“Forgot something when I left last night, so I came home to get ready for work.” She took a drink of her coffee. “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
“Uh oh. I don’t like the sound of that.” Merit pulled a chair away from the table and plopped down. “Go ahead. I’ve braced myself.”
“I, um, well.” She took another drink followed by a deep breath. “Stefan asked me to move in with him. We should have done it months ago, but I promised you I would stay.”
“But you want to live with him.” He had known this would happen sooner or later. He had just hoped Erin would stick around longer. “Go for it, Rin. I don’t want to be in the way of your life.”
“You aren’t in the way. I was afraid you’d think that.” She bit her lip. “I don’t want to abandon you. When Stefan and I got together, I promised you—”
“Sweetheart, listen to me.” Merit’s chest ached. He didn’t want to lose his best friend, but she deserved happiness, and it wasn’t up to her to babysit him when he couldn’t get his own life together. Besides, he wouldn’t be losing the friendship, just the living arrangement. “I love you, Rin. You know that. So I want you to be happy. You’re right, you and Stefan should have moved in together a long time ago, and I blocked you. It was selfish of me. If it’s what you want to do, you should. I’ll be okay.”
Erin’s face brightened a bit, but, as was typical for her, she tried to argue. “This is an expensive apartment, and I know how much you earn. How are you going to stay here?”
“Maybe I won’t. I can find another place. Or another roommate.” If the previous night hadn’t ended the way it had, Merit would have said he would ask Cole to move in. Between the two of them, paying rent would be no problem at all.
But now he didn’t even know whether Cole would speak to him again, let alone be willing to share an apartment.
“Maybe one of the other dancers needs a place?” Erin said hopefully.
“You never know.” Merit forced a smile. “I’ll be fine, Rin. Don’t worry about me. You’ve been doing that since high school. It’s time for you to take care of your own happiness, and I can see how happy Stefan makes you. It took you guys way too long to get together, and I don’t want it to take any longer for you to move to the next step in your relationship.”
It sounded sincere enough. At least, he hoped it did. He honestly did want Erin to move on and be happy. He just didn’t know how he would manage without her.
“Are you sure?” She hesitated. “Maybe you can get Cole to move in. You guys have been doing pretty well, haven’t you?”
It was Merit’s turn to hesitate. Erin was so happy about Stefan’s invitation that she was glowing. Stefan was good for her, and Merit was pleased that Erin had decided to go to the next level with her lover. If Erin knew what had happened between him and Cole, she would be worried, and he didn’t want to do that to her.
On the other hand, he didn’t really have anyone else he could talk to. The other dancers in his troupe were friends, for the most part, but it was a more superficial friendship than what he had with Erin. She was the one who had talked him through pain and heartache since middle school, as well as celebrating the good times with him. She was the one he needed right then.
“Last night didn’t go so well,” he said slowly. “I don’t even know what happened. I think Cole and I broke up.”
“Oh, no.” She sat in the other chair and reached over to touch Merit’s leg. “What happened? Tell me about it.”
“We went back to his place after the event.” He closed his eyes for a second and swallowed hard. He had had such wonderful plans for Cole’s place. “He said it seems lately as if the only time he gets to see me is at those stupid things. He wouldn’t tell me how he’s feeling, which is part of the problem, I guess. But I think he’s feeling less important than my career.”
“It’s tough with the work you have.” Erin set her mug on the table. “The classes and rehearsals and everything, and then you have these parties on top of it.”
“Yeah, but I don’t really need to go to those.” He sighed. “Not all of them, anyway. I need to make more time for Cole, and right now I don’t even know whether he wants me to.”
“Then you’re going to have to find out.”
“Yeah.” He had no clue how to do that short of point-blank asking Cole what was on his mind. Asking hadn’t worked well the night before, but at this point, if Merit wanted to keep the relationship going he didn’t have much choice.
He had classes scheduled all morning, but as soon as he had a break for lunch he would give Cole a call. The worst that could happen would be an official break-up.
He just hoped that wouldn’t be the result.