Julia sat in her office across from mine as Assistant Vice President of Fifth Third Bank, and she literally had everything. Her BMW SUV could hold her perfect two children and their German Shepherd without it being crowded. There were days when all I wanted was to give up my successful lifestyle and have a family but no candidate came along. The one person I had wanted a life with denied me all privileges and married a good for nothing. Honestly, the girl couldn't compare to me but I was just being selfish. At thirty-one years old I had made it to the top of the social ladder without much blockage. Most people had families or spouses they had to consider when making career changes, but I had none. This is the price I paid for getting what I wanted out of my career. Looking back at those times in college made me realized how naïve I was.
Sophomore year started out just like second year of high school, the hottest boy on my arm and a seat at the popularity table. People told me that college would be different that Aaron and I would grow a part. They told me that I would make new friends and that the ones I had in high school would move on. I didn't believe them. I had made it this far without losing Aaron or my friends, and the next two years wouldn't be any different. As I walked down the aisle with Aaron in our best friend's wedding I felt excitement and anticipation. My heart swelled with joy for Briana and Justin. They had what I would have hopefully in the next few months. The wedding and the reception were beautiful. It was the first wedding of our close knit circle of friends. I knew that my world couldn't get any better and that it would last forever.
"I need to go to my room before we get lunch," I told Melissa as I pushed walked to my room on the eastside of campus. It was three months after Briana's winter wedding and we were getting together for lunch. The group of girls were getting together to catch up at one of our favorite restaurants. I opened the door to my room without thinking and dropped my cup of coffee.
"Lauren." Aaron sat up quickly covering himself with the too thin sheet that was lying in pile on the floor next to his and Hannah's clothes. I was too shocked to say anything and I turned to get out of there. The tears fell down my face as I stumbled out of the hallways and to the stairs where I sat down. Aaron didn't follow me. My heart beat so fast I could feel vibrate my body as I began to shake uncontrollably. I had to get out of there. My car was hot from the spring sun and it warmed my body. It reminded me of my favorite blanket when I was kid. I would never go to bed without my Mickey Mouse blanket. I wished I had my blanket to make the world better, but nothing would fix my broken heart.
"Lauren. Lauren," Matt the intern yelled my name twice before I broke out of my obsessive day dreaming.
"Yes," I said slightly annoyed that he was in my office. The President wanted me to hire an intern to become my assistant and I grudgingly agreed. There was little that I couldn't do myself, but there were perks to having an intern. A fresh cup of Starbucks every morning on my desk was one of them.
"Mr. Jones is here to meet with you about the Jackson file." He answered and handed me a file. I was vice president of investment and handled all major clients. Taking the file I thanked him and flipped through it to freshen up on the information.
The meeting with Mr. Jones, Richard Jackson's accountant, went as planned and everything was on its way for him to buy shares in Fifth Third Bank. Closing a deal used to be the highlight of my life until I hit thirty. On my thirtieth birthday my friend had thrown me a celebration that consisted of all my married friends. Nothing like a slap in the face than knowing you are going to be the rich, old maid. I reminded myself that Jane Austen said that you can die an old maid so as you're a rich old maid. This did nothing to lift my spirits and neither did the friends I hung out with. Lately, my only consolation had been my golden retriever Emma. At six o'clock I cleared out my office and headed to my Manhattan Penthouse. It was immaculate and plush just the way my life was. There were no messages from the bellhop and the mail consisted of the usual, but an invitation had been at the bottom of the pile. My best friend from Ohio was announcing a baby shower for her second child. I tossed the invitation in the trash and went to the fridge to make dinner. The steak I grilled turned out delicious and I ate by candle light on my balcony overlooking the city.
"What would she think seeing me now?" I thought to myself. "She would think I was living the life while she was struggling to get food on the table". Briana had married young and her husband worked for Duke Energy making a decent salary, but it was their only salary. She was supposed to go back to nursing school, but it never happened. When their first child came I was so excited to be a part of its life, but as the years went by I felt out of place amongst my friends. That was when I was offered a position in New York as Vice President in the corporate office. I gladly took the offer without thinking twice about it and left Ohio behind in a trail of dust.
The suitcases were packed, the furniture had been moved out, and the aftermath of my going away party was cleaned up. I took a long look at my empty apartment and felt a fixture of emotions. I was excited to start my new job as assistant financial director in the corporate office and to have a fresh start on life. Aaron had proposed to Janette a week ago which about the time I got the offer from Fifth Third. It seemed that one door had closed and a window had opened. My escape from the life of boring Midwest Ohio had come and it was now or never. Really life hadn't been too hard on me. I had no complaints. Although, it was time to just let go of a dream that wasn't going to come true. My motto had been to live without regrets and I had done a decent job at living that way. The only regret I had was being wasting my childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood on loving someone who wasn't worth my time. But what is life without a little heartache? We make mistakes, we learn from them, and we move on. My friends supported me in my decision to go to New York, because they understood that I needed the change. Most of them had gotten married while I was a junior in college and I think that's what hurt the most. I watched five of closets friends have their fairytale weddings to their prince charming's within a year. A knock on my open, door pulled me out of thoughts.
"What are you doing here?" I asked Aaron as he stood watching me.
"Don't go Laurie."
"How could I not go? It's the opportunity of a lifetime. I have nothing here to hold me back from this."
"Because I love you," he stated taking my hands in his.
"Whoa, we broke up a long time ago and you're engaged," I said pushing him away from and grabbing my purse off the counter.
"Just hear me out Laurie," Aaron said grabbing my arm firmly.
"Whatever you need to say could have been said within the last four years. Why should I go back to you? After everything that has happened we can't go back to the way things were before you cheated on me," I said ripping my arm out of his grip and getting Emma's leash.
"I don't want things to be like this between us. I love you, I've always loved you. I've apologized for what happened in college. Why can't you see past that?"
"Why can't I see past you sleeping with my roommate? Let's see. Oh, it's because you slept with my roommate. When you love someone you don't sleep around on them." On that note I headed out the door to my blue Volkswagen Jetta with my dog by my side and a Grande double espresso in my hand.
That was five years ago and it was then I let the one person I had loved slip through my hands. I have not loved another man since. Pathetic or romantic depends upon the person, but for me it was tragic. I'm not the only person in the world to have loved someone who didn't love me back, but I was sure he was the one. I think it wouldn't have been so hard if I had found someone else to love, but I haven't. Sighing, I picked up my plate and went back inside the house. Taking the invitation out of the trash I called my longtime friend.
"Hello, this is Briana," A tired but happy voice answered.
"Hey Bri, it's me."
"Lauren, is that you? Gosh, I haven't heard from you since you left. I'm guessing you got my invitation. Never mind, how are you?" She said and I chuckled at her excitement.
"I'm good. Yes, I did get your invitation. Congratulations," I replied.
"Are you coming down then? I know you must busy as Vice President, but it would be awesome if you could come."
"I haven't taken a vacation since I've been here so I think I can make it," I answered and heard a loud crash on the end. Then I heard Briana scold her daughter Maria and couldn't help but laugh. "How is the family?"
"They're doing great. Maria is getting so big and misses you! Look, I know we haven't been on long but I gotta run. I can't wait to see you," Briana said and hung up the phone. I felt lonelier than I had before calling her. Taking out my phone, I put the baby shower's date in my phone, May 19th, 2012.
The airplane ride from Kennedy to CVG was short and I was nervous getting off the plane. I knew that I was coming home to a world that hadn't been a part of for four years and a lot had changed. My parents called once a month and on holidays, but weren't close like we were. The "Three Musketeers" is what I called us, but when I left for New York that changed. I got into my rental car I had waiting and drove the thirty minutes to my parent's house. They were waiting for me when I got there and were excited to see me. After a round of hugs and kisses we went to dinner at an old favorite restaurant.
"A lot has happened since you were gone," my mother said as we waited for our food to arrive. I knew what she was referring to and didn't want to talk about it.
"Really? The area looks exactly the same," I answered taking a sip of my sweet tea.
"He didn't get married," she said.
"Who?" I asked not knowing what she was talking about and dad cleared his throat.
"Aaron, he didn't get married."
I just nodded and the conversation was dropped. What did they think I would do? Call him and tell him I wasn't married either. Too much had happened for us to go back to the way things were before. Sitting there I knew that things couldn't go back to what they were even if Aaron hadn't married I couldn't put myself through the heartache. After dinner I went through a Starbucks drive thru on my back to parent's house thinking that I would need a double espresso latte. I walked in the house and went up to the guest room to prepare for bed. The baby shower would be an adventure and it made me think back to our senior prom. To the night that I realized my life could not get any better than what it was. I couldn't get this memory off my mind too quickly.
"Briana, do you think this is too much?" I asked putting on the pink taffeta dress that I had bought a month before. She laughed and said that it was too late to change my mind on my dress. Aaron and Justin would be at my door any minute to take us to our senior prom. I couldn't believe how fast the four years had gone or that I was going to prom with Aaron.
"Can I wear your Chanel perfume?" Brian asked breaking me out of my train out thought. I smiled and handed it her, but not before squirting myself. Tonight would be the best night of my life and I couldn't wait for it to begin.
"Do you think you'll marry Justin?" I asked her putting in my diamond earrings.
"I do," she answered with a blush, "and I know you'll marry Aaron. You guys are the golden couple."
"We are," I said smiling. The butterflies in my stomach started to flutter when the doorbell rang and my mother yelled up to us that the boys were there. We descended the stairs with our done up in perfection and our faces glowing with anticipation.
"You look beautiful," Aaron said smiling coming to my hand and put the corsage on my wrist. He looked stunning and I felt my cheeks flush as my started taking pictures. The limo ride to the school gym was filled with laughter and joy. As we filed out of the limo Aaron and I walked arm in arm into the crowded gym. The decorations were done in A Midsummer's Night Dream theme and it looked enchanting.
"Do you want to dance?" Aaron asked leading me to the middle of the dance floor that was filled with students dressed in their finest clothes. The night only got better as it went on and I wanted time to freeze. Nothing could be better than spending hours with the guy I loved and being crowned prom queen.
"I know we're going to college next year, but I won't it won't change anything. I promise," Aaron said as we walked outside under the stars.
That night I believed him and the next year, but when I found him with my roommate sophomore year things had changed. Sighing I finally fell asleep and waited let the memories of the past fill my dreams.
The baby shower was held at the church that Briana attended and I was unprepared for the number of old friends that had come. Sarah had three kids of her, Clarissa had two and one the way, Melissa was pregnant, and Chloe had four.
"Don't worry hun, it'll happen soon enough," Sarah, the oldest out of the six of us, said with motherly coo. I wanted to leave but I was there to support Briana and she was ecstatic that I had come. After eating my food I sat and watched the other mothers mingle about wishing that I was part of their circle of friends. That my children were being raised with theirs and going on play dates.
"Why so blue?" Melissa asked sitting down next to me. "Never mind, I know why. You should know he still loves you."
"What is with you and my parents?"
"We just want to see you happy," she answered.
"I am happy. All things considered I am happier than I was in college with your brother," I said getting up from the table.
"Everyone makes mistakes Lauren, and there isn't a day that he doesn't regret it," Melissa answered and then I walked over to where Briana was.
"I'm glad you came," Briana said giving my hand a squeeze knowing how I felt. We had been best friends since second grade and she could always read my emotions. She had been there when Aaron and I went on our first date and she was there when we broke up. The baby shower went on without much interaction of the guests, because of the games and opening gifts. It wasn't until I was leaving with a fresh cup of coffee in my hands that I bumped into someone. I didn't have a lid and it spilled down the front of his shirt.
"I'm so sorry," I said looking up at Aaron in surprise. The ten years had taken a toll on him and I could see the tiredness in his eyes. His hair was losing its thickness, but it was still raven. My eyes did a quick one over of the boy I had fallen in love with and I realized that in the past ten years he had become a man.
"Lauren," Aaron answered looking at me with a mirror expression of my own. He was not expecting me to be at the shower. The excess coffee that I had in my cup seemed meaningless and the stain on his green polo did too.
"I didn't see you. I should have been paying more attention," I rambled not sure of what to say or do. Then he smiled the all too familiar smile that used to make me weak at the knees.
"It's fine Lauren. It'll wash out. I can't believe you're here, in Ohio."
"I wouldn't miss Bri's baby shower for the world," I answered as we stepped out of the doorway and into the hall. It came across my mind to get a wet rag to wipe his shirt off, but thought it would be better to let him do it.
"You two were always close. So, how are you?"
"I'm good. Just living the dream," I said giving him a fake smile that I used in meetings that I didn't want to be at. The whole thing was awkward and I twiddled with the seersucker material of my dress. Small talk had never been my cup of tea and the silence was uncomfortable.
"Awesome," Aaron said running a hand through his hair. The hall was almost empty and I had agreed to meet Briana for dinner.
"It was good seeing you Aaron," I said rising from the table going to get my purse to leave.
"Lauren wait," Aaron said grabbing my wrist. "Will you get coffee with me tomorrow?"
"I don't know, I'm going back to New York Monday, and I don't know if I can do this."
"Please," he said and with a gleam in his blue eyes. I agreed to get coffee Sunday afternoon and maybe it was because I wanted to feel hope. A hope that he could possibly still love me after all that had happened. Spending ten years of hating him had gotten me nowhere in moving on, but talking him to would be a chance to get it all out.
My coffee had gotten cold from waiting at BonBonerie a half hour before my meeting time with Aaron. The coffee had taken the edge off my nerves, but I was still having anxieties about meeting him. I watched couples file in and out of the café with a longing for something that I used to have. There was a man sitting at the bar sipping his latte alone and I felt a strange connection with him. His aura radiated from him like the steam of my drink and I didn't hear the person come up next to me.
"Hey, you're early but I shouldn't be surprised you always are," Aaron smiled sitting down across from me at the table I was sitting at. I returned his easy smile and wondered if we would be able to get past our history. The thing about Aaron was he knew everything about me, but he didn't know the emptiness I felt without him.
"Always. How have things been with you? Are you still working at your father's firm downtown?" I asked as we waited for the waiter to come by with menu.
"No, actually I work at a firm in New York," Aaron answered and I sat there shocked. Then I became angry and reached for my cup of coffee only to find it empty.
"Really, when did this happen?"
"Five years ago."
"Five years ago?" I asked knocking over my empty cup as I fumbled for my purse. There was only so much I could take and to realize that he had been New York all this time was too much like my empty cup of coffee, disappointing. He had shattered everything in my life and now he had taken my one place of refuge.
"Lauren, what are you doing? Don't leave," He said reaching out and putting his hand on mine.
"You can't expect me to sit here and listen to this. Aaron, after all that happened you came to New York and didn't bother to contact me.
Aaron didn't say anything, but looked intently at me with piercing blue eyes. There was so much he could say, but I didn't know if I wanted to hear any of it. Apologies had gone by the way side years ago and reconciliation wasn't an option. I had never wanted him back in my life. I just wanted the idea of us back. The family lifestyle is what I wanted in the city I grew up in with the friends I've had all of my life.
"I don't know what to say. I've apologized tons of times after that happened and you blocked me out of your life," Aaron responded after several awkward, tense moments of silence.
"I can't trust you. Apologizing doesn't gain trust Aaron and doesn't give you a clean slate." I ran a finger over the rim of my empty cup. The feeling of self-pity washed over me as I sat there like the lone man at the bar. Aaron understood where I was coming from and he related that much to me.
I walked out of the café much like the day that Aaron walked out of my life in college. There was something in me that was finished longing for something that I had lost. As I walked past the man at the bar he gave me a chin up and raised his cup slightly. Nodding, I walked past him and thought that from here on out I wasn't going to live the rest of life staring at the bottom of cup. So, Aaron had followed me to New York. Maybe we could find solid ground one day, but I was done living in the past.