I stood still, momentarily transfixed and unable to process what I was witnessing or how to escape. My feet backpedaled quietly, and I closed the door, locking it behind me. Suddenly I realized that Nolan had a set of keys, so I did the one thing I was really good at…
Rushing out through the kitchen, I could hear Nico calling after me, but I was gone. I didn’t know where I was going. I just knew that I had to keep going. I just had to keep going until I couldn’t keep going.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of myself reflected in a storefront. My hair was everywhere, and I was in sweats. Images of Melina Trowel flashed through my mind, and I couldn’t help but compare myself to her.
Her beautifully cropped brown hair looked so cute next to my disheveled wavy curls. I looked down at my brown hands that didn’t look as delicate as her pale ones. She was slightly shorter than me and incredibly petite.
I didn’t feel envious of her beauty, but I knew that her kind of beauty didn’t apply to me. It was an impossibility that framed an existence that I had no possession of, but that bound me societally in a way that I couldn’t escape.
I turned away from my reflection and looked down at my phone. Miles was calling. Part of me wanted to just throw my phone and just keep running until I found an abyss or some kind of cliff.
Instead, I answered and gave him my location.
I barely registered stepping into my mother’s home. I could hear my Mother and Gavin talking to me. As if on autopilot, I just kept nodding and apologizing. They were saying words that my brain just wasn’t registering.
Perhaps it all just didn’t matter. Here I was… back where I started. The only people willing to take me in were people who couldn’t give less of a shit about me.
I said everything I could to make my mother and Gavin feel heard. I even allowed them to hug me. Yet, everything felt fake and surreal. There was a hollowness that began to form deep within the recesses of my heart that allowed me to completely deny my own existence.
Somehow, I lost my inability to care. The things that I thought mattered just didn’t matter anymore.
Finally, when I was allowed to leave, I receded into my room and let the darkness consume me.
I felt like I had stared into the abyss, and the abyss had stared back at me. I was unable to scream or cry or laugh or shout. I had stared into the abyss, and all I was left with was silence. The silence was resounding within me at a level I had never experienced. The silence was so loud, it deafened every sense of my soul.
It wasn’t that I was surprised at finding Nolan and Melina together. It was that it validated every thought I had ever had. Everything that had happened had already happened. There wasn’t a present or future tense for us, only a past tense.
I looked down at my hand as the phone started to glow. It was Nolan. I waited for it to go to voicemail and then looked at my phone. He had called over twenty times.
I closed my eyes and waited for the darkness to consume me.
At some point, I opened my eyes.
“Honey… can I come in?” My mother asked.
“Yeah. Sure,” I said hollowly.
“Are you okay?” She asked as she peered through a crack in the door.
“Totally fine. What’s up?” I asked.
“It’s just… Zoey… you have been asleep for like two days….”
“What!?” I said, surprised, and sat bolt upright.
I looked down at my hands that were clutching my phone and attempted to turn it on, but it was off. I silently prayed that I had a charger somewhere and thankfully found my bag beside me.
“Is everything okay?” She asked as I was muttering to myself.
“Yep, totally fine,” I said, waving with a fake smile after totally forgetting my mother was still standing there.
I had to go to work. Nico probably still needed me. I didn’t even know if Jan needed stuff from me. Altogether, I felt horrible. I really left everyone hanging.
Thankfully the phone started to slightly glow, and I willed it to speedily turn on.
I had over 50 missed calls.
There were a mixture of calls from Nico, Jan, and vendors, but mainly Nolan had called. My hands began to shake, but I listened to the last message first. It was from Nolan:
"Hi Zoey, I want you to know that I have automatically put in sick time for you. Please let us know when you can return or if you need more time off. Don’t worry about the weekend. If you need that time for yourself, then you should take it.”
“Well, that was nice. Is that your boss?”
“Mom!” The woman was insufferable, and she had a strange ability to seemingly make herself invisible in plain sight, “I have to go to work. There are some things that I have to do….”
“It doesn’t sound like you have to go. In fact, if you are going to be like this, maybe it’s best if you don’t go.”
“So, as I said,” I began as I rolled my eyes, “I’m going to have to go into work. Are all of my clothes still here?”
“Yes,” she said, smiling annoyingly, “I didn’t move anything.”
I started scouring through my wardrobe for something that didn’t scream that I was a mess. I knew I would have to shower and really make sure to put myself together. I couldn’t let Nolan see me like this, and I also couldn’t believe how much I let this even impact me professionally.
It was embarrassing. I was that girl. The one that couldn’t get her shit together. The one that slept with her boss and was a fucking mess.
“Stop it,” I said to myself as I wiped the steam off of the glass after my shower, “you are more than this. You’re beautiful. You’re brilliant. You are stronger than this. You are most definitely talking to yourself… but you need to know how amazing you really are. You are more than this man and this situation.”
I pulled my hair up into a high bun. Put on a nice blouse, some dark jeans, and some heels. I never really put on make-up, but here I was, putting on some eyeshadow, blush, and mascara.
“Woah,” my Mom said as she saw me.
“Gotta go,” I said as I stepped out the door.
And face the mess I created…