This is Part 7 of our fictional Lockdown Short Story series. The next instalment of our weekend Solo Lockdown Short Stories will be published tomorrow (Sunday) with the next two instalments following next weekend – Saturday and Sunday the 23rd and 24th of May 2020.
Curled up on the sofa with a mug of strong black coffee, Ava listened idly to the movie on TV as she scrolled through her phone. At first, she had viewed the lockdown as an opportunity to get things done – after all, she was stuck at home with no work, so there was no reason to procrastinate on things that needed to be done. Now, six weeks later, she was bored. So bored she hardly even paid attention to what movie played in the background.
It was a romance, she knew that. A sappy romcom with a pretty leading woman and a painfully average man, the jokes flat and plot as predictable as every other romcom out there. Eyes flickering up from her phone, Ava saw the romantic couple arguing on screen, but it was so overacted it made her cringe.
However, it got her thinking. Thinking about her own relationships – and over the years there had been many. The only reason she wasn’t scrolling through Tinder or having her friends play matchmaker was because of lockdown. Now that she thought about it, these six weeks were the first time she had been technically single in… oh, a decade or more.
Taking a sip of coffee, Ava cringed as it burned the roof of her mouth. It brought her back to reality for a moment, eyes flickering back to the TV; but by the time she had set the coffee down, her mind had wandered back into itself.
Her last boyfriend was a tall, broad shouldered man with dark skin and perfectly kept dreadlocks. Zak, for all his faults, had always taken pride in his appearance. More so than Ava herself, and plenty of people had called her high maintenance. So yes, he had been so handsome it was almost unbelievable; but after two years together she finally realised that looks didn’t make up for a terrible personality.
Thinking back on it, Zak had always been terrible, she just hadn’t realised until it tore them apart. The memory was still fresh in her mind, and without even realising she sank into the memory.
“Hey Zak, I need to talk to you.” Ava sidled into Zak’s kitchen, brows furrowed as she helped herself to coffee. She was going to need the caffeine to get through this. Was it untactful, to do this the morning after he had all but asked her to move in? Was it cruel?
Zak’s eyes flickered up, his gaze steady. “I’d love to babe, but I’ve got to head out. I’m meeting up with Kalisha and her brother.”
Right. Ava hated to sound like a jealous lover – and she wasn’t, honestly – but Zak spent more time with his friends than he did her. Not to mention he often took so long to get ready, that if she stayed the night she was often late for work. He would have said she worked too much, that it wasn’t his fault he wanted to look good for his friends.
Zak squeezed past her, coffee in one hand and phone in the other. “You’ve got your keys, right? You can lock up when you leave.”
“You shouldn’t even be going out,” Ava mumbled, “there’s talk of a lockdown starting, and it isn’t safe-“
“I’ll be fine,” Zak answered distractedly. Already he was staring at his phone, Ava forgotten.
Shifting from foot to foot, she sighed. A massive gulp of coffee gave her enough strength to say, “this is important, Zak. I need to talk to you now.“
Even if he didn’t care about her words, her tone made him pause. Turning, he shoved his phone in his back pocket with a sigh. He was scowling already, and she hadn’t even told him yet.
“Why don’t you sit down-“
“I don’t have time,” Zak snapped, “so tell me whatever it is so I can go.”
Anger bubbled under her skin. Fine. If he wanted to be told straight, that’s exactly what she would do. Downing the rest of the coffee in one go – ignoring how it burned all the way down – she snapped, “I’m breaking up with you.”
Silence. Zak stared at her with wide, dark eyes; like he couldn’t comprehend what she had said. The silence stretched on, thick and tense and awkward, but neither of them wanted to be the one to break it.
Until finally, Zak said, “Sorry, I didn’t realise it was April Fool’s already.”
Typical Zak. Deflecting, acting like she was being stupid. Scowling, Ava pointed a finger at his chest. “Don’t act like you didn’t see this coming. This hasn’t worked in months. We haven’t worked in months. We hardly see each other and when we do, you’re more interested in the friends you see almost every day. I’m surprised you’d even notice the difference if I was gone.”
A scowl, thick brows knitted. He parted his lips – to argue maybe, to tell her he could make it work. Instead he snapped, “I’m going out. Lock up when you leave, will you?
Snapping back to reality, she cringed. No use in dwelling on the past – even if it had been barely any time at all – but she couldn’t help it.
Over the years, Ava was the one to do the breaking up more often than not. As she stared at her coffee, now cooling on the little glass table, she remembered one of the few times a guy had broken up with her. Looking back on it, Ava supposed she deserved it. They had been young, clueless about how they really felt, and it had only been a matter of time before the relationship crumbled.
Well, at least he had been nice about it. That’s exactly what Landon had been – nice. That was boring, wasn’t it? That the best compliment she had was that he was nice.
Standing, Ava trudged through to the kitchen, mug in hand, intent on making fresh coffee. Sliding a fresh packet into her coffee maker, Ava leaned against the kitchen counter and let her mind wander.
Without even meaning to, Ava’s mind drifted to that day fifteen years ago, when Landon had decided to end their relationship. Within moments, she was lost in her own thoughts.
The restaurant was pleasant enough – one of those old-fashioned places that make fantastic food but could do with updating their decor. The menu was simple enough, but the steaming plates the server brought to the adjacent table looked delicious.
Sipping her wine, Ava asked the question that had been burning in her mind the entire drive over. “What’s the occasion? I thought you were trying to save money.”
“I am,” Landon admitted with a shrug. He had chosen white wine for the meal; Ava herself preferred red, but it was so rare for Landon to actually show a preference, she didn’t comment.
Brow raised, Ava waited for him to continue. A feeling of trepidation swam in her gut, the knowledge that something was wrong nagging at the back of her mind.
Landon knew it. He couldn’t lie to her – couldn’t lie to anyone, he was such a pushover – and he sighed quietly. His voice was lost to the dinner time buzz of the restaurant, but Ava made out, “I think we should stop seeing each other.”
Oh. That was unexpected. Ava felt a little jolt of surprise, her stomach flipping, but that was it. Landon was sweet, and he was funny when he wanted to be, but they weren’t in love.
“It’s just,” Landon paused, his brows crinkling. Here she was, being broken up with, and he was the one that looked about to cry. “I like you, Ava, I do – but you want to move to the city and become an author and do all of this amazing stuff. That isn’t me.”
Of course. He loved his tiny house, his every day routine, his boring admin job. He was happy to keep living like this for the rest of his life, while Ava wanted more.
Sighing, Ava pushed her glass away. Suddenly, even wine didn’t seem appealing any more. “You’re right,” she mumbled, “we were never going to last.”
Landon’s lips pursed, his eyes darted down, and she saw the shine of tears as he blinked them away.
Frustrated, Ava shoved back the urge to snap. “I’d ask if we can still be friends,” she sighed, “but that would still cause the same problems, wouldn’t it?”
Huffing, Ava tore herself from the memory with a scowl. They didn’t leave on bad terms, per se – certainly not like several boyfriends after. Certainly not like Zak, who had walked out of the flat that day and never contacted her again. It had been fifteen years, yet she still thought fondly of Landon in a way she didn’t with anyone else. He was too sensitive for his own good, and she didn’t see that changing.
The coffee maker beeped, jolting Ava back to reality. With a huff she poured some into a fresh mug – the biggest she owned – and added a healthy portion of sugar too. When she took a sip, it was so sweet she could barely taste the coffee.
When she wandered back to the living room, the credits were rolling. Ava couldn’t remember a single aspect of that movie; not that it mattered, she was never one for soft, fluffy romance.
Actually, Ava realised as she settled back onto the sofa, maybe she wasn’t much for romance at all. She had hopped from one relationship to the next for as long as she remembered – but this, spending time alone, was good. She liked it. The peace and quiet, the ability to do whatever she liked.
Smiling to herself, Ava sipped her coffee and flicked on another movie. A horror this time – much more her thing.
Curling up to enjoy it, Ava decided on one thing – relationships were overrated, and she was quite content to be by herself.