After months of praying that Eric would take their relationship to the next level and come clean with his true feelings for her, he shocks Lauren by doing just that. Suddenly, he's offered her everything she's ever dreamed of. He's agreed to compromise, whispering words of love and forever amid his plans for their future.
But his timing couldn't be worse.
While Eric was busy with his soul-searching, Lauren found a new kindred spirit in Matthew. Her roommate's brother was happy to fill in when her boyfriend wasn't willing or able to be there. Eventually the lines of their friendship blurred, giving way to a deep seated attraction. She thought the feeling was mutual, but now that Eric's shown his hand, Matthew's pushed her away.
Matthew's rejection stings more than it should.
Eric's waiting for a response.
Ultimately, whatever she chooses to do will end up changing all three of them.
Lauren's happy ever after was never supposed to begin like this.
Alicia Renee Kline has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her work has evolved from scrawling story ideas in spiral notebooks in loopy, middle school handwriting (complete with scribbles) to more professional looking fare via her laptop. She is eternally grateful for the "delete" key, so that no one can tell that she doesn't get everything right the first time.
She resides in Northeastern Indiana with her husband, two daughters, two cats and two hamsters. When she isn't being an author, she works full time in the insurance industry.
The drive to Indianapolis had never felt longer. Of course, it didn't help that I had been stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the last five miles. Everybody and their brother must have had the same idea as I had, at least in part. But I wasn't starting the weekend early, heading down to the state capital on Friday night to party.
I was about to start the rest of my life.
With nothing better to do while I crept along, I turned the volume up on the radio only to immediately wish I hadn't. I'd forgotten that I'd had Parabelle playing on my way to Matthew's last night. After our fight and my hasty exit, I'd muted the volume and it had stayed that way until just now. Sitting here in traffic allowed me to focus on the lyrics; the feelings they evoked weren't pretty. Tears clouded my vision as I related my own experiences to those in the songs. Perhaps I was reading too much into things, but it was like they had been written about me. I eventually conceded defeat and turned the stereo completely off. No, music wasn't good for me right now. Maybe never again.
It shouldn't have been like this. I shouldn't have been relating to sorrow and heartbreak and sacrifice. Just two days prior, my boyfriend of ten years had proposed. I should have been all rainbows and unicorns and happiness, not looking in my rearview mirror in hopes to find a black Camry behind me.
Matthew had let me go. Part of me had wanted to see his car in the parking lot after I came out of work. I had wanted him to stop me; at least try to talk me out of going down to see Eric tonight. I wanted him to apologize even though he hadn't really been in the wrong. He had a valid point. Kissing him, expecting anything more from him when I was a heartbeat away from becoming someone else's wife was very stupid.
But he hadn't shown up. After all those weeks of tension between us, of second guessing every little thing he did and reading way more meaning into it than was necessary, he had thrown in the towel. Maybe he hadn't even been interested in fighting for me in the first place. Maybe I had just believed the pictures that everyone around me had painted.
My brief conversation with Blake had told me what I needed to know. Matthew hadn't mentioned last night to her, and I wasn't about to bring it up. Her brother could remain on the pedestal she had built for him and she would never be the wiser. I had respected her wishes and not hurt him. I had, however, impaled myself in the process.
Come to think of it, Blake had given up rather easily as well. Granted I had packed up my entire room and stolen away practically in the middle of the night, but still. I had expected more from her. Sure she had texted, and even pretended to be an irate customer with a subpar credit score to reach me at work, but she had turned around and abruptly exited the arena with her tail between her legs when I mentioned Eric's name.
And so here I was, inching along in Indy's rush hour traffic, momentarily homeless. All my worldly possessions fit in the trunk of my car, much the same as they had when I hauled them away from my studio apartment on the wrong side of town. The only thing that had changed was they were now stowed in a much larger, shinier vehicle.
My adult life had always been largely transient. Leases could be broken - I had just proven that to be true this morning - and jobs didn't really, truly, tie you down either. I could insert and remove myself from people's lives on a whim and they barely noticed. No matter how badly I wanted them to.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black Toyota change lanes. Instinctively, my breath caught and I turned slightly in its direction to look at the driver without full-on staring. My heart sunk when I realized it was a false alarm. I cursed him for having such a ubiquitous car. I had never really noticed how many people drove Camrys until I had a reason to look for one in particular.
It was stupid of me to even imagine him rushing down here after me. I had told Blake I was going to Indy for goodness sakes. He didn't know where Eric lived; he had never been down here with me before to see where my comfort zone was. He had no idea where my favorite local haunts were. It wasn't as though he would blindly stumble upon me through sheer force of will. It would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
And in order to be found, someone had to be looking.
I swallowed down the bile in my throat that came with the realization that he had done just what I had asked. He had left me alone. That's what I had screamed at him when I'd jerked away from his touch and stormed out his door. Except for a final text message which I'd handily ignored, that had been our final contact.
Sort of like Blake and Chris and their whole “rot in hell” moment. Whatever good memories that I could take away from our brief friendship/massive crush would be clouded forever by the explosive ending. An ending that I had put into motion all on my own.
As much as I wanted to blame him for the mess I had made, I knew I alone had created it. I had practically ambushed him last night. I'd conducted my own fishing expedition of sorts trying to gauge his interest in me. I couldn't be upset that he had given me an answer I didn't want to hear.
We couldn't be anything. The thought of us being together was stupid. It just wouldn't work.