I sat cross-legged on the floor, looking over my apartment. All of my stuff now packed, waiting for movers to arrive. I sighed in relief. I was busy collecting and placing everything in boxes almost the whole morning. I was dancing and singing along with it, trying to find the motivation to move forward. Because now, looking at my empty apartment I felt uneasy. What am I doing? I loved my life there in Chicago; I loved my work, loved my friends and even my surly neighbor, Missis Adams. She was 80 years old, she was lonely and very grumpy, but with time, I started to like her. I listened to stories of her life with genuine interest; she was a very wise and kind woman under her exterior. Ugh, these thoughts aren’t helping.
I was working as a freelance photographer in Chicago for almost 4 years now. I wasn’t famous, but I really enjoyed my work, I loved to see lovely couples, happy families and beautiful women and men through the lenses of my camera. My clients were happy with my photos; they were spreading the word about me among their friends, colleagues and family. I saved up a good amount of money and started to think about what to do next. I guess that’s what brought me here. That, and Sean.
Sean and I started dating when I was 24 years old and he was 28. He was a grown-up man with his own bookstore, he knew what he wanted from life and he had been taking it. He asked me out on dates not once, before I agreed. He was kind, smart and very confident. We moved in together after one year of dating. I felt good around him, he cared about me a lot and I let him do that. I liked him, loved our cozy apartment and his Labrador retriever, Nancy. I thought that it will be enough for me, but with time, I started to doubt it. Our views on life were radically different. He wanted family, he wanted children, but I wasn’t ready. I wanted to explore the world or at least cities in our country for starters. I wanted to get new knowledge, so I took cooking courses, visage courses and even game development classes. I wanted to know myself better.
Sean never said a word to me, but I knew he didn’t approve any of it. He wanted to have me all to himself. He wanted me to be his wife and mother of his children. His friends became my friends, most of them were happily married and one couple even had two children, while I was dating Sean. He proposed to me when I was 27 and of course, I said yes. We were together for 3 years now, how could I not? I was delaying to choose a date for our wedding, so I started to hear accusations from Sean, that I didn’t want to marry him at all. We started arguing more and more often. It was exhausting for both of us because it wasn’t us. All of our tenderness and love disappeared, we were becoming strangers, who lived under one roof.
6 months ago, one year after his proposal, I returned him the ring he gave me, took my things and left our apartment. I found this apartment very quickly, it was small but in a good neighborhood. I was starting my life in Chicago again from the start. With my separation from Sean, I lost also our mutual friends, because they all judged me for my decision. It wasn’t easy for me, I loved Sean even if I knew, that we aren’t destined to be together. I had a big respect for him and still cared about him. When a month ago I met him in a café with a new girlfriend, I was stunned. He looked happy and because of it, I felt a pang in the chest. It was my decision to end our relationship, he tried to talk me out of it, but it was no use. Still, I was hurt by seeing him with another woman.
This meeting changed me. I decided to take a break; I wanted to revise my life and my desires concerning what I want for myself in the future. That’s why I was sitting right now, surrounded by boxes. I had enough money for a year-long pause, besides I could easily work as photographer wherever I was. So I called my mom and said, that I want to go back home. She was happy to hear it. Let’s just say, that my relationship with her wasn’t easy. Our family was ruined by the decision of my dad to divorce her. They were unhappy together, they were arguing about everything, especially about me. With a divorce, he left the town and didn’t contact me even once for the past 12 years. I blamed mom for that. It wasn’t fair from my side, I realized it while being in college. Still, the last two years of my high school were hell for her. I rebelled against her and her rules. She cried a lot these days. I apologized before mom a thousand times, but I wasn’t feeling at home when I was actually at home. So last time, when I visited my hometown was 6 years ago.
My mother was in a very happy and healthy relationship now. I was glad to hear it, but I didn’t ask her for details. I only knew his name, George. She was a lawyer, very successful and much respected in our hometown. She told me, that she met him during her work. Maybe he was a lawyer or prosecutor, I had no idea, but I guess I will find out tomorrow. I took my phone and dialed my mom’s number.
“Hey, honey! Have you finished already?” My mother’s voice was cheerful. I guess she was very happy to hear from me.
“Yeah, mom. All done. Now I just need to wait for movers. They will come with my stuff in the early morning tomorrow. I will try to arrive before them, but I am not so sure.”
“It’s okay. I took a day off already, I will tell them, where to put your things.”
“Thank you so much, mom!”
“It’s no big deal! Take your time, I will help you with everything. Do you remember the address?”
“What kind of question is that? I wasn’t at home for 6 years, but hello, of course, I remember our address!”
“Lea, don’t tell me you forgot already.”
“Forgot about what? Mom?”
“Oh my God, I can’t believe it! Were you even listening to me? I told you, that I live with George now.”
“Yeah, I am totally aware of it. What does it have to do with me?”
“Um, honey, our house is rented by a sweet couple with two children. They live there for almost a year now.”
“Lea, you know, that I don’t approve this language.”
“I know, sorry, mom... You’re right, I remembered about you living with your boyfriend together, but I didn’t think it through... I never even questioned myself about our house... I was sure, that I will come and will be living there on my own, but now... Where do I even stay? For a year?!”
“Don’t be silly! You will be living with us. We talked with George, he is totally okay with it. He wants to know you; you’re my daughter after all. Besides, his house is big enough for all of us.”
“Are you sure?”
“Totally. I will send you the address. Just for you to know, I want you to have dinner with us tomorrow in the evening. You could ask Jessica to join us, I know that you’re still in touch with her... I even found out about your breakup with Sean from her...”
“No, honey, I am sorry. We will have time to talk about everything...”
“Okay, send me the address, mom. I will call Jess; maybe she will be free. There will be you, George and me, right?”
“Yeah, George’s son. He’s two years older than you, but I am sure, you know him. You and he were attending the same school. For now, he lives with us too, but he will be out of there very soon. His house is being built right now. It’s almost finished.”
“Mom, don’t tell me, we’re talking about Matt Harris.”
“Yeah. Why? Do you know him?”
Do I know him? Hell yeah. I hated this guy to the guts in high school. He was arrogant and mean jerk. It was the only one person, with whom I couldn’t even stand being in one room. It was the guy, who lowered the level of my confidence to zero and I had to work hard to boost it. It was just fucking perfect!
“Lea?” I heard mom’s voice, which brought me back to reality. I didn’t know what to say to her. Just then I heard the doorbell. The movers were there.
“Mom, send me the address. See you tomorrow. Bye!”
I ended the call and went to open the door. One hour after my apartment was totally empty. I found myself staring through the window at the busy streets of the city I fell in love with. After mom’s revelation, doubts about my decision to move back to my hometown even for a year were bigger than anything. I wasn’t expecting to live with my mom and her boyfriend and I definitely didn’t want to live under one roof with Matt Harris. Of course, I could rent an apartment or find another place to stay, but it will take time. And obviously, my mom won’t be happy about it. She counted on my return, she wanted our relationship to be back to normal like it was many years ago. And if I want to be honest, I wanted it too. Somehow, I thought that my relationship with Sean failed because of my family drama. Divorce of my parents damaged me. I needed my mom if I want someday to have a family of my own. Hell, I guess, for now, I will be like Scarlett O’Hara and “I will think about that tomorrow”.
My hometown was 4 hours away from Chicago. I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning, took a shower and left the hotel. I bought some snacks for breakfast and after placing my suitcase to the trunk of my Chevrolet Equinox, I was ready to leave. It was Sean’s gift to me and he refused to take it back. I tried to do it four times and he always was bringing the keys back to me. The last time, he told me that if I will bring the car to him again, he will send it for scrap. I loved this car too much, so I just gave up.
I put my favorite music on, the sounds of Beyoncé’s music filled the car. I ate my sandwich, drank black coffee and started the car. It was already 6. With morning traffic, I expected to be in my hometown around 11. I had time to think about my living situation. Of course, I think that Matt Harris couldn’t be worse than he was back in high school. Besides, we’re both grown-up people, he was 30 already. So maybe, it won’t be that bad? But who was I kidding? What he did to me 12 years ago was very mean, I felt miserable and I started to boil inside every time when I was seeing his smug face anywhere in town. I let it go only after I went to college. 3 years after our encounter at one of Ethan Lewis’s parties. This night was a disaster for me and to my self-confidence.