Halfling Chapter Fourteen: Cheater

Liana’s low, hushed voice, although barely a whisper, seemed to come out of nowhere.  I nearly crashed into the ceiling.

“Who is this girl?” I demanded to know.  “Is Jared cheating on you?  I’ll go bust his—”

“He’s not cheating on me,” she said.  “He was cheating on the girl in the picture.  That’s his wife, and I was the other woman.”

My whole face froze with shock.  Jared was really married?  “You mean his profile isn’t a joke?  But when did he get married?  He wasn’t married when you guys started going out in high school four years ago.”

Liana closed our door before sitting down on her bed beside me.

“They just celebrated their six month anniversary.”

Six months?  Jared had been married for six months?  But that still meant Liana and Jared had been together before he’d met that other girl, his wife…didn’t it?

I started sputtering, my questions becoming jumbled together.  “Did you—how did—”

“I didn’t know until two months ago when he broke up with me through an e-mail, explaining that he was a married man and couldn’t cheat on his wife anymore.”

I stared at her in astonished bewilderment and uttered one word.  “Why?”

It was a very broad question that could apply to almost anything in this conversation, but Liana understood what I wanted to know.

“Why didn’t he just break up with me before he got married?  Why did he cheat on me with the other girl first and then turn it around by saying he was cheating on her with me?  I don’t think I’ll ever know why jerks do what they do.”

Liana and Jared had been together since Liana had been a senior in high school, and Jared, a sophomore at the city college nearby.  In fact, we had all known each other growing up in the same city.  When Liana and Jared had become official, his parents had disliked it, but they believed that the relationship wouldn’t last long, so they hadn’t objected.

However, after Liana had left for college, instead of breaking off the relationship, Jared and Liana had sworn their devotion to each other, believing that their love would last long distance.  Jared’s parents feared the relationship was becoming too serious.  And that’s when they struck.

I never understood why they’d disapproved of Liana so much.  She was a beautiful girl, sweet and considerate, easy to be around.  But as Liana told me their reasons for their objections, I became progressively angrier until I wanted to fly up north just to smack them.  Their reasons were just downright hateful.

“They never liked the fact that I was half Chinese,” said Liana.  Her eyes already held a glint of unshed tears.  “They told Jared that if I was going to be Asian, I could at least be the smart type who would become a doctor and make lots of money.  But since I wasn’t the science and math nerd, they told Jared that as their only son, they wished he would end up marrying a full blooded Caucasian girl.”

A year after Liana had gone to college, Jared’s parents had introduced their son to a family friend’s daughter, Amanda.  Jared started dating Amanda, but kept it a secret from Liana.  Meanwhile, he still called Liana and whispered sweet nothings in her ear.

Faun climbed into Liana’s lap and settled there as tears finally spilled down my dear friend’s cheeks.  “He told me that we were fated to be together, that nothing would separate us, and that he would never stop trying to win his parents to my side.”

And Liana had believed every word.  However, after another year, she began to suspect that something was wrong.  “Remember last summer when we went home, and I kept telling you that I had dates with Jared almost every night?”

I remembered that Liana had been busy spending almost every waking moment with Jared.

She buried her head in her hands shamefully.  “It was all a lie.”

Jared had planned dates with Liana, but on most nights, he had stood her up, not showing up to the restaurant or to the movie theater and calling her later to apologize, always with some flimsy excuse.  But Liana had always forgiven him.  On those nights that she had been stood up, she had just kept waiting for him, hoping that he would come.

“I never told anyone because I didn’t want to believe the signs that our relationship was falling apart.  I thought that by pretending everything was all right, my fairy tale could still come true.”

I listened as Liana confessed that she’d lied every time she told me she’d been talking to Jared on the phone.  He’d already broken up with her ages ago.

Two months ago, Liana had read Jared’s e-mail, telling her that he and Amanda had gotten married six months ago at his parents’ request, and he had to officially break off his relationship with Liana.  He even had the nerve to hope that he and Liana could still be friends in the future.

I gasped.  “Two months ago, you got sick with the flu and couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks!”  And only a month after that, she’d gotten herself drunk at Shelly’s party and thought Darryl was Jared.  Jared was the reason behind all of that, and Liana hadn’t even said one word about it.

“I’ll kill him!” I roared.

She gave a weak laugh.  “Little Caren trying to take on the six foot Jared.  That would be a sight.”

I glanced at her with a pained expression.  “Why didn’t you tell any of us?  We could have helped you through it.  If I had known, I would have—”

“You would have been able to do nothing,” she said.  “I didn’t tell anyone because it was stupid.  I was stupid, and I felt ashamed for believing a jerk like him.  I didn’t want anyone to pity me because it was my fault for letting my guard down, for believing in fate and soul mates and all that crap just for him when I had always been against it before I met him.

“I thought that if I didn’t tell anyone, the pain would go away faster, and after the pain had gone, I would be able to quickly mention the break-up in some conversation, and nobody would think anything of it.  And I really thought the pain was subsiding after these two months, until Jared put that picture up.”

She pointed to her computer.  “The caption reads, ‘Happily married for six months.’”  She scoffed sarcastically.  “Wow, six whole months.  As compared to four years of my life.  Four wasted years.”

She turned her computer screen off violently.  “I’ve been staring at his damn profile to remind me of how stupid I’ve been, how I wasted four years of my life on a creep with racist parents.  And then I went and bought a pile of romance novels to make myself feel better, but it made me feel worse since I know for sure now that there is no such thing as soul mates and fate.  Only jerks that bring pain.”

I shook my head, not knowing exactly what to say, but realizing that Liana expected me to say something.  “Maybe there isn’t such a thing as soul mates and fate, but romance isn’t everything there is to life.  There are other things in life like striving to do right, working towards fulfilling a life-long dream.  And sure, there’s pain in life, and there are plenty of failed romances, but we can only hope that we will learn from our failures, right?”

Liana gave me a little half-smile.  “Now who’s being corny?  You sound like you’re reading a passage from a self-help book.”

My poor friend was trying to be brave, but I could see the new sheen of tears forming in her eyes.  It made my heart break, especially knowing that she had been suffering silently for so long.  And there I’d been, thinking only of my own problems, and I’d entirely ignored the signs that Liana had been in depression.

But I could see it now.  The way she’d been a bit more anti-social, not visiting other friends or going to parties unless she felt obligated.  Instead, she had stayed home to watch TV in her PJs, or she had gone out with our apartment mates and me.  And during the one party she did attend, she’d gotten herself drunk and gone wild.

Then there was the fact that if any of us had brought Jared into the conversation, she changed the topic to focus on someone else’s problems, mainly mine.  And when she’d gone shopping, she had overloaded on the spending.

How had I been so oblivious to everything?  My eyes watered, and tears of shame poured forth.

“Don’t cry,” Liana sniffled.  “You’re making me want to cry.”

“I’m sorry that I didn’t know or help you,” I managed to croak.  And then I started to bawl shamelessly.

She hugged me and sobbed too.  There we sat, a pair of weeping wrecks, so engaged in our sorrow that we didn’t hear the knock on our door.

Nia poked her head through the door.  “I just wanted to tell you that the electri—whoa!  What’s wrong?”

She came running in to kneel by Liana’s bedside.  “Is everything all right?”

I took two tissues and handed one to Liana.  After we’d both blown our noses, I let her repeat her story to Nia.

“That rotten bastard,” Nia said angrily.  She patted Liana’s shoulder.  “Sweetie, you should have told us earlier instead of suffering silently alone.  We could have helped you get through it.”

“I know.”  Liana smiled bravely, dabbing at her eyes again.  “But now you know, and I’m sure all of you will help me get through it.”

“As soon as Stacy gets home from work, I’ll tell her what happened,” Nia said.  “And then we’ll do anything you want.  If you want to eat at a fancy restaurant and get all dressed up, we’ll do that.  Or we can go dancing.”

“Actually, the fancy restaurant bit sounds nice,” Liana agreed.  “I bought so many clothes that one day we went to Fashion Valley, and I still haven’t worn one outfit.  It’ll feel nice to get all dolled up.”

“All right then,” Nia decided.  “As soon as the electrician leaves, we’ll help each other get ready.”

Liana and I spoke in unison.  “What electrician?”

“Oh, I was just about to tell you before I saw you crying.  I guess you didn’t hear the knock on our front door, but the electrician wanted to know if he could come in to check our air conditioning unit.  The lease office sent him to all the apartments to make sure everyone’s AC is in proper working condition.  I wanted to get your permission to let him in.  Which reminds me, I left our front door open.”

The three of us walked to the front entrance, where the door was flung wide open.  Nobody was outside.

“That’s strange.”  Nia crinkled her brow.  “He was just here.  Oh well, he probably got tired of waiting and went to the next apartment.  Hopefully he’ll come back.  But this means we can get ready for our girls’ night out.”

So for the rest of the day, we did our best to be good roommates and friends by showing Liana that we didn’t need guys to make us happy.

Later that night, when we had just gone to bed, Liana whispered my name.

“What?” I asked, stifling a yawn.

“I’m sorry for calling you a two-timer.  I know you wouldn’t do that.”

“It’s all right.  I know you were just frustrated.”

A minute later, I was about to doze off when the muffled sound of my name came again from Liana’s direction.

“Mmm?”

“I still think the Professor’s a better catch.”

“Go to sleep Liana!”  I turned over and put my pillow over my head.

“Just think about it.”

“Good night Liana!”

A few seconds later, I heard her sigh and roll over to turn off her night lamp.

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