“Thank you,” Ben said as the waiter placed his pie in front of him. He waited until he left before talking to Luke. “Do you love her?”
Luke nodded, though his face remained buried in his arms. He felt like there was a weight on his chest, despite facing down. His mind kept shifting between Leanne’s face and Jackie’s face. He glanced up at Ben as he took a large bite.
“So, what’re you going to do?” Ben asked between chews.
“I don’t know, man. I’m not unhappy, so I’m not leaving Leanne, but I can’t ignore how I feel either,” Luke said.
“Does Jackie love you?” Ben asked, shoveling another large fork full in his mouth.
“I don’t know,” Luke replied. “It’s not like it matters. Nothing can happen. I’m not going to do that to Leanne.”
“There’s your answer then,” Ben said, “Why get all worked up over all this in the first place?”
“Because it’s raising too many questions. How can I love someone else, while also being in love with Leanne? I’m happy with my wife, so why do I have feelings about someone else? What the hell does it mean?” Luke said, dropping his head back in his arms. “It’s too confusing.”
“You can’t control who you fall for, man. If nothing is going to come of it, just accept that nothing will happen and move on,” Ben said.
“You don’t understand,” Luke said.
“I think it’s you that doesn’t understand,” Ben said, “You see this pecan pie? I love pecan pie. I order it every time I come here. I’ll likely never order anything else as long as it’s available.”
“And?” Luke asked, looking up.
“It’s just a choice. I can choose to order any number of pies. Hell, I could go to an entirely different restaurant, but I keep coming back because of how much I like the pecan pie,” Ben said. “That’s all that’s happening with you. You’re upset like your mouth started watering over the blueberry pie, and you have pecan in front of you. It’s not a hard thing to wrap your head around. You’ll either be happy with the choice you made, or you’ll be happy with the other. That’s all that matters.”
“What if I’m not happy with the blueberry?” Luke asked.
“If there is that doubt, then forget about it and enjoy the pie you have,” Ben replied as he picked up the remainder of his slice and shoved it in his face.
“You really have some issues,” Luke said.
“You should see what I do to it when no one’s watching,” Ben laughed.
“You’re not helping,” Luke said.
“There’s nothing to help with, bud. You either stay with Leanne, or you go with Jackie. I’ll be your friend no matter what,” Ben said. “You know that.”
“I’m not leaving Leanne,” Luke said firmly.
“There’s you go. Now let the rest go,” Ben said, leaning over as he pulled his wallet from his pocket.
“But what if-” Luke began.
“No ifs, bud,” Ben interrupted. “I get that you’re going through some stuff, and its important to you. I care, I do, but you’re putting too much thought into this. Your logic is becoming cyclical and annoying. You just keep making the same points over and over but rephrasing them.”
“Sorry,” Luke said. “I don’t mean to be annoying.”
“It wouldn’t be annoying if you didn’t already have your answer. It sucks that you are love someone like you love Leanne, but-to quote one of the greatest bands in history-in the end, it doesn’t even matter,” Ben said. “It’s not like you can be with two women at the same time. I’ve tried, they don’t care for it.”
“You cheated, there’s a difference. You weren’t happy with your girlfriend, and she wasn’t happy with you,” Luke said.
“That hurts, man,” Ben said, “but you’re right. Neither of us was happy.”
“What if I just talk to Leanne about it?” Luke asked.
“It’s your funeral,” Ben said. “Can I have your baseball cards when she kills you?”
“It won’t be like that,” Luke replied, shaking his head. “Leanne is amazing.”
“If she’s that amazing, you shouldn’t be falling for another woman,” Ben said.
“I don’t agree with that logic,” Luke said. “People are like puzzle pieces. We all fit, more or less, together, but the parts that really fit have a special feeling when they are put in place. There’s no room for movement, and the picture becomes a little clearer.
“Leanne is one of those pieces. She fits just right with me and compliments me on every part of that edge of who I am. Jackie is much the same. When we’re hanging out, I can’t help but feel that same feeling even without being intimate and all that.”
“Sounds like you have a dilemma with having more than one piece, then,” Ben said, dropping some cash on the table. “I still don’t think you should talk to Leanne about it. I don’t think it’ll go well for you.”
“You don’t think so?” Luke asked.
“I think if Jackie feels right as a friend when you two are hanging out, why do you want more?” Ben asked. “What if the side of the piece-to use your analogy-that matches up with Jackie’s is only supposed to be friends? You are getting your physical needs, and likely a whole bunch of your mental and emotional needs-though I’m starting to have my doubts-from Leanne. You don’t need that from Jackie, and maybe she doesn’t need that from you.”
“You’re right,” Luke agreed. “I just want Jackie to be as happy as I am.”
“Take the advice of a guy who has wrecked a lot of relationships. You’ve done way better than me, and there’s no reason for you to go down that road. Even if Jackie loves you, you’re happy with Leanne, so be the best friend you can for Jackie, and put the rest in the back of your mind in a tightly sealed box with a ‘do not open’ label,” Ben said, standing up. “I’ve got things to see and people to do, but this has been fun. Call me the next time you have an existential crisis so that I can get more entertainment.”
“You’re an asshole,” Luke laughed.
“Only for my best friend,” Ben replied as he walked away with a wave.
Luke thought about it, and, though he hated to admit it, Ben was right. There was probably no reason to talk to Leanne or try to expand the relationship with Jackie. He loved them both, but there was the chance that he would screw things up with one, the other, or both if he tried to change things. He nodded to himself and decided that Jackie was just to be his friend, and he would do his best to make sure that she was happy regardless of what she chose to do.