- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Two
- Chapter One
Thankfully, I eventually recovered from my battle with the flu. I returned to work a couple days later (Rachel was so happy to see me) and I did take Mike up on his offer to join him and Sara at Church on Sunday. Soon it was the day before Thanksgiving and I was getting ready for my trip back home. I opened up my drawer as I was packing and saw my wedding ring again. Should I wear it? When I had left home, I had still been wearing it as part of the role of the grieving widow. It wasn’t until I had come here that I felt I could remove it in good conscience. It had been such a relief to take it off, like removing a noose that had been tightening around my neck. I attempted to slide it back on my finger, but it felt like poison, like the metal would burn through my finger and leave permanent damage. I just couldn’t do it. It had been a year and a half. Hopefully, my mother would just think I was moving on with my life.
It was bitterly cold as I loaded my suitcase and laptop (might as well have it, just in case I had the chance to write) into the back of my car. Lady had already jumped into the front seat. She was always ready for a ride and this was going to be a long one. The wind seemed to whip right through my body. I was thankful to get in the car and turn on the heat and put on my favorite CD. My heart was heavy as I set out on route 91 North. It seemed so strange to be going back to the scene of the crime. I had such mixed emotions. I had told Mike the truth. I was looking forward to seeing my parents, especially my mom. I had spoken to my mom the day before and she sounded so excited that I was coming home. My brother and his wife couldn’t make it and I knew that it meant a lot to her that I would be there. It was hard on her that her children were so far away. My father was a man of few words, but I knew that he would be happy to see me as well.
I was one of the lucky ones. I had good parents. I knew many people couldn’t say the same. They had managed to stay together through all the ups and downs of life. I knew it hadn’t always been easy. I could remember being a child and hearing them argue in the next room. They thought I was sleeping and couldn’t hear, but I did. Sometimes, I would lie there and cry silently as I listened. I was so afraid that they would split up and I was scared of what would happen to me. Who would I go live with if I had to choose? But somehow, by the next morning, things would always be better between them. They would always work it out. And when my mom had been fighting her cancer, my dad was right there beside her. I was the one doing the physical taking care of her, but he was always there with a smile and a kind word. He would bring her flowers from the garden and tell her she was beautiful even after all her hair fell out. That was love. My father was a good-looking man. I’m sure that he had been tempted over the years to stray, but he never did. Maybe my mother had been tempted as well, but they had stayed faithful. I had seen a lot of my friends’ parents get divorced. I had even reached an age when some of my friends I had grown up with were getting divorced. I suppose, truth be told, that if Alan had lived, I would be divorced as well. Maybe God actually did me a favor letting him die in that fire. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. I suppose my life really wouldn’t be much different now, would it? I would still be alone, except that I would have had the opportunity to have thrown a shoe at him. It was so hard to be mad at someone who just wasn’t there.
Why didn’t people believe in forever anymore? I had stood before God and promised forever, for better or worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, until death do us part. It’s pretty amazing how air-tight those vows are. I mean, really, for a few simple words, just about every possible situation falls under one of the categories. Even in the short time I had been married, I knew that it was hard to keep the vows, but I had kept them. Alan, on the other hand, why couldn’t he be faithful? Why wasn’t I enough? Would I ever be enough for anybody? That was the question, wasn’t it? Not only did I need to forgive Alan for what he did to me, to us; I also needed to be able to believe someone could love me again. That was much easier said than done.
Then there was Mike. Handsome, kind-hearted Mike, who thought of me as what, actually? A friend? One of many? He was good and kind to everyone he met. It was just who he was. Yet he had already met the love of his life. She just hadn’t realized what a good thing she had. She had gone and married someone else. People were stupid, weren’t they? Take a reasonably sane person and have that person fall in love and he or she will immediately begin acting like a crazy person, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process. All is fair in love and war, as they say. Who are “they” anyway? But there was that sensation of falling in love and being loved in return that’s pure heaven on earth. I guess maybe that’s why people cheat – they want to have that feeling again. And for most of us anyway, sharing a bathroom with someone every day and listening to them snore and having to pay the bills and argue over chores seems to deaden that intoxicating infatuation that comes with the beginning of a relationship. There’s nothing like that heart-quickening dizzying feeling. The whole world seems brighter.
When I was young, my mother told me to fall in love with my head rather than my heart. I know what she meant. You are supposed to marry someone because they are compatible with you, because you feel like you could make a good life together. The thing is, I honestly thought that Alan and I would make a good pair. Was it possible to have your heart pound wildly for someone and actually have them be good for you? My heartbeat quickens when Mike is around. Was I falling for him? I was trying not to, and totally not succeeding. I liked having him around. I liked the way he looked. I liked the way he smelled. I liked the sound of his voice and the amazing things that he could do with a paintbrush. I liked the way he took care of his sister and his nephews. I loved the way he looked when he looked at me. I loved the way I felt when he was around. Damn it. I was falling. Hard. And no doubt setting myself up for some serious heartache in the process. Was I even willing to get married again? Was I willing to risk loving again? I honestly didn’t know. Why was life always such a mess?
Why was this trip so darn long? I had just crossed into Vermont. There were still a couple hours left to go. Lady was sleeping happily beside me. I hated driving long distances alone, especially at night. Yet, here I was. Oh well, I might as well make the best of it. I turned the music up and began to sing along.