All Rachel wanted to do was run away. She had never really told Sarah how hard this break up had been to her. She had never divulged that she did not know if she could ever love another man. Peter had been her one. He had told her that they were meant for each other, that he thought she was his soul mate. She had put all of her trust in him, and he had broken her heart.
“So you guys went to college together?” Jason asked. “Were you friends?”
“For a while,” Rachel said coyly. “We shared common interests.”
Rachel saw Peter blush. The first time they had made love she had joked that they had so much in common. “To think, Poli-Sci could lead to this,” he had said. “Yes,” she had said kissing his shoulder. “We seem to have many common interests.”
“Have you seen much of each other since you graduated?” Jason seemed to be sincerely interested in the fact that his friend knew her.
Rachel looked at Peter. She did not remember him ever being so reticent. As Jason finished his question, Peter nonchalantly lifted his glass to take a sip of his beer. It didn’t seem that he wanted to answer him.
“No. We lost touch in college,” Rachel said. She felt it best to leave what they were to each other in the past. She was already worried about what Peter would say about her once they left the bar. Would he paint her in a poor light and hinder her chances of being hired by Davenport Industries? She looked from Peter back to Jason. “How are you two friends? Are you from Chicago, too?” she asked Jason.
“No. I grew up on the eastside. I’m a Heights kid. Mel, the woman you met this morning, is Peter’s fiance. Peter and Mel played on the coed baseball team last summer, and we became friends.”
Rachel felt her face grow hot. She heard ringing in her ears. Mel must have known who she was. Peter must have showed her a picture or had talked about her. The time with Mel that morning had been awkward, and she could not figure out why. Now, it was perfectly clear.
She caught Peter’s eye and the conversation came back to her in a wave.
“Rachel, it’s not you. I swear. It’s me.”
“Did you meet someone else?” she asked through tears. How could he be breaking up with me? She thought they would be engaged soon, not broken up.
“No. I just need to figure me out before I can be serious.”
“But we have been serious for over a year.” Her face was hot and wet.
“I know. I have been thinking about this for a while.”
Awhile. She had not detected any difference in their relationship. She had not felt any difference before Spring Break, but now it was all different. Something had changed him, and there was nothing she could do.
She was numb. She remained numb for a week. She struggled to even get up to attend classes or get food. She wanted to fade away. A week later, she was sitting in the cafeteria trying to brainstorm an idea for her advertising class while trying to eat her first real meal since the break up when she heard his friend, Scott’s voice. He did not realize that she was two tables away. His loud booming voice carried and she heard everything he said.
“Dude, I am so jealous of the chick Peter bagged in Florida.”
“I thought he was dating Rachel Dexter.” She did not recognize this voice and as much as she wanted to turn and see who it was, she could not. She had to hear the truth, and she knew if Scott saw her, he would not continue talking about it.
“No Dude, he met this Melanie girl from IU and three pitchers and five hours later, Peter said he had just met his wife. It was weird.”
“Did he break up with Rachel?”
“Yeah, when he got back. I think he lied to her. I don’t think he said he met someone else.”
Rachel stared at her computer screen. She was hollow inside. Five hours? They had talked about marriage, but he had always said he wanted to find a career before he got married, get another degree, travel.
He had said he wouldn’t get married until he was thirty, and here he was engaged at twenty-four.
She managed to smile at him. “Peter, congratulations. I am so happy for you.” She sounded sincere, she knew it. She always had a way of masking her emotions.
“Thank you.” He, for the first time, looked her in the eyes. She sensed his anxiety, although she could not understand it. He had gotten what he wanted. It was she who was left to put her life back together, and it was just recently that she felt whole again.
“How are y’all doing?” Tony was back to see if anyone needed another drink. Her glass was completely empty, but she did not remember drinking her beer. “Would you like another, Rachel?”
“Get us a round,” Jason said, indicating everyone.
“You don’t have to do that,” Rachel turned toward Jason.
“Yeah I do. I was supposed to buy you lunch.” He winked. Her eyes widened slightly as Sarah nudged her. She knew Sarah thought he was flirting.
“Rach,” Sarah said getting off of her barstool. “Do you want to go with me to powder our noses?”
“Is that code?” Jason asked Sarah.
“Code for making ourselves even better looking than we are now,” she teased.
“Impossible.” He smacked his hand lightly on the bar.
Rachel stood up. Jason pulled her chair away so she could get by. “We will keep your stools for you ladies.”
They walked away from the bar and Sarah turned to say something before they had even reached the stairs.
“Wait,” Rachel said to her. She did not know if the boys were watching them or not, but she did not want to engage in one of Sarah’s animated conversations within earshot or eye range of either Jason or Peter.
They walked into the restroom behind Sarah. Sarah turned around, “Spill it. That is Peter as in “the Peter” isn’t it?”
“How do you feel? If I didn’t know all about him, I would never know by the way you are acting what he did to you. Why are you being so nice?”
“Because it happened a long time ago.” Rachel swallowed hard. She suddenly felt tears welling in her throat.
“I wish I would have known. I would have made a scene.”
“And that is exactly what I am trying to avoid. I want this job, Sarah. I really want it,” she said.
“Even though your Ex’s fiancé works for the company? Even though the guy who interviewed you is flirting with you?”
“He is not flirting. You read too much into things, Sarah. He is in advertising. He sweet talks and strokes clients all day long, He is doing his job without realizing it.”
“Well, if that is how he treats his clients, he must have a ton of clients.” She turned and walked into a restroom stall.
“Again,” Rachel said through the door, “over-analyzing.” She turned and washed her hands. The adrenaline of the last twenty minutes had made her hands clammy.
“We’ll see,” Sarah responded.
After Sarah washed her hands, Rachel grabbed her arm. “Sarah, please do not create a scene. I just want to act natural, drink the beer that they just bought for us, and go to the game. Can you do that for me?”
“Give me some credit,” she said.
They returned to the boys and they parted and let the girls sit down once again. “See,” Jason said, “Just as good looking as when you left.”
Conversation remained light. Peter had moved a barstool away and was talking to Tyler. She could not hear every word, but thankfully, the conversation was not about her. They were talking about the Islands. Sarah, Jason, Ace, and she made small talk. She listened more than she spoke. Twice, she caught Tony looking at her. He furrowed his eyebrows at one point and then moved his fingers to the corner of his mouth pushing up a smile. She smiled and he smiled.
Rachel realized the bar was starting to thin out. She looked at her phone; it was almost 7:00. She drank the rest of her beer and pushed her empty glass and a tip toward the edge of the bar. “Hey, we should be going. The game is about to start.”
Sarah finished her beer and stood. “Well Gentlemen, it has been a real pleasure. Thank you so much for the drinks.”
“Anytime,” Jason said. “We should hit it, too.” He gathered his change, pushed a tip, and signaled to Peter and Tyler that they should get going. Tyler nodded. “Well, Rachel, I will be in touch.”
As they all seemed to move toward the exit together, she heard her name. She turned. Tony was waving for her to come back to the bar. “Sarah, wait.”
“We can all wait,” Jason added.
“No, that’s okay. I would hate for you to miss the start of the game.” She felt like him hesitate, but Ace hit him on the shoulder. “Dude, let’s go.” He smiled and walked out turned and walked out the door with his friends.
Rachel and Sarah both walked back to the bar. “Hey, I’m not kidding.” He handed her a business card. “This is the owner. I am going to tell him to hire you; you just have to call him.”
Rachel took the card and slipped it into her purse. “I’ll think about it.”
He gently touched her forearm. “Don’t think for too long; sometimes, that’s how opportunities slip away.” He stepped back. “Have fun, you two.” He walked away to help a customer.
“You better not be stealing my boyfriend,” Sarah said sarcastically.
“I’m not. He wants me to work here.”
Sarah clapped her hands together excitedly. “Do it! Then I can oogle at him even more than I do now.”
“Well either way, his advice was prett sagacious. I told you he was more than ‘just a pretty face.’”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “Come on, I don’t want to miss the game.”