Even though he hated when I looked his way, I couldn’t help myself.
It was intriguing to zoom in on someone I believed was so different from me and see parts of him that matched corners of my soul.
Maybe we weren’t so opposite, after all—both of us being lost and stuff.
He wasn’t the only one I saw in town, though, which was unfortunate.
I saw Autumn all the time, but I did a good job of avoiding her. I saw her first at the diner. Then again at the ice cream shop, and I dipped out before she could say a word my way.
Then we crossed paths in the grocery store.
She was wearing high heels and had her blond hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. As she pushed her cart down the fresh produce section, I paused. She looked at the bananas as if they were foreign creatures, studying every single one as if she’d never seen the fruit before.
They are just bananas, idiot. Just pick one.
The moment the thought rolled through my mind, I felt guilt.
Sorry for calling you an idiot.
She stole my husband. I was allowed to mentally call her names without feeling guilty about it.
As she picked up the bananas, she raised her head, and her eyes fell on me. “Grace,” she said, my name rolling off her tongue like a disease.
She stepped backward, and I stood still.
Her eyes watered over, and I hated that it happened. She began to cry in the middle of the grocery store, tears hitting her soon-to-be-purchased fruits. Gosh, I hated her tears because they reminded me of my own pain.
The pain she caused me.
She stepped toward me, and my body tensed up. I pushed my cart away from me.
“Grace, wait. Can we talk?” she asked.
Her words stung me as they left her mouth.
She stepped closer.
I turned around and ran.
Just to be clear, I wasn’t a runner. I was certain that I didn’t even know how to properly run. After about twenty seconds, I was winded, and sweating in places I didn’t know sweat could come from. But, still, I kept running because I could hear her behind me, click-clacking in her heels.
Autumn was a runner.
She’d been running since she was in diapers and was one of the fastest people I knew.
As I raced down the streets of Chester, out of breath and seconds from passing out, I listened to her calm as day voice still calling after me. She wasn’t a lick out of breath while I was debating if I should call an ambulance for CPR. My arms flung all over the place like an octopus as she ran like the next USA Olympian champion.
The second I could, I threw the door to The Silent Bookshop open, and Josie saw my panicked expression, though I didn’t have time to say anything to her. I hastily opened the set of double doors and rushed into the silent area, where I proceeded to hide behind bookshelves.
My whole body ached as I placed my hands over my chest. My heartbeats were erratic, though that was nothing new. As I listened to the door open, I whimpered to myself. I wished I were invisible. I wish I had Harry Potter’s cloak of protection so I could avoid ever actually having to face Autumn.
“Gracelyn? I know you’re in here,” she said, as I heard her tiptoeing in my direction. “You can’t keep avoiding me.”
A few people shushed her, but she didn’t listen.
Who would’ve thought that a woman who took her best friend’s husband wouldn’t obey to the quiet rules of The Silent Bookshop?
She turned the corner, and I stood still, pressed up between Narnia and Hogwarts.
I was cornered. Books surrounded me on the left and right side, and Autumn stood tall in front of me.
Had she really run that whole way in heels and didn’t have a drop of sweat to show for it?
I hated her.
Oh, how I hated her glowing skin.
“We should talk,” she told me, wiping at her eyes.
What kind of mascara did she wear that it didn’t run at all when she cried?
“You can’t talk in here,” I scolded her. “And even if we weren’t here, I wouldn’t want to speak to you.”
“Please. If we are both going to be in town, we can’t keep this up.”
“You’d be surprised at how long I can keep this up.”
“No. Not until we talk,” she told me, crossing her arms. “I need you to understand.”
“To understand what? How you betrayed me? How you stabbed me in the back? I’d rather not.”
“It was only supposed to happen once, Grace.”
It was only supposed to happen once.
That didn’t make it better in any way, shape, or form.
“And it happened when Finn came to work at the hospital. We saw each other every day since I’m the receptionist there. One night, we went out for drinks, and he fell apart over you. He told me how you left him.”