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Appetite Lost

As soon as the door of the T opened at her stop, the last stop on the green line, a gust of

wintry air blasted Nancy back, scolding her to stay inside. But where would she go?

Instead, she hugged her stylish work-appropriate black peacoat. She stepped down

defiantly, her functional and surprisingly comfortable black pumps sinking into the already

accumulated snow, coating her shoes and nylons with icy crystals, making her shiver from her

toes up to her expertly pinned French twist.


That morning, as she drank her first of the two cups of coffee, she allowed herself

per day, one at home and one at work, the meteorologist on her favorite local news channel had

warned that a blizzard was hitting Boston and recommended everyone should stay home. Nancy

had ignored this. Surely newly hired Visiting Lecturers in English Literature at Harvard didn’t

take the day off.



She was wrong.

Even after hours of waiting, the halls of her department were just as deserted as

the street in front of her now. She guessed everyone had stayed home, snuggled up with kids,

partners, and pets.


Millions of fuzzy specks of snow taunted and swirled around her as she struggled

to take the one thousand nine hundred thirty-eight steps to her cozy and charming but most

definitely empty half Cape.


As a kid, she used to love snow days. She would stay glued to the TV, waiting for

the news to list her school among those canceled. Snow days meant Mom, who was never not

working, would stay home and make canned tomato soup that tasted like heaven to her.

Leaning her whole body into the storm, Nancy promised herself she would order

tomato soup as soon as she was safely inside her impeccably clean (never used) kitchen, even

though she knew it wouldn’t taste the same.


It never did.


In a hurry to set, the sun abandoned Nancy among the silvery icy mounds that

used to be cars. Soon after, dusk draped over her like a crochet blanket filled with holes and

mistakes.


Ahead, only five or six feet in front of her, a blurry blue figure approached at a clip. She

was already at her mailbox when it caught up with her.


“Here,” it said, shoving a crisp, stiff envelope into her hands.


Nancy’s heart froze as she realized it was her ex-fiancé Richard’s wedding invitation.

“Looked important,” the bundled-up figure said, the words full of pride for not letting a

blizzard stop the delivery of such an important letter as if this was a letter she wanted to receive.


As if she wasn’t feeling lonely enough today without a reminder that she was alone and would

always be alone.


The envelope was an oversized square affair that required extra postage, of course,

because everything about Dynasty, her ex-fiancé’s new fiance, was over the top. Her hair was the

size of her home state of Texas. Her designer purse (the kind that most people have to be on a

waitlist for years to purchase) could fit a small child. Finally, the rock on her engagement ring (a

ring that Nancy knew Richard could not afford on his English Literature professor salary) was

massive enough to melt retinas. Everything about Dynasty was exorbitant except her heart—that

was minuscule.


But Richard preferred her, so what did Nancy know?


The tomato soup forgotten, Nancy went straight to bed.

*


One week after the invitation arrived, she was in the middle of a lecture on the character

of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost when Richard sent a text. She didn’t read it then. Her phone

was turned off and buried deep in her purse. Later, she walked back to the T, the snow from last

week’s blizzard pushed aside and discarded, a brisk cold wind filtering through her peacoat like

water through a sieve.


Her black pumps crunched the frozen snow towards her small and perpetually empty

rental house, her nylons doing even less to protect her from the artic temperatures of Boston. The

mailman nowhere in sight, she slipped inside with a sigh. She was safe from Richard and his

inconvenient invitations.


She looked at her pristine kitchen and remembered the unfortunate need to eat. She could

call for take-out (again), but the thought depressed her. She could eat dry cereal from the box

(again), but this small rebellion did not lift her spirits either.


That is when she remembered her department chair’s promise to call to invite her for

dinner or a drink. Sure, the offer had been made back when it was still fall and the semester was

just beginning, but people get busy.


She dug up her phone and powered it on. Since she and Richard had split, she barely used

it. Her mother, now long gone, didn’t call. She didn’t know any other professors, having skipped

the faculty mixer. Mostly her phone received calls from Scam Likely, and she had no interest in

talking to him.


There were no missed calls from her department chair. There were no emails about the

next faculty mixer. All she had was a text from Richard asking her to please RSVP yes, saying

he wanted her there, reminding her they had been together through everything else, and pleading

with her to please (please) be there. And yes, they had met and fallen in love (or so Nancy

thought) their first year in college, then attended the same graduate school, earned their Ph.D.’s

in English Literature together, then taught and had tenure at the same University. She was well

aware of their long history together. But they had also planned to marry each other, which had

not panned out, so plans changed.


She turned her phone off again, skipped the take-out and cereal, and went straight to bed.

Nancy, it seemed, had lost her appetite for good.

*



On her second blizzard, enjoying her second cup of coffee at home in her pajamas,

crunching dry cereal straight from the box, and watching her favorite meteorologist, a second

string of texts arrived.


Why haven’t you responded?


You are coming, right?


Please come.


Please.


I need you there.


And then, the three dots...


Nancy stared at them. The wedding weekend was one month away (because she wasn’t

just invited to the “Big Day,” there was also a rehearsal dinner the night before and a post-Big-

Day brunch). Still, she had already decided to ignore all communication from Richard. She

would rather talk to Scam Likely than to him. No good would come of answering since no good

would come of them seeing each other again. And how dare he ask her to be there to see him

marry someone else.


Finally, the three dots disappeared, and his overthought message appeared, leaving Nancy

more confused than ever.


I know you got the invitation. I delivered it myself.


She read and reread the text until her coffee grew cold. She recalled that freezing day and

the bundled-up figure she had assumed was the mailman.


Her cereal box stood untouched as she wondered what it meant that Richard was in

Boston during a blizzard hand delivering his wedding invitation to her.

Something did not add up here.

*


Spring had finally arrived. The cherry blossom trees along the Charles River Esplanade

looked like fluffy cotton candy on sticks. The sun warming her face, her peacoat on one arm, a

bag full of essays analyzing the seductive nature of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost on her other

arm, Nancy walked to the T.


On the ride home, Nancy thought about the faculty mixer she planned to attend that night.

She had her black skirt and blouse all picked out—a similar look to what she was currently

wearing, but the blouse was silky, soft, and pink and made her feel fresh and alive.


With a bounce in her step, she practically skipped the one thousand nine hundred thirty-

eight steps to her little Cape to find Richard sitting on her front steps.


“Richard, what are you doing here?”


“Nancy,” he said, his arms open, hungry to embrace her. There he was, Richard, looking

like Nancy had fantasized back when he first broke off their engagement.


Richard looking broken.


Nancy could tell he’d been traveling all day. His suit was crumpled, his tie crooked.

On his knees, Richard pleaded, “Please, Nancy, please.”


“It’s too late,” Nancy said, putting on her peacoat, suddenly feeling frigid, the warmth of

spring suddenly gone.


Richard had put on a few pounds, and he was sporting a goatee, which he knew she

hated. He was probably stress eating and too distracted by missing her to shave. He must be

miserable without her.



She wrapped her arms around herself tightly because her traitorous heart wanted to run

into Richard’s arms and have him melt away the cold. Who has she kidding? Of course, she

would take him back, all thoughts of awkward faculty mixers erased.


Getting back together with Richard meant Nancy could return to her University, where

she was tenured, instead of being a Visiting Lecturer, making her feel like an unnamed plus one

instead of the actual invitee. Her world could go back to making sense. But she would not take

him back right away. She would make him suffer—just a little. Just enough so he could feel what

she had felt all these months alone.


“I will not take you back, Richard,” Nancy said, struggling to hide the slight smile

wanting to escape from her lips.


“Take me back?” Richard said, giving Nancy a puzzled look and getting to his feet. “Oh

Nancy, I’m not here... I mean, I want you back, yes, but as my friend. As my oldest and dearest

friend. We’ve known each other for so long that, well, I thought you would be my best man.

Well, best woman, I mean, at the wedding.”


The humiliation was immediate and complete.


“You need to leave.”


“Nancy, don’t be like that. Come on.”


“Leave and never contact me again,” Nancy said, pushing past Richard and into her

house, which might be small and empty, but it was hers.


She locked the door and went straight to bed, expecting to cry herself to sleep.


But after a few minutes and a few obligatory tears, she realized she wasn’t where she had

started. All these months of not seeing Richard, she had made him the last man on earth when in

reality, he was just one more. One more man in a smorgasbord of men—and not a particularly

handsome one at that.


She had moved cities, she was a professor at one of the most prestigious Universities

(sure, just a Visiting Lecturer, but still), and she was personally invited (the department chair had

popped by for her last lecture of the day) to a faculty mixer. Her blouse, her beautiful silky new

blouse, deserved to be unboxed and untagged. She had people to mix with and Hors D’oeuvres to

eat.

*


In the end, she did RSVP yes to Richard’s wedding, and she did attend, but not as his best

woman because she had long stopped being that for him. And she did bring her own plus one—a

tall, dark, and handsome professor from the math department who complimented her on her silky

pink cherry blossom blouse. She did not attend every event of the “Big Wedding Weekend.” Just

the party, and just long enough for Richard to see her dancing with her dashing new partner.


And then, Nancy and her new fellow found a Texan steakhouse where they both ordered

the prime rib, the baked potato, and the side of creamed spinach because Nancy had finally found

her appetite.

***


BIO

Maya P. Haberland grew up in Guatemala with a German father and a Columbian-German

mother. She taught Math and Spanish to Middle Schoolers before becoming a full-time mother.

She has always been a writer.


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