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Lightheadedness began to set in. My eyelids grew heavier and heavier, as if simply blinking would cause me to slip into a deep, comatose state. My mind was cloudy, my thoughts scattered like jagged shards of broken glass. The supply of oxygen in the cramped acrylic bubble surrounding my head was quickly depleting and being replaced by strong fumes that burned my lungs when I tried to inhale. My eyes overflowed like a waterfall, salty teardrops cascading down onto the year-old magazine that I held in my lap, turned to the same tattered page that it landed on when I had opened it 20 minutes prior.
Suddenly, just as I began to foresee a painful, smothering death, the bubble lifted, fresh air rushing all around me once again. I gratefully drew in several deep breaths, melting away a throbbing headache and regaining my sense of vision.
"Okay, you're almost dry, hon. Just sit tight for a few minutes while I see this customer right quick."
"All right," I managed to cough up as Dee scurried off toward the lobby.
She should've just let the fumes kill me, I thought to myself as I sat sullenly in the middle of the small beauty parlor, arms folded across my chest, my legs sticking to the cheap vinyl seat like an off-brand adhesive bandage. All I wanted was just to go home, break open a pint of Cherry Garcia and a new box of tissues, and eat and cry and listen to sappy love songs before finally drifting off to sleep, my broken sobs muffled by the soft hug of my ever-faithful pillow.
But no, there I sat with my head covered in aluminum foil, feeling like I'd just been hit by a bus, trampled by a professional football team, pushed off a 50-foot cliff, and then slapped across the face. But how was I supposed to feel? Hutton, my boyfriend of seven months, my best friend, whom I'd loved and trusted with everything in me, had broken things off that morning, supposedly needing some time to "find himself."
What kind of idiot did he take me for?
I'd seen those flirty posts on his Facebook Wall, the ones with the "winky" faces. I'd watched them make eyes at school as he held my hand, walked me to class. I had seen it coming, so why was I so blindsided when it actually happened? Why hadn't my knowledge of the situation softened the final blow?
Sure, my tears would dry at times and I'd start to pull myself together, but then another one of those beautiful, awful memories would make its way back to the surface and I would begin to fall apart all over again. There was just no way I could forget those piercing green eyes, that adorable crooked smile, the way that he used to crack me up with his dead-on impersonation of our steroid-enhanced, ex-Marine gym teacher, and those sweet kisses we'd shared underneath a sea of summer stars. I couldn't even begin to fathom the idea of never riding around our one-horse town in his little blue Ford Ranger again, or cuddling with him in the dark while watching horror movies. I was lost, and the thought of being replaced, of him making new memories with a new girl, was unbearable.
My eyes welled up again as I stared intently at the floor, tracing over the faint designs in the black-and-white checkerboard tile with the toe of my Ugg boot. As I sulked, I saw two pairs of feet walk by. I immediately recognized Dee's navy blue Crocs, but the black Vans walking behind her piqued my curiosity. I looked up from my pity party just long enough to see a tall, lanky boy in dark wash, straight-leg, Hollister jeans and a red, buffalo plaid button-down, taking a seat in the chair across the room. I quickly averted my eyes -- I couldn't let a cute guy see me like this! I shouldn't even be looking at cute guys! I was supposed to be crushed, right?
But as soon as I heard Dee pick up her scissors, I decided to take just one more quick glance. I slowly lifted my head and took in his shaggy, black hair, which fell into his face just ever-so-slightly as he looked down at his phone, probably texting who I could only assume was his girlfriend. Before I had the chance to look away, his eyes met mine, sparkling as the flourescent lighting danced off of them. They were a deep, cool shade of blue, the color of forget-me-nots in in the early morning sunlight. The corners of his lips turned upward into a half-smile.
I quickly dropped my head and went back to studying the floor. Had he just smiled at me?
Only one way to find out.
I took a deep breath and looked up again, only to find Forget-Me-Not still staring, only this time his shy grin had widened into a full-blown smile, revealing perfectly-aligned, gleaming white teeth. For the first time all day, I felt myself smile as I looked back at him, and for a moment in time, forgot what I'd been so upset about in the first place.
I was actually a bit disappointed when Dee turned his chair away from me and started snipping, but we had just shared a small, intimate moment that left something -- butterflies? -- in the pit of my stomach.
Just a few minutes later, as he rose to leave, I took one last look, assuming that I would never see him again. But as he passed by my seat, he dropped a tiny piece of paper onto my lap. I looked into his unforgettable, forget-me-not eyes one more time as he grinned and winked at me, saying not a word as he walked out the door, climbed into his black Camry, and drove away.
I slowly unfolded the paper -- a Juicy Fruit wrapper -- to find his name and number scribbled down in sloppy handwriting. I quietly dropped it in my purse, knowing exactly who I would be texting later. Suddenly, I remembered why I'd been so sad to begin with, but it oddly didn't seem to matter so much anymore. I would be okay, and I would find someone who actually deserved me. After that day, I didn't shed another tear for Hutton (and also saved myself the calories of a pint of Cherry Garcia). I had other interests.