Chapter 11 - The kiss

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"Take a bite... It's not as good as my Nona's but it's really good," Tony implored as he held out his fork full of lasagna.

Ella looked at the gooey cheese and imagined it getting stuck on the ever-present lump in her throat. She shook her head and ate a tiny bite of her chicken instead.

"We go out to eat, but you eat like a bird. Come on Ella... I know there's something going on that no one is telling me. On Sunday everyone was whispering in hush voices about you."

Ella sighed, she knew her family worried about her. She chose her words carefully. "I dated someone and it didn't work out. My family worries too much. I know they are hoping that you will replace him."

Tony studied her and said, "But you don't want that do you?"

She shook her head, "You know I think you're great. I love you. In just a few months you've become my best friend... you and Ava."

She felt the lump get bigger and the pressure behind her eyes. Just that simple statement reminded her of who should have been her best friend.

Tony asked, "Do you want to tell me about him?"

Ella shook her head and whispered, "I can't."

She couldn't talk about him. She could hardly think about him.

Tony said, "I was with a girl for almost a year. I really liked her, but it turned out that she liked my best friend better. It was hard because she was my sister's best friend, so she still came round. I never knew how much of what I felt was missing her or the humiliation..."

"I feel that sometimes..." Truthfully when she wasn't feeling sad she felt angry. In her imagination, if she saw him, she would slap him across the face and a second after imagining that scene she would melt into tears.

"She was the reason that I accepted the position and moved. I needed to get away from her."

"Well, he left Maine so I don't have to. Hey, so what happened with that guy you thought was getting fired at work?"

She changed the subject and listened to Tony talk. He was really good looking. Since he met her straight from work, he wore a suit. His father was Italian so he had olive skin and dark brown eyes and hair. Even his slightly large nose fit his face. She watched his hands as he signed the charge slip. She wished they lit a fire in her, but whenever they had held hands she didn't feel the electric pulse she longed for.

It would be so easy if she could find happiness with Tony. Once outside she thanked him for the meal. He always insisted on paying, because his salary was a lot more than her teacher's. He was an actuarial at an insurance company which meant he was very smart, especially with numbers.

Before getting in their own cars, they hugged each other. Ella felt desperate to move on and said, "Thanks for listening and being my friend."

"Are you sure that's all we are?" She smiled because she knew he wanted more. He added, "I propose we kiss to make sure feelings aren't going to mess up our friendship."

"You want to kiss me?" she asked.

He drew her in and she felt his lips on hers. They were soft and gentle. He added a little intensity and she pulled away, "I'm sorry. It was nice, but I'm destined to be alone."

"It's okay. Now we can be friends," he said.

"Hey, Tony, can we let the family think we are more than friends? I want them to stop worrying about me."

"Yeah, okay. For now..."

He hugged her and then walked to his car. She sat in her car and watched him drive away. How she wished she felt something for him, but she was convinced that part of her died the day she got the letter.

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