Maggie stared at the ceiling. She never knew what to do in these situations.
The space in the bed next to her was empty, the blankets rumpled. She knew that she most look horrible – last night’s eye makeup smeared across her face, hair mussed and going in every direction.
She listened to the unfamiliar apartment around her. She couldn’t hear the shower running, but the guy she’d slept with, Todd, wasn’t there. Had he already left for the day so that he didn’t have to face her, the random girl he’d met at the bar and inexplicably hooked up with mere hours after learning each other’s names? Maybe he left a note, Maggie thought. She started to get up, but realized she was only wearing a black lace bra. She found her blouse and miniskirt on the floor and put them on. Her handbag was on the floor also, and she quickly grabbed it and found her phone. No new text messages, which could be a good sign or a bad sign.
She checked her reflection in her phone camera, attempting to smooth her hair. Of course the one time she didn’t have a hair tie on her wrist was the time she really needed one. Then she slowly crept out of Todd’s bedroom, trying not to make any noise with her steps, peering around the corner like a teenager sneaking back home after a forbidden night out.
Water was running in the kitchen. She saw Todd standing by the sink, washing a pan. He must’ve felt her presence in the room, because he turned around. “Hey,” he said, smiling at her. “Do you want some coffee? I made breakfast for us,” he said, and he gestured to his little kitchen table. On it were two place settings, each plate piled with eggs, breakfast potatoes, and a few slices of bacon.
Maggie didn’t try to hide her disbelief. “Wow,” she said. “I…wasn’t expecting this.”
Todd chuckled. “Come on, sit down,” he said. He poured her a cup of steaming hot coffee. “How do you take it?” he asked.
“Cream and sugar, please, if you have it,” Maggie replied.
He added a splash of Half & Half and a few spoonfuls of sugar to the mug and handed it to her. “Thank you,” she said gratefully, taking a sip. “Wow, that’s good coffee.”
“It’s the beans,” Todd said, sitting down at the table. “You’ve gotta use good beans.”
“Mm,” Maggie said in agreement as she took a bite of eggs. She decided not to tell him about her daily Starbucks habit and the fact that her coffee usually didn’t bear any resemblance to real coffee.
They ate in companionable silence for a moments, then Todd asked, “So when can I see you again?”
Maggie swallowed a bite of eggs and wiped her mouth with a napkin. “You want to see me again?” she asked in surprise.
“Yeah,” he said, laughter in his voice, like he didn’t understand why she’d think he wouldn’t want to see her again. “I had fun with you last night.”
“I did too,” Maggie said, and something inside of her relaxed. Then she said, “Yeah, I’d like that.”
“Cool,” Todd said. “Maybe on Friday night for dinner?”
“Sounds good,” Maggie agreed, not bothering to make up a lie about needing to check her schedule in order to keep him waiting, like all of her friends told her to do when guys asked her out.
She thought back to last night. She’d been at the bar with a few of her friends from college. She’d been so busy at work that day that she hadn’t eaten much, and before she knew it she was tipsy off of three vodka sodas. That was when she noticed Todd sitting alone. They made eye contact, and if she wasn’t slightly drunk she probably would’ve looked away, but instead she held his gaze, and he went over to her. He was supposed to be on a date, he told her after they’d introduced themselves, but his date never showed up. As it happened, she thought that this would be a silly one night stand, and she thought about how dumb it was that she was having a one night stand at twenty-five, but now she was thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be that after all. Maybe, she thought as she finished her coffee, this was something.
Maggie stared at the ceiling. Her eyes were tired, and her face was still damp from crying into her pillow the night before. She and Todd had yet another fight, and this one was a doozy. She couldn’t remember how it started, but it had ended with Todd storming out of the apartment and driving away in his truck and Maggie crying herself to sleep.
What had they even been fighting about? Maggie wracked her brain to try and remember what had set them off, but nothing came to her. Her mind was exhausted and groggy. She was thankful that it was Saturday, and she didn’t have to worry about going to work while it was still evident on her face that she’d been crying all night.
She slowly lifted herself up and slid off the bed. At this point, they’d been living together for a year, dating for two years. Two years since that one night stand turned into a full blown long term relationship.
It wasn’t that she felt stuck. Not at all. It was that she was twenty-seven years old and had only had two real relationships, Todd and her college boyfriend who she’d broken up with only a few months before she’d met Todd at the bar. She’d had no time to be alone, no time to be a young single woman in the city. After she’d ended things with Ryan, she’d planned to spend time with herself, get to know herself as just Maggie, not Maggie and Ryan. Instead, Maggie immediately became Maggie and Todd, and it wasn’t Todd’s fault that she kept taking it out on him. She couldn’t help herself – everything he did seemed to annoy her. The way he chewed his food. The way he brushed his teeth. The way he couldn’t seem to buy clothes that fit him, the way his shirts were always too short and his pants were always too big, and he didn’t care enough to take the time or effort to dress himself like an adult.
And it went both ways – he was always nitpicking her. He constantly criticized the way she drove, the way she washed dishes, the way she wore her hair, the clothes she liked to wear. And in those moments, she couldn’t stop wondering why they were even together. If they didn’t even like each other anymore, what was the point?
Her thoughts were interrupted when Todd walked slowly into the bedroom, holding a hot mug of coffee. “Hey,” he said. He looked at her, and his eyes were filled with shame and regret. She read him so easily now. “I made you coffee,” he said, and he handed the mug to her.
She gave him a small smile. “Thanks,” she said.
For a moment, he stood there while she sipped her coffee. Finally he said, “I’m sorry I got so upset last night.”
She stared into her mug. “You didn’t come to bed.”
“I fell asleep on the couch.”
“But you left.”
“I know.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “It was stupid. All I did was go to the bar. I had one drink and left.”
She chuckled softly. “Which bar?”
He met her eyes again. “The one we met at.”
She raised her eyebrows, surprised. “What made you want to go there?”
He shrugged. His expression was sad and contemplative. “I wanted to remember the night we met. How much fun we had.”
She nodded and smiled bigger, remembering. “It was fun, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, it was,” he said. “We danced. We did karaoke.”
“Oh god.” She put her face in her hands. “I forgot about that. That’s so embarrassing. We must’ve sounded horrible.”
“We were awful,” he confirmed.
For a brief moment, she thought, this is it. This was her chance to break up with him. They were remembering the good times. It wouldn’t be too sad. The apartment was in his name, since she’d moved in with him. She could pack a bag and leave, stay with her mom or one of her friends, and come back for the rest of her stuff while he was at work. But just as she opened her mouth, he said, “I promise never to leave like that again.”
She was too surprised to respond. He sat on the bed next to her and took her hand. “I’m sorry, Maggie. You deserve better than this, and I know I’m better than this.”
Her initial reaction was confusion. Why was he taking the blame for their entire fight? She knew that she was at least partly to blame. But he went on. “I’m going to make it up to you,” he promised. “You’re too important to me to let our relationship fall apart.”
Then he gently placed his hand on her cheek, leaned in, and kissed her. Not a quick peck, but a real kiss. Despite herself, Maggie couldn’t help but think how nice it was. When they pulled apart, he told her he loved her, and then he went downstairs to make her breakfast.
She was lucky. She knew that she was. That’s why the unshakeable feeling that something was missing was so disheartening. What was it? She wished so badly that she could name it, put her finger on it. Instead, she stood up, and she followed Todd into the kitchen.
Maggie stared at the ceiling. It was early, but wedding jitters kept her awake.
It’s my wedding day, she thought to herself. It sounded absurd. Almost laughable. But these were probably normal wedding day feelings.
She was alone in a hotel room. The wedding reception would be held in one of the halls downstairs. It was huge and glamorous and way too expensive, but Todd had insisted on giving her the fairytale wedding that she deserved. Or so he said. Maggie would’ve preferred something smaller and more intimate, but it was too late for that now. Todd had a large, close knit family, and she understood that having them there was important to him.
They’d decided to spend the night before their wedding apart, to make their wedding night more special. Again, it was his idea, but she didn’t object. The hotel room was huge and luxurious. She’d spent the evening before at the rehearsal dinner with her family, and then after dinner and after she said good night to Todd, she got to go upstairs to the most beautiful hotel room she’d ever been in. As usual, the word lucky came to mind.
She decided to draw herself a hot bath. It sounded like the perfect way to relax before she had to get her hair and makeup done and take photos and the whole day became wedding chaos. She wanted to enjoy this quiet time while she had it. She filled the giant tub with hot water, stripped off her pajamas, and climbed in. She let the water fold over her body. It was almost too hot; it made her gasp, but once she got used to it, it was perfect. She lifted her arm out of the water and watched the steam rise off her skin.
Her eyes went to her wedding dress hanging in the corner. It was beautiful – a strapless mermaid gown with a crystal appliqued bodice and a tulle skirt. If she had to dream up her fairytale wedding dress, this was definitely the one. It was hard to look at it without smiling.
She closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath, willing herself to stay calm and collected and not become one of those notorious bridezillas. She opened her eyes and looked at her engagement ring on her hand. It was beautiful, too. Just as beautiful as her dress. It was everything she could hope for, but she felt empty.
When she looked at Todd, she felt nothing. She allowed herself to admit this truth this one time, and then she’d bury it deep down and never think it again.
Actually, that wasn’t completely true, she realized. She did have some feelings. They just weren’t the right feelings. Her feelings for him were like the feelings she had for a good friend. Not a best friend, but a close friend, someone who knew her well enough and who she got along with really well. But romantically, there was nothing. There was no spark. She’d tried to rekindle the fire of their first months together many times over the years, to no avail. She just didn’t see him that way anymore.
She remembered the night he’d proposed. They’d gone out for dinner at an Italian restaurant, and then he surprised her with a horse drawn carriage ride through the park. It was completely cliché and perfect and everything that any normal girl would want. She’d wanted to say no, but she said yes.
Here was the result of that yes. It set into motion the rest of her life. Suddenly, she was planning a wedding. Suddenly they had to tell their families that they would be spending the rest of their lives together. It was sickening, but Maggie found herself thinking about their eventual divorce as they taste tested wedding cakes and picked out flower arrangements. She’d gone through the motions, and here she was almost a year later. She still hadn’t gotten up the courage to end things, to shatter the illusion of her perfect life with the perfect man. For that, she hated herself. She hated how weak she was.
It was then that the thought occurred to her, as she sat in bath: she could leave. She could leave right now. She wouldn’t have to tell a soul. She could pack her bag and run away. She’d have to come back and explain everything later, but there was still a way out.
She was torn. She thought of Todd, sweet, loving Todd, who always took care of her and made sure she had everything she needed. She loved the stability that he gave her. But was stability enough to sustain their relationship forever? Did she want to have kids and grandkids with someone she didn’t love? But then she thought about how Todd would be an amazing dad one day. Her thoughts ping ponged around her brain, going every direction.
She got out of the bath, water dripping all over the floor, which were certainly the most expensive tiled floors she’d ever stepped on. She dried herself with one of the fluffy white towels that were provided in the room, then she got dressed. Jeans, hoodie, socks. She didn’t know what she was doing. Was she leaving Todd at the altar or going downstairs to have breakfast?
She grabbed her purse, opened the door, and walked out of her hotel room.
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She's lucky in one way or another - but is she lucky enough to be leaving Todd? Is she even leaving Todd? I love this cliffhanger. I love the flow of the story but I know Todd is controlling. She's lucky he's stable but she's not lucky that she doesn't have a choice. I'm staring at the ceiling and overanalyzing this story and wondering what sacrifice Maggie made.