To 2016-2017
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By kayley ulmer

  1. Untitled
    By Brittany Ahn
He sits, cross-legged like a child, in front of his television set. His trembling hands grip his Styrofoam cup of coffee so tightly it almost punctures. He'd filled the cup to the brim with coffee so creamy, it looked more like hot cocoa. His breath hitches in his throat; he doesn't even attempt to drink anything.

The man interviewing the young woman on the television asks her about her new book.

All he can do is watch the pixelated version of his once-love; all he is able to do is watch her live out her dreams with a bitter aftertaste bubbling up inside him.
This was everything she'd ever wanted, all she'd dreamt of since their sophomore year of high school. And here they were, thirty-three years old and she has just published her third novel. The previous two had been best-sellers, though he wouldn't have expected anything less from her.

She had always been so full of life and adventure. He clearly remembers a summer night on the beach, the two of them fresh out of college. She danced around the bonfire that some friends of theirs had started. Her hazel eyes reflected with the light of the fire and he could still remember thinking she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever had the pleasure of seeing.

Now he sits and glances between his watery cup of coffee and the girl on his TV. The bitter coffee looks a little too much like her eyes; he couldn't look at it anymore. He sets it on the nearby table and turns back to the show.

She looks vibrant, as always. There was still a certain light in her eyes, that little smiling curl of her lips as she talked about her passion of writing.

He sometimes wondered if she'd ever written about him; he probably would never know for sure. His bookshelf housed every single one of her works.

Books were something they'd shared a love for. Their shared book collection had gone directly to her cardboard box of stuff when they went their separate ways.
He knew- through a thick sense of denial- that he would never stop loving the girl who gave him the gift of knowing what real, raw love felt like.

He twists the golden wedding band around his finger as he listens to the soothing tones of her voice. Though he knows he really shouldn't, he finds his mind wandering towards their long-forgotten plans.

She'd always hated gold jewelry, silver was better. He knew- from the moment he first put it on- that the wedding band on his finger was the wrong color. His whole life was wrong.

"Honey," his wife's voice breaks him from his trance. His head slowly turns toward the doorway where she stands.

He gave her a smile so rigid and cold that even she couldn't help but wonder.
"You've been up since 6 a.m. Is everything okay?"

When he doesn’t respond, she stalks across the room to pull him into a hug. “Please, tell me what’s wrong.”

He spits out an automatic response:  "I want a divorce."

She looks taken aback but regains her composure quickly.

"It's her, isn't it?" She hisses. He doesn't make a sound.

She lets out a dry laugh, "you know, I knew the moment we met that I would never live up to her." She shakes her head.

"Yeah, well… I'll call my lawyer," he hides all emotion, but he does glance lovingly at the television one last time.

As horrible as the thought was, he finds himself feeling glad he never ended up children with his wife. He didn't think he'd ever be able to leave her if they had.
Leave was exactly what he did. In fact, he decided to do something crazy, the kind of thing the television-girl once told him he didn't do often enough.

That next morning, he books the soonest possible flight to New York City.
As he watches the plane take off from his old life, he smiles. It wasn't a smile of regret or of loss; this was a smile of foolish hope.

He doesn’t know if he'd even be lucky enough to run into her at that old library she used to talk about wanting to visit. Or maybe he’ll catch her sipping a cup of tea in an obscure coffee shop.

That was another thing his lost love had that his soon-to-be ex-wife would never possess: she hated coffee with a passion. He never liked coffee himself.