by Julieann Dove
Publication Date: March 7, 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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Brian and Marcie were supposed to live happily ever after–they repeated vows that stated that very sentence. So no one, especially Brian, could have predicted that Marcie would file for divorce. It was difficult to fight the situation, finding that all his possessions were packed and waiting by the door when he came home from work that Thursday evening.
Kate Moore sat in a stupor for a month. Unlike any other breakup she had experienced, this felt more like a drive by shooting, with her ex holding the smoking gun as he sped away. What happened, she asked herself, knee-deep in peanut butter cups and bags of cheese doodles. Oliver was the man she was going to marry…she’d already pinned a secret board of wedding dresses and honeymoon destinations.
1247 Sycamore Street, Apartment A and B respectively, is where Kate and Brian find themselves after their tumultuous breakups. An unlikely relationship would soon ensue between these shattered souls, and ‘what ifs’ would slowly rise to the surface of their attraction for one another. But, what would happen to their budding relationship when their ex’s want a second chance?
He showered. He wasn’t sure why. And the shower was as weird as the rest of the apartment. The last time he saw white glazed tile in a bathroom was his grandmother’s house and that had fruit stickers on every other one. They were no match for the butterflies on the wallpaper of his new bathroom. Parts of wings had worn off on some, and there was a place peeling off at the top corner. Was that a leak? He squinted to see closer. How much longer did he have to live there?
He wiped the fog from the small mirror/medicine cabinet. The hum from the lights on either side was as bad as the refrigerator in the kitchen. He pulled the brown shirt over his head and sized it up. The last time he wore it was to try a new restaurant with Marcie. He remembered because she said something about it. It was too tight? What was it? Maybe too brown? Marcie liked him better in blues and grays. Should he change? He checked his watch—it was too late. He’d never find something that there wasn’t something wrong with it. He’d used a lot of his time on his call to Ellen before his shower. She talked about going shopping with Mommy and getting a new chair for the desk in the kitchen. What on earth for, he didn’t know. No one even sat in that chair. Marcie used to when she’d make up menu plans, coordinate PTA events, and talk to her mother on the phone. That way she could doodle on the pad of paper the kids used to always draw on. He tried to get over the fact she was moving on with the life they were supposed to be living together. What did the chair even look like?
He stared at himself in the dresser mirror. The light was terrible in there. A weird porcelain cat sat on the top of the brown surface. Why did he agree to eat dinner with her? With Kate? It was sort of hard to say no when she took the time to walk up in person to ask. It’s not as though his appearance screamed he was busy. Napping in the middle of the day? At this rate, he was turning into Marcie and Marcie was now out buying furniture and new clothes.
He messed with his hair. He didn’t want it to seem too wet. As if he’d just showered. What would make Kate ask him to dinner anyway? Did she feel sorry for him? He’d seen the looks around the office lately. You mention one thing to someone you consider a friend. Something very innocent, like you’re meeting a Realtor to check out an apartment, and suddenly people are walking around you as if you received news you have two weeks to live. Maybe that’s what Kate was feeling. Here is this poor, pathetic guy upstairs who just got dumped and I’ll do my civic duty and make dinner for him. Maybe the red shirt would be better, less pathetic looking, tight, or whatever Marcie said the problem with it was.
Five on the nose. He heard music from the other side of the door and knocked. Kate opened it and before he stepped inside, he could smell the tomato sauce and almost taste the garlic swimming around in it. One granola bar and two bottles of water was all he had that day. If he didn’t watch it, he’d be wiping up saliva from that red shirt he’d decided to wear finally.
“Hey, come on in. I’ve got to check the noodles.” She walked away and he turned and closed the door. She raised her voice from the kitchen. “I put some wine on the coffee table. Help yourself.”
He looked at the walls of the room he was now standing in. Just three steps from the entryway was the living room. Large canvases hung on three of the four walls. Orange poppies on one, a sad girl waiting on a park bench on another, and a lake in front of mountains was in the space between the windows. They were amazing. Usually he didn’t pay attention to artwork. In his own house, there was art he and Marcie had collected from Target or Pottery Barn, but these stood out. He assumed she’d painted all three. He leaned over and poured a glass for himself. It’d been months since he drank wine. It was at Pete’s small gathering after his daughter’s theater performance. Marcie sent her regrets and Brian was stuck with playing nice with the assistant manager’s cousins who’d come from Pennsylvania to see Red Derby.
“I hope you’re hungry. I always make too much. I’ll be eating leftovers till Tuesday!” She was draining the noodles in the sink. Steam rose to her face and he watched, still wondering what he was doing in this person’s apartment, ready to eat with her. A complete stranger less than twelve hours ago. Heck, a complete stranger now! What did he know? A name? An occupation? The fact she dabbles in Mingle.com? He looked closer at the computer next to the wine on her coffee table. Her picture was sitting in a 4 x 5 space on the screen—a short bio to the right of it. He squinted to read the small print.
Kate walked in to grab a glass of wine and startled him.
“Oh, are you looking at my profile?”
He froze. “Uh, I was just…it was…”
“It’s fine. I must’ve forgot to shut it off.” She grabbed for the bottle and poured a glass. “Actually, I’m obsessing. I’ve checked it every other minute for the past hour.”
“Oh?” He didn’t want to seem nosey.
“I got this profile on a dating site because my friend said she knows like five people who’ve met their soulmates on it.” She took a swig of her wine and continued. “It’s not like I’m looking for my soulmate. I mean, really? You’d find them on a computer? I’m not that naïve, but I’m going out of my mind since I don’t live in the city anymore. I’m afraid I might start collecting cats or something if I don’t get back out there. This town and apartment building isn’t exactly brimming with activity.”
There was an awkward silence. He didn’t know what to say to this. He clearly wasn’t in the same category as her. He was married. Dating sites were not on his radar. And collecting cats wasn’t an option…he was allergic to them. He smiled and took another drink of his wine.
“Well, anyway, dinner is ready.” She motioned him to the little dinette table in the corner by the window. “I made a salad. I hope you like ranch dressing. It’s the only kind I like.”
“Sure. Great. It’s nice of you to ask me. I wish I could’ve brought something.” He followed her the few steps to the table. “Not that I have anything. I plan to go to the store a little later.”
“It’s my pleasure.” She motioned for him to sit while she got their bowls of salad and the pan of noodles with the sauce. “You have no idea how isolated it is here. Mrs. Wilkins lives across the hall, but I learned the hard way not to engage her. She doesn’t come up for air. My advice is just to smile and wave if she’s out and about.” She handed him a bowl and motioned to the lettuce. “Then there’s Mr. Conner upstairs. I thought the place was vacant. You never see him. He gets up early, leaves for work, and doesn’t get back until after I’ve gone to bed. I wonder at times what he does for a living. I would guess it’s top secret.”
“I get up pretty early to go to work, too. But I’m back by dinner. I wasn’t going to get cable, but I’m rethinking it. I’ve run out my battery listening to podcasts on my phone.”
“I know, right? It’s so quiet here. I check the computer every ten minutes to see if someone wants to talk to me.” She nervously chuckled and grabbed for her glass again.
He poured some dressing on his lettuce. “Don’t you fear you might meet someone deranged on there? How are people vetted?”
She laughed. “Vetted? I think you just post a picture and say whatever you want to lure someone in.”
“Oh.” His eyebrows raised and he plunged his fork into the bowl.
“My mother would simply die if she knew I was on it.”
He pushed his food to his cheek. “Your mother would be right, I’m afraid.”
“Well, she thinks I’m safely tucked away with my boyfriend. And what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
He didn’t know whether to ask or not. He’d been so used to Marcie not talking about anything, he wasn’t sure Kate wanted to talk about clearly why she wasn’t with said boyfriend. “Is your boyfriend…is he…”
“He’s in Italy. Probably basking in the sun with whoever.” She took a deep breath and stabbed her lettuce.
“I’m sorry I asked.”
She rested her fork in the bowl and licked her lips. “No, it’s nothing. I was clearly warned from the beginning when I moved in with him. ‘He’s a player,’ they said. ‘He doesn’t settle down,’ they said. But you know, you think foolishly that’s because he’d never met you. But clearly they were right. He is a player and he did not settle down with me.”
“Yeah, so am I.”
“How long did you date him?”
“Almost a year. I told my mom we were coming home for Thanksgiving so I could introduce him to everyone. I’m the middle child. We have a big family—four boys and one girl.”
“Yeah.” She dangled her fork over the bowl. “Maybe that’s what scared him off. Who knows. It was the trip home to meet my parents. I don’t think anyone he’d ever dated before had ever done that. But you know, that’s the kind of girl I am. I mean, I don’t traditionally move in with anyone. My parents taught me to wait until I got married. But he was very convincing to have me stay with him and the person I talked about subletting my apartment to kind of moved in everything they ever owned. I didn’t even have room for my suitcase at that point. Oliver, that’s my ex, handed me a key to his place and the rest is history.”
ABOUT JULIEANN DOVE
Julieann lives in Virginia, where she loves collecting houseplants, sewing cute little quilts, and writing about messy love. She fell in love with reading at a young age, after following Nancy Drew in solving the mysteries of the world. This carries on today, as crime shows are among her favorite to watch. Well those and the Hallmark channel love stories and mysteries. Keeping busy with soon-to-be six children, she needs time to unwind!