The meager Band-Aid patching the fresh hole in my heart created after the phone call finally came loose as my sympathetic response kicked in. My heart instantly beat faster and stronger which assisted the blood from gushing out of the wound. I started to feel lightheaded. I've never been the fainting type but am I...going.....to........ faint? I’m not sure if Chris caught me in his arms or if I voluntarily crossed the distance between him and me. But, I found myself in another man’s arms. It’s strange that Chris’ arms would be “another man’s” arms. Six months ago, he was the only man’s arms. He felt familiar and warm, but foreign at the same time. Then my brain received the blood it so desperately needed and snapped me out of my trance.
Stepping away, I asked “What are you doing here?” I was still trying to wrap my brain around that fact that he had just driven nine hours to see me.
He smiled that crooked smile and said “I’m here to remind you why we’re supposed to be together” as he bent down to claim a kiss. I pushed away. “Uh, there’s something I need to tell you…”
“Ashley, you talk too much. Why don’t you be quiet for a minute so I can say what I’ve driven all day to tell you.” I would have interrupted but frankly, I was interested to find out just what that was.
He pulled me down the stairs and down the forested path near my apartment building. He spoke about memories we shared and I listened. I didn’t interrupt.
“Ashley, I have been lost without you these past six months. I keep thinking you’ll come back, show up at my door, call me and tell me that you’ve been wrong, but you haven’t. I’m guessing this has to do with your new guy, but Ashley, it’s just a façade, a rebound. You know nothing can come close to what we have. “
He stopped and turned to look at me. I had tears in my eyes. I felt so many emotions. I was sad and reminiscent for the hundreds of happy times that I spent with this wonderful man. I felt sorry for him because he didn’t know what I knew--that I was madly in love and engaged to the man of my dreams. And I was a little peeved because I wasn’t sure of his motivation. Would he have come in the absence of a competitor? Or is this the brute state of a hunter fighting to hold onto what he thinks is his? My mind flashed to two male lions snarling at each over desperate to claim their prize of a wounded antelope. This was his last desperate attempt to hold on to the fraying string securing our relationship. He must have taken my tears as a good sign, instead of the sympathy that I was actually feeling. He continued.
“I know we’ve been fighting obstacles to get married these past two years. But I’m ready to do this the right way, in the temple like you wanted” Like I wanted? What about him? He pulled something out of his pocket and held a ring between his thumb and index finger. It was the ring that we had previously decided upon; a lovely round cut diamond in a tension setting.
It was the moment I had been waiting for and dreaming about…six months ago. Here was the man that I had dreamt about marrying hundreds of times. I had perfected writing my first name with his last name and thought about what our kids would look like. It was tragic to let that dream die, but I already had. I turned my head, squeezed my eyes together and put my right hand to my mouth. I thought I might faint again. He smiled and reached for my left hand. When he caught my hand he stopped dead. He noticed that my ring finger was already occupied. His eyes widened and he dropped my hand as if it were a baby pit viper ready to strike. His eyes flashed with anger and disbelief.
“What’s this?!” he demanded.
All of a sudden he was cold, detached, betrayed, clearly in shock. I reached out to touch his arm but he shrugged me off. He walked away from me and ran his fingers through his hair.
“You’ve known this Rebound for a couple of months and you’re ready to run off with him? I’ve been trying to get you to marrying me for 2 years!” Then he went off on a soliloquy about how I could possibly betray us like that, talking about me as if I wasn’t present. After a minute he quieted down looked at me again. “I want to make this work, don’t you?”
My heart plummeted. I hated hurting him like this. “That’s the problem, Chris. With our relationship, we were constantly working.” There were so many obstacles that I was worn out before the race even started. I sensitively continued “A relationship shouldn’t be so bipolar, so difficult. I set myself on fire for you for 2 years.” It was a cycle of warmth, passion, light and burns. “I loved you, and love you still, but we just aren’t supposed to be together. I told you that. At the time, I didn’t clearly understand why God told me not to marry you. I suffered; trust me. But I understand now, after meeting Parke.” I winced using Parke’s name. He was the one and only man for me but I knew using his name would further drive the dagger deeper.
He looked at the ring, rolled his eyes, wiped away a frustrated tear.
“I didn’t know you were so serious about this guy. You should have told me.”
“I know. I should have told you I was engaged. I’m so sorry.” This was a living nightmare.
After a candid conversation about Parke’s and my plans we walked back slowly to his car. He had another nine hour trip to drive that he wasn’t expecting to take so soon after his arrival.
The last thing he said to me before shutting the car door and driving out my life for good was “Be happy Ashley. That’s all I want for you.”
Doh! I would have rather him said something hateful or childish because those selfless words cut me to the bone. It further intensified the fact that he was the martyr and me, the persecutor. I knew I would be happy, just not at that moment. As he drove away, I knew it would be the last time I would ever see him or talk to him; and it was. The hard outer shell cracked away and I broke down. With shoulders slumped and shaking, I slunk back to my apartment. When the doorbell rang again, it was Parke. He took me into his strong arms when he saw the mascara painted down my cheeks.