This is a story I wrote as an exercise in my Creative Writing course at the University of London last year. The exercise was to write a short (200-300 word) piece about the end of a relationship where one person wants to stay in the relationship but the other person does not.
Breakfast to Go
A man and a woman in their mid-twenties sat outside at a Parisian cafe sharing the standard French breakfast of coffee and freshly-baked bread with butter and jam. It was nearly noon and the sounds of traffic and children at play at a nearby school could be heard. The woman was chewing her toast thoughtfully while looking at the horizon as the man silently wept. His body quivered for a moment as he tried to compose himself, and it triggered him to hiccup. She looked at him, her expression blank but she seemed to be surprised by the sudden noise.
“Sorry,” he said. He quickly looked down at his uncut bread and full sachets of butter and jam. Two seconds later he jerked his head up. “Why should I be sorry?” he said. “You can’t even tell me why you’re doing this here and now in the first day of our trip to fucking Paris instead of two weeks ago when we could have saved each other a lot of grief and money.”
She put down her bread and he saw how she had nibbled at the edges of the crust while not touching the jam or the butter. “Well…it’s complicated….” she started to say and then let the horizon catch her view once more.
A few seconds went by and she waited to speak until the man began to open his mouth. “I’ve known for the last six months that I don’t want to be your wife. We had a good run through all of Stanford, and I love you, but I know you’ve got your grandmother’s ring in your pocket right now and I’ve got a hell of a lot of other things to do in this life before I let anyone encircle me in a gold and diamond shackle.”
He started to say ‘don’t be dramatic’, but now that he thought about it, she had pretty much engineered this breakup to be as dramatic as possible. Something snapped then within him and in that moment he saw a dozen different ways this day could go; while one or two of them ended with him arguing her back, like he usually did when they went up against each other in mock trials, and one possibility even had a sickening and satisfying violent end to sate his sudden bloodlust, but the rest of the scenarios brought him back to himself and to the realization that he would need to give Grandma Hearst back her ring. He looked up at his intended as though seeing her for the first time; there was a steel behind her gaze that he had never noticed before this moment.
He opened the sachets of butter and jam and applied them to the still-warm bread. He wrapped a napkin around the impromptu sandwich, stood up, and grabbed his cafe au lait. “Enjoy Paris,” he said, and took his breakfast with him as he left to find his way again.