© 2019 Lisa Suzanne


The man sitting across from me is my perfect match. He’s hot as hell, he’s successful, and a short while ago, he made me laugh so hard that a little wine went up my nose.
But something’s off. I can’t seem to get my ex out of my mind, and it’s not fair to the perfectly nice gentleman across from me.
I wish I could say I don’t know why my ex has been on my mind so much lately, but the answer is pretty obvious. The little black and gold invitation that came in the mail just two days ago sits on my kitchen counter taunting me.
Mocking me.
Laughing at me.
That damn invitation brought every happy, tragic memory to the surface. It’s been ten years since he broke my heart; certainly by now, I should have moved on...but I haven’t. My heart won’t allow me to when it’s so wrapped up in the past, in every catastrophe that simultaneously collided into me at once.
I hadn’t realized I was still in love with him until that damn invitation arrived in the mail.
“So, Delaney, tell me about your job,” Aidan says, and I can’t help but think even his name is kind of hot. I sigh as I wish I could focus on the potential between us.
“I have a classroom of twenty-seven fourth graders.”
“Fourth grade? What’s that like these days?” One side of his mouth lifts in a smile.
“We just started fractions. They’re basically every fourth-grade teacher’s living nightmare and also the reason why I drink.” I lift my wine glass as evidence to support my statement, and Aidan laughs.
“You know how I learned fractions?” he asks.
I shake my head and raise my brows.
“Baking. I had such a sweet tooth as a kid and I loved helping my mother in the kitchen. She taught me how to measure and double recipes, and I was ahead of the game when they were introduced in class.”
He loved helping his mother in the kitchen? This guy is way too good to be real. “That’s not a bad idea,” I say instead of what I’m thinking, my mind formulating different ways of getting the idea of fractions across to my struggling students. “And I suppose knowing math is essential to your job, too?”
He lifts a shoulder modestly. “It helps to be able to do basic computation in my head, but most of the numbers financial analysts use are generated from spreadsheets and formulas these days.”
“What sorts of finances do you analyze?” I break off a piece of bread from the basket sitting on the table.
“I’m a portfolio manager, so basically I recommend what my company should invest in, but I have to study products and regions and explain my decisions to our board.”
My body chooses that exact moment to bring more oxygen to my blood through a large yawn.
He chuckles. “What I do sounds pretty boring when I explain it that way.”
Pink colors my cheeks. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I wasn’t yawning because I’m bored, I swear. I’m having a really nice time, actually.”
“You say that like you’re surprised.” He grins.
“Have you ever had a successful blind date?” I counter.
He purses his lips as he looks up at the ceiling in deep thought, and then his eyes return to mine. “Not until tonight.”
His words are perfect, just like him...and it only has the effect of making me feel about a thousand times worse because as much as I wish things could be different, they just aren’t. I can’t force this to work, and I hate that it’s Chase crowding my thoughts once again as I compare yet another man to the one I’ve held on a pedestal for far too long.
But deep down, I know he’ll be there. That invitation on my counter isn’t just taunting me. It’s there for every single person who graduated the same year I did, waiting to irritate me like a bad case of herpes. Only this feels much, much more painful.
I’d guess.
I don’t know exactly what herpes feels like, but the feeling of knowing my best friend will somehow talk me into going to the reunion isn’t exactly pleasant.
“What are you doing Sunday afternoon?” Aidan asks, pulling me from my reunion thoughts.
I have a standing Sunday morning activity during the school year, but this week’s is sure to bleed into the afternoon. “I’m volunteering with a few of my fourth-graders and their families. It’s our last event of the school year.”
He holds a hand to his chest like he just can’t take it. “Beautiful, funny, and philanthropic? Be still my heart.”
I giggle. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, season tickets to the Dodgers was on my bucket list, and I got ’em this year. I was hoping you’d want to go to the game this Sunday with me.”
I purse my lips and shake my head in mock disgust. “I knew you were too good to be true.”
His brows furrow. “Why? What’d I say?”
“Dodgers.” I wrinkle my nose. “Now if you would’ve said Angels, I would’ve given you a maybe. Or, better yet, the Rams, but since it’s the off-season, I guess I can let it slide.”
Both his brows shoot up in surprise. “You’re a football fan?”
Now if that’s not the understatement of the century, I’m not sure what is. I’ve always cheered for the Rams, and more recently for the Broncos, but I wouldn’t say I’m a football fan, exactly.
I’m a Chase Camden fan.
As he enters my thoughts once again, I can’t help but think it’s funny that Aidan mentioned his bucket list.
I’ve got a few items on mine, too—things I’ve been thinking about a lot the last couple days. At the top of that list is finding my way back to the boy I fell in love with when I was a teenager. Second on the list is falling in love with a good man who would never hurt me, but I guess that bucket list item completely contradicts the first one since Chase did, in fact, hurt me.
Yet here I sit across from a perfectly good candidate to fill that second role, and I can’t focus on anything other than the fact that this reunion is coming up and Chase will be there.
I can’t keep living like this. As much as I don’t want to face everyone I left behind when I was forced to grow up, I can’t help but think this reunion is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. It’s my chance to see him and maybe even to talk to him again.
Either we’ll find our way back to each other or I’ll finally get the closure I’ve needed for a decade. Because if I can’t figure out how to close the books on him, I’ll never find my way to happiness.


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