Chapter 1, Prologue

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Jane was feeling sorry for herself.  It was a Saturday night and here she sat.  Alone in the cramped living room of her tiny bungalow with nothing to console her but Netflix on her iPad, a half gallon of Rocky Road, and a mountain of fluffy throw pillows.  Jane was among the newly-single crowd.  What her best friend Tiff liked to call a “S.W.A.N.K. skank.”

She could embrace the Single With No Kids part.  The jury was still out on “skank.”

Jane had just ended a four-year relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Brad.  When you got down to brass tacks, the relationship was over nearly two years ago.  Both she and Brad knew it.  Most of their friends knew it.  She was beginning to think her cat Yoda knew it too.

“You deserve to be happy, bitch,” Tiff proclaimed over a bottle of wine a few weeks ago.  “All that long face is going to get you is create wrinkles.  And nobody wants a wrinkled-up thirty year old.”

“I’m 28,” Jane rebutted, “don’t toss me in the grave just yet.”

“All I’m saying is that you’re miserable,” Tiffany replied, softening her tone.  “You know I’m right.”

In this situation, knowing was not half the battle.  Yet neither she nor Brad had the balls to pull the trigger. 

Besides, even if it was the right thing to do, it didn’t make it sting any less.  She knew the split was imminent.  Heck, there were days where it was right on the tip of her tongue.   She and Brad would be sitting on the couch watching TV or cleaning up after dinner and she would feel the words crawling up the back of her throat like a wet rat trying to escape a slimy drain pipe.

What do you say we cut bait and call it a day?  I’m pretty much sick of looking at you.

In the end, she would choke it back just like she choked back the feelings of loneliness and inadequacy.  Just like she would swallow down the resentment for all the things he said (or didn’t say).  It’s funny how when you mix up a cocktail of physical comfort and fear of the unknown, suddenly it’s your favorite drink.

Still, some days Jane was blindsided by her feelings of disdain towards him. Shocked at how quickly those negative emotions would wash over her.  The crushing anxiety at the thought of spending the rest of her life (let alone the rest of the month with him) was suffocating.  Even the most meaningless things would cause the disgust to start screaming its little song in the back of her head.  Those little quirks that made him seem so cute and alluring early in their relationship were now giant warts pulsing and throbbing, screaming to be lanced.

His collection of bowling shirts.  His argument for the social messages behind The Hobbit.  Video game night with “the boys.”

The way he hummed when he chewed his food twisted a special nerve in the back of her eyeball.  So much so that she often dreamed of clobbering the man with the ball peen hammer she kept in the kitchen junk drawer.  Sure, it was meant for the light tasks around the house.  For this job, she felt the hammer could rise to the occasion.

Yes.  These were clear signs that their relationship had run its course.  Signs that she chose to turn a blind eye to.  She found herself praying for an excuse to sever the relations.  Anything would do.  A glance at another girl’s ass in the produce section at the Giant.  An errant text message from a mystery woman.  Foul words towards the cat.  Anything!

And yet, when Brad finally did what she could never muster the courage to do, she was surprised by her feelings of betrayal. Sadness.  She still got short of breath when she recalled the conversation.  Brad had taken her to TGI Friday’s of all places.  If that’s not grounds for immediate dismissal then you’re in for the long haul, honey. By the time the fried green beans hit the table, Brad was already into his “It’s not you, it’s me” speech.  It probably didn’t help that this was a time of the month where her emotions were a little more fruitful than normal.  Her eyes started to flood with warm, stinging tears.  It was as if a mule had given her a swift gut kick.

She would be damned if she burst into tears while Bruno Mars blared over the restaurant sound system.  That was un-American. Instead, Jane calmly excused herself from the table.  Brad quietly protested.  And the worst part was that he did not follow her.  He didn’t chase her into the parking and sweep her into his arms.  Hell, he probably finished both their meals.

The following weekend he moved out.  He was kind enough to leave the cat and enough furniture to function.  And kind enough to leave her with the emotional bruises.  There was no squabbling.  No more tears.  He packed most of his belongings into his Corolla and drove away.  That was that.  Simple. Kaput.

Still, Jane was disgusted in herself for feeling depressed.  If she could, she would kick her own weak ass all over her own empty apartment.   A light patter of rain began to drum on the windows.  She loved the rain.  That was something.

Orange Is The New Black was on but she was barely watching it when her iPhone rang.  Tiffany.  She’d spent the day sending Tiff’s calls to voice mail.  If she ignored this one, Tiff would soon resort to SWAT-style assault  Jane didn’t want to pay to replace the broken window Tiff would inevitably dive through.

She slid the answer bar and immediately fessed up.  “I’m sorry,” she sang apologetically, “I guess I haven’t felt much like talking.”

“And what about the twenty seven text messages?” Tiff asked sternly.  “You can’t text a sister?  You’re going through some shit.  I just need to know you’re alive.”

“Sorry,” Jane repeated.  “I’m fine.  I’m curled up on the blanket listening to the rain and enhancing my fat ass with a half gallon of Breyer’s finest.”

“Oh, Cookies and Cream?” Tiff inquired.

“Rocky Road,” Jane replied, shoveling an oversized spoon into her mouth to prove her point.

“Do you want me to come over?” Tiff asked. “We could rent a McConaughey flick and stare dreamily at his rear end.”

Jane laughed in spite of her gloom.  “That guy’s a dolt.”

“Yeah, but you can’t argue with the csboose,” Tiffany said with a chuckle.  She always knew how to cheer Jane up.  Even if she was a bit of a hussy.

“Thanks Tiff,” Jane said with a sigh, “I think I just need a little ‘me’ time.”  It was code for ‘I just want to sit here and mope.  Not that it needed to be said.  Tiffany and Jane spoke the same language and had been speaking it since the eleventh grade.

“Just remember one thing,” Tiff said, “wieners are trouble.”  Not that Tiff every practiced what she preached. She was an avid fan of the male genitalia and all parts beyond.

“Oh my God,” Jane gasped, coughing as she nearly choked on ice cream, “you are such a pig.”  She was about to admonish her best friend a little more when she was interrupted by a rap at the window behind her couch.  Immediately, her mind went to Brad.  As if suddenly filled with romantic notion, he was tossing pebbles at her window to get her attention.

She twisted on the couch to try and pinpoint where the sound came from.  Water droplets peppered the window, twisting and mutating the lights from the street in front of her house.  She could only make out the objects directly below the street lamps. The rest were silhouettes and murky shadows stretched and skewed by the falling rain.  Another object flicked against the glass.

She thought she detected movement just beyond the edge of the street light’s domain.  Maybe it was the rain playing tricks on her.   Jane cupped her hands around the sides of her eyes to block out the interior light and pressed her face to the glass.  Rain drops ran jagged paths down the window pane. Somewhere in the distance, thunder growled in a low, hungry tone.

“This is stupid,” she said out loud.  If the neighbors saw her gazing out the window like this she would be sure to be labeled a crazy cat woman (if she wasn’t already).  Before Jane could turn back to her TV something alien thudded against the glass. She cried in surprise almost falling over the coffee table before regaining her composure.

A grasshopper sat on the outside of her window pane opposite to where her face was.  This wasn’t one of those tiny suckers either.  It was nearly four inches in length with obscenely long rear legs and eyes that were both insistent and sinister.

“Oh gross,” Jane groaned, moving closer to examine her new visitor.  Black antennae sprouted from its head and twitched back and forth as if trying to tune in some distant station. “I’m going to take a picture of you, big boy,” She said and reached for her phone.

When she turned back there were three more grasshoppers on the glass.  What was it about a summer storm that brought out all the weirdos? She thought and giggled.