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I wake up disoriented, intense light spearing my eyes like hot pokers, pain stabbing my temples.
Ow. Where? Who? What the hell? Why is my pillow stuffed with metal?
Then I remember where I am and what I've done. Kind of done. Does it count as a yes if I didn't verbally agree?
My stomach churns. Why did I lead Cam to believe I'd marry him, when tomorrow I'm moving to New York? I'm already packed! Lila has already (reluctantly) ordered office furniture for my room. An upstairs neighbor bought my double futon. True, she hasn't taken it yet, but it's scheduled to go on Monday evening. I've already ordered a mattress to be delivered to my new place in New York. I sold my car, too. On Wednesday.
It was a two-door bright blue Jetta, which I loved dearly. Which is now gone.
I feel an uncomfortable pressure on my bladder and sit up,my elbows digging into the hard truck bed.Dumb wine from last night not only made me lose my mind, but it is also irritating my bladder. I can't get married. I'm moving. Tomorrow.
I can't deal with telling Cam no. Should I sneak away? Maybe just run the ten miles home? I don't think I'll get very far with an overstuffed bladder. I'll have to sneak off somewhere and pee. With my luck I'll end up squatting over a cactus. I hate those things. Another advantage of New York. No attack plants.
What did I do? What the hell did I do? "Morning, beautiful," he says now, his eyes still closed. He blindly reaches for me and drags me down and onto his chest."Love you."
I am borderline hyperventilating. As if I'm trying to breathe with my face pressed against a pillow. Can't do this. "We have to talk," I say in my quiet voice. Why, oh why, didn't I say no last night? How did I get talked into staying?
Talked? It wasn't the talking that did it.
He smiles, eyes still closed."I know. So much to plan. A date, a place...lots to do. I'm starving. Let's discuss over food."
"No. I mean talk." My voice cracks on the last word. I wriggle out of his stronghold, scoot backward and lean safely against the rear windshield. I reach for my jeans and struggle back inside them.
His left eye opens, focuses on me, and then his right follows."What's wrong?"
I'm not sure how to start. This conversation is going to be awful. Plus, I think I might be sitting on the rear wiper. "I want the TRSN job."
His shakes his head, full of supposed sympathy."I know you do, babe. But you'll find a new job here."
He's not getting it."You don't understand. I'm going to take it."
He continues shaking his head, not understanding. "That's not practical. How are you going to plan the wedding from New York? And what's the point of starting a job somewhere else when we're going to settle here?"
Was he always this dense? "That's what I'm trying to tell you.I don't want to settle here."I look longingly at my sparkling finger."Can't you move with me?" I squeak.
He's shaking his head faster now, jaw clenching tighter by the half second."You know I can't."
"Can't or won't," I say.
"Gabby,family is important to me.I'm not moving across the country. Be fair. I'm sure you'll find a good job in Arizona. I love you, Gabs, and I feel awful, but I can't."
"But I already made plans....I quit my job.Yesterday was my last day. I start my new job on Monday! Why couldn't you have proposed before I quit?"
"Gabby,I needed a minute to figure it all out.Last month life was good, and then suddenly everything was happening so fast, and you were moving and it wasn't until after I realized that you were really going that I knew how much I need you here."
"But I need to be there." How to say it...? I decide one fast, full vomit is best. He's tough. He'll get over it, me, eventually."Cam, I'm taking the job. I'm moving to New York. I'm sorry."
He swallows. Hard. I watch his Adam's apple sneak up his throat and then sliver back down. His eyes tear up and he closes them, and then opens them again. "But...what about us? The job is more important than me?"
Holy shit. Cam? Crying? We've been together for three years and I've never seen him shed a tear. I feel as if I'm hacking his arm off with a chain saw. I can't believe that I am capable of causing him pain."You know this has always been my dream," I choke out. Which is true. It has! On our first dinner date, I'd told him I wanted to move to New York. That I wouldn't stay in Arizona forever.
A fat tear rolls down his sweet cheek."I thought you had a new dream."
"I have to think about my career." My voice cracks. "I could never have an opportunity like that here."
"You have an amazing job here."
"Had," I remind him.
"Have, had. Whatever. You can get a new one."
"It's not the same. Here I'm a big fish in a small pond."
"There's nothing wrong with that. You'd rather be a small fish?"
I shake my head."You're asking me to give up my dream."
"Don't make me out to be the bad guy."
We're both silent, attempting to regroup our thoughts, aka ammunition. Something I would be much better at with an empty bladder and a cup of coffee. I realize I'm too drained and hungover and tired for more talk."I love you. But I'm moving to New York."
"Then we're not getting married."
I slip off the ring and deposit it into his palm.
"I can't believe you're doing this," he says. "You're so obsessed with that stupid Melanie Diamond scandal that you don't even know what you're doing."
This isn't about that, I want to say, but don't. Because it kind of is."Maybe," I say."But it's my call."
Instead of looking at me,he's looking at my — now his — ring. And then he says, "I'll take you home." As his voice breaks, my heart breaks along with it.
"Endless Love" is playing on the radio when Cam pulls up in front of my apartment building.It's so embarrassingly inappropriate for the moment that I almost laugh. He doesn't put the car into park. Just steps on the brake.
"Well, goodbye," he says.
I see that his tears are gone. See? He's over me already.
"I'll call you when I get there," I say."I love you, Cam. But I have to do this.For me."I open my purse and rifle through my junk for my keys. Shit. Where are they?
He shakes his head."They're in the pocket of your jean jacket."
I feel inside my pocket. Oh."Thanks."
A long sigh escapes Cam's lips. And then he says,"I hope it's worth it."
I hope it is, too. I open the door, squeezing my keys between my fingers,and slither out before I start crying and change my mind.
Crap. The bookshelf in my bedroom. As soon as I step into my room, I realize he was supposed to take it back. I don't want to take any furniture to New York, and I don't want to just give it to Lila along with everything else. It's not right. Cam gave it to me, he should get it back. Although maybe she'll use it. She's an accountant and is turning my room into her home office. Anyway, I should give Cam the choice.
Maybe I'll leave him a message. I pick up the phone. I pause in mid-dial. I can't call Cam. Calling him would be torturing him unnecessarily. It would be torturing myself, listening to his soft voice on the phone.
I finished most of my packing over the week so I would have every last second free to spend with Cam. Which leaves me with nothing to do for the day. My mom is in Florida and Lila is working. Lila is always working or reading romance novels in bed. Honestly, that girl has no social life. Even in college she was always studying or reading away. As long as I've known her, she's never had a boyfriend. She's had flings — at least four times I saw her bring home some random guy, but she always kicked him out before her day started. Musn't mess with her daily schedule. Anyway, no Lila. I'd call Melanie but she decided to take a spur of the moment road trip to L.A. She's impulsive that way.
I have officially nothing to do. Which makes me reflect on my pitiful absence of friends. What kind of a life did I even have here?
Maybe I'll call Heather and check in. I scramble through my pack of papers for her number and dial. Heather will be my roommate in the "two-bedroom, postwar, good-size rooms, hardwood floors, very generous storage space" that I'm renting. I found it on craigslist.com and my fingers are tightly crossed that my temporary roommate, twenty-something nonsmoking Fashion Institute of Technology student, Heather Munro from Long Island, isn't psycho.
After three rings,a voice yells,"I'm not hanging out with you and your little couple brigade, okay? Stop bothering me!" Heather?
Groan. Maybe I should have been crossing my toes, as well."Um,hi,Heather,it's Gabby.Gabby Wolf ? Is this a bad time?"
Pause. "Oh God, I'm sorry. My friend Diane is driving me insane. She doesn't understand why I don't want to come over and watch her wedding video with her three other bridesmaids and their fiancés. I mean, come on! I'd rather slit my eyeball with a steak knife."
"Listen, I'm just calling because — " I stop midsentence. Is moving in with Steak-Knife Heather really my best move? I will be earning a whopping $125,000. Maybe I should stay in a motel until I can find my own place. New York has motels, right?
"Because what? Don't tell me you're going to bail. I just turned down someone else because you said you're coming. I'm not giving you your deposit back, so you can forget it," she huffs.
Steak knives aside, she does have a point about the deposit. Besides, New Yorkers aren't like the rest of us, right? They're supposed to be eccentric. Interesting."No, I'm not reneging. I just want to confirm with you that I'm arriving tomorrow at 3:30. Will you be home?"
Long pause. "That's a relief. Although...tomorrow? I don't know if I can be home."
"Oh. Okay. Um, well, I have to get in."
She sighs. Loudly."I suppose I can leave the keys with the doorman."
"All right. See you tomorrow. Oh, did my new bed come? It was supposed to arrive today."
"No, not yet." She hangs up. Apparently, my new roommate is not of an easygoing persuasion. I will have to remember not to borrow her butter without asking.
I spend the rest of the day on the couch, flipping through the news channels, slowly refolding my clothes and re-squeezing them into my suitcases, and letting the excitement build and boil inside me. I catch myself singing "New York, New York" and doing a YMCA-like dance around the apartment.
"Hi, guys," Lila says from the door at around four.
"It's just me," I tell her, flipping the channel from CNN to TRSN.
I know I have at least ten minutes before she'll join me on the couch. The first thing she does every day when she gets home is change out of her suit and into her bathrobe and slippers. Then she scrubs her hands, carefully takes off her makeup,washes her face,ties her shoulder-length blond hair into a ponytail on top of her head, takes her many skin vitamins, moisturizes, stops in the kitchen for a glass of water, and then comes into the living room. She works seven-day workweeks and is very into her routine.
"Where's Cam?"she asks,post-routine,getting comfy on her white velvety couch."Doesn't he want to spend every second of your last day with you?"
"We broke up."
Her jaw drops."You didn't! What happened? He wasn't into the long distance?"
"Kind of. You see, he proposed — "
"What?" she shrieks and throws a pillow at me. "And you said no?"