Prologue: Summer (and Other Stressful Things)

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The Exchange: Prologue (the week before)

"Hailey, Ben is on the phone and he wants to talk to you. I was up at seven this morning and he called then too, but I didn't want to wake you."

Stretching my arms out, I look up and find my mom leaning against the doorframe with a cordless phone sticking out of her gray tracksuit pocket. Still groggy with sleep, I try to make sense of her words. Ben must be back! With renewed energy, I toss my blanket aside and swing my legs over the bedside.

"Could you tell him I'll be there in a minute-wait actually, I'll just take the call now. He must be calling so early because he's jetlagged," I muse aloud, sliding my feet into a pair of white slippers. Mom nods and hands me the phone after pressing a button, taking the words as a cue to slip out and give me some privacy.

"Hey Ben, what's up? Are you back?" I ask. Maybe he's making a date for us to go to the Harbourfront tour I mentioned. My lips pull into a silly grin as I recall our romantic dinner date three months ago when we had discussed our plans together for the summer before the school year started. We would be parting off to different universities in September but Ben had declared distance didn't matter and said he would call and visit as often as he could.

"Hey Hailey," Ben says after a moment of silence. "Yeah, I got back yesterday but I was too jetlagged to call." Hearing shuffling and murmuring in the background, I press the phone closer to my ear.

"That's fine. I missed you! How was Switzerland?" I sit down on the floor and prop a pillow up against the wall to lean back on, settling in for a long conversation. "Is your uncle doing better in treatment?"

"He's doing...," Ben pauses. "...pretty well now. The doctors are recommending therapy as soon as possible. My parents want him to start next month though when they go and visit so they can help out."

"That's good to hear!" I exclaim. "Oh hey, did you want to catch a movie tomorrow or something? It'll be my treat, to celebrate your arrival back and to toast to two and a half years since we first met in junior year." The words come out in an excited rush and I nearly spoil the present I've bought for him.

A moment of silence follows before Ben answers.

"Two and a half years..." he echoes. His voice sounds flat, but I dismiss it. Must be the jetlag speaking.

"I, uh, wanted to talk to you about that," he adds.

His tone is serious and my heart pounds. I bite my lip nervously.

"Hailey?" Ben says again. "You there?"

"Yup," I murmur. "Still here."

"I-" Ben starts to say. I hear him sigh before taking a deep breath and continuing.

"I think we should break up."

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A/N: It doesn't sound like much yet, maybe a little too melodramatic but give it a chance! It will get better :)

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