Right. That only happened in the movies. I ignored the car and turned my attention to the road.
I walked into the apartment and threw my purse on the couch, then went straight to the freezer and found my emergency stash of chocolate-chip cookie dough ice-cream.
I ate half the pint before someone knocked on the door.
“Abby!” Felicia shouted. “Let me in.”
“Open the door or I’ll go get my key and let myself in.”
I let her in and went back to sit down and finish the ice-cream.
“You’re home!” She trotted into the kitchen. “I was afraid you would stay on with Nathaniel and not come home. Guess what? It’s the most amazing thing.”
Her eyes flashed with excitement, her cheeks flushed a soft pink. She was the personification of a woman in love.
“I give up,” I said waving the spoon at her. “Tell me.”
“Jackson proposed!” She spun around. “He got down on one knee and everything. We’re going to pick out a ring this weekend. Isn’t it romantic?”
Frankly, no. Romantic was the man knowing you so well, he could pick out the ring himself and have it with him when he proposed. But this was Felicia we were talking about and Jackson had probably called it right by letting her pick out her own ring. Besides, it was Felicia’s fairytale, not mine.
Hell. Felicia and Jackson were getting married.
The day suddenly got worse.
“Damn, Abby, you could act a little bit excited.”
Felicia and Jackson were getting married.
A sob broke free and tears slipped down my cheeks.
“Abby?” she said, really looking at me for the first time since walking into the kitchen. “What are you doing eating ice-cream?” Her forehead wrinkled and her voice dropped to a whisper. “Where’s your collar?”
My spoon fell to the table. I put my head into my hands and cried.
“Ah, hell,” she said. “What did he do? I’ll kill him.”
I cried harder.
She came to my side, bent down, and put her arms around me. “Abby,” she whispered.
She waited until I had cried myself out. By then, she was in tears herself. She took my hand and walked with me to the couch.
“Will you tell me?” she asked, stroking my hair. “Can you talk?”
“It was the most wonderful thing,” I said, when I got my voice back. “He finally kissed me and called me Abby and we made love…”
“Finally kissed you? He hasn’t been kissing you?”
That only made me cry harder.
“Damn,” she said. “Me and my mouth. I’m sorry. I won’t say anything else.”
Her phone rang. She ignored it.
“It’s okay.” I hiccupped. “But I don’t want to talk about it right now.”
When she wanted to, and she took her mind off herself, Felicia could be very intuitive. Usually, it shocked the hell out of people—but when she put her mind to it, she could see anything.
“You love him,” she said. “You really love him.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
She stared at me dumbfounded. “You love the bastard. It’s not just a kinky sex thing.”
Her phone rang again. She looked at the display. “Hold on.” She flipped the phone open. “Hey, baby,” she said, walking into the kitchen. “Listen, tonight’s not going to work.”
Her voice dropped. “Have you talked to Nathaniel?”
I groaned. It was my worst nightmare. The only problem was, it wasn’t ever going to end.
“Let me tell you,” she continued, “the only thing stopping me from butchering the worthless son-of-a-bitch right now is that he’s your cousin and Abby might want to kill him herself someday. I’d hate to deny her the privilege.”
“Yeah, I know,” she said. “Sounds great…I love you, too.”
Shoot me. Please. Someone.
I pulled a throw pillow over my face.
The entire first week, I was a zombie. I went to work, came home, and went to bed. I didn’t sleep at all. I kept running my last week with Nathaniel around in my head. Wondering if I’d done something wrong. What I could have done differently. But I eventually decided I hadn’t done anything wrong. It was all Nathaniel’s fault.
I quit the gym and the meal plan. I spent my free time on the couch watching trash TV and downing entirely too much ice-cream. But my body wasn’t accustomed to downtime and junk food, so in the end I only felt like hell. And that was Nathaniel’s fault too.
I went to work and remembered him walking into the library every Wednesday to visit the Rare Books Collection. I remembered sitting at the front desk, counting the hours until I would see him again.
My only point of solace the entire week was that my apartment was my own. My home was a Nathaniel-free zone. Not once had he ever ventured into my apartment, and I could enter any room and not see him standing there, climb into bed for another restless night and not feel his presence.
My only hope was that my presence had not left him. Let him see me in the library, I prayed. Let him not be able to play his piano without thinking of me in his lap. Let him make dinner in his kitchen and remember the way my legs felt wrapped around his waist. If there was a God in heaven, Nathaniel would think of me every time he turned around, every time he stepped outside, every time he rubbed Apollo’s head, every time he ate a meal, every time he went to bed.
Every time he took a breath, I wanted my memory to haunt him with the knowledge that it was all his fault.
Several things happened during the weeks following my split with Nathaniel.
First of all, I got off the couch and started my own exercise plan. I’d put a lot of hard work into my new body and I didn’t want to see it all go to waste.
Secondly, Felicia and Jackson set a wedding date for the first of June. I was relieved—at least I had a time frame to work with. A June wedding meant four months before I would see Nathaniel again. In four months’ time I knew I’d be in a much happier place. In four months’ time I would be able to march down the aisle behind Felicia with my head held high and ignore the bastard.
That would be due to the third thing, Felicia asking me to be her maid of honor. Which I agreed to wholeheartedly. Perhaps, I thought in my more philosophical moments, the purpose of my entire relationship with Nathaniel had been to bring Felicia and Jackson together. In those philosophical moments, I felt like it had all been worth it to see Felicia happy. Felicia deserved happiness. Philosophical moments, however, were few and far between, especially because of item number four.
The fourth thing that happened? People magazine printed my name, albeit in a very small article. I’m sure Jackson’s engagement to Felicia would have been overlooked by most people if it hadn’t happened so quickly after the Super Bowl. But it did happen quickly, so there was my name in People: “Felicia Kelly’s best friend, Abby King, has been linked romantically to Jackson’s cousin, Nathaniel West.”
Anyway. Moving on.
All this happened before item five—Linda decided to throw Felicia and Jackson an engagement party. In March.
Which meant I no longer had four months to prepare for seeing Nathaniel. I had one.
Elaina called me shortly after Felicia broke the news. I felt a little bad; I had ignored her after the break with Nathaniel.
“Abby! Finally. I’ve wanted to talk to you so badly.”
“I’m sorry,” I sighed. “I just haven’t…been ready.”
“I understand,” she said and I knew she did. “I wanted to see how you’re doing.”
“I’m doing great.” I sat down on the couch and tucked my legs underneath me. “Although I’m a bit pissed about this party.”
“That was Linda,” Elaina said. “She wanted to throw a big to-do for Felicia and Jackson. Especially since the wedding will be so small.”
Felicia and Jackson would be getting married in June at Elaina and Todd’s country estate. The bride and groom both wanted a small wedding.
“It’s fine,” I said. “I’ll deal.”
“He’s a complete wreck,” she said, switching gears completely. “I know you probably don’t care and I don’t blame you, but he’s a wreck. He talked to Todd and asked for some names. He’s getting help.”
“Good,” I said. “He needs help. He also needs a swift kick in the balls, but that’s beside the point.”
She laughed. “We all agree with you on that one. And as soon as you say the word, we’ll be more than happy to help.”
“I’ll be sure to let you know,” I said, and I smiled. It felt good to smile. “If you don’t mind me asking, will you tell me what…Nathaniel and Todd argued about in Tampa?” There I said his name, out loud even.
She sighed. “Todd still won’t tell me. He says it’s Nathaniel’s story to tell.” Her voice lowered. “And trust me, I tried to get it out of him.”
I laughed and, damn, laughing felt good. “I’ll bet you did.”
I realized then how I’d missed feeling good—laughing, smiling. “What did Nathaniel say about our split?” See there? I told myself. Getting easier all the time.
“That you called it off. We don’t believe him a bit. We know there’s more to it than he’s saying. He had to be a dickless prick to make you leave.”
“Dickless prick?” I giggled. “Is that possible?”
She laughed. “It is when you’re talking about Nathaniel.”
From there we moved on to talking about other things. It felt normal.
And normal felt good.
Felicia and I argued when she came by on Valentine’s Day with a ring.
“Do you ever think,” I asked, after making the appropriate oohs and ahhhs, “that you and Jackson are moving too fast?”
“This from the woman who…”
“Go ahead,” I said, ready for the fight. “Go ahead and say it.”
“No.” She pursed her lips together.
“You want to,” I said, pushing all her buttons. “You know you want to. Go ahead. Say it. This from the woman who let Nathaniel West f**k her up one side and down the other and then came running home crying because he finally f**ked her too hard.”
“Don’t push me.”
“Let it out. You’ll feel better.”
“Okay, then.” She put her hands on her hips. “What the hell else did you think would happen? That he’d fall head over heels in love with you and everything would just be fine? That you were going to snap your fingers and he’d come running like a dog? If you loved him, really truly loved him, maybe you should have stayed and, I don’t know—” she threw her hands up in the air “—talked about it. But no, you had to run home when it didn’t go your way. You think Nathaniel has issues? Hell, we all have issues. Face them, damn it. Don’t sit at home crying your eyes out and making everyone miserable in the process.”
“Not yet. I know this party will be hard for you. It’s not going to be a piece of cake for anyone. You’re my maid of honor and Nathaniel is the best man—”
“Nathaniel’s the best man?”
“Yes. And it won’t be easy for anyone involved. Jackson says Nathaniel’s a shell of his former self. That he spent the first few days after you left drinking himself into a stupor. Linda’s—”
“Yes. Linda’s worrying herself sick over the whole thing and keeps asking Jackson to postpone the wedding. She thinks if we wait a few more months, you and Nathaniel can handle it better. But in the end, Jackson and I convinced her to throw this engagement party—”
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