Two Years Later…

Her heart felt like lead. She couldn’t breathe. She didn’t eat much and when she did, her body would not let it stay.

 

After countless times spent together, after hundreds of hours on the phone, after multiple conversations about their ill-fated love affair, she finally had to stop.

 

He was the love of her life, but he was not hers alone, and she couldn’t live with it anymore. She sobbed into the phone and told him, she would love him forever. She said, “later” because “good-bye” was something they had promised each other they would never say, but she could not bring herself to hang up, and he wasn’t ending the call either.

 

Neither of them wanted to let go. But they absolutely had to stop what they were doing. They were both getting hurt over and over, and they couldn’t keep doing that to each other.

 

He remained strong, for her he said, but she could tell he was breaking, too.

 

“I can’t hang up on you. I can’t,” she wept.

 

“You’re not hanging up on me, baby.”

 

“I love you. I am always going to love you. You have my whole heart,” she said the words as the tears choked her.

 

His voice cracked a little. “And you have mine.”

 

“We’ll hang up at the same time, ok?”

 

After a few more tearful moments and failed attempts to press “end,” she somehow managed to hang up the phone. But she had to say it one more time. She texted him:

 

“I know you probably turned the phone off already, but I just need you to know: I LOVE YOU. I ADORE YOU. I RESPECT AND ADMIRE YOU. You are the man of my dreams and the love of my life. I will love you always and forever.”

 

She hit “send” believing it was a message he would never receive. But in the next minute her phone rang.

 

He was sobbing.

 

“I love you. I love you so much. I’m sorry. I just need you to know I love you.”

 

“Baby, I’m sorry! I love you too.” She put her head down on her desk and cried harder.

 

“I’m sorry. I’mma love you til the day I die.”

 

She could feel his broken heart in every syllable.

 

“Baby, don’t apologize, please. I love you so fucking much.”

 

She couldn’t remember how they ended the call that time, but she knew there was still no “good-bye.”

 

She tried calling a couple couple hours later, but the phone was off. He was gone. Gone from her life.

 

She sat and cried, wondering what kind of a life she would have without him in it. She wondered how much heartbreak one could endure before it physically killed you. She wondered if she would ever see his face again. She wondered if she had done the right thing. She wondered if she had lost him forever, or if one day, he would find her again.

 

She didn’t understand how the universe could be so cruel as to bring them back to each other under the circumstances. She didn’t understand how the heartache she felt now would ever cease. She didn’t understand why he had let her go. Again.

 

She did not know how she would go on living. She did not know what she would do to move on. She did not know anything with any certainty anymore. Except for one thing: He was the only one for her. No matter what happened in life, her heart would always belong to him.

Not Now, Not Ever

He had never been hers. Not once in her life. She gave him everything she had, her whole self, and he gave her his heart, but he couldn’t give her anything more. Or maybe he wouldn’t. She didn’t know the difference anymore.

All she knew was that she wanted him, all of him, all of the time and that wasn’t going to happen. Not now, and though he would say “one day,” she knew in her heart, not ever.

And her heart! Accepting this truth left her heart feeling irreparable, strangled, tortured, dead. It ached so dreadfully, she didn’t know how it continued to pump blood through her veins. It was physically agonizing inside her chest. The hurt was consuming her, and her poor heart begged for respite.

So she ate, she drank, she abstained, she slept, she exercised, she cried, she checked out, but nothing made it stop. Not for long. At times, the ache would temporarily subside. She would smile and laugh on occasion, but the pain would come back more fiercely every time she remembered she couldn’t share life with him, couldn’t have him exist as a part of her world.

She tried as hard as she could to live in her fantasies, in the pretend world she had created for them, but it was to no avail. Reality crushed her. He would never be hers. Not now, not ever. He never had been. And she had no one to blame but herself for thinking otherwise.

image by Steve K art

New First Kiss

She still remembers the day she agreed to meet him. She knows the date, the day of the week, the time. She knows what she was wearing. She knows what he was wearing. She remembers what the weather was like and the exact place they parked. She remembers everything because it was one of the best moments of her life.

She couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to be alone with him again. She was bursting with nervous excitement as she drove. When she pulled in to pick him up, the side of her vehicle scraped the nearby tree branches. She couldn’t even drive into a parking space she was shaking so hard!

He had said he wanted to see her so they could talk and so he could give her a hug. He climbed into the passenger seat, and she gave him the most awkward hug from the driver’s  seat. “There,” she said. “There’s your hug.” He gave her an equally awkward pat-on-the-back kind of hug.

They were making small talk, when he suddenly hopped out of the vehicle. He walked around the front of the car and opened her door. When she paused, he told her he wanted a real hug. Her heart raced as she stepped out.

She put her arms around his neck, as he wrapped his arms around her waist, and pulled her body into his. He felt so safe, so familiar; she could have stayed there forever. He reached down and grabbed a handful of her ass, just like he used to. Perhaps he thought she didn’t like it, because he apologized and started to pull away.

She panicked. She didn’t want him to let go, didn’t want him leave. When she saw him the week before, she had fantasized about kissing him, but couldn’t do anything about it. Today, though, she couldn’t let him slip away. And she didn’t. She lifted his chin and kissed him before he could let go all the way.

It was a perfect kiss; everything she had been missing, better than she remembered. He kissed her back, softly at first, but as their mouths melted into each other’s, the kiss became more fervent. He pulled away again, but this time he didn’t apologize.

He opened her door and told her she’d better get back in the car. She knew what he meant by that. They had crossed a line. He had kissed her back, but she had surprised him, kissing him first. He didn’t think she would do that, but she knew she had to.

He got in the backseat instead of the front this time. She told him she wasn’t getting in the back with him. He said he knew that and didn’t expect her to. She took that moment to read aloud what she had written about reconnecting with him. He teased her about her reading glasses, but he hung on every word.

“Wow,” was all he managed to wistfully say.

He was talking now, showing her a side of him she had never seen before. He was being vulnerable. He choked up and got teary-eyed when he talked about the way he felt about her. The way he felt when she had ended things with him all those years ago. He told her what it did to him and how it had made him feel. He was devastated, he told her. But too “thug” to let her know it. Once again, she could hardly believe what she was hearing.

She couldn’t resist him like that. She had to be near him. She saw the look of shock on his face when she climbed into the back with him.  She sat right on his lap and kissed him again. He kissed her back, holding tightly to her waist; his fingers digging into her body. He slid his hands down to her thighs, and hiked up her skirt. Thankfully, she was wearing spanx and as he fumbled with them, she came to her senses.

“You wore those on purpose,” he grumbled as she pulled her body off his.

“I really didn’t,” she said as she climbed back into the front seat.

She wasn’t thinking clearly that day. In fact, she hadn’t been thinking clearly since he put his hands on her arms. She had been acting solely on impulse, driven by her intense desire for this man.

She explained to him that usually, she overthought EVERYTHING. But not that day. She had to know if he felt what she felt. She had to know if she was alone in her twenty-plus lost years. She had to know if she had made it all up.

She got her answers that day. The answers she had hoped for. She just didn’t know what to do with them now.

The Truth, Finally

He contacted her the day after the BBQ. She told him she wasn’t “allowed” to talk to him because of their past relationship. But he asked her to call him anyway, and for some reason, she did.

He asked her what was really going on in her life, because even though she was smiling that day, he could tell she was not GREAT. She opened up to him and told him how unhappy she was, how miserable her marriage had become, and how she was trying counseling, compromise, and compassion, but none of it was working. All she was doing at this point, was going through the motions for the sake of the kids.

He expressed his sympathy to her, and she asked him, “How did you know I wasn’t doing as well as I said I was?”

“I could see it in your face.” He stated it like it was obvious to anyone who looked. Yet everyone else seemed fooled by her fake happy face. How was he not fooled?

They continued to talk every day for a week. During one converstion, he surprised her by asking her to tell him how she felt about him twenty years earlier.

“I liked you. A lot.” She didn’t want to say too much. She didn’t really understand the reason he asked.

“But how did you feel about me?” He asked again. The earnestness she heard in his voice at that moment, took down her defenses.

“I was crazy about you,” She said softly. Relieved, but a little scared to admit it. He must have been holding his breath, because she heard him exhale.

She decided to use this moment of honesty to pose the question back to him.

“I was crazy about you, girl. You didn’t know that?”

She could hardly believe what she was hearing. He went on to tell her he regretted letting her go all those years ago. He told her she was the One and he had let her get away, because he was too much of a hard ass to be real with her then. He told her he never should have let her go.

She asked him why he was being real now. Now, when they were both married to other people.

“Because I never got over you, never stopped thinking about you for twenty years. I didn’t want you walk away this time without knowing how you really felt back then, or if it was just me.” His voice was more sincere than she had ever heard it. She felt her heart melt.

“Meet me this week and we can talk,” he said. It was more of a statement than a request. She had forgotten how much she loved it when he talked that way. She ignored the little voice in her head that was warning her of the danger, and agreed to meet him.

Twenty Years Later, Part Three of Three

The park gave her flashbacks of more than twenty years earlier when they all had last had a BBQ together. They had had such a fun and ridiculous time then. She had started a food fight, and she had laughed hysterically when she smashed cake in his face. Today was less frivolous, but it was still good to be together again.

She glanced at him throughout the day. She couldn’t help herself. He was still so attractive, and she still had feelings for him, despite twenty years! She wondered if he noticed her watching him. She wondered if he was watching her too. Nothing could happen between them now, but she was enjoying his nearness.

He looked content with his life. His laughter came so easily, and he smiled a lot. She had always loved those things about him.

He made it a point to walk over and ask how her family was doing. She smiled her biggest, most plastic smile at him — it was the one she had been flashing all day when asked how she and the family were doing — and told him how GREAT everything was. Kids were GREAT. Marriage and husband were GREAT. She was GREAT. He listened intently, nodding where appropriate. She hoped she was fooling him.

Her mind wandered. She wanted to stand there and talk with him all day. She wanted hear his voice deep and low, whispering things to her. She wanted him to take her in his arms. She wanted…HIM. What the hell was happening?!

Shifting her thoughts, she asked how he and his family were doing. He started to answer, but was called away to handle a situation. Damn. He was gone. She doubted they’d have the opportunity to talk again.

She spent time with her friends, looking around for him occasionally. She wasn’t staring, but knew she had to get a hold on whatever was going on with her.

She caught a glimpse of him pushing one of the kids on the swings. She decided to head to the restroom. As she strolled past the playground, she was wishing, hoping, even praying he would follow her. If they were at the bathrooms, no one would see them, and she could kiss him.

Please follow me. Please follow me. Please follow me…

When she exited, she looked for him, but he had not received her telepathic message. She walked past the playground again, purposely looking away from him. She  didn’t understand how he could have such an influence on her. They were over twenty years ago and life had gone on, separately.

The day wound to a close, and they did not have another chance to be alone together. It was probably for the best. The gang took a few selfies, he even took one with just her, clowning like he did so often when they were kids. God, he could make her laugh! She left that day, thinking about him the entire two hour ride home.

 

image by Eric Bloemers Photography

Twenty Years Later, Part Two of Three

She had arrived at the gathering alone. She did most things without her husband these days as they rarely got along. She said hello and hugged everyone. Certainly there would be tears as well as laughter today. She was standing on the curb just outside the entrance when she saw him pull up with his family. She assumed he’d be there, why wouldn’t he be? So why was she so surprised to see him? Or was she just anxious to see him? And why? Her stomach flip-flopped and she quickly stepped out of sight behind the wall at the front.

Breathe and act normal. It’s no big deal, she told herself. Now if only she could make herself believe that. This was what not what she had anticipated for the day.

She could hear his boisterous laughter on the other side of the wall as he approached the entrance. She had forgotten how much she loved that sound. As he stepped around the corner, his eyes caught sight of her as she tried to look casually in another direction.

“Well, damn,” she heard him say, and when she glanced in his direction, she discovered that his comment was directed at her. She smiled. “Well, hello,” she replied as he stepped forward and gave her a one-armed, side hug of sorts. It was very different from the last time she had plastered herself all over him, but they were not those kids anymore and everyone was there. At least she could tell he was pleased to see her this time. She was sure of that.

Everyone was asked to come inside, and as they all filed in, she made sure she sat on the opposite side of the room, with no line of sight of him. She didn’t want anyone to catch her staring at him, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to help herself if she sat where she could see him. She listened as various people spoke and momentarily forgot he was there as she remembered the reason she was there.

When it was over and they all walked outside, people separated into various groups, chatting, reminiscing, crying, and celebrating life. She stood on the curb again, waiting to hear where they would all go next.

As she stood there, she hid her eyes behind her sunglasses so she could watch him walk toward her without looking obvious. He stood in front of her and asked her how she had been. She was a few inches taller than him that way, but she hardly noticed. All she noticed was how very attractive she found him.

As she formed an answer, he suddenly grabbed her by both arms and began to pull her off the curb as he stepped up on to it. “That’s better,” he said as he was now the one who was a few inches taller. His hands had only touched her upper arms, but she felt a current race through her body. He still had it like that. She hadn’t felt that alive in years.

They chatted briefly before walking back to the parking lot. His vehicle was parked right next to hers. She imagined herself holding his hand the whole way, though she obviously didn’t. As she got in, he pulled the handle on her car, activating the automatic door behind her. She laughed and called him stupid. He winked at her. He was flirting with her. She could hardly contain her pleasure at the thought.

 

Twenty Years Later, Part One of Three

Two-tenths of a century. Two decades. Twenty years. Two hundred forty months. One thousand, forty weeks. Seven thousand, three hundred five days. One hundred seventy-five thousand, two hundred hours. Ten million, five hundred twelve thousand minutes, Six hundred thirty million, seven hundred twenty thousand seconds. However you measure it, what seemed like a lifetime would pass before they would see each other in person again.

Two lifetimes to be precise. His and hers. Existing completely separate from one another. Families, milestones, adventures, experiences, troubles, sorrows, joys; everything that makes life what it is was happening for them, just not together. Which would have been entirely normal and totally fine except for one thing: Neither of them had ever fully let go of the other.

He would creep back into her thoughts at random, odd times. She would wonder if and pray that he was happy. She really only wanted to know he was happy. (And she would later learn he had the same experiences, thinking of her time after time.) Of all the exes they’d both had, they were each other’s One to remember forever.

Hearing he had moved to a new city, she sometimes wished she’d bump into him while visiting his town. She had this strange feeling that she just needed to see him one more time. She had even found out he had been across the street from her home once for an event. Literally across the street! There were a few times she had opportunities to cross his path, but there was always something, or someone, that got in the way.

The years passed and things got less and less bearable for her at home. Her daughters were (and still are) her whole world; astonishing, intelligent, witty, beautiful young ladies. She adored them completely. But her marriage… her marriage was rockier with each day that passed. By about year 15, it was a lot of fighting, bad counseling, and gritting their teeth to get through it for the sake of the kids. She wanted out so badly. She had lost herself and had hardly noticed.

But the One knew it. He knew it the minute he laid eyes on her.