By on Apr 2, 2023 in Fiction

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Massachusetts state house with aid and journalist

I filed for divorce three weeks later, and no, I didn’t talk to her again about it. My mind was made up and even Jessie wasn’t going to change it. Fortunately, our relationship continued as usual. I stuck with my job, and we saw each other at the Capitol each day. And on most nights, we would conspire over drinks. I enjoyed my freedom as a bachelor at first and loved giving her the details of my new romances…well, most of the details. She would listen, lean her head back, and laugh at my stories about the dating game.


Our routine persisted for two more years before things changed. Jessie changed them.

On a cold day before Thanksgiving, she caught me window-shopping on Charles Street and asked if I could meet her later at the bar in our favorite hotel.

“Sure, I’m not the one with a turkey to bake.”

I arrived first and grabbed a seat at our prize table against the picture window that faced the Public Garden. It was where we liked to people-watch. I knew something was up the minute she sat down because she wasn’t her usual perky self.

“I’m worried about you,” she said after our waiter set a bottle of cheap red wine between us. “You seem depressed.”

I couldn’t argue with that. “Depressed and lonely.”

“What do you have to be depressed about? You’re a successful reporter at one of the best newspapers in the country.”

“Yeah, the robot who pounds a keyboard.” I cocked my head. “Look, I’m beginning to understand my problem. It stares back at me every day from the mirror. I can’t expect you to relate. Every horny male in Boston is chasing you around…and a few females too. No one’s chasing me. It’s hard to accept that you’re not such hot shit.”

She patted my arm. “Are we feeling sorry for ourselves?” My cheeks burned, but I let the patronizing comment pass. “You’re a better catch than you might think, sweetheart,” she said, her voice softening. She sucked in her breath, bracing herself. “For your information, I know someone who’s been interested in you for quite a while.”

“Hmm, and who would that be?”

She leaned forward again and locked her eyes on mine, as if she were preparing to share the secret of life. Then her lips formed into a delicious smile. “Me.” And with that one word—me—she transformed our years of friendship into something completely different. It was surreal the way she effortlessly turned water into wine.

Unfortunately, my response turned it back to water again.

It sounds funny now, but I had never seriously considered dating Jessie. We had built a close relationship over the years, but it was the closeness of friends. I never thought we’d see one another in a romantic way. But now a gulf had been crossed. Her confession had a strange effect on me. I hated myself for how I felt, but her admission gave me a sense of empowerment, as if I now had the upper hand.

“I can’t handle a love affair with you,” I said and immediately cringed at the harshness of my words. “It would never work. We’d only hurt one another and ruin what we’ve built between us.”

“It’s because you think I can’t commit. You know how I—”

“Your lack of staying power with past boyfriends has nothing to do with it.”

“Well, it’s something.” She squinted and pursed her lips. “Are you gay?”

“Oh please! Just because a man doesn’t desire you doesn’t mean he’s gay.”

“Then what is it?”

“I just… I don’t know… I guess I just can’t see us…see you as anything but a good friend.”

Her eyes clouded over, and her mouth wilted into a sad frown. My heart sank. I had embarrassed and hurt her. I leaned toward her, but she recoiled.

“Look,” she said, her voice soft, almost apologetic. “I took a chance, thinking you felt the same way as I do. All I’ve done is expose myself.”

I reached a hand toward her, but she put her palms up, ordering me to halt. “No, don’t. Let’s just chalk this up to one of those crazy nights when we’ve had too many drinks and one of us says something silly. This is my night to play the fool.” She stood. “I don’t think we should see each other for a while, Jonah.”


“No, I mean it.” Her voice was sad but firm and she was already walking away. “You’re a great reporter, a great reader of people, but you’ve never had a clue about me.”

After a brief glance back, she ducked through the revolving door and trudged into the night.


I tried for weeks to repair the damage—with no success—and when she left for a vacation in Europe three months later, I did nothing but stew in my own juice. Later, after she returned, I received the terrible news that she had up and married again. Ron was her new husband’s name. He was an architect, with offices in Washington and New York. Our friends said he was crazy about her. But what troubled me more was hearing that she was crazy about him too. She had already moved into his palatial estate just outside of Alexandria, Virginia.

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James W. Fried graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a political science degree and a love of writing. He currently has four novel manuscripts (in various stages of completion) and over fifty short stories ready for submission to agents and short story publishers. His latest two stories ("Playing Handball Off a Curb" and "Along Michigan Avenue") are scheduled for publication in the coming weeks. His works of fiction are drawn from his forty-five years of experience as a banker, legislator, and lobbyist. He previously co-authored The Winning Edge (with Jack Fried), a nonfiction sports book that chronicles a college football team’s season-long journey to a national championship.