Cleo’s phone was ringing. She shot awake instantly, pulling out of a foggy dream involving waves. Edie muttered something from the other bed, but didn’t wake up.
“Hello?” Cleo mumbled into the phone.
“Hi, Cleo, did I wake you?”
Jenna. Why was Jenna calling? Cleo glanced at the hotel clock. Ten fifteen. “Hmm, no, no, I’m good. Hang on.”
She slipped on her shoes and grabbed her jacket. New Orleans was much warmer than Massachusetts right now, but it didn’t mean it was anywhere near hot outside.
She stepped out of the room and onto the sidewalk outside. They’d spent the night at a Motel 6, stumbling in around three, still buzzing from the night’s performance. Now that the adrenaline from the abrupt wakeup was fading, Cleo could feel her eyes drooping, and she was tempted to crawl back into bed and talk there.
Instead, she walked over to a bench nearby and sat down. “Sorry, I just didn’t want to wake anybody,” she said. “We got in late.”
Jenna sounded nervous. “So what’s up?” Cleo asked.
Jenna sighed, her breath staticky on the phone. “Listen, Cleo,” she said. “I’ve been thinking a lot since you left. About what you said about expecting you to wait and what our future is.”
Something sparked in Cleo’s stomach. “Oh yeah?” she asked, trying to keep her voice casual. But she knew some of the hopefulness had leaked through.
“Yeah. And I think it might…I think we should break up.”
There was a beautiful purple flower in the barrel beside the bench. Cleo brushed a finger over it, but she couldn’t quite tell if it was real or a very good fake. “What?”
“Yeah,” Jenna said. “I know we said we’d talk about it when you get home, but it can’t wait.”
“It can’t?” Cleo repeated.
“I just…I think it’s better this way. For both of us.”
There was silence for a moment. Cleo saw her room door creak open and Edie looked out, their usually perfect bob in disarray as they blinked sleepily. They spotted Cleo and Cleo held up a finger. Edie nodded and ducked back in.
“Cleo?” Jenna sounded concerned. “Are you there?”
The flower had to be fake. Even here it was a little too cold for something this vibrant and beautiful to bloom in late January.
“Could you please say something?”
“What do you want me to say?”
“Anything!” Jenna was pleading now.
“I don’t…I don’t have anything to say,” Cleo said. “You’re just realizing this now? Really?”
“I swear I wasn’t just stringing you along,” Jenna said. “I really do like you, Cleo. I just don’t think we’re looking for the same things.”
“Of course not,” Cleo said bitterly. “I was looking for an answer and you were looking for a hookup.”
“What? That’s not fair!”
“I’ve been asking you for months and now is when you decide you can’t do this? When I’m a thousand miles away and you don’t have to look at me? That’s really convenient, Jenna.”
“I’m going to go,” Cleo said. “Thanks for actually telling me, I guess. That’s new.”
Cleo hung up, then let out a long breath. The motel parking lot was starting to come to life as checkout approached. Families packed their trunks and solo travelers slipped into their cars and drove away.
It was over. Just like that. Jenna had called her and in the middle of this New Orleans motel parking lot, their relationship was over.
The door creaked open again. “Hey Cleo, are you going to shower before checkout?”
Cleo looked over, and Edie’s face fell. “Hey,” they said softly. “Cleo, what’s wrong?”
Cleo was still holding her phone, but the end call screen had already faded. “My-Jenna just broke up with me.”
Edie’s eyes widened. They stepped out of the room, letting the door swing shut behind them. “Oh Cleo, I’m so sorry.”
Cleo blinked back tears. “Thanks,” she said. “It’s…it wasn’t going to last anyway.”
“Maybe not, but still,” Edie said.
They came over and sat down beside Cleo, gently taking her hand and giving it a squeeze. “You okay?”
Cleo shrugged as the tears finally spilled over her eyes. Her face crumpled and she sobbed embarrassingly into her hands. Edie wrapped an arm around her and pulled her in tight, shushing her softly as she cried.
“It’s okay,” Edie whispered.
“I’m sorry,” Cleo choked out.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” Edie said. “It sucks. Everything about it sucks.”
They sat like this for a while until Cleo finally got her tears under control. She let out a shaky breath and sat up.
“We should go get our stuff,” she said thickly. “Checkout in a few minutes.”
“Yeah,” Edie said. “But I’m going to have to go to the front desk and get a new key because I definitely locked us out.”
Cleo huffed out a laugh and sniffled. “I’ll come with you,” she said, standing up.
On second thought, she realized as they walked toward the motel office, maybe the purple flowers were real.