One | Fate Has a Cruel Sense of Humor
With one glance in his eyes, she told herself, “This is going to hurt when it’s over.”
It was over ten years since Tara laid eyes on Adam. And It was just like her recent string of bad luck to be set up on a blind date with her ex who bailed on her and their plans to move in together. Instead, Adam ran away. He hadn’t run away to a different apartment. Hell, not even a different city or state. No, Adam ran away to another fucking country entirely.
“Um, wow! Tara, is that you?” Adam asked as he stood to greet her.
Mild shock coursed through them both. Who would have guessed when they downloaded a new app that claimed to connect you with your soulmate, that it would match them? With over seven billion people on the planet, what were the damn odds?
The app called GameSetMatch, aimed to connect people based on more than physical attraction. Therefore, unlike typical dating apps, they didn’t allow photos, and all matches were blind. All the information they gave to participants were age, gender, some basic likes, dislikes, hobbies, and other personality-based information. They permitted no physical descriptions.
Each member filled out an extensive questionnaire when they joined, and they matched members based on what the app called their revolutionary, state-of-the-art algorithm for compatibility. When there was a ping between members, they sent an alert, and the matches could meet for an in-person date. All first dates were facilitated and planned by the app’s dating service.
“What brings you here?” he continued, still unaware that his not-so-blind-date was with Tara.
“Hi,” Tara replied with hesitation. “I think I’m your blind date.”
“What?” he asked in disbelief.
“Yeah, the app’s rep told me my date’s name was Adam, but I didn’t expect him to be you. I thought you were in London?” Tara replied. She hesitated before she took a seat across from Adam in the booth at the café they had unknowingly agreed to meet.
It tempted her to walk right back out the moment she laid eyes on him. But something beyond her control propelled her forward-A curiosity. Even if she had convinced herself he was the last person on Earth she’d ever want to see again, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Tara loathed Adam, or so she told herself. But the surprise of coming face to face with him had her reacting in a way unlike anything she’d daydreamed.
In her fantasies, she imagined punching him square in the jaw and spitting in his face. Instead, she sat there with a false air of calm composure and slight indifference.
“I was, yeah. I came back about two years ago. I’ve been here in the city since then.” Adam scanned Tara critically.
Just like Tara, he imagined no way in Hell, that his blind date with a woman named Tara he matched with on GameSetMatch, would be his college sweetheart and the woman he’d planned to spend his life with.
Tara had changed in the ten years they’d been apart. She’d lost the twenty pounds she put on as a college freshman. Her hair was back to its natural chestnut color, and it was much longer than the asymmetrical, chin-length bob she wore throughout college.
On the contrary, Adam looked much the same. He’d put on more muscle on his once lanky frame, but his light green eyes sparkled in the same way they always had. His dirty blond hair was still cut close on the sides and longer on top.
If Adam and Tara were being honest with themselves, they would have agreed that they both looked better than ever. But as things stood, there were too many things left unsaid and unresolved to admit that there was still, at the least, a strong residual physical attraction.
Tara lowered her head and said, “Adam, we don’t have to do this. I can go.”
Her hands fidgeted under the table. She hoped he’d say he wanted to go. Tara wouldn’t be the one to walk away. There was no way she would allow Adam to see he still affected her. If she ran from him now, it would only prove she was still heartbroken.
This was Adam’s chance, his out, but he didn’t take it. He didn’t want to. Adam was aware he’d hurt Tara; hurt was probably an understatement. He devastated her. A couple since freshman year in college, they’d planned a life together after graduation. Except Adam had been too chickenshit to go through with it. The pressure from his so-called friends finally got to him, and in a coward move, he secretly took a job in London without as much as a word to Tara.
“Um, I’m cool with sticking around if you are. Can I buy you something to drink?” he asked while he flagged down a waitress.
“Sure. I’ll have a latte, whole milk and sugar,” Tara replied. But inside she thought, “What the hell am I doing? I should leave!”
When the waitress arrived, Adam ordered their coffee. He turned back toward Tara after the waitress walked off to prepare their order.
“I like your hair like that. It’s pretty,” he said as he tried to break the awkward tension that hung in the air. “So, what have you been up to?”
“Um, me? I’ve been working. I landed a great nursing gig at a highly respected pediatrician’s office here in the city. I love it. But other than that, not much,” Tara replied. “How about you?”
“I’m a lead ad director at Smith & Anderson’s advertising firm. It’s stressful, but it pays the bills.”
The silence weighed heavy as they both danced around the real questions that clung to the air in a cloud of suffocating smog.
“Why a blind date? You used to hate blind dates?” he asked with a smile.
The irony of the situation was, they’d met on a blind date in college. And after that first blind date, they’d been inseparable.
Tara’s stomach fluttered at the sight of his smile. “What the fuck was that?” she thought.
“Let’s just say beggars can’t be choosers.” She sighed.
Since her relationship with Adam ended, she hadn’t been in a relationship that lasted longer than a few months. It was mostly her fault. Adam left her insecure and with a major chip on her shoulder. She made every man she met pay for the mistakes she hadn’t been able to make Adam pay for. Eventually, she stopped her search.
Adam, on the other hand, avoided relationships past the occasional fling like the plague. But lately, the occasional one-night stand wasn’t cutting it as it once had. So, when a co-worker suggested he sign up for this new dating site, being raved about by almost every media outlet, he eagerly agreed. Hundreds of couples claimed they’d found their soulmate, and the app was only three months old.
If Adam believed in fate, he would have thought it were fate the app paired him with Tara. The one woman, that till that day, he believed to be his soulmate. One thing was certain, his co-worker was right, it was an adventure either way.
As he sat there and awaited his drink, he couldn’t help but remember all the smoldering, adventurous sex they used to have. Even though Tara lost weight, she’d kept all the curves that drove him wild. He shifted in his seat as the memories of her in the throes of passion caused his temperature to increase ever so slightly.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Adam finally replied as he cleared his throat.
The waitress arrived and placed their ordered drinks in front of them. She left a stack of extra napkins and walked away. Tara sipped her latte as she stared at the people who passed by outside the shop window.
“Tara, can’t we just talk about what’s on both our minds?” Adam’s voice broke through her trance and she turned her gaze back towards his face.
“That’s probably not the best idea, Adam,” Tara said, the pain she’d stuffed down so deep, made its way to the surface like the bloated, decomposing corpse of someone who’d drowned but had yet to be discovered.
“Tara, I want to apologize for being such an asshole,” he replied.
“Asshole?” she thought. “I can think of a few more adjectives that would also fit, like, dick, fucker, twat, and shithead!”
Tara’s gaze narrowed.
Adam recognized the look all too well, and before she could get a word out, he said, “I know I’m about ten years too late, and I’m not asking your forgiveness because I know I don’t deserve it. But I think you deserve an explanation, even if it’s a shitty one.”
Tara inhaled a deep slow breath to hamper her anger and exhaled afterward just as slowly. “Okay, so what excuse do you have for trampling on my heart and our four-year relationship out of the blue one day?” Her response carried more venom than she intended it to.
Adam took his own deep breath. “Well, as I mentioned, it isn’t a good one. I was an idiot, a coward, and I got cold feet. I listened to the wrong people. They told me I was too young, and I shouldn’t settle down, but play the field instead. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t deeply regret what I’ve done to you. And there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t regret destroying our relationship. The only relationship I’ve had that’s ever meant anything. What I regret the most, though, is losing my best friend. I kick myself every day for that one. I was young, and I was a fool.” He lowered his head in shame and stared at his folded hands. He couldn’t bear to see the pain in her eyes. The pain he put there.
Tara struggled to keep a grasp on the anger she’d held onto for over ten years. She’d forgotten what it was like not to have it sit in the pit of her stomach like a viper ready to strike anyone who disturbed its hiding place.
In all honesty, she hadn’t wanted to let it go. She’d grown too accustomed to its company. It was her protection; she used it as an excuse for the reason she hadn’t moved on since Adam. The truth was too hard to admit. She couldn’t face the real reason she had never moved on, was she still loved him, fully and completely.
As she sat there, she realized she was right on her first assumption-it hurt. It was ripping open an old wound that never properly healed.
Tara stood, unable to bear it any longer. She grabbed her purse, and as she walked past Adam towards the door; he grabbed her hand and locked eyes with her. His were bloodshot with the first sign of tears.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered before he released her hand.
Tara scurried out the door, got in her car, and slammed the door shut. As fast as she could, she started it and sped off. When she was certain she was far enough away, and Adam wouldn’t see her tears, she set them free.
Her tears blurred her vision as she drove home. “Damn that fucking app, and damn Karen for suggesting it to me.”
Karen would get a call from her, and she promised herself she would cancel her account the minute she got home.
Meanwhile, Adam sat motionless as he stared at the door Tara fled through. He wanted to run after her. To beg her to give him another chance. He’d do anything to have her back in his life, but he doubted she’d ever speak to him again. Adam loved her; he never stopped loving her. His single biggest mistake was leaving Tara.
As he was about to admit defeat, he glanced at his phone and pulled up the app. The alert still flashed across the homepage of the app: We’ve found your soulmate!
No. He wouldn’t give up hope. Adam would find Tara and win her back if it was the last thing he’d do.