Chapter One: Finders

Cooper cracked open a cold beer and congratulated himself. He'd spent the last two hours moving furniture, rearranging art, and wiping out any trace that Charlotte had shared his apartment just forty-eight hours earlier. All her little feminine touches-- magazines on the coffee table, candles in the bathroom, knickknacks on his bookshelves -- were gone. Cooper had gathered everything that either belonged to Charlotte or reminded him of Charlotte, and made a discard pile by the front door. As far as he was concerned, if she didn't come and collect her things over the weekend, they could be put out with the trash on Monday morning.

Cooper squeezed a lime into his Corona and toasted his victory. He walked through each room of his apartment, guzzling his cold beer, and inspecting his handiwork. Everything was exactly how it had been before Charlotte had moved in and taken over. Everything in sight belonged to him and him alone, and that felt empowering. He felt like he was finally back in control, making his own decisions and living life on his own terms.

Beer in hand, Cooper dropped into his favorite threadbare armchair. When Charlotte had moved in, his favorite chair had been relegated to the corner of the living room. But now that she was gone, it was once again proudly displayed in the center of the room. It felt good, only it didn't. Cooper shifted in his favorite chair and grimaced. The bottom cushion felt uneven and lumpy, and just plain uncomfortable. Cooper held his beer with one hand while the other hand delved between the cushion and the frame of the chair. He shifted his weight up off the cushion and craned his wrist. He froze when his fingertips brushed against something hard.

"What the hell?" Cooper got to his feet and pulled the cushion out of the chair. A flash of bright red caught his attention. He kneeled down beside the chair, setting his beer on the hardwood floor, and reached for the foreign object. It had been strategically wedged between the frame of the chair and a rip in the tacking fabric. Cooper grabbed the item as best he could and jimmied it a couple times. The object was stuck and didn't want to budge, but eventually, he was able to work it free.

'It' turned out to be a small, gently-worn journal with red leather binding. Cooper turned the book over in his hands and inspected it. The leather was soft and worn in places, and the binding was cracked from years of handling. It felt like someone's most treasured possession, but that didn't stop Cooper from violating its sanctity. He opened the journal mid-way and read the first passage that met his eye:

I've never been so humiliated in my whole damn life! I can barely look myself in the mirror when I think about it. As if sobbing in his lap wasn't bad enough, I had to go and play the fool by asking him to marry me. And what's even worse is my pathetic lovesick heart actually believed he would go through with it. I had this whole fairytale thing planned. We would get married in Vegas. The ceremony itself would be quick and dirty, but I would belong to him for life. I would be his wife and maybe one day, the mother of his children-

Cooper realized what he was reading and his knee-jerk reaction was to snap the book closed. "Holy shit," he muttered to himself. "Charlotte kept a diary."

...TBC...


A/N: Will Cooper read Charlotte's innermost thoughts? Or will he respect her privacy? REVIEW to find out!