Thirty-Nine - Linkin

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After our awkward conversation about the soup, Stuart had gone ahead and cancelled all of our Wednesday appointments. He called it a family emergency, which everyone was very understanding about, but the reality was that I knew he couldn't concentrate either. When I saw him for dinner, I noticed that his eyes were bloodshot and red around the edges. We shared the longest of hugs; we were the loneliest of friends, but even in silence, we understood each other.

Wednesday arrived with much protest from the both of us. I still felt guilty about what I said to Stuart the day before so when I woke up in the bright morning light, I didn't avoid it. This time I got up and got dressed like I was ready to face the day.

It was normal for me to wake up before Stuart in the morning. Even if I didn't, the man took hour-long showers so it still gave me time to get everything ready for him. I forced myself to get dressed like it was another day at the office, high heels, nylons, skirt, and blouse. Once the shower was running upstairs, I set the table with different types of jams, fruit, and eventually mostly-burnt toast. I hoped that the fresh pot of coffee and the newspaper waiting for Stuart in his spot would help hide my ability to ruin even the most basic of foods.

When Stuart finally came downstairs in jeans and a sweater, he couldn't help but muster a weak smile. "Good morning, Linkin. You're a sight for sore eyes."

"I made you breakfast."

"What else do we have with the burnt toast this morning?" We both laughed weakly at the joke, trying to find a way to hide our nerves.

Breakfast was a long-standing tradition for us. We didn't do a lot of normal things, but every morning we sat down and ate breakfast together. We talked about weird dreams, plans for the day – not that we ever had any. This morning was no different. Stuart complimented me on my even slices of peaches, how it no longer looked like I took a chainsaw to them. Eventually he asked me to go get some groceries for us. Evidently, we were running low and Stuart knew I would take any excuse to go shopping.

I returned a little after noon. Stuart was still at the table, his coffee was now tea and he was reading about the latest crime in the paper – appropriate for the occasion.

"I got donuts. Lunch?" I suggested with a smile.

Stuart looked up at me and smiled tightly. "Sounds wonderful. Grab two plates and come and sit down. I think we should go over some ground rules for tonight."

♟♙♟♙

Nowhere in any of Stuart's ground rules said I had to be nice. I thought I was okay with seeing Ira, thought I had cried and talked to Stuart about her enough. When we saw a shiny new car pull in, however, I couldn't breathe. My hands were trembling as we waited for the knock on the door.

"Stewie, what's taking her so long?" I asked anxiously, running my gloved hands over my skirt as if that'd wipe the sweat off of them.

"She's probably taking her time, calming her nerves down like us."

By the time Ira finally knocked on the door, I'd had it. My heart was racing so fast that I was either going to have a heart attack or my heart was going to force its way out of my chest. I was angry, hurt, and on the verge of a panic attack.

At the same time, she both looked different and exactly the same. Her new ash-blonde hair made her look even more beautiful, if that was even possible. She looked amazing, healthy, happy. It made me sick. I only got in two good insults before I couldn't even look at her anymore. I turned, kicked off my high heeled shoes and sprinted upstairs. I didn't even make it to the third floor, just stumbled into Stuart's ensuite and lost what little food I had in my stomach.

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