3. Lauren writes a piece.

Laruen spent the Uber drive sullen in the backseat, getting herself angrier and angrier, ignoring the driver’s attempts at making conversation and looking up ideas on how to prove that Fred was cheating on her. When the driver left her in front of her apartment building in Manhattan, she took a screenshot of the payment amount (including a $3 tip) and texted it to Fred, with a short, “Help me with this, please.”

It was hours before the sun would come up, but she was too buzzy with anger and anxiety to try and lie down. None of her friends would be awake, not even Jenna, who was on a green-juice-and-yoga-at-dawn kick. Lauren paced her apartment with a Spotify playlist humming lowly in the background. It was the wrong mood — her Discover Weekly playlist was too upbeat. She put on her “Heartbreak” playlist she’d put together when she’d broken up with Tom more than a year ago. That was the right mood.

She wanted to get back at Fred, to make him as jealous as she felt. She couldn’t explain why. Whenever Tom had done something to piss her off, she’d gone out with a group of her friends and made sure there were photos of her on Instagram, cozying up to some young Crossfitter that Tom would have to ask about the next day. But Fred didn’t follow her on Instagram. He didn’t even use Instagram. She couldn’t even see if he was in pictures there.

Or could she?

She sat on her dark gray Wayfair couch with her phone and started searching for the hot nurse he was always talking about. What was her name? Rayna, Reyna, Lorraina? It was easier to find people on Facebook than other platforms if you knew their names, because you could find their email addresses or last names that way, most of the time. She grabbed her Macbook from her bed where she’d left it the night before on her way out the door. She opened Facebook, then paused for a second. She opened an incognito browser and opened Facebook again. She logged in and started searching.

15 minutes later, she’d identified an ER nurse in Morristown, NJ named Rain Daluca. Her profile was pretty locked down and private, but Lauren could tell it was her from the few profile pictures she’d posted. There was one of her looking buff and adventurous with a lean Australian cattle dog on a stand-up paddle board somewhere sunny. Fred had mentioned the cattle dog. He loved dogs. He loved girls who had dogs, apparently, too.

According to her Facebook profile, she was 24 (just younger enough to be threatening), loved dogs (obviously), and followed a few local non-profit health care organizations. A do-gooder and a hottie; Lauren’s least favorite type of rival. Lauren felt the heat in her cheeks. From what she could gather, Rain was a North Jersey girl and had been her entire life — she’d gone to a high school in Clifton and had earned her RN at William Paterson University. Her mouth was dry when she turned back to her phone to scour Instagram and hope Rain (what an annoying hippy name, too) had a public profile.

Her battery was at 2%, so she had to go on a hunt to find a charger. Most of hers were frayed and only worked if you held them in a certain way. She found one plugged in next to the bed and brought it to her couch (not more than a 10-foot walk in her studio, anyway). She plugged the phone in and opened up Instagram.

She typed “Rain Daluca” into the search bar. The girl popped up immediately. “Idiot,” Lauren muttered. The only people who should have public social media profiles were celebrities and influencers, she thought. Not girls who were cheating with other girls’ boyfriends.

She clicked on the profile, and there it was, staring her in down: Fred’s gorgeous face, grinning like an idiot, happy as a clam, his arm around Rain while she planted a giant kiss on his cheek. It was lit by a flash, held by Rain’s perfect outstretched arm, with a bar in the background. The caption read, “Love this hot doc, always good for a nite out and a couple rounds lol #doctorhottie #draaaanks”.

It was awful. The kiss, the jubilance, how she misspelled “night”. The tag was at an Irish bar in Montclair, just a mile from Fred’s place, where he’d taken Lauren for dinner a few weeks ago. Just outside of the flash Lauren could make out other people — Chase and whatever girls he’d been able to come up with, she was sure.

She was furious, and nauseated. She threw her phone across the couch and burst into tears.

She couldn’t post photos of herself with younger, hotter guys; he’d never see them. She got her phone back and blocked his number, knowing she’d unblock it soon enough and send him a litany of angry texts. She just wanted him to notice that she’d left suddenly and respond to her request for money and notice that his messages were going straight to text rather than iMessage.

It occurred to her that he was probably on Tinder and Bumble and any other number of dating sites still, too. She’d deleted her accounts the night they’d decided to be an item, but she realized she’d never known if he had. She got on the Macbook again and did a little Googling. She found a site that would check if his email address was registered on various sites, including social media and dating sites. It was 99 cents for a basic check. She could just sign on herself and look him up, she thought, but this would be faster.

Lauren knew Fred’s burner email address, a Yahoo account he said he used to sell items on Craigslist so weirdos couldn’t find him. That was definitely the email he’d use for dating sites, too, she figured. She filled out the form and watched in horror as it brought back positive hits on all the sites she’d expected, as well as Sugardaddy.com and Plenty of Fish.

Did he have a sugar baby?

She closed the Macbook quickly in terror. A voice in the back of her head said there was no way she could know that he was still active on those sites; just that he’d had an account. But still. The photo of him with Rain at the bar was proof enough. He was an asshole. He was a cheating, lying asshole.

She started crying again. It was 6am now. She could text Jenna reasonably. But she was too embarrassed to reach out to her friends. What would they say? Probably they’d give her some gentle “I told you so”s, reminding her they thought she should be single — legitimately alone — to get over Tom. This made her cry harder. She felt embarrassed and stupid for trusting a man she’d known was a scoundrel.

An idea hit her. She would write a hit piece on him. Not about him specifically, but about cheaters. She needed to get something up today for the online magazine anyway. 

She reopened her Macbook and opened a blank document. Where to begin?

How to Prove Your Cheating Boyfriend is Actually Cheating

Yes, she decided. This was going to be it. A step-by-step guide on proving that your boyfriend had an active profile on Tinder or Bumble, or how to figure out where he was the night before. She’d list all the background checks you could do, and publish screenshots of his DUI records (with the name blurred, of course). She’d include all the photo proof she already had on him.

She started typing and got lost in it. When she looked up again, it was 8:30am and she had an 1,102-word piece with backlinks and photos that would make her editor’s heart sing. It didn’t say anyone’s name; it obscure people’s faces and identities; but it was pointed and clear.

She sent it to her editor to post today.

Then she dug through her medicine cabinet for the sleeping pills her doc had prescribed for her when she’d broken up with Tom. She took half of one and crawled into her bed with her phone, torturing herself by looking through all of Rain’s Instagram posts, some of which included Fred from weeks or months ago, at work or at coworkers’ parties. 

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