Jacob Scott stared at his desk. Not so much at it as through it. He couldn't believe she was gone. It had been a week and he still couldn't wrap his mind around it. Chelsea had left him.
"I'm sorry, Jacob," she had said, standing by the door with the last of her belongings in a small bag. He had come home to find she'd moved nearly all of her things out while he was at work. As he stood there, dumbfounded, she'd continued. "It just isn't working. I want different things than you do, and it's ridiculous to stay here and pretend otherwise." Then she had left.
Two years, he thought. It took her two years to decide it wasn't working? What the hell does that mean anyway? He had been taken completely by surprise. He had loved her, and thought she loved him. They had been living together in his place for several months. They had even started talking marriage a couple of months ago.
Now she was gone and his world was in shreds. What did I do wrong? he wondered. How could she just walk away? On top of that, someone had snuck into his apartment and taken out some of the treasures he had from his father. Military medals, an old pocket watch, and a few other things simply turned up missing, and he had no idea who could have done it. He'd reported the theft to both the police and the landlord, but nothing had turned up.
"Hey, you." Jake turned at the voice. A wad of paper flew at him and he wasn't quick enough to dodge it. It hit him dead center in the forehead and bounced onto his desk. "Come on, man, wake up."
"Leave me alone, Cam," said Jake. He threw the ball of paper into the trash can next to his desk.
"I've left you alone for a week," Cam told him from the doorway. Cameron Riverton was Jake's best friend. They'd gone into business together and somehow managed to keep the friendship, for which Jake was usually glad. In his current mood, he wasn't sure.
"Then you're getting good at it," said Jake. "Just keep practicing." He resumed staring moodily at his desk, as though if he stared at the papers on it long enough, they'd go away. Perhaps by bursting into flames.
"Look," said Cam, coming over to stand in front of Jake's desk, "I'm sorry, man. What she did, it sucks. But you have to snap out of it. I know it hurts, but life goes on."
"I don't feel like snapping out of it," Jake grumbled. It was true. In a strange way, it felt good to feel so sorry for himself.
Cameron rolled his eyes. "Of course you don't. No one ever does. Wallow, wallow, wallow. That's all we want to do when someone throws us a curve. So, I've given you a week to do it. Now knock it off."
"I loved her, Cam." There was a little heat in Jake's voice, a little anger.
"I know," said Cameron. "And again, I'm sorry. It didn't work. Sometimes it doesn't."
"It was—" Jake began, but Cam cut him off.
"I know, I know. It was two years of your life. You thought you'd marry her. How could she do this? Why didn't she say something sooner?" He shook his head and brown locks fell in his face. He brushed them back. "You've said something like that every day for the past five days, and the answers—or lack of them—haven't changed." He cocked his head at Jake, wondering if he was pushing too hard, but continuing anyway. "Frankly, man, it's getting tiresome."
"Tiresome?" Now Jake was angry, and his green eyes flashed. He got up and stalked out to their small lobby to get a drink of water from the cooler. "What the hell do you know anyway? It's easy for you. You get to go home to Madeleine every night, don't you? You don't worry about her leaving, do you?"
"No, I don't," said Cameron evenly. He followed Jake out. His back was starting to get up, too, but he kept his temper in check. Jake might want a fight, but it wouldn't help anything. "But I've been where you are, you know that. When I was with Beth, I thought she was the one. Then she dumped me. I hurt, but I got over it. Then, I admit, I got lucky and met Maddy."
"You can't expect me to act like two years of my life didn't happen," Jake said. He wanted to be angry at Cameron, if only because he was the closest person, but Cam's level tone made it difficult.
"I never said I did," Cameron pointed out. "But you can't sit here every day reviewing the past two years and trying to figure out what you did wrong. Because that's what you're doing, I know it is. You'll drive yourself crazy until you realize the answer: you didn't do anything wrong."
Jake was about to reply when a burst of color whooshed through the door. The burst resolved itself into a woman, probably his age give or take a couple of years. She had golden blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and a metallic silver jacket that nearly hurt his eyes because of the way it reflected the sunlight. She also talked rapidly, like she couldn't get the words out quickly enough.
"Hi. Sorry to bother you. I'm Molly, Molly Sugden. Haven't been here long and I'm just looking for the library. Do you know where it is? Have to check email and all that, you know? Gosh, this is a nice place. You must be really busy. I'm sorry to interrupt." The words tumbled out and Jake and Cam could only gape. Then Cam got a curious look in his eye.
"Wait, did you say your name was Molly?" he asked her.
"Yes, that's it, Molly Sugden," she said with a nod. "Well, actually it's Mallory but I never liked that or being called Mal, so Molly it is. Sorry, do I know you?"
"Don't tell me you've forgotten Sister Laura's U.S. History class already," Cameron said with a grin.
Molly's eyes brightened and a smile grew on her face. Jake thought it was the loveliest smile he'd ever seen. Then he tamped the thought down. I'm depressed, he reminded himself, my girlfriend of two years just broke up with me a week ago.
"Cameron? Oh, my gosh, Cameron Riverton?" Cam nodded. "Oh, wow!" said Molly. "I just got here and I can't believe I ran into someone from high school! How're your Mom and Dad? And your sister? Oh, she must be all grown up now and running her own business or something! And you, this is your place?"
"You bet." Cam came over and gave her a hug which she enthusiastically returned, bouncing all the while. Jake was unexpectedly jealous. "Molly, this is my friend, Jacob Scott. We're in this together."
"Hi, Jacob!" She held out a hand and he took it.
"Hi," he said. He wanted to say more but he'd never met anyone like her, and it was hard to keep up. She seemed to be in constant motion.
"Well, look, you must be really busy and I didn't want to interrupt so if you can just tell me where the library is I'll let you get back to everything." Jake almost laughed; it didn't seem she needed to take a breath.
"Just down the street and left at the light," Cameron told her. "Stop back when you're done, if you'd like. We can catch up. Maybe dinner?"
"Maybe," said Molly. "I'm not sure what I'm doing. I never am. You remember. Thanks, Cam. Bye, Jacob." As quickly as she had burst in through the door, she burst out.
"Wow," said Jake. "She's ... something." He half-expected to see papers floating through the air in her wake.
"She's always been like that," Cam told him. "Always with the nervous energy. She used to run, sometimes even before school, just to calm down." He paused, remembering. "She was on the track team. Distance runner."
"Before the days of Ritalin," Jake observed.
"No." Cam shook his head after some thought. "I don't think it was anything like that. She just had a lot of energy. Good student, it wasn't like she couldn't concentrate. I think her parents made her nervous, and that's how she dealt with it."
"I just used to go to my room and put on headphones," Jake said.
"So, come to dinner tonight," Cam said.
"What?" Jake was generally used to his friend's abrupt changes of subject, but occasionally they caught him off guard. "Dinner? Why?"
"Why not?" Cameron shrugged. "Beats going home and eating cold pizza and staring at ESPN, which I know is what you're going to do. It's what you always do when you're depressed. You've probably raised your cholesterol ten points in the last week. So come and be social for a while. It won't kill you."
"It would be hot pizza," Jake stalled, "I ate the last piece yesterday." Cam simply stared at him. "All right, all right." Jake gave in. Cam would only badger him for the rest of the day if he said no. "But no talking about Chelsea."
"Deal," said Cam with a nod, and went back to his office.
Jake suddenly realized he hadn't thought about Chelsea since Molly had come in.
Molly put her hands in her lap, willing herself to stop wringing them together. She was a having a lovely time, but she just couldn't sit still. Her mother had always complained about that. "For heaven's sake, Mallory Ann," she would say while her father looked on in his vaguely disapproving way, "it won't kill you to sit quietly like a lady for a few minutes." Maybe, thought Molly, I would have if she hadn't made me so nervous.
She had stopped by Cameron's office on her way back from the library, and he'd invited her to dinner. Since it had been such a nice surprise to find a friend from high school in a town where she knew no one else, she had taken him up on it. Cameron was as friendly as she remembered, and his wife, Madeleine, was wonderfully pleasant.
.... There is more of this story ...