I hope that someday we can manage to be friends again. I know that will be impossible for a while. I’ve started applying for internships in New York and plan to move back in with Oliver for the summer to make this easier. I’m so sorry. I know this is going to come as a shock. Remember that I’ll always love you.
Reading it never got easier. It had been six months since that email, and I still couldn’t wrap my head around it…not one single bit.
My phone lit up in the darkness as I reread it for what felt like the thousandth time. It was the middle of the night, and whenever I couldn’t sleep, I’d pull that message up again in an attempt to decipher it. I’d try to find some clue in the wording to understand how Skylar could so easily throw us away. Even though she explained her reasoning, it still made no sense. I knew in my heart, there had to be more to the story.
The weekend after she sent the email, I boarded a train home. We were in her room as she talked in circles, refusing to look me in the eye, only reiterating what she had written without explaining it further. It felt like I was in the middle of a nightmare as she kept her distance, arms crossed against her chest. The fact that she didn’t want me to touch her cut like a knife.
When she did offer fleeting glances, the pain in her eyes was almost tangible. She was struggling to hold it together and kept telling me she was “doing this for my own good.”
At one point, I lost my cool and screamed at the top of my lungs, “How is it for my own good if I’d rather die than live without you?” Her small lamp came crashing down after I smacked the desk in anger.
That was when Tish came upstairs and asked me to leave. Although a part of me couldn’t blame her since I was acting like a lunatic, she had been like a second mother to me and to have her kick me out really hurt. When I turned around one last time before leaving, I noticed that Skylar was crying.
I didn’t sleep that entire weekend, just stayed in my room pacing like a zombie with my mouth parched from lack of food or drink. I’d occasionally look across the street to the light in her upstairs bedroom. She was so close, but it felt like I was holding vigil for someone a million miles away. I just couldn’t believe I had lost her. It was impossible to accept, and I didn’t for a very long time.
The train ride back to Boston at the end of that weekend had felt like the lowest point in my life. Still, after that, I hadn’t given up and continued to call, email and text her to no avail.
Then, came Christmas break, which was supposed to have been special for us at one time. I arrived home to New Jersey to find that Skylar had already left for Florida with Oliver to spend it with Lizete’s family down in Miami.
The weeks went by, and it felt like my world was ending. The turning point came about a month ago when immense sadness transformed into pure anger.
Davey had sent me a text in the middle of my accounting class.
We’re at Chili’s and Skylar just walked in with some dude. WTF.
He then texted me a photo that he took without her knowing. She apparently hadn’t noticed Davey and Zena a few tables down. My heart felt like it was breaking with every second that passed as I stared at the grainy photo. They were holding hands across the table.
How the f**k could she do this?
I had seen enough. She had finally succeeded in getting her message through to me because at that point, I was done.
Rage enveloped me, and my hands trembled as I grabbed my books and abruptly left the classroom, nearly knocking into someone who was walking by in the hallway outside. As I ran in the rain down Commonwealth Avenue, I couldn’t get back to my room fast enough to escape into the bottle of vodka I had been saving in my closet for a special occasion.
I spent the rest of that night drinking myself into oblivion.
I had to force myself to stop looking at Skylar’s email.
It wasn’t gonna change after six months of staring at it, Mitch.
I shut my phone off, carefully reaching over to the desk and put it down next to an empty condom wrapper. I cringed.
Last night was a mistake.
Heidi lay next to me, and I didn’t want to wake her, mainly because I didn’t want to have to talk to her. I wished she hadn’t stayed over. It wasn’t meant to be anything more than a quick fuck. I hated myself for thinking of it that way, but that’s what you call sex when it doesn’t mean anything.
It was just supposed to be an escape, a distraction because I was now forcing myself to move on. I had finally convinced myself the love of my life wasn’t coming back. The pain was something I couldn’t deal with alone anymore. When I was by myself, all I thought about was Skylar: Skylar leaving me, Skylar on a date, Skylar ha**g s*x with someone else.
That one hurt.
Some other guy would eventually take her virginity. Her first time was supposed to be mine. All of her was supposed to be mine. She was my future. This reminded me of when I was a little boy because the future was now a black hole, just as it had seemed when my parents were divorcing…except this was far worse than that.
I’d never get over her change of heart. With the way she ended things and her showing up at Chili’s with some random guy, I should have had no feelings of guilt over what I did last night. Still, it sickened me as I sat here still tasting Heidi’s perfume on my tongue. Was this what sex with other women would feel like for the rest of my life? Like it wasn’t right somehow because my body belonged to Skylar?
Heidi’s long, black hair tickled my arm. I had just wanted her gone but didn’t have the heart to kick her out after we’d had sex. So, I let her curl up beside me while I stared at the ceiling, and she fell asleep.
She was from Germany—sexy—but not my type, meaning not Skylar. She wore heavy eye makeup and was extremely tall. She said she used to model. Heidi had always hit on me since the beginning of the year and last night, with Rob staying at a friend’s, I gave in when she came to my room under the guise of needing help with her history homework. The rest was, well…history and a night I’d rather forget.
The truth was, Skylar never had a reason to worry about me cheating on her. Plain and simple, it would have never happened because there was no other girl who made me feel the way she did. I just couldn’t prove that to her, apparently.
If I couldn’t get her back, though, I had to force myself to move on. She was sure as hell doing just that. We were broken up, so last night shouldn’t have felt like cheating, but it did.
I closed my eyes, envisioning our night in Lake George. The pain was excruciating. I missed the way her tiny body fit right into the crevice of mine when we lay together. I missed her laugh. I missed her scent. I was pining for her with another girl lying right next to me. It was f**king pathetic. I impulsively reached behind me and picked up my phone, deciding she needed to feel a fraction of my despair.
I know you’ve moved on. I tried to do the same tonight. I had sex with someone. How does that work for you? It’s not working for me. I still f**king love you so much. I always will. I’ll never understand. Never. By the way, have you f**ked him yet?
She never texted me back, and I hadn’t expected her to.
I held myself in a fetal position after the text came in: I had sex with someone. It was hard digesting those words, but knowing that I had sent him straight into her arms made me want to puke.
This was inevitable, but I didn’t think he would be so cruel as to tell me about it. What did I expect? He must have been enraged when I staged that fake date at Chili’s. That was the intent. I knew Davey went there every Friday night, so I had asked Jason, a friend of Angie’s brother, to have dinner with me and hold my hand so that it would get back to Mitch. I knew the plan had worked when I saw from the corner of my eye that Davey was taking my picture.
The only way Mitch would stay away from me was if he got angry. The one way I knew to do that was to let him see me with another guy. I felt terrible, but what choice did I have? He wasn’t backing down in trying to change my mind, because he loved me. That wasn’t going to change unless I made him hate me. The anger in the tone of that text showed me I’d finally succeeded.
Images of Mitch’s mouth on another woman, his c**k inside of her flashed through my brain. I begged my mind to stop, but it only kept getting worse.
What had I done?
Getting out of town before he came home for the summer was more important now than ever. Seeing him would crush me.
The summer after my senior year, I took an interior design internship for a private design firm in Manhattan. I was taking a year off before starting college and wanted to understand the ropes of the design industry before making a decision on whether to choose it as a major.
Oliver and Lizete were happy to have me back for a while. This time, I had Seamus with me. It was ironic because Seamus, like Mitch and I, had also become the product of divorced parents in a way, getting shuffled from house to house.
Although being back in Brooklyn reminded me of my cancer days, there was solace in the fact that I wouldn’t have to face Mitch.
I interned three days a week at Harrington Design Studio, which specialized in interior design for high-end clients in Manhattan and the Hamptons. The other two days, I worked at Regal Fabrics, a well-known store in the city that supplied materials to the design studio. My job was to organize their stock by color and texture and also help clients choose a pattern for their needs. My internship manager helped get me the job since she saw what a hard worker I was for no pay.
I had texted Mitch at the beginning of the summer, letting him know what I was up to and where I was working. I figured I at least owed him that much. Even though I was staying away from New Jersey, I didn’t want to be totally cruel and not contact him at all. It turned out he decided to stay in Boston for the summer since he had gotten a job at an on-campus restaurant in the student union building. He made sure to stress in his response that he had no reason to come home anymore.
It never got any easier being apart from him. The thought of him sleeping with other girls still made me ill. I hadn’t told anyone the real reason I ended it with Mitch. I didn’t want to hear my mother or Nina tell me all the reasons I was wrong in thinking that he would leave me someday if I couldn’t bear him a child. This was my own private, selfless decision as far as I was concerned, and I didn’t expect anyone to understand.
Overall, my routine that summer was pretty predictable. Lizete would make me eat some Cuban-style breakfast in the morning before I’d take the subway into the city. I hadn’t made any real friends here, so instead of hanging out in Manhattan after work, I’d just go straight home and read.
All of that changed the day I met Charisma. She looked like the typical wealthy Manhattanite that frequented the fabric store, but she was closer to my age. She had medium-length caramel hair and perfectly manicured nails. She had classic good looks but wouldn’t be considered gorgeous. It was obvious she came from money based on how well she was dressed.
“How can I help you?”
“I’m redecorating my bedroom and looking for a bold, black and white damask with a velvet feel for the drapes.”
“I think I have just the right thing.” I led her upstairs to where the most expensive materials were housed and showed her what I had in mind.
She gasped as she ran her fingers along the textured fabric. “That’s exactly what I was picturing. How did you do that?”
I smiled. “I’ve just gotten to know the store inside out. Do you have measurements?”
“No. I’ll probably have to come back.” She gave me her hand. “I’m Charisma, by the way.”
“Skylar. That’s a pretty name.”
“So is Charisma,” I said as I returned the roll of fabric to the shelf.
She leaned her head to the side. “Are you from around here?”
“I live in Brooklyn with my father. I’m just here for the summer.”
Looking me up and down, she asked, “Do you mind my saying something?”
“You’re such a pretty girl, like a blank slate. You could be stunning if you wore a little makeup and dressed up a bit. I love to make people over. It’s sort of my hobby. Let me know if you’d be interested.”
“What are you with some kind of ambush makeover show?”
“No. I swear. I just think it would be fun. I guess I have too much time on my hands.”
“Where do you go to school?”
“I just graduated high school. I’m taking a year off and thinking of applying at the end of this year, probably majoring in interior design. You?”
“I go to Wellesley. I’ll be a junior.”
We walked downstairs, and she rummaged through her Coach bag for her phone.
“What do you do for fun, Skylar?”
“I dunno…read? My life is pretty boring.”
“You’re kidding, right? You’re in the city of dreams for the summer, and you’re spending your time stuck in a book? We need to change that. You’re too young to live like a hermit. What’s your number?”
She jotted it down in her phone as I recited it.
“What do you suggest I do for fun?”
“You can start by letting me make you over, and then we’ll go out. There are some cool 18 and over clubs downtown. How about this Friday night?”
“Um…not sure if I want to be your pet project.”
“I won’t take no for an answer.”
I shrugged. “Okay. I work here until eight on Fridays.”