Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Not a Dinner Date

For many reasons, it feels wrong to be seeing Cam again. I think of Bryan and how I still haven't heard from him, despite calling him again after my meeting with Kent. Bryan and I weren't official, but it's still weird to be seeing my ex while Bryan could still be in the hospital.  

Then again, Cam had been there for me after the accident. He was there when I woke up. He'd wanted to talk to me and had made effort to see me, so I feel obligated to meet with him. 

That doesn't mean I'm giving him another chance, though. 

I make sure to get to Marcella's--an incredible Italian place--first. This is unlike me, but I want to make sure Cam knows I'm calling the shots now. I pick a round table by the open windows. When he walks in, I want him to see me immediately.  I tousle my hair mindlessly. I didn't do anything to it after my shower, partly because I was too upset from the meeting with Kent and partly because I didn't want Cam to think I was trying to impress him. When we dated, I always made the effort to wear dresses and makeup. Now I'm in jeans and a tank top, but I am wearing heels. The heels make me feel powerful. Like a woman, not like a girl who had just lost her job and been in a motorcycle accident. 

I see Cam through the open windows when he walks by. My eyes follow him, and I have to admit he looks good. Quickly, though, I make my face stony and wait. 

He sees me as soon as he walks in and smiles a tiny bit. I wave him over. 

As he approaches the table, he looks as though he wants to hug me. He hesitates, then sits down. 

"You beat me here." The surprise is evident in his voice. He knows me well; I hate being the first to get to a restaurant. 

"Yeah, well," I say, arranging my silverware, "I'm a new person."

"Accidents do that to a person."

I purse my lips and look at him. "Is that what you came here to talk to me about? The motorcycle crash?"

"No." Cam shakes his head. "But I will say you scared the absolute shit out of me."

"I'm sure my mother would agree with you."

"I saw her there," Cam tells me. "At the hospital, I mean."

"Was she happy to see you?"

Shaking his head, Cam manages a laugh. "Testy tonight, Ryan?"

I lean forward into my elbows. "Let's see. My ex, who broke up with me and left me hanging, all of sudden wants to be back in my life because the timing works for him. I was in a crash this weekend and I am unemployed as of today." I lean back, satisfied. It's almost therapeutic listing all of the woes in my life. "You tell me if I'm allowed to be testy." The words taste good coming out of my mouth. I have more anger bottled up than he thinks. 

Cam is quiet for a moment, and I don't blame him. "Technically," he says finally, "you invited me tonight. It's hardly all about my timing."

I want to argue, but the waitress comes with our drinks. In a few drinks, my sangria is half empty. 

"About the job," Cam says. "What happened?"

So the whole story comes out, from having more work than the office can finish, to Kent only hiring one new assistant, to my complete lack of knowledge and interest in formulas and spreadsheets, to me returning to my writing and ultimately the meeting in Kent's office. 

"That's not fair," Cam says quickly. "You were hired to write, not to enter data."

"I know," I say. My drink is gone, and I ask for another. "But I don't know what to do. It's still so fresh in my mind that I hardly believe it," I admit. 

"I think you should just move on," he tells me. 

I wait for him to laugh. "Wait, you're serious?"

Cam nods. "They completely wronged you, but it sounds like to me you're better off starting over. Don't give them the time of day. Focus on finding a new job." He swirls his drink, thinking. "But what do I know about any of that. Maybe talk to your mom."

That's not a bad idea. I haven't told her about losing my job yet, mostly because I'm embarrassed and in shock. I wonder how'd she'd react? 

Our food arrives and both of us focus on eating. The silence between is isn't tense, as I had expected it would be. It's almost comfortable. 

But not comfortable enough. "Emma said you wanted to talk to me," I say after a bite of meatball. Cam looks up, surprised that I shattered the silence. 

"I did," he says. "I still do." He takes another bite. 

"Why?" I try to keep the bitterness out of my voice. "You finally feel guilty for the way things ended?"

Cam shrugs. "Not finally. I always felt guilty. I was just too proud to admit it." He crosses his arms, a defensive gesture. "I hated that my family split us up. You know I have a rough relationship with them."

"Your family didn't split us up," I tell him indignantly. "You did."

"Because I had to defend them!" He shakes his head. "You don't understand."

I sit back and look directly into his eyes. "No," I say. "I really don't."

The rest of dinner is relatively silent. Our waitress comes by to offer dessert, which we decline. "I'll take the check," Cam offers.

"No, we'll split it." The waitress leaves, and I look at Cam. "This isn't a date."

"It's not," he agrees. "You're still dating the guy that almost killed you."

I feel the blood rush to my face. "Nice, Cam. Real nice. Insult the guy in the hospital."

At this rate, we're never going to be civil with each other. Why did I even invite him tonight? Nothing is going to change. 

"Look, Ryan. I didn't come to yell at you or to offer you job advice or to make up for how I treated you. I'm here to apologize." He reaches for my hand, and I let him. "I'm sorry."

He seems sincere enough. I shrug. "That's more than I could ask for, I guess. Thank you."

Gently, I let go of his hand. The waitress brings our check--just one check, they always do what the guy says--and Cam grabs it. "You don't have to."

"I know," he says, placing his credit card down. "Thanks for meeting me."

"Is this what closure feels like?" I blurt. 

To his credit, Cam doesn't even look surprised by my outburst. "I don't know," he says. "Do you feel any better?"

"After tonight? About us? Yeah, I guess I do," I say after a beat. 

"And you wouldn't... consider giving me another chance?" I can't tell if he means it or if he feels like he owes it to me to grovel a little. His expression is unreadable. 

I look at him and think what would happen if I said yes. Cam was there for me in the hospital, when I was at my worst. He makes me laugh, and there's an undeniable chemistry between us. But sometimes that isn't enough. 

I shake my head. "I'm sorry. I just... don't think it would be for the best. I care about you, but..." I try to word what has been swirling around my mind for weeks. "I needed you to defend me. I needed you to fight for me." I shrug, trying to act more nonchalant than I feel. "I don't think we'll ever see eye to eye."

"I understand." Cam stands up. "Can I at least walk you home since you wouldn't let me pick you up?"

I agree. We start the short walk, and I think about how this might be the last time we see one another for a while. Or ever. 

We've barely walked five hundred feet when I spot someone familiar going the other direction on the other side of the street. 

It's Marie. And a woman. I quickly decide it must be her girlfriend. She's pretty; blonde and petite, with good style. I mentally praise Marie. I almost shout across the road but decide against it. I don't want her seeing me with Cam and assuming we're back together. 

When we arrive at my apartment building, I turn to Cam. 

"I'm glad we got to talk tonight," I tell him honestly. 

"Me too." For a second I think he might kiss me, but the feeling disappears quickly. I'm not sure if I should feel relieved or empty. Right now, I feel a little bit of both. 

I grab his hand and squeeze it. "Thank you for everything."

Nodding, Cam squeezes my hand back. "Thank you too."

I release his hand and start to back away. Our meeting really hadn't gone as planned, but really, what had I been expecting? Cam and I have a connection, but we've dragged our relationship on for too long. 

Maybe he's right. Maybe I need a fresh start. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Let Go

Calling me a wreck on Monday morning is an understatement. Physically I'm mostly healed--my bruises are still dark and I know by the soreness in my chest that my ribs are still injured, but I also know that I'm lucky. It's my emotions that are destroyed at this point. 

Since Bryan's mother called me last, I haven't heard a thing from her. Or from him. I called his phone twice to no avail. I got the hint and haven't tried contacting him since. 

The guilt is still with me, and I carry it to work. It doesn't help that I'm supposed to talk with Kent today about my job. 

I called my mom yesterday and read his email to her, word for word, repeating some parts when she'd about over me. Like Emma, she was infuriated. 

"You were doing your job," she fumed. "You have no training in what he suddenly wanted you to do, and you informed him of that. This is more than a little ridiculous."

I appreciate her support, but still I'm worried. "It doesn't matter if I wasn't trained. I should have done what he wanted in the first place instead of trying to do my own thing."

"'Your own thing' is your job," she pointed out. Usually my mother is a little less forceful, but my accident was undoubtedly still on her mind. She'd wanted me to take a day off, but I felt fine, and I couldn't really afford to miss my meeting. 

All of these thoughts are swirling around in my head when I slowly walk into the office. I stand outside of Kent's office for a few seconds before knocking. I know he's there despite the closed door and lack of light because I can hear the radio, turned to NPR on low. 

"Come in."

"Good morning," I say stiffly. 

"Ryan," Kent says. "Sit down, please."

Just a few seconds ago I was terrified, but for some reason I am now almost calm. I take a seat and cross my ankles, folding my hands into my lap. "I received your email," I tell him, so he doesn't have the chance to speak first. "I'm a little confused." 

Kent's eyes widen, but only for a second. Other than that he shows no sign of emotion. 

I continue. "I know these past few weeks have been difficult. Everyone has had to learn new tasks and be flexible. I understand that." I gulp a breath of air, my bravado fading a little. "When we talked months ago, you were impressed with my work ethic and performance here." I recall our first big meeting... I had thought then that I was supposed to get a raise. 

"Yes, but things have changed," Kent tells me. "You are an extremely hard worker, there's no denying that. I've been pleased with your work in the past, which does carry some weight..." He readjusts his position in his chair before continuing. "But this is a changing field and a changing company. I needed you to follow my instructions, because they are more important than whatever your official job description may be."

I swallow. Now I'm nervous. What he's saying makes sense. "I wasn't aware of the gravity of the situation," I say, choosing my words carefully. "So you want me to stop writing and doing fashion pieces?" That was my entire job before all of this happened. Is he saying I'll only be entering data and working with excel now? 

Just as Kent opens his mouth to respond, a loud ringtone fills the room. It takes a split second to realize it's coming from my phone.

Frantically, I grasp at my phone, feeling my face turn a deep shade of red. Could there be a worse time for me to forget my ringer was on loud?

What seems like several eons later, I screen the call and silence my phone. Before I do, though, I see who the call is from: Cam. 

After that embarrassment, it takes all of my strength to look Kent in the eyes, but I do it. I stare at him, not backing down. 

His eyebrows are raised, and he's silent for a minute. Neither of us break eye contact, and he clears his throat. "Ryan, you've said you don't have the necessary training to do this kind of advanced programming and excel work, correct?"

"I do not," I say. Finally, he's getting it. 

Now Kent isn't looking at me anymore. He's staring at his desk, and I can tell he's thinking. Just as I'm beginning to get uncomfortable, he makes eye contact with me again. 

"I'm sorry to say this, but I think the company is moving in a different direction. We need someone who can fulfill the needs of this company. I'm sorry, Ryan, but I have to let you go."

I can't breathe. For a second, I swear I black out. The room becomes fuzzy, and it's as though everything is slowly fading to nothing. I just got let go. I don't have a job. 

Somehow, my brain goes to autopilot. I stand. "Thank you for the opportunity to work here for the last two years," I say. It comes out robotically, but at least I don't cry. I shake Kent's hand and leave. 

At first, I want to call my mom. She'd have something to say. Then I want to scream, but I'm on my way home and in public and I have to behave. Everyone gets let go, I tell myself. But not everyone gets let go just days after they survive a motorcycle crash. I honestly can't believe it. 

So I call Cam. He answers on the first ring, and when I hear his voice I have the urge to blame him, to tell him that he knew I was at work, so why call me then? It's probably his fault that I don't have a job! The ringing of my phone set Kent off. 

But I say none of that. It's my fault. I didn't do what Kent wanted me to, and they don't need me anymore. So I take a deep, shaky breath and start from the beginning. "Hi."

"Ryan, hi." Cam's voice is immediately full of concern. "Is everything okay? You sound terrible."

I laugh bitterly. "Yeah, well, I just lost my job."

"Oh God."

Neither of us say anything, but it's comforting to hear him breathe on the other end. "Look, do you want to have dinner tonight?" I say it brashly but I don't care. Something tells me he won't say no. 

He doesn't. "I'll pick you up at seven," he tells me. "And Ryan?"

"What?" I'm about to hang up, still unsure if seeing him is a good idea. 

"You'll get through this." 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

No News is Good News

I pace my apartment until my sides hurt, and even then I keep pacing. Bryan is on my mind, and I can't stop picturing him with a huge cast, or knocked out while a group of doctors huddle above him, deciding his fate. 

"Do you want to eat or something?" Emma suggests. She sounds exasperated. "You're making me nervous with all that walking. You just survived an accident. Don't hurt yourself any more by pacing."

I face her. "I may have survived, but will Bryan?"

"Yes!" Emma insists. "His mom said he was in surgery for his leg. It may suck, yes, but he'll be okay. I had surgery on my back after I broke it and I'm fine."

It's true--when Emma was in high school she fell out of a truck bed and broke her back. She's a few inches shorter than she was before the accident, but perfectly healthy. 

"What if he loses the leg?" I fret. I know I'm being ridiculous, but I can't help it. A sense of responsibility has overtaken me, like it was my fault that the accident happened. "I should see him."

Emma shakes her head. "Bad idea. Let him recover and be with his family. Send a card."

"I'll call as soon as the surgery is over," I say. 

Nodding, Emma says, "You're on the right path. Now, Thai?"

So I agree to get dinner with her. We go to our favorite Thai place (she drives and I wait in the car while she orders) and it is nice to be out of the apartment. 

It's only when we're at home do I think about work. Groaning, I check my emails. I have almost a dozen, but at least most of them are from designers or magazines or other blogs. I smile a little. No more excel spreadsheets for me. 

Emma sees and swats at me. "Don't tell me you're working."

"This is important!" I insist. She starts to tell me no phones at the dinner table; that's when I see the email from Kent. "One more," I tell her. 

From the opening line, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach that only grows. I'd somehow assumed Kent had learned about my accident somehow and was emailing to tell me not to come to work on Monday. Not so--I was being reprimanded. The more I read, the more my stomach hurts. 

Kent's email tells me how disappointed he is that I had been "ignoring my duties" and working on "frivolous tasks." He means my articles and the contact I've had with designers... in other words, my job. My job before I'd been assigned excel duty, that is. 

Emma sees my expression. "What is it?"

I swallow. "Kent wants to talk to me on Monday."

"What? No. You aren't going to work on Monday."

"I have to," I tell her. "He's pissed."

"No," she says firmly. "You're calling off. You've had a rough weekend, and you need at least one day of rest."

I put my head in my hands, Thai food forgotten. "I might not go in on Tuesday. I might lose my job."

"Why?" Emma exploded. "Does he not know what happened?"

"I guess not." I feel as hollow as my voice sounds. Kent's email was anything but friendly--I'm in huge trouble. "He had me doing a lot of work I wasn't hired to do... And really work I'm not even qualified to do," I explain. "I hate it. Really, truly hate it. So I started doing some of my old work." I shrug. "So I wasn't getting as much done of what he wanted me to do." 

Emma is quiet for a minute. "Look, Ryan, I know you have a guilty complex. But right now you need to focus on your health and getting better."

"I'm fine."

"Maybe physically. You aren't in surgery like Bryan is, but you're mentally exhausted! You need to take a break."

At her words, I tear up a little. I hadn't realized how stressed I was until she pointed it out. "I have to go to work," I say numbly. "I'll lose my job for sure."

"Then look for a new one," Emma says savagely. With that, she grabs our plates and walks away. Probably to clean her room or something. 

I walk over and notice that more of her things are back in her bedroom. I remember walking by just a few days ago and seeing it almost empty. I don't want to say anything, but I'm glad she's here. 

Just then, I feel my phone start to vibrate. I'm so jumpy I almost drop it before I see who's calling--Bryan. 

"Hello?" I answer. This time I try to keep my voice calm. 

"Hi Ryan. It's me." Bryan's mom. I wait. I don't have any words, and she knows she's the one who has something to say. 

"He's going to be okay," she says, and her voice breaks on the last word. 

Gasping a little, I can't contain a smile. "Wow! That's incredible." I laugh. "He's going to be okay!" I repeat. 

"He's out of surgery, and should be waking up soon," she continues. 

"Great," I say. "So I'll be at the hospital in half an hour. Is that too soon? How about an hour?" 

Silence. I almost wonder if she hung up. Then: "He might not be ready for visitors yet."

"Oh. Okay. Well, can you call me when he's ready? I'd like to see him."

She makes a noncommittal noise, and then goodbyes are said. Before I know it, I'm staring at me phone.

"What just happened?" Emma says. 

"I have no idea," I say. I take a deep breath. "I think Bryan's mom just broke up with me."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I try calling Bryan once, twice, three times when finally someone picks up. 

"Thank god--" I start, when a female voice interrupts me. 

"Ryan?" I don't recognize the voice. 


"This is Bryan's mother. Sandy." She takes a breath. "Bryan is still asleep."

I don't understand. "Could he call me when he wakes up? I want to make sure he's okay."

"Look, Ryan..." She seems exasperated but then changes her tone. "I'll have him call you when he can." She hangs up without another word. 

I look at my phone, puzzled. What was that all about?

I'm still sore and a little in shock. Even though it's a weekend, I've called Kent at work to let him know of the situation. I only reached his voicemail, but I'm sure he'll be understanding. 

I plop down on the sofa next to Emma. She looks at me sideways. 

"Any luck?"

I shake my head. "His mom finally picked up. She seemed... weird somehow, though. Like she was hiding something."

"Well I'm sure she's a little traumatized." She pauses. "He almost really hurt you, Ryan."

"And now he's really hurt himself!"

"The nurse said he'd be okay," Emma says, trying to reassure me. 

"Then why wasn't I allowed in his room to see him when we left the hospital?"

Emma didn't have an answer to that. It was an odd situation. I'd gone past his hospital room as we were leaving and the curtains were drawn, the door locked. As I was knocking, a nurse saw Emma and I standing at the door and ushered us away with words similar to Bryan's mother's. "He's asleep."

I shake my head, trying to forget about it. I dont know how to feel. Guilt has been plaguing me nonstop since I woke up myself. This whole accident could have been avoided if I'd done something. Not wanted to go on the ride. Said something once I'd seen the other driver getting dangerously close. 

I'd voiced these concerns to Emma on the way home, and she'd told me I was on shock and shouldn't blame myself. 

"You two are lucky," she'd told me a million times. I knew that, but I still can't get a nagging worry out of my head. 

Emma interrupts my thoughts. "So," she says hesitantly. "Have you heard from Cam?"

I shake my head. "No..." I say slowly. The whole situation was so bizarre to me. Why had Cam of all people been there when I woke up? Why had Emma even called him in the first place? "Should I call him? Send him a text? He may have been there at the hospital, but he still broke up with me."

Emma shrugs. "Still, he deserves some credit for being there, right?"

"So I'll write him a thank you card," I say, irritated. 

"I just think he may deserve a call." She's being oddly protective of Cam. 

"You're the one who deserves everything, Em. You called him and told him to come! Although," I add, "I don't know why." I know I'm headed down dangerous territory; Emma's and my relationship is still rocky. While our friendship is currently stable due to my accident--it feels wrong to even think that something good could come from something so horrific--I know we could fight at any second. I try to choose my words carefully. "I'm not sure I'm one hundred percent over Cam yet, Emma. You saw how much he hurt me. I appreciate you wanting to help me but... why did you call him?" 

As I'm talking, Emma pulls her knees up so her legs are against her chest and rests her chin on her knees. I recognize this posture immediately--it's what she does when she's embarrassed or about to admit something she did wrong. I wait for her to respond. 

"He was already here," she blurts. 

I can't process what she says at first. "What?" 

"Cam. He was already here when I got home."

I still have no idea what's going on, and my first instinct is to assume the worst. I try to calm down a little, knowing that yelling wouldn't solve a thing. I take a deep inhale instead. "Why was he here?"

So Emma explains that Cam had been texting her, asking to see me again. "He couldn't understand why you never texted him back... I think he was starting to regret the breakup and how it happened." She's still curled up, her voice a little muffled. "I decided to give him a chance. He was coming over so we could talk about you."

I'm not sure if I should feel betrayed, insulted, or relieved. Part of me is giddy that he wants to talk to me again--that he feels guilty for what he did. Another part of me quickly squashes that excitement. 

"You should have told me," I say, my voice cold. "You saw how upset I was when we broke up. I didn't want to talk to him then, and I don't know. But of course he's the one I see him first thing when I wake up in the hospital?" I shake my head. "I just don't understand."

I expect Emma to fight back, but she doesn't. Her voice sounds pleading. "I wasn't trying to hurt you. I just thought you might want closure." 

"I have closure," I say rudely. Even as the words leave my mouth, though, I think about how desperately I've wanted one last conversation with Cam. Maybe I should give h a call. One last chance to say goodbye. 

Emma and I don't speak for a while. She can obviously sense how uncertain I am, and I'm surprised she doesn't tell me to give him a chance. Instead she unfolds her legs and scoots closer to me. 

"I'm sorry that I did that. Went behind your back to talk with Cam." She laughs shakily. "DJ didn't like it either, if it makes you feel better."

I sit up a little straighter. "Why not?"

"He thinks I'm meddling. Plus... I don't know, but he gets jealous really easily."

I don't know what to say. I barely know DJ, and I have so much on my mind already. I'm thankful when my phone starts buzzing--I need the distraction. Too much has happened in the last forty eight hours. 

My heart skips a little when I see it's Bryan calling. I answer quickly. "Hello? Hello?" My voice sounds high pitched and anxious. 

It's Bryan's mother who greets me, and my heart sinks when I hear the tremor in her voice. "Bryan isn't doing so well," she says slowly. "His leg is worse than expected." I think back to the nurse telling me about his broken bones. She made it sound almost trivial then, but now I know that's not the case. "He's in a medical coma, and will be for the next ten hours. He has to go into surgery." Her voice is shaky. "Now." 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Very Lucky Indeed

So many questions flood my mind that at first, I'm speechless. Why are you here? I want to ask Cam. What happened? How long have I been here? Am I okay? Where's Bryan?

I clear my throat. "How did you know where to find me?" I ask finally. 

Cam looks surprised that I've spoken. "I-I stopped by your house," he says a little shakily. "It was really good timing, that's all."

"What do you mean?" I ask, confused. I lay back a little on the pillow, wincing. My head aches and breathing hurts a little. I glance down and feel my heartbeat quicken when I see that my torso is wrapped in white. 

"It's hard to explain," Cam begins. "It's really all thanks to Emma."

"Emma?" I sit back up quickly even though it hurts. "Is she here?" I remember the post it I left on the kitchen counter. "Did she get my note?"

"She left to grab some food a few minutes ago. Your mom was here too."

Can really hasn't been answering all of my questions, mostly because as soon as I ask one I think of another. "How long have I been here?"

"Just a few hours," he tells me. 

"Hours?" I panic. "But work! And the Fourth of July!"

Cam shushes me a little. "Don't worry about that. The important part is that you're safe."

I swallow. "Can you just," I say slowly, "explain everything to me. Please."

So he does. He tells me how I was knocked out at the scene, as was Bryan. Someone calls 911 and we're taken to the hospital--I can't even imagine the bills I'll have to pay--and luckily my phone was still in my pocket. Emma, who had apparently seen my note, had texted me, so her number was the first one the people at the hospital had seen. They called her, and she in turn called my mom. And Cam. 

"She called you?" I interrupt. She knew we were broken up! 

Cam shrugs. "She sounded terrified, Ryan."

He tells me that he rushed to my apartment and Emma drove him to the hospital, where they met my mom and have been stationed for a couple hours. 

It takes a few minutes for the story to sink in. I really have Emma to thank for all of this. She had been looking out for me all along. 

Suddenly it occurs to me--I haven't asked about Bryan at all, but now doesn't seem the time. 

Just as things may have started to get awkward between Cam and I, Emma bursts through the door, still in her work uniform. I realize that she must have skipped work to be with me. 

"Thank god," she almost shrieks, her voice slightly too loud for this room. She runs over and flops on top of me. I wince. "Oh god," she repeats. "What hurts?"

"My ribs," I say, touching them with my fingertips. "Where am I hurt?"

Emma and Cam shake their heads. I still can't believe they're both here.

"Em," I say, grabbing her hand, "thank you, thank you, thank you. I can't-I don't-" Suddenly I'm tearing up, and embarrassed to be showing so much emotion in front of Cam. Who cares, part of me thinks. I was just in a motorcycle accident. I'm allowed to cry. 

I see a few tears in Emma's eyes as well. "I've been such an asshole," she says quietly. 

Before the real waterworks hit, a nurse walks into the room. "I heard you're awake," she says. She touches my forehead and continues. "You might not feel this way, but you're incredibly lucky. You practically bounced on the ground." I'm shocked at her wording, but simultaneously grateful. I don't want to be coddled. "A few ribs are bruised and your neck is strained, but other than that and a few bad scratches, you're okay." She shakes her head. "Very lucky indeed." 

After checking me over and making some marks on her clipboard, she eyes me. "Your friend, Bryan, is not doing as well," she tells me. Seeing the shock on my face, she hurriedly adds, "He's going to be fine. He's also lucky. Just shock and a broken arm."

"A broken arm?!" Guilt crashes into me like waves. This is all my fault; I'd wanted him to take me on a bike ride. 

The nurse doesn't say anything, she just touches my forearm lightly and gives me a meaningful look. It's as if she can read my mind. Then, she leaves. 

"Is my mom coming back?" I ask. 

"She had to go home, but she was here just looking at you for two hours," Emma says with a shaky laugh. "As soon as she found out that you were going to survive, she calmed down. A little. I made the doctor promise to call her as soon as you woke up, so I'm sure she already has."

"I'll call her too," I offer. Emma bites her lip. 

"You're phone is a little...shattered," she says. "The nurse who found my number got glass stuck in her finger."

I groan. I know it could be much, much worse--I've known people who have become paralyzed from motorcycle accidents--but now that I know I'm safe, I'm mad at myself. Huge hospital bills and now I'll need a new phone? 

I try to calm down and look at the bright side. I can't be selfish at a time like this. 

"I'm so grateful that you're here," I say to both Emma and Cam. "I don't know what I'd do without you." The last word catches in my throat and I'm in danger of crying. 

Emma sees this and says, "on the bright side, I can take you home now. I promised your mom I'd take excellent care of you."

"She did," Cam agrees. It's the first time he's spoken in a while. We look at each other silently for a moment, each trying to tell the other something. 

"I'd better go," he says finally. "I'm glad you're safe," he tells me. "Give me a call soon, okay?" With that, he's gone. 

Now it's just Emma and I. "Em, I'm so sorry for all of this," I tell her. "I was such an idiot."

She holds up her palm. "Stop. None of this. I love you and you love me. This is bigger than both of us and our stupid fight. Let's get you home." 

We don't say much on the ride back, but we don't need to. I know I've got Emma back; she never really left at all. And after all that's happened today and in the past few weeks, I'm grateful just to have Emma in the car with me, driving me home, humming along to an oldies song on the radio. Like nothing ever happened. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Ride of My Life

I stay in the office late on Thursday, working on a Fourth of July style piece. After I've edited it and read it over for the fifth time, I publish it. For the first time in a few weeks, I feel accomplished. Like my old self. I go home ready for the long weekend but also satisfied with my work. 

Tonight I'm going on a date with Bryan. He's picking me up on his motorcycle, so I put on long jeans and a t shirt with sleeves. I know the exhaust can be scorchingly hot. 

I haven't seen Emma since I noticed her things were out of the apartment, and I'm not surprised that she isn't there now. I wish she was there so we could have a drink or two and gossip about our plans. Last year on the Fourth of July we day drank on our porch and lit box after box of sparklers. Thinking about it makes me nostalgic, especially since I'm all alone this year. 

I straighten up. No, not all alone, I tell myself. I have a date tonight. 

With a sudden flash of inspiration, I whip out a pen and a bright pink post it note. I write down that I'll be on a date, but I'll be home later and... I pause. What else should I write? I'd love to hang out tomorrow? I'll buy the sparklers? Don't move out? I sigh and draw a heart and sign my name. At least I know she'll see it. 

A few minutes later, I get a call. It's Bryan. 

"I'm just outside," he says. "Come down when you're ready!" 

I quickly tie my hair up in a ponytail and dash downstairs. I spot him immediately; he's on a bright red racing bike, wearing a riding jacket and a grin. My heartbeat speeds up and my mouth starts to water, like it always does when I'm nervous. 

Waving, Bryan beckons me over. 

"It's beautiful," I tell him, lightly touching the metal. 

"Isn't it?" He says proudly. "Hop on. I was thinking we'd go for a ride."

"I thought we were getting dinner?" 

He waves one hand. "We can grab something quick. You eat dinner every day. But you've never been on a bike ride!" 

This is true. I hoist myself on the bike. For a moment I'm hesitant to put my arms around him; we still don't know each other well, and we've barely kissed. But he grabs my hands and wraps them around his midsection. 

"The seat is pretty small, so you'll want to hold on tight," he advises. "Oh." He reaches in the saddlebags and pulls out a helmet for me. "You'll need this."

"I hope not," I say with a shaky laugh. 

Before I know it, we're off. All my anxiousness about holding onto Bryan disappears in the first few seconds. I'm terrified; the speedometer says we're only going 25 miles an hour, but I feel like I'm flying. A few bugs smack into my face, and I'm glad I brought sunglasses. 

Bryan was right--it is cramped on the seat, so I scoot a little closer to him. My legs are clamped onto the metal, and I bite down on my tongue so I don't say turn around!

But after a few minutes, the fear unclenches itself in my stomach. The wind feels cool on my cheeks, and I feel strangely powerful and free. I'm starting to get the hang of the bikes motions and turns. 

"This is fun!" I shout over the wind. 

Bryan nods. He turns his head a little. "Wanna go a little faster?"

I'm still a little nervous, but I say "sure!" 

He turns onto another road, this one less busy. There are trees on either side of the road, and it's really gorgeous. I turn my head from side to side, taking in the beauty. I've been on this street a few times before, but always in a car. I've never taken the time to really look at my surroundings. Who knew central Ohio could be so peaceful and picturesque? 

I barely register the other cars on the road. I feel like it's just Bryan, the bike, and myself. This ride was just what I needed. 

"This is incredible!" 

Bryan turns back to look at me and say something, and out of the corner of my eye I see a car passing us. Bryan is saying something, but I don't hear him. Because his head is turned, he turns the handlebars a little too. Before I know what's happening, the car in the other lane cuts us off. 

I see everything and then nothing--the front of Bryan's bike just before the car clips it, the car swerving, and suddenly I'm in the air. I feel myself land, but I don't see the bike, I don't see Bryan, I don't see the other car... And then I don't see or feel anything at all. 

I wake up and feel pain before I can see anything; the pain blinds me. It's in my spine, through my legs, and in my chest. It hurts to breathe, but I inhale as though I've been holding my breath. 

Finally my vision clears, and before I recognize that I'm in a hospital, in a hospital bed, without Bryan, I recognize the figure in the chair out of the corner of my eyes. The figure notices me awakening and suddenly a face is over me, expression full of familiar concern. 

I know who it is before my vision has fully returned to me. 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Moving on and Moving out

The fight with Emma doesn't resolve itself as I'd told myself it would. We're both stressed, I keep telling myself. Maybe she and DJ had a fight and she felt the need to defend him. Or all relationships have disagreements sometimes. Only what had happened between Emma and I certainly wasn't a disagreement; it was a fight, plain and simple. 

And as another week passed where we didn't speak, I start to believe that our friendship will never be the same. 

Luckily, I don't have too much time to worry about Emma. Work is a madhouse, even with the new assistant. I have been doing spreadsheet afrer spreadsheet, crunching numbers all day with hardly any time at all to do my actual job. I try to explain this to Kent at our end of the week meeting, but he brushes away my concern entirely. 

"There are plenty of other people working here who can help you out if need be," Kent assures me. "And you're getting so much work done."

"But," I say, trying to word this carefully. "I wasn't hired to do spreadsheets. I was hired to write fashion articles." 

"Sometimes job duties change," Kent says. 

"I understand that, but I haven't been able to give any of my time to writing and editing. While I'm relatively comfortable with excel, I don't know many of the advanced formulas," I tell him. I don't tell him to hire someone who actually knows what they're doing, but I want to. 

"Ryan, you're doing a great job," he says, as though encouragement is what I need. As though telling me I'm doing fine will help me learn advanced excel formulas. 

After that, Kent makes it clear the meeting is over. 

So I take matters into my own hands. I finish up my work and then close out of excel. It feels good to look into my old notebooks filled with trends and designers emails. I stretch and get to work. 

At the end of the day I've contacted a few magazines and written an article about spring trends that have transitioned into summer trends. I'm already brainstorming a fourth of July article. For the first time in a while, I feel motivated and accomplished. I leave work with a smile. 

I see I have two texts and for a split second I hope one is from Emma. Nope; one is from Bryan and the other is from Marie. I excitedly read Marie's message. She wants to have dinner sometime soon! We haven't talked much since her announcement, and she wants Kolby and I to meet her girlfriend! I can't help it--I clap my hands in excitement. 

I then read Bryan's message. He wants to go on a date... And he wants to pick me up on his motorcycle! I text him back quickly and say that I'm down, anytime. I've never had a bucket list, but if I did, riding a motorcycle would be on it for sure. I'd just never had the balls to do it on my own. 

Marie sends me another message and asks to meet for happy hour drinks. It's a Wednesday, but what the hell. The last two weeks have been horrible, and I could use a half price beer. 

I meet Marie at Arch City, which has the best happy hour in the short north area of Columbus. Half price beers and pizzas! Heavenly. 

Marie is already seated when I arrive. She looks very pretty in a sundress and wedge heels. I suddenly feel grungy in my post-work jean shorts. 

Marie gets up to hug me as soon as she sees me. I'm surprised. Kolby was always more of a hugger, while Marie was more reserved. 

"It's been ages," she says. "How are you?"

I sigh. "Honestly, not great. So let's not talk about that. How are you?"

Marie beams. Truly, it's as though the sun is shining through her grin. "Ryan, to tell you the truth, I've never been better." She tells me about how the information about Liam's cheating made her realize that she never really loved him anyway, and that led her to realize she hadn't been being true to herself. 

"I'd been so worried about dating Leena--that's my girlfriend--thinking that it was some kind of phase or rebound." Marie explains to me as she sips her beer. "But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I like her for her, not because I needed a change after Liam."

"Marie, that's incredible," I tell her sincerely. "I'm so happy for you. You really deserve it. So, when can I meet her?" 

"Well," Marie takes another drink. "I'm a little nervous, to tell you the truth. I haven't asked Kolby yet."

"Kolby loves everyone," I say, not quite understanding. "She'll want to meet Leena."

Marie nods. "I know, but I'm worried that she'll be jealous."

"Jealous?" I ask incredulously. 

"It's just that we've been best friends for so long," Marie explains. "I'm worried she'll think I'm abandoning her for another best friend."

"I don't think she'll be upset like that," I say. "Kolby loves you, and she wants you to be happy."

I can tell I've reassured Marie a little, but for the rest of our get-together all I can think about is what she said. We've been best friends for so long... 

Had Emma thought that I'd abandoned her for Cam? I hadn't tried to, but maybe she thought I was putting our friendship on the back burner. And now she's doing the same to me. 

Of course, when I get back home, the apartment is empty and silent. I think about texting Emma, but I'm not sure what to say, and even if I did, it couldn't be said through a text message. 

I turn the TV on and walk to the kitchen to grab a snack. I pass Emma's room, and the door is open. Peering in, I'm shocked at what I see-- or what I don't see. 

Hardly anything is left in Emma's room. Her bed is neatly made, but her favorite blanket is gone. Her nightstand is bare, as is her dresser, which is always covered in folded laundry. I check her closet, and it's less than half full. 

Emma has slowly been moving out. 

I know that I have to set things right.