Ari was having the best summer of his life. He felt as though he was living in a fantasy, spending nearly every moment of his time with Isabelle. Of course, he still had to go to work at the supermarket, but whenever he was free, he was at Isabelle’s house – often in bed with her. Her family barely seemed to notice that Ari was practically living with them. In fact, the Shores family’s mansion was so big, he hardly ever saw them.
Truth be told, there was not much between Ari and Isabelle besides the sex. The sex was great – really fun, but at times, Ari felt a bit lonely, as though there was a great wall dividing him from his girlfriend. Most nights, after sex, he would try to hold her close to him, but she would wriggle away to the other side of the bed. “I can’t sleep when you’re so close,” she would say.
Still, Ari clung to Isabelle, as though she were the parachute keeping him aloft. Until one terrible day in the middle of summer, when Isabelle’s boyfriend returned. Ari hadn’t even known that Isabelle had a boyfriend. Piers Lockwood was an older man – 27 years old, already finished with college, and practicing law in his father’s firm downtown. He and Heather had split up just before her graduation from high school. But now he had returned.
“He wants to marry me, Ari. Can you believe it?” Isabelle’s eyes shone in a way that they never had when she was together with Ari.
Isabelle’s eyes widened in surprise. “But you knew that this wasn’t serious, right? You and I were just having fun.”
The next few days were the darkest that Ari had ever known. Depression buried him like a thick blanket of mud that oozed inside of him, filling his lungs and crushing his spirit. All he could think about was Isabelle. Her face haunted his dreams, clouded his thoughts, followed him around wherever he went. He felt as though he were losing his grip on sanity – and perhaps he would have, if not for his new neighbor, Ophelia Gray.
“I saw you outside in the rain, digging through a pile a junk,” she told him after introducing yourself. “You seemed – well you seemed like you could really use a friend right now.” She invited him inside, and Ari, his teeth chattering from the drenching rain and cold despair, followed her.