Jason often ran away to Starbucks to lose himself in the cyber world. Browsing Facebook memes and Reddit chat rooms let him escape the tears and mind games of Sylvia. She was so pretty that it always shocked him when the monster inside her came out. There was never any peace in his own mind; he didn’t need the constant strife in his home as well.
Sylvia suspected that Jason was cheating on her. When he came home from work, he always made some excuse and took off with his laptop. She tried to scour his phone and his computer, but he kept both password locked. If only she knew that he was just at Starbucks, net surfing, a green tea latte in hand.
Of course she would be suspicious. He was nearly six foot, with green eyes and warm sun kissed skin, and blond hair always falling just so over his forehead.
But what Sylvia did not realize was that Jason did not see his own attractiveness and did not believe women were actually batting their eyelashes at him. When he looked in the mirror, all he saw was the worthless little boy whose father didn’t want him, the hungry boy begging pricelessly on street corners, the scared boy in foster care clinging to his little sister’s hand because their mother couldn’t afford to feed them anymore. And when he got his promotion to supervisor at the distribution center, all he felt was relief that maybe he could now send his little boy to college and not be the deadbeat dad that his own dad had been.
He finally got his chance, later in the party, when Sylvia was drunk and he noticed the girl slip outside for a cigarette. He sat so close to her and used her lighter. She had very long nails. “Sofia,” she told him as she shook his hand.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he indicated the garden alongside his boss’s house.
“I’m here with my brother,” Sofia said. “He might get worried.”
“We won’t be long. I want to get to know you.” Jason could tell by the way she looked at him that she wanted to get to know him too.
Jason knew then that he had found someone special.
So he got her number.
He did not want to cheat on Sylvia or leave his little boy. But the more he talked to Sofia, the more in love he fell. When he went to Starbucks one day, he called her to meet him. Over coffee, he watched her as she laughed and he said suddenly, “I have to be with you.”
She paused, a sudden scared look in her eyes. “But your girlfriend. Your son.”
“I can’t stay with her. I don’t love her. I will always take care of her, of Daniel, but I can’t stay around any longer. I have to be with you.”
Slowly, she leaned forward and kissed him.
For weeks he pursued her. He knew he loved her, but she was just so afraid that he would hurt her the way her father had. He worked hard to convince her that he was different; he brought her flowers and sang her songs on her voicemail and went by to see her everyday. Once he even made an effort to have dinner with her family, so that he could make a good impression on her mother and four brothers. Vaguely he knew one of her brothers as a driver that sometimes came to the distribution center where he worked.
The one thing he never anticipated was how hurt Sylvia would be. She called him constantly and begged him to come back. When he told her the name of the motel where he was staying while waiting to find a place to rent, she began to come by all hours of the day and night, and she would call him verbally abusing him if he was not there.
“It’s that bitch at the party, isn’t it?” she asked him one day when he came to take Daniel to McDonald’s to play on the playscape.
“Yes,” he admitted.
Sylvia just smiled strangely and wished him the best. “I’m happy you found someone you love,” she said.
“You know that I will always love you,” he told her. “Just not the same way that I love Sofia.”
“Sofia is her name? Oh. Well, I understand.”
Jason was so relieved, thinking that at last he would have the peace he had never known.
One day, nearly two months later, Jason went to Sofia’s art gallery to pick her up, only to find the place roped off with crime scene tape and policemen everywhere.
“What happened?” Jason cried. “What happened to my girlfriend?”
A cop sadly approached him. “Your girlfriend was killed in a homicide. Witnesses saw a woman shoot her as she was closing the art gallery, and she just waited until we arrived.
Jason collapsed to his knees in anguish.
Sylvia was sentenced to twenty-five years for first-degree murder. Jason could not bare to attend the trial. At least he was able to get full custody of his son, Daniel. Every day, when a woman smiled or winked at him on the street, when the barista at Starbucks made hints about a movie, or when his co-workers tried to get him to come to a party, he could only feel guilty. He didn’t want to be alive without Sofia.