Her heart was pounding so hard she swore people could hear it from a mile away. She had told her boss she was sick with a stomach bug earlier in the day in order to meet him here. She ordered her coffee and stuck her hand into her paisley wallet. She slipped out a green credit card and handed it to the woman who swiped it onto the register and handed it back with a receipt wrapped around it. "Have a nice day," the woman behind the counter spoke in a monotone voice, "wait over there." All Lane could think was: This won't be a good day.
Walking over to the counter with a sign reading "Pick-Up Here," she leaned against the wall and bit down on her lip, remembering his text late last night. "Meet me at The Thinking Cup at 5:30." When she had asked why, he replied with the gut wrenching words of "We need to talk." Since then she had racked her brain wondering what she could have done that was bad enough for him to leave her. She had felt the tension in their relationship much sooner than this, between the "late hours" he worked, and how he canceled on their anniversary dinner last weekend. When she would see him, they would sit down for a movie and he could barely let out more than a muffled "okay," or give her a small nod when asked a question. When asked what was wrong, he would claim he was "just tired." Only Lane knew something much more was going on in his life but she couldn't seem to put her finger on the problem.
"Lane!" a voice yelled out into a sea of people, a white coffee cup in hand.
"Yeah, right here," she responded. She walked over to the 20-something year old and smiled politely before taking the coffee cup.
He smiled back, "You waiting for someone or just trying to stay dry from the storm? My break is in ten minutes if you wanted to stick around and chat."
A blush rose to her freckled cheeks. His name tag read "Tyler" and he was exactly the type of guy she would have gone for back in college, before she met her boyfriend. He had jet black hair and clear blue eyes, and from the way his olive T-shirt was fitting, Tyler looked like he spent some time at the gym. How did she end up falling for a skinny computer nerd who wore glasses? "I'm sorry but I'm meeting my boyfriend here."
"If that doesn't work out, you know where to find me." With that Tyler winked and disappeared to the backroom.
Lane made her way to the small table risen high off the ground. Her hand headed for her purse as she propped herself onto the tall chair. Pulling out her cell phone she checked the time again. 5:38, he's late again, she thought. She shouldn't have expected today to be different than any other day. She watched the busy city street from the large window between checking her phone three times a minute for a text that was probably never coming and looking around the room for any sign of his shaved brown hair and towering frame.
The cat clock on the wall across from her seemed to be mocking her, slowly reminding her of every tick he wasn't there. Her leg shook rapidly as she twisted the light brown braid in her hand. Her body jolted whenever the bell above the door chimed, signifying someone else was entering the establishment. She was sure that everyone in the small café was staring at her sitting there alone, wondering and creating scenarios in their minds about why she was there and who she was waiting for, if she was waiting for anyone at all. But as she looked around the dimly lit room, no one was paying any mind to her. There were a group of teenagers horsing around in the corner, a girl with pale blonde hair and her face in a book, an older couple smiling and sipping their coffees, and a line out the door of business men and women probably just getting out of work, holding their soggy Boston Herald newspapers in their hands.
She pulled her wallet out again, telling herself that she just wanted to see them happy once more before everything fell apart. Beneath her license was a small wallet sized photograph. A tight feeling arose as she looked over their black caps and gowns, their arms wrapped around each other's waists, large flawless smiles due to years of braces on her part, excited for what their futures held. Her hair was shorter then, to her shoulders. She had liked it that way, but Danny always said, "I like your hair better long, Lane." Whenever she would think about cutting it, his voice would creep into her mind. His was down to his chin then, and he had a full beard he never liked to trim, until one day two years ago he cut all of it off and hadn't grown it back since.
The two had made it through a year and a half together and Lane had planned for their future. She had imagined this extraordinary life together, both of them had already gotten job offers: Lane as a social worker at Boston's Children's Hospital and Danny as a software developer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield, so it wasn't like they had to worry about that. The only thing they needed was an apartment and a wedding to make their lives perfect. But even after five years together he still hadn't asked her to move into his loft, never mind put a ring on her finger. He claimed to have a fear of commitment but he had tattoos all over his body. She understood now.
She put the picture away; she knew it would just make her more anxious than she already was. Opening the purse, she wanted something to do to keep her mind off of what was to come and the fact she had been sitting in the same spot for fifteen minutes. Maybe I should put on some makeup, she thought, opening the small mirror. She looked into her emerald eyes and frowned, they held a sort of despair she wasn't used to seeing in herself.
"Sorry I'm late."
She heard his deep voice, and she tried to keep her head down, but she had to look at him at least once before he ended things between them for good. His strong jaw line was more prominent with the slight five o'clock shadow he had. There were deep purple bags under his eyes and his dark green and navy pin striped button down didn't match his purple ombre tie. "Did you order already?" he asked as he pulled out the chair and took a seat.
She wondered why he was sitting next her and attempting small talk as if nothing was wrong between them. But maybe nothing was and it was all just in her mind. Then she remembered that Danny was a decent man and always had been. He wouldn't just break up with her and run away. "Yeah," she told him, holding up her still full coffee.
"How was your day?" he asked.
Awful, she thought. "It was okay," she lied.
"Are you alright, Laney?"
"Yeah, I was up late last night doing some paperwork."
"How was work?"
"Danny, are you just going to keep beating around the bush?" she asked.
He sighed and grabbed her hand. His grey eyes were sparkling under the dim lighting before he looked down at the table. Danny squeezed her hand before he began. "A few weeks ago I was called into a meeting, and a man named James Mason was there. He asked me if I wanted to be the senior cyber defense analyst of one of the Blue Cross branches."
"That's wonderful, Danny! I'm so happy for you." She smiled, her eyes lighting up.
"See, I was really excited too, and then they told me that the job is in San Francisco." He looked up at her with a pale face.
It was quite between the two of them for a moment. "So, am I going with you?" She had hoped the answer would be yes, that they would finally move in together and start a life of their own. She would have to uproot and find a new job, but if that was the sacrifice she had to make to stay with Danny then she would make it.
"Lane, I really think that I should just focus on myself right now. Not be tied down while I start this job."
"What do you mean by tied down?"
"Please don't make this harder than it needs to be."
She whipped her hand out of his grip. A sudden burst of hot energy surged through her body as her eyebrows furrowed together and she sat up straight. "Don't make this harder than it needs to be?" she questioned. "I gave you five years of my life. I gave up my family for you, and this is what I get? Twenty minutes of waiting for you, and an 'I need to focus on myself right now?' No. That's not okay, Dan."
"Whoa, don't bring me into that. I'm not the one who told you not to go to your sister's wedding. And I didn't tell you to skip Christmas and Thanksgiving." They were both on their feet now with red faces and clenched jaws.
"No, but if you would have been better when they met you and didn't become such jerk when my dad tried to talk to you then I would still be part of their life."
"Whatever Lane, I'm not fighting about this with you. I thought this could be a night to say goodbye to each other and leave peacefully. I guess I was wrong," he said before turning and leaving her in the café.
Lane became certain that eyes were beginning to stare at her as the door to the café slammed shut behind her ex. She could feel a ball growing in her throat as she stood, center of attention, in the middle of a rush. I cannot cry in front of these people, she thought to herself. Grabbing her purse, she headed out into the storm, hoping that people passing by would assume rain was running down her face and not tears.
Opening her apartment door, she was greeted by the meow of her roommates' kitten, Chase. Storming through the house she began throwing various objects and clothing into a duffle bag: CD's, laptop, chargers, a book she hadn't had time to read, jeans, yoga pants, slippers, t-shirts.
Pacing through her room with white knuckles and misplaced anger, she picked up a picture frame of the two of them at his work party last Christmas and chucked it at the full length mirror across the room. Instantly her reflection shattered and she fell on her knees in front of her bed in screaming sobs.
"What the hell was that?" Her roommate yelled from her bedroom. She appeared in Lane's doorway seconds later with the small tabby cat in hand. Emily looked around the room, dropping the cat in the hallway and closing the door, probably so he wouldn't cut himself on the glass. She walked over to the other side of the room, attempting to avoid the shards. "Lane, what's going on?" Emily's brown eyes were wide as she rubbed her closest friends back.
They had been close since they started living together right after Lane graduated college. They had made it through four of Emily's ex-boyfriends, countless arguments with Lane and her parents over Danny, and a case of bronchitis the winter Lane decided she didn't want to wear a jacket during a blizzard, which Emily then caught from drinking out of her friends' water bottle.
She began mumbling incoherent words, all of which Emily nodded along before Lane blurted out, "He didn't even ask me to go with him," which sent another parade of sobs through her already burning throat.
"What can I do for you?" she asked, wrapping her arms around Lane and hugging her tight.
"Will you go with me?" Lane asked.
Two hours later, Miley Cyrus was blasting through Emily's stereo system as they made loud non-musical noises. "I think this is really brave of you," Emily said.
"I just miss my parents. It's been too long." She shrugged down further into the leather seat making herself more comfortable.
"You're going to be so much better. He wasn't good to you, Lane. I wish you could see it."
"You tell me all the time. He wasn't that bad. Yeah, he told me he wouldn't go to Jess' wedding with me, but that was my choice to not go alone, right?"
"But Dan punched your father's wall and made a huge hole because he drank too much and he didn't like how your dad was talking to him."
"And I shouldn't have stormed out of the house. I should have fixed things with him. Dad was already angry that I wasn't moving back to Vermont right after I graduated from BU. This is my fault."
"And was Dan having someone else's bra in his loft your fault too? Some things you could have handled better, but he was the spawn of Satan."
"That was one time. He promised it wouldn't happen again." Lane bit her trembling lip.
"I just hate that you're so broken up over someone who treated you more like property than a girlfriend. I'm sorry you're hurting though. I know you loved him." Emily put a hand on her best friends and turned to the exit.
The rain was beginning to stop as they pulled up into the muddy front yard to the pink and white house. It was dark, almost 10 at night, and there she was, in front of her childhood home. "I'll go grab a coffee or something and come back in about a half hour. Good luck." Emily gave Lane a hug before she got out of the car and pulled on her black coat.
She walked up the three steps leading up onto a large porch and knocked slowly on the door. Biting her lip, she silently prayed that someone was awake. Once again, she knocked slowly. On the third knock her mother answered the door, groggy and surprised. She looked the same she had her entire life, short dark hair, brown eyes, the only difference being the new gray hairs and a couple extra wrinkles. "Lane..." she whispered as if seeing a ghost.
She fell into her mothers' arms, shaking and sobbing, saying "I'm sorry," over and over as she remembered what had happened two years ago. Her mother knew just what to do. As she took Lane into the house, sitting her down upon an old faded navy blue chair in the living room, big enough for the two of them to just fit; she made her a cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and listened to her daughter sob over the man who abandoned her and the time she had lost with her family.
Memories of the chair flooded Lane's mind as she pulled a stay string of fabric off the arm. It was what Lane loved climbing on as a toddler, where her older sister taught her how to read in kindergarten, where she did her homework, and where she learned that she loved watching crime shows.
"What's wrong, Lane?" her mother asked, stroking her daughters' hair and handing her a small pink mug with whipped cream falling down the sides.
The sobbing began once more as she apologized again. "I'm the worst daughter. I should have left him. I should have known, Mom. I should have just come back home after graduation and forgot all about Boston and Danny. It wasn't worth it."
Her mother hugged Lane tightly before lifting her chin up to meet her daughters' eyes. "Your experiences, good and bad make you who you are. No matter how much I didn't like Dan, you are a beautiful, intelligent, and successful young woman. Even though we lost that time together, I know that you're going to be stronger and better for it. You are my daughter after all, and me, you and Jess are all pretty great people."
"Oh God, I have to go see Jess, too. How is she?" Lane shifted her body.
"She's fine. My concern is catching up with you. How's that weird roommate of yours?"
"Probably circling around the block." Lane's eyes lit up as she realized the comfort of her mother was all she ever really needed, and what she had lacked for so long.