Chapter Two of Love Me Tinder, Love Bytes: Book One (Subscribers ONLY)

Chapter Two

Randi

“I can’t go back there like this,” I whimpered as I stared down at my broken ankle.

“So don’t.” Sid shrugged. “Come back to my place. I have not one, but two spare rooms and my only roommates are of the furry variety. I find they’re less judgmental and super easy to talk to.” She glanced at her phone. “It’s closing in on seven in the morning. Let’s get breakfast, fill your meds, and then sleep all day.” Sid smiled gleefully. “What do you say?”

I nodded, thrilled to avoid facing either Milo or the reality that he was gone. “Yeah. Let’s do that.”

At the time, it seemed like a wonderful idea, the perfect scenario. Unfortunately, I never considered what I’d be in for when I returned to the house around dinner time. As soon as I hobbled through the door, I heard him grumbling in the kitchen. With a sigh, I made my way into the room and dropped onto the bench at the dining room table.

“You dirty whore,” Milo growled.

“What are you talking about?” My eyes widened in shock.

He pointed angrily at my clothes. “I woke up and you were gone. You stayed gone all day.”

I gestured to my walking cast and opened my mouth to explain when he planted himself in front of me and leaned so close our noses nearly touched.

“Didn’t take you any time at all to find a side-piece.” Milo looked me up and down. “You probably had one all along.”

“I didn’t. I don’t.” He had me so unsettled I could barely express a coherent thought.

“Lies,” he sneered before he reached out and patted me on the head. “Don’t worry, Randi. I have a side-piece too.” Milo stood and chuckled as he strode over to the stove to stir whatever he was making in the saucepan.

My mouth was still hanging open when he started in again.

“I’ve had lots of strange in the last ten years.” He grinned in a way that had me shaking inside. “Your maid of honor…”

“Jen?” I blinked back tears.

“Yeah, after we made it back from the honeymoon. She dropped by, you weren’t home, but I didn’t want her to have come all that way for nothing.” Milo waggled his eyebrows.

I inhaled sharply. “Awesome.” I struggled to cover the hurt and feelings of betrayal with a shrug, but I’m pretty sure I just shrank down in my seat instead.

“You know your good buddy Lisa?” He turned and leaned on the counter. “We fucked on and off for years when we lived in New York.” He laughed and shook his head. “Hell, we even rekindled when she came to visit us here in Charlotte, a couple of years ago.”

Squeezing my eyes shut for a moment, I inhaled deeply. When I met his glare again, I had one thought in mind. He’d opened the door, but I was going to strut through it. “Who else? Go on. You seem determined to hurt me. Don’t stop now.”

Milo stood and held out his hand, ticking off my old friends, his former co-workers, and some random chicks I’d never heard of. By the time he’d stopped listing all the times he’d cheated, I’d made a decision. “Are you done?”

Staring up at the ceiling, he tapped his chin a few times. Finally, he glanced at me and shrugged. “Yeah. I guess.”

I struggled to my feet, then took a couple of painful steps to meet him with only the counter between us. “Good. Now get out.”

“I live here. You leave.” His brow shot up in challenge.

“My parents own this house. Who do you think they’ll want to rent to, hm?” I leaned closer to him. To my satisfaction, he stiffened and rubbed the back of his neck. “Exactly,” I hissed. “Now go. I never want to see you again.” Milo rushed past me, presumably on his way to the bedroom, but I stopped him. “You forgot the garbage bags.”

He whipped around and growled, “What do I need those for?”

“Packing.” I smiled sweetly. “All of the luggage is mine.”

“What makes you think they’re yours?” Milo growled.

“Well, I bought them before we were married. And while you could pull the whole North Carolina communal property crap, I doubt you want to do that when you have so much to lose,” I reminded him not so subtly.

Stepping closer to me, his hands balled into fists at his side. “Let me get this straight. You expect me to leave with my clothes in a garbage bag?”

My head tilted to the side. “We might still have boxes in the spare room, but you’ll probably need those for your video games. You’re the one moving. You decide.”

Milo’s face turned a dangerous shade of red. I knew what to expect and he didn’t disappoint. Grabbing one of Lucy’s old toys from the sofa, he turned and threw it as hard as he could. This time, however, his aim was off and instead of it harmlessly bouncing off the wall, the giant kong shattered the window beside the fireplace.

“Fantastic.” I scowled. “Expect a bill from my parents.” I crossed my arms over my chest and winced as I tried to shift my weight to my good foot.

This time he let out this animalistic roar and started to reach for another toy before I interrupted him.

“Well, you could break something else, I suppose, or you could channel all that energy into getting your shit together.” My eyes narrowed on him.

At first he hesitated, then he stormed off and seconds later the bedroom door slammed. I didn’t want to be anywhere around him, but at the same time, I had to ensure he took nothing of mine. He’d already stolen ten years of my life. I’d give him not one more fucking thing.

An hour and a dozen minor skirmishes later, I’d managed to evict Milo. After limping around the house and locking the place up as much as possible, I collapsed in my office.
The house was finally mine. Now what the hell was I going to do with it? I hobbled around the emptier rooms and felt plenty empty inside too. There was still so much clutter. I’d let him hoard all manner of crap. Naturally, he had no desire to take it with him. Apparently, his fresh start meant leaving as much junk behind as possible, and not just me.

I glanced at the clock. He’d packed quicker than I expected. The clock showed it wasn’t quite 8:15pm. I had an idea. Picking up my phone, I called Sid. “Come over,” I urged when she finally answered.

“Ugh. It’s after eight. This better be an emergency. You know I about hibernate the moment the sun sets. The other night was an exception.” She sighed. “I suppose tonight could be too. You need me?”

“Yeah. I do,” I admitted quietly. “But I promise I’m not going to be all mopey. And there won’t be any drama because Milo moved out.”

“Wow. That was fast. Say no more. Let me put on pants…and a bra. Then I’ll be right over.” Sid laughed.

While I waited the twenty minutes for her to arrive, I covered the broken window with cardboard, secured it with packing tape, and began to plan the redesign of my life, which was why I needed Sid. I was all ideas. She was execution. Together, we were unstoppable. When I heard her knock, I rolled over to the door using my office chair and unlocked it. The window repair had taken a lot out of me. The second Sid entered the house, I was in work mode. “This one.” I tapped on the color swatch I had pulled out of my desk all of ten minutes ago.

“Cool shade of teal. Where?” Sid glanced around at my stark white office walls.

“The door. Just the door for now. I think.” I shrugged.

“Where did you get this?” She pointed to the stack of color swatches I had stacked on the corner of my desk.

“I’ve been holding onto them for a while.” I inhaled deeply. This part hurt, admitting how much I’d let Milo hold me back. “You’ve seen the rest of the house. I kept wanting to paint. My parents had no problem with it. Only, Milo never wanted to, never wanted me to, refused to hire anyone. I gave up. Pretty much on everything but life.”

Her head cocked to the side as she eyed me carefully. “You know, this is your chance to live. Take it from a woman who was suddenly single and seriously knows what it’s like to be on her own. There’s a beauty in losing a man and finally finding yourself. It’s not all pain. I promise.”

I stared up at her. “I believe you. And thanks to the Vicodin, I don’t even need to feel the pain for a bit.” I laughed, but sobered quickly when I saw the fear in her eyes. “Relax. I’m limiting my addiction to tacos. Let’s go grab some paint and start with the overhaul.” Pasting on my best fake smile, I hefted myself out of the chair and began moving toward the door. “You coming?” I called over my shoulder.

“I am. How are you even going to make it through the store?” Her brow furrowed.

I shrugged. “Simple. I grab one of those handicapped carts. Try and keep up.” I winked playfully. If I could only keep Sid around long enough, I bet I might actually feel as optimistic as I pretended to be at the moment.

“Fine, but the minute you plow into my heels, it’s on. Got it?” Her eyes narrowed.

I snorted. “Please. In that thing? No way you could catch me.” Sid stood beside me and I leaned heavily on her shoulder. “No way I’d hurt you, either. I need you too much right now.”

She shook her head and sighed as we exited the house, carefully locking up behind us. “Awesome. Just what I needed. Friendship security.” Still, when I met her eyes, I realized she was being playful and my oversensitive ass was taking everything the wrong way.

We rode in silence to Lowe’s. Sid dropped me at the entrance before parking her car. I was supposed to find my electric shopping cart, but I’d only managed to sit in it and start it up. For some reason, I couldn’t drive.

After assessing the situation, she bit hard on her lips to keep from laughing. Quietly, Sid wandered behind me and unplugged the cord. “Try it now.”

And I was off, racing into the store, feeling incredibly giddy. After more than five years of living in that house, I was finally going to make it mine. Unfortunately, I had no idea what that meant.

“Let’s grab paint first,” she suggested when she saw me frozen in the middle of the store. “We can look around while they’re mixing it.”

I nodded numbly. When we reached the counter, I passed the guy my paint swatch, which had become soft and almost malleable while clutched in my sweaty palm. The lights glinted off the diamonds and my eyes were drawn to my wedding rings, which suddenly felt ridiculously constrictive. “This, please. One can.” Then I began to twist the rings in a fruitless effort to remove them.

“Semi-gloss? Eggshell?” He stared down at me, his focus on my fingers, rather than the paint project.

“Um.” I stopped tugging on my band, blinked a few times, and glanced at Sid for help.

“It’s an exterior door. What do you recommend?” she asked calmly before reaching out and resting against my shoulder.

“Then you’ll want a high gloss enamel. And I recommend using a primer on it first, like this Kilz.” He turned and grabbed a can from the nearest shelf. “One can should be plenty unless you’re doing a garage door too.”

“No garage door.” I shook my head.

“Okay. I’ll have this ready in a few minutes.” He was an older man with salt and pepper hair. “You know, I have some liquid soap. Could help with that.” He pointed to my left hand.

Tears filled my eyes and I sniffled. “I’m good, thanks.” Then I tried to back up and speed away, but the damn cart drove even slower backwards while emitting this ridiculous warning beep. Then I started forward again at such a pathetic pace, my only hope for avoiding further embarrassment was for the floor to open up and swallow me. I wasn’t opposed to the option. Behind me, I heard Sid speaking calmly.

“We’ll be back shortly,” she murmured.

I’d barely rounded the corner at the end of the aisle when she caught up to me. “I’m not going back there,” I grumbled.

“No worries. I’ll pick up the paint.” She shrugged. “What would you like to look at next?”

I scanned the area. “How about…décor? I want immediate change, you know…like Milo’s departure. Only this will be good!”

“Milo’s departure will be good too. Give it time. You’ll see.” Sid jerked her head toward the next aisle. “Come on. Let’s shop.”

Sid strode down the next aisle with me rolling right behind her. She started to stop in front of a lighting display, obviously realized I might have trouble braking so quickly, and jumped out of the way. “Damn, that was too close.”

“Why’d you even stop?” I grumbled.

“Life looks different with the right lighting. You’d be surprised how something so small can make such a big difference.” She smiled and gestured. “Pick. Your first lighting fixture is free.”

I scanned the shelves for a sign explaining the promotion. “Where? I don’t see anything…”

Leaning low, Sid murmured, “I’m buying, Randi. You deserve nice things. Let’s work on designing you a better life.”

My face burned. “I can’t have you do that.”

“Right.” She pointed to a flushed mount light. “This one?”

“I’m pretty sure I politely declined your generous offer.” My brow rose.

“Yeah. And I’m pretty sure you can’t stop me.” She snickered.

I crossed my arms over my chest. “What makes you think so?”

“Well, two feet will beat those four wheels every time,” Sid joked. “Good luck racing me to the checkout.”

With a groan, I sank low in my seat. “I hate this.”

“Come on. Chillax. You’re going to love it.” She lifted a fixture from the shelf and tucked it under her arm. Sid quickly discovered it was too bulky and, from the look on her face, too heavy. She sighed and stuck it in the basket on the front of my slick ride.

“Leave it there. I mean it.”

“Fine.” I sighed, but secretly, I liked that she was making some decisions for me. For now, I’d lost all confidence in my ability to do so.