“That’s the last of my stuff,” Cadence said before walking into the living room. She glanced around the apartment she and her boyfriend Terrell shared for the past seven years. Terrell sat on the couch with one leg cocked up on their wooden coffee table, his eyes preoccupied with his phone. He tapped along the screen of his smartphone as he typed a message to whoever not even bothering to pay her any attention. She sighed, fixing the strap of her reusable green market bag over her shoulder. Inside of that bag were a few of the small items she could collect around the apartment that didn’t make it into boxes.
Cadence was moving out. Out of their apartment and their relationship. After 10-years of being a couple, Cadence gave Terrell an ultimatum. Either he agreed to take their relationship to the next level, or she would leave. The decision to tell him that, was her last-ditch effort to see if she could get him moving in the right direction. For the past seven years after moving into their apartment, Cadence played house hoping that it would lead to something else. Every birthday since turning twenty-two, she waited with bated breath every time he presented her with her birthday present, convinced that year would be the year he asked her to be his wife.
It never happened. So, she tried something new.
“Marry me or it’s over,” she told him the first day of November and three-weeks before her 29th birthday. She figured, if he wasn’t already thinking about making that year the year he asked her to marry him, maybe the ultimatum would make an encouraging hint. Cadence finally took her cousin, Caira’s, advice to put her foot down in she and Terrell’s relationship. Unfortunately, that ended up backfiring.
The short chubby mover walking back into their apartment got their attention as he picked up the final cardboard box filled with her shoes.
“Ready when you are,” the moving guy told her before smiling politely.
“Thanks, I’ll be right down,” she replied.
Cadence turned her attention back on Terrell who was still busy on his phone. His fitted black tee laid snug against his biceps that flexed as he prodded the letters on his screen.
“Are you going to say something?” Cadence asked as the brows over her slanted brown eyes furrowed.
“What you want me to say?”
“Terrell, what?” he asked looking up from his phone and at her. “You made your decision, right?”
“And it wasn’t an easy one, but you left me no choice.”
“You had a choice, Cadence. You’re always telling people what they’re supposed to be doing. Everybody ain’t gonna fall in line because you said so. I already told you marriage ain’t for me.”
“After I gave your ass ten years,” she yelled. Cadence took a deep breath and blew the air out of her mouth.
He kissed his teeth and went back to looking at his phone. “You’re looking for something I can’t give you.”
“You got that right now. Focus on what you got. You’re so obsessed with a piece of paper when what we got… or had, was better.”
“I ain’t getting no younger, Terrell, and I want to have kids someday. You’re more willing to make me a mother than a wife and there ain’t no way I’m trying to be your baby mama. According to my plan, I was supposed to be married by now. You’re slowing me down.”
“Cadence, how many times I gotta tell you this? You can’t schedule every fucking thing in your life. Marriage is just a piece of paper.”
She shook her head. “If it was just a piece of paper, it would have been nothing for you to—”
“Look, I don’t have time for this. You packed up all your shit. You got your new crib. So, it’s done. We don’t even need to be doing this right now.”
“Wow,” Cadence whispered. She swallowed hard to keep the tears from falling.
For the past two weeks, after signing the lease on her new apartment, she hoped they could work things out. Hoping that he’d come to his senses, she didn’t bother hiring moving people until two-days before move-in day.
“I really fucking loved you, Terrell. Like, you don’t even understand how much I did.”
“If you really loved me, you would’ve just—”
“Settled?” she asked.
“I wasn’t going to say that.”
“Might as well,” she mumbled, slipping one strap of her tote off her shoulder.
Peeking inside, she checked again to make sure she gathered all her toiletries and small items from around the apartment. Cadence saw the apartment’s key. She slipped her finger through the key ring, lifting the set of keys out of her bag.
Cadence turned her attention back on Terrell and shook her head. She took one last view of him. Beautiful even in this moment. Skin the color of almond butter, body toned, strong, and enticing even as he sat there fully clothed. She’d miss his touch, him holding her just because. She’d miss surprising him when he came home from work wearing her latest buy from the tiny lingerie boutique down the block from her job in the city. Cadence knew she would miss it all.
Her chest ached when she asked, “so, we’re gonna end it like this? You focused on your phone acting like I’m just this girl you dated and not someone you loved? I can’t believe you’re not even willing to give me what I want when I’ve given you everything you’ve asked for and more?”
He shook his head still looking down at his phone. “What you want me to say?”
“Something, Terrell, damn! Come on, I shouldn’t have to tell you what to say in this situation. I’m leaving, don’t you care?”
Cadence grew visibly frustrated as he continued to avoid eye contact. She told him, “have enough respect to give me your full attention.”
He lifted his head up and moved his eyes from his phone to her. Terrell chewed at his bottom lip as if trying to think of something to say. After some silence, he sighed, shook his head, then dropped his view back down at his phone. “Bye, Cadence.”
She stared at him, gritting her teeth.
Her hand clutched the keys so tight the jagged part of the metal pressed into the skin of her palm. A second later, she threw the keys at him, hitting him right on the forehead.
He jumped up the moment he felt the impact.
“Shit,” he hissed, grabbing his head. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“You.” She rolled her eyes. “Now, this moment is perfect. You can literally watch me leave your dumbass.”
She shook her head and stormed out of the front door, slamming it closed behind herself.
END OF CHAPTER PREVIEW