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Authors: Sarah Buhl

quintessence.

BOOK: quintessence.
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quintessence.
 

Sarah Buhl

 

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

quintessence. Copyright © 2015 by Sarah Buhl
All rights reserved.
Cover image by ©
Sanches1980
|
Dreamstime.com

Book design by Sarah Buhl
Edited by Michele Ziemer
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
Sarah Buhl
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing: May 2015

 

 

This might be the most difficult.

I’d do it a thousand times over for
each of those this is dedicated to.

Emily.
Lisa.
Mom.
The me of 2002.
All the others that bear wounds unseen—
Please know you are not alone.
 

To the many patient souls that fight wars none of us understand,
if we ever did. I hope that you know that some of us remember.
 

And the families that were there for us. Because though your bodies weren’t wounded, you were the ones to carry us
when we needed help finding our strength.
Thank you for the healing.

 

 

 

 

quintessence
1
:
  the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature and is the substance composing the celestial bodies
 

2
:
  the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form

 

1
Maggie
Spring

“It’s crazy how the phrase ‘I love you’ changes over time, isn’t it?” Toby asked.

“What do you mean?” I asked in return, focusing on the shirt I folded. I had let my laundry sit for over a week, and I was tired of ironing everything before work.

“Well, remember the first time I said it? It scared me shitless to tell you. Now it’s just common,” he said with a shy turn of his head, as if he had brought up a dark secret he didn’t want the world to know.

“Why do you do that?” I asked. “We’re communicating as most people in relationships do, and you get all shy. We’ve been together a while now; you’d think you’d be able to talk without getting shy.”

He sat on the edge of my bed and looked down at his hands. He rubbed the pad of his thumb against the pad of his index finger. It was Toby’s worrying pose. Something bothered him, and I knew that
something
had
everything
to do with me.

I understood that I had become more demanding—more frustrated. I didn’t know what was going on with me. I was twenty-two and I couldn’t control myself and my outbursts.

I stepped near him and sat on my heels in front of him. “I’m sorry. I know it’s just your way. I’m trying to not be this version of myself. It’s a battle though. I’m fighting against myself and in return taking it out on you.”

“Maybe you need to see a doctor?” Toby asked with hesitation.

I opened my mouth to get mad at him for even suggesting it. The last thing I needed was to see a doctor.

I loved my job though it would be the death of me with how stressful it was. I loved the deadlines and the intensity of it, but sometimes I wondered if it was worth losing my sanity for. I loved Toby, but wondered how he could still be so unsure of himself with me. I loved my friends—when I saw them—but I had kept to myself, and Toby went out with the guys alone. I felt so damned tired all the time and wondered if I would be the death of myself.

I took in a deep breath and exhaled what I hoped was most of my frustration before I took Toby’s hands in mine. “If I don’t get better in a week, I’ll go to the doctor to get checked out. Okay?”

“Okay.” He smiled. “Onto a different subject—can I tell you what Petra told me the other night?” he asked. “It’s had me thinking over the last few days.”

“Of course I want to hear—do tell. I always love a good Petra story,” I laughed as I stood to finish folding clothes. My foot was asleep, and I shook it out before leaning into Toby and kissing his ear. “Thank you for being understanding.”

“It’s okay, Magistrate,” he said, using the name he liked to call me to get under my skin. He and Gabe came up with it one day when I told them how I wanted things done.

“You’ve been hanging around Gabe too much,” I said on a laugh.

“It’s been fun though. We had met up with everyone after Karl’s showing. Do you remember Karl?” he asked, and I nodded in response. “That’s right, you’ve met him a couple times,” Toby said running his hand along the edge of my laundry basket.

“Yeah, he always seemed strange. He looks crazed, but I suppose he has the potential to be a nice person when he’s not judging people on their profession. Remember the Christmas party incident? I never felt as pissed as I did then,” I said, remembering how his words cut me that day.

I had tried to not judge by appearances that night. Hannah’s husband was one that changed my mind on my impression of others. On first impression, Wynn appeared to be a tattooed asshole. But the closer I grew to him, I learned he was one of the sweetest, most sincere people I’d ever met. He was perfect for Hannah. I tried to have that same outlook with Karl. But, then he trashed me and the company I work for. That was enough for me
not
to want to hang out with him.

“But continue with your story,” I said to Toby, trying not to make it sound like an order.

“Anyway, we met up at the diner and Petra suggested a palm reading,” Toby said with a raise of his eyebrow and a smirk. He knew I didn’t enjoy that aspect of Petra no matter how much he did. I rolled my eyes at him before he continued. “Okay, she told me I had many adventures in store for me—which I laughed about and asked if teaching fourth grade counted as an adventure. She said to shut up and listen to her. She said from looking at my hand I would face a decision. She said I needed to figure out my own path and stand on my own two feet,” he said as he examined his hands as if he could read what she had read. All humor left his voice.

“Why does that bother you so much?” I asked.

“Because she’s right—I started thinking about it more. I always do what others say I should. I mean yes, I know I could say no, but I always do what they want or think I should,” he said. “I’ve never stood on my own two feet. I see how my friends are, and I need to know how I am, too. I need to know
who
I am without everyone else.”

“You make it sound like I’m a bitch that dictates everything you do. Calling me Magistrate and now this,” I said, throwing my socks across the room.
What the hell was that? When did I become this person that throws things and takes immediate offense to comments that weren’t even directed toward me?
“I’m sorry; I don’t know why I reacted that way.”

“I know you are, Maggie—I know you’re sorry that is, not a bitch.” He laughed, and I forced a smile of my own. “I’m not telling you this because I want to make you feel bad. I’m thinking about myself right now. It has nothing to do with you.”

“Whoa. That sounds close to the cliché break up statement,” I said with a laugh of my own as I crossed my room to pick up the socks I threw.

Toby sat in silence.

I stood up, socks in hand, and my back turned to him as he continued to not speak.

Was he breaking up with me?

He wanted to end our relationship because of a palm reading.

Anger bubbled inside me, but then stopped. I kept my back to him and took several steady breaths as my eyes drifted closed. The palm reading was just the catalyst to push us over. I myself had been thinking about our relationship. We just existed together. We were best friends. But I was always stronger. He needed to find his own strength without me pushing him all the time. He was right in this decision, and I needed to trust him to find his own path.

I turned around and faced him. “I think what you’re about to say is what needs to be said. I won’t get angry. Maybe some of my anger over the last few months stemmed from the fact I understood what you suggested. I know we shouldn’t keep on as we are. You need to know who you are without others pushing you along. We need a break, but maybe not a breakup,” I said, taking a seat on the opposite side of the bed as him.

Our backs turned to each other, we continued having our conversation, but it felt as though we were talking to ourselves. I knew Toby better than anyone else on the planet. But I still didn’t feel like I
knew
him because he didn’t know himself.

Did I know myself?

“Maybe this will be best for both of us,” I said. “No, not maybe, it will. We’ve both moved in our own direction. We need to figure out who we are—I still want to keep in touch and hang out,” I said.

“Of course—I just need to do this for myself right now. I need to figure some things out. I think I’ll take a trip,” he said in a quiet, determined voice.

I turned on my bed to face him. He kept his back turned as I watched the rise and fall of each of his breaths. “Where are you going to go? You don’t like taking trips,” I asked in a soft manner unusual for me. I wanted to reach out to him and rub his shoulder. I realized though that it was out of habit and not out of a need to comfort. I comforted Toby in his shyness and lack of confidence out of necessity and familiarity. I couldn’t do that anymore. He needed to do it for himself.

“I’m not sure yet. I think I’ll just take a bus somewhere and think on things. I can do whatever I want,” he said as he built up the nerve to turn around.

I could point out each of his freckles, blindfolded. I knew his face, I knew how his wiry reddish blonde hair felt, but I didn’t know everything behind his eyes.

He needed this.

I needed this.

Since meeting in college, we’d grown. These years we had spent together were the start of our adult lives. I thought I knew myself then, but I lost that person. I am now a woman that is more focused on her career than her life. I’ve become an account executive in less than a year at the most successful advertising agency in town. I would continue to move forward and grow in my life. But, I knew in my heart, that this life was not for Toby. He needed to do something else. I needed to do something else.

“I love you Toby, and I know this is for the best,” I said as I pulled him in for a hug.

“I think I will make more time for my dancing again. You take your trip. I will dance, and we will meet back up in our own new versions of ourselves. Then we see where we go from there.”

I surprised myself. We were together and now we weren’t—just two separate people. Maybe it won’t be permanent, maybe it will be. I should possess a deeper emotion but instead I just folded more clothes.

When did I become so apathetic?

BOOK: quintessence.
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