[Note From Frolic: We are so excited to announce our Festive Four Stories! Every week in December we will have a new short holiday story from 4 of your favorite authors. This week we have Wattpad superstar Jordan Lynde!]
The world was like a see-saw.
A see-saw of love, hate. Love, hate. Love, hate.
A see-saw of good, bad. Good, bad. Good, bad.
With a few simple text messages, I plunged to one end, my body crashing down onto the cold asphalt. The end of bad. The end of hate.
“How could he cheat on me?” I sobbed, my hand scrubbing over my face to get rid of the tears as they fell. I couldn’t get the images out of my head. The image of my boyfriend—no ex-boyfriend— making out with some random woman. An image of them cuddling on a worn-out couch. And the worst? A selfie of her wearing his college sweatshirt that I’d bought for him. “Why am I even crying over this?”
A warm hand squeezed my shoulder. “It’s okay, Nellie. Crying will make you feel better.”
“Nothing will make me feel better.”
“Time will.” Joon pushed the basket of fries that were sitting on the table closer to me. “Come on, eat. Our waitress saw you sobbing over here so I was able to get her to pour clam chowder all over them. Your favorite!”
I raised my head, my neck cracking from being bent down for so long. The sight of the steamy fries only made my stomach twist. “I’m not hungry. I never want to eat that again. It just reminds me of Evan. He was the only one who would eat it with m-me.” My throat closed up and I turned my head, clenching my jaw.
“I’ll eat it with you. Don’t let him ruin your favorite food.”
“You hate seafood.”
“I don’t, I was lying to you this whole time. See?” Joon eyed the fries for a moment before picking one that was absolutely smothered in the cream-colored gravy and shoving it into his mouth. I waited. It took approximately three seconds for him to hack it back out into a napkin.
Although I didn’t even want to smile, I let out a watery laugh. “Are you okay?”
His eyes watered as he ran another napkin over his tongue as if to get the taste away. “I’m sorry, I can’t do it. That was disgusting. How can you eat this monstrosity?”
“I’m not going to ever again.”
He groaned. “Nell.”
“I don’t get it. What did I do wrong?”
Reaching over for more napkins, Joon pressed them into my hands. “Nothing. You did nothing wrong. Evan is the one who is in the wrong. You don’t deserve this. He never deserved you.”
I played mine and Evan’s most recent conversations over in my head. Nothing stuck out. I knew that. I knew I was a good girlfriend. We’d just been over at his parent’s house on Thanksgiving and he’d acted like nothing was wrong! Had he been cheating on me even then? Parading me around so he could keep up his persona as the perfect son?
“I’m texting his mom.”
“Woah, bad idea,” Joon said, leaning over and snatching my phone out of my hands. “Take a breather. You need some time to think before you make any rash decisions.”
“I’m allowed to be rash right now! My boyfriend of five years cheated on me! I already bought his Christmas presents. I put it all on my credit card. I can’t even return them— I didn’t keep the receipts. I knew it was what he wanted. Now I still have to pay it off and it’ll be a reminder every month of just how stupid I was—”
“You’re not stupid.”
“I am. How did I not notice? We were supposed to move in together. He’d been so hesitant lately. Now I get it. I hate myself. I should have seen it coming. Everything had been going so well. I should’ve expected the bad to hit. The see-saw always has to come down.”
Joon didn’t say anything. More tears rolled down my cheeks.
“Christmas is ruined,” I whispered eventually.
“What? You love Christmas, Nell.”
“I don’t anymore.
“Don’t let him ruin Christmas for you.”
“It’s too late,” I argued miserably.
“It’s not even December first. I know it sucks right now. Okay, I don’t really know, don’t look at me like that,” he amended as he caught sight of my narrowed eyes. “But I know you’re hurt. I’ve been hurt before. You’ve been hurt before. You know it doesn’t last. When you wake up tomorrow, it’ll still hurt like a bitch, but it’ll hurt less. And then the next day you’ll smile. And the next you’ll move on with your life. Maybe the hurt won’t go away for many days, but it won’t be as predominant as the last. Don’t let him ruin what you hold dear.”
His words crushed my heart. The tightness in my chest felt all-consuming. I pressed the heels of my hands into my eyes, biting my lip to keep from bawling out loud. Joon shifted around the table until he was sitting next to me, wrapping a sturdy arm around my shoulder and pulling me into him.
The lump in the back of my throat made it hard to form words. “I’m just so… sad.”
“I know. Just be sad today. It’s all you can do.”
“Thanks for being here for me.”
“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be on a Friday night than here at Applebee’s with my best friend getting snot all over my favorite CK shirt.”
“Hey!” My mouth fell open and I tried to squirm out of his hug, only for Joon to crush me back into his chest.
“I’m just kidding. But I did call Amalia. I figure she’d be good back up for emotional support. I also figured you wouldn’t want to be alone tonight so she’s going to sleep over your place. I know I’m not the best person to be around in these instances.”
Now I did pull back. His hickory eyes crinkled as he smiled at me. A different feeling settled into the bottom of my gut— heaviness, and a little bit of shame. “No, you are. Evan just had trust issues, that’s why he didn’t like us hanging out.”
“Trust issues, huh?”
As soon as I’d said it out loud, I realized how ridiculous of an excuse it was. How had I been so blind to it? He never wanted me to hang out with any guy, let alone my best friend. How had that not raised any flags? Why had I been so understanding? “I’m sorry, Joon.”
“You don’t have anything to apologize for. Love blinds everyone.”
“He could’ve ruined our friendship.”
“Nothing can ruin our friendship.”
“Not even if I continue to eat French fries covered in clam chowder?”
A grin spread across his lips. “I knew you wouldn’t give up eating them. See? You’re already feeling a little better, aren’t you?”
“Not sure about better, but I’m definitely starting to feel some anger. Trust issues?” I scoffed. “Man, I wanna. I don’t know, break something. His face, maybe.”
Joon glanced out the window, perking up in his seat. “I think I have a better idea. I’ll get the check.”
Ten minutes later we were standing in the unplowed parking lot behind Applebee’s, snow swirling down from above us. I shivered in my boots, the jacket I opted to wear for fashion more than warmth doing nothing to shield me from the November wind. Joon scooped some snow off the ground and balled it up in his hands before passing it off to me.
“Throw it at the building,” he urged.
The cold from the snow burned my skin. I tossed the snowball from hand to hand. “This feels illegal.”
“Just don’t hit the windows.”
“Can we make a snowman and print Evan’s face out on it?”
Joon laughed. “Maybe later when we have access to a printer. For now, pretend that cracked brick right there is his face.”
I stared at the brick in question, bringing my arm back. “That can’t be good for the foundation.”
“Use all your strength!”
I pictured Evan’s smug face and hurled the snowball with a grunt. It missed the cracked brick, exploding into a white mess.
Joon whistled lowly. “That had to be at least sixty miles per hour.”
Unable to help myself, I snorted. “Stop exaggerating. I feel like a child.”
“No, really,” he insisted, pressing another snowball into my hands. “This time pretend it’s his man parts.”
The second snowball hit its mark with one hundred percent accuracy. Joon cheered loudly, his voice echoing through the snowy parking lot. I formed another snowball and lobbed it at the wall again. And again. And again.
I wasn’t sure how long we were throwing snowballs for, but eventually my hands couldn’t take the biting air anymore and we made our way back to Joon’s Genesis. My shoulders felt lighter— a little sore, but I didn’t feel the weight of the day anymore.
“Amalia should be here any second. You didn’t get frostbite, did you?”
“We’ll see,” I said, exhaling onto my numb fingertips.
Joon started the car and slanted the vents toward me. Warm air blasted out and I sighed, holding up my palms to them. Joon’s dark hair sagged under the weight of melting snow and he attempted to fix it in the rearview mirror, frowning as it kept falling in his face.
I chuckled. “Thanks for ruining your hair for me.”
“Don’t get used to it,” he warned.
“Really. Thank you.”
He gave up his attempt to fix his hair, twisting in his seat so he could face me. “Anytime, Nell. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call. Amalia and I will be here for you.”
“Even during your physics lab?”
“Okay, maybe not during class.”
A fresh wave of heartache rolled over me. My heart sunk. “I have no idea how I’m going to go to class on Monday. I don’t want to see Evan. He’s in my group for a statistics project.”
“Maybe you should take the day off.”
I shook my head. “No, not this close to finals. We’re almost done. And I don’t want him to think I’m avoiding him.”
“I could sneak into class with you? Maybe your professor won’t notice?”
“You’re six foot two, Joon.”
“I’ll crouch down.”
“That’s even more noticeable.”
“Okay, we’ll take my old cello case and I’ll climb inside of it and you can carry me in—”
“Oh my gosh, Joon, no,” I cut him off, the mental image causing me to snicker. “I’ll be fine. Maybe. We’ll see.”
He pouted a little. “Fine, don’t take any of my awesome ideas.”
“I want to know your definition of awesome.”
“Adjective. Extremely good. Excellent.”
Headlights flashed over us and I turned to see Amalia’s SUV pulling into the parking spot beside Joon’s car. She waved at us through the window. I made sure I had my phone and purse before turning to Joon. “Thanks again for meeting with me.”
He smiled. “No need to keep thanking me.”
“I know it’s not fun to be someone’s emotional support.”
“You would do the same for me. Don’t think about it. Go have a good night with Amalia. I’ll text you tomorrow.”
“I’ll try, see you on Monday.”
“Oh, wait,” he said and I paused with my hand on the door handle. He lifted himself off his seat and crawled over the center console to grab something from the back seat. “I saw this and thought of you immediately. I know how much you love these things.”
He placed a massive, blue box in my hands. I flipped it around, taking in the gold detailing. “Is it an advent calendar?”
“Thank you,” I said in a low voice, my hands tightening around it.
Joon gaze softened. “Don’t let your Christmas be ruined, okay?”
“Okay. Bye, Joon.”
I climbed out of his car, not missing how his eyebrows knitted together. I couldn’t make any promises. After spending the past five Christmases with Evan, I couldn’t imagine one without him. I couldn’t imagine Christmas at all.
A shudder wracked my body and I hurried into Amalia’s heated car.
“I’ve got wings, wine, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” she announced as soon as I sat down, tossing a king-sized Hershey bar onto my lap.
“You know I love you, right?”
“Yup. Now let’s go drown your sorrows with calories.”
[Check back tomorrow for chapter 2]