“Have you seen them together?” she asked with false innocence. I had been expecting the inquiry—dreading it really. I was between two friends in that awkward way. I had known them as a couple. They had broken up. She still carried a torch for him. He had moved on with someone else. And yes, I had seen them together — many times.

My friend was fidgeting on the barstool in her newly finished basement. I stood behind the bar and poured myself a ginger ale. The track lighting above us was harsh. She hadn’t been sleeping, the circles under her eyes were dark. Her long, blonde hair was stringy and slightly matted on one side. It had been six months since the split, but in her heart, it happened yesterday.

“I have,” I said carefully. She visibly relaxed and I can only guess it was because she assumed she would now gain some intel.

“I saw pictures of her on his Facebook,” she said, looking down at her glass of wine. “She’s pretty.” She looked up to gauge my reaction, my agreement. I wasn’t playing that game.

I leaned down so as not to hover over her. “Bea, why are you torturing yourself with this?”

She shrugged in reply and frowned. “I looked at her Instagram. It’s just pictures of exotic plants and birds and the occasional motivational quote. She must be some kind of introvert.”

My heart ached for her. This was the pain of not letting go. “Bea, you’ll never know her by looking at her pictures, but I suspect what you really want to know is why he picked her over you.”

She choked up and her eyes filled with tears. She nodded.

“But it didn’t happen that way, sweetheart. You two were fighting so much, neither of you could do it anymore. Don’t you remember? You were crying all the time. He was miserable. That’s why you guys ended it. He met her after.”

“You don’t get it,” she said shaking her head, refusing to look at me. “He’s happy with her and he wasn’t with me. There’s something wrong with me. Why was I such a bitch to him? Why did I do all of that stuff? Why did I criticize him all the time?”

I took a sip of my ginger ale and slid my black, bangle bracelet from wrist to elbow. “Because you were unhappy, Bea. Because it wasn’t right- you and he. It wasn’t working. You weren’t in love anymore.”

She rubbed her eyes, leaving streaks of blue mascara on her lower lids. “I was so relieved when it was over. I wanted some freedom and I figured he would too. But it was two months! Two months later and he started seeing her! And then a month after that they’re all ‘In a relationship!’ Like what the hell? How could he do that?”

“There is no right or wrong way to be after a breakup. Obsessing about your past relationship, looking at his Facebook, checking out her Instagram….Bea, none of this is what it seems. You are hurting. You are in pain because things have changed and you feel lost. You feel lonely and you’re questioning your worth. You will never find relief where you are looking. Never. All you can do is be gentle with yourself. Pray. Ask for help in letting go.”

She was sobbing now, but she heard me. “I don’t know if I can….”

I walked around the bar and plopped myself down beside her. “You can. You will. Feeling all of this is good; you just can’t stay here. You’ve got to get out, have fun, start creating. Paint, write, do pottery…something. Channel this shit.”

“Why didn’t he love me?” her voice squeaked with hurt.

I took a deep, patient breath and focused on her question—on what she was really asking. “He loved you long enough. Not all love is forever. You loved him the same and then you both gave each other the gift of moving on. You know deep down, he’ll never forget you. You also know that you need to let this go in order to make room for something new…when you’re ready.”

She ran the side of her hand under her nose and finally looked up at me. “I’ll try,” she said. “But please, do me a favor?”

I smiled. “Anything, Bea.”

“Tell me something bad about her?” she pleaded.

I tapped my chin and looked up at the ceiling, searching for the perfect answer. “She’s not you.”

She narrowed her eyebrows at me, started a retort, then thought the better of it. “Ugh, fine,” she grumbled.

I reached over and squeezed her shoulder. “I love you and I promise you: you will get through this.”

She turned back to her wine, swishing the garnet liquid round and round. “Yeah,” she said.

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