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Five Years Later
My body jarred in between my bedsheets as my eyes popped open. I groaned before rolling over to shut off my first of four alarms. By the third one, I’d managed to reach my hand over to the other side of the bed to feel around for my boyfriend, Leander. Instead, I felt cold sheets crumpled into the comforter. I rolled over and opened my eyes to verify what my hands had already known to be true. Leander was gone.
The fourth alarm went off, and I swiped my phone to silence it before calling him.
“Yeah, hello?” he answered on the fourth ring.
“Hello? Baby, where are you? I woke up and you weren’t here. You know I don’t like it when you leave without saying goodbye,” I whined, trying to shake the sleep from my voice.
“Didn’t you read my text?” he asked, with not an ounce of warmth in his tone.
“Your text? What text? I just woke up and saw you weren’t here, so I called you. What’d it say?”
“Just read the text, River. I—I gotta go.”
He ended the call, and I immediately frowned before checking my messages.
Bae [5:42am]: River, I know you’ve noticed the distance I’ve been putting between us for a while now. Just to end the suspense, I took a job in Chicago, and I didn’t know how to tell you. You’ve been a great girlfriend, but right now, I just think it’s better for both of us to be single and go down our own paths. I hope one day you can forgive me.
Furious, I screamed and immediately dialed him back.
“Your call has been forwarded to an automatic voice message system. 4-0-4-5-5-5-1-1-1-1 is not available. Please record your message after the beep.”
“Oh, this mothafucka has got to be kidding me!”
“Leander! Are you kidding me right now? This is how you do me, nigga? After almost three years! THIS is how you treat ME? Call me back now!”
“Leander! Your ass better be on that fuckin’ plane or something for not answering my calls or calling me back! You can’t just say what you said and think I’m just going to let it go. What about how I feel, huh? Call me back as soon as you land!”
“You must really think you can play me by not calling me back! You know what, fuck you, Leander! Fuck you! Fuck your family! Fuck your fuckin’ plane! I hope that shit crash and you the only mothafucka on the plane that die!”
(Sigh) “You know what, I took it too far. That was too far. I’m sorry. You know I would never want anything to happen to you. It’s just—how could you do me like this? Leave without giving me any explanation? Am I not worth even that much to you? Please, baby…just call me back.”
“Leander, this is the last time I’m calling you. I just need to hear your voice and know that you’re okay and if you don’t want to talk right now, I’ll accept that. Just know that I’m here whenever you’re ready, and I—I love you.”
After that last message, I switched from bearing my feelings over his voicemail to turning my attention to his text messages. Every text I sent just ended up being floating message bubbles without the “delivered” receipt underneath. My consecutive Facetime calls rang with no answer. I even tried to reach out to him on Facebook and he’d blocked me, couldn’t even find his profile.
It was like he was single handedly trying to erase the last two and a half years of his life as if I never existed. If I didn’t get up in the next four minutes, I was sure to be late for work. So, I peeled myself out of bed with my broken heart weighing a ton.
With tears in my eyes, I whipped my Hyundai Elantra into the first parking space I could find. My shoulder hurriedly brushed past the “Home of the Lions” banner right outside the entrance of the school. I only had three minutes to spare before I was considered late. I’d been working as a second-grade teacher at Willowdale Elementary for three years and struggling to make ends meet.
Shuffling down the hallway, I tapped my nails against the email icon on my phone and opened an unread email from my landlord. My forehead creased as I soaked in the news about an unexpected rent hike, making my rent two hundred dollars higher. Even with Leander’s extra income, I could barely afford my half of that plus all of the other bills I was paying.
“Fuck,” I mumbled as I rested my back against the aged couch in the teacher’s lounge. For a second, I’d forgotten that Leander had jumped ship. His lack of extra income was going to hurt any chance I ever had at saving any money. With him at the forefront of my mind once again, I tapped his name and pressed the phone to my ear while swiping a leftover cookie from Teacher Appreciation Week off the table and biting into it. My lips twisted at the stale taste. I tossed it along with the rest of them in the overflowing trash can.
“Your call has been forwarded to an automatic voice—”
“Good morning, Miss Newman,” Principal Jones said before walking over to the copy machine.
“Morning,” I muttered with a nod.
I promptly turned my eyes back to the microwave while it heated my instant oatmeal. Seconds later, he spoke up again.
“So, you got plans for the summer?”
“Nope, you?” I asked over the beeping of the microwave.
“Ah, the family and I always drive to Florida and spend a week there seeing family, hitting the beach, you know.”
“Sounds fun,” I told him, forcing a smile.
As much as I knew I needed to put my game face on, I was having a hard time swimming from the depths of my feelings. For the past two and a half years, I’d been someone’s woman. Two hours prior, I was happy in love. Now, I’d been reduced to no calls, texts, or Facetime like a bad one-night stand. There was no way I could easily wrap my head around that. The last words he wrote me hung on my mind like grapes on a vine.
“Well, if I don’t get a chance to tell you before the end of the school year in a few weeks, have a great summer, and we’ll see you back next year,” Principal Jones said, jarring me back to reality.
I nodded. “Yeah, you too.”
“Oh, uh—before you go, did you get a chance to read my email? I sent it a couple days ago and haven’t heard anything back yet.”
“I apologize. I haven’t gotten around to it. What was it about?”
“I was asking to get on your schedule some time this week to discuss a few of my students.”
“Er—today’s not good but let me take a look at it when I get back to my office, and we’ll make time to talk after school tomorrow. Sound good?”
“Yes, sir, thank you.
“No problem. Have a good day,” he said, before taking a sip from his coffee cup.
“Thanks, same to you.”
I shoved my phone inside my purse and gathered up my things to head to my classroom. School hadn’t even begun, and I could already predict that I’d have a hurricane-sized headache before the day was over.