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Episode Fifteen

Seth

The woman of my dreams fell into my life without warning. I wasn’t prepared for her to fall out of it the very same way.

***

My roommate Dirk had dark circles under his eyes when he looked over at me as I walked into the kitchen at 7 a.m.

“Isn’t it the middle of the night for you?” I cracked.

“Yep. I have to go get a drug test for work.”

I smiled, because the only illicit substance Dirk would have running through his veins was shocking amounts of Mountain Dew, which he drank when he was gaming.

“Your smoking hot girlfriend didn’t stay over last night?” Dirk asked.

“Nope.”

He scratched his crotch as he took a can of Mountain Dew from the fridge and cracked it open, taking a sip.

“I still can’t figure out what she sees in you.”

I shrugged. “Me either. But she’s amazing and I’ve never been happier.”

“And you’re not paying her?”

I glared at him. “Don’t even insinuate something like that about her.”

He put his hands up in mock innocence. “All I’m saying is she’s a 10 and you’re like a 4.7.”

Dirk slid his hand into a pizza box in the fridge and took out a cold slice of leftover pepperoni, taking a bite.

“You could get a girlfriend, too,” I told him. “If you showered daily and did something other than play video games ten hours a day.”

“Hey, I’m a college student. And I work.”

“You’re taking two classes and you work like twenty hours a week.”

Dirk scratched his crotch again, ignoring me. He needed more than a daily shower to get a girlfriend.

As I waited for my coffee to brew, I checked the weather and then my email. My mouth dropped open when I saw the message I’d been waiting for. I’d been offered a job at my top choice of employers, and they wanted me to start as soon as I graduated.

“Holy crap,” I said under my breath, texting Nova immediately.

Me: You won’t believe this. I got a job offer from NASA.

I knew she’d be thrilled—we’d talked a lot about NASA being my dream job. Now all I had to do was convince her to move to Houston with me in six months, after I’d officially finished my PhD.

I waited for a response, but it never came. I decided to drop by her place and make sure she was okay. As soon as my coffee was done, I put it in a travel mug and grabbed the rest of my stuff.

“Good luck with your drug test,” I said to Dirk.

“Thanks, bro.” He waved as he went back to the fridge for another slice of cold pizza.

I was worried about Nova. She just wasn’t herself with all the stress she was under because of money. On my way to her house, I’d pick up her favorite Starbucks drink—a caffe mocha, and breakfast sandwiches for both of us.

I wouldn’t get a chance to do that, though.

“Hey.”

Nova looked up at me as I opened the door to my apartment, the hood of her jacket covering most of her face.

“Nova? What are you doing here?”

She was sitting outside my door, a gas station cup of coffee next to her. She stood up and gave me a weary look.

“Can we talk?” she asked.

“Of course, but why didn’t you call or text? You don’t need to be sitting out here in the cold.”

She waved a hand dismissively. “I needed to get out of the house and I thought you’d be leaving soon.”

“Come inside, let’s get you warmed up.”

“No, that’s okay.”

Something was wrong. Nova wouldn’t even look at me. She hadn’t texted me back, but I figured it was just because she was stressed, or maybe she was sleeping in. My heart pounded nervously as she took a deep breath and let it out.

“I really like you, Seth,” she said, locking eyes with me for a quick second before looking away again.

“I love you, Nova.” I took her hand in mine and squeezed it. “And I know you’re going through a lot, but I want to be here for you.”

She shook her head. “You’re too good to be true.”

“Me?” I set down my worn canvas messenger bag, stuffed full of graded papers and books. “Nova, you’re the one who’s too good to be true. You’re beautiful and smart. You’re sweet and funny. I still can’t believe you took a chance on a gangly video game nerd like me.”

I cupped her face in my hands and lifted it gently. When her eyes met mine, tears spilled onto her cheeks.

“Seth, you’re amazing. You’re about to finish your doctorate and then you’re going to work for NASA, and who knows where they may want to send you. You have your whole life in front of you.”

I wiped the pad of my thumb over one of her tears. “Nova, we both do. We can go anywhere and do anything together.”

“That’s just it, though.” She gave me a sad smile. “I can’t. I’m a high school graduate who lives in a trailer with my dad, and even with me working two jobs, we barely make ends meet. I wish my dad could make it on his own, but there’s no way.”

“Let’s at least go sit in my car,” I said. “It’s cold out here.”

I took her hand as we walked to my car, my pulse pounding with the realization that she was in the middle of breaking up with me. Once we were in the car and the heat was on, I turned to her with a serious look.

“Don’t give up on us, Nova. I know you’re doubting yourself, but you shouldn’t be. I don’t care how much schooling you’ve had or how much money you have. All I care about is how I feel when we’re together.” My voice threatened to break with emotion and I had to pause to get myself together. “I’ve never been this happy. When I make you smile, I feel like a king.”

She buried her face in her hands. “God, why is this so hard? I fell for you so fast.”

“So what?” I challenged. “That doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

“I know.” She reached over and took my hand. “It isn’t that I don’t love you, Seth—I do. But I won’t hold you back from your dream job.”

I exhaled hard, feeling the woman I loved slipping through my fingers.

“You won’t be holding me back from anything,” I said. “I can look into options. Maybe work remotely or travel back and forth.”

Nova looked at her lap. “I hope one day I can be with someone as amazing as you, Seth. But I’ve barely got my head above water right now and you’ve worked too hard all these years to let me drag you down.”

“Don’t say that. You do the opposite of drag me down. I’ve never been happier than I am with you.”

She covered her face with her hands, crying. “We have to break up, Seth. It’s so hard already, please don’t make it harder.”

“Don’t do this. We can figure this out.”

She dropped her hands and turned to face me, tears streaking her cheeks and welled in her eyes. “I’m not right for you, Seth.”

I shook my head adamantly. “Nothing in my life has ever felt as right as being with you. If it’s that I’m not hot enough or buff enough, then say it. Because I know I make you happy, too.”

Her shoulders sank. “You’re too good for me. That’s the truth. I’m not doing this because I don’t love you, Seth—it’s because I do. I hope someday you’ll understand.”

She opened up the car door and got out then, running away from my car across the parking lot of my apartment complex. I wanted to go after her—had to fight myself not to, actually.

Nova didn’t want to be chased by me anymore. What had seemed too good to be true for a dork like me actually was.