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Perfect Love Story (Love 1) Natasha Madison 2022/8/3 13:48:40

With my black flip-flops on my feet, I walk downstairs, braiding my hair to the side. I find them in the kitchen with the shades open, finally letting the sun in. A stack of mail on the counter is falling over, since I only open the ones I think are important. Soft music plays from the radio on the counter. Nanny is scrubbing the food off the dirty dishes piled in the sink while Crystal opens a couple of windows to let the spring air in. Birds chirp in the background—fucking birds chirping—and the sound takes me back to that day. I blink my eyes to stop the memories from seeping in. “Okay I’m ready,” I tell them when they both look up at me. “Where are we going?”

“I made a reservation at the Garden Inn,” Nanny says, and I throw my head back and groan. The Garden Inn is the local hangout where everyone goes to have a home-cooked meal. It’s the last place you want to go when you are hiding from everyone and everything.

“Can—” I don’t have time to finish before Nanny wipes her hands on the tea towel and turns to smile at me.

“I’ll drive,” she says, not giving me a chance to back out. I look around the kitchen and see Eric in everything. Seashells that we collected on our honeymoon from the beach sit on the windowsill. Magnets on the fridge of places he’d left me for. Lies. I walk to the fridge, take them all down, toss them into the trash, and then walk out of the room.

Nanny and Crystal don’t say anything as they follow me outside to my overgrown lawn. The plants Eric and I potted last month sit on the porch dried up and dead. “I need to cut the grass,” I mumble, walking down the steps to Nanny’s car with my head down the whole time. Opening the back door, I get in and finally realize I forgot my purse. I open the door to get out when Crystal shoves my purse at me. “Thank you,” I mumble as I open it and take my shades out and put them on. I buckle my seat belt as I look out the window and see that the world hasn’t stopped. Life keeps moving. People are still getting up and going to work, kids are still in school, and life goes on, yet I’m the one still stuck in place.

After we arrive and park, I get out, trying to blend in, but I feel all eyes on me. I look down at my feet. “This is a bad idea,” I say quietly as Nanny gets on one side of me and Crystal gets on the other side. My protectors.

“Nonsense,” Nanny says as we walk up the steps. Opening the door, she steps in, and when the bell rings above the door, all talking stops. I’m about to turn around when I hear Nanny. “Oh Edith, good, you’re here. I called about a table for three. I hope it’s okay that we are early,” she says loudly, not caring that people are looking and probably judging me. I should just wear the big red letter A on my chest.

“Sure thing, Sheila,” she says as she walks. Edith is going to give us a table in the back, but Nanny stops walking in the middle of the restaurant. “We will take this table right here.” Nanny motions to the empty table in the middle of the fucking room.

“Seriously?” I say under my breath as Nanny pulls out a chair.

“This is perfect,” she says. I sit with my back toward the door but face Nanny with Crystal in the middle of us. I grab the menu Edith hands to me with a smile and a thank you.

“Um, do you guys want to start with something to drink?” she asks as she takes out her pad.

“I’ll have a vodka on the rocks.”

I take my glasses off as Nanny laughs. “She’s kidding. We’ll all have some sweet tea.” Edith nods at us and walks away. I look around and find people trying to avoid eye contact with me. “This was such a bad idea.”

Nanny closes her menu in front of her. “Why? Why do you think this is a bad idea?”

She waits for me to answer. “Because people are staring at me and whispering. It’s like I’m a circus animal let out of the cage,” I tell them both and then look at my menu, but all the words are all over the place. I’m not even looking at them.

“What are you afraid of?” Nanny starts and then doesn’t wait for me to give her an answer. Instead, she answers for me. “Are you afraid people are going to see you smile? Are you afraid people are going to judge you? Are you afraid someone is going to tell someone else that you were out and living?” I shake my head. “Newsflash, you are already at your rock bottom, so how much more can you go down?”