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When I used to look back on it, I remember the pain I felt. I remember the shock and the utter abandonment. I remember the feeling of hopelessness.
It’s amazing how one day, life could be going your way, and the next it could slap you in the face.
It was a Saturday night. I remember because on Saturday nights I’m usually sitting on the couch and watching reruns on MTV. That night was different though. That night, I was getting ready for my date with Ben. He was my boyfriend of almost six months, and tonight was the night I was going to tell him I loved him. I had been waiting for the right time, and when he had asked me to meet him at Cathy’s Coffeehouse tonight, I’d jumped at the chance. I was wearing my best coffeehouse attire: a frilly cream-colored blouse underneath a navy blue cardigan, my nicest skinny jeans, my favorite pair of gray suede ankle boots, and a gray knit cap on my head. I had dug out my special perfume, mango-scented, and sprayed myself until my entire room smelled strongly of mango.
When I arrived at the coffeehouse, Ben was waiting for me. I smiled at Cameron, a boy in my English class who sat in the back and didn’t talk much. He was working behind the counter, wiping it down with a wet cloth. He smiled back, and a little tingle shot up my spine.
I sat on the opposite side of the booth from Ben, clasping his hands across the table with a smile.
“Hi,” I said, leaning in for a kiss. He pecked me quickly but pulled away just as fast. I frowned, hurt by his rejection.
“Hi,” he replied. “Thanks for meeting me here.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Oh.” I tried not to let my disappointment show on my face. “I thought this was a date.” At this, he simply shrugged. I sighed and crossed my arms over my chest. “What did you want to talk about?”
“Let’s order something first,” he insisted. “My treat.”
I ordered a hazelnut coffee – my favorite – and a croissant. I wasn’t really hungry. I had lost my appetite upon entering the coffeehouse. When the waitress showed up with our orders, Ben and I took them in silence. I waited for him to talk as I emptied two sugar packets and poured cream into my coffee. I had been stirring for about five minutes when he finally spoke.
“I just wanted to say that I love you.”
My eyes widened, suddenly filled with tears. My heart gave a lurch.
“Oh Ben, really? I love you, too. So much.” But my smile disappeared when he buried his head in his hands and his shoulders shook.
“That makes this so much harder,” he whispered.
“W-what?” I stuttered. “What do you mean?”
“I love you, Anna. Really, I do. But we can’t be together anymore.” His oceanic eyes glistened with unshed tears, and his expression was one of pure sorrow. “I wish we could.”
“Why can’t we?” I demanded, tears spilling from my eyes. “What the h*ll is going on, Ben?” I was aware of Cameron watching, but I didn’t care. And not only Cameron, but a few other people had their eyes trained on us as well.
Sleigh-bells jingled, signaling that someone had entered the coffeehouse. And then Katelyn Carter was sliding into the booth next to Ben, struggling to keep her balance because of her protruding stomach. Ben took her arm and carefully helped her to sit. His face was pained.
“Katelyn?” I asked. “What are you doing here?” She used to be in my biology class, and I’d last seen her three months ago. She had transferred to another school after September had come to an end.
But now, staring at her stomach, I realized that was a lie.
“Oh my God,” I said. “When did . . . when did that happen?” She smiled sadly, her eyes filled with misery.
“About three months ago,” she said.
For a moment, we were all silent. Wheels were turning in my head, trying to make sense of this picture.
And then, with a shock, it all came together.
“Ben . . .” I whispered, “you . . . you did that?”
Ben could not answer. His head was in his hands again, and his shoulders were shaking once more. I caught the word “sorry”.
I shook my head in disbelief. “But . . . we were dating.” The tears streaming down my face seemed unstoppable. I was sure everyone in the coffeehouse was watching now. I could feel Cameron’s eyes on my especially.
“I know,” Ben said. “I’m so, so sorry, Anna.”
“Oh, really? You’re sorry? You should’ve thought about that before you went and knocked her up.” That was when I lost it. I smiled brutally through my tears, almost laughing at the sight of how pathetic the two of them looked together. “So you went behind my back and lied to me, for three whole months, no less, when you could’ve just ended it with me right at the start? Why?! Why would you do that? I thought you were smarter than that, Ben. I really thought you were.”
“Anna, please-” Katelyn interrupted, reaching out towards me. I leaned away from her.
“Don’t touch me,” I snapped.
“Anna, this is all my fault. Please don’t blame it on Ben. I was stupid and naïve, and I pressured him into doing it. He didn’t want to at first, believe me. He kept thinking about you and saying your name.”
“This is supposed to make me feel better?”
“No, I’m saying it because you have a right to know.”
“Just because I have the right doesn’t mean I want to hear it,” I said, a fresh wave of tears escaping my eyes.
“Ben would still be with you if he could,” Katelyn said, speaking for him. “But
this baby needs a father and I’m not about to leave her without one.”
“Oh, so it’s a girl? Well congratu-freaking-lations,” I said bitterly.
I closed my eyes and tried to take a deep breath, without success. I shook my head, as if this was all a dream and I needed to wake up. I hoped it was. I hoped I would wake up in a minute and Ben would kiss me and tell me he loved me.
But that wasn’t happening.
I stood up from the table, knocking over my coffee in the process. The steaming liquid spread over the surface, dripping onto Katelyn and Ben’s pants. Good. I hoped it burned.
“You can both go to H*ll.” And with that final statement, I ran out of the coffeehouse and out into the winter night. Snow sprinkled from the sky, plastering my face and hair as I ran through it towards my car in the parking lot. But when I reached it, I did not climb in and drive away. I collapsed against the side door and slid down to the ground, wrapping my arms tightly around myself for comfort. And I sat on the ground and cried.
When I had finally cried enough that it seemed I had no more tears left, I was covered in snow and shivering uncontrollably. I might’ve gone into hypothermia if Cameron hadn’t found me.
Cameron was shy and quiet; mysterious. He sort of had a dangerous vibe about him that caused most people to stay away from him. He always wore dark clothes and he had a tattoo and flippy brown hair.
He found me shivering and he picked me up and carried me to his car, where he turned the heater on full blast and waited until my teeth stopped chattering. When I was able to speak again, I told him where I lived and he dropped me off at home. And in a moment of total spontaneity, I gave him the keys to my car, which was still in the parking lot at the coffeehouse. He promised he would be back within five minutes. Strangely, I trusted him. It turns out I had good reason to. When he got back, with my car in one piece, he got out and handed me the keys.
“Thank you,” I whispered. I didn’t even recognize my own voice.
His reply was, “I punched Ben.”
And a wide smile broke across my face.
So I suppose what happened that night was a good thing, because it led me to Cameron. We’ve been dating ever since. Two weeks ago, he told me he loved me and that he’s loved me ever since he first saw me. I told him I loved him back.
And now, when I look back on that night, the only thing I remember is Cameron.