When Fate Gets Its Way

 

I stood, staring at myself in the full-length mirror. Denim shorts about four inches too short, a plaid shirt so tight the buttons threatened to pop off exposing the red bra underneath, big hair, dark make-up, and my favorite pair of cowboy boots stared back at me. I felt ridiculous.

“Is it too much?”

I turned to my roommate, Anna, a little pixie of a girl with a whirlwind of a personality and a smile that lit up a room. She looked at me like I was crazy.

“Are you serious? It’s Duke of Hazzard party. It’s the perfect excuse to look like a slut…which you do. But in a totally hot way. Here, take a shot.”

She handed me another dixie cup filled with a jello-vodka concoction I made earlier. I closed my eyes and gulped it down, silently begging my stomach not to revolt against sweet mixture. It burned going down, almost pleasantly, and I opened my eyes to analyze myself once more. Not-too-shabby, I guess. My legs were tanned from the local tanning beds my girlfriends and I frequented almost daily. I felt strong from the runs my roommate convinced me to go on with her. The bra I was wearing gave the illusion of much more sizeable breasts hiding unsuccessfully in my low-cut shirt. My red hair was long and thick and curled perfectly thanks to a suitemate with more talent than myself. Yes, I guess this would do.

We had been broken up just a couple of weeks. The heartbreak I felt from the initial blow was still achingly present. Seeing him with other girls would be devastating. And yet, at this small school, my only other options included transferring somewhere I could be anonymous or holding my head high and pretending not to care. Deep down, I knew we could have been more…

I took a deep breath. “It’s over,” I thought to myself, “move on already.”

I smiled at Anna, grabbed my purse and bottle of vodka, and said, “Alright, let’s do this.”

We arrived at the fraternity houses, not even a block away from our dorms. The lights were dimmed and the music was loud. Smoke filled the party room as girls sat on the bar, sharing cigarettes, dancing with each other, laughing, gossiping, and flirting with the guys. The haze and smell of stale beer was oddly comforting.

Even though we weren’t together, I still had a place here. I could feel it. This campus enveloped me with safety and a sense of home. The drunk nights, the loud music, the dirty dancing. All of this was familiar. I grabbed Anna’s hand, and we sprinted up the stairs and into the arms of waiting friends. Tossing our heads back and squealing with the excitement of a new night, we ran in through the front door. Yet, despite my raw joy, the first I’d experienced since our break-up, I couldn’t help but glance around the darkened room to catch his eye.

He was there, standing in the DJ booth. A red solo cup in hand, his best friend and roommate by his side, watching the crowd. He turned and looked at me in that exact moment, and I felt a shock wave through my body. My face flushed red.  I was so angry with myself for allowing him to catch me watching him. I tried to brush off the moment as I headed to the back porch with Haley.

Haley was one of my best friends in college. A buxom blonde with beautiful eyes and a sense of humor bigger than life. She could make you fall on the floor laughing in one minute and in the next, she would wrap you in a hug and let you sob yourself sick on her shoulder over anything. She knew what I was going through, but she wasn’t going to let me feel sorry for myself. Pressing a drink in my hand, she joked about other potential dates. Guys she swore were paying more attention to me tonight than every before because they knew I was single. She grabbed one by the hand and said, “Doesn’t Sally look HOT tonight? I think you should kiss her. Preferably in front of Taylor.” He laughed, winked at me, and said he was up for the challenge.

Too shy for my own good and still too in love with a boy I didn’t have, I brushed him away, laughing at Haley.

After an hour or so on the porch, we headed back inside to line dance. Everyone was drunk enough not to care that we couldn’t dance and happy enough to let loose the rest of the night. The party room was filled with hot and sweaty students, everyone seeking someone else’s attention. Every one blissed out on too much beer and T. Pain songs. I lined up with my closest friends and we did dance after dance together. Laughing and pulling each other down as we tripped over cowboy boots and boys trying to get in our way. Sweating and thrilled with the night, I glanced up to catch see him again.

Our eyes met. He had been talking to a mutual friend, and I watched as he excused himself. He walked towards me. My heart pounded in my chest so loudly, I was certain it would give me away. My hands shook. Where was the confident girl now? Just one look, and I turned into a puddle at his feet. I was so fucked.

He leaned over and touched my arm and whispered, “Can we talk? Outside?” Goosebumps raised over my arm and gave me away.

I thought about pulling back from his touch. About throwing my drink in his face or laughing loud enough to embarrass him. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t look into those eyes that I knew so well and say, “No.” I let him lead me out of the house and down the back porch into the quiet parking lot.

“What’s up?” I asked casually, trying not to let my sweaty palms and tremor in my voice give away my insecurities.

He looked down at the ground.

“I miss you.”

I felt the air drain from my chest and my resolve fall to the ground.

“Well, I miss you, too. You know that.”

“Do you think we could head to your room? Just to talk? I’m sick of this party, and I want to spend some time with you to catch up.”

I nodded and took his hand. We started the slow walk back to the dorms. I glanced nervously behind us, worrying the whole time someone would see. On a small campus like ours, you don’t get away with bringing a boy home unnoticed. I didn’t want the questions. I didn’t want to have to explain that we were, “Nothing. Just friends.” I knew that “just friends” might be all we would ever be, and even though that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t let him slip out of my life forever. I knew there was someone else in his life. I knew I might hate myself tomorrow, even for just sitting and talking with him. I knew that this moment, as perfect as it felt, wasn’t perfect. That it may not change anything except to make me fall more in love with him. But I knew I would hate myself even more for missing the chance to spend time with this boy…this boy with the blue-green eyes who made me laugh, who thought I was beautiful, who was smart and strong and absolutely gorgeous. This boy who stole my heart with the first glance. Who had the power to shatter it in a matter of moments.

 

 This is Part One of our Love Story series. To read Part Two, click here.

Sally writes about life as a military wife and mom at Exploits of a Military Mama. You can also find her on Twitter.

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