Chapter One - Heartbreak
Celeste Minton could feel her heart drop out of her body and shatter into a million pieces as she scrolled through the Facebook messages her boyfriend of two years, Brad Austin, had been sending to his ex, Holly.
They were very explicit, detailing how much he missed her, what he’d like to do with her, but he didn’t want to hurt Celeste by just dumping her out of the blue to get back with Holly. However, he wouldn’t mind seeing Holly on the side...if she could keep quiet about their hookups.
Tears welled up in Celeste’s green eyes. Brad had stupidly left his Facebook messenger open while he’d gone to the bathroom, and Celeste knew he had been acting funny, lately. He’d seemed to be spending more time on the computer, or his phone, even when Celeste was over. She couldn’t help her curious self, and just had to check.
When Brad returned from his bathroom break a few minutes later, Celeste glared at him as she got up from his computer. He stopped right away, as if he knew what was coming.
“You saw them, didn’t you? The messages?” he wanted to know, his face going pale as he ran a hand through his auburn hair. “Celeste, I didn’t mean -”
Celeste didn’t let him finish, grabbing her few items of clothing she’d had strewn about his already messy room and shoving them in her overnight bag. “Save it, Brad. I don’t want to hear any excuses. I saw it for myself. How can you try to deny that you’ve been hooking up with Holly?”
Brad sighed, attempting to come close to Celeste, but she dodged him as she moved around the room. “I’m really sorry, babe. I swear, I’ll block Holly and I won’t bother with her again,” he pleaded.
“I can’t trust you anymore. You want to hook up with her so badly, well, I’m leaving you so you can have the freedom to do that.” The tears were running down Celeste’s face now, and she didn’t try to hide it from Brad. He had seen her cry before.
“Okay. Fine. Just go. I guess this two years was all for nothing to you?” Brad’s tone changed from pleading to angry in about two seconds.
“Apparently it meant nothing to you!” Celeste snapped. “I’m not going to be blamed for this shit, Brad. Would you stay with me if I cheated with an ex?”
“I didn’t cheat on you, though! I haven’t hooked up with Holly!” Brad insisted.
“Yet. You were planning to.” Celeste finished packing the rest of her things, and slung her bag over her shoulder. She turned to face Brad, and took in his appearance one last time, because she knew she was never going to see him again. A wave of memories washed over her, and she couldn’t stop the tears streaming down her face. Walking down the waterfront with him. Laughing at his stupid jokes. Being annoyed that he was playing video games too much instead of paying attention to her. Okay, so the last one wasn’t a great memory, and it made her even more annoyed than she was already as she recalled it.
Brad looked as though he wanted to reach out and embrace her, but was holding back from doing so. “I can’t even give you a good-bye kiss?” he asked, less angry again, and looking sad, now. His hazel eyes seemed to read deep into her soul.
Celeste wiped her eyes as she turned away from him and headed for his bedroom door. “No. Goodbye, Brad. Have a good life with Holly.”
“Celeste...” he began, but trailed off when he saw she was no longer listening to his pleas.
Closing Brad’s apartment door for the last time, Celeste heaved a sigh and attempted to make herself look somewhat presentable, since she was technically in public, now. No one was around, but she never knew who she could encounter on the elevator.
Luckily, it was empty all the way to the ground floor. Since it was almost eight PM on a Thursday, most residents were probably already home for the night. Celeste didn’t pass a single person, even as she exited the apartment building that had been so familiar to her these past two years. She’d been staying here almost any time she had free time from her part-time job at the dollar store in the mall. It was the site of so many great memories, from the time she and Brad first kissed to the last time (which had been earlier this evening, before Celeste had found out about his infidelity), to when they would watch movies and TV shows while cuddling on his bed. Not only that, but they did all kinds of things around town – that was, when Brad wasn’t being lazy playing his video games.
Her heart heavy, Celeste kicked at a stone as she speed-walked to her car, half-afraid that Brad would start chasing her through the parking lot, or something. She didn’t dare look back, because if she did, she knew she would see his face peering at her through his apartment window, which faced the parking lot.
Thankfully, he didn’t follow her to cause a scene in public. Celeste let the tears fall again once she was safely in her car, and couldn’t take it anymore and just had to look up. She was right – she could see Brad’s silhouette, all the way up on the fifth floor, staring down at her. This caused her heart to stop and she almost wanted to run back inside, apologize, forget about it, and hope he didn’t cheat on her again. Brad was so familiar to her that the idea of moving on with someone new scared her. She already missed being in his arms.
But, she knew there was no way she could ever trust him again. Not only that, but their relationship had been rocky to say the least for the past few months due to their fighting about whether or not he was cheating, among other issues. It was probably time for it to be over.
What if I overreacted? Celeste thought as she drove out of the parking lot. What if him talking to Holly online isn’t a big deal?
Oh, come on. He literally asked to see a picture of her boobs, and she showed him. Do you really want to be with someone you’ll just be paranoid around forever?
She had this internal argument with herself until she arrived at her parent’s house, about twenty minutes later. Both her parents were home, and her mom, Sherry Minton, seemed to immediately know that something was wrong.
“Celeste?” Sherry approached her daughter as she stepped in the door.
Celeste closed the door behind her, unable to stop the tears from falling. “B-Brad was cheating on me with Holly, so I dumped him.”
Upon hearing this, Celeste’s father, Ted Minton, immediately stood from his place on the couch in the living room and came over to her. “That asshole!”
“Stop, Dad. It’s fine. Whatever. I don’t want to talk about it right now.” Celeste brushed past both her parents and headed up to her room, where she closed the bedroom door to let tears stream freely down her face.
After a while, Celeste began to feel pathetic. Here she was, twenty-three years old and crying over a man who’d cheated on her. She felt like she was back in high school and learning that the guy she’d been dreaming of for a year now had begun dating someone else. That was a true story.
But she couldn’t help it. Two years of being in her first really serious relationship, even talking about possibly getting engaged. Celeste had showed Brad the types of rings she preferred, so that he wouldn’t struggle with the stress of picking out a ring for her. If it ever came to that.
Celeste got up from her bed, grabbing her phone from her purse that she’d dropped on the floor, and saw that she had several missed texts from Brad. Each one was pretty much the same: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ll block Holly and never message her again if you’ll just come back, it’s lonely without you, I miss you already, you mean more to me than a hook up with her...” etc. Over and over. Celeste just rolled her eyes and sent off a message to her best friend, Heidi Lovejoy. She knew Heidi was probably busy, but she’d get the message and reply when she could.
Celeste (8:45 pm): Hi Heidi, I just broke up with Brad because I found out he’d been talking to Holly online for the last few months. I knew he was acting so weird. He was so protective over his phone, even more than usual. Like, he used to let me look at his phone. Then back in March he would like, turn his phone away from me if he was texting someone, and never leave it alone in a room with me. Tonight he got careless, and I found out. Anyway, just thought I’d let you know what’s going on.
To Celeste’s surprise, Heidi answered within a few minutes.
Heidi (8:50 pm): Hey, girl. I’m so sorry to hear about that. I remember you telling me how concerned you were about Brad acting strangely. I’m just with a couple friends now, but I’ll be done with them in a couple hours. I’ll text you then if you’re still awake, okay? Love you, xox. There’s a better guy out there for you than Brad, I’m sure of it.
Celeste sighed and replied to Heidi, before grabbing her laptop from her bedside table and flicking it on. She had to distract herself somehow, she couldn’t just lay here and mope all night waiting for Heidi.
When she logged onto Facebook, she saw she had a ton of messages from Brad there, as well. She realized she would have to block him, if she wanted a clean break from him. She decided to send one final message to him.
Celeste (9:01 pm): Look, Brad. We’re done. It’s over, you’re free to be with Holly. I don’t want to be with someone that I can’t trust. I loved you, and I’m sure you loved me, but your love must have ran out because you strayed with your ex. This is all I have to say, and don’t bother trying to text me again. I can just change my phone number. If you try to come to my house, I will call the cops. Goodbye.
With that, she hovered the pointer over the “block” button, and hit it. Brad was gone from her life. Now she had to change her relationship status and profile picture, and potentially go through and delete all photos of him that would be too painful to look at if they came up in her “memories” later.
She spent the rest of the evening doing this, and about an hour later, she had a few messages from friends saying how sorry they were for her relationship ending. She simply thanked them, but didn’t go into detail about what had happened.
She heard a knock at her door and called, “Come in.”
Her mom opened the door. “I’m just about to go to bed, honey. Just thought I would see how you’re doing.”
Celeste shrugged. “Okay. I guess.”
“I saw you change your status on Facebook. I know it’s hard right now, but you’ll be thanking Brad later when you eventually meet someone who’s better for you than he ever would be. Goodnight, love you.”
“Love you, too.” Celeste nodded at her mom, who closed the bedroom door, leaving Celeste alone to her thoughts once again.
Eventually, Heidi got back to her.
Heidi (11:34 pm): How are you now? I saw you change your status and picture on Facebook.
Celeste (11:35 pm): I’m okay. Well, okay as I can be, I guess.
Heidi (11:36 pm): I hope your depression won’t flare up again. You told me it started when you were in high school, dealing with rejection and bullying then.
Celeste (11:37 pm): I don’t know. This hurts a lot worse than that. I thought I was gonna marry Brad. Derek was just a crush.
Heidi (11:40 pm): Just don’t let it get too bad, okay? If you find yourself feeling worse after a few weeks, maybe try therapy again?
Celeste (11:42 pm): Yeah, I’ll see. It just seems stupid, you know? I’m twenty-three, I’m too old to be dealing with this high school bullshit again.
Heidi (11:45 pm): I agree, but I don’t think you can run from drama, it’ll always follow you around no matter how good of a person you try to be.
They continued the chat for a while, and, even though Celeste was talking about Brad, she found that it was distracting her from concentrating all her inner thoughts on him. It was as if she was letting out some of her feelings.
Brad had texted her a few more times, even after her “goodbye” message on Facebook. But she continued to ignore him, and the texts stopped. She wasn’t interested in trying to talk with him right now, she was still too hurt over seeing what she had seen.
She soon drifted off to sleep, wondering if the aching in her heart would ever fade.
The next morning, she woke to more texts from Brad, so she felt she had to respond or else he wouldn’t stop.
Celeste (11:09 am): Brad, please just stop, okay? I already told you to stop on Facebook. I’m not going around telling everyone you cheated on me. It’s not their business, only those I am closest to are going to know. And you know I only have one friend I talk to about this stuff. So just leave me alone.
Brad (11:10 am): Thank God, you finally answered. I was worried something happened to you, or you might have done something stupid to yourself. You talked about doing that shit before, and it always drove me nuts.
Celeste (11:10 am): Well sorry my depression was a burden to you, but it doesn’t have to be anymore.
Brad (11:10 am): It wasn’t a burden. It always scared me, that’s all. Anyway, I hope that maybe after a few days you’ll come around and feel like talking to me again. I’ll give you space for now.
Celeste (11:11 am): A few days? Lol. You think I’m going to just run back to you, after all this?
Brad (11:13 am): I mean, you can’t be serious about ending a two-year relationship because I flirted with my ex online. That’s all we ever did, was flirt online. I felt like shit the entire time, but her attention was fun at the same time. It was kind of addicting, but we never met up in person, I swear to God. If you get back with me, I’ll prove to you that I’m blocking her and won’t bother with her anymore.
Celeste (11:15 am): That doesn’t make me feel any better. You’re only sorry because you got caught. YOU DID IT FOR THREE MONTHS, BRAD. It wasn’t just a one-off compliment or some shit. You did it for THREE months.
Brad (11:12 am): Okay, look. I screwed up, big-time. I’ll admit it. Just come to me when you’re ready and maybe we can talk things over. Take it slow. But anyway, take care. Just don’t do anything stupid, okay? I’d really miss you, if you did.
Celeste (11:13 am): Whatever. Whether I talk to you again or not is my choice, not yours. Just leave me alone.
Brad (11:13 am): Okay. Love you, babe. Even if you don’t believe it, right now. I still love you.
Celeste didn’t bother to answer, instead got up to use the washroom and go about her day. She was going to have to work the evening shift tonight, and was grateful for the distraction, however she just hoped she wouldn’t end up thinking about Brad too much and crying while at work.
She often thought about how she was a failure at life. Twenty-three and still living with her parents, rather than being out at eighteen like most of her high school classmates had been. Now she’d just been hurt badly by someone she’d thought was going to be her forever. She had nothing to live for, anymore.
Sure, Celeste had gone to college in her hometown of Coldstone for photography at Coldstone Community College. However, nothing had ever come of it. She’d graduated last year, and had yet to find a permanent, stable job. She’d gotten a little business from a few friends and family, but nothing to sustain her, and nothing at all in the past six months. So, she’d pretty much given up on doing photography as a career, and had applied around for part-time jobs. The Coldstone Dollar Store had been the first to give her a positive response, so she’d been there since last month.
Being an introvert, Celeste hated working with customers. It always made her nervous, and if she made a mistake, she would become flustered, as well as anxious and embarrassed. Her boss, Tammy, noticed it, and her co-workers did, as well. Tammy had to have a talk with her a couple of times about what to do in case she messed up, and Celeste felt like she wasn’t doing well at her job.
I can’t even hold a relationship for two years without the guy getting tired of me, Celeste thought bitterly. She still had a bit of time to kill before she had to be at work for five, so she did something she hadn’t done in a long time – grabbed her diary and began a new entry.
“Celeste. You okay?” Celeste’s co-worker, Trevor, approached her while she was sitting alone in the back of the store during her break.
Celeste shrugged. “Fine. Why?”
“Oh, just that you seemed distracted by something.” Trevor sat next to her. “It’s not busy out there right now. When you’re done your break, do you want to come help me stock shelves? If a customer comes into the store, I’ll take care of it.”
“Sure. Thanks.” To Celeste, stocking shelves was better than dealing with customers. Even though sometimes a customer would still ask her where an item was, but at least she could usually answer that now with more confidence than she had when she’d first started.
“If there’s anything wrong, you can chat to me about it. I won’t gossip or anything,” Trevor assured her.
Before Celeste could answer, the bell in the back room “dinged” and he had to go up front to tend to a customer as he and Celeste were the only ones on shift tonight. Celeste had five minutes left of her break, and she decided to check her social media. No new messages, or texts, from Brad, thankfully. Hopefully, he could at least resist messaging her for a few days, to give her time to collect herself without his distracting her.
She did, however, receive a message on Facebook from someone who hadn’t bothered with her in about a year, now. Her former best friend, Natalie Lakes.
Her and Natalie had been close in high school, but drifted apart after a falling out a year ago. Natalie hadn’t always treated her kindly during their friendship, but Celeste, being an introvert and therefore finding it hard to make friends, had felt so pleased to be included in a group, along with Natalie and her friend Brianna MacDonald, that she went along with everything that had gone on. Sure, there had been some conflicts over the years, but the one that tore them apart had occurred last year in the summer.
It was over allegations of Celeste trying to flirt with Natalie’s boyfriend of a year, Jordan. Celeste had insisted nothing had happened between her and Jordan, because it hadn’t and Celeste wasn’t the least bit interested in Jordan, but someone close to Natalie had claimed to see Jordan hanging out with a girl who looked like Celeste. Celeste had tried to defend herself by saying that there were many girls with wavy brown hair and green eyes who could have been seen with Jordan. Natalie had insisted that Jordan didn’t know any other girl with brown hair and green eyes but Celeste. Celeste, fed up at that point, had tried to tell Natalie that Jordan was probably cheating on her with someone else. Jordan had insisted he hadn’t cheated, though, so Natalie still believed him over Celeste. And Celeste had just finally had enough and cut her off.
Since then, Natalie would send her the occasional hateful message, whether it be over a fake Facebook account (Celeste had blocked Natalie’s original social media accounts), Twitter DMs using a fake account, or somewhere else. Sometimes, Brianna would chime in, as well. Celeste knew they were just trying to get her to respond so they could cry victims when she did attempt to defend herself against them.
Now, though, Natalie’s message read:
Nat231 (8:10 pm): Wow, Celeste. I’m still with Jordan after three years. You can’t even hold a boyfriend for more than two. Well done. Did he get tired of you being all depressed and shit? Funny how karma works, huh? Shitty things happen to shitty people who do shitty things like what you did to me. Good luck in getting ahead in life, haha.
Celeste just rolled her eyes and slammed her phone onto the table, then put her head in her hands. She had to take a couple of deep breaths and walk away from her phone to get back to work. She didn’t want to bother answering Natalie, because it would just add more drama than Celeste was willing to deal with at the moment. Besides, there was nothing she could say to even attempt to defend herself, so there was no point in trying.
For her last forty minutes of work, Celeste attempted to avoid Trevor as much as possible. Luckily there were a few last-minute customers to keep Trevor busy while Celeste stuck price stickers on items and placed them onto shelves. She attempted to do this slowly, wanting to kill as much time as possible so she didn’t have to go back to the register for the last bit of her shift.
When the store was finally getting ready to close, Celeste faced up that she had to interact with Trevor again to help him deal with the cash machine.
“So. Anything you need to talk about?” Trevor asked once again as they huddled in the back room after locking the store down, having finished counting the cash and locking everything up.
Celeste grabbed her cardigan as it was a cool June night, and slung it over her shoulders. “My boyfriend cheated on me so I dumped him last night,” she answered simply, trying not to dwell on it so she didn’t cry in front of Trevor. “We dated for two years.”
“That’s shitty. If you need a few days off or anything, let me know. I can always pick up extra hours,” Trevor gave her a smile.
Celeste attempted a weak smile back. “Thanks. But I need the distraction of work.”
“Great. You’re doing good, and getting better with the customers. I see your confidence building a little,” Trevor encouraged her. “Of course, it does take quite a while to get the hang of everything, and be able to feel confident a hundred percent in dealing with customers. I’m only used to it because I’ve been here for like, a year. I don’t think you have anything to worry about with Tammy. She’s kind of harsh at times, but she does reward those she thinks are doing a good job. You’ll see.”
The two headed out of the store, and Trevor did the final lock up, making sure everything was secure. “Thanks for trying to make me feel better,” Celeste murmured.
“If you need anything, you have my cell number. Don’t hesitate to call and we could maybe get a coffee sometime.”
Celeste fell into step beside him as they headed out of the mall. She wasn’t a fan of coffee, but Trevor was attempting to be nice to her, so she half-heartedly agreed. Even though she didn’t usually like to hang out with co-workers outside of work, perhaps Trevor could provide some kind of distraction, even for friendly get-togethers.
They parted ways as they headed to their separate vehicles. Celeste knew she had another long night ahead of her, in trying not to think about Brad and trying to ignore Natalie’s nasty message, all while struggling with the negative thoughts that were always there, in the back of her mind, just waiting to take over the moment they sensed her weakness.
Natalie doesn’t like you anymore. Brad doesn’t like you anymore. How do you even want to keep living when all you do is turn people away from you? You could just crash your car and be done with life. The voice continued to taunt Celeste as she drove, so she turned up her music to drown the thoughts out.