Small Town Big Rumors by Willow Winters

MAGNOLIA

Four years ago

College campus on the East Coast

Ilie to myself.  That’s what a person does when they’re hurt. They say they’re not hurt at all.

“I’m fine … and Robert can go fuck himself.”  The additional statement is an extra special truth to make the lie okay. I’m dead set on the words coming out of my mouth even though I’m alone in my apartment with no one here to listen to my declaration.  The ball of anxiousness and betrayal in my throat lodges itself deep at the mere mention of his name. Funny enough, every gulp of Sweet Red I take seems to ease that cruel combo down and shrink it so I can swallow the bitter breakup.

Wine and cupcakes.  That’s what I’ve been working with tonight. I could eat a dozen cupcakes right now, but I only had two left over … and even the remnants of the frosting on their containers is gone.  So now I’m down to just wine.

Alcohol, sweets and trash TV is supposed to be how a girl deals with a breakup, right?

I’m trying my darnedest to take all this in stride, but it freaking hurts.  I’ve never been with anyone else. I’ve never loved anyone else. I don’t even know how to handle a “breakup.”  If I can even call it that. He dumped me.  Plain and simple.  My high school sweetheart, the man I’ve been with for five years dumped me, and he did it over a freaking phone call.

Tears prick the back of my eyes remembering how we just slept together when I was home last week and how adamantly I believed the words that came out of his mouth when he told me he loved me. I feel so stupid for believing him.  I’m a fool for having no idea that this was going to happen.

I need more cupcakes.Shoot, maybe I should buy a full-blown cake at this point.

I pick up the half-empty bottle of red wine and pour another helping into the pale pink mug.  You can achieve any goal you can dream is printed on the other side of it in a silver, feminine script.  My goal right now: get wasted. And yes, I can achieve it. One point for me.

I don’t own shot glasses, but a bottle of citrus vodka is next. Not having wineglasses didn’t hinder the wine, so why should a lack of shot glasses hinder the vodka? Two weeks ago, when I turned twenty-one and partied in my hometown to celebrate the last year I’d have away at college, my best friend, Renee, poured all the shots that night and left me the bottle.  She’s a bartender back at home. Moving away from one of South Carolina’s coastal Sea Islands was insane for me to do in Renee’s eyes. She’s never had any intention of leaving. Not for college, not for anything. She loves the boating life and sea breeze.  As do my other friends.

Maybe that’s why Robert ended it.  This long-distance relationship is too much all of a sudden.  That doesn’t make sense, though. Maybe it was the long distance that kept him from severing the relationship.  In less than a year, I’ll be back in our small town and it wouldn’t be a long-distance relationship anymore.  Maybe he could deal with me far away, but in reality he didn’t want me anymore. I just don’t understand. Ugh, that hurts, that deep-seated insecurity that just burrowed into the pit of my stomach.

“Another gulp it is,” I joke bitterly and toss the mug back.

I’ll be fine.  I know I will.

In fact, I’ll be better than fine.

I have everything going for me and now I’m free … and Robert can go fuck himself.  I clink my empty mug with an imaginary one in front of me. It takes a half second for me to break into a grin and laugh at just how pathetic this is.

The clank of the mug hitting my coffee table makes me wince and then a small chuckle leaves me as my shoulders hunch.  “Oops.”

With my pointer tapping the soft tip of my nose, I take a look around my trashed apartment.  After our very short-lived phone call this afternoon where he took all of ten minutes to tell me it was over, barely letting me get a word in, I threw out everything that reminded me of my POS ex.  Which didn’t leave me with much. There are lots of soft blues and pops of lavender and pink in the décor that remains. Especially in the mugs, the throw pillows and blankets. Nearly all of my pictures are gone … I shouldn’t have thrown away those frames.

A whitewashed frame holding an eight-by-ten of Renee, Sharon, Autumn and me takes up the full shelf to the right of the TV.  The rest of the shelving unit no longer exists.

Dammit.

Robert and I promised each other under our special angel oak tree back home that we would be together forever. No, it wasn’t a proposal, but it was a promise.

Not one he meant to keep, apparently.

We made that promise when we were still kids, but it meant something to me.

The sofa groans as I lean back into it, pulling my knees into my chest.  I had no idea he didn’t love me anymore. That’s what is really getting to me.  It’s like whiplash. We were just together, laughing, holding each other’s hands.  He kissed my knuckles in front of all of our friends. Even his smile …

I can’t.Blinking rapidly, I stand up abruptly and force those memories out of my head.  With the press of the clicker, music videos take over the screen—sorry, housewives—and I turn up the volume to something that sounds like a mix of country and pop.

The lyrics elude me, but I like the beat.  It guides me to my closet and that’s when I hear the chorus and recognize the song.

Even though my face is blotchy from crying, makeup will cover it.

I refuse to wallow in my living room and pity myself.

Renee told me most men kiss the same but then there are others who are different.

I’ve only kissed one man my whole life.  Tonight, I’m going to find out if he’s one of the ones who kisses the same.  Or if his was different.

Pausing my motions as I pull a red chiffon shift dress out of the closet, I realize that means I’d have to kiss more than one man.  Because what if they are different? If two kisses are different, the one from some random guy tonight compared to the ones Rob gave me … then how would I know which guy gave the same type of kiss that every other guy gives?

A groan slips from my lips as I pull the dress off the hanger completely and then rub a hand down my face.

That’s too complicated.  I’ll just call it what it is.  Revenge sex, a rebound, a fling. That’s what I want tonight. And I aim to get it.  My father may think I’m a Southern belle, but a scorned woman is a scorned woman and that’s just what I am.

Cupcakes and alcohol at eleven at night can’t steer me wrong, right?