"A Life That Fits"
One of my favorite reviews for "A Life That Fits", on The Book Worm's Library: "I loved the liberating feel of this story. The challenges faced by Andrea in this one is something that has taken me a lifetime to figure out. The concept that unless you are happy with yourself, no one else will ever make you happy."
"A Life That Fits" is part of my "Toronto Collection Volume One", which gives you four full novels for only $8.99!
You can download "A Life That Fits" on its own for $2.99 from:
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Chapter OneI shoved my suitcase into the apartment with my foot and called, "Alex, come help me!" Hearing the barely suppressed annoyance in my voice, I forced away my disappointment that he hadn't met me at the door even though I'd called to let him know I was on my way and added, "Please? I've missed you," making my tone sweet so I wouldn't ruin the moment I knew was coming.
My soon-to-be-fiancÚ appeared and took the tray of cups and cookies from my hand, and I set down my carry-on bag and stood drinking him in like I'd been thirsting for years. I'd only been away two weeks, but we'd never been apart that long before and I'd missed him beyond anything I could have imagined. With his lean-bordering-on-skinny body dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt, and his blond hair cut in a new style that no longer hung over those brown eyes I'd written terrible poetry about in high school, he looked perfect to me.
Or at least, he would have if he hadn't clearly been awkward and uncomfortable.
My heart melted. Of course he was. I felt the same way. We'd been dancing around the 'will we get married?' question for ages. I'd brought it up a few weeks before my trip and he'd said he still wasn't sure, but his nervousness when we'd talked on the phone during my absence had told me he'd decided. He knew I'd say yes, of course, but still, proposing had to be nerve-wracking.
He held the tray before him like he was offering it to me, but I didn't want my coffee yet, and I didn't want him drinking his iced coffee, a drink he'd never asked me to buy for him before, either. I wanted him to propose so I could say yes and cry a little and then we could snuggle on the couch and make giddy plans for our future.
But he didn't seem about to get down on one knee in the hallway, so I said, "Should we go sit in the living room? Oh, and I like your hair."
He turned away. "Thanks," he said over his shoulder. "How was your flight?"
I followed him into the living room and said, "Fine," saving the stories of my seat-mate who'd apparently bathed in a vat of spoiled milk and my 'fruit platter' snack which had been nothing but a blackened banana to tell him later when we'd exhausted the wedding discussion. "The conference went great. Anna and Gary should be thrilled. Tons of new business. And my parents say hi." Since the conference had been held in Vancouver, not far from where my parents had moved when Dad retired, I'd taken a week of vacation to visit them before returning to Toronto and Alex.
He sat and plucked his drink from the tray, and I sat next to him and waited. He didn't speak, though; instead he clutched his drink so tightly the lid popped off and iced coffee splashed over his stomach.
I leaped up and grabbed the paper towel roll from the kitchen, and he took it from my hand and said, "I'll clean up in the bedroom."
He disappeared, and I sank onto the couch again and shook my head, unable to hold back a smile since he wouldn't see. The poor guy, so adorably nervous.
As I waited for his return, I looked around the apartment and noticed the bookcases that flanked the TV. Not a single book or DVD out of place on the usually cluttered shelves, and somehow he'd managed to organize them so they looked far less crowded. True, he'd left a few empty spots that didn't look the best, but he'd obviously tried. He must have spent the entire two weeks cleaning. What a sweetheart.
He reappeared, wearing a fresh shirt I hadn't seen before, and I smiled at him and said, "You really cleaned up this place, didn't you? Thanks."
Instead of the cheerful "you noticed" I'd have expected, his face turned red and then pale.
My excitement about his upcoming proposal and exhaustion after the long day traveling gave way to confusion. He wasn't acting like himself at all. I took a more focused look at the bookshelves and realized something. "You didn't just clean up. You got rid of a lot of stuff. Those shelves look..."
I'd been going to say they looked amazing, but I trailed off when I saw they actually looked empty of anything that wasn't mine. Alex's collection of Stephen King novels, his Star Wars and Star Trek DVDs, even the picture frame with shots of him and his buddies on various camping trips... everything that belonged to him was gone.
I turned toward him, but before I could speak he sighed. "I didn't want to tell you right away. I was going to let you rest first."
Six weeks ago we'd celebrated my twenty-eighth birthday and our 'we've been dating half your life' anniversary on the same day. He was as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror. But as I stared at him I saw a stranger. "Tell me what?"
He took a long drink of his remaining iced coffee, then set the cup down on the coffee table. My coffee table, from my parents' old place.
He picked up the cup again without speaking and I looked around at the other furniture, terrified of what I'd see. Sure enough, anything that could reasonably be considered 'mine' was still there, and everything else was gone.
New haircut, new shirt, even a new choice of coffee... his stuff removed from our apartment... he hadn't even hugged me... the tray of drinks held in front of him so I couldn't hug him...
I turned back, to see him still sucking down his drink as if his life depended on it, and I knew. I could barely breathe, like he'd taken the oxygen from the room along with his belongings, as stunned as if he'd thrown a million iced coffees in my face, but I knew.
I managed to say, "You're..." but couldn't finish. I had to be wrong. He couldn't be leaving me. We hadn't been sure about marriage but we'd been so sure about us. We'd been together forever and we were staying together for another forever. That was the plan.
Apparently the plan had changed, because he set his empty cup down on the table and stared into it then said, "I have to go."
No part of his voice or demeanor suggested a temporary departure, but I clung to that possibility anyhow. "For a little while? For work, or..."
He raised his face and looked at me, and his expression held something I'd never seen from him before. Pity. "Andrea. Forever."
I had a necklace in my jewelry box with those exact words engraved on it, his gift on my eighteenth birthday. He seemed to have forgotten. I had to remind him. "But I love you. And you love me. We're going to get married. Don't go. Please."
He looked at me without speaking, but his eyes said far more than I could stand. We weren't getting married. Not even close. I loved him, yes, but he... he was leaving, and nothing I could say would stop him. He'd always given me everything I wanted, and I'd thought I did the same for him. He'd said I did. We'd been perfect for each other. I couldn't understand, so I said, "Tell me why," in a voice that sounded nothing like mine.
Then he left.
And I didn't leave the apartment for the next three weeks.