“How about Kelly’s? Some vegan options have opened up downtown, but Kelly’s is still the best.” Sara gives my hand a gentle tug. Crossing the street is easier up here—the lights downtown don’t change too often. Busier area and whatnot.
“Yeah… sure. Sounds great,” I respond, my other hand deep within the pocket of my jean jacket.
Today is an important day for Sara. She has been nothing short of radiant since picking me up at the train station. She even held a sign up for me like they do in the movies. “Mason DiParte” it read, the "e" trailing off into a hand-drawn heart. I lived with her long enough to know how long she spent putting herself together for this moment. Her hair, freshly dyed a vivid lavender, glistened far too vibrantly to have been done any longer than a week ago. It was even slightly curled, a minimum two-hour long process, considering she first had to straighten out the thick natural curls God gave her. All for me, just because of that one time I pointed it out in a magazine and said she would look nice with it. Wearing her favourite red dress underneath the pea-coat I had bought her last Christmas, matched with my favourite of her perfumes, she jumped into my arms the moment I stepped off the train. She wanted my return home to be filled with everything I missed most, even if it would only be a week until I returned to law school.
Luckily for me, the smell of Cassandra’s cinnamon perfume from the night before had not reached her nostrils. Nor was her red lipstick visible on my lips from when she dropped me off at the station. Sara’s blissful reunion with her six-month-absent fiancé was everything she had hoped it would be. The euphoria was still visible in her eyes as we made for the location of our first date.
“Donaughan’s finally went under. He tried hosting a charity night two months ago, you know, to raise money and whatnot, but he didn’t even come close.” Sara’s deep blue eyes flashed with the smallest sign of disappointment before returning to her state of ecstasy. “I told Don we would meet up for coffee when you came back to town. The bar brought us together, but it closing won’t tear us apart.” She continued to tell me about every change our town went through: high school friends moving away for the big city, the festival on the waterfront at the end of the summer, even her mother’s health, who seemed to be recovering well from her fall down the stairs earlier this month.
Sara spoke with the same fiery passion for the mundane that made me originally fall for her. Throughout the five years of us dating, the only thing that remained constant was her integrity. Nothing scared her. Nothing could scare her. Had a stranger approached us, right then and there, admitting to five murders and seeking atonement for his crimes; Sara would offer herself as wholly as she would to me if I asked her for directions. Every day we spent together, she would prove to me again and again that she is a human being cut from a finer, perhaps holier cloth than the rest of us.
Six months is a long time, however. There was still warm air and bright green leaves on the trees when I had left in August. People were playing in parks and walking their dogs—life here looked nothing short of a tourism commercial. But now it was February, and the harsh cold was threatening to freeze anyone stupid enough to step outside for too long. The leaves had long since left. All colour had. This was the same town I had left, but the warmth was gone. What remained was merely the cold, grey shell of summer memories.
As I lost feeling in my uncovered cheeks, a guilty pang struck deep in my chest as I reminisced about the warmth of Cassandra’s apartment. At this exact moment, there might be no more comfortable place on Earth than naked beside her, under the covers of her king-size bed, with her electric blanket set to max. The deep red of her bedroom flowed perfectly with her chocolate wood-stained dressers and end tables. The only thing which took away from the aesthetic of her apartment was a flowery picture frame on her end table. The picture inside showed Cassandra, Don, Sara, and myself at Donaughan’s bar on Karaoke night; a present Sara made for each of us last Christmas. I had lost all hope that things could ever go back to those days two weeks into these trysts with Cassandra, when we had both forgotten to put the frame face down when we went into the bedroom. Neither one of us felt proud of what we were doing, but the winters at the school were just as cold and grey as they were back home.
“Oh, how’s Cassandra?” Sara asked suddenly.
“Who?” My heart jumped into my throat.
“Cassandra? Our best friend, my maid of honour, the one you are in law school with?” Sara’s eyebrows rose at my stupidity.
“Oh, of course… I saw her a few weeks ago, she seems alright. We’ve all been stressed out with midterms, though.”
“Well, that’s too bad,” Sara said with a sigh. “When you go back up, tell her I said hello. I miss her tons.”
“Yeah, next time I see her!”
I had never felt closer to the hell people joke about lawyers going through. Every part of me ached. I needed to come clean. Sara deserved the best the world could offer, which was storeys above trash like Cassandra and myself.
“…Kelly’s though, Kelly’s hasn’t changed at all,” Sara said with a giggle as we walked into the warmth of the café.
She wasn’t wrong; everything from the lavender walls to the cute mismatched armchairs were in the exact same position. Even the faces were the same as when we last came together.
“This place looks the same as when we first came here,” I said, bringing her hand to my lips. Despite just regaining the pale in her skin, Sara’s cheeks went red again.
“Well, almost the same,” Sara said, pointing to a picture frame on the back wall.
I stepped closer, examining the pictures of Sara and my’s first date paired with our engagement photos. Our favourite shot of our engagement photos: us performing a “dip kiss,” was the centerpiece. “Sara and Mason, 2010 – Their Last Breath” was the caption. In that moment, I forgot about Cassandra’s apartment, and the millions of ways we wronged Sara. I teared up slightly as I pulled Sara into a big hug.
“I love you Sara.”
“I love you too, Mason,” Sara said with a deep, content breath. “Do you smell cinnamon?”
“No, I don’t.”
Nick Gibbins is a writer, competitive gamer, and resident big mouth. He tends to prefer acting on impulse and writing the aftermath over observing how things play out on their own. Currently in his second year in Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program, Nick plans to mesh all of his hobbies together to pay the bills.