Rocked by Him(2)

By: Lucy Lambert

I didn't need this. Not today. I was starting my new job so soon! And I'd been looking forward to coming home at the end and talking with him about it. It wasn't like I had anyone else to speak with at the moment; we'd only just moved to Manhattan two weeks ago.

But that's what happens in life: you get a job offer and take it, even if it means moving between states and leaving behind everyone you ever knew but your college boyfriend.

Jerry stopped, one hand resting on a pair of folded white boxers. He rubbed at his eyes and then ran his fingers up through his hair, a classic Jerry tell for frustration. But what was he frustrated about? Me? Everything seemed to be going so well.

He screwed up the courage to look me in the eye. As soon as we locked stares, I knew. He was breaking up with me.

Hot and cold flooded my chest and stomach at the same time. No one had ever broken up with me before. What was I supposed to do? Was now my cue to start crying and screaming?

"Yeah, it's over," he said. He held my stare for another few seconds, trying to impress the words on my brain, before dropping it and moving to the closet. The hangers all made a whisking noise against the steel bar as he swept all of his shirts and pants to one side, picked them up in his arms, and dumped them onto a suitcase.

"But... why?" I said.

Do something! I kept screaming at myself. Stop him! Don't let him get away with this!

I couldn't though. The soles of my nice new black canvas flats felt superglued to the floor. My fingers kept clenching into fists, digging my newly-manicured nails into my palms.

His phone rang, Stayin' Alive muffled by his pocket. We both jerked at the noise. He didn't answer.

That was his tell-tale heart. The thing he'd been hiding. That tinny voice I'd heard earlier, that was a woman's voice. I knew it. I could feel it.

"You're seeing someone else, aren't you?"

He paused in his efforts to fold all those shirts and pants into one stuffed suitcase. His eyes flicked over to me for a moment. Was that guilt?

"Yeah," he said when the ringing finally stopped.

I hated that song even more, now.

My system couldn't handle it. I knew I should be screaming, throwing things, all that girly stuff you see in the movies when a guy pisses you off or does something unbelievably awful and stupid. But I just stood there, the proverbial deer in the headlights.

Jerry climbed awkwardly onto the bed, using his knee to try to hold the suitcase closed so he could zip it shut. The springs of our mattress groaned and popped beneath him.

When he had both suitcases done up, he took them in his hands and moved to get out of there.

But there was a problem: I stood in the doorway. It seemed my inability to do anything actually helped me.

If only my throat didn't feel like someone was squeezing it shut. He kept looking me up and down, sizing me up. For what? Did he wonder if he could shoulder me out of the way? Did he wonder if I wanted to scratch his stupid, cheating eyeballs out if he tried to get past me?

I swallowed heavily, momentarily giving me back the gift of speech.

"Why?" I said, my voice hoarse and weak.

Jerry sighed. It was a deep, long-suffering sigh that spoke of pent-up frustrations and disappointments. Where had I gone wrong? What did I do that upset him so much?

He dropped the suitcases and paced back and forth, me unable to do anything but follow him with my eyes.

"I haven't wanted to be with you for a while," he said finally, both hands clasped behind his head.

I didn't respond. Not by choice. I wanted so much to scream at him, but I couldn't manage more than a quiver of my lips. He took this as a sign to continue.

"Damn it, Jennifer! This was never supposed to go on for this long! But no, you just couldn't take all my damn hints. Why did you come back, anyway? You said you were going to explore and then head off to work! You're not supposed to be here!"

Little white flecks of spittle dotted his lips as his face flushed a deep, cherry red. His lips pulled back, revealing his teeth in an animalistic, instinctual snarl.

"What... What did I do?" I said.

Sharp pain shot up through my palms, my nails biting into my flesh. I tried to relax my fists a little.

"I feel like I'm wasted on you, Jennifer. You're not the person for me. I feel like there's someone... someone..." he finally looked down at the floor, apparently some part of him feeling too guilty to finish.

Even though I knew I shouldn't, I had to know.

"Someone what?" I said through my teeth.

He swallowed, looking me in the eye for a moment and then dropping his gaze.

"Someone better," he finished, almost under his breath.

I leaned against the doorframe, covering my eyes with my hands as my eyelids scrunched shut, trying to blot out the hurt along with the rest of the world. He might as well have buried his fist in my stomach.

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