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Happily ever after is meant to last forever, right? Well, my happily ever after lasts five months, three weeks and two days. Then Jared drops a bomb.
"I need to take a step back, Kayla. I have to figure some things out right now."
I stop listening after the "step back" part. I feel like I'm sinking through the floor. Jared is the one, isn't he? This can't be happening.
He's watching me. "You're not saying anything."
"I'm chewing my pizza so I don't choke."
I swallow my food. Keep it together, I tell myself. Having a public meltdown will only make this worse. "What do you want me to say?"
"I don't know. Just that you understand."
I don't and I don't want to. Why can't this be any other Saturday night at Colonnade Pizza? I must've misheard him. He can't be breaking up with me . God, he's so beautiful, with his curly dark hair falling over his forehead, and his blue eyes so tortured. He's talking again. "Ever since I didn't get that scholarship to art school, I've had to think about what I'm going to do with my life."
"I get that, but how does that lead to you dumping me?" And then it hits me. He must've met another girl. The familiarity between us, the ease of us knowing each other so well, no longer excites him. Before he can answer my question, I throw it out there. "Is there someone else?"
His eyes widen. "Didn't you hear anything I said?"
"Of course I did. I'm just asking."
"You're the only girl and that's the truth." He sighs. "I've been too into you these past few months. I haven't been focusing enough on my art. If I'd put more effort into my portfolio, I might've gotten that scholarship. I was counting on it, and now I'm not sure what I'll do. This is an important time in my life and I've been spending more time thinking about you than my own future."
He's talking, talking, blah, blah, blah
And all I'm hearing is that I'm being dumped.
"Kayla, are you okay? "
My eyes fill up. My throat is closing. I'm either discovering a new food allergy or having my heart broken. "I'm surprised, that's all."
"I'm not saying this is permanent. I don't know."
I'll wait for you, Jared. I'll give you time. Whatever you need. But I can't say it. Pride doesn't let me. "You're making a big mistake, don't you see that? I'm not just going to wait around for you. It's insulting!"
He shrugs helplessly. That look in his eyesit's killing me. He looks sad, and I have a sneaking suspicion it's for me.
Dumping me is one thing. Pitying me is another. He's so crossed the line.
"Maybe it's better if it is permanent," I say, unable to keep the edge out of my voice. "Teen relationships only have a thirteen percent chance of being long-term anyway."
"That's the Oracle talking, not you."
"Yeah, well, we're one and the same. I'm going to move on, Jared. I'm not going to sit around waiting for you."
He nods gravely. "I understand."
I blink. Can he let me go just like that? After spending half a year with him, after telling him I love him, this is humiliating. Didn't he promise to love me forever? What about that?
"I'm going." I slide out of the booth.
He grabs my arm. "Kayla "
"What? Do you have anything more to say?"
"I guess not." He lets go of my arm. He can't even look at me anymore.
"Bye." And I'm gone.
In the blink of an eye, everything is different. I ride the subway in a daze, torn between tears and hysterical laughter. It's over. OVER.
As the Oracle of Dating, I should have seen this coming. Sure, Jared has been acting a little weird recently, but I thought that was because he didn't get the scholarship to art school. I'd hated to see him so disappointed, and I'd done everything I could to cheer him up. He seemed to be feeling better the past few days, like he'd finally accepted it and turned a corner. Maybe the real reason his mood had improved was because he'd made the decision to send me to Dumpsville.
I remember reading in one of Mom's relationship books that sometimes when people feel powerless in their lives, they dump their significant other because that's one part of their lives they do have control over. Worse, sometimes they blame their partner for their problems. Maybe that's what Jared is doing. "I've been too into you these past few months" Aren't you supposed to be into the person you're dating?
Well, Jared, if I'd known it was a problem for you, I wouldn't have been so damned fantastic!
Whatever, he made his decision. I have to move on. There are lots of cute guys around. It's not like I haven't noticed them. I have!
Half an hour later, I get home. I live on a quiet street in Midwood, Brooklyn, with big old trees that shed branches whenever there's heavy rain or wind. I've lived in this old brownstone ever since I can remember. Dad left us the house when he and Mom divorced, though apparently he made Mom buy him out. Since my sister, Tracey, is ten years older than me and lives in Manhattan, it's just me, Mom and my stepdad, a Swedish theologian named Erland.
Mom's car is gone, which is good because I don't feel like talking right now. I just want to go to my room and bawl. First I have to get past Erland, who's in the living room watching PBS. I close the door quietly and creep toward the stairs.
"What are you doing home so early?"
Great. I go back into the living room. "Jared." My chin quivers. "H-he b-broke up w-with me."
"I'm sorry to hear this," he says with his thick Swedish-chef accent. "Can I offer you a hug?"
I almost laugh at the formal offer, but I go to receive his hug. "Thanks." I sit beside him on the couch. "I don't know why I'm crying. It's his loss!"
He chuckles. "That's true. And you are both very young, too young to get serious."
"I know." The Oracle is always advising teen girls not to get too serious about their relationships. I've seen so many of them devastated when their boyfriends break up with them. The truth is, many guys just aren't ready for anything serious at our age. Knowing that, I'd shied away from relationships myself, since the odds of them working are extremely low. And then I met Jared, and my good sense went out the window. I thought we had a once-in-a-lifetime connection, a connection worth taking a risk for. And now. Dumpsville.
"What I'm saying is," Erland continues in his slow, profes-sorly way, "as we get older, we learn more about what qualities are important to us in a partner."
"I know you're right. It just hurts." I've read that heartbreak is an accepted cause of death in some South American countries. I don't want to die. What a waste to die over a guy!
Erland hands me some tissue. "I had my heart broken when I was young. The girl was named Hannah.or maybe it was Krista."
"She broke your heart and you can't even remember her name?"
"It appears that way." He laughs. "She was such a beautiful girl, and she promised me she'd always be mine. I thought we might marry one day. And then one week before our prom, she broke up with me. I later heard she attended with another boy, one of the school's best hockey players."
"That's harsh. I bet she'd regret it if she knew you were one of the world's top Martin Luther scholars."
Erland blushes. "I doubt she would have appreciated my career in theology. We were not well matched, she and I, and in time I realized that. If I had stayed with her I would've had a very different life. I will always be glad that she broke up with me because otherwise I never would have met your mother, who is truly my soul mate."
Erland believes in soul mates? I didn't peg Erland for the romantic type. But then, I didn't peg him for an astrologer either, yet he is. "So after this girl dumped you, how long before you met Mom?"
"About thirty years."
"Thirty years!" I know Erland's old, but holy crap, that's a long time. "I don't think I can wait thirty years to meet someone else."
"I met other women in that time. But for true love, yes, I had to wait thirty years. I doubt it will take that long for you."
I hope not!
For the first time, I go to my website to find help for me.
After chatting with Erland a little more, I head upstairs and log on to oracleofdating.com. It's a great-looking site, colorful and user friendly, thanks to Tracey's web design skills. These days I give most of my advice via live chats. I still have the phone line, but it's barely profitable.
I recall blogging a few times on the topic of breakups. Searching the archives, I find three blogs. Relationship SOS: Are You about to Break Up? Obviously it's a little late for that one. Why a Breakup Can Be Good for You. I'm not ready to look at the bright side just yet. Ten Ways to Deal with a Breakup. Okay, this is the one.
Ten Ways to Deal with a Breakup
1. Cryget the emotions out. You'll feel better afterward.
2. Write in a journal. Putting your thoughts and feelings into words is a healthy way to work through them.
3. Exercise. If you're anything like me, getting your butt to the gym or out for a run is hard. But afterward you'll feel great. Exercise increases serotonin in the brain, the chemical that makes you feel happy.
4. Listen to boppy, happy music. If you keep listening to sappy ballads, you'll never move on.
5. Get rid of as much evidence of your ex as possible. Take pictures off your wall, move emails from your inbox, put away old letters and gifts. Put them in a box in the back of your closet if you want to look back on them twenty years from now.
6. Make an effort not to hang out at the same places you did with your ex unless, of course, they are your favorite places and you don't want to give them up.
7. Ask your friends not to mention your ex. You don't need to know everything he's doing or who he's doing it with.
8. Open your eyes to the possibilities around you. It's never too soon to appreciate eye candy!
9. Resist the urge to keep rehashing your feelings about the breakup. In the first week or two, vent all you want. After that, keep most of it in or write in your journal. Project the image that you're moving on. Eventually, you'll start to live it.
10. Don't stay home because you feel depressed. Get out and party!
Looks like I'm still at #1, judging by the tears that keep blurring my eyes. It doesn't help that my sinuses are clogged and I can hardly breathe. Breaking up is so not pretty.
My stomach grumbles, and I realize I'd barely gotten through one slice of pizza when Jared dropped the bomb.
I go downstairs in search of comfort food. I think some ice cream is in order.
Why is it people on TV lose their appetite when they're depressed? When I'm depressed, I do nothing but eat. Nestle's Rollo ice cream, M&M's ice cream and Milky Way ice cream have consolidated two of my favorite vices, ice cream and candy bars. Of course, with my lactose intolerance, too much dairy is never a good thing. So I pop two Lactaid pills and hope for the best.
I head back to my room, bowl of ice cream in hand. Then I notice it on my wall: the painting. Whenever I look at it, my heart swells with love, but now it just deepens my misery. Jared gave it to me one random night, not for any special occasion. It shows a young woman in a field of white blossoms, her hair blowing in the ice-blue wind, a mysterious smile on her face. He said the girl represented me, and the wind was him, madly trying to grasp her hair or her flowing dress, but getting happily caught up in both. I knew that when he gave me the painting, he was telling me he loved me, even though it was a few more weeks before he said the words.
Based on #5 of my own advice, I'd better take down the painting. Should I punch my fist through it, like someone on TV might do? Throw it in the fireplace and dance before the flames while doing a cleansing chant? But I can't destroy the painting, I know that. It reminds me of what a talented artist Jared is and why he deserved that art scholarship. And it's proof that the love between us had been real. To destroy it would be like saying that the love never existed.
I take the painting down and put it in my closet, facing the back wall. Then, since my closet is messy anyway, I throw a cardigan over it so I won't have to see it.
A bleep comes from my computer. It's an instant message for the Oracle. Forget it. I'm not in the mood to answer questions. Right now I'm having trouble dealing with my own life.
I try to turn my mind to other things, but then my conscience kicks in. What if it's important? What if someone really needs me?
Oracle: Good evening.
NYCgir1224: Hi, Oracle. My family hates my boyfriend. They're doing everything they can to make me break up with him. They won't tell me when he calls or stops by. It's to the point that I have to meet him in secret.
Oracle: That must be really difficult for you. Have you talked to your family about why they feel this way?
NYCgirl224: Of course. They think we fight too much. But all couples fight, don't they? It's normal. They just don't know him like I do. They don't see how sweet and loving he is.
Oracle: Maybe your family's concerned you're not happy with him.
NYCgir1224: They're so judgmental. Yeah, he's made some mistakes, but he's always apologized for them. He's not a bad guy.
Oracle: What type of mistakes do you mean?
NYCgirl224: Our fights have gotten physical a few times. My BF's got a bad temperit runs in his family.
Oracle: Has he hit you?
NYCgir1224: Yeah, but it doesn't happen often. Just when I make him really angry. And my family judges him on that, like he's beating me up every day or something. You can't blame him. He had a really screwed-up childhood.
Oracle: It sounds like your family is afraid for you. Do you think it's okay that he sometimes hits you?
NYCgir1224: No. I'm not stupid. But sometimes he can't help it. He's working on his anger issues. He says he's going to get counseling.