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“Miss, you need to turn off all of your electronic devices.” The flight attendant smiled while she shoved a tightly packed bag into the compartment over my head.
I nodded. “All right.”
I powered down my phone, and tucked it in the pocket of my bag before pushing it under the seat with my feet. The man next to me edged me off the armrest with his elbow. I sighed, realizing the three-hour flight to Houston from Raleigh was going to suck.
This was not how I pictured the start of my vacation. I blamed Branch. “The asshole,” was how I referred to him now and forever.
I ran my fingers through my hair. It was shorter now. Shorter than I had worn it the entire time I was in college.
Ok, I admit it was a little rash to chop my hair into shaggy shoulder-length strands. Maybe I didn’t think through my options as carefully as I should have, but I knew Branch loved my long hair. He would tangle his fingers through it, and beg me to pull it down every time I pulled it in a ponytail. I lashed out at him with something I knew he would notice. I wasn’t going to cry over him. Or beg.
I tugged on the ends now, forcing myself not to regret it. It would grow.
The plane lifted off and I thought about the break up.
“I think we’ve grown apart. We’re not the same people we were when we first started dating,” Branch stated, pressing his lips together.
My suitcase was on the bed. I needed to pull some things together for our trip. I hadn’t packed a single thing, and we were supposed to leave in three days.
He continued, speaking plainly. “I thought it was the right thing to do. You know, tell you now instead of trying to make it through a trip together. It’s time for us to end this.”
“Is there someone else?” It was the only question I could put together. My brain tried to wade through the muck of Branch’s words.
“Not exactly. You know, I just want to keep my options open.”
Options open? I almost laughed in his face.
He leaned over and patted me on the back as if I was one of his fraternity brothers. “You’ll get over this, Kaitlyn. You know we’ve run our course. It couldn’t last forever.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve gotta go. I’m meeting some of the guys back at the house.”
I could have tried to stop him. I could have put up a fight. I could have given him a good reason to stay together. But I couldn’t think of one. Not a single reason the two of us should be together. I let him walk out of my room. It was clear there wasn’t anything left to fight for. I walked straight to my bathroom and picked up the scissors.
“You from Texas?” the armrest hog asked
“Uh. No. Visiting.” I shook the breakup from my mind.
“What part?” He was leaning closer, which I didn’t think was possible with the proximity of our seats. I wished I had paid for an upgrade.
“South Padre.” I wanted to retrieve my phone and pretend I was busy.
He chuckled. “Yep, it’s that time of year. Let me guess… post-graduation vacation?”
I didn’t like that he had guessed it. “Yeah. I’m meeting lots of friends there.” I paused. “And my boyfriend.” I had to force the last word from my mouth. There were no friends on the other end of this trip and certainly no boyfriend, but he didn’t need to know I was suddenly single.
He reached for the in-flight magazine and flipped through the pages. “Well, have a good time. It’s a trip you’ll never forget.” He stopped on an article and his attention shifted away from me.
I didn’t know what I expected from this trip. I’d never taken a vacation by myself. I never wanted to. But I wasn’t going to let Branch and his wishy-washy, keep-his-options-open plan stop me from having this vacation. I deserved it. I had earned it. I had let Branch take the reins for way too long.
Sometimes I wished I could burn this hellhole down. The whole thing. I pictured it going up in flames. There’d be nothing left but piles of smoldering ash. The frame and some charred pink tiles would be the only recognizable parts of this piece of shit. I could finally fucking walk. I could turn my back on it.
But that’s not the kind of man I was.
I grabbed a cold beer and twisted off the cap. I slammed the office door behind me, walking past the pool that was still battling a green tint.
I chugged the beer.
I walked up the steps to the boardwalk. There was enough wind to make me forget how hot I had been all day.
I turned just in time to see Grayson running toward me. His chubby hands outstretched.