Engaged by Friday

By: Julie Jarnagin
To Joy


Mary Beth flung her phone to the other end of the couch. The only new emails were messages about the upcoming high school reunion   she wouldn’t be attending. Not now. She didn't care that she was on the planning committee, that it had been ten years, or that she’d cleared her calendar for the festivities the weekend after next.

Pup, the Jack Russell Terrier she’d rescued from the side of the road three weeks ago, jumped onto the couch and curled up beside her. She knew she shouldn’t let him on the furniture, but grateful for his company, she stroked his back as he rested his warm body against her leg.

For most of her classmates, going to the reunion   alone would be no big deal, but after her infamous senior-prom incident and the ridiculous bet she’d made with Harper Tulley, the whole situation would be humiliating. Heat blasted her cheeks at the thought.

Mary Beth should have known better than to tell everyone Todd would be at the reunion  . How could she have known he would dump her two weeks before the big event?

She took a deep breath, willing away the sick sensation she got every time she thought of Todd. A break. The words still stung. The least he could have done was man-up and call it what it was. This wasn’t a break. It was a breakup. Todd had dumped her, plain and simple.

Hot tears gathered in her eyes. No. She refused to spend another second crying over the man who’d ruined all her big plans for the future.

The doorbell rang. Pup jumped up and let out a series of ear-piercing yaps.

“Hush,” she whispered to the dog. “Mrs. Sweeney will hear you." Unless that was her at the door, in which case they were already in big trouble. The last thing she needed was to get kicked out of the tiny house she rented just behind Mrs. Sweeney's two-story home. A strict no-pet policy. How many times had Mrs. Sweeney reminded her of that? Mary Beth had already gotten dumped this week. She didn't need to get evicted too.

She scooped up Pup and carried the wide-eyed dog to the door.

A peek through the peephole revealed a familiar face, Jo. Shoot. Not ready to talk to anybody about Todd or the reunion  , she'd ignored calls from all three of her friends on the reunion   committee. Jo knocked on the door, and Pup barked in a high pitch Mary Beth hadn’t known was possible for any animals besides dolphins.

Mary Beth had assumed she’d have found a home for the little guy by now. She’d done her best not to get too attached to him, not even giving him a real name, but that brilliant plan had failed. Pup had been there for her through the breakup. She was officially and permanently attached to the pint-sized stray.

When Pup had finally quieted, Mary Beth heard a car door slam. She hurried to the window and watched as Mrs. Sweeney shuffled from her Buick to the side door of her house. Great. Now, Mary Beth couldn’t hide from Jo, or the next time Jo knocked, the hyper dog would be at it again.

“Mary Beth,” Jo shouted. “I know you’re in there. I saw your car parked on the street, and your bike is here.”

Mary Beth walked back to the door and straightened before opening it. “Hey,” she said with all the fake brightness she could muster.

Jo’s gaze moved from Mary Beth’s ratty T-shirt to the yoga pants she’d been wearing for the past three days. “The girls all agreed that I should stop by to check on you.”

“Come in.” She stepped farther into the living room, wishing she’d hidden the Little Debbie wrappers on the coffee table. “You didn’t need to come by. I’m fine.”

Jo stepped inside, her dark hair in its signature short crop. “You missed our meeting, and you didn’t answer our calls. That isn’t like you.”

Mary Beth tucked a strand of hair that had escaped her messy ponytail behind her ear. Her dirty blond hair was now a literal description. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have flaked out on you or the rest of the committee. I’ve been busy with work, and I just needed a break.”

“How was your big date with Todd?” The pinched expression on Jo’s face told her she already suspected the answer.

“Fine,” Mary Beth said, but her voice cracked.

Jo stared at her. “Fine?”

Pup licked her chin, and Mary Beth sighed. She couldn’t lie to Jo. “Todd and I decided to take a little break.”

Jo gasped. “Oh, sweetie. You broke up? What happened?”

Her face hot with embarrassment, Mary Beth set Pup on the beat up wood floors. She swallowed, trying to keep control of her emotions. “It’s okay. He said he wanted to talk to me about something important. Since we were going to the restaurant where we went on our first date, I just assumed…” She lowered herself onto the edge of the couch, and all of her energy drained out of her. “I’m so stupid.”

“You thought he was proposing?” Jo whispered as she sat beside her. “What kind of jerk takes someone to the place of their first date to break up with them?”

The kind who never remembered details like that. The kind who decided to take a job in California without even telling his girlfriend that he’d applied or flown out for an interview. At dinner, he’d announced he’d accepted a job offer and that a long distance relationship wouldn’t be fair to either of them. He also hadn’t invited her to move with him. “I’m sure you understand why I can’t be at the reunion  . You can explain it to the other girls, can’t you?”