If you are looking for a happy New Years story, this isn't the story for you :)
It was the eighth time the phone had rung since he woke up this morning and every time it rang, he felt himself closer to curling up in a ball and crying.
Dishes piled in the sink, stacked almost as tall as he was. Large heaps of laundry accumulated in various parts of his dingy apartment, no rhyme or reason to their placements. You could argue a severe case of depression, but it was normal lifestyle for Travis. Many potential roommates or girlfriends who had attempted to move in with him left within a week, screaming ‘slacker’ as they slammed the door behind them.
All except for Mae.
He didn’t deserve her, he felt it deep in his bones. She was just too perfect for him. The first year they had been together he really tried to be different, but once a slacker always a slacker. He reverted back to his old self once that year had passed. She still stayed around even after others, who thought he made a turnaround finally, had left. Probably from the smell.
Definitely from the smell.
She had stayed even though every time she wanted to sit down anywhere, she had to move twenty items at minimum to have a place just to set her mug and that’s after she had to spend an hour at least to get a clean mug. When Mae moved in a couple months before, the only things she brought with her where her clothes that she hung in the minimal space available in the closet. It was probably the only space in the apartment that looked semi organized. Never once did she complain, not even a shadow of disgust on her face.
So, he didn’t think twice about taking out a hefty loan and getting the best engagement ring that money could buy. He was going to propose to her on New Year’s Eve. It was perfect, he wouldn’t have to remember their engagement date because it was on a big holiday. Mae would appreciate his thoughtfulness; she was as bad with dates as he was.
He really should have thought twice though.
If Travis was good at anything, it was staying out of debt. He could never stay at a job long, but he always had one in time to pay the bills. One of the first things him and Mae talked about- it was on their first date, he remembered- was how great their credit scores were.
He hadn’t thought ahead on how he would make the payments. When he first started the loan he had been working as a call center representative and making a decent amount of money, but he left as he so often does. No one was surprised. He took up another job as a greeter at one of the big supercenters making a significant amount less than he was. Enough to pay his rent and utilities, but nothing more. He was lucky if he could get ramen at the very store he worked at and they were well known for their low prices.
It was only about a week ago, when the first of the phone calls started, that he finally saw where he might’ve gone wrong. Deep down he knew that just because he was ignoring them, they wouldn’t go away. No, they had gotten more persistent. On the first day, they only called twice. By that Friday, they had called a minimum of ten times. He only had the guts to listen to one of the voicemails they left and his hopes died by the time it ended.
He could technically take the ring back, but he knew the value had gone down by now, he’d still be in debt. Plus, he didn’t want to take it back. When he first spotted the ring, it practically shouted Mae’s name. There wasn’t going to be another ring like it, added customs to what he knew she would like, and he didn’t want to disappoint the only woman who had ever truly accepted him.
“Travis?” He heard her close the door and watched as she picked her way through the maze of mostly garbage and knickknacks, “What’s going on? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” She took his face in her small hands and rubbed her thumbs under his eyes. He loved when she did that and she knew he’d tell her anything if she did it.
“I messed up, Mae.” He closed his eyes and nearly started to weep before he could finish his sentence, overwhelmed in shame. He told her about the loan, conveniently leaving out the purpose of it, but told her how far in debt he was. By the time he was finished, he felt relief and pride in himself for finally spilling as much as he could without ruining her future surprise.
He opened his eyes, expecting to find hers filled with understanding as they normally were, but instead he found them empty and her hands set to her sides. He couldn’t remember, in his ravings, when she had taken her hands off him.
“How could you do this?”
Her question reeled him, but it was her attitude that drew him to take a step back. Her typical behavior of mousiness and akin-to-motherly tenderness was gone. Whenever she talked to him before this moment it was always filled with a sort of lightness, he couldn’t think of time she had ever used this cold tone towards him. Her eye’s, always filled with adoration and kindness, were barren to any emotion.
“What?” He couldn’t think of anything more intelligent to ask. So taken aback by the complete one-eighty of the woman he loved so desperately.
Mae threw her hands up in the air and stalked around the various piles, kicking some of them as she passed them. “I put up with your filth for the last year and half, praying and hoping that someday we would leave this all behind. I haven’t touched this place because it isn’t mine, but I had plans. Big plans, Travis! Once we got a house that was in our names, I was going to fix you.”
“Fix me? There’s nothing wr-“
“Have you looked at yourself?! Cheese and rice, Travis! You’re a mess. I’m lucky, I have no sense of smell, but the only thing I was hanging onto was the fact it was temporary. Now, with all this debt you’ve racked up, there’s no hope. No lender will look at you twice with this on your history.”
He followed her as she fought her way to their bedroom, heading straight to the only place she had any of her things. Watched silently as she piled what little she had into her arms and pounded her feet to the doorway. She could barely get the door open in her haste.
She was already halfway through the door, but paused before closing it all the way. “Happy New Year, Travis.” And closed it before he could respond.
At least she hadn’t called him a slacker.