“A woman has got to love a bad man once or twice in her life to be thankful for a good one.”
Maybe Dalia should’ve looked a second time at the strange text bleeping on his phone screen. But she was tucked under Blake’s warm body and his lips were at her earlobes, softly nibbling. Why would she give that up for a text that she had no idea who sent?
Well, there was no going back now, she thought as she contemplated calling her mother, her finger hovering above the bright phone screen. The city was full swing festive, and the suitcase at her feet stood quite alone as the Christmas chill bit into her exposed skin when the sliding door at the bus station opened to another homesick.
She wasn’t crying; not yet. The shock was still new, having had the blow only this morning. Dalia looked down at the only thing she had brought out of the flat. Not that Blake threw her out; he was ever the gentleman even while walking over her broken heart; he simply stated his reason why he was interested in separation over a steaming cup of morning coffee. Apparently, the reason was none other than their next-door neighbour, Ginger Symmonds.
Ringing her mother seemed like the final act of defeat. Dalia hadn’t heard from Sophie Handal in months, and neither was eager in initiating contact after their disastrous argument. She almost laughed out at the thought that she had had fought her mother over Blake. How very dramatic.
No, she wasn’t going to ring her up. The house was definitely filled with cousins and aunts and uncles, given that Christmas was the very next day, and Dalia would rather get herself run over by a truck than hear her parents remind her of her mistake, that too in front of all unknown relations. Maybe she would just crash at one of her colleagues place for the night...
It was getting tiresome; this little game her brain and heart were playing to keep her tears at bay. But, strangely enough, she was thankful for this; breaking down in public was never her area of expertise.
Staring out the glazed windows from her plastic seat and seeing all these happy couples in the beautifully lit street, reminded Dalia of her plans for this Christmas: binge through F.R.I.E.N.D.S on Netflix, stay out of the radar for the two-week holiday period while snuggling under covers with Blake. If only she had known of the disaster...
“That asshole... You should probably head home. Don’t tell anyone about Blake if you don’t want to, but please don’t spend your Christmas alone, Dal,” Jeanine had soothed her over the phone when she had spilled everything to her, even though her only friend was 5000 kilometers away in California and words were the only help she could offer. “I really, really wish I could be there with you... do you want me to come?”
Her ridiculously amazing offer had made Dalia realize what an amazing person Jeanine was, but this was her first ever holiday with her boyfriend and Dalia could never wish to ruin it. Yours is ruined; don’t drag Jeanine in it.
Okay. Maybe she could reach Jacksonville and act like she missed them all and just needed to meet them. Her mum wouldn’t exactly ask about Blake, and as long as she could keep her big mouth shut, her Christmas might just be over before she knew.
The line at the counter was sparse and Dalia only needed waiting a few moments before she was presented a dazzling smile by the lady. Wow, Christmas really was going to get on her nerves.
“I would uh, like a ticket to Jacksonville.” The happiness on the woman’s face deemed a little. She looked over to her co-worker with a concerned look and this confused Dalia. Did I say something wrong?
“Dear, I am afraid we um, we cannot provide you any ticket to Jacksonville. The roads have been blocked since yesterday due to weather hazards and no transport has ventured there after the news.” The lady seemed genuinely concerned that she could not provide Dalia her deserved Christmas.
“Oh.” Was all Dalia managed. She wasn’t sure if she was relieved to hear that she won’t have to face the music, or if she was actually terrified that she would remain homeless on cold Christmas nights.
“I am so sorry honey; were you visiting family?” Her patronizing question made Dalia want to break the dam inside and collapse on the white linoleum floor. How relieving that would feel to let go of all the emotions now. She literally had nowhere to go, and she would never dare show up at any of her colleagues’ doorsteps. Was this really how her holidays were going be like: bawling over the asudden breakup and having to stay in a crappy hotel?
But she kept a straight face and stretched a smile on her lips that did not reach her viridescent orbs. Somewhere outside, the merry beat of music gave way to the ever-famous “My baby’s gone I have no friends, to wish me greetings once again”, and all Dalia wanted was to dash back half of Boston, and ask Blake where she went wrong.
“Oh no, just a close friend. I should’ve realized sudden planning don’t exactly work out proper.” Dalia paused, wondering if pleasantries would sound okay in the wake of her new homelessness. “Goodbye then... and yeah, merry Christmas...,” She checked the nameplate, “Amity.” Her nameplate reflected so much of her actual mannerisms, and Dalia almost blurted out a ‘good job on that’, when Amity walked out of her cubicle and hugged her. Warmth wrapped Dalia like a good ole friend, and it was then she realized how much in need of human contact she was. She had aimlessly wandered the city for the entire day, with her bulky suitcase in tow, and had dissolved into gasping hiccups due to her attacks in front of the beautifully decorated Trinity Church. No one had even spared her glance; honestly, she wouldn’t have either if she saw some freak losing it on Christmas Eve; and now she welcomed Amity’s hug with profound gratitude.
“Thanks, I... I needed that.”
And just like that, Dalia gave into, and the next moment, she was a blubbering, sobbing mess in Amity’s soothing arms, who, shocked at first, but once recovering, sat her down, and for the next half hour, patted down the burgundy locks of the sniveling woman who very incoherently related her situation.
“And- and... I just didn’t know wh-what e-else to d-do! I-I just bloody wa-walked out-t. Oh god, I-I’ve stained your sh-shirt, hav-haven’t I?” Dalia looked up from the crook of the kind lady’s shoulder, and the wet patch where her face had been not a second ago embarrassed her.
“Shhh, it’s nothing, honey. You needed a shoulder, so here is mine. But, that bastard... No, we won’t talk about him. He’s ruined your holidays enough already.” Amity’s words made Dalia cry even more, little rivulets of salty hurt streaming down her pale face and onto her chapped, bitten lips. She could not believe she had let down her facade in the presence of someone she knew not an hour ago. Displaying emotions at correct times had always been her forte, and now Blake seemed to have broken her out of it.
Straightening up, and wiping away the last whisper of tears, she looked at the lonely clock on the grey wall. 7:30. A sliver of hope peeked at her, and assured her that there might still be hotels/motels out there where she could pass the next couple of days, or until she could leave for Jacksonville. And when she came back, she could always rent some place further away from the apartment —
“Where are you staying tonight?” Amity’s abrupt question startled Dalia out of her swirling thoughts and it took her a moment to rephase.
“I... I’ll cope at a hotel.” She cringed inwardly at how pathetic that sounded, and pathetic was one thing she never sounded. She smiled reassuredly at an unconvinced Amity, as if trying to assure herself. Pulling out the trolley handle, she lugged the suitcase on its feet and stood up to leave, when Amity pulled her back in her plastic seat.
’Nu-uh, young lady. You are definitely not spending your Christmas in some isolated hotel and have scraggy pancakes for Christmas breakfast. That’s not happening.” She pulled Dalia’s suitcase to her side and walked with it to her ticket counter. “Lei, don’t forget to not be late for the dinner,” Amity lovingly warns the younger colleague, wrapping the scarf tight around her neck and buttoning up the woolly jacket around her rotund figure, while a very perplexed Dalia watched her ready to end her shift.
“Ready?” She asked as she enthusiastically rolled the suitcase towards the exit.
“What do you mean?” Dalia jogged up to Amity as they stepped outside in the crisp, cold evening air, heavy with chatters and laughter and freshly brewed lattes.
“We are going to my place, and you’re staying with my family for the Christmas, Dalia. No buts and no ifs. Well, yes, it might be a bit stuffy with...”
But Dalia did not hear the rest of Amity’s words, for her eyes were brimmed with tears, again, and she had latched herself on the tiny woman’s shoulder, again, but this time to whisper the countless thank yous.