Mate Dates

After running away from her husband to be, budding novelist Mara hides away in a bar, not really caring she's still in her wedding dress. In this bar, she encounters Garrett, the man she hasn't seen in ten years.
Garrett very well knows who Mara is, even if Mara doesn't recognise him through her whiskey haze, but he doesn't really mind her being there, so there she stays.


Author's note

A novella half inspired by Procrastination and binge-watching How I Met Your Mother. Enjoy :)

6. Burning Bridges


Six: Burning Bridges



I meet Peter, rather unwillingly, on a Saturday morning. I’ve been avoiding him so far but I pop out for coffee and when I turn around, mocha in hand, there he is.  He’s right in front of me, like a pace ahead, and the mocha goes everywhere, splashing on his white business shirt. For a single moment, I don’t have a clue on what I’m doing, so I stand still, utterly still while the coffee shop around us ushers napkins for Peter. He stares at me and that makes me feel like I’ve kicked a damn dog. I remind myself not fall for him again, I can’t, I’ve made my bed and now I have to lie in it.

He stares at me while he bats the barista away, holding napkins to the brown splash that does not go well with the tailored shirts. He’s tanned and the wedding ring is off his finger. In my head I do a quick run through of the dates, I’ve avoided him for three weeks, the world delving into the cold month of February and in that time the honeymoon would have been finished and we should have been back to work.

I gulp. “Hi Peter,” I say quietly.

“Mara,” he says back and I can’t escape, there is no room to run through the doors and go back to safety. I sigh and kneel to mop the mocha from the floor. He bends and our heads are so close, god why can’t time travel be a thing, so I can just miss this whole occurrence?

We mop in silence and when we stand he beckons me to a table, ordering two drinks. I sigh, I can’t get out of this, not now.

He picks at the collar of his shirt, peering blankly down at the brown marring it as though not seeing it. “Ah uh, I don’t really know how to–“

“How can you?” I say, slurping at too hot coffee just to have something to do, “I left you at the altar, I should explain why I did that at least.”

“So you should,” he looks affronted, “You climbed out of the window, leaving me without any letter or warning, leaving me to deal with the fallout. Do you know all Marlene did was announce you ran away in front of the whole reception and then left? I had to deal with everyone!” He takes a generous swig of his coffee, black as sin with three sugars.

I suddenly don’t know how to talk. “I wasn’t happy, I don’t think I was truly happy in our relationship. It took me a long to realise that. I thought that if we continued, if we got married it would be better, that I could force myself.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he’s frustrated, wanting to understand. I wrap my hands around the coffee cup in an attempt to gain comfort from it.

“I felt like I couldn’t, I felt that when I told you things they went in one ear and out the other.” I don’t want to look him in the eyes, I don’t want to stare at his dark hair and his freckles and his perfect teeth and emotionally go back in time.

He looks out of the window instead of at me, “My mother hates you; in fact my whole family hates you by the way.” He drains his coffee as I swallow thickly. “Are you happier?”

“What?” surprise hits me like a freight train and Peter raises his eyebrows in response. He knows it’s not a hard question to grasp.

He repeats the question and I nod, unable to form the words. “You should come by the apartment then and I’ll give you the keys.”

“I’m the one that left you, you keep the apartment?” I try to say, desperate to alleviate some of the guilt that’s building.

“I took the honeymoon and I can get another apartment with the office bonus, you know I got promoted,” he sees the look on my face and drives the nail into the coffin, “I’m not going to take no for an answer. I’ll pack my things and you can come by later today.”

Then he gets up and leaves. I see him walk to his car, stare in his mirrors for a solid five minutes and drive with a coffee sodden shirt. I drain my drink and sigh, wishing the hours away.

Four hours later I get a text saying to come around and I mentally go back to the days where I and Peter were happy to decorate our first home. He was less bothered and let me have free reign, I can see why that was a good decision at the time.

Peter’s there with the keys in his hands and several bin bags around him. The cold metal touches my hands and I cringe. This is it, the awkwardness overwhelming and he can see my discomfort. He clears his throat, “Tell me did you sleep with that guy on the phone?” I can tell the question is burning on his tongue and the referring to Garrett is like a glass of water to the face.

“No, I didn’t, I slept on his couch in my wedding dress,” I pocket the keys and he moves stiltedly towards the door, “Did you sleep with my bridesmaid?”

“Megan?” he looks down, “Yeah.”

“That’s fine.” It isn’t, not really, but I understand why he did it. He was hurting and he still has a weak resolve. Nevertheless, I am glad to see him leave and for me to be in the place I consider my own.

I receive one final text after that, at least you don’t have to live with your mother anymore, delete this number it's best we don’t talk. Peter, you’ve never sounded smarter in all the years I’ve known you.

I smile and a plan is already forming in my head, I drop the keys on the front table and pick up my phone again. I’m going to need Garrett.


The text I receive off of her sounds urgent. It’s simple; I need you, followed by her address, a string of letters I don’t recognise. I don’t want to risk ignoring it, just in case, and find myself in front of the door of a snazzy apartment. I knock tentatively and she opens the door with several bin bags at her feet.

She doesn’t say hello, no, that would be too generous, “In these bags are everything that represents my relationship with Peter and I want to burn them. Can you help me with that?” She says it so nonchalantly and she has to repeat it when I gawk at her.

“One of those bags will contain your wedding dress right?” I ask and she nods, pointing to the first one, “Okay, if you’re sure.”

She says that she’s never been sure of anything more and she takes all of the bags to the car, describing her meeting with Peter that morning. We first drive to pick up needed supplies, which she leaves me to buy while she puts her feet on the top of the dash. I don’t scold her for it because she looks relaxed, her head tipped back as she taps out the beat of the music with her fingers. Then we drive to an empty field and set up two bins and set them alight.

The light is fading when the flames get high enough to start putting the first items in. At first, its photographs, smiling faces burning and curling. They look happy but its false, I know that now. She serenades each burning with an anecdote, something that she and Peter did, and with each tale, her shoulders lose their tension. Next its scraps of clothes, items either Peter forgot or bought for her. More items go in, her voice fades with how much she’s spoken and the flames carry on crackling. Finally, it’s the time to hoist in the fabled wedding dress.

“I thought about giving it away to charity like I pawned the rings but it’s too ruined for that. I couldn’t imagine anyone else wearing this monstrosity.” She sighs the words out with a push of her shoulders and the dress enters the flames with a spurt of flames. The sky is coated in smears of pink clouds, made hazy by the coiling flames. We watch it burn together and I place my arm around her shoulder in comfort. She slots her head into my neck and we watch as the flames rise and fall as night comes upon us.

Later, when the bin cools and we retreat to the car, she pulls something else of a bin bag and hands it to me. I have to put the interior light on to see what it is. But I laugh when I see it, another Blind Date with a Book. She thumbs the dial of the radio so the song is nothing but soft vocals, some ambience she supposes. I’m like a child as I undo the wrapping, this one doesn’t have any writing on the front but it’s got doodles of flowers and a border of flames. It’s bulkier then the others I’ve received and when the brown paper comes undone I realise the reason. It’s a manuscript, not a book, Mara’s book; A Division of Excellence.

I look at her in shock. This is almost a piece of her soul and it means so much that she’s let me have it.

She smiles softly, a delicate splitting of cheeks, “It’s time I move on.”

I hug her in the back of my car and vow that when I go home I’ll read it. She knows that every word is the full-hearted truth. 



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