1. You come home late at night, after a hard day.  The message light on the answering machine is blinking.  You press play and listen.  Dumping you on graduation day was the worst mistake of my life. Terry and I didn’t work out—Terry—was the second worst mistake.  I will be at La Petite tonight at eight.  I asked the chef to prepare a lemon soufflé, and to put white tulips—your favorites—on the table.  Please, please, come.

 

 

I rolled my eyes. Oh, come on. Honey, that ship has looooong since sailed, I thought. I mean, really. You are seven years too late and look where it got you. Things were nice with Terry, but it wasn’t right. Everyone could see that. Even you and Terry knew it was wrong. But did you listen. Noooo. Are you going to listen now? Noooo. As Catherine Zeta-Jones said in High Fidelity, “This is one of those ‘What-Does-It-All-Mean’ things.” Idiot. Like I’d ever go back to you. You broke my fucking heart. With one of my best friends. Her pregnancy was the kicker. When Terry told me she was having your child, I didn’t know what was going on. I smiled, I told her it was going to be okay. I even went to her frickin’ baby shower.

 

And then she lost the baby.

 

Any relationship that could’ve survived between you two was lost. And so, what do you do? You reflect on your life. You look at your triumphs and your mistakes. You have an entire new future ahead of you, don’t you, Jack? You’re not going to be a “father.” You are back on the same path as before, except your baggage is a little heavier. Sifting through the contents of your life, and I guess you found me. Or, who I used to be. The “me” who was in love with you. The “me” who was in love with loving you. I think that’s a song. An old song. I like different music now.

Should I meet you and let you fully realize your mistake? Or should I stay here, and let you realize I am never coming? Or should I go out and avoid the answering machine, which still has your message on it?

 

 I need a drink.

 

I grabbed my purse and coat and was out the door before the machine can say “End of new messages.”

The message replays in my head the entire drive to the bar. I turned the radio up, trying to drown it out. He sounded genuine. Too little, too late. Oh dear God, I thought as I parked the car. What do I tell Terry?She didn’t tell me when they started dating. Do I have to tell her Jack asked me out . . .?

That thought haunted me until I seated myself at the bar. The bartender smiled reassuringly. Alcohol is on the way, everything will be fine. I took a sip of my White Russian and think of the other white Russian I’d been seeing. He never dumped me. He never slept with my best friend behind my back. And he knows better than to ever come crawling back if he did.

 

I look at my now empty glass. Not empty for long. I pull out my cell phone and text him.

“Hey, wanna meet me for a drink?”

He replies quickly. “Yes, where?”

I text him the details and order another drink. Twenty minutes later, he arrives. He orders a beer and gives me a hug. I realize the past is behind me.

I excuse myself to step outside and text Jack,“I’m not coming. Sorry.”

I can’t call him. He’s too vulnerable and I’m too tired. I step back inside and sit with Tom.

“Is everything alright?” he asks.

“Yes, just tying up some loose ends. How was your day?”

“Good.”

“Good.”

 

 

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