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 Dyck," 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 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." - a message sent from 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 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 moving'" 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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Friday, April 13, 2018

I Love You, Just Kidding


July 15, 2017 

Unbelievable to think

Maybe I’m truly happy

Beneath all the broken rubble

Right in front of me

Everything is taking shape

Listening to her words intently

Learning everything I can

About the woman under the umbrella
- written by him

 ....

During sex, he whispered in my ear, “Could you make love to just me for the rest of your life?”


I nodded, breathlessly. The question caught me off guard but not in the usual way that I would respond which included nausea. Instead, it was a clear answer, “Yes, absolutely, that’s what I want.” 

…. 

We were up really late one night laying on the floor of my living room. The only light in the entire house was the glow from the television. My head was on his chest, and I was rubbing the side of his face where his stubble was settling in. He grew out his beard and shaved his little soul patch because he knew how much I liked the look on him. 

I wonder now if he’ll shave it all. 

“I’ve never,” he began but paused. 

I could tell it was important and he was trying to choose his words wisely. He often did that. When it was a big deal he would pause every two or three words to make sure he was conveying what he actually felt. But maybe that was where he was so good at his games, he knew how to tug at my heart strings and act accordingly. 

“Yes,” I replied. 

Tears were forming in his eyes as he started, “I’ve never really been proud of who I’ve been with. But with you, I want everyone to know.” 

“Is that why Ian called you when you changed your relationship status,” I asked. 

He laughed, “Yeah, I’ve never done that before.” 

…. 

The first time my heart was broken the hardest part was the paperwork. Claire was too young to realize what had happened and although I vividly remember sitting on the couch in the living room crying and saying, “I’m so sorry,” to the back of her head while she played, she didn’t realize that someone was missing. But this time, the questions are excruciating and I feel guilty. I thought I did everything the right way. 

I keep going through the timeline. I keep replaying all of the times that I made sure he knew where the door was. Every time a promise was made I would reiterate his words and say, “You realize what you’re saying right now is a really big deal.” 

He’d reply, “Yes, I’m 100% confident.” 

Despite what his new side piece tried to give me advice about. He was asking for all the responsibility and accolade, I did not "make him my husband before he made me his wife," he was jumping through hoops to get me to even entertain the thought of us being serious. 

He was so confident that he was telling me how confident he was in our future just two days before I found out that there was another woman involved, with children of her own. 

He pushed me. I was very clear from the beginning with a handful of things which included. 
  • My name is Grace Fleming. 
  • I am a mother. 
  • I write about my life.
  • I am independent.
  • I don’t need you.
  • Don’t fuck with me. 
  • There’s the door. 

He pushed me nonetheless. He pushed me into allowing him to move in. He sneakily stole the spare key from the basket one morning, and came back after work to find me and Claire still snuggled up in bed. 

“How did you get in,” I asked. 

He grinned, “I just grabbed the key.” 

I rolled my eyes and let him keep it. I knew he loved us and I knew he was just too shy to say anything yet. 
…. 

The first time we had sex we did it on the living room floor with a condom left over from my previous relationship. I didn’t find it gross, I mean, it was new and in the wrapper of course. But I did find it ironic and that, I enjoyed more than the sex. 

…. 

In December, my best friend received a text from him. Out of the blue he decided to tell her that he realized that he loved me. He wanted to marry me. They exchanged thoughts on rings through Instagram and I received wind of the realization a few weeks later. But like I said, I knew he did. I could feel it already, I didn’t need to push him to say it. 

…. 

I was kind of a hard ass. He would talk about the future and I’d say, “Well, yeah, if you’re still around,” and snicker. But he persisted. 

He’d tell everyone that he wasn’t going anywhere and that I’d be his wife one day. 

…. 

Then his talk of marriage turned more serious. Around Christmastime, I was complaining about my house. Too many bad memories were inside and I wanted to break out. 

Eventually he told me, “I want to be married and out of this house within the year.” 

“Oh okay,” I thought, “I better get on board with this or I’m going to miss the train.” 

…. 

February 5th came to call and he planned an elaborate “redo” of that terrible day of mine. Dinner with a gift card leftover from my marriage – I enjoyed the irony here too – and dessert at The Melting Pot. He was so excited he told one of his closest friends about his “scheme.” 

On the way home, he blurted out his first “I love you.” 

I giggled, “Well, where did that come from,” in return. 

I teased him a bit and then made him stop the car. I pulled him towards me and kissed him, “I love you too.” 

He had a sweet, surprise on his face. He didn’t expect the return. But I did love him. I loved his snaggle tooth and the fact that he’s insecure about it. I loved how he would tiptoe across the hardwood floor if he didn’t have socks on. I loved how he pouted his lips when he slept. I loved how his winks made him look like he may have Tourette’s syndrome. I loved that he loved to show us off. I loved how he would look me up and down like I was something new to see every day. I loved how he would tell me that I smelled delicious, or how his hands would sneak under my shirt and glide over my shoulders at night when he wanted a kiss. 

…. 

Valentine’s Day was another sweet surprise. Rose petals traveled from the living room back to both my own and Claire’s bedroom with treats for each of us – including wine train tickets for us to conquer in August. He fully expected a life together and he was planning for one, until he got a second look from someone new. 

…. 

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. 

…. 

There was no reason we should have been late to my own father’s funeral. There was no reason to give me a hard time about being emotional and anxious. But there was a reason, and he’s sitting at her house right now. 

He never got the chance to ask my dad for his blessing. That’s what he said he was waiting on too. He wanted Dad to get better. Instead, in the mix of this new life unfolding, Dad passed away. And a week after we buried him, he left for a basketball tournament and never came home. I waited up. I didn’t know where he was. I didn’t know if he’d been in an accident. And quite frankly, half of my family had literally died within two months, I was suppressing a panic attack thinking the worst. Instead, I was told the following morning that he had decided to sleep at work. And that’s where two weeks of a personal hell began. 

I hadn’t even started to grieve for my dad. I pushed that to the backburner as I began to scramble to salvage a beautiful relationship. One with stability, security, and what I was naïve enough to think was a solid foundation. I barely had any communication. There were a lot of things I needed in the wake of my dad’s death and it certainly wasn’t for my partner to become MIA. What I did receive was a story that included being overwhelmed from what had just happened to my family, a bad dream, fear of change, an unknown feeling, but, and I quote his words, “My feelings for you have never wavered. I love you and I love Claire. I want us and our future, no doubts. I am 100% confident.” 

He wanted to go seek some counseling. He wanted to “fix it and come home.” That’s what I continued being told. We gave him the benefit of the doubt but I had my suspicions. And, he came home after two days. I woke up with a text that included, “I need to see my girls,” and “These past few days have really opened up my eyes to how much I’ve missed y’all.” 

My thoughts were, “Well, thank goodness. Come home and we’ll figure this out together.” 

So he did. He came home. We fell asleep kissing as I was curled up next to him. And then he got up and got Claire ready for school the next morning, because that’s what she wanted. But when he shut the door to my car as we jetted off to school, that’s when he walked out of our lives for a second time. 

Throughout those days I wasn’t told where he was staying, I wasn’t told where he was or who he was with. The communication was cut and I was onto to something that smelled a lot like bullshit. 

When push comes to shove, the truth always comes out. And fortunately, it unraveled far quicker than I could have imagined. The Sunday before Easter, he was seen at church with who someone else had perceived as his “new girl.” Which was quite startling considering the text message he sent my mom that same morning, which read: 

I do love them, of course I don't want to lose them. That's all I've been doing is thinking about them. I can't stop thinking about them. I'm tearing up now typing this because they are always on my mind. Which I think is one of the reasons I've been "avoiding" because I'm upset and sad. And I know she is too obviously. I don't know how to fix it. I feel like the only way to fix it is to fix myself. I miss them like crazy I really do. They are the best thing to happen to me and I know I'm ruining it. And causing a bigger issue. 

Later in the evening on that same Sunday, he told me that he had to see me and Claire. He missed us so much and needed to come home. The next day he came up after work and talked to my mom for hours. She grilled him. She listened to him. And the outcome was, that he loved us and wanted to get back to normal. He was so far in his head and the fear of change, marriage, and growing up had become too much. 

But as he said, “there is no future without you and Claire,” and I loved him so I was going to help him through this rough patch. I’d take care of myself once my feet were steady again and he was home. 

We had a talk of our own after he finished up with my mom. He explained his visit with a counselor. He wanted to pounce on me and make sure that all of the body parts he loved of mine so much were still intact. 

“It’s all yours if you come home,” I reminded him. 

“I kiss you for 30 seconds and my peen gets hard, that’s ridiculous,” he giggled. 

He left to go tell his mom that we were on the right path, back on track, and stay the night with his parents from there on out. And that’s when I knew the lies were real. 

He never stayed with his parents. I learned about his church date on the Wednesday after it had happened – two days after our little rendezvous in the basement. 

He denied it. 

“We’re just friends. Her name is irrelevant,” he defended on the phone. 

I reiterated, “If it’s irrelevant and she’s just a friend then give me her name and prove it. And if you don’t get your ass up here I am going to sprinkle all of your shit on several lawns around town. It’ll be like a treasure hunt.” 

He was already in the car. He was telling me he loved me, and wanted to marry me while making the drive. But when push came to shove he couldn’t rummage the proof and I had to tell him to take his things. And that’s when the story changed. 

“Baby, I love you. But I just can’t do marriage. I know I want to marry you. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, you’re the best person I’ve ever met. I just can’t do marriage. I can’t do it ever,” he cried. 

“Okay well, I never asked you to. You put that pressure on yourself,” I rebutted. 

All the way out the door he was telling me he loved me, that everything in him feels as though Claire is his little girl, I’d always be his baby, and my favorite quote of the night, “There is no one else and never will be anyone else.” 

There was only a small flicker of doubt that I had when he left that night. Thankfully, my friends are great detectives. The process of elimination exposed her name and addresses are public record. And thankfully again, his car was at her house at the right time for me to find it on the evening of Easter Sunday. He told his mom he was going to a co-worker’s house to sleep the day away but his car was seen parked around back of his new girlfriend’s house. 

So what did I do? I told our friends and family in a way that exposed his true color. On Facebook I wrote:

PSA: I need a date to two weddings in May.

Book #2: Leave Your Jordans At The Door (especially if you're a cheater)

And that vague piece of information rocked my inbox for a week. People were reaching out to me that I hadn't spoken to before. His best friends were offering me their support. There were so many things I had been blind to or lied to about the past. But mostly, the consensus was clear: they all wished they had warned me in the beginning, but they really thought he had grown up and changed with us.

He called me the next morning. But calling to pacify me wasn’t going to work. And changing the story again to pacify himself wasn’t going to work either. The timeline is clear. The proof is real. And whatever version of the story that will be told to friends, family, or his new girlfriend can be burnt in an instant which are one of three: 

“Marriage was brought up and I started ring shopping and I got cold feet and left.” 

FALSE. I kicked you out when I found out you were a cheater. Also, marriage wasn’t “brought up.” You started talking about it. 

“I knew it wasn’t going to work but then her brother died and then her father died and I felt bad.” 

FALSE. You were head over heels for me, baby. So you probably shouldn’t have been so vocal of that throughout text messages, public conversations, and social media if you wanted people to believe that. 

“I basically talked myself into loving you.” 

FALSE. See the above proof for that one. But this is also my favorite, this is what I was told personally after blasting his true colors. Trying to hurt someone after they’ve been through multiple, impossible situations makes you cruel. Fact is, I was naïve enough not to ask more questions. I was naïve enough to let you use me like you’ve used others. And fact is, I realize that I was a novelty; a prize to you and Claire was your toy. But fact is, you picked the wrong one to do it to. 

Those are what he will tell family and friends. He won't speak of the new woman to any one else. Instead, she has become an irrelevant part of the story. Or is she? 

....

April 12, 2018 

"It's what I told you before, I outkicked my coverage with you," he said. 

"Then why can't you be like, damn, I'm a lucky son of a bitch and hold onto me," I asked. 

 He had tears in his eyes, "I'm undeserving."

"I haven't even deleted your photos off of my phone. I can't do it," he divulged. 

He then proceeded to explain that he felt it. He felt different and happy. He felt like he had become a better version of himself. But then, his old ways started to creep back in. He said he knew that I had the power to hurt him, so he ruined us instead.

"This was different though. Usually, in the past, the girl would do something that would trigger it, but you did nothing wrong," he continued. 

I walked away from the conversation in pain, I felt it in my chest and in my head. Because although he kept saying the problems came from him, the only thought rolling around my mind was, "I'm not good enough to stay, again."

....

April 13, 2018 

My hands were shaking but I didn't feel angry. I felt hurt. I felt like I was on the precipice of completely breaking, until I metaphorically gave myself a slap in the face.

"I am not stooping to this woman's level," I said on the phone to Alice.

I took the advice from some friends and reached out to the "other woman." I needed to get my closure in the form of facts. Was he really telling her all the mumbo jumbo he was telling me? Because, if that was the case, surely she wouldn't be so keen to allow him in her bed. She needed to know and so did I.

But she did not like the facts. She saw them as a threat, and I cannot be sorry for that. I am not sorry that she threw a temper tantrum providing her "truth" in a way that maybe made her feel better about the situation for the moment. To belittle me into feeling "less than," while he tells me and others that he actually didn't feel like he could ever measure up, I wasn't going to go that route and hurt her when she was clearly hurting as well. She can make fun of me and provide me with details of their "instant chemistry," which, unfortunately, was a line that was used in the beginning of our relationship as well. 

I'm confident he'll be able to spin his truths and sweet talk his way into her bed again. He's extremely good at that, although, he can't do it to any of us anymore. Maybe one day she'll wonder why his friends turned their back on him. 

But, I'm not only changing the locks this time, I'm changing the whole damn house. 


To her,
Do you know that it eats him alive to know that I've kissed someone else since him? Do you know that he checks on me throughout the days, curious as to what I'm doing? Do you do this a lot? Do you allow men into your home, into your bed, that came directly from another life with another woman? Do you know that he feels as though he wasn't good enough for me but he's good enough to climb into your bed at night? Do you know that he feels like this is the biggest mistake and regret of his life? Do you know that he isn't over me yet? Do you know that I tried to warn you? Do you know that I would have had your back if the tables were turned? Do you know that he's a liar? Do you know that if you had reached out to me in the beginning I would have respected that? Do you know that I would have never tried to purposefully hurt you more with words? Do you know that I am not mad? Do you know that I was just destroyed over the period of three months and you could have thrown me a bone? Do you know that your temper tantrum gave me the closure I needed? Do you know that when you did that I had the realization that he was right, he isn't good enough for me or my daughter? Do you know that he has a pattern? Do you know that you're a part of it? Do you know that he won't ever be able to give you a ring? Because that ring will always have been meant for me, a second runner up to the one that got away.
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Monday, April 9, 2018

Revelations Fall Into My Lap

I bathed in blue, and then sat in a towel on my bed while I watched her fall asleep in my spot, on the right. 

It was getting warm in the house, finally, and my phone kept buzzing for me to answer. After two missed calls, I picked it up.

"Hello," I answered.

He scoffed, "Well, I'm on the damn road already Grace you could have picked up."

"Sorry, I was in the shower," I replied.

That wasn't a lie. I mean, technically it was. I was actually in the bathtub, and I could have definitely answered the call, but I was drowning in thoughts and salt scrub instead. 

"Am I stopping by or what," he asked.

I paused for a minute and thought, "Should I let him stop by? Should I let him come in my home and sit on my couch for a few minutes to forget?"

"Yes," I stated simply.

I pulled on some black tights and an oversized gray t-shirt. Brad had seen me at my best and worst at this point so there was no use in scrambling to put on makeup. I combed through my hair and sprayed it with some perfume that my ex had gotten me for my birthday. And before I walked out, I kissed my little girl on the cheek and whispered, "Loving you," into her ear before making my way to the living room. 

I threw the dirty laundry in the basket, put her milk in the fridge, and I plopped down on the sofa. That's when my phone started buzzing again. And that's when new revelations fell into my lap. 

It's amazing how much I've learned in the past few weeks. And it's amazing how I didn't go looking for any of it. Although my ego is bruised, and my self-confidence has taken a hit, it's nice when someone wants to reinforce that they see what someone else failed to. It's even nicer when it's someone close to that someone else. 

Eventually, there was a small tapping at my door. It was Brad. 

"I'm about to be really cheesy," he said.

I rolled my eyes.

"Let's write a really, really good story tonight," he continued. 

He lowered the light in the dining room and pushed me up against the column by the front door. But I lost it. Instead of melting into his buttery scent and rough hands, I turned my head and started to laugh. And then he started to laugh. But eventually that laughter was pressed up against my neck, and I was able to forget for just a few minutes longer. 

I told him I wasn't feeling well and that we could continue our novella sometime later this week. I really just wanted to get back on the couch, grab my phone, and finish the conversation that had begun before Brad had ever knocked. I was more intrigued and interested about this divulgence. A divulgence from someone that seemed more genuine than the three weeks of previous conversation that I had been having with the someone who loved me.
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Saturday, April 7, 2018

I'm Not Ballsy Enough

PSA: I need a date to two weddings in May.

Book #2: Leave Your Jordans At The Door (especially if you're a cheater)
...

I swallowed the embarrassment and took my power back with that post on Facebook. 

I wouldn't describe myself as ...

Vengeful enough

Ruthless enough

Bitter enough

Or even ...

Ballsy enough

to expose the truth of how a very public relationship of mine was extinguished. Instead, I had enough self-worth to not allow someone to get one over on me. I was played. It was humiliating, but if Claire was in my shoes I would teach her to stand up for herself.

I may have ended up being just a name on a list for him or just another notch on his bedpost - although, it seems like it's never his bedpost that he's carving into. But as I told him, "You did this to other women but I'm not the one that's just going to shut up and cry about it at home."

There are so many books on the shelf that come from real-life events. And at this rate, I don't think I could have even made up the events of my last four years and how every page unfolded. We don't question these books while we read it because we don't know the people. We read, relate, and we enjoy. The difference with a lot of my readers though, is that they KNOW the people so their opinion on what I write is skewed.

"She shouldn't say that. She shouldn't tell that," they think.

My question is, "Well, why not?"

We walk into book stores and movie theaters everyday, and we are entertained by stories that others have already been through. Someone went through that, and other people know those people personally, and you aren't questioning it because you don't know them yourself.

The good is there. The bad is there. The funny and the personal is there too. Because that's how stories - plays - movies - and music become so relatable and beautiful.

If I can use heartbreak. Or mourning. Or joy. Passion. Anger. And refocus it on something creative and to further my career, then that's what I have the prerogative to do. If someone didn't want to be written about poorly, he/she shouldn't have done bad things. And they shouldn't have ever DM'ed me in the first place knowing that it was a possibility. 
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Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Night To Forget

Currently listening to: So It Goes by Taylor Swift

I'm not a "get under someone to get over someone" else kind of gal. I'm not a dreamer in the love department either. I don't meet a man or chat with a dude and instantly think of how our life "could" pan out if we could only go the distance. I'm also not a woman who can jump straight into the arms of another man after be held so tightly by another. But do I like distractions? Of course I do. Do I like attention? Yes, obviously. 

So, when I got a text from an old flame, I was ready to rock'n'roll, at least for a night. 

I hadn't been to Brad's house in around a year and a half. The driveway was dark, and I saw his head peeking out the front door as soon as I parked my car. I rustled my hair a bit, and tried to swallow the pit in my stomach that had become a permanent fixture for the last two weeks. 

I walked along the stones and didn't raise my head. I was embarrassed. As much it felt good to expose the truth, I made mistakes too. I allowed myself to get caught up in the fantasy that he was offering. It didn't matter how many people had reached out to me and said, "We're so sorry this happened to you and Claire, but finally he messed with the wrong woman," because it still happened and I had no control over the affects of it concerning my daughter.

I scuffed my shoes on the concrete steps and nearly fell off the side of the porch. He giggled at me and caught my wrist. 

"You look different, Grace," he said once his eyes reached mine.

I laughed, "I'm different every time you see me."

He guided me into the dark room and locked the door behind us. There were hardwood floors and a rocking chair in the corner but that was it. It smelled like cologne and there was a cup of beer on the side table, glowing under a single lamp. 

I followed him into the living room and watched as he threw pillows off the couch. We sat down and I curled up next to him watching a muted TV mounted on the wall. 

It didn't feel right but it felt good nonetheless to have another warm body next to mine. He was a friend. He was capitalizing on my new trauma and getting a bit of lip out of it. He knew what he was doing, and I knew what he was doing, but it was a nice distraction.

And throughout the hours I spent there, I forgot. In between kissing and hands at the back of my neck, I forgot that a week ago there were other hands in my back pocket. I forgot that I had someone telling me that he wanted to marry me in the basement of my parents' house just seven days previously. I forgot that I had someone else pressed up against me in the hallway. I forgot until I didn't. 

And then I told the one who I was kissing, the one who's breath tasted of beer and Tic-Tacs, the memory that was creeping into my mind...

"What are you thinking about," Brad asked.

"A week ago," I answered.

He gave me a look that just said, "Spill it, Grace."

So, I painted the picture...

March 26th, 2018

He smelled like onion grass. This was a self-proclaimed thought. He needed a haircut and probably needed to brush his teeth because half of his lunch was stuck in his permanent retainer. But I didn't care because the way he looked at me with those puppy dog eyes was enough. 

We had a talk of our own after he had finished up with my mom. He explained his fears but reiterated his love. And then, he pounced while making sure all parts of my body he loved so much were still intact.

"It's all yours if you come home," I reminded him.

He said, "I kiss you for 30 seconds and my *peen gets hard, it's ridiculous." 

Brad laughed and interrupted, "And all the while there was someone else?"

"Yes, I had no idea but he had been with her the day before, at church, when he sent my mom the text about never wanting to lose us," I explained.

"Son of a bitch didn't deserve you. Hell, I don't deserve you here," he said.

Then I began laughing, "The difference is I am fully aware of what this is." 


names were changed in this, obviously
*penis


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