She closed her eyes and let her mind wander over the past few months with Daniel, from their first encounter at work, to the dates (or not really dates) they went on, to the friendship building, to her falling for him, and ending at the Facebook relationship change between Daniel and Audrey. They had gotten really close over the past few months, and all of that changed rather abruptly. She rarely cared anymore in light of recent events, but the random Facebook sighting made her heart thump more than she’d like. After dealing with the loss of both Daniel and Matthew in such a short time, she hadn’t had time to think about what exactly was on her mind. She knew that she missed Daniel, that much was certain. He had been a tremendously good friend and had taught her so much, but that wasn’t what hurt the most. It wasn’t that she felt alone either, although that was very true. After much debating, she reached a conclusion: she was utterly and completely confused. Was everything that Daniel had ever told her a lie? Did he mean any of the words he said? The nevers and always and secrets he told her- what were they? And what about the promises to never leave her alone? That’s what bothered her. She wanted to know the truth. That’s all. Was he honest or was it all fake? What was it?
The air was eerily warm as I stepped outside. This was the middle of winter, but it felt like spring; you know the warmth that means the flowers will be growing soon. I subconsciously reached for my necklace and placed the tip near my lips- this was an awful habit of mine, but one that made me feel safe. I looked up towards the sky and admired the billions of stars brilliantly shining above me. He told me to think of him when I saw the stars and moon because he was looking at the same ones, and I did. I thought of my best friend and how I missed him. I thought of how he was supposed to be coming back tomorrow. My heart filled with joy at the thought- Matthew was coming home tomorrow. I closed my eyes and inhaled the night air, but my stilless was interrupted by a loud guitar riff emanating from my phone. I looked down at the brightly lit screen to find Restricted staring back at me. I slid the unlock key over and answered. “Hello?” I asked with confusion. “Hello,” a stern voice responded. “We need you to come to St. John’s quickly. Matthew has been injured and he has requested to see you.” My breath caught in my throat, and I struggled for words as my heart began to race and sweat began to build on my brow. I finally managed to let an okay escape from my lips. My next movements were a blur. I somehow managed to stumble inside, locate my keys, start the car, and drive 45 minutes down a stretch of highway to St. John’s hospital. I found my way to the front desk. The only word that escaped my lips was Matthew, and the lady at the front herded me towards the elevator. The ride to the sixth floor was excruciating as I pondered what had happened. Bits and pieces of the story found their way into my brain…accident…destroyed….no chance…. I was led down the hallway and into a small room. Lying on the bed in a tangled mess was my best friend. I sat down and struggled to fight my tears. “Matthew,” I whispered. I placed my hand in his and stroked his fingers. He opened his eyes and stared at me with a look of mixed happiness and sadness. “Cass, please know that I love you,” he managed to stutter. “Always have, always will.” “Matthew, I know, I know.” “No, you don’t. I love you Cass. Love you.” I looked at him and knew what he meant. How had I not seen this before? “That’s okay, I love you too. And as soon as you’re better, we can be together. I promise.” “I’m not making it through the night,” he said. “Please don’t say that,” I yelled at him. He squeezed my hand with as much force as he could and tried to smile for me. I leaned forward and gave him a kiss. “Matthew, I can’t do this without you. I am an awkward mess who can’t hold herself together. I need you.” “You say awkward, I say adorable. You say a mess, I say mighty. You’ll be fine,” he whispered. “But Matthew…” “Just promise me you’ll look at the stars and know that I’m here with you. Always. Okay?” I couldn’t speak. I began to cry, and he squeezed my hand once again. He closed his eyes, his breath got shallow, and as he did, I did the same. I laid my head on our hands and let my tears flow. “Love you,” he whispered. I lifted my tear-streaked face to his and kissed him one last time. I felt the sides of his lips turn up as he mustered the strength for a smile. His breath got shorter and shorter, and within moments, I heard the incessant beep, the one beep that meant there was no more. The endless beep. Matthew. He was coming home tomorrow. Matthew. He was in love with me. Matthew. He was my best friend. Matthew. He was now gone. I sprung from the room and bolted down the hallway, somehow finding my way to the front door and out onto the pavement. I looked up at the sky and saw the same brilliant stars I’d seen before. I fell to to the ground and curled up into a ball. As I lay weeping, I imagined Matthew and I floating up to space and flying amongst the stars. The last image I saw before blackness enclosed me, was his smiling face, clutching my hand and twirling me around—-my best friend, in love with me, now gone.
You know that feeling you get when you fall on your back and all of the air escapes from your body in one sudden shot of pain that you can’t breathe right for a while and once you can breathe again, it still comes out in short puffs of air struggling to escape from your inside? Yeah. That feeling I know too well. It’s been a while since I’ve fallen on my back, but now that I have, I don’t know how to get back up. My knees begin to shake every time I try to stand, and I fall backwards again and again. They say that gravity holds us down, but I wish this pressure it’s placed on my chest would go away. I wish it would release me from its grasp so I could feel the freeness of running again. I wish I could catch my breathe enough to say that I was okay. I wish I knew what it felt like to be okay.
Short story blurb.
She scrolled through her inbox, rereading old messages Daniel had sent her a few months ago. This was back when they were super close. This was before Audrey. This was before her whole life changed on her. As she continued to read the messages that used to make her happy, she began to cry. These messages no longer brought a smile to her face, instead, they brought turmoil to her brain. To stop from crying, she bit her gum until she tasted blood on her lips. How had she given so much to him when he had only given her so little? As she pondered this thought, she placed the mouse on the delete button. She was tempted to press it and erase these haunting memories forever. But she couldn’t. No matter how they made her feel right now, they had made her happy at some point. She remembered laughing at certain messages. She remembered falling asleep with a smile. She remembered waking with a smile. These seemed like so long ago, and she tried to imagine them now. She’d let him go, but she wanted him back. She wouldn’t be able to do anything while he was with Audrey though. If he was supposed to be hers, they’d find a way. She sighed and stared at the screen. There was nothing else to do now except to continue reading, so she did.
(finally back to writing!)
“I know what I told you,” Cass muttered.
“What was that?” Daniel asked.
“I know what I told you!” she exclaimed. “Everything I told you, I meant. But I miss you. I miss the texts we’d send, and I miss the conversations we’d have. I miss the nights we spent just hanging out. I miss the efforts you’d make to be my friend. I know you’re with Audrey, but just listen to me. I want to be yours. I want girls to know that you are mine and mine alone. I want them to look at me with jealousy because they want you, but you want me. I want the world to be back to normal again. I want Matthew here. I want Caleb to be happy, but not with me.”
Daniel stared in astonishment, unsure of what response he needed to produce.
“I look at you, and I, and I smile, and I pretend that everything is okay. But the distance between us makes me sick. My stomach churns, and I feel my face redden. I wish you’d see me; I wish you’d notice. Matthew was right Daniel, you mean more to me than I ever wanted to let you mean. You broke through my wall, but you left and didn’t bother to pick up your mess.”
Daniel silently stared behind Cass, trying to piece together everything he had just heard as Cass silently sobbed into her hands. The only idea that occurred to Daniel was to extend his arms in an embrace.
Cass waited for the hug to come, but as she opened her eyes, the light from her window streamed in.
It was all a dream she realized. She would never have the strength to tell Daniel everything. She would just have to endure the what ifs. It was in that moment when she needed Matthew most, and she realized the gravity of her loss.
Cass wiped the tears from her eyes as she stared at Matthew asleep in the hallway. She felt so lost and alone, and she was so confused on where her heart was supposed to be. She had Matthew, her best friend, who never left her side. She had Caleb, who ex and recent date, who remembered everything and treated her with respect. And then she had Daniel, the idiot, who was now in a new relationship and would never look at her the way she longed to be looked at. Where did her heart lay?
It was in this land of confusion that she soon discovered what she needed to do. She called Bethany Jones, editor of Keeping Up With the World and her boss. “Bethany? Hi, this is Cassadee. I can’t come in to work today. No, I’m not sick. Something just came up really recently, and I can’t stay here this weekend. No, I’ll be back. I promise. Tuesday? Ok, that sounds great. Thanks so much. Alright now, bye.” Cass hung up the phone and retreated to her bedroom.
She stuffed her duffel with her basic necessities. She saw her cell phone lying on her bedroom table and couldn’t resist picking it up. It was in that moment that she realized how trapped she was. She threw the phone onto the bed and shuffled past Matthew in his slumber. She quickly scribbled a note and headed to her car.
She didn’t know where she was going or for how long she would drive. She just had to get out of there. So she took the first exit northwest and started driving. She was leaving, and she wasn’t looking back.
Daniel awoke with a wide grin on his face; he could not wait to see Cassadee so he could tell her the good news. In his rush of selfishness, he forgot everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours.
When he arrived at work, he strolled to the office he shared with fellow photo-journalist and best friend Charles. He expected Cassadee to be seated on his desk waiting to inform them of their daily duty as she always did and was shocked to find the office empty except for Charles.
Charles looked up from his laptop. “She didn’t come to work today.”
“What are you talking about? Cass has never missed a day of work. Is she alright?”
“Dude, you’re her like best friend, why don’t you text her or something.”
“Right,” replied Daniel as he bent his head to his chest. He contemplated his next step. Cass had to be at work. Her office was right next to the vending machine; he would go scout the area. There had to be some sort of clue. “I’m going to get something from the vending machine. Want anything?”
“Grab me a Kit-Kat will you?”
“Sure,” said Daniel as he headed out the door. He stopped in front of Cassadee’s very dark and very empty office.
“She’s not here,” a voice said behind him.
He jumped backwards. He turned to find Lydia, Cass’s assistant.
“Know where she’s at?” he asked as he tried to compose himself.
“She just told me she couldn’t be here, and she’ll be back Tuesday. She said that she was confused and lost and that it was too difficult to be here in the city. I have no idea what got into her, but she didn’t sound like her normal chipper self.”
“Tuesday……ok, thanks.” Daniel ran this information through his head as he trekked back to his office. She had to leave? What could be too tough for her to face? She was so strong.
“Dude, Kit-Kat?” asked Charles when Daniel arrived empty-handed.
“Right. Sorry. Hold on a second.” Daniel pulled out his cell expecting to see a message of explanation from Cassadee. Nothing. He texted her and awaited her reply. She always replied right away, that was one thing he admired about her. She never liked to make people wait and always apologized if they did. An hour passed and no response. He continued to stare at his phone for a few minutes more. Where was she?
Beep. Beep. Beep. Matthew awoke to the faint sound of a muffled alarm clock. He rubbed his neck and looked around. When did he fall asleep on the floor? Why? Then he remembered- Cassadee. He checked his watch. She should have already left for work, so why was her alarm still going off?
The sound stopped as suddenly as it started. Was he just imagining things? He rose from the ground and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He managed to pour himself a glass of orange juice and sat at the table. When his eyes focused, he noticed a note on the table.
Matthew- I had to leave. I couldn’t go to work and face Daniel today. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I promise to be back Tuesday. Thank you so much for everything best friend. I’m sorry that I had to do this, but I have to find a way to patch this broken heart up. XOXO Cassadee— did I mention how much I love you best friend? Because I really do. I swear it. I mean it. See you soon! Don’t worry about me!
Matthew spit his orange juice out. Was she serious? He yanked his phone from out of his pocket and called her number. In the silence, he heard a very familiar ringtone. No.
He ran down the hallway and entered her bedroom. There, face down on her comforter, was her cell phone playing that familiar ringtone.
He dropped his phone and picked hers up. His name vanished on the screen and was replaced with 1 missed call. He noticed an unopened envelope signifying an unread text.
He opened her inbox to find four messages from Daniel.
Hey Cassadee! Miss you at work today! Where you at?
Cass. I had a question about something. Get back to me pronto?
Oop. Found a new book you might like. I’ll tell you all about it when I see you! Don’t forget we still have to play that game of Monopoly. You are going down. lol
Oh and Charles says hey!
Matthew laughed. Daniel was desperately trying to figure out where Cassadee was, but he was oblivious to the fact that he was the cause.
Matthew sat on the edge of the bed with the phone in his hands. He was pissed at Daniel for doing this to his best friend, so with one flick of his finger, he deleted all of Daniel’s texts. The only way for Cass to get over Daniel was to stop talking to him. And that is what he was going to help do.
Daniel stormed down the apartment steps and headed straight to his car. As he flew down the sidewalk, he whipped out his cell phone and hastily sent a text.
Audrey I have to ask you somethilng can i coem over
He didn’t even wait for a response. He was in his car with the music blaring as soon as the text sent. He peeled away from the curb. What was Matthew even saying? Cassadee liked him? No way. Plus, he liked Audrey right? Well regardless, he knew Audrey liked him, so what did it matter?
As he drove through the city, his thoughts kept flitting to Cass— what was she doing on her date, was she having a fun time, was he treating her right? He slammed his fist into the steering wheel making the horn sound. Why was she in his mind with such force?
After ten minutes of sitting in traffic, he finally reached Audrey’s place. He checked his phone to find her response.
Of course babe come right on ovr ill be waitin ;)
Babe? He shook his head and headed up the steps. She rang him in right away. Was she watching from the window? Again, he shook his head. Whatever.
“Baby, I missed you!” Audrey exclaimed as she flung the door open and threw her arms around his shoulders.
He hugged her back and followed as she led him down the hallway into the living room. He looked to the couch to find her roommate and some guy passed out.
Audrey noticed his glance and waved her hand. “Just ignore them. Too much to drink…..I think.” She giggled. “Um, there’s room on my bed I guess.” She flopped down and patted the spot next to her.
Daniel sat down and tapped his feet on the floor as his hands began to shake.
“So, whatcha want to ask me honey?”
Was this really what he wanted? He shook his head. Yes. He deserved a girlfriend, and Audrey was nothing like Matthew said. She was funny, outgoing, and, and, and well, she was pretty.
Daniel turned to face her, and she smiled. “Would you be my girlfriend?”
“Of course babe!” She flung herself towards Daniel and wrapped him in an embrace. “I thought you’d never ask.”
That was done; he’d done it.
———(insert more about Cassadee and Caleb’s date)——————
Cassadee sighed with contentment as she entered the apartment later that evening. Matthew looked up from his paper and smiled. “Have fun?”
“Oh Matthew. He’s so….wonderful. He’s kind. He remembers the little things. He’s smart. He even opened the door for me! And he is cute. It was wonderful.”
“I’m glad Cass. You need this. But, I’m going to get ready for bed, so we can talk more in the morning.”
“Alright Matthew. Thanks so much for everything. I’ll just check my Facebook and follow suit. Goodnight!” she yelled to him as he headed to the bathroom.
Cass scrolled down the page to see what everyone had been up to that evening, but she stopped mid-scroll. Her heart stopped in her chest, her hand flew to her mouth, and she gasped.
Matthew emerged from the bathroom with a toothbrush sticking out of his mouth. He saw Cass’s expression and hurried over. Through his mouth full of toothpaste, he managed to mumble a “What?”. He looked over her shoulder at the computer screen. Smack-dab in the middle of the screen was Cass’s most feared nightmare.
Daniel Leonard is now in a relationship with Audrey McDaniels
Matthew took the toothbrush out of his mouth. “Cass? Cass? Stay with me.”
Cassadee swallowed and took a deep breath; however, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t tear her eyes away from that dreaded sentence. Her eyes began to well up with tears.
Matthew quickly shut the laptop. He grabbed ahold of Cassadee’s arm and yanked her to her feet. He gently led her down the hallway into her bedroom where she proceeded to crawl under her covers.
He kissed her forehead and shut the door. As soon as Cassadee heard the door click, she let her sobs go. She shoved her face into her pillow and let her emotions spill out.
Matthew clutched his chest and slid down the hallway wall. He hated to hear Cassadee so affected. She didn’t deserve this. And somehow, he felt as if this was his fault. Maybe if he hadn’t of egged Daniel on, he wouldn’t be in a relationship. Then again, Daniel was nothing more than an idiot.
Matthew let his head fall onto his knees, and that’s just how Cassadee found him the next morning.
As the boys continued to clean the disastrous mess in the bathroom, I used my room and the kitchen as my new “go-to.” I rushed from room to room in an effort to make myself look great, but not in that “I tried so hard to impress you” look. My dress was ruined, so I settled on a simple white tee and jeans with just the right accessories of course. I hadn’t seen Caleb in over four years. I didn’t know what to expect.
I looked over myself in an effort to feel comfortable. Again, what was I doing? I found Daniel and Matthew seated in the living room. As I entered, they both became silent and stared at me.
“What?” I freaked. “Is there something on my face? Is this outfit wrong? I knew I should’ve picked different shoes. Help me!”
“No. No. You look absolutely gorgeous,” Matthew said, as he stood to greet me.
I looked at the ground and smiled. “Thank you best friend.”
I looked at Daniel, and he silently nodded to me. I took that as a “you look great” look, but I could’ve been wrong. Daniel was impossible to read.
“Well, I should be heading out,” I said as I grabbed my purse and headed to the door. Matthew and Daniel followed me.
I gave Matthew a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Go get him tiger,” he smirked. I smiled back.
I stood in front of Daniel, and we hugged awkwardly. “Um, have fun tonight,” he said.
“Thanks. Um, you have fun with your girlfriend,” I nodded.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” he shot back.
“…….eventually,” I whispered.
“Yeah. Eventually,” he repeated. He looked to the ground, and I shuffled out the door. I couldn’t think about him tonight. This night was me and Caleb— a night for new beginnings.
Matthew and Daniel stood by the door. The silence was broken by Matthew’s fist knocking against Daniel’s arm. “What the heck are you doing man?!” yelled Daniel.
“Are you that much of a freaking idiot to not realize that she likes you dude?!” exclaimed an exasperated Matthew.
“Wait, what are you talking about?” asked Daniel.
Matthew sighed and headed to the couch. “Just go hang with your ‘girlfriend.’”
“Hey. Don’t come pointing fingers at me man,” said Daniel. “You like her. Why don’t you do something about it?”
Matthew combed his fingers through his hair. “You don’t understand. She’s my best friend. I…I can’t be stupid.”
“So,” said Daniel. “Let me just be with my girlfri— I mean friend like I want.”
“What? Audrey? She’s a social-networking obsessed, self-absorbed, clingy, jealous girl. She ‘loves’ you? You aren’t even official yet!” yelled Matthew.
“You don’t know her!” spat Daniel. “Just keep your head in your own business a**hole. You don’t know anything.”
“Her Facebook tells me everything I need,” replied Matthew.
“You know what? Whatever. I’m done with this. I’m out of here.” Daniel stormed through the living room and slammed open the door.
“You know what Daniel?” Daniel stopped but continued to stare into the hallway.
“We used to be best friends. Remember that? Before you started dating that other self-absorbed, jealous, clingy girl named Jordan. Remember her?” Daniel cringed but stayed forward. “You said you never wanted to go back to that again, so you broke up with her. Three months later, she was back, and I was gone. I didn’t know what happened to you until one day, Cass comes in excited about this new boy she met at work. His name was Daniel, and he was the new photojournalist— only issue was, he had a girlfriend. I shook my head. No way. I was shocked. Daniel? Daniel Leonard? My old best friend? Well, she comes in a few weeks later overly-excited. The reason? Daniel and Jordan broke up. She started hanging out with you. She would come home ranting and raving about how he was different than any other guy she’d ever dated…except they weren’t dating. She wished they were. But she was totally okay with it, because she had a new best friend. She trusted you. She brought you here and introduced us. We pretended to meet for the first time. Wasn’t that weird? Then one day, she comes to me broken. Apparently he was in a relationship with someone and never happened to mention it. So, I told her to go tell this Daniel everything. She goes and runs. But she says she’s fine now. She says she can handle it. But you don’t know anything. So go hang out with Audrey if you really want to go back to that. It’s all you.”
Daniel proceeded to slam the door shut and leave. Matthew then put his head in his hands. Just then, his cell phone buzzed. He flipped the screen open to see a familiar name.
Cass: He’s just like I remember! So sweet and genuine. And gorgeous to boot! Matthew— I’m not afraid anymore. He can help me forget Daniel. :) Oop, but he’s coming back with our coffee, so I’ll fill you in when I come back. Ahh! :D
Matthew threw his phone on the table. That’s what he was afraid of. She couldn’t fool herself to be in love with Caleb just to forget about Daniel, could she? There’s no way. But then again, Daniel shattered her heart without even understanding—- there was no telling just how messed up she really was. At least not yet.
Matthew, please tell me you get off work before 4!!
I pressed send and awaited his response eagerly.
Yeah, I get off at 3. Why?
I heaved a sigh of relief.
Because I have a date set-up with Caleb at 4 at that cute cafe down the street….but…..I need your help getting ready! :/
Wait, Caleb as in marriage proposal Caleb?……………………….
Long story. Just get here when you get off of work!
I’ll see you soon!
I threw my phone down and looked at the clock. It was 2:30. I frantically looked around my room in a desperate attempt to calm down. Caleb. What the heck was I doing now? I mean sure, Daniel had someone at this moment, but did that give me a reason to just give up?
I tried to think of a good reason to cancel, but the only relevant reason was the fact that about four years ago he proposed to me, and I ran away. No big deal.
I tapped my foot on the floor anxiously awaiting Matthew’s arrival. My hair was disheveled, my face tear-streaked, and my pajamas all askew. Matthew was going to have a fit when he saw my sorry state.
I heard a knock at the door and looked up in confusion. Matthew said he got off at 3, and it was only 2:45. I stood and opened the door. Who else would be on the other side but Daniel.
I gasped and closed the door in his face.
“Cass? Um, you ok?”
I clutched the door handle for support and took a few deep breaths. After I was semi-calm, I pushed my bangs back and swung open the door.
“Why hello Daniel. Good to see ya,” I managed to say.
We stared at each other awkwardly for a few minutes as the silence hung heavy in the air.
“Can I come in?” he asked me.
I laughed. “Oh, right. Of course. Silly me. Sure. Come in.”
Daniel stepped through the door and sat on the couch.
I shook my head in utter confusion and glanced in the mirror next to the doorway. I was a mess!
“We really need to talk,” he started.
“Um, pardon me, but I have to get ready, so…..”
“Ready for?” his last syllable dangled in the air.
“A date,” I huffed.
“Oh.” The awkward silence penetrated every corner of the room until it became an unbearable sensation.
“But, we can talk as I get ready,” I said. “Just sit on my bed, and I’ll be in and out of the bathroom.”
Daniel followed me as I headed to the back of the apartment. What was I doing? I grabbed my dress that was hanging on the door and sort of ran into the bathroom.
“So Cass, what happened the other night? You kind of just….took off.” I heard him ask.
The imminent shock of the question made me trip on my curling iron wire, and I began to fall to the floor. I threw my hand out to clutch the countertop and ended up ripping my make-up bag to the floor. I grunted as I hit the tile floor amidst my disaster.
I looked up to see Daniel’s caring face staring into mine. He held his hand out, and I clutched it as he helped me to my feet. Make-up was smeared all over my dress, the counter, and floor. I sighed.
Daniel began to clean the floor for me. I nodded my head in thanks and headed to my closet to find a new choice of outfit. I heard a thud and sniffle, so I trekked back to the bathroom only to find Daniel on the floor shaking from laughter.
I stared at him as he continued to laugh at my misfortune. He held his hand up to me, and I extended mine as if to help him up. Next thing I knew, he had tugged me onto the ground next to him. He threw some powder at me, and I flung some back.
This soon became an all out war until we were completely covered in my make-up.
I couldn’t help but laugh along with him, and I soon ended up with my face in his shoulder as he held me. We were both in our own little world talking and laughing like we had before when I heard the door open and Matthew call out.
A few seconds later, Matthew walked into the bathroom to see Daniel and I amidst an array of brightly colored powder.
Matthew shook his head and stared at me. I knew exactly what he was trying to tell me. He was saying, “Idiot, don’t let him do this to you again.” But I was happy. Daniel made me so happy. I couldn’t forget this friendship.
I saw some powder fly up and land on Matthew’s shirt. I giggled but tried to stop quickly. A few seconds later, more powder flew through the air, and Matthew had joined our war.
After some laughing and throwing, I realized I had to be ready for my date with Caleb. I hurriedly began to get ready, as the boys cleaned the bathroom for me.
I didn’t want to leave these two guys. One, I liked more than I could stand, and the second? He was my best friend. Why did I have to bring Caleb into this mess? I was such an idiot. Such a stinking idiot.
“What? Why would I tell him?”
“Go to his house and tell him what’s on your mind. Right now.” Matthew stared at me with a stern look on his face.
I looked down at my feet. “It’s 10:00 at night. He’s staying at his parents house up in Newark this weekend. I. I. I can’t.”
Matthew grabbed my shoulders and forced my chin up so I was looking directly into his eyes. “Go. Tell. Him. You’ll regret everything if you don’t. If you sit here and expect something to happen, you’ll be disappointed like you always have been. So, go. I’ll be here when you get back. I promise.” He handed me my keys and my purse.
I took a deep breath and nodded. I drove down the city streets and headed out towards Jersey.
I parked a few houses down from his house and stared at the porch light. I clutched the steering wheel as I began to tremble. I listened to my iPod music playing faintly in the background, “How the hell does a broken heart get back together when it’s torn apart?” It was 10:30 at night. What the hell was I doing there?
I stepped out into the cool night and walked down the sidewalk and up the front steps. My hand hesitated before lightly pressing the doorbell. Half of me wanted him to be away, but I saw his car parked out front and knew he’d be there.
“Hello? Oh hi Cass. How are you dear?” his mom answered the door.
“Um, hi Mrs. Leonard. I’m so sorry, but, uh, is Daniel here?”
“Hey mom? Who’s at the door?” I heard come from behind.
Mrs. Leonard turned to her side to answer the question. I looked behind her to see Daniel sitting on the couch with his arm around a girl. He stared directly at me.
My mouth began to open and close, and tears began to well in my eyes. “I…..I…..I have to go,” I managed to stammer.
I quickly turned on my heels and ran to my car. I heard a shout behind me, but kept running. The tears began to stream down my face as I stumbled to find my key. I jumped in my car and heard the familiar song begin again— “How the hell does a broken heart?” I unplugged my iPod and chucked it in my backseat. Stupid iPod shuffle. Stupid broken heart song.
I accelerated and passed his house. I saw him standing there with his arm thrown up. He was screaming my name, but I didn’t stop. The girl was standing on his porch with her arms crossed staring at my car. I didn’t even stop at the stop sign by his house.
I kept driving until the tears blinded me. I couldn’t see anything. I was on a bridge in I don’t know where. I had been driving for five, maybe ten, fifteen minutes? I pulled off the road and cried into my steering wheel.
My chest heaved up and down, continuously growing stronger and stronger. I stumbled out of my car and stood by the railing overlooking the water. The stars filled the sky with a brilliant glow, and I began to run. My feet pounded across the pavement as I sprinted as fast as my legs could carry. I crossed streets and pedestrians in my wild run without a second glance. I saw a park to my right, so I turned and ran down the winding paths. By the time I stopped, my watch said 12:00. Midnight. It was midnight, and I had no idea where I was.
I crouched to the ground and wiped my eyes. I was breathing hard. I wasn’t scared at first, not until I looked around and saw darkness. I had left my cell phone in my car, along with my keys. God, I was so stupid.
I turned and began to follow the winding paths back. I had only made one turn right? I crossed a bridge. I couldn’t remember many of the buildings I had passed, so I said a soft prayer under my breath as I headed back.
By the time I found my car, it was one in the morning. I heaved a sigh of relief as soon as I realized my car and everything in it was safe and sound. I looked at my phone to see five missed calls and ten texts. Daniel had called me three times, and Matthew two. They both sent me multiple texts: Daniel asking me if I was ok and asking why I stopped by, and Matthew asked where I was and why Daniel called him in a panic when I didn’t answer. Daniel was panicked? I shook my head in disbelief.
I dialed Matthew’s number, and he answered on the first ring. “You had me so scared Cass. Where the heck are you?”
“I’m sorry Matthew. I’m on my way back home now.”
It took me a while to respond. “No. But I will be.”
“I’ll be waiting Cass. You know me.”
As soon as I arrived home, I stumbled through the doorway and flopped onto the couch. Matthew met me with a huge embrace. “You’re going to be ok,” he said as he held me close.
It was true then. Daniel had met another girl and was maybe in a relationship. I could be cool with that couldn’t I? We were friends and nothing more. Just, I wish he would have told me. I wish I didn’t find out that way.
I nodded into Matthew’s shoulder and let myself drift into sleep. I didn’t want to be awake any more that night. Not with what I had seen. Not with that knife sticking through my chest.
The laughing, jumping, screaming, and hugging continued even after all the good news had been shared.
“I propose a toast- with out raspberry lemonades- to the newly engaged and expectant mothers,” laughed Makenna as she raised her glass into the air.
All three of us raised our glasses together. As they laughed, I couldn’t help but sigh as I stared at the city lights in the distance. They are all at least three years older than me, so I knew this was bound to happen at some point. It’s just that I feel as if nothing is going for me, and I literally mean nothing.
“Cass, what’s wrong?” asked Lux as she placed her arm around my shoulder.
I turned my gaze from the window to her face. “Huh? What? Sorry, I was just looking at the city lights….” my voice trailed off.
“You can tell us everything,” Rachel said as she joined us.
“No, I don’t want to put a damper on the evening. Can’t we just enjoy ourselves? Please?”
“I refuse,” said Lux. “We are here to listen and help you through everything. Best friends.”
Makenna put her cup down and joined us. “Always,” she said.
I stared at their caring faces and sat on the couch. “Well, there is this boy. His name is Daniel. And he’s a wonderful friend, but I think I might like him; however, I highly doubt he likes me.”
The three girls nodded as if they already understood where this was going.
“You see, we text all the time. Most of the time though, the conversations seem to follow this pattern:
Also, you have to understand that sometimes I want him to text me first. Show me that I’m on his mind right? Anyway, here is the basis:
Him (fifteen minutes later): Hey! What’s up? (This is new. He usually doesn’t ask me what’s up. This is my job.)
Me: Oh, nothing really. Just listening to my favorite musician, you? (I mention my favorite musician so that maybe he’ll ask me. Good plan right?)
Him (a few moments later): Just relaxing. lol (Ok, first off, lol? What kind of response to relaxing is that? I get it if it’s funny, but not relaxing. And also notice…..he doesn’t ask me.)
Me: Oh, sounds awesome. I wish I could relax— too swamped. Ugh. :/
Him: (Nothing. This conversation is dunzo for now. He could easily ask my why I’m swamped or offer to assist me, but nothing.)
“I talk to Matthew about this all the time, but he is too good of a guy to know what these guys are thinking. Why can’t all guys be as good as my best friend?”
“He sounds like a tool,” said Makenna.
“Oh, he really isn’t. He’s sweet and kind, at least when the conversation goes somewhere. I’m doomed. I’m only twenty-one, and I’m doomed to be a total wreck all the time.”
“Hey, if he’s the right guy, he’ll make the effort,” said Lux.
“And if he isn’t,” continued Rachel, “Someone else will be.”
“Remember Caleb?” asked Makenna.
Memories of the proposal flashed into my mind, and I inhaled deeply before responding. ”How could I possibly forget?” I asked.
“Well, I talked to him earlier, and he’s moving to New York. I could set something up if you’d like me too.”
“Um, sure, why not? It’s not like Daniel is working out. Right?”
The girls all laughed and changed the topic of the conversation.
I looked down at my cellular expecting to see a response from Daniel. It had been an hour and still nothing. I wasn’t going to get a message tonight; however, I was too preoccupied to notice that he did in fact text me a few moments later. I had too many other thoughts milling about my brain: Caleb- my first love, Caleb- in New York, Caleb- I was going to see him, Caleb. I stared at the city lights until they became a singular blob of color. What was I getting myself into?