Three years and tens days. One thousand one hundred and six days. One hundred and fifty eight weeks. Same amount of time, different measures with one common theme. This is the amount of time it has been since Conrad Riley shattered my heart into a billion little pieces. After Conrad left me, I felt like my whole world was flipped on its axis. I woke up the next day and couldn’t stop crying for three days straight, then it was just at night thereafter. I cried until I was all cried out, until I was empty inside. I became a zombie. The only thing that kept me going was the drive to succeed in school, so I poured every single ounce of myself into my studies. Beyond that, well it was pretty bleak. I tried, I really did, to try and reclaim some semblance of normality, but it was challenging to say the least. I went to a few parties, got far too drunk and nearly made some questionable decisions. Luckily, I would come to my senses and remove myself from those scenarios. All I wanted was a break from the pain in my heart, and to erase the memory of the most beautiful man I have ever known. This was the first year after.
The next year, I was all work and no play, but the pain had started to subside to a dull roar. I was finally able to see past the pain into the possibility that it would someday not hurt anymore. I got sick of having a roommate and moved out of the dorms into an apartment near campus. Having my own space made me feel more independent, something I desperately needed. This was also the year that Desiree told me she was engaged to Ivan. Didn’t see that one coming. Desiree always insisted that she had no interest in marriage until she was at least thirty.
The third year after, also my final year in Princeton, was better. This was the year I found out I was graduating near the top of my class. My hard work and determination had payed off. This year I finally felt happiness again. I started socializing more, joined a gym and got myself in better shape than I ever have been in. I feel better mentally and physically. I even took the plunge and went on a few dates. Of course none of them had piqued my interest past the second dates. Every time, I would find something about the guy that I didn’t like, or I just couldn’t get my heart into the experience. Every time my mind would shift into territory that I had tried my best to lock away, but every time his face would enter my mind and I was a lost cause.
To this day I will never understand why Conrad thought that breaking up was a good thing for me. The only person it was better for was probably him. My fear is that his excuse for breaking up with me was a front for his desire to be free and explore all of the options available to him after becoming famous, even if I am yet to see a single picture of him with a girl. It’s probably because Conrad was always a pretty low-key guy, so he’s probably just become really stealthy when it comes to dating. Whatever the reason, I’m glad that I haven’t had to see a picture of him with some beautiful model or actress on his arm. I’ve seen plenty of the other guys with women, but not Conrad. I hate to admit that I still miss him, every single damn day.
Someday, I hope that I am able to love again the way I loved him. Deep down, I know I’m kidding myself, I still am in love with him. I know it every time I google his name, read an article about the band, or buy their newest album. I know it every time I pull out the letter Conrad’s father wrote to me, and hope that his words about us finding each other again come true. But with each passing day, my dream feels farther and farther away. It’s probably for the best though, I don’t think my heart could take losing him again. If he could break my heart once, who’s to say he couldn’t do it again?
Now here I am in my small, but perfectly me, one bedroom apartment, getting all dolled up for my graduation ceremony today. I bought a new dress for the occasion with Desiree’s help. It’s cobalt blue, cut just above the knee, off the shoulder with a deep sweetheart neckline and low cut back. It’s tight in all the right places, and makes me feel classy and grown-up. My long blonde hair is down and curled at the ends, and my makeup is fresh and subtle. My parents are here, waiting for me in the living room. My sister couldn’t make it because she already left to travel abroad for the summer. She’s in her second year of college, also at NYU, having taken a year off after high school before beginning school again. Like Desiree, she too has fallen in love with New York City. She always was one to like a faster pace in life. Once I’m ready, I slip on my matching new high heeled shoes and join my parents in the living room.
“Oh honey, you look beautiful,” my mother croons.
“She certainly does,” my father agrees with a nod and broad smile.
I blush from their compliments.
“Thank you guys. Well, should we head out?”
We grab our things, and leave my apartment, off to see me enter a new phase of my life.
“You’ll never guess who I ran into the other day,” my mom says as we walk to the school auditorium.
“Who?” I ask.
“Dane Phillips,” she says, watching my face for my reaction.
“Dane, really? I haven’t seen him since we finished High School,” I answer.
Dane left town almost immediately after graduation. He was accepted into Harvard Medical School, and apparently couldn’t get away from our home town fast enough. He never talked to me again after our fight that we had in front of my parents, and that was that.
“Yes. I saw him at the market with his father. He asked about you,” she continues.
“Oh? And what did you tell him?”
“Just that you were about to graduate and doing well.”
“And how has he been?”
“He seems really good. If it’s possible, he’s grown even bigger. Not taller but he really bulked up. He said it was due to joining a few athletic groups in school. It’s hard to believe he was the same scrawny and awkward little kid that hung out with you all the time. And now he’s just finished pre-Med before starting Medical School next fall.”
“Good for him,” I reply, because I don’t know what else to say about the subject. Dane and I didn’t exactly part ways on good terms.
“Anyway, he said that he’d love to get together with you sometime.”
This surprises me.
“What? Why? I mean, you were there, you know what happened between us the last time we spoke.”
“Yes, but that was almost five years ago. So much has happened and changed since then. Maybe it would be nice for you to reconnect with him.”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure that would be such a good idea,” I shake my head.
“Why not? You’re not with Conrad anymore, which was the whole reason you two stopped being friends in the first place.”
“That and the fact that Dane had unreciprocated feelings for me.”
“Don’t meddle dear,” my father finally pipes in, “I’m not sure it’s a good idea either anyway. Don’t you remember the whole Sydney shrine part of their fight? As her father, that news didn’t and still doesn’t sit well with me.”
“You know how high school kids can be with crushes,” my mom argues, basically brushing it off, “what Hailey claimed was a shrine could have been a small collage for all we know. I really doubt that Dane was obsessed with Sydney in a dangerous way.”
“Maybe, but it could have been a shrine, we don’t know for sure,” my dad says.
“I never thought Dane was dangerous,” I cut in, “I still don’t. I just feel like it’d be so awkward to see him though. I said some pretty mean things to him.”
“Like I said, it was almost five years ago,” my mom says, “and obviously if he’s asking to see you, he must be over it. You guys were just high school kids caught up in a flurry of hormones and drama. Maybe now that you are out of school and grown up, you can revisit your friendship.”
My father sighs loudly in exasperation and defeat. Once my mother has her mind set on something, it’s hard to convince her otherwise. I have to admit though, I am a bit curious to see Dane and find out what he has been up to in the last few years. He’s probably a different person, as am I. I think that I’m no longer as naive as I used to be.
“Well then, I’ll give him your number. He’s staying at his parents place for the summer.”
“I guess so,” I say with a shrug.
I’m still not one hundred percent sure it’s a good idea, but what is there to lose?
It’s been a week since graduation, and it feels so bizarre to know that I am done with school. I decided to take the summer before I dive into the real world. In two weeks I’ll be off to Cancun for Desiree’s wedding, so that will be fun and probably pretty crazy. I still can’t believe she’s getting married, but I can tell that Ivan is the person for her. The two of them compliment each other perfectly. Ivan likes to have fun and adventure just as much as Desiree, but he also keeps her grounded and safe. She can be who she is with him, so she doesn’t feel afraid to commit to him. I’m so happy for her.
Right now my life isn’t as interesting. Today I have to pick up my dress for the wedding at the seamstress, then I’m having lunch with an old friend. Dane Phillips. So maybe today will be interesting. I haven’t seen him in so long, and with the way we parted ways, I don’t know what to expect. I walk into the dress shop and give the girl my name. She leads me to the back to try on the dress. I put it on and examine myself in the mirror. Lucky for me, Desiree has good taste in clothes and therefore the dress is really cute. It’s light turquoise, strapless and knee length, made of some wispy, light fabric that has an intricate knot pattern on the bust. It looks like a fancy beach cover up and is quite comfortable. She said she wanted the whole theme to be beachy and light.
“Fit’s perfectly,” I say to the woman.
“Okay great,” she says pleasantly, “I’ll just leave you to change and meet you out front.”
She leaves the room while I change. I’m Desiree’s Maid of Honor and only bridesmaid. She didn’t invite many people. On her side it’s just me, her dad and his girlfriend, and a few friends from college. She said I could bring someone if I wanted to, but of course that’s not going to happen.
I pay for the alterations and drive to the cafe where I’m meeting Dane. I’m growing increasingly nervous as I park my car and walk to the door. I even put a little effort into my appearance today, wearing a pretty flora sundress and sandals, with my hair down and curled, and light makeup. For some reason, I wanted to look nice to see Dane after all this time. I’m curious to see how he looks these days. I step foot in the cafe and look around before going to the host. I give her my name and she smiles and leads me to the table. We approach a table, and Dane is there already, his back to us. When I come into his line of vision, his eyes of wide and he stands up quickly. My mom wasn’t joking about his size. He looks even taller than before, maybe six foot two now at least.
He’s wearing a white button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and tucked into grey trousers. His shoulders are really broad, and his forearms look tanned and toned. His hair is cut neatly and he definitely looks all grown up…and really quite handsome.
“Wow! Sydney Chase. Long time no see,” he says, reaching out for me.
I step towards him and hug him back.
“Yes, it’s been a long time,” I say, my hands can just barely reach around him. He smells nice too.
Dane releases me and we sit down across from each other. Dane is smiling broadly at me, making me blush slightly under his scrutiny.
“You look beautiful, as always,” he says.
“You look pretty good yourself,” I say, “what, did you manage to grow even more?”
“I joined the rowing team and athletic club at school. What can I say? I enjoy not being a little pipsqueak anymore.”
“You’re far from it,” I nod, and then feel an awkward silence coming on. Luckily Dane quickly fills the silence.
“So Sydney, what has been going on in your life these past few years? I know we didn’t keep in touch, but I really missed you. I figured that now we might be in a place where we can forget the past and start fresh.”
“That would be nice Dane. I still feel bad about how we parted ways.”
“Water under the bridge.”
Dane and I ended up talking for three hours straight. When we finally left the cafe, we decided to go for a walk in a nearby park which led to dinner. I felt like I was talking to the Dane I used to know, but also a new and improved version of him. He was funny, charming and sweet. I had a pleasantly unexpected great time with Dane, which felt kind of like a date. I didn’t get home until eleven. We made plans to do it again soon, and I’m actually looking forward to it, for the first time in a really, really long time.
Another night, another show. The same damn thing every night. I’m so fucking tired, all I want to do is sleep. But I chose this, I made this commitment. This was always the dream right? Now, I’m not so sure. Yet, here I stand on stage, to Harrison’s left, playing our songs to a very large cheering crowd. The bright lights burn down on us, and Harrison is in his element, loving every single second of it. My fingers play the chords on auto-pilot. If this is how I feel after only a few years, I have to wonder how I’m going to fare going forward.
When the concert ends, we are herded backstage, flanked by body guards, managers, press, etcetera. I am handed a water bottle and towel once we reach the room. I drop heavily on to a leather couch and swig the entire bottle of water. Someone offers me a beer, but I wave it away. As it goes, after every show there seems to be a shit show of booze, drugs and woman. This is usually when I excuse myself and take off back to my hotel room, by myself, every single night, despite many, many offers for company. Company I don’t want. I know what I want, but I let her go three years ago. Biggest damn mistake I ever made. I think about her every day, dream about her every night. I wonder what she’s doing. Who she’s with. I pray she’s not with someone else, but at the same time hope she’s happy, even if it is with someone else. That’s all I ever wanted for her, happiness.
I lean my head back on the couch and close my eyes, trying to tone out the noise around me. I feel the couch move next to me, so I open one eye to see who has sat down next to me. Kevin. He stares at me without saying anything.
“What?” I mutter and close my eyes again.
“You’re miserable,” he says simply, and knowingly.
I don’t respond, so he continues to talk like he usually does.
“Conrad. I love you buddy, I do, so I hate to see you doing this to yourself. Why don’t you just stop being so goddamn stubborn and call her? I know you want to. I tell you this all the time but you never fucking listen.”
“I can’t do it,” I say, eyes still closed.
“So what? You’re just going to stick around, continue to be miserable for our sake? Why don’t you just do something for yourself already? How do you know that she’s not as miserable as you are? How do you know she’s better off without you?”
“Exactly. What could it hurt to at least find out? Get some fucking closure already. If she’s happy and has moved on, then you’ll know. Then you can come back here and get back on track with what we’re doing here, or you find out that she’s been waiting for you this whole time and all of your misery comes to an end. I think you both deserve to find out. Plus, you’ve really become a Debbie Downer.”
I can’t help but chuckle at that. I raise my head and look at Kevin. He and I have become very close these past years, in fact I would classify him as my best friend. He was always against my choice to leave Sydney. I sigh heavily. I want to tell him that I’m not able to do what he says I should do, but I can feel myself weakening.
“You might be right, but what if you’re not and it’s a big mistake?”
“Fuck it Conrad, make the mistake then! It’ll be a mistake worth making then. At least then you’ll know if there was a reason for putting yourself through all of this.”
I look around the room. I spot Harrison across the room, a girl under each arm, neither of which actually care about him, and Jake on the other side talking to a reporter or some other type of media person, but he looks just as tired as I am. I look back to Kevin, who gives me a bop on the shoulder.
“Do it. Call her tonight.”
Before I can respond, two young girls wearing nothing more than what I can only describe as lingerie, drop themselves down onto Kevin and my laps. Kevin chuckles loudly and starts flirting with them as they giggle and touch us. Yeah, this is not what I want at all. Hell, I’ve been celibate for over three years. I haven’t slept with a girl since Sydney. I want more than these one night stands that the other guys seem to enjoy, a bit too much in my opinion. It’s not like I haven’t been tempted to partake, but as soon as things start to heat up, I see her face and my heart tells me to stop. Kevin is right, this has to stop. I need to call her. I need to see her. I just need her.
Gently, I move the girl off of my lap and stand up. She looks up at me through her long fake eyelashes looking confused and slightly offended.
“Sorry sweetheart,” I say to her, “I’ve got somewhere else I need to be.”
“Yeah you do!” Kevin says loudly.
I just chuckle at him and get out of there as fast as I can.
As soon as I get back to my hotel room, I grab my phone and find her number hoping to god it’s still the same number. My finger hovers over the dial button. I wonder briefly if I should text her first. No, this isn’t something you do over text. I need to hear her sweet voice. I check the time, it’s too late to call her right now. Damn it. I try to figure out what I need to do here. Changing tact, I grab my laptop, fire it up and book a red-eye flight destined for New Jersey.