The following is a short story that I wrote for my Fiction Writing class.
Was I crazy? I thought to myself, listening to the soft hum of rain falling outside my apartment window. It had been 4 ½ months since I’d moved away from home and I still wasn’t sure I’d made the right decision. I’d never lived away from my family and friends but felt like a fresh start was what I needed, a place completely different than Bar Harbor.
It was late evening now and I was feeling good after crossing off today’s list of to-dos: Coco to groomer, pick up a bottle of Cetaphil and my prescription (doesn’t everyone take something just to stay sane these days?), vacuum the apartment, and meet Isabella at Valentino’s Lounge for happy hour. Valentino’s had quickly become my go-to spot for sushi here in Chula Vista. Their mini ahi tuna tacos were amazing and the atmosphere was perfect for a newly single 34-year-old and her newest friend.
Coco, clean from today’s bath, purred at me to feed her. “Coming, Coco,” I told her, grabbing a can of her wet food from the pantry. “You’re so needy,” I teased her, giving her a soft pat, and dumping the blob of salmon pate into her food bowl. She purred again, rubbing up against my leg, and proceeded to inhale her late dinner.
I walked into my bedroom and looked through my clothes so that I could pick something out for tomorrow’ interview. I sifted through several class black skirts, plenty of button-downs, practical heels, impractical heels, and enough statement necklaces to fill a cheesy department store. I decided on a black skirt, a white and black polka dot blouse, black heels, and a dainty B initial necklace I’d bought at a flea market last weekend.
I washed my face, slathered on some lotion that probably wasn’t going to really get rid of my wrinkles like it promised, brushed my teeth, threw my brown hair into a messy bun on the top of my head, and put on a tank top and pajama shorts (I’m a creature of habit and wear the same thing to bed every single night, it makes shopping for pajamas quite simple). I climbed into bed with my laptop and got started on a few last minute things I needed to do before my interview tomorrow.
I opened my Gmail and saw a new message from my best friend at home, Jackie. She and I had been best friends since we were seven-years-old. We hadn’t spoken in a several months, despite usually texting each other back and forth everyday before I moved, and things had become a bit awkward. It wasn’t a single incident that caused our drift apart, it was more that we were in such different spots in our life. She was married with three small children, completely content with her stay-at-home-mom life in the suburbs, I was single and desperately wanting something… more.
Hope you’re doing well. It’s been such a long time since we’ve talked. Wanted to see if we could chat – maybe some time this weekend? I have something I want to tell you.
Jackie’s email came as a surprise. We hadn’t talked in so long and to just suddenly hear from her made me worried that something might be wrong back home. My hometown is one of those places where everyone knows everyone and in turn, everyone knows everyone’s business—the good and the bad. I pushed the unsettled feeling out of my mind and hit reply.
Subject: Re: Long time no talk
Great to hear from you. Yes, it’s been way too long. Things have been hectic for me, I’m sure the same goes for you! Hope the kids and Jeremy are doing well. Let’s definitely talk this weekend. I’ll give you a call on Saturday.
Look forward to chatting!
The shrill tune that my phone plays when my alarm goes off woke me up promptly at 7:30. I ignored it and pressed snooze, dying for just a few more minutes of sleep. Coco yawned and stretched her front legs, nudging me before curling herself into the shape of a donut. I hit snooze three more times before finally rolling out of bed and taking a shower. I did my hair, put on some light makeup, and got dressed in the outfit I’d picked out last night.
I patted Coco on the head goodbye, grabbed my purse and keys, and a piece of toast and walked out the door to my car. I stopped at Cool Down Coffee for a coffee, making sure to use my rewards app—my next coffee would be free!and started my GPS. I made it to the office complex in exactly 13 minutes. The large reception area with was bright and welcoming, plush chairs lining the room, and stacks of old magazines scattered on rustic coffee tables.
“Hi, how may I help you?” an older lady with curly red hair piled on the top of her head greeted me. Her smile was warm and genuine.
“Hi, I’m here for a 10:30 interview with Ms. Page,” I looked down at my watch, indicating that I knew I was significantly early.
“Excellent!” she replied. “I’ll let Ms. Page know you’re here. Please have a seat.”
I waited for what seemed like forever, before hearing my name being called.
“Ms. Richardson?” a sing songy voice called out.
I looked up to see an elegant woman donning a flawless forest green suit, her pearl necklace highlighting her perfect collarbones. I jumped up from my seat, clumsily shoving my cell phone into my purse.
“Hi, Ms. Page. My name is Brooke. It’s so nice to meet you!” I said, shaking her hand.
“We’re so happy you’re here, Brooke. Please call me Celeste.”
She motioned for me to follow her and we headed down a hallway and into her office.
I felt good about my interviews this week, hopeful that I’d land a job here soon. Living off of my savings was getting tight. I only had a small amount left and couldn’t continue on like this for too much longer.
I scrambled some eggs and put it between a toasted bagel with a slice of cheese and soft avocado. I rarely switched up my breakfast routine—bagel or toast or a waffle with some kind of egg and avocado situation or sometimes I’d put peanut butter on a warm piece of toast and relish in every creamy bite. My favorite though, is a plain ol’ bagel with cream cheese. No “bagel thin,” no fat free cream cheese. Give me the real deal and I’m a much happier camper.
After breakfast, I sat down on the couch and Coco jumped into my lap. She loved nothing more than a mid-morning catnap and I happily obliged. I picked up my phone to call Jackie. I don’t know why I got so nervous hitting the call button beneath her name in my phone.
“Hey!” she said when she answered.
“Hey Jac! Whatcha doing? It’s so great to hear your voice.” I said, all in one long breath.
Jackie let out a long, exaggerated sigh. “Things have been better but I guess it could be worse,” she said. “How are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m good. Just trying to find a job, still. It’s been quite the struggle,” I let out a small laugh. “What do you mean, things could be worse?” I asked. “What’s going on?”
Our conversation continued, as if no time had passed. I guess that’s how it is when you’ve been best friends for over 20 years, it’s easy to pick up where you left off.
“Well, Jeremy told me that he wanted a divorce last week.” her voice becoming weaker and less her cheerful self.
“Oh my god, Jac. I’m so sorry.” I said to her, feeling the emptiness of the words. How could I comfort her terrible pain with a simple, sorry through a cell phone miles away from each other. “What happened? Why? When? Where are you now?”
The questions all came out so quickly, as if no time had passed at all.
“Are you sure you have time now to talk?” Jackie asked. “It’s a pretty long story.”
“Of course!” I said.
“It came out of the blue. I was making dinner last week, ironically, one of his favorites,” she let out a pathetic giggle. “And he came home from work, said hello to the kids, you know, the usual routine. He changed out of his suit and tie and when he came downstairs, I could just tell something was… strange.”
“Instead of giving me a hug like he normally does, he stared at me oddly. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. So I said, hey babe! How was work today? The meatballs are almost done, just throwing the French bread into the oven, so dinner—.”
“And he didn’t let me finish. He literally came right out and said it Brooke, he said that he wanted a divorce, that he didn’t feel like we had a connection anymore, that all we do is argue, and change diapers, and pick up toys, and that he gets no time to himself for anything he enjoys.”
Jackie was starting to sob at this point, and I reassured her. “It’s okay, Jac. You’re going to be okay.”
“So then I started crying and screaming and asking him what the hell he was talking about? We have the perfect life—we live in a beautiful home, our oldest daughter goes to a great school, I am so lucky to stay at home with the little ones, what could possibly be wrong? And you know what he said? What he had the GALL to say to me?”
“What?” I asked gently.
“That he wasn’t attracted to me anymore. Things had changed. Yes, he appreciated me raising our children and take good care of the home but that he didn’t want to be married anymore. I screamed again and hit him, so hurt that these words could possibly be coming out of his mouth. I mean, where did this come from? What had I done?” Jackie asked, sort of talking to herself, full on bawling by now.
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say, other than I’m so sorry and you don’t deserve this and you are so beautiful and strong and kind and you will get through this. Where is he now? Where are you and the kids?” I asked.
“We’re still in the house. I told him that he could do what he wanted to do but that he would continue providing for us here and not move me and his children out of the comfort of their home. If he wants to leave us, then fine. But I’m not leaving the home and am certainly in no position to support myself right now. I don’t know what will happen long-term. This is all so new. So unexpected. My mom almost fainted when I told her. I don’t understand how he could do this to us. All I can assume is that there must be someone else that he met… Don’t you think? Why would a young husband abandon his entire family for what? A new life with someone else? A new life on his own? It doesn’t make sense.”
“Who knows, men can be real assholes, Jac. I can’t imagine what is going through his mind that he just wants to give up on your and the kids. And you may never know the truth but right now, you’ve got to do what’s best for you and what’s best for those precious babies, and that’s it. Fake it til you make it. Do whatever it takes to get through these unbearably hard first few weeks and remember that time heals all wounds. I love you Jac, and I’m here for you, no matter what.”
“That means so much to me, Brooke. And I love you too. We all miss you. It’s not the same without you here. Gotta run and feed baby Emma, it’s time for her mid-morning peaches. Let’s talk sooner rather than later next time, kay?” Jackie said and then hung up the phone.
It had been three weeks since I talked to Jackie on the phone. We’ve been texting every chance we can now, it’s like no time had ever passed between our friendship. I was there for her and she knew that and at the same time, I knew she’d be able to get through this. She is one of the most beautiful, selfless people I know and this is a bump in her journey that’s going to take a lot of commitment, counseling, and perseverance. In some strange way, this tragedy brought us closer than we had ever been.
And as easy as it would be for me to run back home to Bar Harbor, the place where I felt the most safe and secure, the people I cared about so deeply that it sometime hurts, I wanted—needed—the change of scenery that the west coast was sure to provide, after all, it’s why I left the bustling city in pursuit of a fresh start where pomegranate sunsets, wide-open spaces, and opportunities were endless. The salt-filled air was different here than back home, full of promises and dreams waiting for me.