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It’s high time to end the pity party. That was the thought Jared James woke up with on the fortieth day after the love of his life turned down his marriage proposal.
On that Friday morning in late July, Jared woke to the sound of seagulls and surf pounding against the rocks that abutted his property on Gansett Islandand to this somewhat major development in the midst of his retreat from real life. As he did every morning, he thought of his girlfriend, Elisabeth“with an S,”she always said. His ex-girlfriend now…
He’d called her Lizzie, a nickname she’d always hated until he decided she washisLizzie. Over time, he’d convinced her she loved the nickname as much as she loved him. As he had every day since it all went so bad, he thought of the night he’d taken her to a rooftop restaurant in Manhattan, which had been reserved just for them. He recalled his carefully planned proposal and the look of utter shock and dismay on her face when she realized what he was asking.
She’d shaken her head, which meantnoin every language he spoke.She actually said no. That was the part he still couldn’t believe more than a month later. He hadn’t seen that coming. It hadn’t occurred to him for a second that she’d say no. When he’d gotten down on one knee, he’d pictured an entirely different outcome. He’d imagined a tearful acceptance, kissing and hugging and dancing.
There’d been champagne chilling for the celebration that hadn’t happened. He’d had the company Learjet waiting at Teterboro to whisk her off to Paris for a romantic long weekend. She’d always wanted to go there, and he was set to make all her dreams come true, starting with that one.
He hadn’t heard much of what she said after she shook her head in reply to his heartfelt question. The movement of her head in a negative direction had hit him like a fist to the gut. There’d been tears, not the happy kind he’d hoped for, but rather the grief-stricken sort, the kind that come when everything that could go wrong did. He knew about those tears. He’d shed a lot of them over the last five weeks.
In all his thirty-eight years, he’d never shed a tear over a woman until he’d finally given his heart to one, only to see it crushed to smithereens after the best year of his life. He had vague memories of standing up, of staring at her tearstained face as she continued to shake her head and tried to make him understand.
But he hadn’t heard a word she said. It was all noise that refused to permeate the fog that had infiltrated his brain. He’d walked away and taken a cab to the garage where he kept his car. He’d driven for hours to get the first ferry of the morning to the home he’d bought on Gansett Island a couple of years ago and had barely seen since. He’d been too busy to spend time on the island.
Now he had nothing but time after taking an indefinite leave of absence from work.