Staff Prompt #3 - the first paragraph is the prompt.
"What's in that bag and why are you hiding it there?" My already racing heart tried to leap out of my throat. I tried to say something, anything, but gibberish fell past my lips. "I asked you a question." He punctuated the words with a poke to my chest.
Fuck!How the hell did he find that bag? He never went in the garage!There wasn’t enough room to park two cars there, so he kept his in the driveway since he left for work before I did. So the garage was my territory.A safe place to put the duffel I’d packed last night with my most important belongings, or so I thought.Shit! Shit! Shit!I’d hoped to be far away by the time he discovered I was gone.
“What the hell, Stanley?You owe me an answer!”I’d never seen my boyfriend so enraged.“What the fuck is going on?”He stabbed my chest with his finger as he said every word.
“Ow!Would you stop doing that?”I scowled and swatted his hand away.“You want to know?Fine!I’ll tell you!”As terrified as I was, there was no escaping the truth.I inhaled and took an involuntary step back, then looked Ralph, the former love of my life, in the eye. “I’m leaving you.”
There.I said it.Fuck! There was no going back now.
He stared at me, slack-jawed, looking like I’d just gut-punched him.I winced.I knew this was going to hurt him—hell, it hurt me too… but shit…did it have to hurt this much? I knew I was being an asshole, but I had to do what was best for me.For us.
Ralph ran his hand through his hair and spun in a circle.He huffed out his breath, then resumed staring at me.“You know, I suspected you were having an affair, but this… We’ve been through so much, and you were just going to up and leave without even telling me.For what?A piece of ass?”
I shook my head and crossed my arms.“Tony is a lot more than a piece of ass.”
Ralph snort-laughed.It was one of the weird things that first attracted me to him. Damn, I was actually going to miss that stupid laugh. “Tony, huh?So how long have you been fucking him?”
I frowned.“We’ve never slept together!Shit, we’ve never even me….”I stopped myself.Ralph didn’t need to know details.
My now ex-boyfriend raised his eyebrows.“You’re leaving me for someone you’ve never even met?Are you fucking kidding me?”
My face felt like it was about to melt off my body.“We… well… we just have this… really awesome connection,” I mumbled.“Kind of like we used to have.”
“Like we used to have.You’re a real piece of work, you know that?”
I glanced at my watch.
“Oh so sorry, am I keeping you? Wouldn’t want you to be late to meet Tony.Telling your boyfriend of five years you’re dumping him for some rando stranger isn’t important at all.”The sarcasm dripping with each word felt like a living entity, biting my skin.
“I gotta go,” I said, and stepped toward the front of my car.
“Wait.How did you meet this guy?”
“What does it matter?” I stopped, but didn’t look at him.
“How long ago?”
“A year?OK… what site?”
“Seriously?It’s over, Ralphie.Just let me go.” I shuffled my feet.This was harder than I thought it’d be.I still loved Ralph, but man… our relationship had been so strained lately, and Tony gave me exactly what I needed.What Ralph used to when we first met. Attention.Validation.He made me feel sexy, something sorely lacking between Ralph and me for months.
“You want me to let you go without a fight.To be with some guy you met on the internet and have never even met.Right.Nice.How do you know you’re not being catfished?”
I flinched.He had to mention that fucking word.
“Tony’s not a catfish!”
Ralph laughed.“And you’d know, wouldn’t you.”
I stiffened my back and scowled.“Yeah.Yeah, I would.”
“Well, takes one to know one, I guess.I hope you are being catfished.That would be the most glorious karma ever.I hope Tony is a fifty-year-old woman with a husband and grandchildren.”
“Fuck you!I’m outta here.”I stormed around the car and flung open the driver’s side door.
“Have a nice life, asshole!”Ralph yelled after me as I threw the car into reverse and squealed out the driveway.
Guilt, euphoria, and anxiety took turns somersaulting in my guts as I drove toward the Starbucks on the edge of town.It was where Tony and I had agreed to finally meet.I let out a loud, long belch.How the fuck is that supposed to help my nerves?
I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel of my Toyota Prius.I’d paid for it in cash.In full.It was six years old now, and one of the only reminders of my past. I would have gotten rid of it, but I couldn’t afford a different car now that I did legitimate work.I bought it BR.Before Ralph.I sighed.Ralph had been good for me in so many ways.I stopped using people for money after we met.Actually, I stopped before that, but not too much before.What the hell was I doing? Focus, Stanley!Focus!
Tony was a friend of a friend who saw my profile on Instagram and messaged me.We had so much in common, we quickly formed a friendship, which eventually blossomed into more. Even though we’d never met, this guy got me.I fell for him.Hard.It took some prompting on his part, but I finally agreed to leave Ralph for him.It was a gut-wrenching decision, but one that felt… right.
Ralph had been so distant lately.And I always thought he held my past against me. Well, not anymore.It was time for a new chapter of my life! I pulled into the Starbucks’ parking lot and into a space close to the door.I turned the engine off and sat in my car for a few minutes.
I had made the right decision….
I entered the building and looked around.Tony wasn’t there.Yet.He wasn’t here, yet. I ordered a decaf mocha latte and sat near a window.And waited.
I checked my phone for messages for the hundredth time after my third latte.I used a napkin to wipe off the giant blob of tears from the screen.
I was a fool.
A giant fucking asshole of a fool.
I put my arms on the table and rested my head on them, not even bothering to try stopping the sobs that kept coming because of my fuckery.I looked up when I felt a tap on my arm and took the Kleenex hovering before my face.
My heart felt like it leapt into my throat.I wiped my tears and looked at my benefactor.I swallowed my heart and sniffled.
“What are you doing here?Come to gloat?”
Ralph smiled wistfully and shook his head.“You just don’t get it, do you?”
I blew my nose.“What’s there to get?I threw away my life for a fantasy.How stupid am I?”
“Pretty damn stupid.”
I scowled.“Thanks.So what’d you do?Follow me?Wait to see my humiliation?”
“I didn’t need to follow you.How do you think I knew to look in the garage?”
I shrugged.“Lucky guess?Maybe I gave off some vibe I didn’t realize.”
Ralph rolled his eyes.“You’re pretty dumb for someone so smart.”He swiped his finger across his phone, unlocking it, then slid it across the table to me.
I sat rigid, not believing what I saw.No… it can’t be true!
“You’ve been cheating on me.With me.”
“You’re Tony?” I whispered.
“In the flesh.”
“Why?I mean, what the fuck?” My raised voice drew stares from other patrons.
He shrugged.“I needed to know.”
“To know what?This was a serious dick move.I mean.. seriously?! What the actual fuck?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“I…um… just…well… fuck!” I stated eloquently.
“So what now?”Ralph regarded me calmly.
“I don’t know.What do you want from me?”
“Honesty, for starters.”
I snorted.“I think we both could use a good dose of that.”
“Stan… what do you want?”
The answer was sitting in front of me, like a giant light bulb flashing in front of my eyes.But fuck if I could admit it after the shit I just pulled.
“I want Tony,” I whispered, looking down.
“You can’t always get what you want.”
I looked up, tears re-forming in my eyes.“Yeah.Don’t I know it.”
“Are you serious right now?You want Tony.Who doesn’t fucking exist.”
I inhaled.“Tony made me feel like you did when we first met.You haven’t been around for months.When Tony messaged me… well… he made me feel… again. Don’t tell me you didn’t feel our connection.I’m not that nuts.”
Ralph snorted.“Yeah, you are.”
Ralph stood up and held out his hand.“C’mon. Let’s go home.”
“Does this mean you forgive me?”
“Nope.Not even close.”
“What if I don’t forgive you?”
“Then there’s no point in any of this.”
I slid my hand into his.“I suppose we have to start somewhere.”
Thanks to Cia for providing the prompt, and to Cole and Aditus for their input. Thanks to all who read, react, and comment So what do you think? Does Stanley deserve forgiveness? Does Ralph? Whose deception was more egregious? Is there any future for them?