I yawned from under the covers, stretched to an audible crack in my back, and batted my red-from-last-night-drinking eyes open at our modest Blue Lake cabin. The cool, crisp smell of night gave way to sun-warmed earth. I sat up and twisted to where Jenna should be (had she not left) and brushed my hand on her side of the bed. The blanket lacked the warmth of a summer’s night and the dampness of a brisk morning. The sheets on her side of the bed gave me a feeling. It was the same feeling I’d had when she left the last time she left. I threw the covers off my body, and stumbled to my feet, opening and closing each door with a holler of her name. Jenna wasn’t in the living room, and the car (my car) was gone.
Blue Lake was our hideout. It was our getaway — a place where no one could bother us — a place where we could swim or skinny dip in the silence of darkness, or even watch the sun lower beneath the horizon and feel the west coast breeze caress our skin like lightning in a dark room, honey, that’s what’s she’d call me, honey.
I paced the room with my arms crossed as if I were holding onto my insecurities or a frame of us together during happier times—times when life wasn’t as hectic, and the stress was all but existent.
I lowered my gaze to a penned note beside the lampshade where she’d place her wineglass. It said something about how I’m not good enough, that I wasn’t everything she wanted, and that my best friend better suited her insatiable sexual desires. He had more money; she could have just said it. She could have at least been honest.
I wanted to beat the fuck out of my now ex-best friend, but you know what?—he can have her. I brushed my hands together as if I’d dusted filth from my life. It’s not like I thought she loved me, anyway. How fucking stupid of me to think she’d love me forever.
I grabbed what little clothes she left behind and threw them into a burning barrel, threw gas and a match on the cute skirts and lingerie I’d bought her last Christmas. I guess she didn’t want me to see her in it. I lowered my body to the tire swing, swinging my frustration through the flames of her clothes and memories of a thousand I fucking hate yous. The memories disappeared like a vapor from a steaming coffee cup I held with a splash of vodka.
As the sun withdrew its heat for the day, I saw couples boating, kissing, and happily enjoying each other’s company. Life, it didn’t seem fair. Through blurry, salty tears, I’d never admit to shedding, I saw an LED light flash, then vibrate in my hand.
“Hello?” I said, knowing it was her and wondering whether I should play it off and pretend I’m strong or break down and cry like a kid who lost his favorite blanket. Either way, the pain wasn’t going away.
“What the fuck, Jenna?” Without consulting with the left side of my brain, I decided that I’d go the balls-to-the-wall route. What did I have to lose? She left me anyway.
“—I didn’t mean to wake you,” she said.
“Wake me? How about leaving me?” I said, louder than I wanted to.
“The fuck are you talking about, honey?”
She genuinely sounded surprised. Was this her gaslighting me? “I saw the note on the table about leaving with my best friend. Now my ex-best friend,” I clarified.
Jenna giggled. “I took notes for a story that I’m working on.”
I swallowed a lump in my throat, turning my head to blow out a sharp sigh.
“Where are you?”
“At Shannon’s birthday party—the one we talked about thousands of times. This birthday was our excuse to go to the cabin, remember? I’ll be back in an hour, and we can skinny dip.”
“Unless you’re mad at me?”
“No… it’s not that….”
“Wait,” she said. “You thought I’d left you?” Jenna said, laughing. “Why would I do that?”
“Can you blame me?” I felt like a complete idiot for not remembering Shannon’s party.
“You know I’m a writer. I was writing about a tremulous relationship. Look, start a bonfire, and we’ll talk later, dude.”
“Right,” I said. “A bonfire.”
“Is there any reason you’re repeating me?” Jenna asked with an irritated inflection in her voice. “Did you drink without me?” I could almost feel her “I’m the life of the party” face through the receiver.
“Since we’re leaving Saturday, fold some of my clothes, please.”
“Yeah… about your clothes.”
“It’s like this….”
“Don’t tell me you did something with my clothes?”
I remained silent for a few moments.
“I thought you’d left.”
“I’m on my way.”
“Let’s just forget this whole thing happened,” I said. “I’ll buy you some new clothes.”
“I was going to wear the lingerie you bought me last year and tell you… I’m pregnant.”
“Wait. What?” I said, scratching my head. “Say what you just said but slower.”
“I. Am. —”
“Not that slow!”
“Pregnant?” I felt my heartbeat in my head.
(© 2021 AC)