Beautiful Stranger: Prologue

When my old life died, it didn’t go quietly. It detonated.

But to be fair, I’d been the one to pull the pin. In just one week I rented out my house, sold my car, and left my philandering boyfriend. And though I’d promised my overprotective parents that I’d be careful, it wasn’t until I was actually at the airport that I called ahead to let my best friend know I was moving her way.

That’s when it all seemed to sink in, in one perfectly clear moment.

I was ready to start over.

“Chloe? It’s me,” I said, voice shaking as I looked around the terminal. “I’m coming to New York. I hope the job’s still mine.”

She screamed, dropped the phone, and reassured someone in the background that she was fine.

“Sara’s coming,” I heard her explain, and my heart squeezed just thinking about being there with them at the beginning of this new adventure. “She changed her mind, Bennett!”

I heard a sound of celebration, a clap, and he said something I couldn’t quite make out.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“He asked if Andy was coming with you.”

“No.” I paused to fight back the sick feeling creeping up into my throat. I’d been with Andy for six years and no matter how glad I was to be done with him, the dramatic turn in my life still felt surreal. “I left him.”

I heard her small, sharp inhale. “You okay?”

“Better than okay.” And I was. I don’t think I realized exactly how okay I was until that moment.

“I think it’s the best decision you ever made,” she told me and then paused, listening as Bennett spoke in the background. “Bennett says you’re going to shoot across the country like a comet.”

I bit my lip, holding back a grin. “Not too far off, actually. I’m at the airport.”

Chloe screeched some unintelligible sounds and then promised to pick me up at LaGuardia.

I smiled, hung up, and handed the counter attendant my ticket, thinking a comet was too directed, too driven. I was really more like an old star, out of fuel, my own gravity pulling me inward, crushing me. I ran out of energy for my too-perfect life, my too-predictable job, my loveless relationship—exhausted at only twenty-seven. Like a star, my life in Chicago collapsed under the force of its own weight, so I was leaving. Massive stars leave behind black holes. Small stars leave behind white dwarfs. I was barely leaving behind a shadow. All of my light was coming with me.

I was ready to start over as a comet: refuel, reignite, and burn across the sky.


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