The beginning of my rising from the land of the undead—that is to say, the Land of the Dumped and Dangerously Depressed—came in the form of a simple phone call from one of my best friends.
Maybe I should begin this differently. I should probably explain how I ended up in a zombie-like state in the first place.
A month and a half prior to the call that drew me from my deep depression, I got a completely different kind of phone call. It was from my fiancé, who asked if I would meet him at the food court in the mall. It wasn't really like Mike to voluntarily go to the mall, but we had been talking about how we needed to do a registry for our wedding. What awaited me at the mall was not, however, an afternoon of perusing china and silverware. Just the opposite, actually. It went a little something like this . . .
"You're . . . breaking up with me?" I choked. "In the middle of a mall?"
Talk about an ambush.
Mike nodded sadly . . . at least I thought he looked sad. But maybe that was just me being hopeful.
Cheerful Christmas music played over the PA system as we sat in the bustling food court, me staring dubiously at Mike, him staring at his hands in his lap.
Why the hell are they still playing Christmas music? I wondered in spite of myself.
"I'm sorry," he muttered. "I just can't do this. I can't take the pressure of this wedding stuff and . . . honestly, I don't think I want to get married anymore."
My mind reeled. It had taken him forever to convince me to marry him. I'd told him we were too young — just twenty-two when he proposed. He insisted that he knew I was the one, and he didn't want to waste any more time. I loved him, so I eventually told him yes. That was six months before what my friends and I had dubbed The Fiasco.
"Mike, we don't have to be married!" I scoffed. "You were the one who wanted it in the first place."
He shrugged. "I just don't want this anymore."
"That's all? It's that easy? You just don't want this anymore?"Tears fell from my eyes. I didn't care who was watching or who heard us. All I knew was that my world was falling apart around me. Everything was crumbling around me as I sat in the hard wooden chair in a food court that smelled of grease and ketchup. There were dark spots in my peripheral vision and a strange ringing in my ears.
"I'm sorry," he repeated as he stood up, kissed me on the forehead, and walked out of my life.
I felt sick. I broke into a cold sweat. I knew what was happening. Putting my head between my knees and taking deep breaths, I chanted to myself, Don't pass out. Don't pass out. Breathe. In, out. In, out.
People were staring. I didn't care.
Two girls who seemed to be about my age rushed over and asked if I was okay. I shook my head and waved them off. "I'm fine," I croaked, but then a sob choked me.
"You're so not fine," said one of the girls.
I didn't know either one of them. I had no business telling them about my personal life. But the sudden and overwhelming feeling of abandonment urged me to clutch onto anything I could. "My fiancé just broke up with me," I muttered.
The girl with dark hair and kind eyes placed her hand on my shoulder. "Are you going to be okay? Do you need some water? A hug?"
"A shiv?" her blonde friend said.
I laughed humorlessly but nodded. "I could use a stabbing instrument."
Blondie looked at me with pity in her eyes. "How mortifying," she whispered. "In the middle of a mall . . ."
"Jessica!" Kind Eyes reprimanded her.
"What? She has to be embarrassed as hell. I know I would be."
I shook my head. "I—I'm just not sure . . . what . . ." I didn't even know how to finish that sentence. I was in shock.
The two girls sat with me in quiet for a few moments.
"Well, we can try to help you if we can," the brunette said. "I'm Angela, and this is Jessica."
"Nice to meet you," Jessica said, holding out her hand. I raised mine to shake it, but she grabbed it and examined my engagement ring like she was reading my palm. "Hmm . . . Well, that proves that theory," she said smugly.
"What's that?" I asked, mildly interested.
"That a guy who can't pick out a beautiful engagement ring isn't worth marrying."
Angela gasped and chastised her friend in a hushed voice.
I smiled a little through my tears. "It's okay," I said quietly. Yes, it was a little harsh, but the ring had actually sort of been a private bone of contention with me.
I suppose it should have been a sign. I remembered Mike asking me about jewelry before he'd proposed. I told him that I preferred platinum to gold, and that I liked simple designs. When the time came and he placed the ring on my finger, I was extremely ashamed that my first thought was that it wasn't a ring I would have ever picked out for myself. It was a thin, gold band with scrolls on the sides in the shape of hearts. The diamond was small and pear-shaped and had baguettes on the sides. I hated baguettes. I'd instantly chided myself for thinking that. How could I think such a thing when the man I loved was asking to spend the rest of his life with me? I had a lovely boyfriend—fiancé—who loved me.
"I know it's not what you said you like," he said. "But I like it, and it was affordable."
"Of course I love it," I told him with a loving smile.
I wasn't a material person. And I did love it because of what it represented.
Angela sighed next to me. "Are you sure you're going to be all right?" she asked. "Do you need a ride anywhere? He didn't strand you here, did he?"
"No, no," I said. "I met him here."
"What a douche," said Jessica.
"Jessica!" Angela admonished her again.
I had to admit that I kind of liked Jessica's dry humor. It was a nice distraction.
"Thank you, though, for worrying about me." I tried to convey my gratitude through my expression, though I was sure I actually looked like a train wreck. After insisting that I give them my number so they could call and check on me later, Angela and Jessica stood and walked away.
And that was that. I drove home, where I fell onto the couch and cried into my best friend Alice's shirt sleeve as I relayed the whole story between hiccups.
I spent New Year's Eve, New Year's Day—honestly the next few weeks—in a stupor. I was at a loss. I'd changed my life and ideals completely when I agreed to marry Mike. I hadn't pictured myself getting married so young, but there I was, ready to do it.
I changed everything I felt and believed in for a guy who I thought would love me forever. Now that those were gone, I had nothing left.
That brings me back to the phone call that started my initial stirring and eventual stumbling back into the land of the thriving.
It wasn't anything major, really. One night in February, my friend Jake called and told me one of our favorite bands was playing that weekend at a downtown bar. "You've been so miserable, Bells," he said sadly. "I want to take you out and help you have some fun. I want to see that sunny smile of yours again."
There's no telling why, after much persuading on the part of my friends and my constant shooting down of their suggestions, I finally decided it would be good to get out for a change.
I stretched my limbs and got up for a drink of water as he attempted to coax me into leaving my cave. I paused and looked around. There were three half-empty mugs of tea on the coffee table. An abandoned, licked-clean pint of Ben & Jerry's was on the floor. Kleenex boxes were littered here and there. And there seemed to be an indentation in the spot on the couch where I'd been camped out for weeks. I pulled the collar of my t-shirt up over my face, wrinkling my nose at the smell of my grieving uniform, and said, "Okay."
"Really?" He sounded both shocked and excited. "I have to tell you, I was not expecting that."
"Neither was I," I said. "Can I take it back?"
"Nope. You officially have two days to get yourself together. That's more than enough."
"Is it, though?" I asked.
He chuckled. "C'mon, Bells. It'll be fun."
I finally relented, and the excitement in Jake's voice was almost too much to handle. The squealing done by my best friend and roommate, Alice Brandon, when she heard the news actually was too much to handle. I mustered up what I thought might pass as a smile, patted her on the head, and went to bed.
Two days, I thought. I have two days to think of a good excuse. I spent the next two hours reading the same few sentences of a book as my mind wandered back and forth between why I should and should not go out with my friends that weekend.
I finally fell asleep somewhere after, Fine. I'll do it.
It would be good to see my friends outside of my pitiful den of sorrow.