As Willow drove to the beach, she stalled her car several times when she pulled away from a stop street or traffic light.

At the beach, the one place she always found peace and solace, the smell of the ocean reminded her of her date with Christian. The sounds that usually soothed her – seagulls calling and waves crashing – now irritated her, and she found no comfort in the sandy massage between her toes as she walked, barefoot, along the water’s edge.

After a few minutes, she flopped down onto the wet sand, lifted her face to the sky and screamed; screamed as loud as she could.

“Arg,” she shook her head, thinking, they don’t know what they’re talking about when they say ‘scream away your frustrations’. That just gave me a headache.

She abandoned the beach scene and drove home, her mind still unable to wrap itself around what she saw: that interrupted, intimate moment between Christian and Lucy.

She slammed the front door shut and trudged up the stairs to her bedroom.

In the lounge, her mother’s eyebrows shot up at the sight of Willow, shoulders hunched, as she passed by.

“Willow? Honey, are you okay?”

No response. Only the mournful creak of the staircase in complaint as Willow stomped the hardwood flooring with every step.

She threw herself, face down, on her bed. I can’t believe it’s happening again, she thought. Are there no good guys out there who don’t cheat on or abuse girls? I should have become a nun and lived a simple life of nun of this, and nun of that. Amen!

“I knocked.” Willow flopped over at the sound of her mother’s voice. “But you didn’t hear. Why are you home?” Mrs Jenkins checked Willow’s forehead with the back of her hand. “Are you ill?”

Willow shook her head. “Just sick and tired of guys.” And before her mother could coax the details from her, everything tumbled out of Willow: why she’d broken up with Henry, why she’d dumped Chad (Mrs Jenkins’ favourite), the hug, and how she’d been looking forward to spending more time with Christian.

Mrs Jenkins listened; her eyes focused on Willow. She nodded and uttered, “Uh huh”, ‘”Yes” and “Of course”.

“That’s it! That’s every detail of my sorry love life. I give up, Mom. I hope you’re not waiting for grandchildren. Not gonna happpen.”

Mrs Jenkins felt her heart constrict at her daughter’s words. “I could tell you that you have to be willing to kiss a fair number of frogs before you find your prince, but that’s not true.” Mrs Jenkins took Willow’s hands in hers and stroked them. “I could also tell you to ignore people who don’t know how to love … to be the better person. That’s dignified, but ineffective advice.” She placed a hand over Willow’s heart. “What I will tell you is to look inside yourself and figure out what it is you’re afraid of, and deal with it.”

“Jeez, Mom.” Willow shook her head and sat upright. “I’m not the one who messed up. They hurt me.”

“Oh, baby girl, I’m not trivialising your pain, but you can’t change someone else, only yourself. And … you’re scared.”

“Oh my word!” Willow rolled her eyes. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I know.” Mrs Jenkins’ eyes pierced Willow’s. “But you are wrong now. You’ve been hurt before, so now you’re willing to give up on a potentially good relationship, sacrificing a friendship in the process, because you’re afraid it might not work out.”

“Ag, Mom, it already hasn’t.”

“Because you’re looking for reasons for it to fail. Because you’re scared your heart will be broken again. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“Jeez, Mom. English please.”

Mrs Jenkins smiled and patted Willow’s hand. “You have negative expectations because your previous relationships didn’t work out, so you’ll do anything to prove yourself right.”

“Say what?”

“You know Lucy is an affectionate person. Did you even consider that she was congratulating Christian because he finally asked you out? Because she wants you to be happy?”

Willow stared at her mother, dumbstruck.

“Think about it.”

***

Tell us: Is Mrs Jenkins right that Willow now expects all her relationships to fail?