A/N: This story has been rewritten, but nothing huge has changed. Thanks for reading!
The beginning of my rising from the land of the undead—that is to say, the Land of the Dumped and Dangerously Depressed—comes 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 few months ago, I got a different kind of phone call. It was from my fiancé, who asked if I would meet him at the food court in the mall. I was somewhat suspicious, because Mike hates the mall, but I had been badgering him about getting our wedding registry over with. 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.
He 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 are they still playing Christmas music? I wondered in spite of myself.
"I'm sorry," he muttered. "I just can't do this anymore. 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 when he proposed. We were only twenty-two. There was no rush. He insisted that he knew I was the one and that he didn't want to waste any more time. I loved him, so I eventually told him yes. That was a mere six months before this horrible moment.
"Mike, we don't have to get married," I scoffed. "You're the one who insisted in the first place."
He shrugged. "I just don't want this anymore."
Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that he was serious. He was leaving me. I didn't care who was watching or who heard us. All I knew was that my world was falling apart. Everything crumbled around me as I sat in the hard, wooden chair in a food court that smelled of grease and pizza sauce. 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.
Someone kneeled beside me, and at first I thought it was Mike. But the touch on my shoulder was light. "Are you okay?" asked a feminine voice.
"Do you need help? You look like you might faint," another one said from in front of me.
I shook my head and waved them off. "I'm fine," I croaked, and then a sob choked me.
"You're so not fine," said one of the girls.
I looked up then, brushing my hair from my face. Two girls, one brunette and one blonde, both of whom seemed to be around the same age as me, watched me with cautious, sympathetic eyes. 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?" she asked again. "Do you need some water? A hug?"
"A shiv?" her blonde friend said.
I chuckled humorlessly but nodded. "I could use a stabbing instrument."
Blondie looked at me with pity in her eyes. "How mortifying," she whispered. "In a mall food court…"
"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 moment.
"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.
Angela's eyes widened.
"What's that?" I asked, mildly interested.
"That a guy who can't pick out a beautiful engagement ring isn't worth marrying."
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.
"I know it's not what you said you like," he'd said when he presented it to me in its small, black box. "But I like it, and it was affordable."
"Of course I love it," I'd 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.
Angela rolled her eyes. I had to admit that I kind of liked Jessica's dry humor. It was a nice distraction.
"Thank you, though, for being so nice." I looked at them both with gratitude. 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. My life and ideals had completely changed when I'd agreed to marry Mike. I hadn't pictured myself getting married so young, and I'd had to shift all my visions of the future. Now that those were gone, I had no idea what I wanted.
That brings me back to the phone call that spurs my initial stirring and eventual stumbling back into the land of the thriving.
It's not anything major, really. One night in February, my friend Jake calls to tell me that one of our favorite bands is playing this weekend at a downtown bar. "You've been so miserable, Bells," he says sadly. "I want to take you out and shake you up. 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 decide it will be good to get out for a change.
I stretch my limbs and get up for a drink of water, pause, and look around. There are three half-empty mugs of tea on the coffee table. An abandoned, licked-clean pint of Ben & Jerry's lies dejectedly on the floor. Kleenex boxes are littered here and there. And there seems to be an indentation in the spot on the couch where I've been camped out for weeks. I pull the collar of my t-shirt up over my face, wrinkling my nose at the smell of my grieving uniform, and say, "Okay."
"Really?" He sounds both shocked and excited. "I have to tell you, I was not expecting that."
"Neither was I," I say. "Can I take it back?"
"Nope. You officially have two days to get yourself together. That's more than enough."
"Is it, though?" I ask.
He chuckles. "C'mon, Bells. It'll be fun."
I finally relent, and the excitement in Jake's voice is almost too much to handle. The squealing done by my best friend and roommate, Alice Brandon, when she hears the news later that night actually is too much to handle. I muster up what I think might pass as a smile, pat her on the head, and go to bed.
Two days, I think. I have two days to think of a good excuse. I spend the next couple of hours reading the same few sentences of a book as my mind wanders back and forth between why I should and should not go out with my friends this weekend.
I finally fall asleep somewhere after thinking, Fine. I'll do it.
What little is left of my optimistic side wins out in the end, and I officially agree to go out with Jake, Alice, and a few other friends. And you know what? I actually have fun. For those few hours, as I listen to good music and drink a few beers, all is right in my world.
Over the following months, they start inviting me to more outings and parties. Slowly but surely, I start to transform back into a real girl. One who showers and gets properly dressed and eats and everything.
I realize soon enough that what happened with Mike was for the best. Was what we had really even that special? Did he really love me, or was he only infatuated with me because I proved to be a challenge? It's a moot point now. Whenever he pops into my head, whenever I feel those insecurities creeping in, I push them down as far as I can. I bury them. At least until I'm alone in my room at night, when I can't seem to fight those thoughts.
After a few more pity parties and some soul-searching, I start to become a better version of the old Bella. One who knows what and whom she loves and doesn't take crap from anybody. One who allows herself to be sarcastic, to laugh, to say "fuck it" and dance with a boy in a bar without a single thought about Mike. I'm ready to leave that crap behind. I'm ready to take on the next challenge.