24 - Nostalgia . . . you beautiful bitch.

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Tanner hadn't arrived yet when I got to Greenies, which wasn't surprising considering I was half an hour early. Long standing anxiety meant that I was always ridiculously early to anything that was going to make me feel the least bit uneasy, just so I could ease my way into it. And this meeting with Tanner at my old workplace was the antithesis of unease.

Greenies looked just as it did when I last worked here nine years ago, only with a different barista behind the coffee machine, and without Hunter being a smartass and stirring me nearby. By the look and overall vibe of the place, he still owned it; but I hadn't been back since the day I quit so I really didn't know what was going on here anymore. I'd hate if it were to ever belong to anyone but Hunter, though. This was always his place in my eyes.

I never wanted to quit. Camden didn't like that I worked as much as I did because it meant that there was less time for him, especially with all the time I spent with Madden, which he didn't seem particularly fond of either. But he also wanted me working so that I had money to buy him whatever he wanted — usually beer. I also needed money to pay for everything at school and to give my parents board every week, but at the same time felt bad for not being home enough for Madden and the rest of my family, sans the evil stepfather.

The decision to leave was made a lot easier when I learned about Camden cheating on me with fucking Deveney. I just couldn't bear to see that skeazy whore's face at work anymore. Hunter knew something had happened, but I can't imagine that she would have fessed up and told him the full reason for my newly established loathing of her existence. And I certainly wasn't about to tell him my partner thought so little of me as to fuck another girl, and my co-worker at that. He tried to make sure that we weren't rostered on at the same time, but I'd still see her occasionally when our shifts crossed over, and her name and photos were all over the place, always tempting me to rip them to shreds and set them on fire right there in the store.

Camden had tried to deny repeatedly that her leaving his house just as I got there and his room being filled with the dense, humid smell of sex was anything less than stagnant air and mates hanging out. I would say I wasn't stupid and knew he was lying, but forgiving him and believing that it wouldn't happen again with multiple girls arguably makes me exactly that — naïve and completely fucking stupid. I think I just wanted to believe that he wasn't a complete piece of shit. Another part of me just needed to be needed, and I still thought he did back then.

Being back at Greenies now made me feel like I was being sucked into a deceptive black hole of nostalgia, and not the good kind. This place used to make me feel whole and somewhat free, where I could sit and laugh with my best friends and drink way too much coffee after school that kept me up all night. That feeling dissipated long ago before I even left, and the string of memories linked to this place felt like they had been weaved into a noose that now cradled itself dangerously around my neck.

That tugging weight around my throat disappeared instantly when I saw Tanner walk through the door and catch my eye. He looked just as I remembered, with a few extra centimetres of facial hair now hugging his jawline and some gentle creases at the corners of his eyes, slightly hidden behind new black-rimmed glasses. He wore a hoodie and slim blue jeans, just like he always used to.

I had absolutely no objection whatsoever to this kind of nostalgia.

I felt the tears trickle down my cheek before I even knew they were brewing, and the gentle flow of salt and water very quickly turned into a rapid stream as he got closer. I didn't notice until he was directly in front of me that he was also crying, and before I had the opportunity to stand up on my own, he had grabbed my hands, pulled me up into his arms, and lifted me up off the ground. He was bigger than the last time I saw him, but he smelled exactly the same as I remembered, and I loved every single wafting note that now saturated my nose as it pressed into his neck.

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