It had taken Scott over a week to track down Dr. Greene and less than five minutes to convince him to meet Anna. She needed guidance—guidance he hadn’t the time or energy to give. Dr. Greene, on the other hand, loved nothing more than shaping a sensible mind. He could be a hard nut to crack however Scott was certain Dr. Greene would take her under his roof. His children were raising families of their own and his wife had given her blessing after their initial conversation.

Scott and Anna met Dr. Greene for lunch between classes. It was difficult to read his blank face but given the fact he didn’t walk out before the waitress took their order was money in the bank. Anna answered his questions articulately and politely but Dr. Greene felt she masked low self-esteem—an epidemic raging amongst young women.

“Are you in school?” Dr. Greene asked expressionlessly.

“No, sir.” Anna replied. “I came to Atlanta to find a career.”

“Your career begins with education. Without a degree, what you do between 9-5 is a job, not a career.” His eyes moved back and forth between her and Scott. He forwent the protracted lecture “You’re working?”

“Yes, sir. I’m a full-time event assistant…” she answered before Dr. Greene interrupted.

“You’re working too many hours. You don’t need the money. Your education comes first.” His face relaxed to a smile as he stood. “We’ll be out of town for two weeks. By the time we return you should be moved in. Come by my office tomorrow—you’re getting into school if it kills me. And if I see that peanut-head ex-boyfriend of yours lurking around, I’ll put a bullet in his ass.”

“It won’t come to that. I haven’t heard from him.” Anna beamed. “Thank you.”

That had been over a mouth ago.

Scott and Monica hadn’t spoken since he walked out of her door. There was little to say. It wasn’t as though they were friends before they began dating. There was no reason for them to keep in contact. Well, aside from the fact that her best friend was marrying Grant, who within a short period of time had become one of his closest friends and both of their ties with the Fitzpatrick’s, who were doing everything in their power to reconcile the happily unhappy couple.

They were unhappy indeed. Scott’s life didn’t skip a beat. Once Anna moved in with Dr. Greene, he dove into his studies and began getting over Monica. Getting over her was proving more difficult than he imagined. He could no sooner get over her than he could pull every star from the sky. Her presence plagued every passing second, smothering him like an emotional miasma. The anxiety was there, swirling around the banal; eddying around his insecurities; circling around his ego; churning his emotions. Yes, the anxiety is there, but so was the constant knowledge that they needed to be apart. His mouth watered with the prospect of walking away from her with neither insouciance nor sadness. He just wanted to let go.

Monica, his beautiful Monica, was miserable—unequivocally—incandescently miserable. No showy masquerade was needed; everyone knew their breakup devastated her. Sharon struggled to meet their prior commitments and juggle the new jobs pouring in while Monica was out of commission. Out of commission was an understatement. Monica hadn’t been in the office since the breakup. She couldn’t bring herself get out of bed much less reenter society. No, she closed her eyes and slipped into mental purgatory where atop the emotional rubble of her failed relationship sat see-saw which never seemed to lift her out of the dreck of self-doubt long enough to escape her persistent state of misery.

Her sleep, when there was any, came late and after much coaxing, and many rounds of counting her heartbeats. When she did finally sleep, she tossed erratically—she slept aware of her sleeping….bobbing on the surface of unconsciousness like a fishing float, rather than submerged like a convert in Lethean waters. Not that sleep would offer reprieve. Scott was there in her dreams…pieces of him so clear she could feel his essence, his fingers, his scent, and his kisses. These were the dreams from which she awoke weeping.

Sharon and Mrs. Fitz’s words of encouragement only went so far. Monica would have to heal herself in due course. She managed to pack his forgotten belongings and placed them in the living room, waiting for Sharon to pick them up. Two boxes…their relationship boiled down to two interchangeable lackluster brown boxes.

“Knock Knock,” Sharon said coming through Monica’s front door. She went straight to the kitchen with bags of take-out. “I came over early because Grant’s flying in tomorrow and I needed to run some errands. I figured you wouldn’t be up for going out so…here I am.” She was surprised to find Monica dressed, questionably so, but dressed nonetheless. Anything was better than seeing her encased in leggings and swimming in oversized tee shirts. Her hair was another story—tragically pushed up in a bizarre not-quit-right knot on the top of her head. But it was a start. “You’re looking better.” She plopped down beside her on the sofa.

Monica rolled her eyes and continued flipping through the channels. “How are the wedding plans coming?”

“Great,” Sharon said sarcastically. “I need your help. KC is driving me crazy. When are you coming back to work?”

“Why?” Monica heaved herself off the sofa and went to the kitchen. “Things going badly?”

“Um, yeah! I need some help. You can wallow in self-pity after hours. I’m getting killed.”

“I’ll be back in the office Monday until then, I’ll work from home. Thanks for taking up the slack.”

“Whatever. Just throw me a bone damn it. I’ve hired a new girl, Bree. You’ll hate her. I do. But she’s experienced so she’ll do for now. Joy is threatening to leave if she doesn’t”

“Joy can’t leave. We’d be lost. She knows the business inside and out.”

Sharon took her cue. “Which brings me to this: We need to expand. I’ve done the forecasting. With or without Grant’s connections, Monica, we dying…we’re stretched too thin. There’s no way we can handle the volume of clients coming in. We’re bursting at the seams as it is. I can show you the numbers…”

“No,” Monica took her seat and took a swig of water. “I knew it would happen sooner or later. What are we looking at?”

“We need at least two new locations; New York and LA. Obviously, I’d manage the New York office and Joy can head-up the LA division.”

“Bring Joy on as a partner?! No. It won’t work. I can’t be partners with a former employee.” Monica’s pity party was over.

“Do you want her as our competition? Like you said, she knows the business inside and out. She hasn’t said anything but, if she wanted to she could very well pull off the same takeover we did over at Flemings.” Sharon said with all the delicacy of a red hot spit fork.

Monica shook her head. There was no sense in fighting or ignoring the writing on the wall. Maybe the timing wasn’t so bad. She needed the distraction. “One new office, New York, for now. Joy can go with you and I’ll stay here. We’ll give it six months, if she can handle New York than LA won’t be a problem.”

“Mon,” Sharon said cautiously. “You need to rehire Annalisa. KC is overworking her and you’ll need the help once Joy and I leave.” She gave Monica the hand when she tried to protest. “Don’t start. She was a junior employee but she was one of our best. You know what it’s like coming from nothing. She never asked for anything but a chance to prove herself and she did. So what, she made a mistake…we all do. Now isn’t the time to save face. You need to call her.”

“No,” Monica said squarely and then her tone softened. “Not right now.” Do you think Scott and Anna are…together?”

“I don’t believe for a moment they’re anything more than friends. He still loves you, Mon. He’s just hurting—Courtney did a number on him and then…well you know.” she stopped, there was no sense in stating the obvious.

“I messed up.” Her words were spoken more for herself than for Sharon. She took a deep breath and said brightly, “Mrs. Fitz called. She throwing dinner party tomorrow night, you guys coming?”

“You’re going?”

“Yeah. I am. It’s time to face everyone. Even Scott.”


Scott, on the other hand, wasn’t sure he was ready to face Monica. His breakup with Courtney was made increasingly difficult because they were in constant contact…they lived together six months afterward. Even by modern standards this was a bit much to ask. He’d be damned if the breakup with Monica would follow the same path. But seeing her, being in the same room knowing her smile masked her sorrow, might be his undoing.

It wasn’t all Monica’s fault, the failure of their relationship, and he wanted to tell her so…but how? Even to his own ear, his thoughts were convoluted. How could he express them to her? That night, mistakes were made…their emotions were high, but the fact remained: She’d acted spitefully without just cause and laid down the gauntlet with her heated ultimatum. He couldn’t be blamed for that.

Monica spotted Scott’s black Acura TL as soon as they pulled into the Fitz’s circular driveway. Sharon saw the tension crawled across her shoulders as they trudged towards the house.

“Mon,” Sharon tugged at Monica’s sleeve. “Are you sure you’re ready for this? We don’t have to go inside. I’ll call Mr. Fitz from the car. He’ll understand.”

“No. I’m ready.” She lied.

Unmoved by her words, Sharon didn’t budge. “You know he’s here…”

“What if he’s here with Anna?”

“I don’t think they’re together but if they are then so be it. Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. She smiled and started for the door.

Inside they were met by Mr. Fitz. His warm fatherly embrace threatened to send Monica into tears. He’d always had that affect on her. Mrs. Fitz came bounding towards her with open arms—more or less colliding with rather than hugging her and then held her at a distance peppering her with questions. Just as Monica thought she’d lose it, Scott appeared from the sitting room. Her eyes flew to the floor, her stopped breathing, and worry performed cartwheels in her belly. She wanted to run—anywhere but here with everyone’s eyes on them. She felt Sharon’s fingers interlace with hers, it was then she realized they’d been trembling. It’s too soon, she told herself.

At first sight, Scott’s heart leapt. Thankfully his timber-like legs anchored him to the floor. Everyone was frozen in frame thick with silence—incessant—impenetrable—painful silence. With three sets of eyes on him, Scott flashed a quick grin, swallowed heavily, and excused himself before things became really uncomfortable. It’s too soon, he told himself.

Thanks to a vat of wine and Mr. Fitz’s endless supply of embarrassing stories of the rich and famous, dinner had gone pleasant enough. Grant arrived late but wasted no time jumping in with the rest of them. He expected to come into a scene where the women-folk were kicking Scott’s bloody and beaten body around like a soccer ball but Scott didn’t seem to need his help. He and Monica occupied their time stealing nervous glances across the table. This wasn’t lost on anyone… nor was the parties’ comedic retreat into the living room.

“Monica,” Mrs. Fitz called. “Would mind grabbing another bottle of wine from the kitchen? Thank you.” She sauntered off, leaving Monica and Scott alone.

“I believe that’s our cue to talk.” Scott rubbed the back of his head. “Come on.” He started towards the kitchen. “How have you been?” He stopped when he realized she wasn’t following him. He traced his steps and found Monica sitting one of the small alcoves, her palms pressed to her face. He kneeled and took her in his arms. Her anguish bleed through his shirt, and her gasping sobs left him winded. He cupped her face and kissed her tear soaked lips. “Shhh, it’s just you and me now. Calm down, alright?” She was worse off than he anticipated.

“Scott, I’m sorry. I made a stupid mistake and don’t know how to fit it,” She said between huffs. “I don’t care about anything else, I just want you back. I’m so unhappy without you. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have fired Anna. I shouldn’t have treated you that way. I’m sorry,” She rested her forehead on his shoulder. “Please take me back.”

Scott’s reserve faltered as he held her. The words she longed to hear roiled in his throat, begging for release, aching to soothe her troubles. He yearned to say the words she needed to hear but not at the expense of his conscience.

Neither spoke for minutes on end. There was no need.

“Am I to take your silence as a ‘no’?” Monica forced the question from her mouth.

Scott stared into her eyes and shook his head, no. “I love you but…I can’t go down that road again.”

Monica exhaled the last of her self-confidence. “Was being with me that terrible?”

“No, being with you wasn’t terrible,” he thumbed her cheek and smiled. “It was stressful at times but never terrible. It’s not all your fault. I played my part. I measured you against Courtney, the worse of the worse. I placed you on a pedestal of my own making and when you didn’t meet my expectations, my feelings for you turned to fears.”

“You’re afraid I’ll become Courtney because I made one silly mistake? That’s not fair.”

“When you put it like that, it does seem silly but it’s not. Your reaction was too natural—your ultimatum came too easily, which calls your character into question. I’m not saying you’re a horrible person, you’re not. I should’ve stopped your overprotective behavior when I saw it reach a fever pitch. You try to take care of everyone around you and take too much on your plate and when you fail, you act out. I understand why you’re this way but you need time to figure out ‘Monica’—and what she wants. Stop worrying about everyone else and focus on you for a while.” His soft smiled mirrored hers.

“You’re right. I’m high-strung. Maybe it’s time I work on myself.”

“You’re not alone. I have work to do as well.”

New tears pooled in her eyes and streaked down her cheeks. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“God, I love you,” He kissed her and spoke onto her wet lips, “You’re my hardest goodbye.”

With that, the last embers of their relationship were snuffed.