The air was warm and smelled like cinnamon, soft classical music coming from the kitchen downstairs. Any normal person would find comfort in this, but I currently live alone. I groggily checked my phone which read 7:28am, no missed calls or texts. I lay in my bed, dreading the thought of going downstairs. There was only one of two things that would happen the minute I went down there. My overbearing mother would be gearing up to inform me of all the ways I'm ruining my life, or there is a very pleasant intruder who’s making me a final meal before offing me. The latter would be better in my opinion. I looked over at my phone again, it’s now 7:37am and I still have no missed calls or texts. Ruining a marriage will do that to you though. I sleepily shuffled to the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror, regretfully. My hazel eyes are still decorated with last night’s makeup and my once curled hair looks like a rat’s nest bunched on the side of my head. I pulled on a pair of crumpled cotton shorts and contemplated putting on a bra, but ultimately decided against it. I descended the stairs and heard an unfamiliar voice humming along to the music.
A tall slender man in khakis was humming while he flipped pancakes, the back of his head looking vaguely familiar. The floorboard creaked as I approached the kitchen and he turned around.
“Mandy!” he exclaimed as he set the spatula down. “Surprise!” he shouted.
I tried to remember how to breathe as he embraced me, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. His hair was freshly shaved and he smelled oddly musky, but I buried my face in his neck nonetheless.
“Wha-what are you doing here!?” I asked, tears streaming down my face. “Oh god Michael, I'm so glad you're not my mother.” I said as we both laughed.
“I was able to come home for the holidays, how are you? Where’s Ben?” he asked as he returned to the burning pancake on the griddle.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so I turned my back towards the keurig and began coffee duty. Do I lie and say he’s on a work trip, or do I tell him the truth and say that my husband found out I'm in love with my best friend.
“Oh, he’s gonna be away for a few days.” I nonchalantly said as I measured sugar into each of our mugs.
“Visiting family? Or is that company working him to death again?” he chuckled as he plated our breakfast. I watched him move around the kitchen, as if he’s lived here for years. His muscles showing through his thin black hoodie, that unshaven but neatly sculpted beard moving as he’s talking, but I can’t focus on the words because I’m focused on his lips.
“Eh it’s okay, I'm enjoying the peace and quiet.” I lightly laughed as he sat next to me.
“Mandy, you got something you want to tell me?” he asked. “You’ve always been a bad lair.”
“I don’t even know where to begin.” I quietly said as I took a bite of food, despite the huge lump in my throat.
“You can tell me, is it Ben? Your mother?” he asked in between sips of coffee. “I have good news to tell you, but I can’t be happy if you’re gonna sit here looking like someone just beat up a puppy.” He said as his eyebrows furrowed.
I pushed some pancakes around on the plate, contemplating what to do. I can’t confess my love for him looking like this. Oh god I haven’t even brushed my teeth. I can do this, I mean I can’t go another decade pretending to love anyone else. In the spirit of Christmas and stupidity, I will tell him the truth.
“Okay,” I said as I nervously shoved a forkful of pancakes into my dry mouth. “I am going to go shower, and then we will sit down and talk.” I took a swig of coffee before running up the stairs. I haven’t felt this giddy since I met Adam Levine two years ago.
“You have 10 minutes!” was the last thing I heard before I slammed my door closed.
I turned on the hot water as I kicked off my panties and shorts in one fell swoop. Sure I can do this now, but when I undress before sex I look like a drunken flamingo. I pulled off my top and jumped in the shower, as I shampooed my hair I began to get that feeling in my gut. Not the butterflies that I had felt earlier, but utter and complete dread. I lathered up my body until all I could see were suds, wishing I could scrub away the fear. What if this ruins our friendship? I’ve known him since we were just shy of 20 and serving at a local diner. He is my everything, he knows all of my embarrassing stories and quirks. I know all of his fears and have been his wing woman for many failed dates. I am the one constant in his life, so he’s gotta feel the same way right? I turned off the water and wrapped myself in a towel.
“Five minutes Gibson!” he shouted from downstairs.
I laughed as I quickly combed my too thick hair, and messily applied mousse. I didn’t have time to agonize over what to wear, so I threw on black leggings and an oversized grey knit sweater with just the right amount of cleavage. I applied one coat of mascara and light brown eyeliner to my waterline. I rummaged around my makeup drawer until I found my lip gloss and stared myself down in the mirror. Presentable? Maybe.
“Sixty seconds!” He warned from what sounded like the bottom of the stairs.
I swung open the door and practically skipped down the stairs. Today is the day my life changes, and it hopefully won’t go any worse than my husband leaving me.
“Gibson,” he quizzically said while looking around my condo. “You do realize it’s December 10th right?”
“Well I couldn’t help but notice the lack of Christmas spirit, not even a cheap window cling.” He said as he put his hands on his hips.
“Well it’s hard to be in the Christmas spirit after your husband leaves you.” I softly said as I sat on the sofa.
“Wait, what?” he asked, his eyebrows furrowed again. “When did this happen? Why didn’t you call me?” He said as he sat down next to me.
“If I made it known to the public, then it would be real and I'd have to face it. I’d have to face knowing that my mother was right, and that the marriage wasn’t going to last.” I sighed as I looked up at him. His blue eyes sparkling, despite the sadness in them.
“I’m not the public, I’m your best friend.” He squeezed my hand.
“It’s a good thing,” I laid my head on his shoulder. “I can finally breathe. I’m finally done trying to save a hopeless marriage.” I smiled, “What’s your good news by the way?” I nudged his thigh.
“I want details Mandy, why did he leave? When did he leave?”
“I'll tell you if you tell me.” I smirked.
“Fine, at the same time we tell each other.” He rolled his eyes because we’ve done this a lot over the years. “1, 2, 3.”
“I’m proposing to Sam tomorrow night.”
“I told Ben that I'm in love with you.”
Well, that could’ve gone better…