Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 7 months, 2 weeks
Juliana had taken Marq’s dead friend and made him live again. She was a miracle worker. Ever since meeting Juliana, Marq had seen Kevin loosen up before but nothing quite like this. Kevin behaved and spoke fearlessly. Not in a reckless or irresponsible manner but as someone who was no longer bound. Having the real Kevin back filled Marq’s heart with gladness.
“I’m gonna start calling you two Keviana.”
Kevin almost spit out his drink. “We’re at celebrity mash-up name status now?”
Marq stared at him blankly. “Dude…it’s called shipping now. How are you so old already?”
He wasn’t really surprised. Despite them being the same age, Kevin had always been the “dad” of the duo. Back in their partying days, he made sure they didn’t stay out too late or get too drunk. He worked all the time and never cared to fall down the social media rabbit hole. Marq always laughed when he would talk about leaving corporate America to start something on his own. The idea sounded nice, and Marq wanted Kevin to do whatever made him happy. But, he could never be a successful entrepreneur like Marq. The industry he worked in was cut throat, and he grew tired of it, but at the same time he needed that structure the corporate world provided. He needed rules and hierarchy to have something to work toward.
“Shipping? What does that even mean?”
“Come on, Kev! You know…like, when people support two people getting together, they ship them. It’s shipping. Keviana is your ship name.”
Kevin shook his head and snorted. “Young people. That makes no sense.”
“Whatever, old man. So when am I gonna meet her?”
“Can I have her for at least a few months before you try to steal her from me?”
“HA! You got jokes! There’s no way I’m taking her. And send you back to dumpsville? Naw, man! You may keep her. Please keep her.”
Kevin snorted. “You’re so considerate.”
“How long has it been? A month?”
“Five weeks,” Kevin said with a beamish smile.
He hadn’t seen that smile in ages. It indicated only one thing. “Ok, ok!” Marq leaned in closer. “So…how is she?”
“She’s great! She’s doing so well with everything in her life. I couldn’t be more proud of her. Well, sure I could be. She’s so awesome I’m sure she’ll keep finding ways to make me even more proud…”
He was so animated and smiley; it was amazing to watch especially since he completely missed the question. Marq was snickering the entire time.
“I just wish she didn’t have to work so much. I mean, she wakes up super early to open the place, and then she’s there all day and all night because her stupid coworker won’t do anything. I mean, come on! How can she do that to Juliana? There’s only two of them there. I don’t know how she lives with herself.”
His indignance at the end of the rant sent Marq over the edge. He found himself doubled over with laughter.
Kevin looked offended. “What’s funny?”
“You are!” He attempted to calm himself. “You’ve got it so bad, man!”
Kevin looked confused while Marq continued to laugh.
“You’ve been gushing about her all night like a 14-year-old girl!”
Kevin looked a little bit embarrassed. “Oh.”
“I’m glad your girlfriend is doing well,” he said in Kevin’s voice. “But, that’s not what I meant…”
Marq laughed again. “I meant how is she…in the sack!”
“HA! Yes, the sack, or are you so old you’ve forgotten what that is?”
Kevin sucked his teeth. “I know what the sack is.”
“So…what’s going on? Are you and Kevin Jr. ok?”
Kevin looked like he was trying not to laugh but failed. “Kevin Jr.? Really? What else are you going to name tonight?”
“Hey, I’m just looking out for my guy.”
Kevin snorted. “You’re not looking out for me. You’re just nosey.”
Marq chuckled silently and shook his head. “Ok. So are you doing it or not?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yeah it matters! You haven’t had any action in like 39 years! Little Kevin wants to be free!”
“Ok, can you stop with the little Kevins? Geez!”
“I just want you to be happy, man. That’s all.”
“I’m happy! Can’t you tell?”
Marq smiled. “I know you are.”
Kevin seemed a bit flustered. He was never as open as Marq about his sex life, but the subject bothered him even more whenever Juliana was part of the equation. Was he still hung up on her age? Or, was it her virginity?
Kevin broke the silence. “There’s more to being in love than hot sex. I know that now…”
Things were about to get deep, Marq could tell. He signaled to the bartender to refresh their drinks.
“You were right,” Kevin said.
Marq’s head bobbed slowly.
“I had such a hard time coming to grips with this…. I didn’t have anybody to teach me about real love and what it looks like…what it is and what it isn’t. I loved Caroline, but not like I love Juliana. At least, what I had with Caroline I thought it was love. Maybe it was…I mean, don’t regret the relationship at all. She’ll always be my first love, but things are just so different with Juliana.”
Marq was so glad to hear his friend make these realizations especially because he had been trying so hard to make him see it.
“She makes me want to be a better person. I’ve never been so consumed with one person before. I’m always, like, worried about her, you know? I think about her way more than I think about myself. I love her!”
“Wow. Sounds like she might be the one, Kev.”
Kevin shrugged. “Maybe. We don’t need to think about that right now. I’m so glad were on the same page about it.”
An appropriate moment of silence presented itself, and they took a few more swigs of their new drinks. Kevin was in love, and Marq was relieved. He didn’t have to worry about him anymore, but he still wanted his question answered.
“I guess it’s safe to say you’re not banging her.”
Kevin rolled his eyes. “No, we’re not…she’s not ready.”
“She told you?”
“I just know.”
“Awww naw, man! You gotta put the moves on her so you know for sure! She could just be shy or something.”
“I’m not gonna make a move on her!”
Marq gasped. “It’s you! You’re the one not ready, bro?”
“Bruh…it’s not that big of a deal. You’ve been waiting so long for this! Both of you have.”
“But it is a big deal, Marq!”
“Noooo, it’s perfect! Look, you’re her first boyfriend, you gave her the first kiss…it only makes sense that her first time is with you. I bet she wants to.”
Kevin lowered his eyes and looked worried. “You might be right, but…I’m not comfortable with this.”
Marq’s stomach dropped. He was rooting for Kevin and thought he had finally been freed from all the excuses and hang-ups, but something lingered. All he wanted for his friend was that freedom he used to have. He almost had it.
“I know we’re together now, and it would be ok…I can’t lie and say I wouldn’t love to be her first, but honestly the idea still freaks me out! It’s too soon. If we did it right now, I’d feel like I’m taking it from her. I want her to give it to me…and not because I asked her. It needs to be her idea.”
Kevin continued once more. “I frustrate her a lot. She might get tired of me. I couldn’t live with myself if she left and I took away her innocence just because I…”
Marq patted him on the back. “I get it, man. I get it. You’ve always been an honorable man. Don’t let me pressure you…. I guess you’ll be hitting the gym pretty hard, huh?”
Kevin looked askance. “Whatever, man.”
“But for real though…if the next time I see you, you look like The Hulk? I swear…honor or not, I’m doing an intervention!”
“I’m serious. I’m gonna lock you two in a room until Little Kevin becomes a man!”
“You are crazier than ever.”