It’s been six months to the day—To. The. God. Damn. Day — since my boyfriend of six years dumped me, seemingly out of the blue. Apparently, it wasn’t out of the blue at all. I found out he’d been nailing his secretary for a year. Cliché, I know. The irony is not lost on me.
Rich was his name. God, I should have known just by his name that he would do something like this. He started work at his dad’s law firm straight out of college and was immediately given a big office with a nice view and a blonde, busty secretary to wrap up the package.
One day Rich came home to dump me and tell me he was leaving me for the secretary after he had spent the whole year prior assuring me they were just colleagues and there was nothing between them. Like the dumbass I am, I believed him. He was the love of my life and I thought we’d get married one day. I thought I was the love of his, but he had no problem throwing six years away for the blonde beauty that spent her day doting on him.
Honestly, I think that’s why he left. He had this antiquated outlook on gender roles and thought I should be this perfect woman who cooks and cleans all day just waiting for him to come home. That wasn’t me and never would be. But there was this woman who was paid to be at his beck and call.
She wore the pretty dresses and had long perfect legs. Her hair is straight and easily maintained. Pretty much the exact opposite of me in every single way. But the biggest hit to my confidence was the fact that I was so blindsided by it all. I thought we had a good relationship, despite the fact that he was always annoyed with how I dressed and acted.
We met our sophomore year in college, moved in together a year after that. His family adored me. My mom never liked Rich, even though he was exactly the kind of guy she wanted me to be with. My sister Harper married “up” like she wanted, so I found someone I thought she would want for me. It didn’t matter. Everything I do is wrong to her.
As I look back on my relationship with Rich, I realize the signs were always there. He often dismissed me and my ideas. He thought my hobbies and interests were dumb. He made it seem as if his job was always more important. He’s always been a pretentious jerk. He was the rich white kid who had everything handed to him on a silver platter, including his college entrance and job afterward. He never had to work for much, but he worked hard at making it seem as if he had.
It took me longer than I would have liked to extricate myself from the asshole. We lived together. We even had a joint bank account. I thought we were going to get married, so it never occurred to me that I would have to do this. Besides, I was naïve about relationships. If I were smart, I would have kept my stuff separate. At least he was being gracious and gave me my fair share.
I moved back in with my friends from college and they were patient with me as I grieved for my lost relationship by eating tubs of ice cream while I cried my eyes out watching corny rom coms. I went to work but didn’t bother putting on makeup or doing much with my hair. When I was home, I stayed in my pajamas, which consisted of a shirt that was way over-sized and some sweatpants, also over-sized. My hair stayed in a messy bun that was, more often than not, a greasy knotted mess of my wild curly hair, and my eyes were always swollen with the tears that just refused to quit.
I’m not even sure what I was grieving. Was it Rich? I want to say no because he obviously never loved me the way I thought he did if he was willing to throw away our relationship like a dirty tissue. Was I grieving for my lost life? Possibly. I mean, it was a good life… I think, but maybe not the life I wanted. I think most of all I was grieving the end of this storybook fantasy I had about how love was supposed to be. When you meet the love of your life, you’re supposed to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after, not get dumped after six years without so much as an apology.
For six months my friends put up with me, but eventually, even they got sick of my moping around. Honestly, so am I, but I don’t know how to get out of this perpetual funk I seem to be stuck in. I never went out with them to the clubs or even to something as simple as lunch. I went to work and then straight to my room for some Netflix and cry. Pathetic, I know.
I’m about to get lost in another love story — Sleepless in Seattle — when my friends come bursting into my room with a wicked gleam in their eyes. Oh God, what do they want? Only bad things could come with the look they’re giving me.
“Get dressed. You have plans tonight,” Rachel says, flipping my comforter off of me. She grimaces when she sees my over-sized shirt and sweatpants. I try pulling the blanket back, but she throws it across the room.
“Nope. Just checked my very busy schedule, and it says I’m scheduled to spend the night right here,” I respond, motioning to my bed.
“You don’t have a choice. We’re sick of seeing you in here watching shitty romantic comedies. You need to get back out there,” Holly retorts.
I bury my face in my pillow and let out a scream that’s really not warranted. Rachel and Holly, my roommates and best friends since freshman year at college, look at me with unamused expressions as they wait for my temper tantrum to pass.
“Fine, what are we doing?” I ask after a couple of deep breaths, giving in easily. Part of me wants to get out again. The other part is scared. Rachel and Holly smile their wicked smiles and sit on either side of me.
“So, we know Captain Dickweed did a number on you and honestly you’ve always deserved better than that prick. You can’t keep wasting away in here wallowing in your self-pity. Rich has moved on, so should you,” Rachel says. I flinch a little at her words. Of course, they’re true, but still, they hurt to hear.
“In the spirit of moving on, Rachel and I took the liberty of setting you up on a date with a friend of Tom’s,” Holly says. Tom is Holly’s on-again, off-again boyfriend of the last two years. He works at a music-producing place, and I can only imagine the kind of people who work with him.
“No, no. I’m not okay with you setting me up on a blind date,” I nearly screech.
“Well, we don’t care. Noah has already agreed to go on the date and he’ll be here in an hour and a half to pick you up,” Rachel says as she gets off the bed. She pulls me with her and I reluctantly follow.
I’m too nice of a person to blow off someone who’s going to be here soon. I’ll go on this stupid date and be nice to this Noah guy to get Rachel and Holly off my back. I’m not expecting much out of this. I’m not ready to move on, and definitely not with someone who works at a studio with Tom. Whatever… I can make the best of this.
Rachel and Holly shoo me into the bathroom so I can shower off the last few days of depression. I stand in the scalding water for a while before even attempting to wash my hair. Now that the date is really happening, I’m getting nervous. Do I even know how to interact with anyone anymore, let alone a guy? In the six years Rich and I had been together, I hadn’t even really paid attention to anyone else. I’ve spent most of my adult life in the comfort of a relationship I never thought I’d leave.
After fretting about it all for a good ten minutes, I shake myself out of my panic and wash my hair and shave my legs. I mean, I don’t expect anything to happen tonight with this Noah character, but a girl should be ready for anything, right?
By the time I get out of the shower, newly shaved and groomed, I have only forty-five minutes until my date is due to arrive. My panic comes back in waves as I wonder why I took so long in the damn shower. Oh God, what am I going to wear? I haven’t been out anywhere in six months and I’ve surely gained some weight with my shitty eating habits and lack of any proper exercise. Somehow I don’t think walking from my bedroom to the freezer for more ice cream counts.
I rush to my room to see Rachel and Holly already waiting on my bed with a rectangular box sitting between them with a large red bow on top. I stop when I see it and smile. I’m filled with love and appreciation for these girls I’m lucky enough to call my friends.
“We got you a gift to mark the day that you rose from the ashes of your shitty relationship and started fresh,” Holly says with a smile. I feel tears escaping and rolling down my cheeks.
“Go on, open it,” Rachel insists.
I nod and quickly rip the lid off the box. Inside sits a black lacy dress. Underneath the rose-patterned lace is a dusky pink material. It’s a short sleeve dress that falls just above my knees and has a thin black belt. It’s so freaking cute and I’m absolutely in love with it.
“We’ll leave so you can try it on. Let us know if you need help with anything,” Rachel says before she and Holly leave me alone in my room.
I quickly dry off and select some lacy black underwear and a matching bra that I haven’t worn since the last time I went out with Rich. For six months, I’ve opted for my comfortable bras for the rare outing and sports bras or no bras when I’m at home. A happy shiver runs down my spine when I check myself out in the mirror. It feels good to get dressed up again, to feel sexy and worthwhile. I’m glad Holly and Rachel set this up for me just so I could have this chance to feel human again after feeling half-alive for half the year.
I pull on the dress, leaving the zipper half undone. I’ll need help with that in a minute. I glance at the clock and panic fills me again when I only have twenty minutes. I rush to put products in and diffuse my shoulder-length black hair so the curls aren’t frizzy and are somewhat tame. I used to have long hair because Rich liked it long. I straightened it every day since I was sixteen because my mother likes it better that way, then so did Rich. After he dumped me, I had my meltdown and cut it to just below my ears. It wasn’t a smart move because when I decided to go au natural; the haircut made me look like a black-haired Annie. Fortunately, it’s grown out a bit, and now I actually quite like it, curly and all.
When my hair is as nice as it’s going to get in the time I have to do it, I put on some light makeup. I only ever wear eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, and nude lipstick that doesn’t come off. I have a whole five minutes to spare when I walk into the living room. I’m kind of glad that Noah isn’t early, but at the same time, I do hope he’s on time. I hate being late and I hate waiting around for people to show up even more.
Holly and Rachel gush over how pretty I look, and I’m reassured that I look as alive as I feel.
“You’re really wearing those shoes?” Rachel asks, scrunching her nose.
I look down at my black low-top Converse and smile widely. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a pair of Converse on, even with a dress. Even though Rich wanted to suppress it, I didn’t let myself lose that part of my personality.
Their fawning over me is cut short by the loud song of the doorbell. Nerves instantly flood my stomach like I’m about to give a speech to the entire class that I’m ill-prepared for. Gah!
Holly smiles at me and immediately goes to answer the door. Instead of the unknown person I thought I was going to see, I just see Tom. Holly pulls him inside and kisses him quickly.
“Where’s Noah? He’s not standing her up, is he?” Rachel asks, giving Tom a hard look.
“Nah, he followed me here in his car. He was parking when I got to the door. He should be here any minute,” Tom replies, snaking his arm around Holly’s waist.
As if on cue, a man who looks vaguely familiar walks up the path to the front door. He hangs back as he knocks on the door frame. I get a full look at him and my mouth drops comically. Holy shit, this is Noah?