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The Retreat

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Robin stared at her left hand. The pale strip on her ring finger was almost invisible now. She had gone twenty-seven years without a breakup, and now she’d had two in one year.

She had been neither surprised nor heartbroken over the breakup, but breakups were never fun, no way about it. She’d been dating Casey O’Keefe for three months, and it had been pleasant all the way through, if not particularly passionate. He was two years younger than her, and the owner of Ginger, a successful bakery in Waterloo. Robin had met Casey on a week-long stakeout. She had sat in his bakery for hours at a time, waiting for her client’s wife to leave the office across the street. Casey was friendly, sweet, and very ginger, and Robin had liked him enough to give him her number when he asked for it.

They’d had fun together for three months. Casey took Robin to street fairs and basement concerts together, things that Matthew would have considered too cheap and dirty. They crashed galas and snuck free cakes into their bags, they went to indie art shows that displayed paintings of naked women with octopus heads, they had picnics in ancient graveyards and tried to find the strangest headstone. Robin discovered a new side of London, a middle ground between Matthew’s stark corporate world and the gritty underbelly that she navigated with Cormoran every day. She fell in love with the city all over again.

Casey was a very devout Catholic, which meant that he was perfectly content to move slowly on the physical aspect of their relationship. They had fooled around plenty, and then gone a bit further, but they had never actually had sex. They hadn’t even seen each other fully naked. Robin was fine with that.

Then last night they had walked along the Thames and Casey had broken it off.

“I’m tired of feeling like a temporary fix,” he’d said, “A placeholder until you find somebody better.” Robin wanted to deny this, but she couldn’t think of a very convincing argument. The truth was that she’d had one foot out the door since the day they’d met. So she kissed him and told him that she was sorry, and she told him that he was a wonderful man who would make some woman very happy. And she told him that she’d had a wonderful time with him, and she thanked him for showing her a side of London that she’d never seen. Then she went home and cried for about an hour, and was ready to move on.

She had enjoyed being single after her divorce, being able to do what she wanted when she wanted. She had never lived alone before, and she was delighted to realize that she could eat what she was hungry for when she was hungry for it, and sleep in until noon on weekends. She could go to movies by herself, and cry at Disney films without being teased for it. One of the greatest parts of being single was that she no longer had to worry about Matthew and Cormoran. She could stay at work for as long as she liked, tailing people all hours of the night, if that’s what she wanted. Cormoran had put another desk for her in his office, with a folding screen divider to give them a semblance of privacy, though usually the divider stayed half-folded in one corner. They enjoyed sharing a space, and being able to bounce ideas off of one another easily. Without Matthew’s constant judgemental shadow, Robin found it easier to be open with Cormoran, and talk about things that weren’t strictly work related.

Would she tell him that she was single again? She couldn’t deny a small, tight line of tension between them, a constant reminder of what could have been. Lord knows all of their friends and family were expecting them to end up together. But she knew Cormoran. To jeopardize their work, their friendship, the risk was too great. Cormoran was no coward, but he wasn’t impractical.

Robin unlocked the door to the office and went in. She would wait to tell Cormoran she was single until it came up naturally.