Fall Break

The warmth of the ceramic cup kept her hands protected from the chilly October night. It was a quarter past eleven, and she sat with her back to the windows, taking in what the night had brought to her. Winter would be upon them sooner than expected this year, if the weather people were to be believed. Cars lazed past her in the sluggish flow of traffic, casting their reflections on her wall, flickering and fading as they pleased.

Fall break was upon them and the dorm hall sat mostly empty. She didn’t regret leaving at all. Things were so much quieter than before, it was hard not to bask in the silent lounges, and barely occupied dining rooms. It was then that she knew she had grown up; no longer craving the constant presence of people, Tara had learned to enjoy the little moments of peace we so rarely receive as adults. At 20, she was completely fine with the time to reflect on the past, and plan for the future. Not that there was too much to plan, since fall break was to be dedicated for rest, to brush off the weariness that a hectic semester instills in you.

A sip of the bitter coffee filled her insides with warmth, allowing her to feel sheltered. It spread leisurely through her blood, much like the traffic on the road outside. So many bright lights…were becoming hazy…

She awoke with a start.

The cup of coffee had gone cold in her hands. She chastised herself for dozing off.

The fuzzy feeling of being secure and protected had deserted her, leaving something cold and unsteady behind. Wincing at the rushing of blood back into her limbs, she stretched the discomfort away. Her phone screen flashed and she glanced down at it, only to smile in relief at the name that popped up.

She pressed the phone icon and waited as the ringtone ended with Henry picking up.

“I’ve been texting you for ages, where’ve you been?” He asked her impatiently.

“Sorry, honey,” she said reticently, “I just woke up.”

“Oh.”

They were both silent for a moment, listening to the gentle breathing on the other side of the line.

“It’ll be okay, Henry,” she quietly reassured him, “just tell me.”

There was a hesitant intake of breath from his side, after which the words began to rush out.

“I really didn’t mean it, I swear it happened so suddenly, I barely knew what was going on and I-”

“But you’re admitting you did it, right?”

“Don’t be like this, Tara,” he pleaded.

“Don’t be like what?” She demanded to know, “Be hurt that the man I thought I loved cheated on me? Be insecure because I don’t know where I went wrong?”

“Tara, no,” he said reproachfully, “It’s not you-”

“Yeah, because I haven’t heard that one before,” she muttered bitterly. Another moment passed, and all her anger towards him dissipated, like the heat of the now cold cup.

“Look, it’s- it’s whatever, Henry. I don’t care anymore.” She told him, hoping he would hang up. She never hung up on anyone, and desperately wanted him to end the conversation, not wanting to elongate the entire affair.

“We’re cool, right?” He asked carefully, not wanting to break things off on a bad note.

“Yeah, sure, it’s whatever,” she repeated, “We all knew this was coming Henry, and you took the first step to ensure it would.”

“I don’t know what to say to that,” he weakly murmured.

“Say nothing. Nothing at all, just go.” She could already feel the need to seek refuge underneath her soft blanket.

“I’m sorry,” and when she didn’t answer, “goodbye, Tara.”

The call ended and she put her phone down.

The traffic was moving at a steady pace, and this time, it was her who felt leaden, heavy and unable to keep up.

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