“The fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself.” – Sahaj Kohli
“3... 2... 1. Up! 1...2...3.”
“Good... Very good!”
“And 5... 4... 3... 2... Low third position! Two forward, two back.”
I turned to glare at my best friend, Megan Bennet – or as I like to call her, the devil’s spawn. There was sweat dripping down her face and into her low-cut cleavage as she continued to move her body to the beat of the music.
“I cannot believe I agreed to this!” I shouted over the music, completely out of breath.
When Megan suggested that the two of us take a 45-minute rhythm cycling class, I thought why the hell not. Ten minutes into our first class, I was reminded exactly why not.
“3...2... 1... Here we go!”
“Let your core control this movement.”
“How are we feeling y’all?” Our instructor, Gabriella shouted from the front.
“It’s fun!” Megan threw me a sheepish grin. “Fun my ass!” I grumbled as I lifted myself into the next position. My hair was so short, that the ponytail I had tied it in had come undone and my hair was now all in my face. I ran a frustrated hand across my face trying to push it off, but it was no use.
I used to have thick and long brown hair, but after I moved out of my husband’s house, I decided it was time for a change. So I did what any twenty-eight-year-old going through a mid-life crisis would do; I chopped off six inches of my hair and dyed it blonde.
Which brings us to today’s predicament.
When the class finally ended, Megan and I walked across the street to the juice bar for a smoothie. It was a cute little place, hidden away in the commercial space of a tall glass building. As we entered, the place was bustling with others who had also just finished their workout.
When it was our turn to order, Megan ordered a Matcha Bowl while I ordered a Black Phoenix Smoothie with cold brew coffee, banana, coconut, and a bunch of other healthy stuff. However, if I’m being honest, I only ordered it because it was the only thing on the menu with any caffeine in it.
I have a very unhealthy relationship with caffeine, which has only gotten progressively worse throughout the years.
Megan and I took a seat at one of the window tables as we waited for our order. Despite it being early March, the temperatures were significantly low. Sure, the mountains of snow we got last month had finally melted, but you still needed to bundle up when you went outside.
“So,” Megan started, leaning her elbows forward on the table. “I have something to tell you.”
Uh-oh. She had the I’m-about-to-tell-you-something-you-don’t-like look on her face. I motioned for her to get on with it. “Eric and I were out at dinner last night and I sorta ran into....”
If she didn’t already have a very successful job, I’d encourage her to go into acting.
“Into...” I pressed, raising an eyebrow.
“We ran into Justin.” She looked at me sympathetically.
“Oh.” My voice flattered. “That’s it?”
“Well...” She hesitated once again.
“Megan, just spit it out.” I rolled my eyes. Honestly, how hard was it to finish a sentence from start to end!
Letting out a deep sigh, she finally said. “He was on a date.”
“And?” I cocked a brow, leaning back in my seat and folding my arms across my chest.
Right – I should probably let you know that Justin is my soon-to-be ex-husband. “He and I are in the midst of a divorce,” I told her. “He can date whoever he wants, as often as he wants.”
“You’re not even the slightest bit upset?” She asked bewildered.
I quickly thanked our waiter as he dropped off our order before taking a sip of my smoothie. “No, Megan. I am not upset. Justin and I are both adults, and we came to the mutual understanding that it would be best if we went our separate ways.”
“Still, it’s so fast.” She mumbled, refusing to look me in the eye. When I first told Megan of my decision to leave Justin, I think she took it harder than I did. She couldn’t seem to wrap her head around how two people who had it so together, could just one day decide that the past nine years had been for nothing.
Although Justin and I had only been married for six years, we did meet when I was nineteen and a freshman in college. We hung out in the same circle of friends, and eventually, we started dating. Fast forward to three years later, the two of us got married in an intimate ceremony with 100 of our closest friends and family.
I loved him, and I think a part of me will always love him. But I wasn’t in love with him. Deep down, I had known for a while that our relationship was not what it once used to be, and it wasn’t until I finally said it out loud that I decided I was tired of living the same boring life I had been living for the past six years.
Marriage is supposed to be this epic concept about being so deeply in love with your partner that you fall in love many times, always with the same person.
Well, I say that’s bullshit.
What they don’t tell you is that commitment and a contract are not the same thing. Just because you and your partner signed a marriage certificate, it does not mean that you will automatically have a guarantee of your partner’s commitment. No – I did not cheat on Justin and as far as I know, he didn’t cheat on me either. Quite frankly, I got bored. I just don’t think I was as committed to our relationship as he was anymore, and it was time for me to admit that to myself.
At the end of the day, marriage is just a piece of paper.
Megan tried convincing to me to stick it out and try to make it work, but my mind had already been made up by that point. I think it’s why I didn’t tell anyone I was thinking of leaving until after I actually left. I didn’t want anyone to convince me otherwise.
To make matters worse, there was nothing wrong with Justin! He was more or less perfect, just not perfect for me.
People say you can grow to love someone, but I completely disagree. You’re either in love with the person, or you’re not. Don’t hold yourself back on the notion of a maybe. Do what makes you happy. This isn’t some Netflix series where you know a happy ending awaits you – this is real life, and in real life, you need to make shit happen on your own.
“Megan,” I warned, taking another sip of my smoothie. “We’ve been over this already. I know your stance on it, and while I respect your opinion, please respect my decision.”
“Okay, okay!” She held her hands up in surrender. “I just want you to be happy, Kenz.”
“I am happy.” I forced a smile.
Liar, liar, pants on fire!
I thought that if I was no longer tied down, then perhaps I would be happier but that hasn’t necessarily been the case. I certainly am much happier than I was before, but I think there’s still something missing.
“So, I did a thing.” I decided to tell Megan about Ethan in hopes of her telling me what a bad idea it was to be getting involved with my new boss.
Maybe, just maybe, that would stop the impure thoughts.
“I slept with this guy when I got stuck in New York last week.” I looked up at her hesitantly.
“What?” She exclaimed. “Good for you! I’m glad you’re putting yourself out there.”
I was unfazed by the fact that she did a complete 180 right now. That’s just Megan for you. “Was he cute? Did you get his number?” She probed.
He was something, alright.
I let out a nervous laugh. “I actually saw him the next day. When I went to work.”
“Ooo.” She smirked. “A hot inner office romance. Did he throw everything off his desk and fuck you on it?” That earned us a few glares from the neighboring tables who heard her very loud and clear.
“No!” I hushed her. Not that I would have minded, if you know what I mean. “That is so inappropriate and wrong!”
“But?” She quirked her eyebrow. She knew me too well.
“But –” I hesitated, chewing on the inside of my cheek. “I am so attracted to him.”
“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him.” I let out a frustrated groan, rubbing my face. “Every time I see him, I have to make some lame excuse about forgetting something just so that I won’t be in the same room as him.”
“You’ve got the hots for him.” She laughed, leaning back in her chair. “What’s holding you back?”
“Everything.” I replied, mimicking her actions. “It’s an HR nightmare, not to mention I am not looking for anything serious right now.”
“Who said anything about a serious relationship. You’re both adults, so I don’t see anything wrong with a mutually agreed friends-with-benefits situation.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Make it that simple then.”
After spending the morning with Megan, I left more frustrated than ever. I was hoping she would be reasonable and try to talk some sense into me, but no. Her bright idea was to completely ignore the serious implications and the fact that I could lose my job, all so I could get some action.
Pulling into my parent’s driveway, I turned off the car and made my way to the front door. Digging through my purse for the set of spare keys my mother had given me, I finally dug them out and unlocked the front door.
Yes – I am almost thirty and I still have keys to my parents’ house. Sue me.
They live in a modest two-story three-bed farmhouse-style home with a two-story great room and an upstairs sunroom. The entire outside was coated in white, including the two garage doors. The neighborhood itself was located just outside of the city, in Lake Bluff.
My mother worked as a secretary at a local middle school, while my step-father owned a construction company. My father had been out of the picture since I was eight, and Dave made an appearance not long after. Although he and I were not super close, we had an agreed-upon sense of mutual respect for one another. I understood early on that he would be a part of my life, and in return, he never once tried to tell my mother how to parent me. When I was eleven, the two of them welcomed my half-sister, Zoey, into the world.
“Hello?” I called out, taking my shoes off. “Is anybody home?”
“In the kitchen!” My mother’s voice called out. As I made my way through the narrow hall and into the living room which led to the kitchen, I immediately spotted my mother covered in flour hovering over a Kitchen Aid mixer. “You know, the flour’s supposed to stay in the mixer. Not all over you.” I snorted a laugh.
She looked up from the stand mixer long enough to give me a dirty look. “Very funny, McKenzie.”
My mother was in her late fifties, but I swear she didn’t look a day past forty. She was fairly short, maybe 5′4" – unlike me who had inherited my father’s height. Her hair was a dark shade of blonde, almost a caramel color, with dark brown eyes. The few noticeable streaks of white hair were no doubt caused by my sister and I’s constant bickering.
“What are you making?” I tried to peek in the bowl but she was in the way.
“I’m making bread. Bob and Maria are coming over for dinner tonight.” She replied wiping her forehead only to leave a streak of flour on it. Bob and Maria were my parents’ friends for as long as I could remember. In fact, Maria was the one that introduced my mom to Dave.
“Nice.” I nodded as I turned on the coffee maker she had on the opposite counter. The kitchen was an all-white kitchen with an island in the middle and large windows on the right-hand side looking out into the backyard. The only thing that wasn’t white, was the stainless steel appliances scattered around. Don’t get me wrong – it’s really pretty, but the mess is also almost always visible.
“Where’s Zoey?” I took a seat on the opposite side of the island so that I was sitting out of her way.
“In her room.” Mom rolled her eyes. “I swear, she never comes out of there unless it’s to eat.”
“She’s a teenager,” I laughed, lifting the mug up to my lips and taking a sip - the bitterness almost immediately hitting my tastebuds. It definitely needed more sugar. “What do you expect?”
“Where’s Dave?” I craned my neck to see if he was in the living room.
“He should be home later today, he’s visiting a new construction site.” She replied placing the bread in the aluminum trays. I watched as she expertly sliced the top to give it a design. “Will you please go see what your sister is doing?”
I nodded and made my way up the stairs. Zoey’s bedroom was at the end of the second floor, far away from my parents’ master. “Zoey,” I called out as I knocked before turning the knob to enter. When I walked in, Zoey was sitting at the desk in front of her window, typing furiously into a Word Document.
“Zoey,” I called out again hoping she would hear me but I should have known better since she had on her noise canceling-headphones. Walking over to her, I tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention. Her head quickly shot up and she looked at me with wide eyes. “What do you want?”
Despite being almost eighteen, my sister still had a babyface. She was about the same height as me, with dark brown hair and piercing blue eyes. Other than our height, our appearances were completely different. While she had a petite form, I was curvier.
“A million dollars.” I snorted as I plopped down on her bed. Her room was fairly simple and not really what you would imagine a teenager’s bedroom to look like. There was a grey upholstered queen-sized bed in the middle with a brass chandelier hanging from the ceiling. A small white nightstand with a lamp on it to the right. There was also a white bookshelf that was filled to the brim with books. In front of the window stood her desk with all of her school stuff, and on the wall opposite from the bed was a small storage bench. Directly above the bed was a pastel painting of the River Seine and the Eiffel tower, but other than that, no posters or anything hung on the walls.
“Okay, smartass.” She rolled her eyes before turning her attention back to her laptop.
“Mom sent me up here to make you come out of your room.” I stared up at the white ceiling.
“She needs to get off my case.”
“She’s just worried about you.”
“What is there to worry about?” Zoey let out a sarcastic laugh. “I’m not doing anything! I’m literally just writing my history paper.”
“She says you spend too much time up here.” I shrugged.
“She’s the one pushing me to get into NYU!” She retorted. “NYU doesn’t accept slackers.”
I was about to give her the whole spiel about the importance of mental health and allowing yourself to breathe when I noticed something on her neck.
“Zoey,” I stood from the bed and walked closer to her. “What is that on your neck?” I was trying really hard to keep a straight face, but Zoey’s face was making it difficult. Her eyes boggled out of their sockets and her hand went to the very visible hickey on her neck.
“I... I... Um.. –” She stammered, pulling at the collar of her shirt.
“Is that why you’ve been hiding up here?” I smirked, removing her hand so I could see. It was about the size of a quarter and turning a very light shade of purple – nothing a bit of makeup wouldn’t fix.
“No!” She quickly defended, avoiding my gaze.
“Little sister,” I grinned down at her. “I think it’s time you and I have a chat.”
Oh, how I love being the older sister.
Don’t forget to Like, Comment and Review!