Sean was being a douche. And part of me just wanted to ignore him and never talk to him again, but I decided against doing that. I did like him. Maybe I wasn’t in love with him. But we got along just fine, and I liked having him around. We got into our first fight, but I was sure we could resolve it.
I went to see him at the library the next day. I’d brought my books back since he was so concerned about me getting them in on time. But when I got there, one of the other librarians was working. I went up to the front desk.
“Is Sean here?” I asked her. She looked at me, and something seemed to click.
“He took the day off,” she said. I could tell she was lying. Mostly because her eyes kept shifting to the back and she looked nervous. I sighed heavily.
“Look, I just want to talk to him. Try and work things out,” I explained.
“Well, he’s not here. So I don’t know what to tell you. Are you returning these?” I looked down at the pile of cookbooks I was still holding in my hands.
“Actually—no. Tell him if he wants me to return them he can stop being such a coward.” I turned to walk off. I’d said it as loud as I could in the hopes that he was hiding somewhere listening. I knew he was there because he never missed work. Not even when he was sick or when Reggie made his allergies act up so bad that his face got all puffy, and he could barely see straight.
“You’ll get charged for those,” she said as I walked away.
“They’re due on Friday.”
I wanted to go back home, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t hear from him if I did. So I went outside and turned the corner. Then I leaned against a wall and wondered how long I should wait before going back in. Maybe I could catch him. Maybe he’d come out to collect the books in the book drop. Maybe that was considered stalking.
It only lasted about five minutes before I got bored with that idea. I peeked my head around the corner to look back into the library. The glass doors were covered in flyers, but I could see enough of the front desk to know that he’d come back out. I could see the back of his head as he talked to the other lady. Probably about me.
Well, I just wasn’t going to have that. I held my books to my chest and marched back inside. His head turned as the door opened and then I saw a flash of panic in his eyes before he gave up and sighed.
“You know stalking is kind of uncool, right?” he asked.
“You know ignoring me is kind of uncool too,” I quipped. “I need to talk to you.”
“Do you want me to call the police?” the woman asked him. He shook his head.
“No, I’ll just go on my break,” he told her. Then he motioned for me to follow him. He led me back through the children’s section and out onto a patio where they were apparently teaching little kids how to grow tomato plants. He sat down on the bench by a fountain and stared at the small garden. “What do you want, Piper?” he asked.
“For starters, I’d like to know where we stand. We had one fight. I didn’t think it was enough to make you ignore me. Can we talk about this? Or is this the end? If it is, then you should have just told me instead of avoiding me.”
“I just didn’t get the feeling that you actually cared. I figured ignoring you was making it easy for you to go off and be with that—Vincent guy.”
“What makes you think I want to be with Vincent?” He gave me a look.
“Because I’ve done this before. Maybe you don’t want to be with him now. And you haven’t—accepted that as a possibility yet. But I’ve been in this exact relationship. Where I’m the second choice. Even when she doesn’t think that she’s putting me second. And she begs me not to give up on her. She always—always—ends up going for the other guy. I don’t want to do that. I’d rather get it over with now so that it doesn’t hurt as much later.”
“Why do you think I’d do that to you? You think I’m not loyal?”
“I don’t think I know you well enough to know if you’re loyal, Piper. It hasn’t been very long at all. And I don’t—I don’t love you. I wanted to. I still want to. And I was hoping this would lead into that. But—then he started coming around, and you started talking about him all the time, spending time with him. I met him the one time when I was leaving, and he came over for dinner. And he was nice, but I didn’t like the way he looked at you, and I didn’t like the way you looked at him.”
“He’s my friend. I don’t know how I’m supposed to look at him. I’m happy to see him. I’m allowed to be glad to see him.” He shook his head.
“That’s not it. I’ve seen you with friends. You don’t look at him the same way you look at Jaime or even me. I’ve seen you happy to see your friends.”
“How do I look at him differently? I don’t know what you mean.”
“You stare.” I shook my head.
“I do not stare. I know I don’t stare.”
“Yes, you do. But then he looks at you and you look away. And he does the exact same thing to you. He looks at you too long. And when you catch him, he looks away. It’s the same—high school bullshit all over again.”
“You’re just being insecure, and I’m a little pissed off that you’re willing to throw everything away for a little bit of insecurity.”
“Maybe I am being insecure,” he agreed. “Maybe nothing will ever come from it, and a year later we’ll bump into each other again, and nothing will have ever come from the time you spend with him. But I don’t think I’m willing to take that risk. Not again. This happens to me—every single time, Piper. I’ve done this enough to know how to read the signs. And I really truly believe that you don’t think there’s anything going on. I can see that you don’t see it. But you will. And when it happens—I don’t want to be the one getting pushed aside.”
I chewed on my lip and took a step back. I was trying not to cry.
“So you want to hurt me before I can hurt you?” I asked. He shook his head and looked down at his hands.
“Don’t act like it hurts you. You don’t love me. It hurts because it feels like rejection. Not because you actually lost anything you really wanted to keep.” I was glad I’d held onto my books so I had something to throw at him.
Actually, I didn’t really throw them as much as shove them in his general direction and storm off. And okay, I didn’t storm so much as run away because I was definitely crying and he heard me sob as I walked away.
And he was wrong. I was hurt. I was very hurt. And maybe I didn’t love him yet. But I’d wanted to. I’d imagined a future for us. I’d daydreamed about it. I’d created fantasies and named our future children. I was losing something. I was losing that future. But I was more angry than hurt, I realized. I was angry that he thought I was just like all the other girls who had broken his heart. And he was more willing to throw away that possible future just because he was worried I would do the same thing.
And yes. It felt like rejection. It felt just like finding out Collin Denver was only friendly to me because he had a crush on my sister. Or that time that kid Anton had invited me to a party and then took my invitation back to go with the girl who used to be my only friend instead of me.
Now I was alone again. Now I had no one but a cat and occasional friends that I didn’t get to see very often. I went right home, crawled into bed, and cried on Reggie until he scratched me and ran away.
1. Sorry for the late update. I needed a break. And by a break, I mean that I needed to write something with no intention of posting it online so that it would be 100% for me. And it worked. I completed the story. But it sort of consumed my life for the past few weeks and I was super into it. So it was very much like a refresher/break.
2. Sorry for the context. My reason for this is that the first story was kind of about Piper finding herself. And getting hurt was part of the process. This story is about Piper's experiences in relationships and love. Not necessarily about her finding her end game romance. I've always tried to keep this series moderately realistic, and sometimes things just don't work out the way we expect them to.