Almost Broken

By: Portia Moore

Chapter 1


Lauren





How the fuck did I end up here? It’s the same question I’ve asked myself a thousand times. For two years, I imagined what this would be like. Now, I’m terrified of it. My heart’s beating like a drum. I’m confused, I’m angry, and a sense of guilt is creeping over me. I thought I’d grown, that he couldn’t make me feel like this anymore. Now I feel like I’ve been transported back through time, and it’s all a game again. I’m at the beginning of a match that I haven’t trained for or expected.

“I can do this,” I mutter to myself.

Now, if only I believed it…





2 months earlier…

“I can do this.” I tell myself for the millionth time, exhaling a cleansing breath. My nerves are completely shot. Forget shot—blown to smithereens.

“This is for Caylen,” I tell myself again as I scrutinize my reflection in the mirror, of the Scott’s bathroom. It’s still the same me. I look the same, I sound the same, but standing here, I feel like someone else. I splash cold water on my face, and sigh at the girl looking back me. She’s smiling, but it isn’t real. It’s practiced, close to perfect, and completely artificial. If I can just look happy and content, I might actually start to be happy and content. I look fine—great, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, I feel like I’m being smothered. The bathroom is quite large, but I swear it feels like the walls are closing in around me.

Everything is.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that I can make it through today. I’ve been in this bathroom for 10 minutes, and I feel like I’m drowning.

Drowning fast.

I glance at my phone and notice how much time has passed. I can’t just hide in here like a big scaredy cat. My daughter is out there. With them. Well not them—her dad and her grandparents. Grandparents who have been coddling her since the moment Mrs. Scott burst out of the house and swept her up and into her arms before we could make it up the steps. The icy glare that Mr. Scott gave me completely melted the moment he laid eyes on Caylen. The Scotts’ living room has been filled with so many toys and stuffed animals you would think it was Toys R Us. They love her.

I should be thrilled.

I really should.

I am thrilled. In a way…

I expected this to be awkward. I prepared myself for the fact that they might not take to Cal’s daughter. There is no awkwardness. They adore her. I’m happy, so happy for her, but I have to admit I feel isolated.

She fits perfectly.

I don’t.

“Everything is great,” I tell myself aloud, running my hands through my hair, moistening my lips, and practicing my fake smile once more.

Everything is great, except I’m in love with a man who really has no idea who I am, and he’s engaged to be married to another woman. Other than that, things are just dandy. When I finally emerge from the bathroom, I find that half the toys have been opened. Mr. Scott and Chris are attempting to set up a gigantic dollhouse while Mrs. Scott is playing with Caylen and the stuffed animal Chris bought her. This looks like something that should be on a Hallmark card.

Still, I want to bail. I want to tell them that they can spend a few hours with Caylen while I go back to my hotel room and cry. Maybe even have a drink. Who am I kidding? This would be a whole-bottle kind of night. No, NO! Stop it! I’m too old for this now. I’m a mom. Just grin and bear it. My eyes drift over to Chris. I’ve been trying to avoid looking at him.

I haven’t been here that long, but I told myself that I shouldn’t look at him for more than five seconds. My eyes didn’t agree with me earlier. They still don’t seem to now. They follow his every move, waiting for another glimpse of who I saw earlier.

Cal.

It was him. It had to be. Or maybe I imagined it. Me and my damn imagination. I’m losing it. It was only a matter of time before Cal drove me nuts, and now it’s finally happening.

“Is everything okay, Lauren?” Mrs. Scott’s voice reminds me that I’m not sitting alone in my own head and that I need to interact with the other people in the room and not act like a freaking zombie.

“Yeah. Yes. Your home is beautiful,” I say eagerly. A little too eagerly. I haven’t seen any other room in the house besides the living room and bathroom. Ugh, now they probably think I’ve been snooping around the house instead of in the bathroom which is where I said I was going. Oh well, I settle down into the brown comfy chair and fold my hands together. Caylen has made her way over to Chris and Mr. Scott, about to be Godzilla to the dollhouse they’re building.

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