Best Laid Plans

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Life is strange in the way that certain events can impact the rest of your life. Something as small as the decision of which bar you go to for a beer can change the course of your existence. When I think back to the night that a gorgeous stranger approached me at the bar, I yell at myself for allowing her in. I should have closed my tab as I had originally planned, but when this beautiful female walked up to me and asked me for a beer, I couldn’t resist. She was wearing torn up blue jeans and a red tank top. Her green eyes pierced me to my core. She stood out from the other women, who were mostly clad in black. Our conversation started out light about sports and books, but then we shared our interests. She said she used to be an avid hiker and when I asked what made her stop, she shared a story about her ex-boyfriend who took her out to a secluded part of the forest and beat her and left her to die. I admired her strength and how she overcame the trauma. She understandably had trust issues. Part of me wanted to prove to her that she could trust me and I would never hurt her.

She was too good to be true. I should have known then, but I was blinded by her beauty and charm. After an hour of laughing and talking, we realized we hadn’t introduced ourselves. She put her hand out to shake mine, “Cora’s the name, love’s the game,” she winked. I didn’t understand the meaning of her words at the time. I thought she was being cute.

She persuaded me to take her back to my place. I was hesitant and explained to her that I was actually in the process of buying a home and would prefer if she came over after I settled the deal on the house, rather than her first impression of my living situation being a townhome on the West side of the village. She became insistent and well, quite frankly, I’m a man so I conceded. I couldn’t fathom a woman like Cora wanting to be with a man like me. I believed that fate had placed her in my life and that my luck was finally turning around. Fate has a funny sense of humor. A few nights later, my realtor invited me into his home and introduced me to his beautiful fiancée, Cora.

My heart was pounding as she held her hand out to mine smiling. I was puzzled by her tranquil disposition. I genuinely thought she had forgotten about the night we spent together. I attempted to conceal the initial shock of my new knowledge that Cora was engaged, not only engaged, but engaged to my realtor, Kingsley. Cora winked at me when Kingsley turned his back and that answered my question. She hadn’t forgotten. My image of the night we spent together had been altered. Kingsley poured me a glass of scotch and the three of us moved to the back yard to indulge and toast to my freshly purchased house. All the while, I waited on bated breath for my chance to speak to Cora alone. When the opportunity finally presented itself, I wasted no time.

“You didn’t tell me you’re engaged. I would never have had you over that night! How can you treat Kingsley like this?” I made no attempt to mask my displeasure.

“Shhh! He will hear you. This needs to stay between us. Do not let Kingsley find out. Isn’t this quite the turn of events? I have been thinking about the other night, a lot, and I think that you absolutely must meet my best friend, Lucy. The other night was no fluke. We were meant to come together, but I think we had it all wrong. We weren’t meant to hook up. We were meant to bring you and Lucy together. Trust me, please. Go to her animal adoption event this weekend. You’ll see.”

I hated that she shut down the conversation, but she got to the heart of me. I am a romantic and as the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat. I needed to see this Lucy for myself. That Saturday, I met the elusive Lucy. She was more beautiful than Cora had described. She was passionate about the animals and she was funny. We exchanged banter and I started to believe Cora that fate didn’t intend for me and Cora to be together. It meant for me and Lucy to be together, forever. I loved her instantly. I wanted her and she needed me.

For our second date together, I made lobster macaroni and cheese for Lucy at my new house. Cora told me that if Lucy knew she and I had any kind of prior connection, Lucy would leave me. When Lucy showed up that night, I tried my hand at giving her a nickname. It backfired and upset her more than anything as it reminded her of her deceased grandfather. I acknowledged my mistake and made a mental note that Lucy must have been close to her grandparents, or at least her grandpa. I had to come up with a cover story for how I got my house and I admit, I played a bit on the fact that she missed her grandfather. I should never have done that. It left a terrible feeling in my chest. I changed the subject the second I could, and I didn’t completely fabricate the story. My mother did move to London. That part was true, at least.

Our relationship grew rapidly and we became inseparable. We started to spend our weekends and a few week nights together. Although, Lucy made it undoubtedly clear that Friday nights were reserved for Cora and Thursday nights were reserved for Ellie and the animal shelter. Lucy was insistent that I acquaint myself with her friends, Cora and Kingsley, so I begrudgingly agreed. I called Cora and asked her how we would handle this situation, and she assured me that she will persuade Kingsley to play along that none of them met. To this day, I don’t have a clue what she told Kingsley, but that night, he shook my hand as though we had never met. I was impressed at his acting skills, to say the least. Though the Oscar for the night would go to Cora. She lacked any sign of guilt about lying to her friend. By this point, I already knew she was the living definition of a narcissist. I felt disturbed being the only one at the table who was fully aware of Cora’s sins.

Though, our relationship’s foundation was built on a lie, the relationship itself was real. Lucy and I fell head over heels for each other. I was afraid that day at the hot spring that I would frighten her away by moving too fast, but I took the risk. I confessed my love to Lucy and she met my confession with her own, she loved me, too. The moment was tainted with a thought of Cora. I knew what I needed to do. Lucy and I couldn’t progress further without the truth. That night, I called Cora and told her the jig is up. I can no longer be a pawn in her deceitful game and I needed to tell Lucy the truth. That’s when Cora played her cards. She said she had a picture of us together in bed and if I breathed a word about any of this to Lucy, she would text her the photo. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Lucy. Defeated, I agreed and slammed the phone to the ground.

Lucy called me the next day and excitedly invited me to Cora and Kingsley’s house for cocktails for the following Friday. How could I say no? I felt trapped and against better judgement, I accepted the invitation. That night was the tipping point for Cora’s game, I could tell instantly. She rubbed her foot on my leg under the table, she rubbed her hand down my arm, and she maintained eye contact for a second too long. I was uncomfortable and I prayed Lucy wouldn’t notice. My ticket out came when Cora undressed and exposed her naked body. Saving face, Kingsley directed us to leave and begged us to forgive his plastered fiancée.

I managed to get Lucy to agree to skip happy hour to enjoy a Friday night date with me. I planned everything down to the entree. I was going to pick Lucy up at 7:00 p.m. and drive her to the hiking trail where we had our first date to watch the storm roll in. I figured Lucy was busy at work that day. She didn’t text me back the whole day. Something felt different that day, but I chalked it up to the storm rolling in. I was worried the weather would ruin my plans so I made a Plan B just in case Plan A didn’t work out. I had a ring in my pocket ready to go. I was blindsided when I showed up to Lucy’s apartment that night. When she opened the door, I saw her red cheeks and puffy eyes, swollen from the obvious sad tears. She accused me of cheating on her with Aubrey. My stomach dropped, I didn’t know what to say to make it better. Honestly, I don’t think there was anything I could have said.

When I left that night, it occurred to me that only one person knew about Aubrey, and that was Kingsley. But he would never turn Lucy against me. And he knew I wasn’t cheating. I knew immediately who would make up lies about that night, Cora. I contemplated how I would confront her, but then it hit me. With nothing left to lose, I may as well tell Kingsley the truth about me and Cora. I didn’t expect to see Lucy leaving their house that night and I was careful not to let her see me. After I saw her drive away that night, I made my move. Kingsley didn’t believe me and made me leave. My last words to him were to check her phone. I bolted to my car and followed Lucy at a safe distance. I wanted to make sure she made it home safely. After she made a few random turns, I realized she was aware of my car and checking to see if I would follow. I realized I was doing more harm than good and decided to continue driving past her after her last random turn.

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