“You’ve become a chapter in a book I’ve never wanted to write. While I don’t regret our story, I’m more than ready to return it back to the library of life and never revisit it. Feel free to keep the pictures, I took the only things worth keeping from the collection.”
Stephen crumbled the note up and tossed it in the fireplace. The flames jumping with delight at a snack. Nicolette wasn’t supposed to be leaving him, she was supposed to be marrying him next week. Stephen was pissed and hurt. The actually scrapbooks, now emptied, meant more to his ex-fiance than their pictures, their memories. It stung. She kept the ring though, he scoffed to himself, at least there was a certain amount of hope in that. At least that’s how Stephen was choosing to look at it. He poured himself a bourbon and walked back toward the fireplace.
Lowering himself, Stephen put his glass next to the box of pictures on the coffee table. He leaned against the hefty wooden piece and lifted the box unto the floor besides him. He dug his hand into the box and pulled out a chunk – she hadn’t even kept the bundled or in any semblance of order. Stephen looked through the photos; he and Nicolette at the beach, at the movies, at dinner, laughing while dancing at the Romano’s wedding, a candid shot of Nicolette smiling with fixed concentration as she attempted to make dinner. So many memories. Now apparently gone to her, only to be survived by him, if they were to survive at all. He threw the lot into the fire as he got up to pour another drink.
He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but he had made it through two-thirds of the box, and half of the bourbon. Pictures; tickets to concerts, games, movies; playbills; maps; endless pieces of their lives together. Markers of a time that no longer existed. A map of a fairy tale that stuck to gut wrenching traditions. Nicolette had made him a scrapbook for every year they were together. Now it was a clusterfuck of someone else’s trash – there were no labels, no direction, no mile markers of their love developing. Just scraps. Scraps that no longer warranted their own book. Not even a packed away box to be pulled out and looked fondly upon later. Stephen felt his eyes heavy. He got up and poked the fire. Large sparks jumping out at him snapped him back to reality. The flames wouldn’t die, they couldn’t, not without the rest of their love. He scoffed again to himself as he walked over to the bar cart for another drink.
Stephen left his glass on the tray and brought the decanter back to the floor with him. Waste not, want not he snarled to himself. Stephen reached into the box and felt around. There was only one stack left, this one tied neat in a bow with an old piece of string or rope. Twine. It felt like twine. Pulling it out of the box, the decanter still in his right hand, a hard jab ran through the palm of Stephen’s hand. He gulped down the last of the bourbon. He thought of Nicolette. He had thought of her second of the design process. He thought of her as he picked out the materials, paying no mind to the price. Stephen knew what was tied to the string before looking down. He knew because he had spent eight months making sure it was perfect before asking Nicolette to be his bride. Looking down he saw the ring as he expected. Tied in the bundle was a small stack of pictures. They spilled over his lap as he tore away at the bow. Nicolette standing in the park, Stephen down on one knee. Nicolette blushing as she said yes. Stephen preparing to make his bold gesture. Stephen at the jeweler’s working with Aimee; the two of them getting lunch. Aimee on top of Stephen, his hands running through her hair. Nicolette waiting outside the theater alone, timestamped five minutes before Stephen arrived running late from a tete-a-tete with Aimee. Pictures of his tete-a-tete with Aimee. Stephen felt the fire start in his heart and run up his body. With an animal’s cry he hurled the decanter into the fireplace – the flames rising and dancing along with his anger and humiliation.
Nicolette had known. Nicolette had known, and returned the ring. Stephen sat there, slumped over the now empty box, still on the floor watching the flames die through his swollen, tired eyes. The empty scrapbooks had been worth more to her than photos of their life. Stephen was sure it spoke volumes, something Nicolette would have said if this had been a play and not their lives. Stephen sat up, pitching the box across the room, laughing and sobbing at it crashed against the fireplace wall. It was all an empty sham now, he thought as he landed flat against the floor, the ring speckled with blood, still clutched in his fist. It’s all over now.