Wednesday, September 30, 2015

His Real Life Wifey

** hi all! question - todays post is a bit short, but I'll post again Friday to make up for it. What do you prefer, one longer post on Wednesdays or two shorter installments on Weds & Fri? This week will be Weds & Fri, but I'll defer to your preference going forward! I have exciting plans coming up, so stay tuned :) **

I sat in the SEO training on Wednesday afternoon, willing my eyelids to stop fluttering closed. Our in-house specialist was trying to train ten of us how to optimize our blog and web content and I was running seriously low on caffeine. 

"Now," Diana, the presenter, continued, "Google Keyword is another tool that you'll come to rely on, especially when deciding on meta descriptions for each page. First, you go to.." I drowned out her monotonous speech and instead turned my interest to the flashing IM popping up on my computer screen.

Emma: Happy hour?
Danielle: Yes, free me from this meeting first! 
Emma: And how do you propose I do that?
Danielle: Fire alarm?
Emma: Ha, meet us at Ardesia when you're out

She signed off before I could ask who "us" was, and my mind flicked to Jon. We hadn't spoken, let alone even seen each other in passing, since the drunken texts. 

Thirty minutes later, Diana folded her hands in front of her with a satisfied smile on her face. Poor thing, she had no clue that hardly anyone had taken a single note. I tried not to bolt too eagerly toward the door, but I had at least another hour of work to wrap up before joining Emma and "us" at happy hour.

Forty minutes later, I was sending my last email of the day. I mentally crossed my fingers that the contract I had just sent to one of our most expensive bloggers had every i dotted and t crossed, but I was too impatient to sit at my desk any longer. Most of the office had gone home and the large windows overlooking a slowly retiring Manhattan had grown dark.

I welcomed the sticky breeze that pushed back my wavy hair as I left Arabella's offices a few minutes later. I was in black slim overalls paired with a long sleeved white crop top, and pointy heels. Not the best happy hour outfit, but I didn't have time to go all the way downtown to change. I started walking the few blocks back to my old hood, while skimming my Instagram feed. I stopped short when I saw a photo of Nick appear in my feed, posted by E!. He was looking devastatingly handsome in a perfectly tailored suit, his blonde scruff sprinkling sexily across his jawline. He was on the carpet of one premiere or another, his arm slung comfortably around the waist of an equally devastatingly gorgeous red head.

"Aye, bitch watch where you're going!" a grumpy, potbellied man yelled at me. Oh, the charm of New Yorkers. 

I snapped out of my daze, and quickly clicked my phone off. I really needed some social media filter that caught any and all "Nick" mentions bef ore they made their way to my impressionable eyes.

Between my two poisonous exes and the very married Jon, my love life was looking both bleak and explosive at the same time.

I finally arrived at the bar and swung open the heavy door. I was immediately hit with a warm wave of voices, clinking glasses and the mouthwatering scent of tapas. I scanned the crowded bar for Emma's blonde head, eventually spotting her in the back corner with a few of our coworkers. I weaved my way through the throngs, gripping her elbow as I got close.

"Hey!" I said loudly, trying to project my voice over the din of voices. 

"Dani!" she squealed in response, with more enthusiasm than usual. She was definitely a few drinks in.

"Here!" another coworker, Ryan, said handing me a shot glass. I downed it, cringing at the plain vodka flavor. He grinned at my reaction, "You've gotta catch up!" He handed me another shot.

"No way," I said, making a face and waving my hands. 

"Yep, you'll need it," he said, pushing the shot towards me again.

"And whys that?" I said with a flirtatious smile. Ryan was very much into men, so I enjoyed knowing I could be as over the line as I wanted with him.

"Your office hubby brought his real life wifey," he said. It took a minute for this to sink in. No one knew I had any feelings for Jon, at least, no one except Ashley. 

"Who?" I asked, trying to act nonchalant. 

Before he could answer, I saw Jon heading toward our group. A small, gorgeous blonde was on his arm. 

"Okay fine give me that shot," I said, downing it in record time. This was going to be interesting.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Morning After

My mouth felt like the Sahara. I felt my head pounding before I could even register the fact that I was hungover.

"Meeughhh," I let out a pathetic groan and, using all of my strength, rolled myself over. My right arm flopped onto a solid body next to me. Fatigued by my hangover, I couldn't even manage a panicked reaction. Slowly, I peeled my mascara-clad eyes open. I knew that exposed brick wall.. and I really knew that bare, bronzed, god-help-me man's chest breathing slowly that my wrist was resting on.

I slowly removed my arm, not wanting to interrupt Dylan's rhythmic breathing. It wasn't lost on me that the first time we had woken up in bed together had been after a blacked-out evening, too. 

I remembered Kara coming in the karaoke bar the night before. I remembered turning to vodka in order to not act on all of the jealous feelings that had been stirring. I remembered Kara staying within 6 inches of Dylan at all times, as if his proximity was the only thing that mattered. I remembered leaving with Laura and some girlfriends, going to a close-by dive bar and doing tequila shots. I remembered Dylan walking in after we had been there for a while, looking angry. And then...nothing. 

I took inventory and was relieved to find that my clothes were still on, even if my crop top had weaseled its way up above my boobs in my sleep. Luckily I had a lace bra on, which was covering most of me. I sat still, staring at the familiar ceiling for another ten minutes before my thirst beat out my desire to postpone the awkwardness.

I was, unfortunately, on the inside of the bed. Which meant my only possible escape routes were either over Dylan's body, or out the foot of the bed. I chose the latter. Peeling myself out from under the warm comforter, I tried to gingerly crawl toward the end of the bed. I was six inches shy of freedom when...

"What, exactly, are you doing?" I heard his amused and raspy voice come from behind me. 

I folded my legs under me and flopped back onto the pillow. "I was in search of water, and I didn't want to wake you up," I said, keeping my face turned away from his. My morning breath was bound to be deadly.

"And you decided the best way to do that was to 007 yourself toward the foot of the bed?" I could hear his smile. My body was dying to rip off my clothes and curl up next to him. It was the weirdest sensation, fighting my brain against my body. My body was telling me: This is Dylan's bed, you should most likely be naked and seducing him right now. But my head, my head was who I had to listen to. 

"I'm not exactly at my peak decision-making capacity right now," I said. "Clearly."

He rolled over to his nightstand and miraculously presented a bottle of water. I lunged at it, chugging half of the bottle in one gulp.

"Thank you," I managed, wiping at my mouth. He took a few sips before placing it back on the nightstand. 

I remained upright, stiff and uncomfortable. "So, last night..." 

"Last night," he said, offering nothing further.

"Look I was really, really drunk to be completely honest, I don't really remember much about coming here. So I'm sorry if I was ridiculous, or came onto you or anything. I know Kara is probably not happy about this, and I'll head out right now but-" I stopped talking, because he was looking at me with a shit-eating grin. 

"What?" I demanded.

"I'm not dating Kara," he said, as if this was so apparent. "I'm sorry that you thought that, but I can promise you, I'm not."

I gave him a skeptical glare. "She kissed you on the mouth by way of greeting. Apologies if that threw me off."

He rolled his eyes. "She knew you would be there."

"That doesn't explain it," I replied. "But whatever, you don't need to explain yourself to me anymore." 

With that, I slid down the bed and stood up, searching for my bag. 

"Dani, relax," he said. I was about to reply with a sharp remark before he spoke again. "Look nothing happened last night, which I'm sure you know already anyway. You were drunk and Laura had already left, so I told you you could sleep at my place. I offered to stay on the couch but you said, and I quote 'Oh, don't be such a prude. This isn't 1940.', so I slept in the bed. That's all that happened, you seemed preoccupied by your phone all night for the most part."

Oh, shit. What the hell happened on my phone? This is why I don't drink this way anymore.

"Okay,"  I said, relaxing out of my defensive state. "I should be going though."

He swung his legs out of bed, wearing only a pair of old football shorts. Either I had misremebered his body in an attempt to get over him, or he had gotten way, way more chiseled. I tried not to stare. 

"Let me take you to your car," he said, digging in his closet for a shirt. A wave of disappointment washed over me as he slid the plain white tshirt over his body.

"I can take an Uber," I said. "Just as soon as I find my phone."

"Under the bed," he said. "You kicked it there last night."

"Charming," I said, rolling my eyes at my drunken self. I bent over and sure enough, my crossbody bag was slumped underneath his bed. I pulled it out and pressed the round button on my iPhone. I had a text from Jon at 3:44. Good. God. What had I done. Instead of checking it, I shoved the phone deep back into the bag.

"Fine," I said.

"Fine what?" he replied. I could see him biting his cheek to keep from smiling. If he found hungover, defiant me amusing, so be it. 

"I'll let you drive me," I said, raking a hand through my knotty hair. 

"How kind of you Ms. Fitzgerald," he said, giving me a mock bow. I rolled my eyes again and headed toward his bathroom in search of Listerine. 

Ten minutes later, after I had done the best patch job I could on my appearance using only mouth wash and the meager contents of my purse, we were heading towards Laura's and my since-abandoned car. We were quiet during the one-mile trip, and in just minutes he had pulled up behind my sedan. 

"Thanks," I said, digging for my keys.

"It was really, really good seeing you Dani," he said. I could hear the emotion in his voice. 

I raised my gaze to his, feeling the stomach flip that always accompanied a glance at those blue eyes. "I know, it was great to see you too," I replied. His hand reached over and rested on my shoulder, before moving up my neck into my hair. My entire body was tingling, yet he wasn't leaning in to kiss me. His thumb traced the outline of my ear, and I involuntarily bit my lip. I could feel my heart throwing itself against my rib cage. The kid still had it.

He removed his hand, and I watched it retreat back to his lap. It took everything in me not to lunge across the passenger seat and kiss him. Instead, I turned away and reached for the door handle.

"D?" he said, and I turned back to face him, leaving one hand on the door handle. 

"I...I've really missed you." 

I took a deep, audible breath. "I know, me too," I managed. The lust for him I had felt just moments ago was replaced by a sad, longing feeling for who had once been my best friend. I gave him a half smile, not trusting myself to say anything else, and got out of the car. 

Instead of going into Laura's to say a proper goodbye, I decided to just get in my car and head home. My hangover and sense of confusion over Dylan was too much to handle right now. I slid into my car, and leaned back against the seat. Finding the courage to pull my phone out, I slid open the text from Jon. I quickly scrolled up, reading the entire conversation, relieved that he had started it.

Jon 12:34 AM
Hey you, I'm on in the LES with some friends, you around?

Danielle 12:48 AM
Not unless you could Philly as around! 

Jon 12:51 AM
Hmm.. 90 or so miles, not too far.

Danielle 12:53 AM
Haha, yeah, here for a friend's birthday. Who are you out with?

Jon 12:59 AM
Just a few buddies from college.

Danielle 1:04 AM
The wife?

Jon 1:06 AM
No, no wife 

Danielle 1:08 AM
Well, enjoy your evening

Jon 1:10 AM
It'd be a lot more entertaining if you were here

Danielle 1:17 AM 
You can't say things like that, not to me.

Jon 1:28 AM
I meant as friends, sheesh.

Jon 3:44 AM
Okay, maybe not just as friends.

Aside from the wife comment, I was fairly proud of myself for not being totally embarrassing. I decided not answering was probably the best policy, and tucked my phone back into my bag. This weekend had turned out to be a hell of a lot more eventful than I had bargained for. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Today's post...

Will be up tomorrow or Friday at the latest! And will be extra long to make up for this :) 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Jen and Ben

Being limited to 1/40th of my wardrobe still didn't stop me from changing 15 times on Saturday night. The walls of my childhood bedroom made me feel like I was back in high school, getting ready for a date with the most popular kid in school. In the end, I settled on a camel suede skirt, white long sleeve crop top and strappy, flat sandals. I let my freshly-balayaged hair fall in loose waves, and added minimal make-up. Minimal in the sense that obtaining that "barely there makeup look" took me 20 minutes to achieve. 

I grabbed my bag and headed downstairs. "I'm off," I said in the general direction of where my parents were engrossed in the TV. They had, apparently, just discovered GOT and were knee deep in season 2. 

"Bye honey," my Mom called over her shoulder, more distracted by Jon Snow's bicep than her second born. 

"Be safe!" my Dad followed-up. "No drinking and driving, there are no cabs in these parts so if you drink, you stay in Philly. This is no Manhattan."

I rolled my eyes. "I'm not 12, Dad. I'll stay at Laura's." 

He returned his gaze back to the TV as I grabbed the keys to my old car and headed into one of the two garages. My favorite thing about coming back home (besides an abundance of homemade meals) was driving. You just couldn't belt out bad Taylor Swift songs anywhere better.

An hour later—after fighting the gridlock traffic that is route 76I was at last pulling up to Laura's house. I had to circle a few times to find parking, and then spent 5 additional minutes trying to utilize my very rusty parallel parking skills to maneuver into a spot on the street. Finally, I was walking up to her house a solid 20 minutes later than I had originally planned. 

"Hiii!" Laura flung open the door to her rowhome and enveloped me in a warm hug. I could already smell vodka on her but hey, it was her birthday after all. 

"Hi you!" I replied as she squeezed me tighter. "Here," I said once she had released me, pushing a bag into her arms. "Happy birthday." I had abused my employee discount to get her a dress, necklace and earrings. It was my way of overcompensating for having turned down so many Philly invites in the past few months. 

"D, this is too much," she said, all the while a tipsy smile on her face. 

"Nonsense," I argued, linking arms with her as we headed down the narrow hallway. When we entered the kitchen, I spied a few more of our high school classmates in the tiny space and pulled away from Laura to make the rounds. 

An hour and two drinks later, we had morphed into an incompetent giggling mess of girls as we tried to organize ourselves enough to go out. This involved another 20 minutes of fixing hair, lining lips and bandaging feet in an effort to ward off eventual blisters. It took two cabs to hold us all, but finally we had made our way to a karaoke bar where we had rented out a room for the night. We headed into the bar that was throbbing with music and, after giving Laura's name, were whisked upstairs to a private room. We were the first to arrive and we all made ourseleves home in the thick comfort of the black leather couches. There was a massive TV on the wall (presumably for the karaoke), along with two bottles, various mixers, and high top tables. 

"This is amazing!" I said, surveying the room. 

"I know," a high school friend, Kaylee, answered. "We come here for almost everyone's birthday now since it's something different. But I'm sure you're used to waay cooler up in the city."

I gave out a small snort, "Everyone romanticizes New York so much, but in reality it's just a more expensive version of any other city." 

"Lies!" Kaylee bellowed in response. "I've visited, it's incredible."

I smiled in response, not wanting to waste energy trash talking my own city. It still shocked me how high of a pedestal everyone placed New York City on. True, it had some amazing perks. You could get anything at a moment's notice, you were surrounded by the most incredibly diverse group of people in the world and, well, the food didn't suck. But the rent was unjustifiably high, the wackos on the street were constantly yelling at you and the subways smelled like feet. The open feel of Philly, complete with its ability to walk almost anywhere in just 20 minutes, greeted me like an oasis every time I came home. 

We all poured another drink and turned the karaoke station to what could only be described as bad 90s pop. All the while, I kept one eye trained pointedly on the door. It was already 11:30, where was he? 

"Oh!" Laura yelped in between choruses of 'Bye Bye Bye', "the boys are in a cab." 

I took a deep breath and popped a mint, feeling several pairs of eyes dart to me. Everyone in this room knew about me and Dylan, and I knew they would be scrutinizing our reunion as if it were the return of Jen and Ben. 

Laura came over to me then and broke the tension. "More booze?" 

"More booze!" I said, although cheerfully to portray it was a celebratory drink—not a calming one. 

As soon as we had poured our vodka tonics, the door swung open to much applause. The gaggle of drunken girls descended on the boys as if someone had dropped seasoned steak into a lion's den. I hung back and let them all get their squeals out, as if they didn't see these boys every weekend. 

Ryan found me first, looping his muscled arm around my waist and lifting me slightly off the ground. Clearly, this lot had been pregaming too. 

"Hey D!" he said, plopping me ungracefully back to the ground, making me laugh. Before I could respond his wife, Erika, appeared beside him.

"Hi Danielle," she said, unmoving. I almost felt like I should shake her hand in greeting with how stiff she was being. 

"Erika," I replied, the booze making me overly friendly. I pulled her into a hug, more to remove the pole from her ass than anything. "How are you!" 

She looked surprised, but not mad about being manhandled by a near stranger. "I'm great! Married life totally suits me." Gag.

I was about to ask how their house was when I saw Dylan walk up behind her. I smiled, accepting his hug with more enthusiasm than necessary. I knew at least half of the room was watching this encounter. For added effect, I gave him a two-second-too-long kiss on the cheek. 

"You look incredible," he whispered in my ear. 

"Thank you," I said, praying the lights were dim enough that he wouldn't see the flush in my cheeks. 

"I'd offer you a drink, but..." he trailed off, his gaze falling to the full drink in my hand. 

I tipped it towards him, "Next one," I smiled at him, not even trying to ignore the fire in my chest. 

This was bad. 

I joined back in on the singing with a bit more enthusiasm this time, feeling elated at just the nearness of Dylan. He hung back, chatting with a few other guys while I belted out "Thong Song" with little regard for the beat. I sipped my drink faster than I usually would, knowing it would give me an excuse to talk to Dylan. It felt so weird having to orchestrate a conversation.

Once my glass was nothing but ice, I headed towards Dylan in, what drunken me thought was, a sexy swagger. 

"I believe you owe me a drink,"  I said, shaking the ice in my glass toward where he was perched on one of the thick leather couches. 

He stood up and took my glass, "What'll it be Miss Fitzgerald?" 

"Hmmm...." I pretended to think, even though my options were extensively: vodka or vodka. 

"I'll have a vodka cranberry. Two parts vodka, with three limes." 

He assembled this order and handed me the drink with a flourish. I gave a mock courtesy before accepting the drink.

"You didn't put anything in here I should be worried about, did you?" I teased.

"Miss Fitzgerald," he said with an expression of mock horror. "How dare you accuse me of wanting to take advantage of an ex."

The fun faded away for a moment at the realization that I was his ex. For the past hour it had felt more like he was a new crush, rather than an old one.

When I didn't reply he took a sip of his drink. "What are your plans after this?" he said, his blue eyes locking mine. I looked away.

"Whatever Laura is, I guess," I said. "I'm staying with the birthday gal."

He nodded, glancing over at a hammered Laura who was now singing and dancing along to Thriller.

"She'll be lucky if she makes it past one," he said, returning his steely gaze to mine.

Involuntarily, boldly, stupidly, I stepped toward him so that our faces were only inches apart. "Well if she doesn't make it, I suppose I'll have to go home early won't I?" 

He leaned into me, which might have been imperceptible to everyone else. But to me, it was miles. If I had tilted my head up just enough and leaned in, we would be kissing. 

"I would really, really prefer you don't leave early," he said, his words slower now. 

I bit the inside of my lip, and was about to ask him why when the door to the room flew open, flooding it with light from the hallway. Dylan's gaze fell upon the door and he stepped away from me, as if he had been caught. 

I turned my head just in time to see Kara walking in. Straightening, I felt the distance that had been placed between Dylan and I spread even further. My heart knew before my mind was even able to put together the pieces. Which is why, I wasn't even surprised when, like I somehow knew she would, Kara sauntered right over to Dylan and placed a kiss right on his lips. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Lift

Fight or flight, fight or flight my mind chanted. Every atom in my body told me to GTFO, but annoyingly, my feet kept walking steadily toward Dylan. 

Soon enough I was just feet in front of him, my shoulders sagging from the weight of my bags. I cocked my head and gave a small smile by way of greeting.

"Hello," I said, trying to portray how totally casual I felt running into my ex unannounced, carrying a massive suitcase and wearing a pit-stained white t-shirt. #glamour

"Hello," he echoed, a suppressed smile threatening the corners of his lips. 

I wanted to ask how he was, what he had been up to, who he was here waiting for, if he was seeing anyonea thousand questions. Instead, I simply said "I assume you're not my chauffeur?"

He chuckled, "Nope, I'm Ryan's today," he said, referring to his ex-roommate who, as far as I knew, was still married. 

"Ah," I said, at a complete loss for words. It felt strange, standing in front of someone who I had once loved so much, and having nothing at all to say. Or maybe I had way too much to say, it just wasn't socially acceptable to let it all spill out. 

"Are you here for Laura's birthday?" he asked. 

"You're quite the detective," I said with a small smile. We locked eyes, and I was reminded all at once how blue they were. My memory had dulled them, but they were undeniably soul-wrenching now. 

He nodded, "I kind of figured you'd be down. In fact, when I parked just now I had a weird feeling I would see you."

"Spooky," I said, trying to lighten his serious tone. Just then, his gaze caught above my shoulder. I turned to see Ryan striding towards us. If he was surprised to see me standing next to Dylan, he didn't reveal it.

"Hey man," Ryan said, clapping Dylan on the back. "Dani, great to see you!" He leaned down and wrapped me in a warm hug. 

"You too, where are you coming back from?" 

"DC," he said, running his hand through his hair. I caught the sparkle of his wedding ring glint off of the massive hanging lights of 30th Street Station. "And Dyl was nice enough to give me a lift out into the 'burbs."

"You don't live in the city anymore?" I asked.

"Nah, the wife was itching to get out of here, so now we're in Media." 

"Oh, my parent's don't live too far from there," I said. "I'm heading out there tonight."

"How are you getting there?" Dylan asked.

I shrugged, "Was just going to catch the R5." 

"Do you want a lift?" Dylan asked. I hesitated. It would look shitty if I said no, and my ravenous eyes weren't ready to let him out of my sight just yet.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Of course," he replied, reaching out for my bag and removing it from my shoulder. It ached, how familiar that gesture was. 

The three of us walked out into the oppressive heat and headed towards Dylan's car. I started to reach for the back seat, but Ryan stopped me. "Ladies up front," he said with a smile. 

As Dylan put my bag in the trunk, I folded myself into the front seat where I had sat so  many times before. Not for the first time, I wished I was wearing something a little bit less like I had fetched it from my dirty laundry. Which was, in fact, exactly where I had fetched it. 

Dylan slid gracefully into the front seat, and for a split second I imagined that it was one year ago and he was about to drive right to his place. If it had been a year ago, I would have rested my hand wordlessly on his upper thigh, squeezing slightly in anticipation of what was to come. That two mile drive used to seem so long when we couldn't stop pawing at each other. 

Instead, my hands now remained firmly placed in my lap, straying no where.

For the first few minutes, Dylan and Ryan chatted lightly and I remained quiet, absorbing the tidbits I could pick up on. 

"Are you going to Laura's thing tomorrow?" Ryan said, directing this question at me. I caught his gaze in the rearview mirror. 

"I am," I said. "You?"

Ryan nodded. "Yep, finally convinced the ball and chain to have a real Philly night again," he grinned. "It'll be like old times, right man?" he said, clasping his hand on Dylan's shoulder. 

I felt a heat creep up into my cheeks. Obviously I had assumed Dylan would be there, but hearing it confirmed had me raking my brain going through the outfits I had brought. 

Dylan laughed, and I bit my lip. The rest of the car ride passed easily, chatting about mutual friends and the boys regaling me with funny stories of moments that had filled up the past year. In between laughter, I wondered how Dylan had filled his months without me. I had stalked his social media, of course, but no one besides the usual suspects had made an appearance. 

After we dropped Ryan off, the silence between us blanketed the car in a thick, tangible awkwardness. I picked at the threads on my ripped boyfriend jeans and resisted the urge to text Ashley.

"So, how have you been?" I asked. "Really?" 

He let out a sigh, "Good, I've been good. Really busy with work and everything."

I nodded, dissatisfied with this generic answer. 

"You?" he asked, not removing his eyes from the road. I didn't even think to offer directions, and I felt a surge of affection that he remembered where my parents lived.

"I've been good too," I replied. "I started a new job a few months ago, and I love it more than I ever thought I could love a job."

"I heard you were at Arabella now," he said, making a left turn. "I'm proud of you, for going after the career that you want."

"Thanks," I said, uncomfortable under his praise. "So... are you seeing anyone?" I asked, adding an eyebrow raise and smile to lighten the question.

"Not seriously," he replied. "Are you..still with Nick?" 

I was glad he asked straight out, instead of pretending he hadn't known we had been dating again. It was all over social media and with so many mutual friends, he would have had to been living under a rock to not know.

"No.. he moved to LA," was all that I offered.

Dylan seemed surprised by this, his eyebrows raising slightly. I thought I detected a faint smile on his lips, but it could have been my imagination. 

"So," he asked, pulling up my parent's driveway. "I'll see you tomorrow then?" 

I lingered, not wanting to leave the car as he came to a halt under the old basketball hoop. "Sure seems that way," I smiled. 

He leaned over and kissed my cheek in his easy, graceful way. "Can't wait," he said. We locked eyes for several beats too long, and I turned away before he could see the heat that was rising up my cheeks. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


"I can't believe you won't come with me," I whined at Ashley for the umpteenth time as I zipped my over-stuffed suitcase closed. 

"I know, I promise I'll try to come down Saturday if my event ends in time," she said from her perch on my bed. 

I was heading down to Philly for the weekend to celebrate both Laura's birthday and to visit my parents, since I hadn't seen them in nearly two months. Ashley was staying in New York for a work event and I was giving her sass ever since she told me about her impending absence. 

Heaving the bag over my shoulder, I gave her one last mock glare. "If I run into Dylan and he has some gorgeous, leggy blonde on his arm and you're not there to distract me, it's all your fault when I end up in jail," I said.

"Why, exactly, would you end up in jail?" Ash asked.

"Because without you there I would act irrationally, yanking said leggy blonde by the hair into the back alley."

Ash rolled her eyes. "You can't avoid Philly forever, and if I remember correctly, you basically dumped Dylan and then ran head first into Nick. If anyone is the more bruised party here, it's Dylan."

I had heard this before, and chose to ignore it since I hated admitting she was right.

"Well, as retaliation, I stole that French Connection swing dress of yours to wear tomorrow night," I say, slipping quickly down the hall before she can steal it back. 

"It better not end up on the floor of some guys room!" I hear her bellow after me, but I'm already halfway out the door. 

Thirty minutes later, I'm on an Amtrak swishing its way down to Philadelphia. I answered a few work emails, checked our Twitter mentions and skimmed through our latest Instagram comments before growing tired of looking at social media. I opened my texts and scrolled to the one I had sent a few days prior to Nick. The glaring, unanswered "I miss you" a stomach-panging reminder that he had clearly moved on. 

I opened Instagram and logged out of Arabella's account and back into my own. Carefully typing in Nick's name, I allowed myself one of my rarest acts of ex-girlfriend creepiness: looking at his Instagram profile. As my fingers tapped on his name, photos of him filled the small screen. Since becoming "famous", Nick had gained a solid 500k more followers than the average American. 

I was disappointed when I didn't find anything in his recent photos that would justify him not responding to me. In a sick way, I almost wanted him to have blatant photos of Lacey so I could pretend he wasn't replying to my text because his new, controlling girlfriend wouldn't let him. But instead, his profile was full of images of him at premieres, clubs and the ever-cliche helicopter-view food snap. I was a solid 16 weeks deep in his feed when I accidentally tapped twice on a photo.

"Shit!" I yelped, dropping the phone into my lap, living literally every girls' nightmare. I had hit "like" on a photo of my ex boyfriend from four months ago. That paired with the "I miss you" text had me planting my flag into the freaking rock foundation of Crazyville. 

I should unlike it, I tell myself. Definitely, definitely unlike it. 

I picked the phone back up, as careful as if it were a bomb. Hovering the offending thumb over the image, I double tapped. The red-filled heart quickly turned back to just an outline. 

"Whew," I audibly exhaled. 

Within a minute, I was back into a panic. Of course he was going to get a notification you fucking idiot. I thought to myself. I'm a god damn social media professional, how did that not cross my mind. 

I quickly open Instagram, which was still patiently showcasing the image that was causing me more stress than the time my boss asked for a strategic plan for fashion week in under an hour. 

I tapped twice on the image again, reasoning that the notification would simply get lost amongst the other 500,000 followers who were engaging with him on a regular basis. And if not, at least he wouldn't click on it to see I had rescinded the like. Afterall, the image was just one of him and two buddies, looking carefree on a fishing boat. I could have liked it as just one of Nick's old friends. One of Nicks, super creepy stalker friends. But, still a friend.

I tuck my phone away then, not wanting to do any more damage. I had to reason with my crazy self not to make my Instagram priviate in an attempt to pretend it didn't happen. @Dani_Fitz0 didnt exactly mask who I was. 

An hour and several paniced texts to Ash later, the train was pulling into 30th Street. I ascended the steps, craning my neck to take in the extraordinarily high ceilings and sheer beauty of the old building. I was shoved along by an impatient passenger behind me, and I quickened my pace. As I approached the exit where cabs always were, my imagination conjured Dylan, standing in his easy stance as he always had when he used to pick me up. This was half of the reason I had been avoiding Philly; I knew coming back here would flood my heart with feelings I had tried so hard to ignore. 

I fixed my gaze downward, rifling through my purse for my wallet. I wanted to grab a coconut water before getting in a cab. As I lifted my gaze back up, I saw that the mirage Dylan was still there. He was staring at me, unsurprised, like he had known I was coming up that staircase all along.

My feet, not listening to my brain at all, kept carrying me toward him. Toward the boy I hadn't seen in more than half a year, who I could now clearly see wasn't a mirage at all.