Three months, 2 weeks, and one day later I was still struggling to move on. Keeping my house clean and the windows semi-opened helped my anxiety. Christmas had stolen the possibility of the nights that I would have sipped on white hot chocolate with Michael in front of the Christmas tree. I had ignored the ghosts of wrapping paper that would have been around me, and I had fought my way through the endless fog covering my eyes when I saw his name on the caller I.D.
But then, I had thought to myself whilst rubbing the shadows of loneliness from my eyes, we never had spent a Christmas together. Had never gone to New York City together to ride the sleighs that traveled heavily down the snow laden park. But yet, knowing all of this, I still missed Michael and his endless stories of a happy, two-sided marriage. I still don't understand why he told me such stories, all he ever achieved was making jealous.
On this quiet morning of March I stood in front of my beige curtained windows. The sun was shining through, the rays touching at my scars and the bird's music crept through the cracks of my semi-detached house to try and soften my heart. I had loved Spring back before I met Michael. I remembered eating soft ice cream from the nearly abandoned vendors by Lake Ontario and witnessing the rebirth of the trees and animals slowly. The quiet chirp of a baby bird would quiet me and cause me to sit in one of the cold benches to wait and watch nothing, just to listen.
I hugged my arms softly and felt my cotton shirt bunch up at my fingertips. I had thought over and over what to wear, and in the end I had settled for a simple blue cotton sweater and a pair of black straight legged jeans. My toes felt bear and I told myself that they would be warm in my flats. My wild brown hair hung around my face in tight curls and when I stood in my front of my bedroom mirror I could see it rising steadily up and down on my nervous chest.
My phone rang and I cursed softly as the sound surprised me.
"Hello?" I answered while trying to hide my annoyance.
"Hey, it's me. You ready?" It was Alice, her voice sounded exhausted.
"Did you run again?"
"I'm glad I call you my best friend, you know me well." She complimented. "Yes I did, as a matter of fact. I realized that I was running a bit late, sorry! I'll be there in five minutes."
"Okay," I responded, "I hope you're right about this."
Fifteen minutes later Alice parked the car into an empty space in the park that I used to frequent. This past winter had been disastrous, the wind had severed several tree branches and ice patches lined the paths like hidden Eden snakes. The grass was a hazy yellow and the lake itself was a mess of black waves, occasionally crashing on the jagged rocks.
My foot crunched down hard on the pavement as it broke a patch of black ice into several glassy fragments. I waited with the door opened while looking over at Alice as she got out of the car. Her purple hat swung off the tip were the ball of fluff followed the direction of the wind and her matching mittens held onto the door on her side.
"What do you think?" She asked in a voice that matched the sounds of the abandoned lake front.
"I think it is cold and empty." I answered, knowing that she would frown at me in disappointment I added, "But, it is relaxing."
Alice smiled. "Nice save."
We walked for about ten minutes, the idea of soft ice cream out of our minds, before we made a swift turn for the car. Alice rubbed her hands together in front of the steering wheel like she had always done whenever she wanted to know where to go next.
"I don't know," I responded. "Anywhere."
"How about some tea?" She asked with enthusiasm growing with every word.
I just smiled and shrugged, "Sounds good to me."
As we drove towards downtown Toronto Alice stole a glance at me and asked, in the most protective way possible, "So, how are you?"
"Fine." I knew where she was going and I didn't want to breach the subject. It was darkened territory for me.
"Is your house clean?' This somehow had become an inside thing between us and I had simply accepted it as a thing that could not be changed.
"Yes," I looked straight through the windshield. "Bed is made, as you can tell, I took a shower, and my house smells like the end of winter."
"Glad to hear it." She smiled at me before turning and parking in front of a Starbucks on St. George. The streets were busy with men in suits talking loudly on their cell phones and children skipping hours of school to instead have fun on the streets of downtown.
"You came all the way down here for a tea?" I asked, amused at her choice of venue.
"They make the best in town, trust me, I've looked." She assured me as she walked towards the entrance.
"Here, let me get that for you." she suddenly said pulling open the heavy door and holding it back, allowing a woman with a baby stroller out.
"Thank you!" The woman said before turning to me. "Have a good--"
My heart froze and if the wind had not been blowing with me then I would have crumpled to a heap of nothing. Her deep brown eyes looked me over, trying to place me, and her curved cupid's bow mouth sat sternly on her round small face. Her red hair was falling out of her messy bun in long wisps of loose curls and her black coat hid any signs of a previously pregnant body. In the stroller that she was holding tightly lay a baby boy, his blue hat a giveaway for his gender. He was a cute baby.
"I know you from somewhere." She said quietly. "I'm sorry, I'm horrible with these things."
I heard her giggle softly as I looked down at my black flats and saw the outline of my toes against the tight material. "It was at the company's party several years ago."
"Oh," she suddenly expelled, "right, you were Mike's old assistant. Right. Melissa?"
"Melanie." I corrected shortly.
"Right, sorry about that, I barely have time for my memory anymore what with Jules and all."
"Is that the baby's name?" Alice chirped in.
She looked forward lovingly at her sleeping son. "Yes, he is a handful, just like his father!" She giggled at some inside joke that she had just shared with herself and turned back to me. "It was nice seeing you, how are you?"
"I'm fine," I put on a smile that I was sure looked as false as it felt, "just trying to survive."
"Aren't we all?" She responded and quickly looked down at her son once more. "I'm sorry, but I have to go, it was nice seeing you again."
I nodded softly and fought back the tears that were all ready threatening my facade. "You too. Congratulations."
She smiled in response and waved goodbye to Alice before disappearing around a corner. As soon as she was gone Alice grabbed one of my shaking hands. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," I quickly shook my head and let the tears beat me down. "No, no I'm not."
"Was that her?"
"Trust Toronto to bring everyone together for a reunion." Alice muttered before opening the door to Starbucks once more. "Well, are we going to let your past problem stop us from drinking the best tea in town?"
To my surprise, the sound of laughter escaped my semi-choked throat through my tears.
"That's what I thought, now come on before I get yelled at for letting the heat out."