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The Way I Hate Him: Chapter 1


“This is humiliating,” I say as I closely approach the place I grew up.

“Listen, no one knows that you failed your last semester. We went over this. You’re taking some time off,” my best friend Maggie says through the car speakers. “Earning a master’s degree isn’t easy.”

“Says who? It’s just like earning your bachelor’s.”

“I’m trying to help you out. Why won’t you let me do that?”

“Because you’re bullshitting me,” I say with a sigh. “God, Maggie, I don’t want to be here.”

“I told you, you could stay with me.”

“In your San Francisco studio apartment where you sleep on a futon because you’d rather have space for your thriving business?”

Yup, my best friend, Maggie, has a thriving wedding planning business. She’s been featured in many bridal magazines and is fully booked until next year. She’s been interviewed by a few key celebrities in the Bay Area who might just throw her business into the big leagues.

And she’s only twenty-three.

And then there’s me. Not that we should compare ourselves, but it’s hard not to when I see her living her dream, and I’m still trying to obtain a master’s in business management but flunking out.

What am I going to do with that degree? I have no idea . . . manage a business?

God, I’m so fucked.

“The futon is my friend,” Maggie says. “And I told you it folds out. There’s nothing like a good snuggle at night.”

“Not happening. Anyway, I haven’t seen Matt in a while. He’s returning from tour, and it would be good to rekindle our love.”

“Rekindle your love . . . You know, I’m in the business of love, and even hearing you say that is making me gag.”

“What do you want me to say? Fuck on every surface?”

“Ew, is that what you’re going to do?”

“Ew? Why did you say ew?” I ask.

“Because Matt gives me the ick. You could do so much better than him.”

“So you’ve said,” I say with a sigh as I turn onto Almond Ave, aka the main street of Almond Bay, California.

Population 3,239, Almond Bay is on the Northern Californian coast, right above the not-so-famous bay in the shape of an almond. With one whole stoplight in town, we’re best known as the birthplace and hometown of the great Ethel O’Donnell-Kerr. Haven’t heard of her? Shame on you. Once a bright Broadway star notorious for her renowned leading role in Annie Get Your Gun, she spent over thirty-five years on stage and is now the proud owner of our town inn, Five Six Seven Eight. The unofficial town mayor, she makes it her business to know everyone else’s business and then selectively spreads the news according to what the news is. Not to mention, she’s the community event coordinator, therefore constantly puts on plays, dances, and activities to keep the town together. She’s exhausting.

But most importantly, Ethel O’Donnell-Kerr is the matron of the Peach Society.

If you look at Almond Bay from above, the roads connect like an A and have four corners on each end of town. Members of the Peach Society own these four corners. Let me break it down for you:

As you know, Ethel O’Donnell-Kerr owns Five Six Seven Eight. Located in the southeast part of town next to the cliffs that overlook the ocean. Beautiful location.

Second is Dr. Elizabeth Gomez’s veterinary clinic. She’s the loving, kindhearted lady who you’ll find rolling around in the town’s park with any animal that approaches her. The nicest of the four, her clinic is situated in the southwest part of town, right next to the post office and the pharmacy/doctor’s office.

Third is Coleman’s General Store, owned by Dee Dee Coleman in the northeast part of town. The general store has been passed down from generation to generation, and with every generation, it’s been given a makeover. It currently has immaculate hardwood floors and beautiful shelving stockpiled with everything you might need. Dee Dee sets the gold standard of what’s to be expected from the store owners in town.

And last, By the Slice in the town’s northwest, next to the drive-in theater—which is subsequently owned by all four members of the Peach Society. Keesha Johnson is the owner of By the Slice, the pizza shop here in town. Known best for the dip varieties offered for her crisp crust, they range from ranch to honey to something a touch spicier. She has brought in multiple Food Network shows to try her pizza, which has put Almond Bay on the map as a food destination. We don’t say that around Ethel, though, because as you know . . . Ethel is the main attraction.

These four cornerstones are the holy grail of Almond Bay as well as their owners. They decide what’s allowed in town, hold every business to a high standard, and keep the residents in check.

And why are they called the Peach Society when clearly our town has gone all in on almonds? Because the cornerstones of our town, the holy grail of women, are all lesbians, and that’s what they decided to call themselves.

I’m here for it.

“You’re seriously going to stay with him?” Maggie asks, clearly disgusted with me.

Matt isn’t that bad.

Sure, he’s had his quirks, and it would be nice if he acknowledged me more when he’s on tour. And maybe he forgot about my birthday once, but people get busy. I once forgot to tell him how much I liked his new Nikes when he sent me a picture, and according to him, I committed a sin. So we all apparently make mistakes.

“He’s my boyfriend, so . . . yeah, I’ll stay with him.”

“Or, hear me out. You go to his place, break up with him, and seek refuge somewhere else, like . . . oh, I don’t know . . . Hayes Farrow’s house?”

“Maggie,” I groan, fiercely annoyed with the mention of Hayes. The moment she found out I lived in the same town as the one . . . the only . . . Hayes Farrow—breaker of hearts and delicious musician—she’s been clawing at me to go see him. “How many times do I have to tell you? We hate the man, according to my brother, and if anything, I’m a well-trusted sibling who will hate the people my sibling hates. Plus, Hayes Farrow is a giant dick.”

“Oooo, I bet he has a giant dick.” She never gives up. “And tell me this, if you’re supposed to hate him, how come I hear you listening to his music all the time?”

All the time is a bit of a stretch, but . . . *raises hand* guilty.

I might not like the guy. He might be one of the biggest assholes I know, and even though he was born and raised in Almond Bay as well, I refuse to acknowledge he’s more famous than Ethel O’Donnell-Kerr—even though he is—because where she has class and pizzazz, he has a backward hat and a grumpy scowl.

But with all that said, I can’t help but like his music. He has this sultry, seventies rock vibe which is my favorite genre of all time. He did a cover of Heart’s “Barracuda” that made my nipples hard. And thanks to the fact that he likes to wear these low V-cut shirts during his concerts showcasing the apparent muscles he’s grown over the past few years, he’s become a total heartthrob, filling up every social media platform with videos, pictures, interviews . . . and thirst traps. Even Maggie was drooling over a few collages she found on Instagram. To my dismay, she even reposted them on her stories.

You can’t escape him. He’s everywhere.

Clearing my throat, I say, “I barely listen to his stuff.” Lies, I have a secret Spotify playlist of his songs. “He’s overhyped. Not to mention, my boyfriend works for him as his assistant. Did you happen to forget that? If anything, I listen to his music to support my boyfriend.”

“I like that you’ve rationalized all of this in your head.”

“I haven’t rationalized anything,” I say, taking a right on Nutshell Drive toward Matt’s apartment. “I’m just stating the facts.”

“Whatever makes you feel better, Hattie.”

“Well, I’m getting close, so I should go.”

“Okay. I miss you already, and if you need anything, you know where to find me. I plan on coming up in a few weeks. I’ll reserve a room at the inn because there’s no way in hell I’m staying with you and Matt.”

There wouldn’t be enough room anyway.

“Sounds good.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too, girl,” I say before hanging up and pulling into the back parking lot of Matt’s apartment building—if that’s what you want to call it. It’s two houses broken up into apartments. Matt makes really good money, but he’s been wisely saving it rather than paying expensive rent or a mortgage.

He’s always been smart like that. We met back in high school. He’s a year older than me, and when he graduated and shipped off to San Francisco for school, I followed him. I’ve been waiting for him to pop the question, and I’m pretty sure he’s been waiting for me to finish school, which . . . well, I think we know how that’s going. He’s been traveling with Hayes anyway, so it’s not like a proposal was coming anytime soon.

I can still remember when he got the job with Hayes. He told me to my face he didn’t care that there was bad blood between my family and Hayes, but he was taking the job. My brother, Ryland, went on and on about the lack of loyalty, my sister Aubree told me I needed to dump his ass immediately, and Cassidy . . . well, I can’t stomach thinking about her right now.

And with all that, I stayed with Matt because . . . because he’s my high school sweetheart. And you can’t fault the guy for getting a great job with a musician who, I hate to admit . . . is going somewhere. Well, I guess at this point, he’s already gone somewhere, made a splash, and is living in the glory of his fame.

I turn off my car and head toward the back door of his apartment. I called him ahead of time to let him know I was coming. No one likes a surprise visitor. Also, I wanted to make sure he had time to clean up and shower. He’s rabid when he sees me.

I knock on the back door, and as I wait for him to answer, I glance around the back of the building. Even for an apartment/townhome, it’s pristine thanks to the Peach Society. I’ve seen Dee Dee walk around the town early on the weekends before the general store opens, taking notes in her notebook of who’s not holding up their end of the town’s beautification.

It might be frustrating for proprietors, but then again, the town is immaculate.

The door opens, pulling me out of my thoughts. Matt stands on the other side in a plain blue T-shirt and cargo shorts. His hair is longer than normal, and his face is freshly shaved, something I’ve never cared for.

“Hey,” I say, smiling up at him.

He nods at me. “Good to see you, Hattie.”

Good to see me? Uh, kind of formal, don’t you think?

I move in for a hug, but to my horror, he palms my forehead, keeping me at a distance.

Excuse me, sir!

We don’t stiff-arm each other.

I swat for him to pull me in closer, but he braces his arm, not allowing me an inch closer.

“What are you doing?” I ask him.

“Hattie, we have to talk.”

I straighten up so he’s no longer palming my head. “Why does that sound like you’re going to break up with me?”

He sighs heavily. “Maybe you should come in.”

“Matt,” I say, confused. “Are you breaking up with me?”

“Unless you want the entire town to hear this, you might want to come inside.”

Lips pursed together, my heart hammering in my chest, I reluctantly follow him inside. After we walk up the back steps to his second-floor apartment and enter his living room, he turns toward me.

“I’ve waited to tell you this long enough.” He pauses for dramatic effect—because that’s the kind of man he is. “I don’t want to be with you anymore.”

Well . . . God, that’s a harsh way of putting it.

Couldn’t he have sugarcoated it a bit?

And where is this coming from? Last I checked, we were . . . content. Sure, we haven’t seen each other in a long time—he’s been on tour, and I’ve been in school—but we’ve made long distance work.

“Is this because I live in San Francisco? I . . . I only have one semester left. I mean, I might have to do an extra one because of this last semester, but—”

“It’s because I don’t like you anymore.”

Well, Jesus.

“You . . . you don’t like me?” I ask, confused and caught off guard. Where’s the consideration for my feelings?

He shakes his head. “No, I don’t. I haven’t found you entertaining for the past couple of months.”

Uh . . . what’s that?

Did he just say entertaining? Pardon me, but I wasn’t aware that was part of my responsibilities as a girlfriend.

“Entertaining?” I ask in a low, steady voice. My hurt quickly subsides as anger rears its ugly head. “Oh, I wasn’t aware that, as your girlfriend, my main duty was to entertain you.”

“Don’t do this,” Matt says with an irritated sigh as he turns away.

“Do what?” I ask, tugging on his hand so he’s forced to face me.

“Be dramatic about this. Okay? Let’s be mature adults.”

“Mature adults? Matt, you’re breaking up with me because I haven’t entertained you enough. That’s not being a mature adult. That’s being a fuck wad who expects his girlfriend to dance like a monkey when he demands it.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

I put my hands on my hips. “Then what exactly did you mean?”

“You’ve just been . . . lackluster. Mopey. And it hasn’t been fun to be around you. Or on the phone with you.”

My eyes nearly pop out of my head. Mopey? Is he fucking kidding me?

“That’s because my fucking sister died!” I yell.

To his credit, he keeps his voice steady. “I understand that, but you were mopey before your sister died, and to be honest, I did the right thing and waited to break up with you after a couple of months. I wanted to break up with you before your sister died but waited.”

I sit back on my heels, raise my hands, and offer him the slowest clap known to man. “Well, pin a fucking rose on your nose, Matt. You are truly a hero.”

“See, I knew you were going to be like this,” Matt says as he moves toward the couch and flops down. “I knew you were going to be dramatic about it.”

“I’m not being dramatic.” I point at my chest. “This is a normal reaction for someone finding out their boyfriend of nearly eight years is breaking up with them . . . because he finds her boring.”

“I didn’t say boring,” he says, pointing his finger at me. “We had some good times, but just lately, you haven’t been fun, and now that we’re older, I’m afraid you’re settling, and I don’t want to settle. I want to be free. I want to be with someone who wants to do fun things, travel the country, get in trouble.”

“I’ve been in school,” I yell. “What did you want me to do? Skip class to go steal something from your boss?”

“See, that’s the kind of fun I’m talking about,” Matt says. “Remember the night we stole one of Hayes’s Grammys? That was a night to remember.”

“And so fucking illegal. You’re lucky we didn’t get in trouble.”

“But that’s what I’m talking about, that kind of fun.”

“Felon fun?” I ask. “Is that what you want? To be a felon? Because if that’s the case, have a good life, Matt. Not interested.”

He rolls his eyes. “You’ve become such a square, Hattie.”

“I’m not a goddamn square. You’re going through some sort of pre-midlife crisis. I’m sorry if I’ve been mopey and not fun, but that happens when your closest sister has stage four breast cancer, and you have to watch her slowly die. So yeah, maybe I wasn’t fucking fun.”

“Thank you for admitting it.” He throws his hands up in the air as if he just won the battle and is relieved.

And for a second, I have this out-of-body experience as I stare at Matt, the man I thought I’d marry one day. Yeah, we’ve had our ups and downs, and we might have been drifting apart lately, but I still loved him . . . but this man standing in front of me, this is a different man. This isn’t the man I fell in love with.

He’s cruel.

He’s rude.

He’s inconsiderate.

He’s . . . as Maggie put it so eloquently, he’s the ick.

And I can’t believe I’m finally seeing it. Talk about rose-colored glasses. Cassidy never liked Matt. Maggie has never liked him. Ryland tolerated him, and Aubree told me to dump him back in high school. It’s taken me this long to realize what kind of character he has, so what the hell does that say about me?

After a bout of silence, he stands from the couch, presses his hands into a triangle, and says, “Anyway, I’m moving out, so you’re going to have to grab your stuff and get it out of here.”

“You’re moving? You didn’t plan on telling me?”

“I did. I’m telling you now.”

Nearly growling with frustration over my stupidity for liking this man, I push past him, stiff-arming my hand into his shoulder to get him out of the way, and grab an empty box on the couch.

“Hey,” he bemoans as he rubs his shoulder. “You don’t need to get physical.”

“That was barely on the blip of what I could do to you, Matt, and unless you want to find out the full extent of my physicality, I suggest you give me ten minutes to myself to grab my shit and leave.”

He slowly nods, eyes on me. “So I’m guessing you won’t want to be friends with me after this?”

Add moron to the list of things that Matt is.

Moronic ick.

Yup, couldn’t have said it better.

“Friends?” I scoff. “Matt, I’ll be spending the next year of my life manifesting the shit out of you losing your testicles by an inmate you meet on your first day in jail after committing one of your felonies you seem to find joy in.”

His face falls flat. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

I press my fingers to my temples and squeeze my eyes tight like a child. “Thank you, universe, for introducing Matt to Homer, the inmate with the vise grip, and popping Matt’s testicles right off his body.”

“Stop that,” Matt yells, pulling my hands from my head.

“It’s out there, beware.” I twiddle my fingers at him.

“You know, I’m glad I broke up with you. You’re all kinds of fucked up.”

“Ha, pot calling the kettle black, Matt.”

With my box back in my hand, I move toward the bedroom, and before entering, I look over my shoulder. “Ten minutes. Get out of my face, or I’ll call my brother, and he’ll take care of you for me.”

Knowing Matt is absolutely terrified of Ryland, he descends the stairs in a hurry, shutting the door behind him.

What a fuckwit.

I’m not entertaining enough . . . who says that to another human being? Let alone someone they’re supposed to love. The standards these days, sheesh.

I sigh and lean against the doorway of the meager bedroom, staring into the nearly empty room, with just a few of my things on the unmade bed as well as a box full of his possessions. He’s been planning this all along and couldn’t have even given me a heads-up as I drove here. My biggest concern in seeing him was that he showered, and now . . . this is what I’m dealing with.

You’re better off.

You didn’t even love him that much either. The past couple of months, he’s shown his true colors. He wasn’t there for me like a boyfriend should have been while I dealt with losing Cassidy. I blamed it on his work schedule, when in reality, I should have blamed it on his lack of concern.

As much as my pride might be hurting at the moment, I know deep down this is probably for the best.

Doesn’t make me any less bitter, though. Nope . . . I’m going to ride that bitter train for as long as I can.

I move into the bedroom, set my box on the bed, and start piling my items in it.

Oh, how nice of him, giving me all the pictures he has of us together, as if I’d want the reminder of his idiotic face.

No, thank you.

I toss the pictures in the trash and then sift through the rest of the junk he assumed was mine.

Some cosmetics.

A book I bought for him that he never read because heaven forbid, he does something other than look at his phone.

A broken iPhone charger. Pleasant.

A few pens from different hotels he’s stayed at. What on earth? Toss.

A pair of his boxers. Is he for real?

And two of my shirts that I will in fact be keeping because they’re vintage rock band shirts, and I’ve been looking for these. But the rest, mainly the boxers and the pens, can be shoved into his box.

Speaking of his box . . .

Curious as to what he considers his, I thumb through the box that he has marked as his. Let’s see what he has in here . . . Oh . . . oh my, would you look at that. These aren’t his things. These aren’t my things, no . . . these are his boss’s things.

A signed Hayes Farrow album, his first. A hat that looks like his. Some T-shirts. I move aside the shirts and find a few bottles of tequila—unfortunately, a drink I know Hayes likes to consume. What is this? Some sort of fanboy box? What the hell is Matt doing with all these things?

I paw through it a little bit more, and then a flash of gold . . . the Grammy.

Holy crap.

I pull it out of the box and examine it.

Best New Artist: Hayes Farrow.

I remember seeing him accept this on stage. He was wearing a black suit with a white button-up shirt, the first three buttons undone, showing off the leather necklace with a silver pendant he wears everywhere. He combed his hand through his hair in disbelief as he stared down at it and thanked his grandma for buying him his first guitar.

And then . . . Matt and I stole it.

Well, I didn’t really steal it. I was an accomplice. I held the door open for Matt. I wasn’t sure what he was doing until we were in the car, and he pulled it out of his suit jacket.

I’ve felt bad knowing Matt has had it even though Hayes Farrow is the scum of the earth.

Even the scum of the earth deserves their well-earned trophies.

Eyeing the box of my things and the fanboy box, I make the executive decision. I toss my shirts in the fanboy box along with the Grammy, and as I clutch it close to my chest, I head toward the staircase.

There can’t possibly be anything in this apartment that I care about—oh wait, my puzzles.

I pause in the living room and set the box down. Confused by the liquor bottles Matt collected, I pull them out of the box, making some room, and put them in the box on the bed I left behind. I then open the cabinets under the TV and spot three of my puzzles stacked neatly together.

Oh noooo, I’m not leaving my puzzles with Matt. Grant him hours of entertainment? No fucking way.

And he said I wasn’t entertaining. Clearly, he forgot about these purchases.

I slip my puzzles into my box, then head back down the stairs and open the door to the outside. Matt stares down at his phone—shocker—while sitting on the stone wall that encases the parking lot behind the buildings. He glances up. “That was quick.”

“It smelled like you in there, and it was sickening. The quicker I could leave, the better.”

“You used to like the way I smell,” he says, for God knows what reason. Maybe he’s starting to have regrets.

“Well, things change. Just like you changed your feelings about me, your signature scent has also changed. Quite musky smelling if you ask me, like an old bottled-up fart.”

His expression melts into irritation. “Once again, very mature, Hattie.”

“Glad I could be of service,” I say as I stick my box in my car and open the driver’s side door. “And for the record,” I say loud enough in case anyone wants to listen. “You’re terrible at giving oral, you couldn’t find my clit if it knocked you on the nose, and your penis is crooked, and not in a good way. It felt more like trying to wrangle a bent pencil in my vagina than getting pounded by a beefy salami.”

“Oh, fuck off.” He points his finger at me. “I made you come every goddamn time.”

“It’s called faking it, Matt.” And with that, I turn my car on and drive off, his steaming face in my rearview mirror.

Task number one of making him feel inferior, done.

Now, task number two . . . get him fired.


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