Author: Katie Mae

Chapter 4
Chance Encounter

"All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, and desire." ~ Aristotle


Nearly eleven in the morning already, Teagan had hardly slept all night. She had stayed up late, considering what Zoey had said, and she had been right. Teagan needed to learn to separate herself from her past, separate herself from thoughts of the man she had loved, and she found herself working on the book she had begun writing shortly after the break-up. It was a tale of love and heartbreak, not much different from Teagan's own story. It began very similarly to their relationship, and it was good therapy to make Teagan feel better.

She sat at her tiny computer desk, full of clutter and old granola bar wrappers, a couple of empty water bottles, and a handful of pens and wadded up pieces of paper. Her sleek black laptop barely fit within the confines of the mess, but all that mattered was that she was easily able to touch the keyboard and type down her thoughts and as long as the mess stayed clear of her line of sight, which was currently her computer screen, everything was fine. Earlier that morning, just as the sun was coming up, she had been typing away her innermost secrets, the feelings she rarely shared with anyone - including her best friend - in an attempt to spice up her story.

Somewhere along the way, Teagan had hit a roadblock.

Writer's block is a common affliction for the average American writer. Not to say that Teagan was necessarily average, but the fact that she had suddenly found herself lacking a certain muse made her both uneasy and frustrated. She rarely found herself in a predicament such as this; when she did, she would talk it out with someone close. For a long time, that person was JD; obviously, since he was no longer part of her life, she was going to have to figure this thing out by herself.

She had considered the idea of talking to Zoey about it, as she had done in the past, but Zoey would all too often over-think things. She was all right to bounce ideas off of once in a while, if you already had something in mind, but when it came to trying to plow through a roadblock in whatever Teagan was working on, she'd just shrug her shoulders. "I don't know," she would say, or, "Maybe you should just come back to it later." Teagan didn't want to come back to it later, because she knew if she did, she wouldn't have the motivation to work on it anymore. Right now, that motivation was there, but the ideas were lacking. She hated when this happened.

Peering into the coffee mug donned with the words "World's Greatest Daughter," something that her mother had gotten her as a Christmas present, she realized that she had finished her sixth cup of coffee - or was it seventh? Had it even been her eighth? Somewhere, she had lost track, but whatever the number was, she knew that the rest of the coffee in the coffeepot in the kitchen was gone. This usually meant that she would turn in for the day and find something else to occupy her time, usually watching television or taking a walk, something she could do by herself. Unfortunately, she just didn't feel like it was time to turn in the towel yet.

She stood from her desk and wandered out into her small kitchen, staring at her coffeepot. She refilled the spot for the coffee grounds and filled it with water, then headed into the living room and began rummaging for a package of cigarettes. She pulled out a teal package of Marlboro cigarettes - the menthol kind, her favorite - and proceeded to open it to claim her prize. Then, the thing she feared came true.


She was holding an empty pack.

She hadn't smoked since early that morning, and for her, that was quite a length of time. She was a bit jittery by now, craving her cigarettes as though they were the only thing in the world that she cared about - and maybe that was partly true. They were the perfect lover: they always left her satisfied and yet always wanting more, and were always there when she needed them.

"That's a terrible metaphor," she mumbled to herself as she thought about it, shaking her head. She sighed. "I need to get out more."

Thinking of how she needed to buy more cigarettes suddenly made her remember JD and the way he used to make cigarette runs for her whenever she needed it. A few months into their relationship, she had woken up one morning and instinctively reached for her cigarettes. JD was already in the kitchen making her breakfast; she could smell the scrambled eggs from the bedroom. He always made great scrambled eggs, and always did so on Sunday mornings, even though he'd been up late the night before, either out with friends, out with Teagan, or just out making money. He would even cook the eggs with just a hint of Tabasco sauce inside of them, just as her mother had done for her when she was a child.

A smile crept across her face as she stretched out her arms high into the air. Just as she did every morning, she reached across the bed to where the night stand was, and where her Marlboro Smooths were laying, waiting for her to smoke them, and she quickly realized that the pack was empty. "Fuck," she mumbled to herself, bringing the pack close to her and looking inside, maybe hoping that a cigarette would magically appear.

JD walked into the room with a smile on his face. "You're up, just in time, too. Breakfast is ready."

"I'm out of cigarettes," she said with a pout, looking up at him as though she were a child whose parent had just told her they had to get rid of the family dog.

"Take one of mine."

"You smoke reds. I hate those."

JD shrugged. "Okay, then how about you go ahead and get yourself some breakfast, and I'll go out and get you a new pack."

Teagan looked at him with an expression of disbelief. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," he responded with a nod. "I'm already up, I'm already dressed. I could use another pack myself. I'll just grab your apartment key on the way out and let myself in when I get back, you just get up and eat breakfast."

"You're unusually perky this morning. And unusually nice."

JD smiled and walked toward the bed, leaning over to give her a gentle kiss. "Baby, I'm always nice - and you just don't notice me being 'perky' because you're always such a damn grump in the morning. I'll be back in a few minutes."

At that point, Teagan had already been sure of one thing: she was in love with that man. He was everything she wanted and more. Gentle, kind, willing to help out; he was cooking her breakfast and buying her cigarettes and writing songs about her. It was a life that she had always wanted for herself, and she had been positive at that point that they would be married one day. After all, they would have had attractive, musically gifted children, and that thought was sort of an exciting one to think about, but looking back, it all wasn't a fairy tale like she had wanted to believe. She had been young and she had been stupid. If she had known then what she knew now, life would have turned out a lot differently.

She sighed heavily, staring at the empty pack of cigarettes. She presumed they wouldn't magically fill themselves and she was going to have to make a quick trip to a nearby gas station if she wanted to have a smoke. She supposed she needed to get out of the apartment, anyway, for the simple sake of keeping her sanity, but she knew that she probably wasn't going to back to her writing. Not today, anyway. The muse seemed to be fading rather quickly, and now all she could think about was her nicotine fix.

It was a short walk to the gas station two blocks away, which was always busy with flocks of commuters going to and from work. This was something that Teagan had never experienced before: the value of a dollar. While she was certainly old enough to get a job, her parents continued to support her. Her dream was to become a writer, nothing else, and while she had dabbled with freelance newspaper writing just after high school, she never really felt like it had been for her. She had started going to school for an English degree, and she had a promising future ahead of her. She was going to be a famous novelist, often telling her friends she would be compared to the likes of Jane Austen. "Someday, I'll be famous," she would tell them. But when she met JD and changed her entire life because of him, she dropped out of school, though still had dreams of being a novelist in mind. Her parents, simply wanting to be loved by their daughter, began throwing money at her for her apartment, food, and any other expenses that came at her throughout the money. They paid her thousand-dollar-a-month rent bill, but never expected her to put in a dime. They had bought her a new car, a white Mustang GT, yet she hardly ever drove it. They gave her a stipend each month for all of her other food and activities, and would give her more if she asked without even asking what it was for.

Teagan was a taker. She didn't used to be, but now she was, and her parents allowed her to take advantage of them on a constant basis.

She was twenty-three and had almost no sense of real responsibility.

Walking up to the counter at the gas station, she glanced at the rows of cigarettes behind the cash register. Maybe she would try those American Spirit cigarettes she had heard so much about, which claimed to have no additives and she assumed they would be better for her health. She supposed she could just quit, but she didn't really want to. "Can I get a pack of Marlboro Smooth in a box, please?" Teagan asked without really thinking about it. It was a complete force of habit.

The man behind the register tossed a pack of cigarettes on the counter and she paid, then turned around to look at the candy bars and other various sweet items that seemed to be calling her name. She was about to reach out for a package of Suzy Q's when her attention was suddenly diverted.

"Teagan? Teagan Roemer?"

With a deer-in-headlights expression, Teagan's head turned to her left to see an all-too familiar face standing a few feet away.

"Jesus - I haven't seen you in ages! How the hell have you been?"

"Hey, Tom," she responded quietly, forgetting all about the chocolate cakes she had been eyeing before. Now, all she could think about was how she wished she had stayed in her room. "I've been okay, how about you?"


"Great," she mumbled under her breath.

"You ever get that book of yours finished?"

Teagan shook her head. "No," she answered curtly. "I scrapped the whole thing. Started over again." Sort of like her life.

"Oh, yeah? That's really cool - you want to go get coffee or something and catch up? I've got some time, if you do." His big green eyes seemed to sparkle, just the way they had when the two of them had first met. She remembered how easily excitable he was and how energetic he was, and was now realizing how much she hated those qualities about him.

"No," she said, shaking her head. "I sort of have a prior engagement to go to."

"Oh, come on, Tee. It'll be forty-five minutes - an hour tops."

"Really," she started again, trying to be more adamant about it this time. "Really, Tom, I can't."

He nodded, his shaggy black hair falling all over the place. "Okay, well, if you're busy now, what about later?"

He was persistent, Teagan would give him that. The truth was, his presence was painfully reminding her of her old friends and her old life, including JD, who she was hoping to keep in her past. Her heart was aching, and while all she wanted to do was ask him how JD was and how things were with him, and she actually kind of did want to catch up and grab some coffee, she knew it was a bad idea. Even just standing in this gas station with him was stirring up old memories, and she wasn't exactly feeling very nostalgic at the moment.

"There's this thing going on at Pub 13 tonight," he continued, not bothering to wait fo ran answer from Teagan. "Open mic night, you know how those things go. Anyway, would you be willing to go? We could catch up then."

"That's not a good idea."

"JD will be there."

For a moment, Teagan's world almost came crashing down around her. Her heart rate increased, she began to perspire, and suddenly she wanted to crawl into a ball and die. Pub 13 was less than a mile from her apartment, and it seemed like JD would be way too close in proximity to her if he was less than a mile away. "What if" situations began running through her mind - was she going to run into him at some point today? And, if she did, how would she react?

Finally, she shook her head quickly. "No - no. That's really - it's really not a good idea at this point. I'm sorry, Tom. I have to go. It was good seeing you, it really was."

She didn't wait for him to end the conversation, and didn't bother saying anything else. She turned away from him and shuffled herself out the door as quickly as she could, feeling suddenly rattled on the inside. She had never walked so fast to her apartment, and when she got there, she began to cry. It was too much for her to think about, too many emotions for her to try to handle by herself; she needed someone, anyone, to be there to comfort her. The trouble was, the only person who was good enough was also the only person she never wanted to see again. The person who had shattered her heart, and was likely to be the only person who could ever put it back together again. She couldn't do this.

She just couldn't do this.


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