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Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Inspirational · #1790343
Jenna Rollins overcomes depression
Prologue



The morning crudely started with the loud, annoying sound of the alarm clock. It read 6:30 in its devilish big red numbers. For the past few months, Jenna Rollins wished these mornings would never come. She was hoping that this was a dream. When she realized that it wasn’t, she groped for and pressed the snooze button. She had exactly a half hour to find a good reason to get out of bed today-and she was running on empty of them. The thought of getting up and facing another day depressed her and caused tears to roll down her face. She had nothing to look forward to except a lot of stress that seemed to be beyond what she was capable. She wished she could stay in bed all day and hide underneath the covers. Getting her head off the pillow took more effort than what she felt she had for an entire day. Though a complete day had not yet unfolded, she was already drained.

Chapter 1

Christmas had just passed and so was the busiest time of the year at Jenna’s job as assistant manager at TJ Maxx. It was a job she once liked really well but eventually started to despise, this year even more so. There was something about this year more than any others that made the customers act cranky and unreasonable. It seemed like nothing was good enough-not the product selection, nor the customer service, or the prices. They seemed so bent on getting a certain thing that when that item was not available, they went ballistic. No matter what efforts everyone made, the customers never were satisfied. They claimed that the products were cheap in their quality, did not fit well, had a rip or stain on them-the list went on. After hearing one complaint after another for the past two years, Jenna had a long mental list of the things that she would love to tell customers but couldn’t. She wondered why it took her this long to realize how strange people were and came to the conclusion that she did not like people. As always, all of these complaints came back to Jenna and her fellow manager Tracy Nave.

Then there were problems coming from upper management. They placed unreasonable increased demands on everyone. None of the employees were easily able to take time off from work. Any time off had to be put through a bunch of red tape. The chances of having it approved were very slim. The sales associates were written up for some of the tiniest things and some of them left because of that. They did need to do some hiring for the season, but they had to do more due to the turnover that had occurred.

They also expected everyone to meet the sales goals they had for each day, with the emphasis on upselling. Jenna was not in the mood for persuading people to buy things they did not need, nor to encourage employees to do the same thing. Most of the time, the store never met those goals. At store meetings, Jenna had to act like she was enthusiastic about meeting the goals.

There seemed to be so many things to do at this job and so little time to get it done. Between dealing with rude customers and having to talk with both current and potential employees, and finding the time to do her usual assistant manager responsibilities, the stress seemed to build up. Any time away from work as a relief for her. However, those times never seemed to last long enough. Working in a place where there was nothing but negativity and low morale was more than enough to discourage Jenna.

Before working there, her outgoing personality notwithstanding, Jenna had a more relaxed outlook on life. She longed to live as simple of a life as she could but not to where she would limit herself of the many opportunities she had in life. She did not feel that it was worth complaining about what is ultimately inconsequential. Starting out and working as a sales associate at TJ Maxx in the first year, had a way of killing customers with her kindness. Obviously this paid off: she became Assistant Manager of the store. Two years with this position and she was ready to be done with retail and putting up with people’s pettiness altogether. Tracy Nave was her anchor. Both she and Jenna found creative ways to laugh behind closed doors about certain things that either the employees or the customers said. Tracy is the only reason why Jenna would have some reason to stay there.

When the day ended, all she wanted to do was vent to Larry Wilson, her boyfriend of two years. She loved how he found a way to make her laugh. They had so much fun when they were together. But that was all it was, fun. Lately, Jenna noticed that he was acting so much like a kid she could not stand to be around him. She thought it is nearly impossible to have such a childish mentality and be capable of handling adult responsibilities at the same time. Everyone had a kid in them, but when it defines that person, that is cause for concern.

Jenna seemed to have come back to life when she met Larry. She had just come out of a relationship with someone fifteen years older than she. She was drained and discouraged from all of the troubles and conflicts they had, mostly due to the age difference. Soon after the breakup, Jenna had met Larry. Several months after being friends, they started dating. Tracy could certainly see that Jenna was looking better and smiling wider than she ever had been. When she talked about him, she would light up like a Christmas tree. Jenna was so in love with Larry that Lynette claimed that she was practically waltzing into work on some days. Tracy took the liberty of predicting when Larry was going to pop the big question. She proudly stated that whenever she did that, she was always right.

Jenna and Larry had talked sometimes about getting married. However, after one year, Jenna still did not see any hints. Larry always complained about not having enough money. Jenna overlooked the red flag of them always going Dutch. They even went Dutch for their Valentine’s Day dinner this past year! She could not wrap her head around how he could regularly buy video games, sports memorabilia, and comic books, but he would not make the payments for his new sports car. His parents made those payments. Larry liked the car so much that when he met her parents and they made some lighthearted joke about his having a sports car, which to them was a very impractical means of transportation, he got offended. In fact, he seemed to break easily when he was being teased.

Larry was not the most attractive guy. He had a receding hairline and was at least twenty pounds overweight, both of which did not make him easy dating material. But what he lacked in looks, he made up for in his wit, sense of humor, and congeniality. However, when the deeper issues of life needed to be confronted, Larry seemed to cower. He also cried a lot over things that really were not worth getting that upset about. He cried so much and so often that he seemed to cry more than Jenna. No wonder Larry was a great fit at Toys-r-Us: it seemed like such a fun and happy job for somebody who did not want to grow up! Jenna amusingly thought that his favorite song is the jingle for their commercials.

Before Larry met Jenna, he was involved in a nasty relationship with a girl named Darby. If Jenna thought two years was long in dating Larry, Larry was with Darby for just six months, but it seemed like six years given all of the issues he had with her. Darby disrespected Larry, wishing he looked different from what he looks like and that he had his father’s sense of humor. So, when Jenna came along, Larry’s parents were very leery of another relationship in the making. Until they saw how well she treated Larry, they eventually changed their minds about her and took her under their wings. Jenna became close to his two older sisters, Melinda and Abby. Sometimes they talked with each other on the phone and gave each other gifts for their birthdays.

Jenna found it quite unsettling that while she was contemplating breaking up with Larry, one of her best friends, Stephanie, was weeks away from getting married. Stephanie was going to marry John Tyson, Stephanie had asked Jenna to be maid of honor for the wedding. However, with the strict attendance policy in place at work, she could not do it. Her finances were tight as well. That she was not able to make it to her best friend’s wedding saddened her immensely. Ever since she and Stephanie became best friends in high school, they talked about being maids of honor at their weddings. But reality seemed to get in the way of that dream as well as many others Jenna had.

If colleges had a winner for the Most Likely to Succeed, Jenna would have won it. Though she did make some friends while at the LeSea University, she had very little time to socialize. Between studying and working two jobs, Jenna was always busy. Her dedication and hard work paid off: she graduated with a 3.5 grade point average and a degree in business. She did not know what in particular to do with her degree except to manage a business that had a mission of making a difference in the community. She was not too disappointed when she got the job at TJ Maxx. At the time, she thought that it was a start and in time, she would move on to bigger and better things. When she realized that this was not the particular line of work she could see herself in, she started to apply and interview for other jobs. She interviewed every chance she got, only to be disappointed when she got turned down every time.

She needed a way out of TJ Maxx, and the sooner it happened the better. Right now, it did not seem like there was a way out. The benefits and pay were the reasons why Jenna accepted the job. Right now, those reasons were not good enough anymore. She could not think of any more reasons why she likes working at TJ Maxx and therefore had nothing else to give of herself. All she had to look forward to anymore was her paychecks. For once in her life, she was ashamed to say where she works for a living. She even went so far as to avoid certain social situations that had her tell others what she does.

In the past year, Jenna was sick more often than before. She often complained about having a really bad sore throat that made talking and swallowing difficult. Other illnesses ensued, such as eczema and ovarian cysts, and adverse reactions that she had never had before to over-the-counter medicines that she was used to taking. When she came down with the flu, she could not take time off from work; she had already used all of her sick days. She could not imagine how someone as healthy as she is getting sick so often. She knew that the only cause was the job.

She could not bring herself to eat much during the day. She skipped breakfast, a drastic change from her hearty breakfast of a bowl of cereal with milk, grape or orange juice, and a banana. Lunch consisted of nothing more than one can of Ensure. By dinnertime, she was hungry. Instead of cooking meals at home like she did most days of the week, she ate at the Boston Market near her apartment. Going to Harris Teeter every week for groceries did not seem to interest Jenna like it used to. She found nothing that she liked; to her, it seemed like the same stuff all the time. That is hard to fathom as the store is so big and is called by some as the Taj McTeeter.

She had lost over twenty pounds and her menstrual periods were irregular. She looked great even after all of the weight lost. Larry even told her so. But Jenna did not feel that way. She felt no motivation to wash her hair, which she would sometimes not wash for up to three days, nor to get dressed up for anything, not even for work. She put on just enough to get by, such as elastic pants that were close to being worn out and a passable shirt to go with it.

Jenna had worked out regularly and gone to church. As things got too stressful and tiring for Jenna at the store, she quit working out. She considered them to be one more hassle than she felt she had to do. Once she eliminated those diversions from her life, all she ever did was work, sleep, and eat if she wanted to.

Her schedule was flexible and allowed her to be off for two Sundays a month. This allowed her to go to church on the days she was not working. She now chose those days to sleep in. She also felt very awkward being probably the only single woman in a church filled with a lot of married couples that emphasized marriage to such an extent that she felt inadequate being single. She was trying to make the most of her single years, and for a church to imply that it was everything short of a sin to not be married, she decided she would be better off staying home. She assumed all churches were like this, so she stopped going altogether.

This was not at all what she expected when she graduated from college. She had an ambitious, go-getter personality, and was more than willing to get the job done, no matter what it took. This is what businesses look for in their employees, right? This did not seem fair; someone of her personality should land a lucrative position. Jenna’s working at TJ Maxx seemed like an insult to her sought-after drive. She felt like in spite of all of the hard work and effort she made in improving her chances of getting the job that was destined for her, she was getting the short end of the stick. Not only with her job, but with her love life.

She was hoping that she would find the man of her dreams by now. On the surface, she had all of the necessary traits that a man needs in a woman: she can cook and clean, and carry on a decent conversation with anyone. She needed a man who was strong and unwavering in his character. She wanted to be done with the wimps that she seemed to have as boyfriends.

Jenna felt like things just could not get any worse, and maybe not any better. If there were a promise for things to get better, it seemed to be nowhere on the horizon.

All she could think of now was that she was 27 and had nothing to show for it.

Chapter 2

Jenna forced herself to get out of bed at 7:00 after pressing the snooze button three times. Today was New Year’s Eve. She and Larry had had plans to go to his best friend’s Charlie’s party. Jenna did not want to go. She did not feel like celebrating New Year’s Eve, much less anything; she felt she had nothing to celebrate anyway. She made up the excuse that work was so exhausting and would not be able to go.

Her head was throbbing. When she walked into the bathroom, she opened her medicine cabinet and popped two pills into her mouth. The deliberate motions she made in opening the bottle, shaking two pills, closing the bottle, shoving them into their mouth and washing them down with a sip of water seemed like a release for Jenna. Her life was a mess. If she was any more tempted than she was, she would abuse illegal drugs. But she did not have that at all in her; besides, she was at an age that to society, would seem unusual to begin a drug addiction.

She still had just enough time to get dressed and brush her teeth before going out to start her car.

***

“Come on, you piece of retarded trash, start!” She exclaimed at the car, attempting to start it. If there had to be just another thing going wrong in her life, it was her car, a 1983 Mustang. She considered it to be a social stigma. She wondered why everyone else her age was driving Altimas and Camrys, while she was stuck with an older car. It was hard to start, the air conditioner no longer worked, and its leather seats made life unbearable when it was hot and muggy in late July. Though this was a cold late December morning and cars had a hard time starting anyway, she needed at least ten minutes to be able to start the car and warm it up. Jenna tried really hard to hold back any cursing or screaming out loud she may have wanted to do in trying to start the car. Instead, she let out an occasional whimper. She wanted to pray, but what was the use? How can prayer help her in starting the car?

The car started on the fifth try and was sufficiently warmed up five minutes later. By this time, Jenna had used enough mental energy for one week and found it unbearable that she had to endure another several hours of work.

Whenever Jenna was really down, she would always hope that there would be a really good song on the radio to make her feel better. She got her wish. The radio played Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House.” She had known this song for many years. She never liked it and could never easily understand any of the lyrics, nor did she even care very much anymore. The song didn’t make any sense. This seemed to be the way her life was like-she had a purpose in life and wanted share it with the world, it did have some meaning, but no one seemed interested. It was like noise to them, and she was like a light that everyone was attempting to extinguish.

She turned the volume up on the radio and lost herself in the song. The mood of the song made her want to go into a bar, move her body to the music, and drink to the point where she could forget everything about her life.

Jenna was mad! Mad at herself, mad at how her life has not gone the way she had expected, and just simply mad at the world. Having a few drinks seemed really tempting right now, but she had to really restrain herself from doing so. She had to suck it up and just deal with going to work and dealing with people she did not want to deal with.

She wondered why she had to be so level-headed, even in what seems to be the most challenging and most depressing time she has ever had in her life. If she had her way, she would just simply let herself and her high standards go and just give in to what she thought was right, in defiance of all that she has had to face lately. Reckless abandonment seemed like the right thing to do.



۶

“Happy New Year, Jenna!” Tracy exclaimed when she saw Jenna, her whole face smiling and dancing with excitement.

“Thanks. Same to you.” Jenna mumbled, walking with a slow shuffling gait, her face devoid of light or enthusiasm, and not making eye contact with Tracy.

“Are you okay?” Tracy asked her.

“Yeah. I’m fine,” Jenna said flatly, still not making eye contact.

“I don’t believe you. But I know I can’t stay here all day and try to have you tell me that you are fine.”

“Having a week off or so would be nice, though. Of course, I’ve used up all of my vacation and my sick time. So there’s no time off for me anytime soon. Just got to deal with what I have.”

Tracy was hoping to brighten up Jenna’s mood by changing the subject. “So, are you going to stay up all night with Larry and watch the ball drop?” The persistent giddiness in her voice annoyed Jenna. She tried not to show it.

“No,” Jenna said, her dismal display of mood unchanging.

“Oh, Jenna! You’ve been working so hard lately. It would be good for you to go out and have some fun, especially tonight.” It was obvious that Lynette was getting nowhere in trying to persuade Jenna to celebrate the ringing in of a new year.

Tracy seemed to have it all together. Her reddish-brown hair did not have a single strand out of place, her makeup never smudged, and she looked great in everything she wore. The straight skirts always showed off her figure, and she always wore scarves around her neck and matching necklaces, bracelets, and earrings with everything. And she almost always had a big smile on her face and a very encouraging and comforting tone of voice.

She also had a husband to go home to. She had met Darren a few times at company parties, or when he just stopped by at the store to see her. He seemed so caring and understanding, and wonderful to Tracy and their children. And grown-up too-something that she wished Larry could be. They were very blessed with twenty years of marriage, three healthy and smart kids, and a home filled with warmth. It seemed like she had it all. Jenna always wondered what the secret was to their happiness. She was determined to find out someday. Jenna wanted that same kind of happiness, too. With all that was going on in her life, she was wondering if she was ever going to be that happy in her life. Right now, it seemed like a pipe dream.

***

A page from the intercom called for a manager to come to the front. Brad, one of the daytime sales associates, was the one who was confronted with one of many thousands who had a special talent of hell-raising.

As always, Brad remained calm. He seemed to have developed that much-needed thick skin after working retail for just a mere nine months. Jenna wanted to tell him right there and then that he’d either do well in maintaining the thickness of that skin, or get out of this line of work as quickly as possible if he can.

“I’m sorry, sir. What is the problem?” Jenna asked, her tone of voice sounding slightly edgy.

“The khaki pants that I bought the other day have a rip in them. If I had not seen this before I went out to a dinner party, I would have been so embarrassed.”

“I’m very sorry, sir. May I get you a new pair or something similar?”

“I just want your manager! And don’t you give me the excuse that there is not one on duty!” This customer was a rotund man with flushed cheeks and bald head. Jenna caught a glance at him and noticed his physical features, she was secretly hoping that he would have a brain hemorrhage right there in the store. All she could do was shake her head and try to stifle a laugh about making fun of customers. That would serve him right, getting all upset for nothing and keeling over right here at our store.

“Sir, I am a manager here.”

“You can help by getting me a new pair of khakis that have no holes in them.”

“I’ll be happy to. Give me just one moment, please.” The time to walk back to the men’s department and back allowed Jenna to silently vent and hope that his hostile attitude would diffuse and his face back to the normal color.





There were more complaints throughout the day, as would be expected. That is what the drive home is for. She arrived home at six o’clock, with nothing left in her. She changed her clothes, got back into her car and drove to Boston Market. By the time she got her food, she could not bring herself to eat any of it. While trying to eat, she realized tonight was a night of celebrating and she was eating by herself. She could not stop thinking about how everyone else tonight, including Larry, could be so happy and enjoying themselves no matter what has happened, while she had nothing to look forward to except for a future that she had to settle for.

She disposed of the plastic tray that the was on and drove home. When she got into the apartment, she locked the door behind her, turned off all of the lights, pulled the curtains, and got into bed and stayed there and eventually fell asleep.

Jenna was startled by the knock on the door. She then realized that Larry was coming over for a while after being at Charlie’s house for a party. Since she was groggy and cranky, she felt that tonight would not be the time to break up with Larry. She was getting nervous as she let him in. They did their greeting kiss, again very routine and very indicative that there was no love there anymore.

“How was the party at Charlie’s place?” She asked in such a way that things were somewhat normal.

“It was fun! You missed it, especially the YMCA dance.” Larry seemed to enjoy himself tonight. But one thing was for sure, she did not at all miss not doing the YMCA dance. The more she heard that song, the more she hated it. He stared at her for a moment and saw the tired, moody expression on her face. To him, it seemed to have not left her face made her look somewhat unattractive. “You look very tired. Did you have another busy day?”

“Yeah. But it was more stressful than busy.” Why did she say that? She had been saying the same thing at least a thousand times to Larry.

“I know. You have been saying that for quite some time now.” Jenna felt the impatience in his voice grow stronger, and she was not ready for what he was about to tell her. “And that’s why I came by tonight. Jenna, I just don’t think I can handle this relationship anymore with you always being like this.”

Jenna was shocked at these words. After a moment of absorbing what he just said she weakly replied, “Larry, you’re not being fair. I need you while I am going through this hard time in my life. I was hoping that you would be supportive of me.” There were tears welling up in her eyes, and she was trying so hard to fight them.

“I cannot handle seeing you this way anymore.” He paused for a moment and added, “Everything seems to be going great with me, with my job at Toys-r-Us. I just don’t want my happiness to be spoiled because of you being so depressed.”

“Then I guess it’s over.” She was not able or willing to look into Larry’s eyes. She looked the other way, an obvious sign that she is more than ready to move on when a relationship ended.

“Yes, Jenna, it is over.” He stood up and got ready to leave. Before reaching for the door and walking out, he extended his hand for a handshake. Jenna was hoping that they could at least give each other a warm, friendly hug and she would give him a little peck on his cheek. Isn’t that supposed to be proper etiquette to end a dating relationship, she wondered? Jenna tried to conceal her disappointment in Larry’s expectation of gestures and extended her hand to his. Then, he walked out the door and was gone for good.

She was hoping this would be a weight off her shoulders, but it seemed like a thousand more pounds were now on them.

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:17, 18, NLT

Chapter 3

This was a horrible way to start off a new year. Jenna felt empty and lifeless. The light she once had was now darkness in and all around her. She had been rejected more times than her heart could handle. Larry breaking up with her was the final straw. If she had broken up with Larry, her desire to succeed and to strive to be at a higher level in life would be so much greater. She knew from past experience that it would.

But her best-laid plans did not go as she had expected this time, and Jenna felt defeated.

She remembered how she broke up with Rick Davis shortly after starting college. She considered him a loser and did not have room in her life for anyone like that. His status quo mindset and pessimism were starting to bother her. Her going to college made him jealous of her because she did not spend as much time with him as they had before. He started accusing her of seeing someone else. The jealousy turned into possessiveness, and he stalked her everywhere she went. That was where she drew the line and decided she needed to call it quits with Rick. And when she did, she felt a profound sense of exhilaration. Whatever goals she had had before, she set even higher ones. She felt like a new woman who could conquer anything she faced! She wanted to see him again-just one more time-to tell him how much of a loser he really was!



It was all she could do to not deny what had just happened. She wanted to call him and ask him if he really meant it. She wondered if it was her fault for his decision to break up with her. Maybe if she did not work so hard or have such a bad attitude about work, or if she could loosen up some and be more of a kid than she really let on, they would still be together.

She wondered if Larry really loved her. He kissed her, held her, bragged about and showed pictures of her to all of his friends. She could not stop wondering if she was being fooled, being led on, or if he wanted to break up with her because he thought the grass was greener on the other side.

She might be going through a really hard time with life that is easily getting her down. But there was no reason for Larry to think that he needed to take care of her. She needed his encouragement. Instead, he chose to drop her like a hotcake. If he really wanted to marry her, he would have to understand there will be good times as well as bad ones. And if he couldn’t handle what Jenna was going through right now, what good would he be in marriage?

She was glad to have today off. She wanted to just stay in bed all day and cry. There was a house to clean, but Jenna just had no energy to do any of it. She got up only to go to the bathroom or to drink a glass of water. Walking in the hallway to do either seemed like hard work for her, and she could not wait to get back in bed again

Her apartment was quiet and dark the entire day, no phone calls, no one knocked at her door, which was why when the phone rang in the early afternoon, it startled her.

“Hi, Jenna! It’s Deanna.” A giddy voice on the other end exclaimed this greeting. It was Deanna Long, a friend of hers and Allison’s from college.

“Oh…hey, Deanna. What’s been going on with you lately? I have not heard from you in a few weeks.” Her voice really sounded and tired and was hoping Deanna would not notice it.

“Did I call at a bad time, or wake you up?”

“No, not at all. I was just taking an extra snooze on my day off from work.”

“Are you sitting down, Jenna?” The giddiness in Deanna’s voice came back.

“I’m lying down.”

“Even better, because I have some news for you.”

“Tell me.”

“Neil and I are engaged!”

Deanna had been seeing Neil Satterfield for at least a year now. It seemed to be getting pretty serious, and Jenna and Allyson knew that it was only a matter of time before they would hear this news.

Jenna gasped and sat up in surprise. “Oh, Deanna, congratulations! I knew this was coming sooner or later.”

“Oh, I am excited, Jenna. He popped the question last night. I have not been able to sleep at all since then. I knew that he had something up his sleeve-and it was not only his arm.” She giggled some more; Jenna forced herself to just to let her friend know she was interested in the news.

“Well, Neil is a good man. I am excited for you.” Saying these encouraging words to her friend was getting harder and harder the more she said them. So she told Deanna that she was about to leave the house to go to the store and hung up.

She sat at the edge of her bed shocked at the news she just heard, as if she experienced a double-wammy of pieces of news she was not ready to be told about at a time like this. She is mourning the loss of a breakup, while two of her close friends are engaged. She knew her friends loved her and would be hers for life. But she felt like she was losing them. She now felt like everyone, including her friends, was going to get everything they had dreamed of, and Jenna would end up with nothing. Fresh tears welled up inside of her and she pressed her face deep into her pillow trying to stifle loud sobs coming from her.



The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:17, 18, NLT

Chapter 4

Jenna did not seem to feel any better the next day. She thought that the pain from the breakup would be somewhat less now than it was the day before, but she felt worse. Instead of this being a big weight off her shoulders like she had hoped it would, she felt like she had ten times as much now.

Love was supposed to make one happy. So, why did it hurt so badly for her, with all of the heartache and rejection she has had to face? She wondered if there was anyone out there at all who cared about her.

Now more than any other time, she was going to have a hard time being around Tracy and seeing her so put together. Jenna tried to convince herself that she needed her.

She had no choice. She had to go to work today. Jenna had to force herself not only to get out of bed, but to remember what day it was, what time she had to be at work, what time she was to go home, and what she had to do at work today. Everything around her seemed so dark and gray.

This was the beginning of a new year, and time to have the sales associates bring out the apparel for spring and summer. She was hoping that she would be able to concentrate on all that she had to do and keep it together today.

When she saw Tracy, Jenna just cut to the chase. “Larry and I broke up last night.” She had to speak in such a low voice so that she could keep herself from breaking down and crying.

“I’m so sorry…” Tracy said, stepping a little closer to Jenna.

“I’m sorry, too” Jenna interrupted before she became more sympathetic. “I’m sorry I was not the one to break it off. I wanted to do that, but he did it first.”

“He broke it off with you? Were the two of you having any problems?” Tracy sounded really shocked. “I thought you two were the cutest couple I had ever known of other than Darren and me.”

“Yeah, but I thought the way I was starting to feel about him was all in my mind, that it really was not that bad. I thought I would just give it some time, and things would be better.”

“And for once, I was wrong in telling someone that this relationship could end up in marriage,” Tracy said in a pitiful voice and laughed in spite of herself.

“I guess I should say that I didn’t meant to disappoint you,” Jenna replied, forcing a slight smile on her face.

“Oh, no hard feelings, Jenna. But you know this is a new year. Things may be rough for you now, but I’m sure you will have a great year.” Tracy meant well in what she was saying. But the last thing Jenna wanted to hear was that it was a new year, that the slate from the previous years can be erased, and she can start over. She felt she had the dregs of many things in her life to clean up before she could think about that.



When she got home that night, she did not waste any time in calling her best friend Alyson and tell her that she and Larry had broken up. If there was anything that she felt like she needed tonight, it was time with her best friend. “Alyson, it’s me. What’s up?”

“Hey, Jenna. What’s going on with you?” Hearing Alyson’s voice on the other end when she answered was just a relief that she had to fight back tears and choke back her sobs.

“Larry and I broke up last night.”

A gasp came from the other end of the phone. After a few seconds of stunned silence, Alyson finally said, “Oh, Jenna, I am so sorry.”

“Yeah, well, what can you do?” Jenna rhetorically asked and was surprised when she did get an answer on the other end of the line.

“Go to Panera. I’m on my way right now.”

Panera Bread was their favorite place to go no matter what the occasion in either of their lives-a new mate, a bad breakup, job promotions, family trouble. This was the place where they could let their hair hang down and pass the time talking about their lives. Everything else would have to wait.

Jenna embraced her friend as if she were hanging onto her for dear life. At this moment, she thought that even thought it seemed like she did not have anything good going on in her life, she was thankful to have friends, and Alyson was a great one.

When Alyson released herself from hugging Jenna and sat down at a booth inside the cafĂ©, she asked “Are you sure you’re alright? I can’t believe he did that to you, breaking up with you when you’re going through this.”

Jenna added, “I can’t believe I spent two years with someone so childish.”

“But are you all right?” Alyson repeated.

“This breakup with Larry is causing me to wonder where my life really is going. I don’t have a fulfilling job, I live from paycheck to paycheck, and I am still single. And whoever I am dating ends up being a wimp or a loser.”

Alyson looked at Jenna for a long moment. She had something to say, and she dared not talk until she knew how to say it. “I know that it will be hard for you to believe me when I say this, but your situation could be a whole lot worse. You could be unemployed, homeless, or in a really bad marriage. Just be glad you found out now that he was not the one for you.”

“You’re right about that, Alyson. But I need to find something-anything-that would be meaningful in life. I’m here to tell you that having a recent breakup and dealing with being single all over again and working at TJ Maxx are not what I had in mind for me at twenty-seven years old.”

“Jenna you’re being way too hard on yourself.” In all the years they have been friends, Jenna never understood why Alyson admired her so much. While Jenna was an overachiever to the point of perfectionism, Alyson chose to enjoy life as it comes and make the most of everything that comes. Jenna wished she could be more like Alyson, and she had to admit that to herself.

“Have you heard the news from Deanna?”

“That she and John are engaged?”

“Yep.”

“Sure did. But I must say that her calling me the day after Larry broke up with me is rather hard.”

Allyson sighed on the other end. “Yes, I know. Just because I did not experience a breakup like you did does not mean that I myself don’t feel a twinge of jealousy toward her. I wish I had that kind of news.”

“Tell me something, Alyson, and please be honest.”

“What’s that, Jen?”

“Did you see this breakup coming? Did you see anything in Larry that would make you concerned?”

“Well, while he was a lot of fun to talk with and be around, I had this sixth sense that he does not know how to handle conflict very well.”

“His childish side was the very thing that was bothering me.”

“Do you remember Kyle?”

“Yep. I remember Kyle. And you know what? I hated him too. But like you, I just had to keep my mouth shut until the relationship broke off”
“But then, something suddenly made me change my mind about him when I was visiting my cousin Anna one day, I noticed how she and Tim seem so happy with each other. Tim was overjoyed when they were expecting a baby. After all, he was part of the conception, right?”

Jenna and Alyson both had another good laugh about the comment about the conception. Kyle Donaldson not only did not want children, but also did not want a commitment. Alyson was smart in giving him only six months before she could see that the two of them would be no longer. He had other things on his mind other than a relationship that could end in marriage.

Alyson continued. “That made me think long and hard about what I really wanted in life. And I want to get married and have a bunch of little ones circled around me.”

“I want that too, Alyson, but it seems like in this town, we get one of two kinds of men: those who are losers, and those who are so goal-oriented that they feel the need to work 80 hours a week just to try to climb the corporate ladder.”

“We just need to find the right place to find the kind of men we want. I was thinking it would be in college, but those men just seemed to miss out on us beautiful, intelligent women.”

“You’re right on the dot, Alyson. It seems like men are missing out by not going out with us.” She wanted to try to find a way to change the subject. Not all of their time together needed to be about men, or the lack of them, in their lives. Jenna tried to find a way to slowly change the subject. “Have you ever thought about changing careers to something other than that at Men’s Wearhouse?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I figured that working there would be a great thing to do after college. I do love it and have not really thought about doing something else.”

“I want to do something other than be an assistant manager at a discount department store.” Jenna said while staring down at and eventually drinking from her cup of green tea. She then looked up at Alyson. “I don’t think that it’s so much the breakup with Larry that is getting me down so much as it is the…drudgery there-the customers, the quality of the clothing, the long hours. If Tracy and I were not so compatible, I would have left by now. I have been on many interviews for jobs that I know I would like. But I keep getting the doors slammed in my face. After Larry breaking up with me, I have just hit rock bottom.”

“Have you ever thought about going back to school, or at least taking a class to learn something new?”

“Aly, I’m still burned out from college. I thought I’d never see the end of textbooks and studying. I want to have a life now without that.” Jenna sighed just thinking about all of the time she put in to studying for a Business degree, only to take her to T J Maxx. This was much less than what she wanted to do with her life when she got out of college.

Alyson’s face became serious and she was looking Jenna in the eye. “Jenna, I think you should consider at least taking a class. You need to get yourself out there and do something other than work, eat, and sleep. Of course, you have more than plenty of time with me.”

“You’re right. But it seems that the older we get, the less time we have to consider dating and making time for hobbies.”

“If this really means this much to you, you should consider doing these thing to make it happen.” Alyson was serious this time. Jenna did not know what to make of all that Jenna was saying. For starters, Alyson had a habit of being funny most of the time they were together that it was hard for Jenna to take her seriously. And when she was serious, her words cut right to the heart of the matter. Alyson knew how to be a best friend; she never tries to sugarcoat any problem nor beat around the bush when something is awry.

Jenna did not know what it was that she needed to do to improve herself, nor did she even know where to start.



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