Untitled, by Stephanie Osborn

    Oh, watch her smile, dear reader, watch Stephanie smile, because that's what you have to do, you have to smile like your face will break. Stephanie leans back and grins and runs a hand over the rim of her coffee mug, dangling a finger tip in the now cold vanilla steamer. "Excuse me?" she says, and she's not sure if she is repeating her words, but listen, dear reader, it really doesn't matter if you're repeating your words, because that's what you have to do. You have to repeat a few things, get your information straight.

    "Mike cheated on me?" Stephanie says, smile wavering, voice cracking, eyes clouding. Her friend nods. Stephanie leans forward. She lights a cigarette. Now, dear reader, here she's making some mistakes. Never show your weakness, never falter, and definitely do not cry. Stephanie is struggling now, her mind reeling over not so imaginary scenarios: Mike's mouth on another girl's mouth, his tongue in someone else's mouth, and she's the last to know. That's the part that really burns. She's the last to know. Stephanie shoots a dark look at her friend across the table, eyes screaming, "You bitch, you who brought me to this coffee shop to tell me this news."

    Dear reader, Stephanie is again failing, see, her anger is showing, the friend is getting nervous. "I've been meaning to tell you for a while," the friend says, and Stephanie blinks. Now she should lie, say that she understands, this is hard news to break. Put the friend at ease. But Stephanie just sits there. She sits there and sits there and doesn't say a thing. She should really say something now, dear reader, but Stephanie has failed. She has failed.

    You ask yourself now, who am I to say that she has failed, who am I to criticize her response to such difficult news?

    But that's the thing about infidelity. There aren't any guidelines. Someone has to think of something. Might as well be me, since all Stephanie can do is sit at that table in that coffee shop and not say anything. She should go back to smiling. Smiling like her face will break.