Penelope sat across from me in the small café on Fifth Street, a petite coffee shop that had the best coffee I had ever tasted. Michael Buble’s voice sang in the background, and the soothing melody immediately reminded me of an elevator or an Olive Garden, since both places always played his tunes. Penelope drank from her coffee and said nothing for several moments as she organized her thoughts. I wasn’t sure why she asked me to meet her there, but it seemed important.
The dim lighting of the café complemented the dark strands of her hair that reached past her shoulder. The color of her locks reminded me of my own, except mine were a slightly lighter shade, and her skin tone was also similar to mine. She was wearing a dress I let her borrow, the one I bought on clearance at the mall, and it fit her just as well as it fit me. She and I were the same size and height, which was convenient when we wanted to borrow clothes from each other. Penelope was a beautiful woman who was also successful and intelligent. Every man’s dream, really. I wasn’t surprised that Sean was so infatuated with her. How could he not be? If I were a guy, I would want to get with her too, as odd as that sounds. I leaned back in my chair and waited for her to speak. The stilettos I was wearing were making my feet sore, but I ignored the discomfort. I had to wear them all day at work, so I knew I should disregard the pain. We exchanged a few pleasantries about our jobs and our new workout routine at the gym, but nothing of any importance. I could tell how nervous she was by the odd small talk. Normally, she and I were laughing together constantly, making jokes about things only she and I understood. That usual jolly banter was absent that day. Patiently, I waited for her to address the real reason why we were having that meeting—without Sean.
“Scarlet, let me start by saying this,” she said as she played with the ring on her right finger, a plain band with her initials carved into it. It was the ring Sean gave her months earlier. She fingered it with shaky hands. “Sean is a great guy—one of the best that I know. I care about him very much.”
I felt my heart race in my chest as I listened to her words. I had given break up speeches my whole life, death blows to the heart, and I recognized the message immediately—she was dumping Sean.
“He and I have just grown apart,” she said quietly. “I don’t see this going anywhere and—I’m leaving him.”
I stared at her for a moment. “What do you mean? Sean has already brought you to his family estate in Connecticut. He is completely committed to you in every way. How can you not see it going anywhere?” I tried to hide my anger, but I couldn’t help it. This was making so sense whatsoever.
“It’s difficult to explain. Our relationship—”
I held up my hand to her. “There is someone else, isn’t there?” She stopped caressing the ring on her hand and met my gaze. I could tell by the shape of her expanded eyes that my assumption was right—she was already with some other guy. “How long?” I asked.
She shrugged her shoulders. “A few months, maybe more,” she said.
I took a deep breath, controlling the anger coursing through my body. I hadn’t been in a fistfight since high school, but I definitely wanted to knock her out, right in the middle of the café. If she wanted to leave Sean, I couldn’t stop her. That was completely her decision, even though it’s absolutely idiotic, but to cheat on him and fuck some other guy was unforgivable. “Are you going to tell him?”
“I wasn’t planning on it,” she said simply.
“He has the right to know.”
“It will kill him, Scarlet. I am already breaking up with him. Is it really necessary to tell him I’m leaving him for another guy?” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and revealed the diamond earrings that Sean bought her for Christmas. The sight made me want to punch her again. Sean treated her like a goddess. I don’t understand why any woman would leave him. He was one of the most handsome men I had ever seen. He was also intelligent, fit, successful, and came from a wealthy family. Every girl wanted to jump his bones.
“Then why did you tell me?” I asked. “What makes you think I won’t tell him?”
“It doesn’t matter if you do,” she said. “That’s for you to decide.”
I looked down at my steaming chai tea latte, which I no longer wanted because of the overwhelming bile rising in my throat. It made me want to vomit. Sean was my best friend and I couldn’t believe she was doing that to him. I could only imagine how much it would crush him. We had been through break ups together before, but I knew this would be different. It would completely shatter him to pieces. I wasn’t looking forward to cleaning up the mess. “When are you going to do it?”
“Why are you telling me first?”
“You are his best friend, Scar. I know he’ll need you. Sean will be too upset to talk to you so I thought letting you know beforehand would make it easier on him.”
“How thoughtful of you,” I said sarcastically. I rolled my eyes at her then looked out the window. I knew Sean was at work, enjoying the beautiful summer day in Manhattan, completely oblivious to the death blow that was coming his way in a few hours. A few weeks earlier, Sean and I went to pick out an engagement ring. After hours of searching, he finally designed the custom ring that he deemed worthy of his future bride. He hadn’t even paid it off yet. I couldn’t hide the ferocity in my voice. “You are making a mistake, Penelope. Sean is a great guy—the best I’ve ever known. I can promise that you’ll regret this. Whoever this other guy is doesn’t compare to the man Sean is—not even by half.”
She nodded. “You’re probably right.”
“He is going to propose. I even picked out the ring with him.”
“Well, it’s a good thing I am doing this now then—before it’s too late.”
“It is too late, Penelope.”
Penelope said nothing for a moment. Her fingers returned to the ring on her right hand, fidgeting under my intense stare of hatred. I used to like Penelope, and not just because she was perfect, but because Sean loved her so completely. She made him happy—and now she was going to kill him. If there was anything that I could have done to stop it from happening, I would have. I knew Sean really loved Penelope. I mean, really loved her. Even though I hated her with every fiber of my being at that moment, I knew I needed to try to convince her to change her mind. Sean would never forgive a girlfriend for cheating on him, but for Penelope, he might make an exception. That’s how much he loved her.
“Why don’t you think it over for a while?” I asked. “You’ll regret it if you don’t.”
“No,” she said as she shook her head. “I love someone else.”
“And you don’t love Sean anymore?”
“Of course I do,” she said quickly. “I’m just not in love with him anymore.”
“What an original line,” I mocked.
Penelope sat there quietly for a few moments. The room suddenly became silent and Michael Buble’s voice disappeared on the sound system. I looked at Penelope and she looked at me, clearly uncomfortable sitting so close to me. It was an awkward moment. Our friendship was over. I couldn’t hide the anger on my face and I felt my lips pressed together tightly in a scowl. I shook my head slightly as I replayed the conversation in my head. She was an idiot.
“Well, I should get going then,” Penelope said as she stood up.
I didn’t move from my seat. “Yes, I think you should.”
She stood there, waiting for me to rise and give her a hug, something that we used to do when we were friends. But she was just a whore in my eyes. I couldn’t believe she was doing that to Sean—he deserved so much better than her. I didn’t move from my seat. I didn’t even look at her.
“Have a good life, Penny.”