Today’s Boot Camp Prompt:
The One That Got Away
You bump into an ex-lover on Valentine’s Day—the one whom you often call “The One That Got Away.” What happens?
When I saw him I felt like the universe was playing a joke on me…and on Valentine’s day of all days. I had just left work and decided to stop at the store to pick up a meal for one. It had only been a week since Mark had broken up with me so I didn’t really feel like going out and knew there wasn’t time to find a date anyway. I had thought he might be “the one”, Mark, and then he decided for me that he wasn’t. We had been together for three years and he had suddenly decided I wasn’t enough.
I’ve never been big on Valentine’s day, but Mark was. He would do something elaborate every year. A dozen roses sent to work, an expensive dinner at an oceanside restaurant, a gorgeous piece of jewelry, that’s the kind of stuff he did. This year he would be doing it for the other woman.
When I had shut the door to the frozen meal section of the giant freezers, I looked up and that’s when I saw him. It had been fifteen years since we’d seen each other. We had met at a friend’s party and it had blossomed into something beautiful. Until his mom got sick and he had to fly across the country to take care of her. We had tried to do the long distance thing, but in the end, he just had too much going on to keep a girlfriend.
While I stood holding my frozen meal, I stared at him. I thought about all the times he had made me laugh. Mark had never made me laugh like that. I thought about the chills that went down my spine when we kissed. Another thing that had never really happened with Mark. I thought about the deep conversations we would have for hours about anything and everything. I watched movies with Mark. I didn’t fully realize what I was doing until he looked up and did a double-take. Trying to save my dignity, I spun around and walked away.
I made it all the way to the line at the register before I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and to my relief it was an elderly woman asking if I was in line. I responded politely even though I wanted to be snarky and say “Obviously. Don’t you see I’m right behind that person who’s behind that person who is checking out?”. I focused with eyes front. I had made up my mind to take my freezer meal, go home, sit on the couch, feel sorry for myself, and watched a funny movie.
“Tiffany? Tiffany Takowski?” My heart had lept into my throat as my gut plummeted to the floor. I turned to find him standing a few feet away. I gave a moment’s pause to pretend I was figuring out who he was. I even furrowed my brow in concentration.
“Brian?” He hugged me without hesitation. I was immediately engulfed in his familiar scent. It was oddly comforting to know he still used the same soap.
“How have you been?” He asked after breaking the hug.
“Good.” I lied. “How about you?” He shrugged.
“Good. Just moved back on Sunday and I’ll be starting a new job next week. Things are a little hectic right now.”
“So your mom is doing good then?” It was a dumb question and I realized it as the words were leaving my mouth. His head dropped a little as his eyes went to the floor and I wanted to smack myself in the face.
“She passed away about a year ago. It was a long struggle so I just feel better knowing she isn’t in pain anymore.” I instinctively touched his arm.
“I’m so sorry Brian. I had no idea.” He smiled and we started talking about what we’ve been doing over the years since we grew apart. I conveniently left out my recently failed three year relationship. We had talked through the entire checkout process, much to the elderly woman’s dismay, and were now standing outside the door of the supermarket when the conversation died in that usual awkward way it does.
“No date tonight?” Brian asked pointing at the freezer meal in my plastic bag. I shrugged.
“Nope. Unless you count Netflix as a date.” He laughed and I inwardly died. He hadn’t mentioned a girlfriend, but I had no doubt Miss Perfect was probably waiting for him.
“It was good catching up.” I told him and leaned in for another clumsy hug. I held it a moment longer than I should have, but I missed feeling his arms around me. I had planned on marrying him and I wanted two extra seconds of closeness before I let him slip away again.
“Yeah, it was.” He said next to my head and to my surprise he held me just a little tighter before letting go. I smiled. He smiled. We turned to go our separate ways. I wish I could say I heard him call out my name. I wish I could say that we spent that night watching the funny movie and eating freezer meals together. If this were a perfect world, I would be sitting next to him right now. But it’s not and I’m not.
After seeing him, I decided maybe it was a good time to join the rest of the world and start a social media account. I found his profile and confirmed my suspicions. He did have someone, a wife actually. She was beautiful as I expected and always had a huge smile on her face, even when she didn’t know a picture was being taken. He looked really happy with her.
It’s been two years and I’m still eating freezer meals on Valentine’s Day.