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The Spark Theory

By Michelle Chichester All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Other

Blurb

The Spark Theory is how Kate has navigated the dating world since eighth grade. The theory is simple: when you meet the right person, there will be sparks. But, when her boyfriend breaks up with her and her boss passes her over for promotion, it’s enough to make Kate want to retreat into the box she’s so carefully constructed around herself and stay there. For good. Then, she meets Clark, her "tell it like it is" neighbor whose attitude leaves a little something to be desired. With Clark’s encouragement, Kate rediscovers a part of herself she thought was lost, the part that wasn’t afraid of taking chances. Kate also begins to see that her feelings for Clark are becoming stronger than friendship. The problem: He’s already taken. When it seems like she’ll never be more than a girlfriend substitute, Kate tries to retreat back into her box, lead an “ordinary” life, and abandon The Spark Theory for good. As she fights her feelings for Clark, instead focusing her energies on work and dating the “safe” guy, Kate’s mother reveals a secret that finally convinces Kate face life head on, even if it means finding out The Spark Theory is just a myth.

Chapter One

Spark Theory (spark thîr’ē) n. - Instantaneous recognition, that special jolt, the electric current between two people (see also Love at First Sight; Soulmate)

Or how about “a total waste of time, a bunch of bull!” – Kate Markson

“You’re breaking up with me?” I asked, still in shock from when I’d come home ten minutes earlier to see Mike packing up the few things he usually kept at my apartment.

In the back of my mind, I had known something was up when Mike texted me to tell me he wanted to meet at my place. It was Tuesday, not a night we usually saw each other. And, he had seemed distracted the past weekend. I’d spent a delightlful weekend watching him sit around on my couch in his boxers watching TV and not much else, if you get my drift. The joys of couple-hood. Or, was it couple-dom?

“Will you please come and sit down?” Mike asked me again, looking up from the couch where he was sitting, zipping his toothbrush into the duffel bag at his feet.

I realized I was still holding the bread and bottle of wine I had come home with, having stopped off at the store on the way home from work. Work had been crazy, and I had looked forward to a comforting dinner of bread and pasta. And wine, lots of it. Instead, I was still standing there, looking at Mike, honestly wondering why part of me wasn’t surprised at this turn of events.

I put my purchases down on the kitchen counter. Afraid to turn back around, I just stood there, staring at the wine bottle in front of me. They say that wine fixes everything, but I had a feeling that whatever was coming wasn’t going to be easily fixed.

“Kate,” Mike said from behind me.

I finally turned, but I couldn’t look at him. I just so didn’t want to do this. Any sort of confrontation made me nervous. My heart felt like it was being squeezed. I moved past Mike and sat down on the couch, my head in my hands. You will not cry, I told myself.

He turned to me, grabbing my hands in his. “Kate, I didn’t know how to do this. I know it’s not easy, and you don’t like confrontations. Honestly, I debated on whether to have my stuffed packed up and be out before you even got here. I thought it would be easier.”

“Easier for you, you mean," I said. I looked up at him, my anger giving me control I needed to keep myself from crying.

“Well, okay, easier for me,” he admitted. “I didn’t want to hurt you, Kate. But, I felt you deserved better than just a call or a text."

“Gee, how considerate of you, seeing as we’ve only been dating for, what, a year?"

He looked at me, sadly. “Eighteen months, but who’s counting?”

Clearly, I hadn’t been. I had a sudden insight. “Does this have anything to do with the girl sitting outside in your car?” I asked.

“Oh, you saw her." He grimaced and turned away.

“Yes,” I said, remembering. I had been nearly at my building when I thought I saw Mike’s car parked across the street. Same color, same model, even what looked like that little dent on the front bumper. But, at the time, I thought it highly probable that I was seeing things. First of all, Mike would never drive his car over to my place during a week night after work. He usually kept it parked at his building unless we were going out of town. Otherwise, he took the subway or a cab to my place. Second, there was someone in the passenger seat. A girl, maybe about my age, blond hair, pretty from what I could tell. She was talking on a cell phone and looked distracted.

Just when I had thought about getting closer to investigate, she had raised her head. Our eyes had met for a second before she turned away to continue her conversation. I had stared for a moment, undecided. It certainly had looked like Mike’s car, but it was across the street, wedged in between two other cars. So, I couldn’t get a look at the license plate. Besides, this was New York City. A ton of people probably had the same car, all with the same sort of dent from getting in and out of tight parking spaces.

As I now thought back on that scene, my heart stopped for a second before it started pounding away. It was beating so loud that I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. I stared at the floor, embarrased but also mad at my stupidity.

“What’s going on, Mike?” I whispered when I finally found my voice. I didn’t want to ask, but I felt that I had to know. Best get it over with. Rip it off, like a Band-aid.

There was a moment of hesitation before he spoke. “I don’t want to lie, Kate. It’s not fair to you.”

Not fair, I thought.

“She’s from work,” he continued. “We’ve been working together for a while, now. Well, you know the crazy hours we work there. We sort of hit it off over the past several months, and things just sort of grew from there. I wasn’t planning this, Kate. You have to know that. But, I just . . . really like her. I want to be with her, and I don’t want to lie anymore. You and I . . . well, we’ve had some fun. I’ve loved spending time with you. But, well, it got to the point where it was just the same thing all of the time. I’m not even sure you wanted anything more. I need a change, Kate.”

“I could change,” I whispered, still not looking at him.

“Kate, I . . . I don’t know what else to say.”

“So, that’s it then. You’re leaving? Just like that?” I felt numb, and I willed myself not to cry. As I sat there struggling to hold back the tears, there was a movement in front of me as Mike set his copy of my apartment key on the coffee table.

“I’ve got to go, Kate,” he whispered. “I’m sorry. I really am.”

I didn’t answer, but I heard him move out of the room. I continued to stare at the floor until I heard my apartment door close with a quiet click. Without looking, I reached next to me and grabbed the pillow from the couch. Hugging it into my chest, I finally allowed the tears to stream silently down my face.

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