all week – at his classes, at his apprenticeship… His mind was simply too far away to focus.
A loud knocking suddenly broke the silence in the tiny cabin. Gus closed his textbook at the sound, part of him grateful for the distraction, and part of him wondering who it could possibly be. None of his family ever knocked, it seemed. Not the adults, at least.
Could it be Zayne? Or one of the triplets? Gus hoped not. He loved his nieces and nephew, but putting on a brave face for them day after day was growing tiresome.
He was called back to the present by yet another series of knocks, these ones even louder than the first. Curious, but also a bit nervous, Gus finally opened the door.
“What the hell, Auggy?!” The young woman cried.
Gus rolled his eyes, but couldn’t hold back a smile at his foolishness. I should have known… “Hey, Em.”
Emma did not return his smile. “Don’t ‘Hey, Em’ me!”
Gus’ face fell. She’s pissed at me… And he knew exactly why. “Look, Em… I –”
“Would you care to explain to me why I had to find out from Noah that you dumped him? A week ago?! After he PROPOSED to you?!”
Gus was unfazed by his friend’s outburst. “Alright, first off, I didn’t ‘dump him’, okay? Things are just… complicated right now.” He sighed. “And secondly, I don’t need to tell you every detail of my life, Em.”
“Bullshit. We’ve told each other everything since we were eight years old.” Emma narrowed her eyes as she spoke. “So why didn’t you tell me?”
Gus almost smiled. “You know me too damn well… And I know you too well too.” He shook his head for a moment. “I wanted to tell you, okay? But I didn’t… Because I knew you’d do this.” He gestured in her general direction. “I don’t need one of your pep talks this time. I just need to figure this out on my own.”
Emma just stared at him as he crossed the room and sat back on the sofa. “Yeah, and clearly you’ve been doing an excellent job of that…” She paused for a moment, her face and voice finally softening as she sat down beside him. “Come on, Auggy. Talk to me. I’m here to help you… What happened?”
“Well, if you talked to Noah, I’m guessing you already know.”
“I know his side. I want yours.”
Gus hesitated for a moment, then finally took a slow, deep breath. “He proposed to me last week, on our anniversary. But I said no.” His shoulders shrugged slightly as he spoke. “Em, you know how much I want to marry Noah someday… But you also know how he feels about commitment.”
She nodded in understanding.
“This isn’t what he wants.” Gus continued. “He’s doing it because it’s what I want. He’s acting stupid and rash because he’s freaked out about what happened to Lucas. And it’s not right. His parents broke up when he was just a kid, and I know that was terrible for all of them. I never want us to end up like that. But if we do this thing for the wrong reason…” He paused, shaking his head. “I want him to want this too. And he doesn’t. I know he doesn’t.”
Emma did not immediately reply. She paused for a few long moments, thoughtful. “How do you know?” She asked at last. “How do you know he doesn’t want it?”
“What?” That was not the response Gus had been expecting. “Of course he doesn’t. He’s told me plenty of times how he feels about getting married. It’s not exactly a secret.”
“Well duh.” Emma rolled her eyes. “I knew that. But you haven’t talked about it in a couple years, right? Not seriously, at least.”
Gus shrugged uncomfortably. “Yeah, so what?”
“Well, maybe he changed his mind.” She suggested. “Maybe he really does want this. Or hell, maybe you’re right and this is the biggest mistake ever… Who knows? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume you never actually talked about it?”
Gus felt his face grow warm at her words. “Well… no. It kinda turned into a fight pretty quickly… I told him I thought we both needed a break to figure stuff out. So I went home, grabbed some clothes, and headed here.” He admitted. “Not a lot of time to talk.”
“That was over a week ago, right?” Emma asked. “And you still haven’t talked to him?”
He shook his head. “Not really.”
“And he hasn’t tried talking to you either?”
Gus shrugged. “Well… He’s really mad. What do you expect?”
To his surprise, Emma burst into laughter in reply. “God, if you two do end up married, he should really take your last name, Auggy. He’s a Rosebrook already.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!”
She shrugged. “You all pout and hide from your problems.” She explained. “Oh, and you totally suck at communicating… Just like Noah. Wow, you two really are soulmates, huh?”
“Why are you being such a bitch about this, Em?”
Emma shook her head. “I’m just being honest, Auggy. I’ve been in his shoes before, remember? And I made the exact mistake you’re both making right now… Might as well have called me Emma Rosebrook.” For a moment she almost smiled, but her tone was serious as she continued.
“You broke my heart, and I tried to shut you out. I refused to listen. And I almost lost the best friend I’ve ever had because I was too damn stubborn to just talk to you and give you a chance.” She paused for a moment, sighing. “Don’t make the same mistake I did. I almost lost my best friend. You might be losing something even more important.”
Gus said nothing for a long time. He knew she was absolutely right. He had to talk to Noah eventually, didn’t he? If he didn’t… It would be over. And that wasn’t what he wanted. Gus knew it wasn’t.
Then why was it so damn hard to face him again?
“You’re right.” He said at last. “I can’t lose him. I need to talk to him.”
Emma nodded encouragingly. “You really do, Auggy.”
“I guess I just kinda don’t know what to say.” He admitted softly. “It’s so awkward now. And one way or another… This is gonna change everything.”
“Maybe for the better.” Emma smiled at him. “You’ll never know until you try. And no matter how things end up, I’ll be here for you, okay?” She assured him, rising to her feet. “Whether that means being ready with a gallon of ice cream and a box of tissues or a bottle of wine and a wedding planning guide… I’ve got your back.”
Gus lips curled into a smile. “I know you do.” He stood up from the couch and pulled his friend into a warm embrace. “I love you, Em. You’re the best.”
She laughed softly, giving him a tight squeeze. “I love you too.”