Chapter 4: Seeking Comfort in a Bottle

It's Thursday night. I've just finished a long week at work (dentistry is a very demanding business, mentally and sometimes physically), I haven't seen Jared since his meltdown on Monday night, and Christian is getting married on Saturday, which means that tomorrow night is the rehearsal dinner. I'm really not in the mood for the events coming this weekend. How did everything come crashing down again? Not even a week ago, everything in my life was perfect, and now it's all in a chaotic pile by my ankles. Just. Like. Always.

I pull into the parking lot at my apartment complex and notice that Beth's car is parked. She's home already. I walk past the mailbox and climb the flight of stairs, unlock the front door, and find Beth sitting on the couch in the living room. She has her laptop open in front of her and a grim look on her face. I mean, grim grim, grim like the oncologist is about to tell you that you have stage-four cancer grim.

Shit.

"Uh-oh. I don't like the look on your face, Beth."

She looks at me expectantly with wide eyes, and clears her throat hesitantly. "Elle, I've got bad news."

I sigh. "Great. Throw it on the pile."

"I was looking for something to do this Friday night while you're at the rehearsal dinner, so I went to the Hartford entertainment website, and I found this club that's booked this band. I followed the link to the band's web page, and it's Stephen's band."

An image pops into my head, an image of Stephen's trashed-up apartment with guitars lying around, an image of his face as he sheepishly tells me that he used my money to book a practice room for his band. God, I've practically forgotten about it. "So what?" I shrug. "We're ancient history. It's OK by me if you wanna go."

"No, that's not it." She raises her eyebrows poignantly. "He and Cora are getting married next weekend."

I'm not expecting the news to be as much of a shock as it is. Stephen and I, though together for six years, have been broken up for over a year and a half. I haven't given him much thought during that time. Nevertheless, this turn of events leaves me utterly speechless.

"Elle, are you OK?" she asks worriedly.

I exhale deeply before I answer her. "Yeah, I think so."

"You look like you're about to pass out."

"I'm just..." I pause. "I don't know. I mean, even though I'm over him and it's no big deal, I still feel kinda hurt that he's getting married so soon."

She gives me a wry, semi-amused smile. "Maybe she's pregnant," she deadpans.

"Ha. Maybe she is."

I move to my bedroom to get changed. I take off my scrubs and throw them into the laundry basket. This news weighs heavily on me, more than I thought it would. This is Stephen's way of saying Fuck you to me, that he could get married before I could even find a boyfriend. That's what really bothers me. How can Stephen be getting married and I'm still single? The only thing that makes any sense is that it's due to Cora's pathetic desperation (experienced by a lot of single women in their late 20s and early 30s). Or an unplanned pregnancy. That has to be it. Stephen is no prize, believe me. I'd rather be single forever than married to Stephen.

I change into jeans and a white T-shirt, both from J. Crew. I exhale loudly and let this weekend's to-do list flow through my head. Tomorrow night is the rehearsal dinner - I have to be at the country club at 4:00 for the rehearsal, where Christian and Todd are getting married at the by a justice of the peace, with the reception immediately following. Afterward the rehearsal, Todd's parents are hosting the dinner at Trumbull Kitchen, which is a trendy restaurant with awesome food in Hartford. Saturday is the day of the wedding, and I'll essentially be in costume in that $300 dress with fishnet stockings and six-inch platform heels, at Christian's request. Once the wedding is over, my life can resume normally. If there's such a thing as normal.

"What do you wanna do for dinner?" Beth calls to me from the living room.

"You wanna go to Grant's and get an appetizer assortment?" I toss out.

"Sure. That sounds great."

So the two of us load into my new car (my brand-new silver Honda Civic was my graduation gift to myself) and drive down to West Hartford Center to get little appetizer plates for a small dinner before the weekend's events begin.


At 11:00 that night, my phone rings. Noticing that it's Jared's number, I pick up. Very wearily.

"Hello? Jared, is that you?"

There's silence on the other end of the line, followed by a sniffle. Great. That doesn't sound promising. "Jared, what's wrong now?" I cry out, exasperated. I know in my heart that this is going to be ugly, like a car crash I can't prevent.

"I can't do it, Elle. It's not fair to you," he replies.

I nearly break my cell phone in my hand. "What are you talking about? I thought we were gonna try to make this work!" I'm angrier than I should be, I know, but I'm truly horrified that he's going to break up with me less than two days before my sister's wedding. What a sick bastard.

"I'm so sorry, Elle." His apology is too little and means nothing to me. I'm hurt, I'm wounded, and I'm angrier than hell.

"That means NOTHING!" I shriek loudly, being careful not to wake Beth. "I'm sorry too, Jared, for wasting so much time with you! And especially for wasting my last month of dental school with you, when I could've been fucking the love of my life! Don't ever call me again, Jared!"

I violently hit the button to end the conversation, then bury my face in my hands. This is not how I wanted my sister's wedding weekend to start off.

It seems like I'm in that position for eternity, but when I glance at my bedside clock, it's only 11:10. Son of a bitch. It's too late to call my mom, Beth is asleep, and I know there's no way I'm going to fall asleep now. So I wander into the kitchen and pull out a bottle of Pacific Rim dry riesling and a wineglass. I choose this bottle specifically because it has a screw-top and I won't have to fuss with a corkscrew, which I'm in no mood for - I need alcohol as soon as possible. Bleary-eyed, I drag my findings back to the bedroom, where I pour myself an overly-full glass of wine and do the unthinkable: I call Michael.

He picks up after two rings. "Elle, is that you?"

"Hi, Michael," I reply glumly.

"Baby, how are you? What's going on?" He stops for a moment. "Elle, are you OK?"

"No. No, I'm not OK. My boyfriend...or whatever the hell he was...dumped me tonight."

"When?"

"Just now."

"That's too bad."

"Even worse, my sister's getting married on Saturday."

After a pause, he begins to laugh.

Is he laughing? Is he actually laughing at my situation? Yes, yes he is. "Baby, you're a maneater," Michael teases, thoroughly amused by my plight. "You don't need a boyfriend. Hell, women like you don't have boyfriends, you have boy toys."

Despite my awful situation, I can't help but smile. He's right. Of course he's right. I forgot that. Since moving out of the city, I've forgotten a lot about me. It's too bad that it's Michael, of all people, who has to remind me. It makes me want to kill myself a little.

"How's Christy?"

He snorts arrogantly. "Uh, we broke up again."

"Yeah, it figures. A guy like you can't settle down, either."

"No, I guess not. Hey listen, Elle, can I call you back later? I'm about to go through a tunnel and I'm gonna lose you."

"OK. Later."

After I hang up the phone, I finish the wine that's left in my glass and promptly pour myself another one. (God bless that screw top.) I don't know if it's the wine or my conversation with Michael, but I'm feeling much better. I know in my heart that he's not going to call me back, but whatever. He's right. Michael is right. I'm the Maneater, for crying out loud. Why am I crying about a boy? I should be loving them and leaving them, and, in the best-case scenario, they should be crying over me. Thus, I become the Maneater in the suburbs, and I have a new mission: I'm going to use these bastard guys in CT.

And I'm going to arrange a trip to Chicago so I can see Michael again. At some point.