Chapter 1 The Morning After

The sunlight spilled into the bedroom window through the faded gold curtains and onto the pillow, illuminating her wavy blonde hair. Corinne was nestled in her queen bed entangled in a white duvet fit for a king, still wearing her clothes from the evening before. Most mornings she was up and out on a nearby running trail for half an hour by now. She was showered and dolled up most mornings, ready for the day before the sun had even made its way over the North Carolina coast. Most mornings, she was composed and cheery as she greeted the locals at her favorite coffee house just two blocks away from where she lived; she certainly would not be hung over as hell, but today proved to be unlike most mornings. She turned on her side but before she could use her forearm as a shield, a beam of sunlight stabbed her directly in her eyes. Slowly she began to pry them apart and noticed the room was a little blurry and so was her mind.

“Wait, this is my room right?” she thought but before panic could set in she noticed Charlie lying at the foot of her bed, possibly judging her with his big brown eyes. Everything came into focus as she used her elbows to slightly prop herself up in bed to get a better view. Charlie had been Corinne’s right-hand man for a while, going on nine years now. He also has dark brown fur, four legs and a tail. His stout physique gives him a very bear-esque appearance, definitely the kind of dog you don’t approach or mess with unless you know him. He lifted his head and started to wag his tail at the sight of her sitting up, then began his persistent whining informing her that it was past time for breakfast. The thought of food made her stomach turn but unlike her, Charlie didn’t get completely wasted last night so he was ready for the day while she was ready for an aspirin. The word irresponsible felt like it should be stamped on her forehead for the world to see. With her eyes now barely squinted and one hand on her nightstand she rolled to her right holding on for support. Her weight caused the table to shift on the wooden floors and a slender blue vase of flourishing white tulips teetered for a second before settling back down; “Crisis averted” she thought and with a groan her feet touched the cold hardwood floors.

She felt old. Not the “retire to the Florida Keys” kind of old but maybe too old to be staying out drinking all night long. Maybe in her early twenties but she was officially an adult now, twenty-eight years old, self sufficient and with a good job. Well, that last part was debatable but nonetheless it was a job. Her writing career didn’t exactly take off like she had hoped it would, so after college and more years of waiting tables than expected, she took a position as a receptionist through a temp agency. That is all it was supposed to be, temporary, like a stepping stone. But that’s how things go, stepping stones become familiar and comfortable and before she knew it, she had lost sight of her dreams. But either way, dream or reality, today she was faced with life; she had responsibilities, bills and as of today, a massive headache. She imagined the feel of the cool wooden floor against her face as she gingerly eased her way down the side of her bed, her temples throbbing the quicker her movements were. Curling up into a fetal position, she laid her burning cheek on the cool wooden planks. It was instant relief for her pounding head even though she was now face to face with the layer of dust that covered her floors. The sun highlighted the dust particles causing the warped wood to sparkle. It was actually kind of pretty but it also reminded her of the house work that would most certainly be neglected today.

However, not everything or everyone could be put on the backburner today. Charlie stood over her, licking her face in an effort to get her back on her feet. Careful not to use the nightstand as leverage this time, she used the sheets on the bed to pull herself to her feet and let out a deep breath as if strained from the effort of standing. Sluggishly scuffing her feet across the dust spattered wooden floor, she made her way to the kitchen with Charlie on her heels. Since his breakfast was coming a little later than usual, she scooped an extra large helping of dry dog food and he dove in head first before she could even finish pouring it in his bright blue bowl. His eagerness suddenly reminded her of her need for caffeine.

Corinne had no qualms living the single life, in fact, she had grown accustomed to it especially since most of her friends were married. She shopped alone and jogged alone; she perfected the art of cooking for one and brewing enough for a single cup of coffee, but today she felt that a full pot would be necessary. By this point the sun was shining high in the morning sky and her little kitchen needed no artificial lighting. As the coffee began to drip slowly, she sat down at the small, bistro style table with her head resting heavily in the palm of her hand.

She sat quietly struggling to remember the events that took place the night before. It had been a long time since she had partied like that, and sure, a few years ago it would’ve been a typical Saturday night but those kinds of outings were few and far between, verging on the cusp of never. However, weddings were always an exception. “Weddings are my kryptonite” she said to herself with a half smile. The sun bled through the thinning leaves on the trees causing her to squint. It was truly a beautiful Sunday morning and all that filled her head were images of foamy drinks spilling onto her dress and stumbling while getting out of a cab, when suddenly it hit her.

“I called him!” she shrieked out loud. “Seriously? Why, why, why?” she kept asking herself, her forehead collapsing onto the table. In efforts to make sense of her audacious behavior, she began going over a love timeline in her head and making mental notes replaying and obsessing over their last encounters.

“Okay,” she started while motioning to an imaginary chart, “he called me on my twenty-fifth birthday which was like a month after we decided to call it quits and then I called him the night of Ava’s wedding and yes, I happened to be intoxicated that night as well. That wasn’t even six months after the break up so naturally I would have a weak moment. It wasn’t my fault, my judgment was cloudy and jaded and someone probably should’ve stopped me.” And someone had tried to stop her.

She recalled the beautiful, chilly spring evening that her little sister, Ava, got married two years prior back in 2012. Flashback to the night of the wedding, Corinne was newly single and most importantly, the maid of honor. When it came down to it, there was no question as to who would accompany her to the festivities. Her date for that evening was a bottle of moderately priced champagne, which contrary to popular belief, did not help with the hangover the next morning. Cheap champagne, expensive champagne, either way you’re doomed after the fifth glass. Ava knew James somewhat pretty well, mostly through long distance phone calls and long winded stories her sister would share with her over the phone since they didn’t live in the same town. Corinne had spent as many hours obsessing over him during the relationship as she did dwelling over him after it ended. And even on her own wedding night, Ava pleaded with a very intoxicated Corinne not to call or text him as she was being pulled into a limo by her groom. She shook her head feeling embarrassed all over again at the memory.

Redirecting her attention back to this timeline, she knew she had seen him a few times in passing. Not long after their break up it was quite often at their favorite coffee shop which he eventually stopped frequenting. That’s when things really started to change though because that’s about the time they stopped speaking to each other altogether. At first it was a genuine and pleasant reunion but that soon turned into an awkward run in with uncomfortable lulls in the already watered down conversation. The sincerity of their brief encounters turned distant and small talk and a casual “hello” were all that was left. Pressing down on her forehead with her eye brows furrowed, she strained to remember the last time she had seen him. “Oh yea,” she announced, Charlie cocked his head to the side, “we ran into each other at The Walkmen concert… last summer? Wow, almost a year ago.” She seemed surprised by this realization. Time had definitely gotten away from her, like with most people and it seemed like the “drunk dial” had reared its ugly head. Unable to remember what she had said or if he had even answered her call, her headache also reared its ugly head.

The entire kitchen was rich with the scent of hazelnut coffee, her favorite. She walked over to the cupboard where she kept her coffee mugs. Actually, all she owned were coffee mugs and a few sets of red wine glasses but other than that she drank everything out of her mugs. She pulled out an oversized cream colored ceramic mug with thick red stripes and a pale pink floral print dotting the entire rim. She poured it full, adding only cream. Taking a quick glance out of her kitchen window she saw a soft shower of orange and yellow leaves finally making their way from the trees down to the earth. It seemed like autumn had happened overnight which made her very happy since fall was without a doubt her favorite season. She relaxed a little at the sight of her favorite season approaching and began to feel much lighter about everything.

“I’m sure he didn’t even answer his phone.” She told Charlie. Feeling more confident, she reassured herself out loud again, “Of course he didn’t answer the phone. It was in the middle of the night and he was probably asleep or busy doing something else… something more interesting than answering phone calls from drunken ex-girlfriends. I don’t know, hopefully he assumes it was a pocket-dial.” Charlie seemed bored of her rambling and laid his head back down on the wooden floors that were now all warmed up from the sunshine as she thought back to a few years before.

Remembering the time they spent together as a couple, she was immediately able to recall one hundred of the most amazing memories; the good ones were always the longest lasting. The thought of it sent an instant zing to her heart that she quickly had to remind herself of the end; the jealousy and the drinking, probably the worst combination ever. She remembered the horrible feeling of almost losing herself while he became her primary focus. And who could forget the embarrassing display of his record collection scattered across the front yard. She shrugged her tense shoulders and rolled her neck around to rid her mind of these thoughts and then took a long sip of her coffee. Corinne started to recall the beginning of them which still stood out the most in her mind. She was caught in a daydream staring at a short cylinder shaped vase with a small cluster of orange tulips peeking over the rim and took another sip of coffee, this time closing her eyes to break the spell. Three things were certainly on her mind; the first was taking a long hot shower, two, the whereabouts of her cell phone, and three, that early morning in her favorite coffee shop during the winter of 2009.

Next Chapter: Chapter 2 At First Sight:Corinne