"Have you ever wondered why people cheat?"
This question popped in and out of his mind, almost as if it was trying to engrave the question in his brain. He had thought the answer was obvious but she shot it down. Ever since she asked that, he tried to find a valid answer.
"They want to break up but don't know how so-"
"One of them hurts the other?" she interuppted him.
"No one get hurts if they both want to end it," he reasoned.
"Wrong," she replied. "There is some pain. Pain of being treated as a second thought. Pain of being strung along."
He was sure there was an answer that would satisfy her. Every question had to have answer. It may not be a right answer but it was an answer noneoftherless. He was sure that this one was a paradox and even voiced it to her but she just laughed at him.
"Miscommunication? Maybe he thought they broke up but-"
"That is a load of BS," she said simply. "And why does the cheater have to be a guy?"
"It's always a guy?"
She glared at him from across the table. "Wrong! Try again."
His constant obsession with finding a suitable answer was starting to drive his friends crazy. Whenever he hung around them (which was often) he was bound to ask their thoughts on the question. They got so tired of it that they left him stranded in a parking lot one night.
"Accident! The guy could have been drunk and not-"
"Cheating is not an accident, the cheater-"
"But it can be! Look, maybe he was too smashed and fu-"
"Wouldn't that be considered rape?"
"What? No! Rape is nonconsensual."
"But when you're 'smashed' you're not exactly in the right mind to make that desicion..."
He glared at her, "I'll be back."
His constant persistance was getting on her nerves and she was regretting asking him that question. Maybe it would have been easier if she just told him...
"Look, Dan, you don't the answer and that's fine. No one expects you to figure it out on your own."
"Are you going to tell me or not?"
"Love." she said simply.
"I don't follow..."
"Either the person loves them too much, believing they could do better, or there isn't any romantic feelings in their hearts."
"That's a bit broad of a reason."
"Still an acceptable answer."
"Mine were similiar to yous!"
"But they hinted towards the guy being the cheater," she pointed out.
"And your point is?"
"Women can cheat too."
For the next few days her answer swilred around his head. She was trying to tell him something, he just knew it! It couldn't be him cheating on her, he would never hurt her in that way. He cared for her, thought of her as something to be protected. So what could it be? Unless...
"Did you cheat on me?"
She glanced back and saw him walking towards her. She crossed her arms and turned to look at him. "Took you long enough."
"Remember my answer?"
"You think I can do better?" he asked confused. If that was the reason he would be willing to overlook the incident and make sure they got over this.
"If you love two people at the same time, choose the second one, because if you really loved the first one you wouldn't have fallen for the second," she quoted.
Dan narrowed his eyes at that, he couldn't even get a breakup with her own words. No, instead she used a quote to cast him aside. "So that's it? We're over?"
She nodded and for a moment he thought he saw a flicker of emotion flash in her eyes but it quickly passed. He ducked his head down, not wanting to look at her face.
"When?" Dan wasn't sure why he had asked that. In the end it wouldn't have a made a difference. They would still be broken up and any chance of a friendship was ruined.
"At the bonfire, under the stars, away from everyone," she stated calmly.
Dan gave a curt nod, he remembered that night well. Just like most nights, he had gone off with his friends and left her alone. He realized that he wasn't the best boyfriend but didn't he deserve a better breakup. Cheating was just an awful way to end things.
He glanced behind her and a tall figure leaning against her car and narrowed his eyes. Was it a one time thing? Or had she continued to go behind his back. He decided it was best not to know. Furious, Dan looked her right in the face, "I don't know why but I still love you and-"
"No! Listen!" He let out a shaky breath, "I love you but I know you don't deserve it. I deserve someone better than you." She stood there, mouth hanging open, eyes flashing a hurt look. Funny, he thought he was the one who got hurt. "That's why you cheated on me. Love." he glanced back at the figure. Who was he? Did the figure know she was taken when it took her away from him? "You love me-"
"No I don't!"
"You do! You have some type of love for me. It may not be the love I want but it's still love. You knew this and instead of breaking this off, you took the cowards way out!"
She was fuming, "How dare you call me a coward!"
"How dare you cheat on me!"
"We've been over this!"
"No we haven't! You knew it was wrong and didn't even have the guts to tell-"
"I did tell you!"
"No! Not really. You laid the clues out so I could figure it out," he looked over her shoulder and saw the figure moving towards them. He looked back down at her and saw tears streaming down her face. Dan ran a hand through his hair, "Look. I don't hate you."
She sniffled, "Why? You have every right to hate me."
"You'll just have to figure that out on your own."
A silence fell upon the pair as footsteps came nearer. Dan barely looked at their intruder as he turned away from her and started to walk away.
The night was a bit cold and everyone was huddling around the fire. Dan looked around, searching for a friendly face but all he got were looks of pity. He sighed and was about to give up and leave when he heard a cough from behind him. Glancing back he saw that it was the younger sister of his ex.
"Walk with me?"
The pair strolled towards the ocean, away from the warmth of the fire and the cold glances. There was a peaceful silence and he felt happy to be away from all the pity he was receiving.
"Why do people say 'thank you' to a cheater?"
Dan raised an eyebrow, "I'm sorry?"
She gave him a small smile, "It's just a question."
He blinked back at her, "Ummm...I guess becuase they realize they got out of a bad relationship."
"Wouldn't they be hurt either way?" He briefly recalled that she had the same tendancy to ask questions but instead of being offended, he found it comforting. She really was just being curious, not gossipy. Her questions were meant to be innocent, not harmful to anyone.
"Not if they realized there wasn't any love," and it was true. He never loved Sam, not in that way. He had felt something for Sam but had mistaken it for romantic love. In a way, he was grateful that she cheated on him. He was blinded by the illusion of love and needed to see clearly again.
"Good," she smiled at him. "I know she's my sister but...you deserve better."
And in that moment, under the stars and next to the sister of his ex, he saw.