Her suitcase was open. Clothes were strewn everywhere.
What would she need? What was the weather like in Minnesota in the fall? It would be cold, right? So that meant sweaters, hoodies, jeans, and probably coats and hats and mittens and long underwear. Did she even own long underwear? Probably not. If she did, they’d been thrown away or donated a long time ago.
She glanced at the clock. Derek would be home in less than six hours. So she had six hours to get out. Six hours to pack up her shit and leave this ugly god forsaken apartment forever. Leave no trace, like going for a hike in the woods.
She opened her dresser drawers, starting at the bottom, like a robber. She grabbed an armful of clothes and put them in her suitcase, not bothering to fold anything. There was no time for folding. She did the same thing with the next drawer, and the next.
She stood back and looked at her now full suitcases. It was a mess. She remembered Minnesota, and she tossed out anything that looked summery. No sundresses, shorts, or crop tops. Anything that reminded her of summer went on the floor.
She looked at floor, and for the first time possibly ever, she noticed the carpet. It was covered in gross stains. From what, she didn’t want to know. It wasn’t her apartment. Derek had lived here alone before she moved in two years ago. If she mentioned the stains to him, she knew he’d take care of them right away. He’d hire a carpet cleaner, or he’d buy a carpet cleaner or he’d do whatever people did when they wanted to get ugly stains out of their carpets. That was the problem. He was so fucking nice. Sometimes she just wanted to be treated like trash a little bit.
Eric had been nice until he up and moved to Minnesota for his new job. Yes, Eric and Derek. Life was cruel that way.
He’d been distant in the three weeks and four days since he’d left. When she asked, he said everything was fine, of course he loved her, he’d come back for her one day. She loved it when he said that. It was so romantic. She imagined her life as though it was a movie. He’d show up at her apartment in the middle of the night. It would be raining. He’d knock on the door at midnight. She’d hear it and roll out of bed, confused and groggy, but she’d be wearing a fabulous slinky nightgown and her hair would be perfectly mussed and it would fall in long waves down her back. She’d open the door, not bothering to check the peephole to make sure it wasn’t a murderer or rapist, and he’d grab her and kiss her and take her away with him.
Yesterday, she’d gotten mad at him. She told him that she needed to know when someday was. “Someday” was not on her calendar, there was no date that she could mark. But he wouldn’t give.
So fine. He wouldn’t come here, so she would go to him.
The vision of escaping her boring life and stale relationship and shitty office job was appealing. Running away from it all. Starting fresh. New life. New identity. New job. New apartment. Maybe she’d even change her name.
And then she’d remember Derek. Sweet Derek. She looked down at her clothes scattered all over the bedroom that they shared.
No. She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t leave him. Why would she leave him? He was so nice and kind and good. Who cared if he was boring? At least he was nice to her.
She began putting her clothes back in their drawers. It was decided. She was staying. She just had to put away her clothes and then leave the house until five and she’d get home at 5:30pm like she always did and Derek would have no idea that she’d spent the morning getting ready to leave him. Everyone would be safe. Derek’s feelings would be safe and she would be safe from him ever finding out about her cheating.
Wait. Did this mean it was over with Eric? She hadn’t considered this, so that’s what she did now. Standing alone in the bedroom she shared with her boyfriend, surrounded by piles of clothes and two open suitcases.
She decided that if she checked her phone and she had a text from Eric, it would be a sign. A sign that she should not end their relationship. She walked solemnly to pick up her phone from the bed.
No new text messages. She threw her phone back onto the bed. She wanted to throw it across the room, but shattering her phone would be a terrible idea and she had no idea how she would explain it to Derek. Plus, if her phone was broken and Eric did text her, she wouldn’t be able to see it or respond.
She couldn’t believe Eric hadn’t texted her. She paced the room angrily, hands on her hips. What was he doing? What could he possibly be so busy doing at work that he’d neglected to text her this morning? He used to text her first thing in the morning. Now his messages were coming later and later. It was after ten now. Had he forgotten her completely?
Fuck this, she decided. If she went to Minnesota, that was no way he could forget about her. She’d just fucking show up, and see how well he could ignore her then, when she was right in front of him.
She stopped putting her clothes away and began packing again. Forget packing weather appropriate clothing, she’d just take everything and deal with it later. She’d put clothes in trash bags if she had to. She had to hurry. She had to be gone before Derek came home, to preserve both of their feelings. She knew, logically, that he would be hurt whether he saw her leave or not, but she couldn’t bear to witness it. She’d pack her car, block his number, and drive away to her new life with Eric.
She finished packing her suitcases and checked her phone again. Still no text from Eric. Time to take desperate measures. She was going to text him first. What’s going on? she wrote. Then she put her phone down on her empty dresser and stared at it, willing him to reply.
Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. She carried her phone into the kitchen with her and poured herself a bowl of cereal. She used the last of the skim milk. Derek would need to buy more. She sat on the couch and ate slowly, chewing methodically.
Forty-two minutes later, her phone chimed. She jumped, startled, and almost dropped her phone picking it up. It was her mom, texting her to confirm plans for their family dinner that weekend. She wanted to know if Derek would be going with her. She got a sinking feeling in her stomach at the knowledge that she was running away without telling her mother. She didn’t reply. She put her phone down.
She decided to take some kitchen supplies with her. She would need stuff, right? Like plates and forks and cups. She pulled out a garbage bag and began adding kitchen supplies. She left Derek the nice stuff, but she took the plasticware and the good knife set. The knife set had been a gift to them from her mom anyway, so technically that was hers to take since it was from her mother.
After an hour and a half, her phone chimed again from the living room. She practically ran into the room to grab it. The message was from Eric, finally! She smiled and unlocked her phone. The message read, Sorry been super busy
No problem, I totally understand, she wrote. I’m coming to see you!
This time his reply was immediate. What are you talking about
If you won’t come to me, I’ll go to you, she replied, typing furiously, brow furrowed.
I don’t think that’s a good idea, he said.
Not wanting to have this conversation through text anymore, she hit the call button. She’d only spoken to him on the phone one time before. Almost their entire relationship had been text based. She remembered the beginning of their pseudo relationship, after they had met at Sasha’s party, and they’d text constantly – all day at work, her productivity sinking slowly over those first months, and at home, hiding her phone from Derek, under the covers after he’d fallen asleep, her phone emitting a bluish yellow glow as she read his messages.
Eric answered her call. “Hey,” he said. “What’s going on? I can’t really talk right now.”
“Yeah, okay, sorry,” she said, already flustered. “I just, I wanted to tell you.” She could distinctly hear him typing in the background.
“About me going there. Moving there. To be with you. In Minnesota.” She swallowed. She felt like she was going to cry for some reason.
“I’m not in Minnesota,” he said.
“What? Where are you?”
“I said Michigan. Not Minnesota.”
“Whatever. Same difference. I’m coming.”
He sighed heavily. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said hesitantly.
“Why not,” she said, more of a statement than a question that she actually wanted an answer to.
“Because, I just don’t,” Eric replied. “It’s not a good time.”
“Where will there be a good time? When is a good time?” She remembered her packed suitcases and her trash bag full of kitchen supplies in the other room and felt ill.
“Please stop being like this. Please,” he said. “Seriously, this wasn’t supposed to be like this. I have a girlfriend. I thought you knew I wasn’t breaking up with her.”
“You said you were going to,” she said.
“Yeah, but that was a long time ago. We’re on the same phone plan and everything. I can’t break up with her now.”
“So?!” she cried, sounding way more shrill and way less cool than she wanted to. “You said it wasn’t serious. That’s why she didn’t move out there with you.”
“She’s coming next month,” he said.
She didn’t speak. She had no words. He kept saying her name and asking if she was still there. She moved her phone away from her ear and gently tapped the end call button.
Tears slid down her cheeks. She sat on the couch, put her head in her hands, and sobbed. She’d never felt so broken. She lifted her head to look at her phone, to see if maybe he’d tried to call her back. Of course he hadn’t.
As the minutes ticked by, she felt more and more stupid. That’s what she was. A stupid idiotic fool. She’d been ready to pack up her whole life and leave it all behind for someone who clearly didn’t give a shit about her. Yes, she’d been wrong. When he asked for her number at Sasha’s party, he’d had a girlfriend, but it wasn’t serious, he’d said. He kind of wanted to end things with her anyway, they’d only been seeing each other for three months. And that had given her some sort of weird feeling of flattery – she was flattered that he’d ditch another girl to be with her. That must mean she was better, she rationalized, though now she saw that her rationale was poor. She was smarter or prettier or funnier. She let herself feel superior, even though he frequently didn’t reply to her texts and didn’t show up to their dumb clandestine lunches. He’d said that he preferred her over someone else, and that meant something. How had she not seen before that in actuality, it meant nothing? She couldn’t even feel betrayed because she was so responsible for her pain. She’d let the good moments, the sweet texts, the afternoons spent kissing in her car, outweigh all of the times that he treated her like crap.
She stood up, and she took a deep breath. At least she still had Derek. Derek would never do this to her. She still had time to unpack her stuff and leave the apartment, and it would be like none of this had ever happened. She’d do the right thing now. She’d stop talking to Eric and focus on her relationship with Derek. Her real relationship.
In the bedroom, she lethargically put her clothes away. She couldn’t believe that she’d wasted an entire day of paid time off for this. That morning, she’d been under the assumption that she wouldn’t be going back anyway.
What would’ve happened if she hadn’t waited to talk to Eric? She imagined herself finishing packing her stuff, driving for hours, sleeping in the backseat, showing up at Eric’s apartment in Minnesota or Michigan and being told to leave, that he didn’t want her anymore, it’s not a good idea, it’s not a good time.
She was startled out of her reverie by sound of the lock turning in the door. She looked at the time on her phone. It was still early afternoon. What the hell was he doing home? She looked frantically around the room. Her suitcases weren’t unpacked yet. Looking around the room, it was very clear that she was in the process of leaving, and in two seconds Derek would come in here and find out.
She heard his footsteps coming down the hall, and he gently pushed open the bedroom door that she’d left slightly ajar. He smiled when he saw her there. “Hey you,” he said.
“Hey,” she said.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, leaning in to kiss her. But before his lips could make contact, he looked around the room. He took in the suitcases, the packed clothes. He stepped away from her, and the way he looked at her then made her want to die. She’d never seen him look at anyone like that, cold and angry, like he was capable of actual destruction.
“Bitch,” he said. “You fucking bitch.”