Burned

By: Sarah Morgan
CHAPTER ONE

He was breaking up with me.

I shouldn’t have minded. I should have been used to it after all the experience I’d had, and it wasn’t as if I were in love or anything—do I look stupid?—but every girl likes to think she’s irresistible and being dumped hurts, especially after the day I’d had at work.

There is nothing worse than every part of your life going wrong at the same time. You see the whole thing unravelling and you don’t know which bit to grab.

‘The thing is, Rosie, this just isn’t working out. We’re not compatible. You’re not very—’ he squirmed in his seat ‘you know...’

No, I didn’t know, but that was one of the things that annoyed me most about Brian. He never finished his sentences. He stopped before the end and I was supposed to guess the missing words. Of all the infuriating habits I’d ever encountered while dating, not finishing sentences was the most exasperating—and that’s from someone who once dated a delightful individual who threw his beer bottle at the bin and missed every time, despite having perfect aim when glued to the Xbox killing aliens. I’m the sort of girl who reads the last page of a book first to check how it ends, so cliffhangers aren’t for me. Just give me the bad news and get it over with. Don’t make me wait.

I’d blown two weeks’ rent on a dress and now it was going to waste. This place was expensive. Right on the river with a view across to the London Eye. I loved the London Eye. It was a fairground ride for grown-ups, a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank that offered a perfect view of the city. The glass capsules made me think of a monster with big buggy eyes. I wished it would come and gobble up Brian.

I heard laughter coming from the bar area and saw a group of men, shirts unbuttoned at the neck, jackets slung carelessly over the backs of chairs, drinking champagne like soda. It was Friday night and they were office types with money to burn. Lawyers? Bankers?

One of them was watching me. He caught my eye and smiled.

I didn’t smile back.

What was there to smile about?

The fitness club where I worked had been bought by a company I knew nothing about, which meant the job I loved was threatened. Who knew what changes the new management would want to make? There had been more rumours than workouts for the past few weeks and the uncertainty was driving me mad. And now my fragile love life had crumbled to dust. All in all it wasn’t turning out to be my best week.

Feeling gloomy, I looked away and saw a couple laughing together, lost in each other. The man was handsome, the woman beautiful. His hand sneaked across the table and covered hers, as if he couldn’t bear to not be touching her. Her eyes smiled into his. Their wine was untouched. So was their food. They were too wrapped up in each other to notice anything around them, especially not the girl being dumped at the next table. I wanted to step out of my world and join them in their shiny happy place.

Even as I watched, they stood up simultaneously, gazes still locked. I should have looked away, but I couldn’t. There was something mesmerizing about the intensity of their chemistry. I stared, fascinated, envious, as the guy threw a bundle of notes on the table without counting them. So cool. I’ve only ever seen that happen in the movies. If I’d done the same thing I would have showered the table with receipts, expired discount vouchers, chocolate wrappers and a ton of other crap that somehow finds its way into my purse. He strode purposefully to the door, his hand locked in hers. I knew, I just knew, that they weren’t going to make it to the car without ripping at each other’s clothes. I’d never seen two people so into each other. Or maybe I had. Ever since my sister, Hayley, had got it together with Nico Rossi, the two of them had been like that. I was scared to open the door to our apartment in case I tripped over the pair of them in the hallway. I joked that it made me mildly nauseous, but honestly, I was happy for my sister. Neither of us found relationships easy. I was glad one of us had managed to find someone.


‘Rosie? Are you even listening to me?’

I turned back to Brian, telling myself I wasn’t jealous. Chemistry that intense was a bad thing. It could scorch a person. I knew. I was much better off sticking with this bland version of a relationship, even if it did fizzle out like a firework on a wet night. Better that than being burned.

‘I’m listening. I was waiting for you to finish your sentence. You were telling me we’re not compatible.’ It was like one of those stupid reality shows where they’re about to tell you who this week’s loser is, who is going home, only instead of just doing it, they make you wait and wait against the backdrop of a drama drum roll until the whole nation is yelling, ‘For fuck’s sake get on with it,’ at the TV. To kill time, I glanced round the room. Sleek black tables shimmered with silver and candles. We were surrounded by the low hum of conversation and the clink of glass. A roomful of people enjoying an evening. People who were in relationships.

And then there was me.

Rosie the rejected.

I could hold water in my hands longer than I could hold a man. Not that I wanted a long relationship but hanging on to him until the end of dinner would have been confidence building.