After replacing the bulb and vacuuming the rug for any smaller pieces of glass, I sat at the end of my queen bed and looked around, exhaling a final round of sadness. Okay, this fucking sucked. An erratic whimper broke through my lips and I rubbed my face, pressing my palms into my eyes, reveling in the stars that burst behind my eyelids. In and out, Kel.
There was no way I could teach tomorrow. I knew myself, I would be the walking dead twelve hours from now. Grabbing my dead phone, I plugged it in and waited the minute for it to charge back up, thinking. Bec, she would be the best with this, she had my period free, and was the best choice to trust with this. Rebecca answered on the second ring, long enough for me to get my breathing under control.
“Heyyyyy, girl, have you looked at these freshman exams? Ummffhh, I have already marked four fails, and I was being generous.” I gave her a perfunctory chuckle, though I didn’t feel it anywhere.
“No, I haven’t touched them yet. Listen, I need a favor.”
“Shoot,” she quickly replied.
“I...uh, I can’t make my freshmen tomorrow, it’s my moderating class, can you cover it for me, please?”
Silence on the other end.
“Sure, of course, I mean, yeah.”
I gave a noticeable exhale, “Great, thanks. They know what to do, just go with them, don’t let the slackers up the back off without giving an odd question or two.” My voice was starting to break.
“Kellllll, what’s going on?”
“Okay... I came home today and Chad had already moved his things out. He was on the couch, ready to break up with me.” A little teary, but no sobs, that was an improvement.
“Fuuuuuuuck. Mother fucker. God, Kel. I’m sorry. You okay?”
Another long exhale. “Yeah, I’m okay. No, not really, but I will be, eventually... I guess.” Another chuckle that didn’t reach my face.
“I’m coming over, and bringing pizza.” I started to voice protest but she cut me off.
“Nope, can’t hear you, I’m already on my way,” and she hung up and I gave a little smile to the phone.
Thirty minutes later, we were picnicking on my living room rug with two pies, Merlot, and napkins. I recounted to her my day, the last two hours of my life, and my suspicions of the other woman while she chewed on her pizza in silence for a few moments.
“And this totally came out of the blue?” I nodded, not yet trusting my voice. She looked around the apartment, seemingly trying to imagine it, before looking back at me.
“You know what? Fuck that guy.” I nodded my head in lame support. Of course, she was right. God, I just wanted to lay on my bed and curl up into a ball of grief and inconsolable misery. A god damn pity party.
“No, Kel, look at me.” I met her angry eyes.
"Fuck that guy, really. His name is fucking Chad for Christ’s sake. He was a Chadddd. You were always complaining about something, something minor, I know, but still. And we never liked him.”
My brow furrowed.
“Who didn’t like him? When did this happen?”
“The whole gang,” she easily replied. None of my friends liked him? There was only the core four of us, but still, Bec, Ben, and Chuck?
As the doctoral student TAs of Professor Brown in the Earth Science department of the University of Washington, we were thick as thieves since our first year. We were such a perfect fit, we even took the Myers-Brigg to prove it. Bec was the A-type, clearly. I was a giver, Ben was the rational one and Chuck was most certainly a performer. We worked.
I returned to her words, “Why the hell didn’t anyone say anything? I dated him for two years!”
She looked at me like I was crazy. But still, this hurt, it almost felt like a small betrayal.
“Kelly Jones, what would you say if I came up to you, in your happy relationship and said ‘this guy is a jerk, break up with him’? No one wants to be that friend, sorry.”
“I know, I’m sorry, I just.. I just hate feeling this way.” I hugged my stomach, trying to keep the pain from spilling onto the floor and she rubbed my back in concern. I looked up at her staring over at the side table, looking at the few pictures I had framed.
“Maybe you should go home for a few days?”
I glanced over to the picture of my dad, now long deceased, that I kept front and center on the table. I thought of the only place beside Chad and my apartment I called home. Going back to the commune for a few days would be nice. It would be frickin cold, but I always enjoyed the winter of West Washington.
My family’s commune was right on the Columbia River, facing the Wenatchi Indian reservation. I learned early that this land called to me. It was why when we discovered I had no discernible inherited talent from my mother’s side, that I chose to become educated in the earth. To learn what made her tick, how to help her grow, how to defend our land. I closed my eyes, thinking of my schedule for the next month. Bec continued.
“I mean, I know your parents aren’t there anymore, but you still have a few aunts and cousins, right?”
I nodded in agreement. “That does sound pretty nice. I was planning on Christmas with Chad’s parents this year, so I guess that is out.”
She gave me a sad smile and pushed my hair behind my ear in a mother-like fashion. Then her eyes glinted and her smile changed devious.
“Whaaaat??” I asked cautiously.
“We should go out.” I barked out a laugh and looked at her.
“Yeah, I’m sure I totally look the part, not to mention the boundless exuberance of a person ready to mingle.”
She played with my thick wavy hair.
“Ohhh, I don’t know. You have definitely looked worse. Plus, you know the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. Chuck has been giving you eyes lately,” her eyebrows wiggled suggestively and I gave her another laugh before pointing to the door.
“Okay, that’s it, out!”
She raised her hands in surrender. “Alright, I know, a little fast. And yes, I will go, but I am leaving all of this,” she motioned to the pizza. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you didn’t eat anything,” she added as she moved to the front door. I hugged my waist.
“I know, I really can’t think about eating right now.”
She slipped into her jacket and picked up her umbrella before giving me one last bear hug.
“Drink some wine, pass out, and sleep for half the day tomorrow and I’ll take care of your moxy freshmen. I promise, things will seem a lot better after.” I nodded in acquiescence when I saw her eyeing my hair with her now signature mischief look.
“No. Whatever it is, emphatically, no.”
“Kel, you would look great as a blonde.”
I pushed her outside of the waiting door with a smile.
“I’m not there yet, thanks. But you’re the first person I’ll call if it comes to it.”
With that, I closed the door on her, resting my forehead next to the peephole. In and out, Kelly. My new mantra. It had to be.
I turned around and walked into the living room. The smallest thought of eating pizza was enough to make me nauseous. But wine? Wine I could do. Pouring the last of the bottle and filling my glass, I then thought about Bec’s suggestion of sleeping and opened up the herb drawer, taking out the jar of Valerian root from home, I took a generous pinch and added it to the wine.
I sculled the glass and closed my eyes to listen to the apartment. Jesus, it was so quiet, painfully quiet. The silence was deafening and called for attention. I went to my bed and laid down under the thick duvet. The rain outside had calmed, but not stopped. Fat drops sporadically fell onto the window, enough to let my mind wander, but not go far. As I closed my eyes, the last thing I thought of was my mother, and maybe after what I had gone through tonight, she had been right to keep my father a prisoner for 13 years.