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A fairytale in six chapters

Junot Diaz's story "The Cheater's Guide to Love" (The New Yorker) has been doing the rounds in my social media circles, but I didn't like it. For one, it was predictable; for another - or related - it wasn't senseless enough. And "real life" is, as we know, senseless. Here's a mini story inspired by his.



After six years of togetherness - whatever that means - he finally proposed. They married on a snowy November day. She had always loved snow. Their first Christmas together was all cocoa and fairy lights and warm sweaters, and love.

Chapter 1: March

She finds out that he's been cheating on her with her best friend. She also finds out that betrayal is a solid thing: punch-you-in-the-gut, crush-your-bones solid.

F*** you! she screams at him. I wish I'd never known you existed!

She pretends the best friend had never existed.

Chapter 2: April

She moves out. The pain comes in giant waves and she's a mess, but a friend takes her in, because that's what friends do. On some days, she can't get out of bed. But on some, she cooks her friend's children's favourite dishes - partly because it makes them happy, and partly because she's guilty that they've had to put up with her sobbing sorry self for so long.

She starts talking about getting her own place. Her friend is torn, but she tells her that she needs to get back on her feet. 

She blocks her ex-husband (though it isn't official yet) and her ex-best friend on all her social media. It doesn't work, of course; there's no button to block someone from your mind.

Chapter 3: May

She finds an apartment at the other end of the city. On some days, she can't get out of bed.

Divorce papers arrive in the mail, slid under her front door. 

She loses her job.

The pain still comes in giant waves, except when she's asleep, but then there are the nightmares. She goes to bed like she had never awoken, and wakes up like she had never slept.

Chapter 4: June

She finds a therapist. Three times a week she drags herself to her appointments three stops away. It seems to help: the nightmares are better, and she's awake on most days, except weekends, when you are allowed some weakness.

She also drags herself to the grocery store more often, because take out is really starting to eat into her savings. Occasionally, she even makes some things that they used to make together. She can handle it.

She sometimes catches herself wondering whether they're still together, or whether they broke up after the thrill wore off (pronouns get mixed up in her head) - but then she tells herself that she doesn't care. Sometimes friends check in on her, but they know better than to mention him. 

Her therapist is another story, though: think about it. Think through what you're afraid of. Avoiding it only makes it stronger. 

Chapter 5: September

Things are looking up. The leaves are changing colour and the pain still comes in waves, but the waves are smaller now, and she's getting better at anticipating them, recognising them, not getting washed away. 

She thinks about going back to dancing. She thinks about travelling, but her savings are fast deteriorating. She has been applying to jobs, though.

Revenge is living well - without you, she thinks, quoting Oates. A little smile plays across her lips.

Chapter 6: November

Tomorrow is her first dance class. She has three job interviews lined up over the next two weeks.

It's been snowing. She decides to take a break from preparing for an interview, and puts on her coat and boots and scarf and cap and gloves for a walk in the snow. 

She's about to turn the corner when a car skids on ice and careers over the pavement, crushing her against a shop window. 

Ambulances and police vans arrive, their red lights blinking in the darkness. Her life leaves red stains in the snow. 

Upon reaching the hospital, she is pronounced dead.


The ex-husband and the ex-best friend put up glittery pictures of their first Christmas together. Also, they live happily ever after. Their dreams come true and everything.

Of course, it's entirely possible that they only lived happily ever after on Facebook, but fought all the time and never laughed in "real life". We'll never know.