Thursday, May 10, 2018

Really Good At What He Does

Currently Listening To: "What Goes Around... Comes Around" by Justin Timberlake


28 days. That’s how many days between the day you told her you loved her on February 5th - months after you told me you loved her - to the time John died. So what exactly changed? When did you decide you didn’t love her anymore? I call bullshit.

That's the text our mutual friend sent him just days after our relationship fell apart. Our entire circle was just as confused as to what could have happened. What could make someone throw away a future and a family so quickly? 

But really, it was less than 28 days. It took less than 28 days for him to trash me and Claire and cuddle up to his new, fellow assistant coach. It took less than 28 days to damage multiple friendships and break a variety of promises. It was the 11 days after we buried Dad though that were the most cruel. He's becoming a better man now, have you heard?

...

February 5th, 2018

My stomach did a little dip when I saw him turn the corner. Handsome, he had gotten his hair cut and a fresh shave. He wore a camel-colored Tommy Hilfiger coat that complimented his dark skin nicely. 

"Hey baby," he said with a smile and nonchalant attitude.

He began planning the surprise back in December. All of my girlfriends knew about it. I suspected something would be happening but there was a basketball game rescheduled for the night so my hope diminished. But when Lake came to pick me up at the door, still in her scrubs, I knew he had come through, again. 

I already knew he was trying to find the perfect moment to tell me he loved me. There had been so many missed chances now, for months. But that's the night he did it. And for 28 days the crumbled feeling that marked that date completely disappeared. 

...

He would get so hot and bothered. He'd nearly finish the task by me just blowing along the sides of his neck. He was so mystified by this that he eventually texted Ian:

So, have you ever gotten off just by making out?

I'm now told that Jennifer and Ian argued about whether or not we were having sex yet. For the record, we were a few weeks away from our first time together. But this particular interaction with our shared best friend makes me giggle... still. 

...

He's really good at what he does. He's really good at making a woman feel special; special to him in particular. Each of us were the exception to the rule. He felt differently with me, with her, with the high school sweetheart that came before me. The attention to touch and detail, most of the time, was impressive. The compliments came at the right moments. "Baby," melts right off his tongue for each of us too.

They're all perfectly placed at moments that make her, or I, believe some type of genuine feeling. And that was important for me, especially in the bedroom. I had come from an experience that wasn't the best and never made me feel safe. And he knew that. 

The way he would call me sexy when I climbed on top or how he'd whisper, "You feel so good," throughout every thrust, those kinds of things can win a woman over. And in the moment, she'll feel like you've only ever said it to her. Of course, that's not the case, especially with a man that's crafted the art so well. Not crafted the art of sex, but the game.
...

I would tease him as much as I could. Or, as much as I had the opportunity to. So much so that I remember waking up to a snap from him one morning; complete with a photo the message read:

Still hard from last night.

In the evenings, I'd turn the lights out and ungracefully hop into his lap on the sofa. I'm taller than what he was used to, and he liked that. Once he was straddled, I'd go right for his sweet spot; the left side of his neck would do it every time. Then I'd wait because the moaning, "Oh baby" or "f*ck" would fall right into my ear as his hands found their way into the back of my shirt or waistband. And those hands and that touch, they quickly became aggressive.
...

The first time he touched me, really touched me, I fought it. My guard was still up in every sense of the word but somehow a finger still slipped inside. 

"You're so tight," he growled, "you'd never know."

"I know," I laughed back. 

...

September 5, 2017

The first time I allowed the rest of him inside of me, I was surprised by how perfectly we fit together. We didn't want our first time to be on the floor but once we started neither of us wanted to stop. 

When we finished, he walked around with a big, cheesy smile on his face while doing a little two-step, victory dance. He won a piece of me that night. I used to think about that moment and giggle. There was such an innocence in the way we went about it all. But I realize now, that was a part of the bigger game plan. And I hate him for that. I hate him for taking a part of me that I held so tightly. And he continued to do that, even after he met his newest target, which is the sickest thought of all.

...

He kissed every inch of me that night. But once he got to my inner thigh, his teeth came out to play. He bit down and said, "You're mine."

I woke up the next morning with a bruise. He had left his mark.

...

February 14, 2018

One of our longest sessions was on Valentine's Day night. Foreplay was drawn out and different positions were used. He was more adventurous on weekend nights so when I asked him for an explanation for his new moves he replied, "It's a special night."

Neither of us wanted to get up and find our clothes, too tired from the day and what had just happened between the sheets. We laid there talking about the future instead.

...
extended

March 16, 2018

The night before our relationship unraveled we had sex for the last time. Of course, I didn’t know it was the last time then but it was different from any other toss in the sheets because of what he was doing. 

Spreading my legs and getting himself adjusted inside came with deep sighs and a growling, “I love you” in my ear. It was probably the quickest session we had ever had. 


Afterwards, he went to the bathroom. He threw my clothes off the bed and laughed mischeviously  So, I laid there with just the black sheet wrapped around me thinking, "It's all going to be okay. We're going to get through this." 

...

April 12, 2018

He was staring with his gaze falling on every line my body owned.

"Stop looking at me like that," I said annoyed.

He smirked, "I always look at you like this."

"You can't look at me like that anymore, I'm not yours," I rebutted.

I sat on the couch facing him. And I noticed, his eyes were lingering longer than they should, again.

"Ya know," he began, "for not sleeping much you look really good."

I replied, "I know."

...

I wonder. Did he buy all new underwear? Or is he wearing the 20+ pairs I bought him for Christmas with her?

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Chapter 22: Divorce Diets Work


Currently Listening To: “HAPPINESS” by NEEDTOBREATHE
March 2016 – September 2016
My vagina was taking a beating. But the guy in the corner I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Even in the midst of the pain radiating from my crotch and my concern about not being able to walk the next day, I kept glancing over to him mid sweat wipe. Where were the endorphins to get me through these last 15 minutes? Where was the cushioned seat I had read about on the Internet? This man in class though, if my pelvic region was on fire, how were his balls doing? I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Did he have any? Did he tuck them away somewhere? Was he wearing dude Spanx to keep them in a safe position? Maybe a cup? We were up and down so much on the bike that my downstairs was nearly rubbed raw that first session. There’s no way that this man wasn’t feeling it every time his testicles slapped the seat. I was worried. Would he be able to have children?
Once class was over and I had made it through, I asked the teacher, “So, what’s the secret?” 
She answered, “Just get through a few classes and you’ll get used to it.”
And she was right. Spin class, amidst the sweat, the perfect asses that would cycle away in front of me and my upchuck reflex that would come alive when I ate too close to starting time, became my solace. It became my safe place. It became my Zen. I loved it. I loved the drive downtown. I loved how much of a badass I felt like once I got back in my car after a 50-minute session. Admittedly, I also liked when I would bribe a friend to come along. More specifically, Maddison, who would go through Steak’N’Shake drive through with me ordering patty melts, sides of cheese for our fries, and turtle nut milkshakes afterwards. It was our reward. We’d eat in the car as to ensure that no one saw that my eyebrows had melted off. And we’d pour the crumbs from the fry bag right into our mouths without shame or onlookers. They were the best nights of that summer.  
I was already down about thirteen pounds. I was eating normally again. And being able to slide into a pair of jeans and wear them in public feeling confident after a solid three years of hiding them away in the closet felt incredible. I had been teetering on the lines of a size 14 since I got married but I was finally back to a size 12 and confident in it. I graduated high school about thirty pounds lighter but that’s also the size I wore when I threw my cap into the air and hit the road to Disney World. I’m not completely sure why women’s bodies are so weird. 
My hair had grown out too. The previous Thanksgiving, the last one I had shared with Norman, I had donated about ten inches to Locks of Love. He was creeped out by the chopped off ponytail I had brought home and sat on the bench in the dining room before packing it up to send off. I was getting it all back though. It had become so much more bouncy and wavy since pregnancy and I was embracing it. I could tell I looked better than I had since I was 16-years-old. I was making myself over from the inside out, top to bottom. I was healthy and I was regaining my confidence. 
I had a dream that I had gotten a few new tattoos too. I saw myself sketching them in a small notebook I kept in my pocket. So, I decided, since I hadn’t gotten one since I was 18 that it was time to do that too. I scouted out a few new places but it wasn’t until I ran into someone with an umbrella tattoo on his pinky finger that I felt like I had found the right person to do the job. 
Mom and I pulled up to the local coffee shop in our hometown. It’s nothing fancy, its name is literally “The Coffee Shop,” and they only have one giant-sized iced coffee you can order but it’s delicious. The young man at the drive-through window had a ton of ink. Sleeves and small pieces throughout his hands, but it was the umbrella that caught my mom’s eye. Although she isn’t a huge fan of talking to strangers, she struck up conversation with our new barista. He told us all about Flash City Tattoo in West Nashville and that’s the same day I made my appointment to get the first design I saw in my dream. 
I’m not sure if it’s the most popular thing to do, but I went to the tattoo parlor on a Monday morning with my 21-month old and my mom in tow. They sat in the waiting room while Claire looked through questionable magazines as I received a small tattoo under my left collarbone. It read, “clarity,” and ended with the “y” cascading into an umbrella. If there was one thing I learned throughout all the mess, it was that I always had the power of clarity. I couldn’t let the denial muddy it. All you need is an umbrella to help you see through the rain, and Claire was mine. She helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 
I was trying really hard not to become bitter. I didn’t want to be bitter about love or relationships and I surely didn’t want to end up becoming bitter about marriage. Inevitably, I still wanted that. I still wanted a completed family. I wanted more children too. I wanted it for Claire even more. So, when I decided to apply for a job at Arzelle’s, a bridal store downtown, the irony completely surpassed me. 
Waiting for the divorce to become finalized was daunting. I didn’t feel free. I felt like I needed to walk on eggshells. I was afraid of flipping a switch with Norman, causing him to plot some type of revenge plan by making the legal process harder than it needed to be. So, I tried to think of ways to get my mind off of things. Since I work from home, I felt even more stifled. I needed to breathe outside of the walls that I shared with him. That’s why I decided to apply to Arzelle’s. I had been writing about weddings and wedding gowns for years. I always toyed with the idea of one day having my own bridal store, so I thought, “Why not spend some time learning the business?”
I didn’t go about it in the most professional of ways. Instead, I was completely honest and upfront. I e-mailed the owner:
Hi there!
I'm just popping in to see if you have any job opportunities happening at Arzelle's. 
Since I graduated college in 2011, I've been a full-time freelance writer - mostly in the fashion realms and particularly the wedding genre. One nook that I never had the opportunity to experience was working at a bridal boutique, interacting with brides and just being around something I enjoy so much.
And I'll be completely honest; right now I'm going through a divorce (one I was blindsided with no less) and have become a single mom overnight. I'm not looking for a full-time job, as I'm still writing my days away. Instead, I was looking for a new and fun opportunity and an experience I would love to have, shake up my routine a bit, get out of my head, the whole shebang!
I remember coming in to Arzelle's and shopping for my own gown several years ago - now a bittersweet memory - and I loved the experience there so much I even sent in an e-mail praising the day, although I didn't even purchase my gown there. 
Although this may be a shot in the dark, I didn't see that you were hiring or anything like that, I thought I would shoot you an e-mail either way. Even if it was just a 1-2x a week opportunity, I'd love to dive in!
My resume is attached.
Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you soon. 
She called me in for an interview a month later and I landed a position. It wasn’t until I was at counseling with Charlie did I recognize how ironic the situation was. 
“You’re getting a divorce so you decided to get a job as a bridal consultant,” he asked.
“Well, I didn’t want to be bitter,” I explained. 
He told me that he was really proud of me. And for some reason, when a therapist says they're really proud of you, it feels different. This was around the same time I started going to spin classes and tried a round of kickboxing at a local gym. I was proud of myself for beginning to feel better, especially because I was also working really hard on trying to find the humor throughout my days again. Life isn’t as bad when you can laugh and, sometimes, real life is far funnier than situations that you could make up in your head.
For example, a few months after I started working at Arzelle’s, I was chatting with Drew. She was a young, scatter-brained sweetheart that I quickly fell in love with. It’s like she was the little sister I always needed to have around and I was her older sister, showing her the ropes and giving her advice she’d never take but always wanted. We were headed into the fall and my feet from my new black booties were aching so I sat on the bench and grabbed the iPad to check the e-mails rolling in. I went through some sales pitches and jotted down new appointments when I recognized one of the names in the inbox. “Rose Casey: Job Inquiry,” it read. 
I started laughing. Imagine my surprise when I saw the name of one of the girls my husband cheated on me with show up at my work. I hated to think that I’d run into her again. She may not have realized how her actions helped to perpetuate the ending of a marriage. As such a young girl, she may not have realized that being picked up from your parents’ house by your boss was terribly inappropriate and unprofessional. She may have never realized that when she was hanging out with my husband I was at home caring for a baby cutting four teeth. She may not have realized that he planned to marry me within the first month of dating. She may not have realized that he planned to have a baby with me either. She may not have realized that I put off getting my master’s degree, the master’s degree I could have gotten from Johns Hopkins University to do it. I was accepted there without having to the take the GRE because my GPA was so high, higher than her's I noticed from her resume. I read her e-mail silently correcting its grammar and hoping she had one hell of a summer with my husband. While she played kickball with him at night and went out drinking for Irish-fest, I was at home, taking care of the baby we so carefully created together. Claire had RSV that night. I wanted him to bring her Pedialyte but he chose her instead.
“Sure, come work with me,” I thought, “We’ve already shared so much.”
The same week in autumn that Rose reared her ugly head again, I had another Tinder debacle. He was tall with a bald head and a scruffy beard. I saw that he worked at Vanderbilt as a nurse. He looked semi-nice, so I decided to swipe right. We instantly matched. And then he instantly messaged. I messaged back a total of three times before I figured out that I wasn’t interested. Then I deleted Tinder altogether. Later that evening a friend of mine sent me a screenshot of Norman’s new and “secret” Facebook. We noticed that he had been tagged in a post by someone we had never heard of. We clicked on the name and quickly realized that it was the latest Tinder guy, who had been hanging out with Norman the night before downtown at 2AM. I nearly vomited. 
The poor guy had no clue that he was hitting on his new buddy’s ex-wife. The adorable little girl in my photos, the one that he commented on and said how much she looked like me, that’s his daughter! I never once thought that it was all a set-up. Norman didn’t have anything to gain from that. Instead, the scenario just proved to me that he was acting as though we never existed. I did learn that his new buddies had really great taste in women though, so there’s that.  
           All of those funny scenarios gave me another little boost of confidence though. I was realizing that the divorce diet was actually working for me. It was a shame that I had to have something so horrible happen to my family for me to feel so much better about myself. I was knocked completely to the floor and was able to build myself back up again, whichever way I felt like fit best.
I discovered James Bay’s Chaos and the Calm album during this time too. The irony of it is that I knew most of the songs from riding in the car with Norman. He probably was already planning on going to the show at the Ryman. I hoped I would run into him there. Because I knew the day he ran into me he’d remember. The day that we would spot each other from across the room, his knees would go weak, and his stomach would drop and he’d remember. I’d be with my friends feeling a bit more carefree than I’d had been in years, dressed like the girl he fell in love with when she was 17, and he’d remember how much he loved her. But it would be too late for him. Because I never forgot about the boy I fell in love with when he was just 19-years old with a crooked smile. Most importantly, I didn’t love the man he became a decade later.
When he did finally remember though, I’d be ready to date again. It may be weeks after the divorce is stamped and final. It may be months. But I know that when it’s time to make out that dating profile – we all have them – it’ll read:
I refuse to date those of you who wear scarfs or ankle pants. It’s still to be confirmed as to whether or not my ex-husband is gay. And I’m not taking any chances this time around.
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Sunday, May 6, 2018

9 Months

Nine months may not seem like a substantial amount of time to some, but when it's packed with so many life-altering experiences, it's a largely important piece to my personal life's puzzle. Some may want to diminish the relationship I had to a single digit, 9, but those days were filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in my 29 years of life. 

I've felt very unsettled for two months now. It's been two months since my father died. It's been almost five since my big brother passed. And it's been just one since I kicked my partner to the curb. I'm not sure why I get harsh judgement under the table for having feelings but putting what happened with my ex aside, there are still some heavy, heavy emotions to tackle on their own. 

But, today, I've finally pinpointed my unsettled-ness. I finally found simple words to articulate why.

I feel like I cannot start pushing passed the loss of my dad without my ex. And getting passed my ex without my dad being here has been a struggle too.

I realize the rationale behind those sentiments aren't fact, don't worry. But that's been my issue. It's been a constant cycle. Ping-ponging back and forth because they are so closely tied together. Safety and security I had in both. One real, one faux, but the feelings were there nonetheless. 

Let's not forget in the midst of all the juicy uncoverings that there is still a writer behind her keyboard that's processing a shit ton of loss. One way I process is to write and to connect and to talk and to relate. 

Driving to my house from my parents' this morning, I kept replaying the morning of March 5th in my head. Walking into the hospital, I already knew. I could feel it deep within my chest. Daddy was gone. So, when I flew through the emergency center doors to find my mom and sister in the "little" office closed away from the waiting room, I crashed. He was gone. He hadn't made it here in time. And the first time my phone vibrated, I looked down to see my then boyfriend messaging me. There was so much comfort in that. He was at home, with Claire, and he was going to help me stand back up from this.

But I was just being tricked.

I scrolled through them today, those messages between us. I now know by this time there was already someone he wanted to leave me and Claire for. They had only just met but he was finished with the relationship, despite the continuing promises, intimacy, and saved ring photos on his phone. It was overwhelming, to read the messages, now clearly stained with deception. He didn't want to make good on those words he was continually feeding me, our friends, and my family. 

I'm far passed setting the record straight on what happened within the relationship. There will be a book that includes its beautiful and cruel moments in time. Until then, readers can comb through the posts leading up to this one. Including the ex-girlfriends reaching out to me and defending his "honor." I find it amusing to see them (well, one) become an expert on the comings and goings of my relationship.

His communication anything but lacked. Instead, it flowed freely with lies. There's a difference. A big difference. So many lies actually that the girlfriend who had reached out to me, I never knew existed until recent days.

We can agree to disagree on a host of things. BUT there's a difference between sitting your girlfriend down and approaching her with sensitivity and respect, telling her that you don't see the relationship going any further and ...

Prepping for a future together, talking about buying a home, confessing love and plans of marriage, until caught red-handed with another woman; to clarify, that's not difficulty with communication. That's a game. And it's a game I never asked to play. I didn't ask for the "I love you." I didn't ask for him to call me his wife. I didn't ask him to beg for "dad" responsibilities with my daughter. I didn't even ask him to walk through the door. 

I only ever asked him two things:

1. I asked for his support after Dad died. I felt like my anxiety was getting the best of me and I needed my partner.

2. I asked him to pack up his belongings the night I found out he had been with someone else the entire time I was told that he was "fixing things" and coming home with "a ring." 

That's it. I didn't realize that I should have asked him, at the very least, to be my friend. Because I realize now, he never was that either.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Blue Eyes Always Take Hold of Me

"They'll have to live with the trail of evidence for the rest of their relationship," Brad said.

I nodded.

"Seriously though, no matter when they 'come out of hiding' or go public, everyone around them will know what the actual story is. Parents will question it. Hell, the head coach should question it. I'm into gross things," he smirked, "but there are just a lot of lines that were crossed here."

I nodded some more.

"He went to church with her and the next day came to talk to your mom about marrying you, that's insane to me," he continued to shake his head, "and this chick knew about you the entire time."  

He paused for a moment and then asked, "What happens when they break up?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

"Exactly, he'll run," he continued.

I replied, "That's what Ian said."

"I don't know who that is but he's right. It's shady as shit. It's bizarre that he's already around someone else's kids. These two people aren't right in the head and you need to be thankful you got out of it before there was a ring on your finger. And look, I'm on your couch so perk up," he smirked again.

"Oh, I'm perked," I laughed. 

He grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me toward him, "Then act like it."

This time we weren't standing up near my front door or behind his sofa. This time I sank into the couch and felt the weight of him on top of me, finally. I gave in to his sly smile and broad chest. I'm always taken back by his height, always comparing him to another. The freckles across his cheeks and nose don't take away from his handsomeness. He's older now. And his earthy musk mixed with leftover cologne, he smelled like a man. There was no hint of beer to his taste this time either.

His favorite thing to do is to trace my tattoos. He lifted my shirt up and took in a full view of my newest addition. 

"So, you're getting another one Thursday," he asked.

I nodded as Brad kissed the spot on my ribs that I used as a placeholder for new pieces of art. His mouth eventually trailed back up alongside my neck and found its place on my own. 

I really was okay. The history behind my ex that was uncovered had been making me physically sick. Knowing that he had been with multiple women within one year's time and never single, each relationship flowing right into the next, made me nauseous - but also extremely grateful that I made him get an STI test before anything ever went down between the two of us. Breaking up with his pregnant girlfriend to begin a relationship with someone nearly ten years his junior made me want to rip off my own skin and replace it with something, anything, he had never touched before. When I was told that his signal for finding a new girlfriend was that he'd go into his room at his parents' house and sift through yearbook pictures, I was slightly scared, concerned, and I could feel the regurgitation in my throat.

I was still in the process of separating who he actually was into who he pretended to be with us. I was still coming to the realization that this person I loved was just a phony. But I was okay because I had decided that I didn't want someone who "acted right" just for me. I wanted someone that was a good man, through and through. Love can change someone for the better but I wanted him to walk into my life with the type of character that God was already proud of. I was tired of being someone's "fix it." I wanted an equal. 

Those thoughts faded away within the night though. With Brad's hard hands up the back of my shirt and the slight danger that someone wouldn't be happy to know what I was doing, I forgot it all in the midst of his warm lips and slight stubble. He has blue eyes too. And it never fails, blue eyes always take hold of me.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Short & Sweet

To the girl in orange,

I don't need your life lessons or biblical verses. Instead, give them to the kids in your classes or the players on your team. The example you are setting for high school girls is impeccable. Why don't you tell them the story of how you and the new assistant coach met? Your love blossomed organically and beautifully. 

You can tell him that he was getting ready to propose to his girlfriend and become a step-father to a feisty, special, highly-intelligent and lovable little girl, when that girlfriend's father died and instead of staying with his "family" to help throughout the grieving process, he came to your house. That's very romantic

I have moral standards, a moral compass, and I have incredible people surrounding me. I must be doing something right. If you want to fact check that, call anyone in White House, Tennessee and most of the surrounding areas. There's a good amount of people in Mobile, Alabama and on the Jersey Shore if you want to get really intricate. My reputation is clear, clean, and of sound character. You're mad because I write about my life? Get over it. Or just keep giving me more views and I'll keep cashing out my Google Adsense account - it's a win-win over here. 

You can try to find excuses or justifications for your actions, but there are none. It's obvious that you're trying to do it nonetheless. Go for it! In the meantime, ease up on the posts you've purposefully made public to try to "school" the scorned woman - rephrase that, mourning woman. Because, let's get really technical here. 

YOU WELCOMED MY BOYFRIEND INTO YOUR HOME. YOU WELCOMED HIM INTO YOUR BED. YOU BEGAN A RELATIONSHIP WITH MY BOYFRIEND WHEN HE WAS STILL MY BOYFRIEND. YOU ALLOWED MY BOYFRIEND TO CHEAT ON ME WITHOUT REMORSE. AND YOU KNEW ALL ABOUT ME FROM DAY ONE. 

So, no, I don't need your life lessons. You don't seem to have the best track record of men yourself. At least I admit my mistakes. You admitted to me that all of your ex's had been cheaters but have taken a KNOWN CHEATER into your home WITH YOUR KIDS even after I gave you a very detailed timeline of his double talk and what he was doing with me while away from you. Looks to me that you're the fool, not me. I was tricked, you're just willingly getting played. 

And let me clarify something. I would have never, in a million years, done this to you. I don't care if I set eyes on the most gorgeous, most charismatic, most intelligent, most hilarious, most athletic man (and let's be real, he's not) in the world and he wanted to drop his entire life for me, if that life included a serious relationship (under any circumstances let alone the trauma my family was facing) in addition to a little girl (biological or not), I would have said no thank you and followed your advice. I would have "kept it moving," because that right there shows character not love. It shows the character of you both.

This is 100% his fault, but it's sad that you gave him the opportunity. 

I'd like to be done now. I want to address the actual issues in my life, as in the fact that my family was cut in half. I still don't know exactly what happened to my brother. I'm waiting for my dad to walk through the door. Go take your Bible to church on Sunday and address your own.

One day, you'll see this book on the shelf. And it will have nothing to do with my disdain for you or him or what you two concocted in your head as a love story. Instead it'll be a piece of literature that will empower women to restart through the trials and tribulations that life can throw at them. It'll be a reminder that it's okay to speak up and not hide in the corner crying. It'll be a piece of entertainment that will make readers laugh and cry and not feel alone when their partner has betrayed them. I'm not the wrongdoer here. I'm just the one that won't allow it to be justified, silenced, or smothered in religion as a means to make it right.

Sincerely,

The Woman in Blue
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Thursday, April 26, 2018

I'm A Keep It Together-Er


"Love Your Bungee Cord"

Bungee cords. They keep things together. And I just made the connection.

My dad used to give me pet names. 

"Goodnight doo," he'd say.

Or he'd welcome the day with a, "Good morning baby." 

"Hey knuckle sandwich," would fly out of his mouth when I turned the corner from the kitchen.

"Whatcha doin' bungee cord," was his most frequented and silly phrase. He always circled back to "bungee cord," and it never made any sense to me. I'd just giggle. 

I had a bookmark engraved for him years ago and Mom found it for me. And it clicked.

He used to tell me that I kept things together around the house. And later, when I was older, he'd sneak in ways to tell me how thankful he was for me - for just being me. He told me that for the last time in late February.

"Thanks baby," his text read.

"Why daddy," I asked. 

"Just being you. Keeping things together for everyone." 

That's what bungee cords do. We keep things together. But I am struggling. I'm struggling so much and I'm having a very hard time keeping it all together. 

An hour long phone call with the third mark of my hurt right now even told me, "You don't have to keep it all together all of the time, Grace." 

Dad isn't coming home. Nick isn't coming home. This isn't just a temporary situation we have to deal with. It's a life change. It's three big, hurtful events. It's three traumatic experiences all tied together with a string that I cannot begin to unravel. And every time I think about the feelings associated with the loss of my family I find myself thinking about my ex, the one who told me that we'd get through it, together, because he was never going anywhere. 

When I think of the permanence. When I think about how two of my three people can't even come back. When I think about how the third had a choice whether to leave or not. I want to pick up the phone and understand. But I won't understand because I've been reduced to nothing. It's not a safe place to emote anymore.

Rationally, I know that's not the case, well, the nothing part at least. But I bet there are so many women and men out there that understand that hurt. And that hurt was taken a step further because it wasn't, "Oh hey I woke up today and decided that our life together means nothing to me, so I'm out."

It was more like, "I loved you yesterday but joke is on you, I'm going to go play this game in another house with another family instead." 

And that's the circle.

My brother died. And I feel guilty about a lot of the circumstances surrounding that situation. Then I pushed that grief aside while we tried to get Dad better. But then Daddy passed away and before I could blink, BOOM, "our boy," as Claire so tenderly refers to him, disappeared. That's the cycle in my head. 

Loss forever. Loss forever. Loss because we are nothing.

It's not a sensible situation where rational thinking outweighs the irrational feelings or hurt. It's layers upon layers of feeling as though pieces of me have completely broken apart. And I cannot completely break apart, I'm a bungee cord and I need to keep it together. 

Speaking with him yesterday was both comforting and excruciating. Because I do not know what is real. I cannot adequately describe to him the pain or the feelings. And he doesn't want to hear my anger. 

"I had no intention of ever doing this to you," he said. 

I didn't ask the simplest question though because I knew that he didn't have an answer. I didn't ask, "Why?" 

And if he gave one it would somehow include fear, responsibility, commitment, or the so frequently used, "I'm not good enough for you," excuse. That's what they are, they're just excuses for ruining a good thing, for all three of us. They're just excuses for not being a man in a time that his girls desperately needed the security. They're just excuses for staying within the confines of mediocrity because a mortgage, a ring, a commitment without the option of looking elsewhere was about to take precedence over his life. I know this all to be true. I know that's the reality behind it. But, it doesn't take away the feeling of being nothing.

But then I see that bookmark and I'm reminded that I'm a "keep it together-er." I've got to keep it together even when I want to just completely fall apart. Even though Dad called me his, I really think he was mine. 

Which brings me to my next point, which I've spoken about before (in 2016) but it's still incredibly relevant today and, I've updated it just a little with the italicized makers:

I am tired of being too much but I don't ever want to be not enough. 

Will I always be the one in the room that is "too much," of something? 

I don't want to be the harder choice but when comparing apples to oranges I feel like I've been the one that you have to trench through the Alps for instead of just heading into the backyard and snatching the fruit from the tree. But who wants something so easy? I guess a lot of people do. 

One of my best friends sat in my office with me two nights ago. She just sat and she listened and she cried and what she told me in the end made so much sense but then made none to me at all because I don't experience myself as someone else. I'm just ... "Grace." 

She said, "You have a way of making those around you want to be better. And sometimes that is too much for people. Those people are selfish though, they'd rather be comfortable than better."

"But I never asked for anything this time. I was happy," I answered.

She continued, "You don't have to ask for it. It's innately in you. You have a way of making those around you want to be better. And that's a great thing. He didn't, he couldn't, be better and he knows that." 

I think too much. I know too much. I share too much. I'm too loud. I'm too intimidating. I expect too much. 

None of that is true, yet all of it is. 

I do think too much. I overanalyze situations and they set up shop in my head until the issues are resolved. I have a dreamer's mind so while I'm picking apart my current situation, I'm concocting new ones in my head. It's a magical way to live but it can be lonely and disappointing too.

I can know too much. I'm overly observant and smart enough to retain it all. It being a broad range. But this is something that I am proud of. I don't want to suppress my curiosity, intellect, or vocabulary to make someone more comfortable.

I obviously share too much. I trust quickly, so I get disappointed a lot. And I'm not one that has her guard up. Maybe I should learn to hold up a shield, but you'll know what's on my heart and mind. It will never be something you have to guess. It shouldn't scare you.

I do expect a lot but I don't think I've ever expected too much. I expect people to keep their word. I expect people to tell the truth. I expect people to dream and work towards their goals. I expect people to be kind to one another. I expect people to communicate. I expect people to remain loyal.

You may get too much with me. But no matter the type of relationship, you have all of me. You have loyalty. You have a faithful companion. You have someone that's proud of you. You have someone that supports you. You have someone that was too much for someone else when that someone else decided to settle for someone easier. And who wants easier? Easier isn't happier or better, it just takes less effort. I'll be sticking with those that want to give me that.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Monday Revelations


I had a genuinely bad Monday. Hours I spent in my little nook at Starbucks with a continuous stream of tears rolling down my face. Alice didn't want to watch me cry but she did anyway. The tears weren't over a man who isn't a man but many layers of my life. And hours after I left the shop with my hair and bag smelling like coffee, I could feel my eyes still puffy and at the slight mention of any of their names, I was a goner. 

My biggest revelation from the past two days? 

I would feel better if my Dad were here. 

His advice, his safety, just the comfort of knowing that one piece of my foundation wasn't missing would really help me push through the turmoil and the pain that I'm currently experiencing. And that pain is over everything and everyone, not just one man who did me and Claire wrong and, "hey, Grace, get over it," is what they're cackling about in their hideaway home. It's all of it, together, all at once. Do you understand? 

I keep being told that I'm "strong," or "you're tough as nails," but I don't feel that way at all. Okay, so I have some guts to post and write the things I do. I have enough self-worth to expect what I deserve and I have enough confidence to speak the truth whether it's within the tapping of my keyboard or, to someone's face. But, I feel wilted. I don't feel like "Grace," at all. And I'm tired of not feeling like that woman we all know - some of us love, a few of us loathe, a lot of us don't understand, and a couple of us are scared of. 

Last night I went to dinner with Ian and Jennifer. I was holding Claire as I walked to the table and that's when I spotted the two boys. Immediately, I felt that nauseating pit in my stomach and I tried holding back the tears.

"Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry," I told myself as I walked over. 

"Where's {insert his name here}," one of the boys asked. 

I just looked at him trying to think of what to say through everything that was bubbling up inside of me.

"Oh, don't you know," is what I managed to counter.

They both looked confused, nearly worried.

So, I told them the truth. We weren't together anymore and their look of "why," had me spill it. The why and the who else shortly followed.

Shock and disappointment painted their face, and I wanted to crawl under the table and disappear. Knowing that the new job and relationship were all mixed together didn't sit right with them, and that says something, they're only teenagers. 

I left their table for mine and felt sick. I didn't feel like I handled the situation appropriately. I was overly-sensitive and couldn't think straight before the words came out. So, I went back and apologized. 

"I am so sorry for just dumping that on you two. Like hey, actually your coach is an ass so," I began.

"Do not feel bad at all, seriously," one of the boys started.

The other continued, "I would have said it way worse." 

I felt terrible hours after and planned to reach out to make sure to give a more clear-headed apology. But instead they reached out first with a message on Instagram.

I got home that evening with a sweet note tied to my doorknob. It simply stated that they were there if  me or Claire needed anything, we were in God's hands, and they were sorry that the situation had ever happened. And then the knock at the door came. I opened it to find the two of them standing there with flowers and cookies. The sweetest of gestures, making me proud of my hometown all over again, it's really sad when teenage boys are apologizing on behalf of a 30+ year old man for his actions. 

Claire tried to flirt with them for the few minutes they were inside. We talked a bit about the situation and the one comment that stood out to me was,

"You came along and we all were like, he's about to get married!"

"Yeah," I said, "I think everyone thought that. Everyone kept telling me that he was so different with us." 

"Well yeah, he was," he replied, "didn't y'all just go to Disney?" 

I feel guilty for their realization and their disappointment but never bad for the truth being told. Obviously, I could have handled it with them better from the very beginning. But I also feel like it happened for a reason, another reminder that outsiders saw what the close circle, and I, all felt. It was a completely perplexing blindside. 


What I forgot to mention to them was how I found out about the other woman, because a teammate's father had spotted them together at church - the Sunday before Easter. The same Sunday he sent that "heartfelt" text message to my mom about loving and missing us. The same Sunday that came before the Monday when he came to talk with my mom, for hours, about marrying me and how much he loved us and our future together. So, when his story is that he was broken up with me by that time, it isn't true. Because we were still very much together, his things were still very much at my house, and the "I love you's" were still spilling out of his mouth like hot butter. 

Want to know another revelation I've had?

I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone that I felt like I needed to keep a tight leash on from day one. I wouldn't want to question every word, every action, or feel the need to go through his phone at night or in the morning. I wouldn't want the anxiety of wanting to know who he talked to that day or played around with on Twitter. I've felt those things inside of a marriage before and it tore me up mentally and physically. I wouldn't want to be the one on the leash either because one day, I'm going to want to break free.
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Monday, April 23, 2018

Everyone

I remember thinking, "I get myself into the weirdest situations," before I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I turned around and was greeted by a very tall man with a broad chest and blue eyes. Normally, he'd have blonde hair but it was buzzed, probably for his job. An army paramedic with a silly, romantic sense of humor, I was instantly entranced.

We spent a good amount of time talking about death that evening. He had seen a lot of it but I had only seen a small dose in comparison, the difference was that it was two people that I loved. To which, he had a hard time comprehending, the death of someone he cares about.

"Do you want to know what the saddest sound in the world is," I asked.

I could feel the tears sting the sides of my eyes. It sounded incredibly pathetic, but it was true, what I was telling him.

He nodded.

"The echoes from your own cries. The ceilings are pretty high in my house so if I ever have a breakdown, late at night, alone, they fill the space," I explained.

"And what were you crying over," he asked me.

"Everyone," I answered.

He grabbed the back of my neck, tenderly, and gave it a light squeeze, "I would too. What you've experienced is fucking brutal. But the fact that you will always relate your family's deaths with him, that's just human. That's not your fault. It's harder to detach from all of it because you feel like you're going to be detaching from your brother and Dad. I'm not sure he realizes that but it's obvious he realizes that he is only as good as he will ever be. And you've already surpassed him."

"I know," I replied, "I rationally know all of that. I don't even want someone like that within my life, or my circle. It's not that I want to reverse anymore. It's that I want to forget and I never will. He will always be the one that was there when Nick and Dad died. I could never fathom someone doing what he did. And that's the replay I have. It's not getting over him. It's getting over what he's done and the fact that he does not care."

He stopped me, "People do what he did all of the time because people are shitty and selfish. But the timing, it was cruel and deliberate. He hit you at your lowest when you were completely out of control of your emotions and knew you were suffering. That's cold and he probably gets some type of disgusting thrill out of it. He needs help, Grace."

"You are a stranger and you've figured it all out," I stated.

He laughed at me, "Just because I'm a stranger doesn't mean I'm an idiot or I don't care about you. That's my job, to care, to save lives. But we're all human."
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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Chase, Chase, Chase, Chase, Conquest

Apparently discernment only takes 24 hours, or less than. That's how much time it takes to consider whether or not to allow a man known to be a cheater to be with your children. One who lied to you. One who has a very lengthy history of shuffling through women like a set of new cards. One who wanted my daughter to call him daddy but is now driving someone else's kids around in the car that he just took my daughter's car seat out of. Apparently, it's an easy decision, whether the Holy Spirit is going to bless that emerging relationship.  

Two and a half weeks ago he sat in my parents' home professing his love for me to my recently widowed mother.

But now, he's moved on, playing house with another woman and her children. I've come to realize this woman, he was right about. He is not good enough for me, but he is good enough for her. She accepts less than mediocrity. She accepts a faรงade, one that's already been played out. The morals and standards that I've set for myself, my friends, my home, and my child, there's no comparison. 

They win. And he was oh, so right.

I am too good. He is undeserving. 

Here's why: 

I am not easy. Not in the matter of easy to get along with but you have to work for my respect and my trust. And he did, he played every line that I drew out in a way that had us all believing. Now, that's what he's doing with her. He is amazing at playing the role. He's amazing with children, he is patient, he is reliable, he's consistent, until he has to stop playing and actually start doing. That's the catch. He wants the relationship and the family, but without losing his freedom or watching his options run out. 

He used to get mad at me. He'd get upset that I wouldn't ask him to do specific things around my house or ask him to pick up certain things at the store. I would consistently, for months, repeat, "That's not your job, I'm not putting that on you."

But he begged, and begged for the responsibility. I fully gave in to all of that responsibility and promise in March. That was the first time I actually needed him. That was the first time throughout the entire relationship that I was really asking more of him. And that's when he disappeared. That's the game.

Chase, chase, chase, chase, conquest. 

I've said it before, Claire and I were a prize. I believe I was more of a novelty, knowing that he could get written about was a plus in his book. He showed us off proudly.

Everyone sees the switch though, and will question why there are new children in your arms at basketball games. They'll ask where that beautiful little blonde is, the one that would call out your name while she watched you coach and tell everyone that you were "her boy." 

I give him credit. He's smarter than he looks. He's got the gameplay down to an art form. He'd have an answer to all of my hard questions.

I asked back in the fall, "Are you sure you're not just a commitment phobe?"

"No, I just hadn't found the one until now," he answered. 

It took a month for me to allow Claire to even see him.

And even after that, he'd come over only after she went to bed.

The first several times he slept over, he slept on the couch.

We were together for three months before we had sex. 

We were together for four months before I ever let him be alone with Claire and that was an emergency because my father was taken to the hospital. And even so, my best friend joined them only a few hours into his this first "babysitting" experience. That was the same day I came home from witnessing Dad get a temporary trach put in and had to be greeted with an argument on how I should be allowing him to have more responsibility around the house and with Claire. 

We were together four months before he snuck that key and officially moved in.

We had a chat about finances and I suggested that he pay the difference in bills. He did it happily, and we split groceries. 

We cleaned out my closet at the end of February, getting rid of excess clothes so he had two shelves and two racks all to himself - to which he really, really pushed for. 

You see, I did not treat him like my husband before he treated me as his wife. In fact, he referred to me as his wife at those basketball games. Instead, it was very much the opposite. He quite literally was begging for it all. That's a part of the game though. He will do and say all of the right things until you succumb or, until he gets bored.

It's actually concerning, how one can just move from one serious relationship to the next without a break. Like his mom told me, "He won't break up with a girl until he has another lined up."

But even more concerning than him, is the woman who allows herself to be the scapegoat, knowingly. Because she believes she is the exception and not the rule.

My little girl looked up at my mother last week and asked her, "Grandmom, where'd {his name} go?" 

"He had to go away baby," she answered.

"But why? Who made him go away," Claire continued. 

I could see how upset Mom was but she was trying to hide it, "He made himself go away."

If anyone wants to know why I still get angry, it's that situation right there. My daughter hasn't forgotten and is still questioning what the hell happened. How Claire isn't at the forefront of his mind is incomprehensible to me. It is incomprehensible that the relationship that was cultivated between all three of us was thrown into the wind like nothing more than a paper receipt.

What if Claire witnesses this? What if Claire sees him holding another little girl's hand and playing "rent-a-dad" like one of my friends so eloquently referred to him as? There was no transition, there was just a move from my front door to hers - with the occasional drop off at his parents'.
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Discernment

You don’t mess with somebody’s someone.

That’s all the discernment that was needed.

I received an apology from the other woman this morning but I’m not sure if it was genuine in nature. Did she want my blessing? Did she want to save face? Or, was a guilty conscience really eating away at her?

I would give her the benefit of the doubt and assume the latter should she have told me that she was finished being played by him as well. Instead, she is currently praying about the situation and evaluating. It’s a little late for that, don’t you think?

The situation is black and white. Whether she wants acceptance from me or not, to which I won’t be giving, the way they unfolded won’t ever change.

Lies. Cheating. Mourning. Scheming. Hiding.

I wouldn’t want that to ever be a part of my love story. But maybe that doesn’t bother her, to each their own. Like I responded though, I appreciate the sentiment but I cannot give my blessing or accept an apology while she is still tied to him. Discernment is clear. I also let her in on a multitude of facts, words, situations concerning him that are purely truth. We have tangible evidence concerning the majority. And I say we because there are witnesses and friends to those words.

In fact, after my in-person chat with him last week on April 12th, he took a phone call from one of my friends. To which he explained his feelings of both love and happiness within our relationship but also that he does not feel good enough for me. He never mentioned the other woman. 

My question to her is, would you want to be the one he is insulting by way of this comment? He isn’t good enough for me, but he's good enough for you? I wouldn’t want that to be said to others which is why I let you know. It wasn’t to hurt you but to help you - to which you didn’t deserve the help. Because, you knew from day one what kind of man he was. You told me that you were waiting to see but any man who does what he did WITH you is not the man of God that one would assume you’d want to find.

I wish I had been warned. She was. I wouldn’t wish these feelings or trials on my worst enemy. But then again, she was perfectly okay with his behavior while it suited her. Discern all she likes but what’s been done cannot be erased and that icky feeling we all get in our stomachs when we’re up to no good may subside with time but the memories won’t.

It’s easy and comfortable to have someone next to you. It’s hard to say no. It was hard for me to repeat “get your things” that night. And I said it through tears. But I knew that I had to. I had no choice but to save myself and my daughter. This other woman knows I am not lying to her. There’s got to be some kind of pit in her stomach that tells her something isn’t right. It’s not a fantasy love connection. He has those with everyone.

The woman before me was his lost high school love. I think she hates me, and I understand that. But I hope at some point in time she knows that I did not have even a whisper of warning about her until a couple of weeks ago. And me? I was the girl from high school he never got a chance with. He watched me from afar for years and couldn’t muster the courage to speak to me. Mind you, neither of those stories were spoken to just us women, they were told to our friends. But their story? I'm not sure it can ever be spun enough to make a beautiful beginning.

He used this new woman as his scapegoat from reality. He whispered words to her to make her feel like she was extra special and different from the rest. She was the reason he could change for the better. I know that feeling all too well and it's so easy to get sucked into it. He used her place as a means to run away from putting his money where his mouth was, metaphorically and figuratively. It was time to grow up and start walking the walk he was so keen on participating in and guiding me through. He's not chasing the game. He won me and then left me because the fun was over. But the joke is on him, my prize came in the form of clarity for seeing what he really is. 

She just really wants to believe him, and I understand that. I wanted to believe him too. I still do. But I’m also smarter than that. I’m also smarter than to become a pawn in their cover up. You can’t cover up the fact you brought a very attached man into your home when the idea of entertaining him should have never crossed your mind, instead it should have been a big, bright, glowing, red flag to run.

She’s got to realize that I was told the same sweet things. The same “I’ve never felt like this before,” it was told to me ... the same was told my mother ... the same was to told OUR friends ... How can you be “baby” now when just a couple weeks ago I was told that I’d always be his baby as he walked out my front door with bags in his hand - headed to your house? And if it’s not your house, or your bed, it’s another woman’s. Within less than one year he’s moved into three women’s lives, in a way that was selfish, cruel, and clearly ... wrong.

“Grace, there is no one else. There never will be anyone else,” he repeated.

Strange isn’t it?

That’s called getting played. And right now he’s out of moves. The only move he has is the only woman that’s giving him an option. The only move he has is to save as much face with the option that has his new job attached to it because it could get really, really hostile on the bench. A job that he wanted to further his career and “family,” - his reference to me and Claire, not my own.

Signing off with a whole lot of Blue Devil Pride ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™

P.S. I suggest taking a really good listen to Taylor Swift's "Getaway Car."
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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Keep It Movin'

"As far as him - maybe I care, maybe I don't. Maybe it was forever, maybe it was fun while it lasted." - the other woman

I pray her little bit of "fun" was worth it, because it came at the expense of both my own heart and my daughter's. I hope they sat together and laughed about what they did to two, yes you guessed it, innocent people. That's not true love. That's not love at first sight. That's not a fairy-tale. Relationships, blessed marriages, a solid foundation, and trust do not begin the way their story together did. 

But her words, "maybe it was fun while it lasted," are nauseating because it lasted through a fellow woman's grief over her beloved big brother, over her incredible father, and heartbreak over her man. It's important to note that those incidents did not happen over a long period of time either. Instead, it was all at once. All of the major, important men in my life were ripped from me and my daughter at same time. I apologize to her that I could not just "keep it moving" as she so humbly suggested I do. I apologize for bursting her "fun" bubble. No, I did not "win" the man because that is not a prize to be won. I do have my dignity and a hoard of people that have my back to remind me that I am not the waste that they both treated me like.

I was at the cemetery talking to my dad, asking him to go tap my boyfriend on the head and enlighten him a little while they were having fun. I was at the cemetery asking my dad for advice. I was at the cemetery asking my dad to fix one last thing for me before he was gone forever:

"Daddy, if there's one more thing you can fix, don't even do it for me, do it for Claire. She loves him just as much as I do." 

His mom was right all along, he was getting bad advice from someone who didn't have his best intentions.

...


January 27th, 2018

The day was nearing on perfection. We got to watch her eyes bulge out of her head on Test Track, I watched the two of them share a giant, chocolate sprinkle donut for breakfast, and we explored every one of the countries around the World Showcase. I realized that we worked together nicely, the three of us were like a well-oiled machine. It felt like home. 

Since we had extra time to spare, we figured we'd hop in line to ride Frozen over at the Norway pavilion. The time was checking out at 40 minutes which was incredible for a line that's usually at 120+ minutes. 

We read the stories on the walls and teased each other. Eventually, Claire wanted me to hold her. She was tired of standing and was trying to nudge her way into mine and his conversation. 

"Who you love Mommy," she asked me.

I giggled, "You baby."

"I love you," she pointed at me and then took her finger in his direction, " and you." 

I gave her a tight squeeze and then she looked at him and asked, "Who you love?"

His smile grew wide and he used his two fingers to point at his two girls, "Both of you's." 

It was one of the many indirect ways that he told me he loved me before his official, "I love you," on February 5th. 
...


March 19th, 2018

I was anxious and the only thing I could think to do was to call Jennifer and ask her if she knew where he was. There was a slight possibility that he had been in touch with Ian or even hanging out at their house and if he was, I'd at least know he was safe.

"Hello," she answered.

My voice was shaky as I asked her if they had heard from him. 

She knew something was wrong, "No, we haven't. What's up?"

"Can you come over to my mom's," I asked. 

There was no question or hesitation. They piled their boys in the car and were over within ten minutes. We all took a seat in the living room as I retold the events from the last two days. 

Ian was sitting on Claire's big, pink puffy chair on the floor and he looked perplexed. 

"So," I began, "do you think he's cheating?"

"No I don't," Ian quickly answered, "Because why would he?"

Then he went on to tell me that the last time he had heard from him was two mornings ago, which was the same day this all began. That morning he was texting Ian about his new job and even mentioned my name in his decision making. 

Jennifer said, "The first thing I said to Ian when he was done with that conversation was that he's getting ready to propose. He's getting all his ducks in a row." 

That put my mind at ease a little. Why would he cheat? We were incredibly happy and every day there was mention of our future together. 

I kept looking at Ian for hints though, he'd tell me if I really needed to worry.

"He just needs to come home. It's just cold feet," Ian explained.

I felt the pit in my stomach subside a bit because I felt that way too. He was so confident all of the time. He never made me feel like his feelings had changed or he was straying. Instead, he was so good at making me feel secure, without questions. 

"Look Grace, ultimately your care for someone else changes your care for yourself. You see the best you and you want to be that. It's a selfish and selfless thing, but if you think giving that person the best you is what's best for them, that's what you do. And we all saw him do that for you, you change for the people you love," Ian reassured me. 

...


April 15th, 2018

10:40 AM

I called my mom to ask her if she'd rather have a slice of pumpkin bread or a blackberry chocolate chip muffin. Sunny and I were checking out a coffee shop in town, named Please and Thank You, so I figured she'd want something to try when I got back later that day. 

"Hey you know what I'm doing," Mom said.

"What," I asked.

I could hear Claire chatting in the background before she replied, "I'm looking at cruises, just something to do real quick. They're going out of Mobile again."

I don't know what about that sentence triggered me. I started wiping the tears from under my lashes so my mascara wouldn't run. I walked to the corner so I didn't make a scene after making eye contact with Sunny from across the way, she knew I needed a few more minutes.

"Mom, all my last memories of Dad have him in it too. My last conversation was about us moving together. Dad was happy about it," I cried.

Mom began to get upset now, "I know Grace, I don't even know what to say because I'm having a hard time too." 

That was a realization that almost made me crack. The moment I learned that my brother was found dead in his apartment, I was staring at his face. The day I found out that Dad's cancer had spread, he listened to me cry. The last moments I have with my father have him in them too, every one of them. And that's painful. I, again, am so sorry that I could not "keep it movin'" like I was advised to do. 

8:30 PM

I was texting with Jennifer again. My biggest wonder is if any of it was real, which I was explaining to her. Did we all miss the red flags? Did I do all of this "prepping" with him for someone else to reap the benefits of the man he had been becoming with us?

Jennifer: That's impossible. She brought him in the way he was and accepted the behavior. That's like feeding your toddler candy every morning and then suddenly asking for vegetables. It isn't going to happen. If you had been her there would have been no "prepping" because you wouldn't have even allowed him near you.

And she's right. I wouldn't have ever been in her position. If he was so willing to up and leave, if he was willing to be sneaky and conniving, I wouldn't have wanted a man like that no matter how many sweet nothings he was whispering into my ear. I would feel awful about myself too, for knowingly causing pain to another when it was never necessary. 

Jennifer's text continued: I say this constantly to Ian..... it's human nature to try and get away with as much as you can. We are programmed to do the bare minimum until someone expects otherwise from you. Ian says all the time that I have "high expectations" for everyone in my life and it's true... and clearly laid out. My kids know exactly what I expect from the, Ian knows exactly what I expect from him.. and not in a dictatorship way, just in a "I know this is what you're capable of," way. She IN NO WAY would ever set an expectation remotely close to what you subliminally expected from him. And the fact that he ran from you and went to her.. automatically shows that he wants someone that wants LESS OF HIM ... not his best self.

I felt every one of those words because they were so true. What's ironic is a few weeks ago I had sent him a text myself reminding him of how wonderful I thought he was and how he was everything I had wanted, there was no need to build some picture up in his head of what he thought I needed. He did not need to be the man my dad was. He just needed to be the man he was with us all along. 

My text included the words, "You are more than enough for everything in your life," and my God I meant it. I wanted to remind him that I was there and I believed in him. If this was truly a case of fear and cold feet, he didn't need to be because I wasn't going anywhere, I'd be supportive and by his side for the entire journey. But I guess, that man we all saw wasn't someone that he could keep playing the role of.

11:01 PM - present time

It's darker throughout the entire house than I would like it to be. Claire is asleep and I'm still warm from the bath. The television isn't on. Instead, the only sound I hear is coming from the laundry closet, washing the clothes I wore on my weekend away, along with the tapping of the keys under my fingers. And those fingers have developed slight tremors. 

I'm like a broken faucet of feelings. They're constantly pouring out. And despite the support I've received over the last few years, it's really hard juggling grief and heartbreak at the same time. It's really fucking hard because ...

The thing is I loved him. It was a completely real love for me. And it deserved for me to fight and put the pieces together. He may not have deserved it, but the love did. All of the time that we had spent together, that time deserved the fight. She didn't deserve for me to go without a fight either. She wanted her trophy and to feel special, I think it's safe to say that he made me feel pretty damn special and in his limelight long enough to fool an entire town. But her, he had to keep quiet. He won't mention her name. 

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