Hello all! This is the first story idea I've ever gotten from a music video! I heard Taylor Swift's song, You Belong to Me, for the first time and saw the video. My favorite cliché, the best friends to lovers one, popped into mind again so I got the whole album and listened to it. I was struck by how it seemed that half the album was about her getting the love of her life and the other half was about her losing him. From that, this formed. Please read and enjoy!

Seven Stages of the Death of a Relationship

You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. – recover-from-grief

"Whoa there."

The boxes that were wobbling at a dangerous rate on top of the other boxes Bree was trying to carry were suddenly lifted out of her grasp. "Oh!" she gasped, thrown off balance by the sudden shift in weight but catching herself quickly.

She looked up to see who it was that had rescued her dishes from certain death and was struck for a moment. This was a good looking man. She was taken so of course she wasn't in the least attracted to his broad shoulders or shaggy brown hair, but hell, she had eyes. And this boy definitely qualified for the eye candy category. But strangely enough, this guy actually looked familiar, although she couldn't place where she had seen him before.

The guy also took the chance to check her out. "Wow. Hi," he said, then smiled a brilliant smile. It was open and happy and made Bree smile along with him without even realizing it. "I'm Josh, 317."

"You're my new next door neighbor then. I'm Bree. I just moved into 315. I would shake your hand but…" she jiggled the heavy box she was still carrying and laughed.

"Right, duh. Let me help you with these," Josh said, motioning to the stairs. "Can you get that one? Here, I'll take it."

Bree took a step back before Josh could add this box to his impromptu burden. "No, I've got this. You already helped by taking the others." Bree said.

"Alright, if you're sure?"

"It's perfect, thank you."

Bree led the way up the last flight of stairs with Josh right behind her. Her door was open so it was a simple matter to get into the apartment. "Just right here would be great," She said, setting her box on the kitchen table.

Josh followed suit, setting all of the boxes on the table beside hers. "Is there someone helping you move in?" he asked.

Bree motioned to the stacks upon stacks of boxes already surrounding the apartment. "As you can see, I was pretty much done. My dad helped me earlier today. I just wanted to get these last boxes in before the day was over."

"Are you going to school at AU?" he asked, switching topics abruptly.

"Yeah, I just transferred in. Do you go?"

Josh nodded. "Oh yeah. This is my last year."

"Can I ask you something?" Bree asked after a short pause in the conversation.

"God yes. I'm horrible at small talk so anything you do makes it easier on me," he said.

Bree had to laugh at his desperate honesty. He was way too open for someone as attractive as he was. Bree could see that, if he had a girlfriend, she was very lucky. "I'll try to keep you from floundering then," she said. "Where have I seen you before?"

Josh stuck his thumbs in the front pockets of his jeans and leaned back on his heels as he said proudly, "Well, I was a judge at the State Mathlete Competition last year."

Bree laughed again. She couldn't help it. "Seriously?"

He took her laughter in stride, grinning with her. "I've got the certificate of appreciation hanging on my fridge."

She had to laugh one more time before she could say, "Considering I barely passed high school geometry, I don't think that's where I've seen you. Try again."

Josh rubbed the slight five o'clock shadow on his chin in the stereotypical thinking pose. Finally he snapped his fingers. "You a football fan?"

Bree's mouth dropped as it finally hit her. "You're Joshua Reynolds, the Panthers linebacker! Oh my god, I love you!"

Josh's cheeks actually took on a pink tinge but he still managed to say, "I never get tired of beautiful women saying that to me."

Bree was too caught up in her discovery to put a filter on her chatter. "Everyone in my family is a diehard Panthers fan. My parents have season tickets on the 50 yard line, they've gone to every home game for the past ten years. And you! My little brother bought a jersey with your number on it and didn't take it off for a week."

"I don't know whether to be flattered or disgusted."

"My dad has been your biggest fan ever since you turned down the opportunity to go into the NFL draft last year. You should hear him go on and on about how you're the epitome of what college football is supposed to be. They would die if they knew I had moved in next to Joshua Reynolds!"

"Well hell, I don't want to kill anyone," Josh said.

Bree finally stopped chattering. She bit her lip when she realized how stupid and fan-girly she must have just sounded. "I'm really sorry to gush like that. I just didn't realize that it would be you, you know?"

Josh's infectious smile returned, calming her distress just like that. "No worries."

"Oh, but you're not going to like me," Bree said suddenly.

His eyes roamed across her face. "Somehow, I don't think that's going to happen."

Bree blushed a little at his obvious advances. Well, that answered the girlfriend question. "Just wait until I say this. While I am a huge Panthers fan, my boyfriend, Gabriel, actually plays for U State."

"Gabriel White? The halfback?" he asked.

"Yep," Bree said, smiling like she always did when someone recognized Gabriel. He had worked so hard to fulfill the demands put on him by college football and had been rewarded with a starting position halfway during his freshman year. Having someone recognize him just showed how talented and dedicated he was to his sport. She couldn't help but be proud of him for that.

"So, that was you in the closet last week!" Josh said, pointing at her. "I am so sorry about that."

Bree had no idea what Josh was talking about. "What?" she asked.

"Last Tuesday at the Lucas house party. Yeah, that was me that interrupted you two in the coat closet. My bad," Josh said, abashedly grinning through his long bangs.

That made no sense. Last Tuesday Bree had been at her family's house, celebrating her mom's birthday. She certainly hadn't gone to any house party, and she didn't think Gabe had either. He'd said he was packing his stuff up that night to go back to school. "I don't think that was us," Bree said slowly.

Now Josh looked as confused as Bree felt. "Really? I could have swore it was Gabriel White that I walked in on." He shrugged, "Guess I was wrong. Don't worry, I'll be sure to tackle him hard enough to get his helmet off a couple times during the season. That way I can get a good look at him."

Bree managed a laugh but she was still somewhat distracted by Josh's mistaken identity incident.

"Well, I better go and let you unpack," Josh said. "If you need anything at all just knock on my window. We share the fire escape."

Bree looked to the window with a smile. "I'll be sure to do that. Thank you for the help."

"Anytime," he said as he headed to the door backwards. "I love helping ladies in distress. It indulges my fetish for the white knight fantasy."

Another laugh, this time a genuine one. He was just too honest and cute in a cheesy sort of way. She liked him, and not just because he was Joshua Reynolds, star linebacker for the AU Panthers football team. Although that certainly didn't hurt.

Josh winked at her then shut her front door behind him. Bree lost her smile almost as soon as the lock clicked into place. That whole mistaken identity thing had been weird. Josh had seemed fairly confident that it had been Gabe he'd walked in on, but of course it couldn't have been. Gabe wouldn't cheat on her. He didn't have any reason to. They had a great relationship, built on so much more than just hormones and lust like other high school sweethearts were. She and Gabe were best friends first, and then lovers. He was the perfect boyfriend in every way, and he had never given her any reason to think that he had even the slightest inclination to see other girls.

"You're just being stupid, worrying over nothing," she told herself. "Now do something worthwhile with yourself."

Bree pushed the uncertainties out of her thoughts and instead focused on the enormous task of unpacking all her things. An hour later, her bedroom furniture had been moved to where she wanted it and her big sleigh bed was made. Two hours later, her clothes were all unpacked and hung up in the closet or put away in her oversized bureau. Three hours later, she had finished scrubbing down the bathroom and had put all of her toiletries in their proper place. Four hours later, she was sweaty, tired, hungry, and about to drive herself insane.

"Agh! Fine!" she said, throwing down the pots she had been organizing in her kitchen and stepping back. "Just call him and ask already!"

She had to search for her purse for a few moments but eventually found it and fished out her phone. Bree would call Gabe and put to rest all of her stupid and unjustified doubts, then ask him to bring some takeout over so they could spend the first night in her new apartment together.

She pressed in his number, the only phone number she knew by heart, and waited while it rang. Just like always, Gabe answered her call before the third ring.

"Hey babe," he said.

"Hi," she replied. "Are you finished with practice?"

"Yeah, I'm driving home now. How'd your move go? Do you want me to help?"

Bree smiled at Gabe's eagerness. She'd had to convince him not to skip practice today because he'd felt so bad for not being there to help her move in. "It's good, I'm about halfway done with the unpacking. And no, I don't want your help. You did more than enough by helping me pack all this crap up to begin with. But guess what?"


"Nevermind, you're never going to guess. My next door neighbor is none other than Joshua Reynolds."

There was a small pause then, "The Joshua Reynolds?"

"Yeah!" she gushed. "He helped me up the stairs with the last of my boxes today and we chatted for a few minutes. I was so excited when I found out he was actually Joshua Reynolds. He's funny, I think you would like him."

"I don't think so, babe," Gabe said, the teasing smile obvious in his voice. "He tackled me one too many times last season."

"Well, I think you two would get along great off the field even if you can't get along on it." Bree took a deep breath and let it out silently. Now or never. "It was the weirdest thing though," she said into the phone.

"What was?" he asked.

Bree noticed the slightest edge in Gabe's voice. She wouldn't have heard it if she didn't know him so well. It made her heart beat a little faster and the words come out of her mouth a little rushed. "Well, after I realized that Josh was Joshua Reynolds I said that he wasn't going to like me because I was dating you. He recognized your name and then he apologized of all things. Apparently, he thought he walked in on you and me getting busy in a coat closet at a house party last Tuesday. Well, he didn't recognize me, but he was sure it was you so I guess he assumed it was me. Isn't that weird?"


Bree's heart thumped once so hard against her ribs that it left her breathless. "Gabe?" she said, gripping the phone tighter in her hand.

Gabe cursed luridly. "Shit, babe. I didn't want you to find out this way."

"Gabriel, what are you talking about?" Bree said. She was holding the phone like it was her last lifeline. Who was she kidding, this phone call was her last lifeline. He couldn't be saying what she thought he was saying. He couldn't.

"I'm so so sorry, Bree. I met this girl, she's a cheerleader at U State…"

"A girl? Gabe, what are you talking about? What girl?" This made no sense. She was happy. They were happy. Why was he meeting girls?

"Babe, you know I love you but Ashley, she's funny and hot and—"

"Ashley?" Bree repeated. Maybe it was a good thing that she hadn't eaten all day. Her stomach was twisting in her body in ways she didn't think were possible. It hurt.

Gabe sighed. Bree knew him well enough to realize that that sigh meant he was rubbing the spot between his eyebrows like he did when he was about to do something that she wouldn't like. "Breanna, I'm sorry but I think you and I should take a break. I think we should see other people and see if this thing between us is what we both really want. I still love you, but I'm not sure if I'm in love with you anymore."

The bottom of Bree's world dropped out of reach. Her vision wavered, the edges turning to black. Her lungs burned and she realized that she had forgotten to breathe. She managed to pull some air into her lungs, enough for her brain to realize that this was too much for her to handle right now.

"Bree, are you still there? Are you okay, babe?"

Bree shut her cell phone quietly then set it on the table beside her. Her body was curiously numb. In one part of her brain she knew that it was only temporary. That the sucker punch she had been hit with would hurt like nothing else ever had later.

But for now, she was just numb.

-o0o-End Stage One-o0o-

Thus ends Stage One. As you can guess from the title, there will be seven stages to this story that I will be adding every other day since I've already finished writing this. Also, the beginning paragraph is taken directly from an excellent grief website, recover – from – grief . com. There's a link on my profile if you would like to peruse it.

Just as a recap, Bree and Josh both go to AU, and Gabriel goes to U State. I made up both of these colleges because I wanted a college rivalry that was in the same town and I didn't know of one well enough to write it. Also, I have links to pictures of the three main characters on my profile if you would like to see them. Thanks for reading! Please review if you have the time!