A Thousand More Sunsets, short story by Tinamarie Cox at Spillwords.com
Kyle Williamson

A Thousand More Sunsets

A Thousand More Sunsets

written by: Tinamarie Cox

@tinamarie_cox

 

Liza slammed the door after stepping into her apartment. Then, she pressed her back against the wood and began crying. She had maintained her composure the entire way home and couldn’t hold back her tears a moment longer. Sliding down to the floor, dropping her glittering purse at her stilettoed feet, Liza released a scream through her teeth. Her insides were boiling with Peter’s betrayal. And she was furious at herself for not suspecting a thing. She felt foolish for expecting a diamond ring for Christmas. She received a broken heart instead.
“Liza?” David popped out from around a corner in a pair of dingy, gray sweatpants and a faded-black AC/DC t-shirt pulling around his middle. His straight brown hair stuck up at odd angles. “Are you hurt?” There were orange-colored crumbs around his mouth.
Liza gasped. She hurried to wipe the tears from her face and smeared the layers of makeup she spent an hour perfecting for the holiday party at Peter’s office.
“No, I’m fine.” She sniffled and cleared her throat as she collected herself. She struggled to her feet, unable to find purchase in the tall stilettos on the linoleum.
“Well, that’s a load of bullshit if I ever heard some.” David dashed to Liza’s side to lift her off the floor.
“I thought you had a date?” Liza pushed a blonde coil out of her face. She had pinned up most of her long locks, leaving several curls strategically hanging loose.
“I thought so, too,” David laughed and shrugged. He helped Liza out of her wool coat.
“Oh, David, I’m sorry.” Liza tilted her head at him. “What happened?”
“I guess a jobless, couch-crashing, entrepreneurial divorcee in his thirties wasn’t appealing after all. But you’re avoiding what’s going on here.” David used an orange-stained finger to make circles at Liza’s face.
Liza shook her head.
“You’re telling me what happened at that party.” David stared her down with his dark brown eyes.
Liza closed her smudged lids and took a deep breath.
“It’s Peter… it’s over,” she managed to say before her throat tightened and blocked more words from leaving her lips. Her green eyes watered.
“What? Just like that? I thought you two had a good thing going?” David put a hand on Liza’s back and guided her through the kitchen. He pulled out a chair and she sat down at the table. He continued to the refrigerator.
“Apparently, there was someone else,” Liza whined before burying her face in her folded arms on the table.
“You’re shitting me,” David turned from the open freezer door, wide-eyed.
Liza didn’t lift her head from its hiding place.
“He’s been seeing other women for years!” she mumbled through her arms. “The whole time I was with him, David. How could I have been so blind?”
David planted an opened pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream in front of Liza.
She peered at David’s offering, and then looked up at him as he nudged the ice cream closer. He held out a spoon. She let out her breath slowly, sniffled, and accepted.
“I found an engagement ring in Peter’s nightstand drawer on Thanksgiving morning,” Liza began. She stabbed the spoon into the ice cream as David sat down across from her. “You remember, I slept over there so we could avoid using extra gas and the weekend traffic. Head straight to his friends’ house and arrive exactly at 11 am. You know how he plans every detail out.”
“That’s a dude that does not like surprises,” David agreed. “So, a ring?”
Liza nodded as she shoved a spoonful of minty green ice cream into her mouth.
“I thought maybe he would ask at his friends’ house that evening. But, no. And, obviously, I couldn’t ask him about it. He’d know I was looking around. So, I assumed he was waiting for Christmas. Well, it was for Christmas, just not…” Liza’s face crumbled. “Not for me,” she cried and shoved another spoonful into her trembling mouth.
David reached across the small round table and took Liza’s hand from the carton of ice cream. He squeezed her cold fingers in his warm hands.
“Nearly two years with him,” she sniffled. “The whole time, I was just… just something to fill his spare time. I feel like an idiot.”
“Screw him. He’s the idiot.” David’s brow furrowed. “What a dick.”
Liza’s head angled at her shoulder, and she sighed. “Do you know how many other women he’s been dating in our two years?”
“Shit, Liza, I don’t want to know.” David leaned back in his chair shaking his head.
“Four!” Liza said, mouth overstuffed with ice cream.
“Who the hell does that?” David came forward with his surprise, a cringe on his face.
“But now, he’s found the one.” Liza wiped her eyes with the back of her spoon-wielding hand. “His search is over.”
“And this all went down at the Christmas party?” David ran a hand down his face in disbelief. Crumbs tumbled onto the table out of his stubble.
“When I showed up at the party, he was in a panic. He pulled me aside and into his office. Apparently, I missed his call telling me not to come tonight. She was there, in his office with us, wearing the ring I had found. Becky Moore, his accounting assistant!” Two scoops of ice cream went into her mouth and she mumbled. “He said he planned on officially breaking things off with me after New Year’s, to make it easier on me. Didn’t want to ruin my holidays. He told me we weren’t that serious.” Liza shook her head.
“Then, what the hell were you?” David asked angrily.
“A game show contestant.” She waved the spoon in the air as she continued. “A reliable booty call. A friend with benefits. An ego boost. His cheerleader… A dependable, pathetic, ignorant sap.” Liza slammed the spoon down. “How could I not know that all I was to him was a good time? That I was just an option. On rotation? All these years, I was one of five women. And Becky knew! He slept with all of us. How could she be okay with that? I feel disgusting.”
She sat back and crossed her arms. “Do you know what he told me, David? That I wasn’t going anywhere. He wanted to marry someone who had dreams of accomplishing something, of being somebody in the world. I’m going to be writing shallow pop culture columns for Daily Dose of News for the rest of my life, complaining about it, and never doing anything to change it!” She huffed. “What dreams does a slutty assistant have?”
“Marrying rich,” David answered with a snort. “I’m sorry, Liza.” He reached across the table again, and she slipped her hands into his. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I didn’t see my divorce coming either. Carrie blindsided me. Hey. We thought Peter was a good guy. You two seemed like a happy, typical couple. He had us both fooled. Although… I mean… What boyfriend is completely cool with some guy crashing on his girlfriend’s couch?”
“You’re not just some guy, David.” Liza adjusted her grip on his hands. “We’ve been friends for most of our lives. Peter trusted us not to mess around.”
“Like you trusted him?”
She frowned.
“I’m sorry,” David said quickly. “Listen, you’ve been there for me through how many disasters? Let me return the favor.”
“Thank you.” A small smile appeared on Liza’s face. “I’m glad you’re here. I know you wish it was better circumstances but—”
“Let’s burn his shit,” David interrupted.
“What?” Liza blinked at him.
“Isn’t that what chicks do to asshole exes? Carrie threw my stuff out the window, from three stories up,” he explained. “Do you know how much shit she broke?”
Liza continued to stare at him.
“You can sit here crying into the ice cream, which was for my pity party tonight, by the way. Or you can show Peter you’re not to be trifled with.”
“Where exactly am I supposed to burn the things he left here?”
“I did some exploring the other day. Did you know there’s a patio with a charcoal barbeque on the roof?”
“You’re really serious.”
“Oh, you know it!” David jumped to his feet and pulled Liza up with him. “Let’s go. We’re roasting Peter tonight!”
“It’s freezing outside!” Liza tried to pull away.
“But the fire is so delightful,” David said in a sing-song voice, smiling.
Liza started laughing.
They searched the apartment for things owned and purchased by Peter or anything that reminded Liza of him. The pair donned their winter coats, and David carried the box up to the roof. In minutes, he had a roaring fire inside the barbeque’s kettle. The heat was pleasant when combined with the frigid breeze. He ordered Liza to toss in every item in the box, from a pair of boxers to a toothbrush to a throw pillow. He insisted she say something she didn’t like about Peter each time. She obeyed.
Liza hadn’t expected to feel better. But she had stopped shedding tears over Peter. She forgot about the cold nagging at the tip of her nose and her fingers. David’s crazy (and definitely against building-tenant rules) idea felt empowering. Still, as Liza watched Peter’s leftovers burn, she wished she had realized her role sooner. The “if only” scenarios danced in her head. If only they had clarified the facets of their relationship. If only she had asked. If only she had looked at his habits and routines more closely. If only she had been as attractive and appealing as Becky Moore.
“There’s nothing wrong with you, Liza,” David said, reading her mind. “It’s him. He’s the one with the problem. He was wrong to string an amazing person like you along like that. As if you didn’t deserve to be anything more than a backup plan. What an ass.”
As they watched the last remnants of Peter turn to ash and the flame putter out, David put an arm around a shivering Liza. She leaned into his warmth, heavy with a thought. Turning her eyes up at him, she decided to release the weight in her mind.
“There’s something I want to show you,” she said.
David nodded and followed her back down to her apartment.
Liza went into her bedroom and opened the laptop on her small corner desk. David stood behind her, and she pulled up a file. She turned to him and gestured at the screen.
“What’s this?” He hunched over the laptop to read the title page. “A Thousand More Sunsets, by Liza Montebello.” He straightened and pointed at the screen as he put his gaze back on Liza. “You’re using my last name on… what is this you’ve written?”
“It’s a book manuscript. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now,” Liza answered, tugging a deflated curl at her neck. “I thought Montebello might be better than Galtington. I wanted to feel separate from Daily Dose. It’s just a pen name idea. The first one that came to mind. I can change it if you want me to.”
“No, no, no,” David answered in a soft voice. “Use it.” He pressed his palms down onto the desk and stared at the screen again. “You wrote a book?” he breathed. “Liza, that’s so awesome.” David grinned at her.
“You really think so?”
“I get to read this, right?”
“You’ll be the first. But I’m not sure it’s any good. A book is completely different from writing horoscopes, celebrity gossip, and advice columns.” Liza swallowed. “I just wanted to…it was a story I needed to get out.”
David picked up the laptop. “I’m reading it right now, tonight.”
“It’s Christmas Eve…”
“Merry Christmas to me! I get first dibs at a future best-selling novel.”
Liza laughed.
“Go shower or take a bath or whatever. You look like you’ve been crying over some loser half the night,” David said with a smirk and waved her away. “I’m going to inhale this.”
“David, it’s nearly 300 pages.”
“Take a long bath. Light some candles, drink some wine…” David made his way out of Liza’s bedroom. She covered her face, unable to watch him leave with her secret writing project.
Freshly bathed and bundled up in flannel pajamas, Liza found David on her couch. He closed the laptop and placed it on the coffee table. His face was blank. She frowned.
“It’s that bad, huh?”
“What?” David rubbed his eyes. “No, I loved it.”
“Were you…crying?” Liza sat beside him. She turned her head at David, studying his face more closely.
“I may have gotten slightly emotional at some point.” David cleared his throat.
Liza bit her lips.
“It’s about your mom, isn’t it?” He nodded.
“Yeah,” she answered. Her brow creased.
David brought Liza into an embrace.
“I still miss her so much,” she said into his shoulder. A lump formed in her throat.
“I know,” he said in a gentle breath. “Your mom was pretty much my mom, too. This is a beautiful retelling of her last months, Liza. Your mom would love it. She would be so proud of you if you got it published.”
“You really think so?” Liza looked up at him. “You think she’d like it? You think someone would publish this?”
“Well, we’ll find out soon enough. I actually know a guy in publishing.”
“Wait.” Liza sat back, pulling herself out of David’s arms. She narrowed an eye. “This isn’t one of those guys you say you know but don’t actually know-know… or you think you know the guy, but it’s going to turn out to be a scam?”
“You know me so well.” He jerked his brow. “But this is a legit I know a guy scenario. I sent it to him.”
“WHAT?” Her heart skipped a beat.
“The guy never sleeps or takes a day off. He’s always looking for something fresh. Trust me, he won’t mind,” David said, confident.
“Maybe I mind!” Liza’s hands were on her cheeks. She popped up from the couch. “David, you should have asked me! It probably needs lots more editing.” Liza paced.
David’s cell rang.
“Why did I let you read it?” she bemoaned. Her stomach twisted into knots. Liza ignored David’s phone conversation until he tugged at her pajama shirt.
“No, yeah, she’s here in town… She’s a friend, Harry. Like my sister, I swear. It’s a pen name she’s playing around with… Great! I’ll tell her… Hey, thanks, man! I owe you big time!” David hung up and gave Liza a toothy grin. “You have an appointment with Harold Fielding at Clock House Publishing on Monday morning, 9 am.”
Liza stared at him. “This is legit.”
“Merry Christmas.” David stood and held out his arms.
Liza screeched and threw herself onto David. “I’m going to be an author!”
“You are an author.” David squeezed her. “And Peter said you weren’t going anywhere. Screw that guy,” he said into Liza’s ear.

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