Stage 5. Acceptance. Or a brief wave of calmness, she wasn’t sure. Aubrey was relieved to final feel some peace, some relief after this heartbreak. Anger and depression had lasted longer than she could bear. Spending moments of rage visualising smashing his car in with a golf club like Taylor Swift did in the Blank Space video, and then the moments where she felt like Bella in New Moon. Sitting in her bedroom window, staring for hours on end. Time ticking by as she was trapped in her grief.
Grieving for the man she thought was the one. The one that had discussed starting a family, getting engaged in the new year and buying their apartment together. The college boy she met at a frat party who she watched grow into a kind and dedicated paramedic. A loyal partner. Well, that was now questionable. The friend who always picked up and helped somebody in need, giving his mates a drive home in the early hours of the morning or covering peoples shifts at work. The partner who surprised her with her favourite home cooked meal or a secret getaway when she was super stressed. The man who had held her as she cried and grieved over her brother’s death. He was always there. Until one day he became ghostly in his absence.
Her friends assured her, that her outbursts of anger were valid. They were more than supportive in fact. Suggesting that they should go egg his car or throw things at him when she returned to their apartment to pack. Furious was more than fair. After 5 years together, and seeing that days after their break up he was with another girl. The one she had asked about. He betrayed her. But it wasn’t cheating.
It felt worse.
She remember how he called her paranoid. For asking who he was texting, why he missed dinner or didn’t turn up to family events. But most of all, the vacant glassy look in his eyes when she talked to him. He could have been seeing that girl behind her back for all she knew. And now since they were broken up and she hadn’t caught them, she couldn’t yell at him for cheating. Couldn’t get him to know how much he had hurt her. More than any other break up. The betrayal cut deep, stinging every feeling she had. It felt nice to finally feel pulled together enough to act civil, maybe enough to communicate with him about her moving out of their apartment. To get her stuff back.
Aubrey had spent the last few weeks camped out at her friends, buried on the couch in fluffy blankets and recycling her 3 outfits from her limited handbag wardrobe. Luckily the other girls threw new clothes for her to wear the office so she didn’t look like a complete sad sack. She needed to pack up and close the door on him and their shared apartment.
In her friends books, he was a traitor. There was no ifs, no buts, no trying to ask why. They were strategic in their planning of helping Aubrey move out of the apartment.
“You need to see as little of him as possible,” Jos said firmly, hands on hips, “Seeing him is going to rip that salt wound open all over again. Less time, less damage, less setback okay.”
‘Yeah Aube,” Her friend Sofia said firmly, “We’ll all come with you - make it faster.”
Aubrey sighed internally. It wasn’t going to be that simple. It was their apartment. Their couch they had spent all Labour weekend shopping for till they settled on the dusky brown lounge suite. Their kitchen table that he had fixed and she had varnished. Their shared kitchenware, at least the coffee machine was 100% hers. The tv was his but the Netflix subscription was hers. It wasn’t going to be clean and easy, she just knew it.
“Thanks guys,” Aubrey smiled softly at her friends, “I’ll be okay, I’m going to have to talk to him.”
Sofia and Jos moved to protest.
“It’s not like we ended on bad terms,” She pointed out, “How is he to know that I know about her?”
“Aubrey honey,” Sofia planted her hands on her hips, “He’s the one who posted her all over the internet. He will have expected you to see.”
“What if she’s there?” Jos added, eyes big and alert.
That thought hadn’t crossed Aubrey mind.
“Fine, you can come with me,” She sighed, “But you are not to say anything to him.”
“Pinkie swear,” Jos grinned, “We’re just your moving helpers.”
“And emotional support buddies,” Sofia finished.
Aubrey sunk her head into her hands. Now to rip off the band aid.
It was awkward. The texting to ask to come over. His polite response and trying to make her feel at ease. At least he settled on leaving a key while he was on shift. She could pack mainly in peace.
Sofia and Jos were in the bedroom, unpacking her clothes and emptying out her draws into suitcases. Aubrey stood in the lounge, looking at all the things that belonged to the both of them. Another deep sigh. She turned to the kitchen and began to pile her appliances and homewares into a cardboard box. Newspaper ink covered her fingers as she folded everything with care. At least her plates wouldn’t break into pieces like she had.
Aubrey leaned against the kitchen counter. Her belongings were everywhere, the ornaments on the coffee table, the cookbooks on the shelf, the vase of flowers he had given her. It felt draining to pack everything away, her life no longer what she knew. Little to no warning and everything was different. She slid down from the bench onto the tiled floor.
Aubrey was there a while. Her arms tight around her knees, head resting on top as she remembered to breathe.
“Aubrey,” She looked up startled, it wasn’t Sofia or Jos. It was him.
“Are you okay?”
She stared back at him.
“How could you?” Her voice came out quiet but strong, no hesitance.
He stood there, still in his scrubs, keys dangling from his hand. He bit his lip and sat down, sliding onto the tiles across from her.
“I never did anything Aub,” He said gently, “I would never do that to you.”
“But three days later is fine?” She said sharply, “Forget it, I don’t want to hear. I just want my stuff and to be out of here.”
“This hadn’t been working for a while Aub,” He tried to meet her eyes, “You know that. You can’t be mad at me for this.”
“No,” She said hollowly, “You gave up on us. I never did.”
“You did this,” She echoed.
“Aubrey please,” He pleaded, reaching out his hand to hers, “Please-“
She pulled back, “You lost the right to touch me when you left me for someone else.”
“And the worst thing is that you act like your better than a cheater, that you didn’t do anything wrong,” She pushed off the tiled floor.
“You’re still a traitor,” Aubrey said sadly.