Match Made

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TWENTY

Chris drives home in silence but I cry in the passenger seat. When we pull into the garage at home, he turns off the car and doesn’t get out.

“I heard it all,” he says. “I know how you must be feeling, and I know only time can fix this. But I’m sure they love you.”

I nod and wipe the tears from my eyes. I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what I’m feeling, so I’m glad he doesn’t press me.

“What do you say to some ice cream?” he asks. “And maybe a movie or a book?”

I nod, “But first, some water, I think.” My throat is so dry from crying.

He nods, too, “I’ll see you inside.” He gets out of the car.

Just before he closes the door, he leans his head back in, “Unless you want me to stay.”

I don’t know what I want.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll be right in,” I try to smile and steady my breathing. I’m not worried about him seeing me cry. I just want to be done crying over my parents.

It doesn’t take me long to calm myself and walk into the house. I’m so fast, Chris doesn’t even have the ice cream out yet. Though I guess that could be because ice cream melts and he was waiting for me.

I shake my head free of those thoughts. It’s time to move forward.

“I’m ready for my ice cream!” I give him a brief hug as he hands me a glass of water.

“That first, remember?” he points at the glass in my hand and I oblige. My throat does feel a lot better after drinking the water.

Once we have dished out the ice cream, we take our bowls to the living room and sit down in front of the TV to eat.

I’m almost halfway done the bowl when I remember I haven’t responded to Match Made to tell them that we finished task number four. How forgetful can one person be?

I pull out my phone between bites and reply to the message. Chris must have done it earlier, because the response is almost immediate.

Thank you. Your confirmation has been received. Your final task will be delivered in no more than five business days.

Five days? I show the message to Chris and he seems unconcerned, so I try to follow his lead and be cool about it. It’s hard, because I want this whole thing to be over. And, despite the fact that it really hasn’t been very long at all, it feels like it’s been dragging on forever.

“So,” I try to speak as calmly as Chris looks. “What should we do with the next five days, then?”

He puts a large spoonful of ice cream in his mouth. If that were me, I would have done the same thing to give myself time to think. Maybe we have that in common.

“Oh!” his eyes brighten with the idea. “We could go hiking.”

“Hiking? Where? Like the mountain?” I’m not usually a huge fan of hiking, but I think I’ll do almost anything to stop staring at each other and waiting on Match Made.

“Yeah, I have a little cabin up there,” I can tell he loves the idea. “We could drive up to the cabin and use that as our home base. We can take a big hike or two small ones and I can show you what I love about it.” He gestures out the window towards the mountain we can see from our balcony.

“Before I answer,” I start, “I should warn you that I’m very bad with outdoors. I tend to hurt myself or get bit by creatures of all sorts and I have, on occasion, ended up in the hospital.”

He chuckles at me, “I think we can figure it out.”

“Well, if you’re really sure, then I guess so.” Might as well give it a try, right?

“Yeah? Really?” his eyes are bright and excited and his smile spreads across his whole face.

“Yes,” I can’t help but get excited, too. It’s like he’s contagious.

“I’m so excited! I have to go pack,” he gets up to put the bowls in the kitchen. When he comes back through the living room he adds, “and so do you. We should probably start that.”

I raise my eyebrow at him, because he sounds like my dad. I cross my arms dramatically, “I’ll be up when the show’s over. I’m very invested in Charlie’s success here.”

“All right,” he kisses my cheek before walking up the stairs. “Don’t forget to pack a hat!” he calls as he disappears around the top of the staircase.

“I won’t!” I call, hopefully loud enough for him to hear.

I sit on the couch not really watching the TV as I ponder what we will do next. Will Match Made hold up their end of the bargain and actually give us a way out of this once we complete the tasks?

I’m not sure exactly what way out there might be when we finish these tasks, because the contract is very unclear. I can’t tell if I’m more nervous about not having a way out or actually ending this marriage when this task is complete. How are people going to react when the marriage is over? Will people treat me weird? Will Chris still be my friend? Does any of that even matter?

Most importantly of all, is that what I really want?

I stand up from the couch and go upstairs to pack my bags. I have no idea what I want or what I’m doing, but I do know I am going hiking tomorrow. And packing for hiking is something I can control.

It isn’t until I get to my room that I remember I didn’t bring any backpacks with me. I didn’t think I would need them now that all my schooling was done. I always carry a purse.

“Chris?” I ask gently as I knock on his door. “Are you up?”

“Yeah,” he sounds groggy, like he wasn’t up. “One second.”

He shuffles to the door and opens it, “What’s the matter?” his eyes are droopy from sleep, though he tries to hide it.

“Sorry to wake you, but I don’t have a backpack or anything.”

“Oh, is that all?” he walks to his closet and pulls out two backpacks. “Here. You can take whichever one you like better.”

I take the smaller one from him, thinking it is all I will be able to carry, “Thanks. Goodnight.”

“See you in the morning,” he whispers before closing his door. I stand there, staring at the door between us much longer than I should have.

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