“Hey Stel, what are you doing tonight?” Connor asks, swinging by my studio while I’m finishing a vase set on the wheel. I haven’t seen much of him lately because he’s been putting in countless hours with a relative of a “Victorian Royal” as she calls herself who wanted her picture painted like they used to, and set her sights on Connor after seeing his work in our student show a few weeks ago. There are only a couple more weeks before our first year of college is over, but that means the big showcase that we’ve both been working extremely hard for. Connor is hoping that this chick will let him use her portrait as his main focus, and I have a set of animal hybrid figurines I’m planning on putting in.
“I was planning on going home and cooking some chicken and binge watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Why what’s up?” I ask, wiping the palms of my hands free from clay so I can twist the last vase off the bat before I clean up and head home.
“Well, I’m kind of meeting this guy tonight and I haven’t ever met him before and I don’t want to go alone because, well, you know how things go with online dating, and you’re so good with people I thought maybe you’d come with me until I get comfortable maybe?” Connor babbles, coming into the room and throwing his expensive jacket across my canvas table before throwing himself into one of my chairs and pouting. Connor may be one of the best looking, most confident guys I know, but when it comes to dating – he’s a bit of shy guy.
“Of course! I don’t think Beau’s coming up this weekend, so I wouldn’t miss making sure this guy is totally worth my best friend’s time.” I grin, slapping his shoulder after depositing my fourth vase on my shelf to dry, along with the new finished pieces I have for the next showcase. It’s a set of porcelain, original animal hybrid figurines that I’ve probably spent 20 hours’ hand painting individually – not to mention the hours of building, drying, and carving that was put into them to make sure they wouldn’t explode in the kiln. They’re my favorite pieces I’ve done so far, and I can’t wait to see what kind of price tag I can put on them for the sale. I glance at my wheel that hasn’t been cleaned since the mandatory cleaning before Spring Break, and shrug, pulling Connor out of my studio and closing and locking the door behind us. “So where are y’all meeting?”
“We decided to meet at Carlisle’s so it’s a public place, but I’m still nervous. You know how I get before dates, and I think I might really like this guy.” Connor babbles some more as we walk to my Jeep.
“Connor, I hate to be the barer of bad news, but you’re like this before every date. We’ve got to figure out how to make you more confident!” I exclaim, running my shoulder into his.
“I know I am, it’s just… It took my parents a really long time to come around to the idea of me dating guys, so I never had a support system when I was younger and now that they’re supportive I don’t know what I’m really doing.” He frets, and when we climb into my Jeep I rub his shoulder. “Thanks for accepting me as me, Stella.”
“Of course, Connor! I don’t know what I’d do without you!” I sigh, and drive him back to the apartment he lives in alone. “Now tell me what you know about this guy.”
“Uh, this guy’s name is Andrew and I don’t really know much else about him besides he’s a swimmer and he tells a lot of jokes.”
“Alright, so what have you guys talked about? I mean, you’ve actually talked to him, haven’t you?”
“Well, yeah, but I was so nervous that I basically just mumbled ‘yeah’ every few seconds while I was trying to figure out what you would say if you were having the conversation!” Connor cries, rubbing his head in frustration.
“Aw, really? That’s so sweet!” I grin, before remembering that we have a small crisis situation on our hands. “But okay, let’s go get ready for your date!”
“I have plans with Connor tonight, sorry Beau, I forgot you were coming.” I sigh as I open the door to Beau holding a small bouquet of wildflowers. I quickly kiss the corner of his mouth that drooped down in a frown while I softly grab the flowers out of his hand. “I love the flowers though, they’re beautiful.”
“Plans with Connor, huh?” He asks, heading towards the couch and making himself comfy.
“Yeah, we’re going to Carlisle’s to celebrate the fact that the year is almost over!”
“But what about our movie plans tonight?” He pouts, grabbing my hands and pulling me onto his lap.
“Beau, I’m so sorry. I completely forgot you were coming this weekend.” I sigh, pressing my forehead against his collarbone.
“Stel, two weeks ago you were too busy to come home for the weekend, and last weekend was your big show that you spent more time with your ceramics buddies than you did with me or your dad. Plus, I feel like I haven’t actually spent any time with you since Valentine’s Day. This weekend was supposed to be just the two of us.” Beau sighs, rubbing my back.
“I’m sorry, Beau. I promise that we can have that movie night tomorrow night.” I softly smile and sit back and rub my thumb against his cheek.
“I have to be back by 6 in the morning because cattle are coming in. I’m sorry, Stella, but that’s why we were planning our movie this evening so I could head back tonight.”
“So we can watch the movie when I get back from dinner with Connor? I’m sure it won’t be too late, I promise.”
Beau takes a deep breath while searching my eyes. He seems a bit upset that I’m going out with Connor tonight, but hey, I’m sure I won’t have to stay the entire date. I’m sure I can leave as soon as they hit it off. “I suppose we can make that work.” He finally smiles, and I press my lips against his.
“I love you. I promise I’ll be back before you even miss me.” I grin, clambering off his lap and to the door where I saw Connor’s car pull up.
“Yeah, yeah.” Beau sighs, reaching for the remote while I let the door slam behind me.
“So are you nervous yet?” I ask, sliding into his car.
“Is that Beau’s truck?” Connor asks, pointing to the flatbed that’s parked in the driveway behind my Jeep.
“Yeah, I forgot we did have plans tonight, but it’s okay. You need me more right now.” I smile encouragement at my friend and he turns the car down the short drive to Carlisle’s.
“I’m sure he hates me so much.” Connor frets, and I have to assure him that Beau doesn’t hate him. The only guy Beau hates is the guy who roofied me the night Beau and I met.
“No, he doesn’t, but I might be leaving a little early on the date if you guys hit it off. He has to head back early and I don’t want him to have driven all this way for nothing.”
“I totally understand. But if the date goes horrible, you’re going to stay with me until it’s over, right?”
“Tell you what – if the date goes horrible we can have a code word that you can say and I’ll come up with an excuse that we need to leave right away. How’s that?” I ask, seeing the Carlisle sign come into view.
“That’s perfect. How about butternut?” He asks, and I raise my eyebrow. “What? I figure it’ll be easy enough to slip it into a conversation if I need to.”
“Butternut it is then.” I agree, and open a very dirty text from Beau. Apparently he’s now trying to appeal to my sex drive instead of bribing me with movies to come home early.
Connor pulls into the restaurant parking lot a few minutes later, and does one last check to make sure his already perfect hair is in place before we head inside. I can physically see my cool, confident best friend shaking with nerves when he spots the guy sitting with his back to us at a table through the window. “I don’t know, Stella. I think we should go. This was a bad idea.”
“No, Connor. You’re going on this date, and you’re going to like it.” I argue, grabbing his elbow and hauling him back to the door when he tries to head back to the car. He fights me almost all the way in, but once the guy spots us, smiles, and waves real big, Connor’s nervousness disappears.
“Hi, I’m Stella. I’m sorry I’m imposing on y’all’s date, but I can’t help that I adore Carlisle’s food, and when Connor said y’all were eating here I just had to come.” I smile, shake the guy’s hand, and plop into a seat at the table.
“I’m Drew, and it’s a pleasure to meet you, Stella.” He smiles a warm, perfect smile at me, and I have to roll my eyes at how utterly perfect these two guys are that are sitting in front of me, and both of them are gay.
Over the next 10 minutes, I sit in silence while Drew and Connor hit it off, and before the waitress even has the chance to take my order, Connor is slipping me his keys and basically telling me to get lost – or in my case – home to Beau. I’m almost home when my phone rings in my pocket, and I’m a little concerned when I see Kristin’s name pop up on my screen.
“Hey.” I answer, holding the phone up to my ear as I pull into my driveway and park.
“Stella, there’s been an accident.” Kristin starts, and I hear some mild panic in her voice.
“What happened?” I ask, opening the car door and hurrying inside, where Beau is waiting for me – shirtless. I can’t help but smile at him, and I barely hear the next words out of Kristin’s mouth.
“I’m sorry, Stella. Rick, the janitor, was in the room cleaning and he accidentally bumped your shelf that held your figurines. The penguin-dragon hybrid survived, but your phoenix-fox and tiger-elephant ones didn’t.” Kristin explains, and I actually have to hold my hand in front of my face to stop Beau from kissing me.
“Uh, I’ll be right there.” I manage to stumble out, before hanging up and heading back out the door.
“Where are you going?” Beau calls after me, trying to grab my hand and stop me from leaving.
“There was an accident at my studio and they need me. I’m sorry, Beau.” I apologize, leaning back to kiss his cheek before finally pulling free and managing to escape to my Jeep.
I know there’s nothing I can do about it now, but I still need to see everything for myself. Maybe there will be a way to fix them with some super-glue or something. They won’t bring as much money as they would if they were whole pieces, but at least they’d still show well. It barely takes me five minutes to get to my studio, and when I meet Kristin and Rick at the door, Rick already looks like he’s beating himself up about this. I tell him not to worry as they lead me to the table that they’ve already gathered all the fragmented little pieces and put them into piles. I sigh as I take in the probably 20 pieces of each, and pick them up and try to put the puzzle back together.
“I can probably glue them back together if you’ll let me for the showcase. If I’m really good, nobody will be able to tell, hopefully.” I tell Kristin, who sees what I’m doing and starts to help.
“I know how much time you spent on these, and it’s so close to final showcase that I know you won’t have to remake them to the same quality of these. If you can get them glued together almost seamlessly, I’ll allow them in the showcase.” She agrees, and Rick apologizes again for bumping them over.
“Rick. I promise it’s okay. Accidents happen and I know that. They’re not the first pieces I’ve had ruined because they’ve been bumped over. Please, stop beating yourself up about it.” I sigh, and go in search of the clear ceramics glue I bought in case something like this ever happens.
I planned on working for only a few minutes – getting the big pieces glued back together before going home to Beau, but the next time I glance at my phone it’s nearly midnight and there are several texts from him. I quickly put the cap back on my glue and leave everything out before turning the lights off and locking my door before hurrying home, hoping Beau is still there. Thankfully, though, his truck is still in the driveway.
I park and hurry inside, where I find Beau scraping chicken bones into the trash from his plate. “Beau, I’m so –”
“Stella, we need to talk.” He sighs, cutting me off and putting the plate in the sink before leaning against his hands on the kitchen island.
“I just want to say I’m sorry that I was away all night tonight.” I try to apologize, but he just shakes his head.
“This isn’t about tonight, Stel. This is about the last hundred nights. We’re not really connecting anymore. I don’t know if it’s because you’re just so busy, or because we’re so different, but I can see things changing between us. I hate to say this because of how much I love you, but -”
“Then don’t say it, Beau!” I cry out, knowing where this conversation is headed and hating every second of it. “Don’t say it.” I beg, letting tears fall down my cheeks as he takes a deep breath, but doesn’t waiver.
“I don’t want to be holding you back or anything, Stel. If we don’t end things now, then you’re going to start resenting me and I don’t want that. We can still be friends and hang out when you come home, but I think our relationship needs to end. I think that’s what best for you right now, babe.” Beau says, and I start shaking my head vigorously.
“I don’t want this to be over. I want you, Beau! I’m sorry I’ve been busy lately, and I’m sorry I forgot you were coming here this weekend, and I’m sorry I left you alone all night, but I love you and I’m not ready for this to be over!” I argue, walking around the counter to try and wrap my arms around his waist.
He grabs my arms before I can grab him, and gently holds me away from his body. “I think you subconsciously don’t want to be in a relationship, Stel. I know how hard college was for me, and I don’t think I could have handled a serious girlfriend my first couple of years. There are so many experiences you need to have and as much as I’d like to be there for you, you just need to focus on your friends and making new friends and memories that will last you a life time. Deep down you know this is the right thing to do.” He sighs, finally pulling me to his chest and stroking my hair while I sob – until I get angry that he’s trying to break up with me.
“You don’t get to do this to me!” I yell, violently pushing away from him and marching to the front door. “You’re not allowed to hurt me like this, Beau.”
“I didn’t mean to -” He starts to follow me with his hands reaching out to try and soothe me, but I’m too mad to see straight right now.
“No, Beau. You need to leave. Right now.” I seethe, ripping his promise ring off my finger and holding it out him. I thought about throwing it, but decided I’d get my point across better if I curl it into one of his outstretched hands.
“Stella, I –”
“Get out of my house.” I cry, pointing to the door.
He hangs his head as he walks past me out the door, and when he turns around his own tears are streaming down his face. It makes my heart break instantly, but I can’t feel that right now. “Stel, I didn’t want to hurt you.” He sounds crushed – absolutely crushed.
“It didn’t have to be this way.” I harshly sob before slamming the door in his face and heading to Gemma’s room to curl up on her bed and wait for her to get home.
While I’m waiting, I stupidly go back and read every single one of my saved messages from Beau – the ones where he tells me how much he loves me, or tells me why he loves me so much and how long he’s going to love me, and what our kids are going to be like and how many we’re going to have and how much he believes in my ceramics and how much he loves me again – until I’m nothing but a sobbing heap of blubbering tears on my best friend’s bed. I know I should delete everything, but I’m also hoping we work through this. I don’t want this break up to be final.
Gemma finally quietly sneaks into her room about 3 AM, and nearly screams when she finds me in her bed. “Stella! What are you doing in here?” She shrieks, trying to catch her breath.
“Beau and I had a fight.” I mumble, barely releasing her pillow enough for her to understand me.
“How bad was the fight?” She asks, quickly moving to sit beside me, rubbing my shoulder.
“He broke up with me. Well, maybe I broke up with him. I don’t know, all I do know is that we’re finished.” I wail, rolling into her side and sobbing even harder than I have for the last 3 hours.
Gemma seems to be completely stunned and at a loss for words. “What?” She finally asks, pulling my face away from her.
“He said our relationship need to end. I said I don’t want our relationship to be over. He said it is for the best. I kicked him out.” I try to explain, and Gemma disappears for a few seconds before bringing back a quart of mint chocolate chip ice cream and making me start from the beginning.
“I forgot he was coming down this weekend, so I told Connor this morning that I’d go on a date with him as a buffer between him and this guy he met online. Thankfully though, I didn’t have to stay too long before they hit it off pretty well and Connor let me have his car – which is why it’s here. Then when I got home, I got a call from Kristin saying that two of my ceramic figurines were ruined, and I spent the next few hours dealing with that. Then when I got home he was saying how much we’re changing and not connecting like we used to – I know he meant how much I’m changing, but he was just too nice to actually say it. And the next thing I know I’m shoving the promise ring in his hand and telling him to get out of my house. But I don’t want our relationship to be over, Gemma. I love him way too much, and I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.” I sob, and thankfully my best friend just sits there absorbing all of my information.
“So it was just out of the blue?” She asks, confused.
“I guess so! He said it felt like we haven’t really hung out since before Spring Break, but that’s not true. Well, I mean, I guess it kind of is, but we talk all the time. I never once got the feeling that he wasn’t as into me anymore.” I sigh, leaning my temple on my best friend’s shoulder as I shovel a scoop of ice cream into my mouth.
“It’s his loss, my dear.” Gemma sighs, and I reach up and wipe a tear away from my face.
“I knew our relationship was too good to be true. I mean, the beginning of it was just a whirl-wind of sex, laughter, and lust, and I guess that just translated into not being meant to be. It just hurts that I thought I found the person I’d spend the rest of my life with when I was so young, and now my heart feels like Beau ripped it out of my chest, stomped on it a few hundred times, and then sloppily stitched it back into place.” I explain, before shoveling another rather large bite of ice cream into my mouth.
“He’ll come crawling back. You’re going to have to spend the summer home with him since you already promised you’d help again with the farm work so your dad doesn’t have to hire ANOTHER beyond hot farm hand.” Gemma winks, and I roll my eyes at her horrible attempt to be funny right now. “I’m sorry, I know you’re hurting.”
“I’ll be fine eventually. I just have to give it time and focus on finals.” I sigh, frowning as I think about my showcase pieces sitting broken in my studio and how much work it’s going to take to get them ready again.