Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Reoccurring Dream


To read this story from the beginning, please go HERE
This is a work of fiction based on a true story....   

A week before the wedding, I snuggled next to Mark, falling asleep in my dream-man’s arms, and I found myself once again in the same dream I'd had several times before....

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The landlord limped, leading me, my four children, and Mark, up the cracked steps of a rickety mansion. "Isn't it beautifully aged?" the landlord croaked, showing us room upon room. The wallpaper I’d remembered from previous dreams, had been peeling, but these walls had been freshly painted. The furniture pieces were still antiques, but looked as if reupholstered.

“Are you renting this place?” I asked the landlord.

“Well, it’s not just for rent anymore,” the man said. “You can buy it now.”

Mark held me closely. “I think I’ll buy it. It’s a pretty amazing house.”

So we bought the house.

Mark, the children, and I had grand parties there, with friends, family, and various acquaintances. No one ever commented on how different it looked from the last time I’d had this dream—apparently it was my secret alone. But still, I remembered what had been in that house—just behind the couch in the living room. As everyone sat in the front room, I'd always crawl with nerves: Hoping no one knew my secret. Desperately laughing at ill-humored jokes. Coaxing noxious words from previously dying conversations. Wishing anything would keep their minds from what lay hiding behind the couch.

And when everything was quiet. When my treasured guests had finally left. When Mark rested soundly in our gorgeous Victorian bed, and my children were fast asleep in their rooms, that's when I crept down the carpeted stairs, round the bend, to the couch where moments before, everyone had sat, enjoying life.

I grew so eager to move the velvety couch, no amount of weight could stop my ambition. I shoved with all of my might, then after little reward I kept pushing. After all, this was no ordinary house. This was no ordinary dream. And what the couch had always concealed was far more than one would expect. There had always been, inches above the floor a gaping hole! It had led completely through the wall, muddy with jagged roots spiraling down, down—hiding all of the terrible secrets of my life.

The couch finally slid and I prepared to see the hole, but it wasn’t there anymore! It had been patched up completely. I banged on the wall. Hit it as hard as I could, but the sheetrock wouldn’t bust. My secret place—albeit yucky and forlorn—had simply been barricaded away forever.

I sat, thinking that I could never go back to that terrible place. And for some strange reason, I missed it. Not as someone who misses a dear friend, but as a victim, who is struggling, still coming to terms with a healthier life.

I touched the baby-blue painted wall, wondering who could have blocked me from revisiting my nightmares….

The next morning, as Mark and my children ate breakfast in the dream, I turned to Mark and asked, “What do you plan on doing today?”

“More painting,” he said. And he pointed to a paint can in the corner of the room. I knew from the label, it was the exact same color as the wall behind the couch....


CLICK HERE to read more or this story.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Schmuck's Wife

If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story
The Schmuck's Wife
Facing the past isn't always what we might expect.
As I drove to breakfast one brisk morning, I thought of the last several months, and couldn't help feeling reflective. Mark and I had been busy making arrangements for our upcoming wedding. The kids were so happy and beginning to really excel in school again. And the only contact I'd had regarding The Schmuck wasn't from him, but actually from his wife.
    She'd sent me a very compelling letter, saying she'd like to meet because she wanted closure. "What do you think?" I'd asked my counselor the previous week. She studied me and then nodded, telling me that I might need closure as well.
    We'd agreed to meet at a charming breakfast place near both of our homes, but being super nervous I had arrived about twenty minutes. I shakily took out my phone and called to talk to my mom as I waited.
    "What do you think you're doing?" my mom asked. "You could end up dead!"
    "Mom! That's a bit dramatic. I'm here because we both need closure. She's almost divorced from The Schmuck--for real this time. And plus, she doesn't sound like the person The Schmuck described so long ago."
    "Gina. You scare me. Just be careful, okay?"
    "All right," I promised.
    I hung up the phone and paced in the front of the restaurant.  Then I stopped and looked around.  Oh shit, what if she was already there?  What if I looked stupid pacing and pacing.  I instantly went into the breakfast joint and asked the first waitress I found, "Have you seen a cute blonde come in here, looking for someone?"
    The waitress shook her head.  "Nope. Take a seat though, and come on up when your whole party is here."
    So I sat there, being eaten away by my thoughts.  I wondered what she'd be like. The Schmuck had told me dozens of stories about her--thinking about those made me want to get up and leave. I was honestly considering it when my phone rang so randomly that I jumped.
    "Hey, babe. You made it to the diner?"
    "Yes," I said, stepping outside again.
    "Your mom called me." He laughed. "She's worried too.  Just be safe like we talked about. I think this is pretty brave what you're doing. I know you're hoping this will help her. I hope it'll help you too. You know that what happened wasn't either of your faults. You didn't know they were still together. She didn't know he was cheating. It's his problem. I just hope this will help you realize this isn't you. And not all men are like that. I'm trying to show you every day."
    "You really have," I said. And as I contemplated his words, a gorgeous blonde drove up. 
    I knew The Schmuck's wife had arrived.
    She had this certain air about her, like a classic beauty who is timeless, sweet and kind.  Watching her walk toward me, I gasped. Her platinum hair bounced and she wore perfect designer clothes. This woman was a head-turner. Why had "The Schmuck" cheated when he'd had someone as beautiful as her!
    After she walked up, I shook her hand, maybe a bit too hard--out of awkwardness. Then we went into the restaurant.
    The waiter brought me my coffee and I was pretty freakin' thankful for a distraction. The Schmuck's wife and I sat across from each other, two sides of a coin that I'd never imagined flipping. "I didn't ever think I'd be the other woman," I finally said. "It wasn't my favorite."
    She nodded and took a sip of her water. "I just wanted to come here and hear your side of the story. I know there's good in everyone. And I'm not one to hold grudges."  
    I took a big swig of coffee, honestly wishing it was Vodka.  Then I tugged at my shirt's collar.  Why in the hell had I worn such warm clothes--it was pretty hot in that place. Yet I looked super-modest.
    "Well, we met when my ex-husband and I were still married," I began. "Things were going bad with my ex, real bad. I knew I needed out. And I couldn't talk to anyone. I was scared--terrified really.  The timing of it was crazy because we'd hired The Schmuck to frame our basement, and a week after he started the job, my husband and I got separated."
    "I've never heard this side of the story. Why did you two separate?" she asked.
    "There were so many reasons that I shouldn't get into. But The Schmuck came into this because my ex thought I was having an affair with him. He wouldn't let up, said I'd been dating him for months even though I'd known him a week! So right after we separated, I called The Schmuck and asked him to go to the mountains with me. He told me he was getting divorced. That the two of you were friends, but had been separated for a long time. Long story short, I kissed him in the mountains--told him I was in a real bad place. Then the next day I went and filed for a divorce."  
    She nodded. "He said that you seduced him. That he couldn't say no. That you were always wearing short shorts and tank tops. But seeing you now--I know he was lying."
    Yeah, cause I looked more modest than  a nun! My eyes widened as I tried nodding sweetly. Thank God I'd worn pants and a long shirt. He had lied about the seducing part, but he had not lied about my redneck clothes.
    "Listen," I said. "I'm gonna be honest about this. You are gorgeous!  Even prettier up-close in person. I'm so glad you're getting away from The Schmuck.  I know I've made mistakes. And I'm the queen of messing shit up, but I know one thing: I never would have kissed him or even started dating him if I would've known that you two were still together. And honestly I wish I wouldn't have kissed one until after I was legally divorced."
    "I didn't understand then. But I get it now. Divorce is hard."  She took another sip of her water and started looking at her menu. "Has he contacted you within the last several months?"
    I had to be honest. "Yes, he was saying that since you're getting divorced he wanted to give it another shot with me."
    She bit her lip. "He's been trying to get back together with me the whole time too. And come to find out, he's had a girlfriend this whole time."
    I don't know why, but it hit me so hard. I laughed and laughed.  Then as she stared at me, a smile slid onto her own face and she began laughing as well.  It got funnier and funnier because it was either laugh or cry. And our waiter finally came over. "You guys know what want yet?"
   "Can you give us a few more minutes?" The Schmuck's wife asked.
    "No worries," he said. "My best friend came into town last week and we were the exact same way--too busy talking to look at the menu.
    After the waiter left, turned back to The Schmuck's wife. "Another girl in the mix. He's something else."
    "Yeah. Lately, the more that I learn about him, the happier I am that I'm getting away now," she said.
    There was suddenly so much emotion in her voice. I met her eyes and I could've cried. I wanted her to know how bad I felt about the whole damn thing. That I'd never wanted to hurt her or her kids. That I'd never wanted to be the side show, everything short of the real thing. And also how bad I felt that I'd kissed him in the first place, because I was trying to find a crutch to help me out of my own shit.
    And as we looked at each other something strange happened to me--I felt genuinely happy for a person I'd really disliked months before. In the previous year, I'd been jealous, seeing pictures of how beautiful she was.  I'd felt like less of a person because she must've had something I didn't. But as I stared at her, I didn't give a damn if she was prettier, or nicer, or sweeter--or anything. I was happy for her. She'd survived a terrible situation, just like I had with my own divorce. 
    All of the jealousy and anger instantly fell away.  And I sat with confidence because I suddenly had to tell her something.
    "This wasn't either of our faults." I borrowed Mark's words. "I didn't know you were still together. You didn't know he was cheating. This is his problem."
    She nodded, "Yeah. We're strong and we'll both be better off because of what we've gone through."
    "Agreed," I said. And when we left that restaurant I felt like a terrible burden had fallen from my shoulders.
    I called Mark. "Come to find out the whole time I thought I'd been struggling with getting over The Schmuck, really I'd been trying to forgive myself, for being part of something that had hurt a wife and family the way that it had."
    "I'm so glad you met with her. What was she like anyway?"
    "Actually pretty freakin' awesome--nothing like he'd described her to be."
    "Figures," Mark said. "You feel better?"
    "Hey, you wanna go someplace with me?  All this closure got me thinking."
    And when I got there, Mark asked for me to jump in his truck because he wanted to head into the mountains.
    "You remember how we broke up and buried that time capsule, saying we'd catch up someday, dig it up and read it together?"
    I nodded. 
    "Well, you meeting with The Schmuck's wife, made me think of everything we've been through. I want to go dig up the time capsule and read it together today."
    "Wait! Let's dig it up today, but not open it until our honeymoon!"
    So it only took two holes until Mark found the mason jar time-capsule. He wiped the dirt off of it and I couldn't help hugging him hard. I remembered the letter I'd written to him and I could hardly wait for him to read it on our honeymoon. I also wondered what he'd written on his letter to me.
    "Life is funny," Mark said as we walked back down the mountain.  "You never know what new things will happen."
    "Yeah, like how The Schmuck's wife ended up being so sweet. Or how you and I thought we'd break up last year, and now we're getting married in a month!"
    Mark put his slightly dirty arm around my shoulder and walked near me on the path. "Can I tell you a secret? I never thought we'd break up. I knew I'd keep trying to win your heart, even if it took forever."
    "You're full of it."
    "Honestly! You know I'm so in love with you and have been for a long time."
    As we continued walking I thought of all of our memories together: my security job, the avalanche, the kayaking adventure, camping with the kids.... "Mark, when did you know that you loved me? Was it when I kissed you?"
    "Even before that. I wanted to be with you so bad. I just didn't know it would be this good."
    "I didn't either." I took the time capsule from him and grinned at it. "What a ride this has been."
    "And this is just the beginning." He held me closer as I closed my eyes for a moment and breathed in the fresh mountain air.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Surprising Proposition

If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story

A Surprising Proposition

Months passed and Mark, the kids, and I had begun to feel like a real family. Things went exceptionally well, until one day in mid-December....

I headed out the door and Mark nervously asked me where I'd be and how long I'd be gone. "I need to run some errands and make some copies of paperwork for my boss. I'll probably be back around 2. Why?" I asked.

"Ummm. No reason." He fidgeted suspiciously, maybe even looking guilty—of something. 

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After finishing my errands, I rushed home, wondering what I would find. There sat Mark, grinning over leftovers from a restaurant.

"Oh! You went out to eat?" I asked.

"Yeah. And it's none of your business who I went with." I think it was meant to be a joke, but it wasn't funny. My eyes studied him, and how he appeared obviously amused, dreamily peering out my front window.

What the Hell? I wanted to scream, Are you cheating on me? But after months of counseling—and being the good woman that I occasionally am—I donned a too-happy smile. "Neat!"

His eyebrows furrowed and he gauged my reaction. "Do you know where I was?"

I cleared my throat. "I have an idea."

"Huh," he said, then began staring out that freakin' window again like he saw Jessica Alba or something.

He seemed so twitter pated. Maybe he HAD been out with someone else!

As the next few minutes passed, I tried very hard not to let my mind go wild with assumptions, when Mark suddenly said, "You'll go see the Christmas lights with me?"

"Ummm...Sure. Let me go change. I'll be right back." And I put on the cutest red outfit ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET. If he was seeing someone else, I'd show him! Make him want me, and if he didn’t he could: Take. A. Hike.

I'd worked myself up so much, by the time I came down those stairs, I knew I looked pretty, with big red lips and perfectly smoky eyes—and enough base to last through an atomic bomb. My boobs were pushed so high, they practically hit my chin.

I smiled snidely as Mark's jaw dropped. "Holy shit, you look good." Hopefully better than the "Betty Bimbo" he'd been out with earlier. "Where did you get that..."

"Outfit?" I batted my recently acquired fake eyelashes. "I've had this thing forever." If forever meant two days....

Although I might have looked pretty, I didn't act it. I was pretty...irate.

We drove in silence, then after about thirty minutes, Mark parked and dragged me to a huge park lined with people, trees, and a Christmas village. Twinkling red, green, blue, purple and white lights dangled from every tree.

I wanted to stay quiet, and elusively mad. But instead I couldn't help getting lost in the beauty around. Snow drifted onto my face, dusting my fake eyelashes. I giggled, spinning, looking up at the majestic twinkling lights.

Mark held my hand. "Come on, baby!" he said, "Look at all of these lit-up houses."

We walked past dozens of houses. Each "home" stood about twelve feet squared, displaying various scenes of families at Christmas. And seeing each tiny Christmas house, I couldn't help grinning up at Mark.

He held me, nestling his chest into my back and holding his hands in the front of my waist.

"I love you," he whispered, holding me so tight that I never wanted him to let me go.

"I love you too," I whispered back. He had started leading me to a clearing in the middle of the houses and copses of trees when I couldn't stay quiet any longer, "Mark. Where were you today? I don't want to be a nag, or seem accusatory... But it's bugging me. Can you please tell me who you were with? Is she pretty?"

He looked like he'd swallowed a frog. "Well... I wouldn't put it that way—at all. You really want to know?"


"I'll tell you later."

I groaned and let go of him. But it was freezing standing alone and a shiver went up my spine, making me shake from the cold.

"Your hands are turning blue, Gina! Why don't you put them in your pockets and warm them up."

He said it really weird, like he needed me to put my hands in my pockets more than he needed oxygen. "Ummm.... I'm okay."

He frowned, his face framed by lime green lights that twinkled just above his head.

This whole conversation reminded me of another time I'd been out in the cold with Mark. He'd slipped hand warmers into my pockets, in case my hands were cold.

My breath suddenly caught, and no more misty clouds came from my frozen lips. Oh my gosh, I thought. Mark had probably slipped something into my pockets! More hand warmers?

"Seriously, why don't you warm up your hands?" he persisted.

"I'm really okay!"

I saw the longing in his eyes and bit my lip. "Gina..."

Stilling biting my lip, I slowly slipped my hands into my pockets and felt two hand warmers. As my hands fumbled in my pockets, I realized one of the hand warmers had something tied to it. My eyes closed and I shook myself. Was this a dream?

There was A RING tied to one of the hand warmers.

My hands shakily withdrew from my pockets and I looked at the ring laying in my palm.

Not from the monetary worth, or visible value therein the diamonds sparkled more than any of the lights above us.

"Gina," Mark said, kneeling down in the snow, in the middle of all those lights and Christmas houses. He didn't seem to care who saw him, or what they thought. He just stared up into my eyes, more serious than I'd ever seen him.

"I went to lunch with your dad today."

I gasped even more stunned.

"I wanted to ask him a question...."

Silence—for once in my freakin' life I had no response.

Mark on the other hand, had no problem talking. His low voice was so clear, so perfect, as his every word made my world shine for him and him alone. "I know it won't always be easy," he said. "Life can be uncertain and hard. But I wouldn't want anyone else by my side, through the good and bad, the thick and thin. My life is so different with you and your kids in it. I love all of you so much. And I can't think of anything that I want more than the chance to try to make you the happiest woman, for the rest of your life."

I refused to tear up. And I tried so hard, that I forgot to say anything. A bunch of people around, who had heard the whole spiel, leaned forward almost as anxious as Mark. One woman squealed, "John, why didn't YOU propose like that?"

I laughed at her words, as I continued peering into Mark's eyes.

"So?" he asked, slowly standing up, all of the color draining from his face.

"Of course!" I whispered, then threw my arms around his neck and squeezed him tight.

As we walked back to his truck that night, the lights seemed to twinkle even more. Children's laughter rang clearer than normal. And my heart fluttered with such a peace.

"What did my dad say?" I asked. "When you asked him for my hand in marriage?" I could just imagine Mark asking my father—who happens to be an awesome—albeit very intimidating—old-school construction worker.

"Your dad said he'd leave it up to you, but that he couldn't imagine you finding a better man."

"I can't either," I said, then looked down at my ring. I loved the ring so much, not because it was more than anyone had ever spent on me, or because it was absolutely breath-taking—I loved it because that little ring meant I'd get to spend the rest of my life with Mark.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A VERY Straight-forward Counselor

If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story
The Counselor we ended up seeing was a gorgeous red-headed woman. I instantly liked her--because she seemed sassy.
    "All I ask, is that you'll be honest with me, yourselves, and each other," she said point-blank.
    Mark and I both nodded.

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    "Well then let's start."  She sifted through mounds of papers before sitting down in a rocking chair that looked older than time. I peered around her room as she set some of the paper on her lap and took a sip of coffee. There was a mishmash of interesting objects and books all around. On one wall hung a humongous dream catcher. Another wall had a colorfully spattered picture hanging a bit crooked. I really wondered what type of woman this was--when she broke through my thoughts.
    "So you want to have a healthy relationship?" she asked. "Then I need to know how you fight--and don't tell me you don't fight, because you should know how someone fights before you marry them!"
    She turned to Mark first, who was obviously taken off-guard.
    "Well..." he paused. "Honestly, Gina can be really loud."
    "She yells," the counselor clarified--it was not a question.
    "Yes, she...yells."
    "And how is Mark when he's angry?" she asked me.
    "He pouts." I liked how direct she was--this was a game I knew how to play..
    "The biggest problem with marriage is discovering how we resolve conflicts."  She crossed her legs and her bright, pleated skirt swayed. I flushed when she said "marriage"--didn't she know we weren't even engaged! "So tell me about a fight you've had." She turned to me, her eyes piercing.
    A sigh left my lips as my thoughts bounced around, trying to remember a perfect example. I decided to pick a time from a few weeks prior, when neither Mark or I had handled a situation well.  "I had hung out with my friends a few days before, and Mark wanted to hang out with his friends later that weekend too. I think it's important for us to have time apart as well as time together. But later I found out there'd been a beautiful girl at the party--one I'd thought Mark had a crush on before he met me. He brought some people over to my house to meet me before going back to the party and when I saw her.... I didn't handle it well."
    "Mmmhmmm," Mark said, putting his hand to his forehead. We both knew where this story went.
    "They were about to head back over to his place, but before they could leave, I pulled Mark to my front door and said 'The two of you make a great couple!' Then I slammed the door in his face."
    "That wasn't the best. How did you respond?" the counselor asked Mark.
    "I knocked on the door and when Gina opened it, I said, 'I don't like her like that. Out of the two of us, at least I'm not the one who's dated a million people! I should be more concerned about this type of thing than you are!"
     The counselor cleared her throat. "So, at least the two of you are honest. What do you think about the ways you both reacted?"
     "I should have thought first before I reacted," Mark said.
     "Me too," I said. "I need to learn to communicate better instead of just accusing people."
    "And why did you say that to him, about the girl you'd seen him with?" the counselor asked.
    "I guess I'm really insecure. I've been cheated on before. I should have told him that instead of accusing him. But I was scared."
    "But you have to trust him at some point. Fear can push people away." She took another sip of coffee. "And Mark, I know it's hard stepping back when someone is being so accusatory, but if Gina does this again, can you try to gently say something like, 'Where is this coming from? Let's talk about it?'"
    He nodded. "It might be hard in the moment, but I'll try." 
    She studied both of us momentarily. "When the two of you learn to communicate and resolve these issues, I have a feeling you could be great together. Mark, you seem to bring a peace to Gina. And Gina, you bring excitement into Mark's life."
    We looked at each other and smiled because it really rang true.
    As we left the counseling session, we promised each other that we'd try to communicate better.
    "Relationships aren't always easy," I said. "But I'm willing to work to be with you. Sorry I can fly off the handle."
    "So can I," he said. "We'll get better at this. You'll see."
    We held hands, and instead of going straight to his truck, we walked down the block to a little Japanese restaurant and continued to talk about what both of us had learned that day. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Was He Cute? YES! Was She?

 If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story
Mark and I decided that each of the kids needed some extra attention so we started bringing them out alone with us. It was my son's turn and we'd brought him to the Lego store because they had a deal going where kids could build their very own Lego people....
    "Okay, what about this Lego body?" my son asked Mark. "Or this head? He could be an astronaut. Or a ninja!"
    "Or you could make a cop...with an cowboy face!" Mark replied, showing us a really odd-looking face he'd found in the pile.
    And even after we walked out of the store, the two of them went on and on about the Lego people my son had built. Excited, strutting toward the big glass doors leading from the mall, my boy said, "Wait, Mama. Take a picture of me and Daddy! You go on the other side of the doors. I have an idea!"
    My boy said it so fast, he hadn't even realized he'd said "Daddy," but the word wasn't lost on Mark. He'd stopped walking, kind of blinked a few times, then tenderly reached down and patted my son on his back. "What's your idea?" he asked, his voice sounding reflective.
    Watching those two smiling at each other, I wondered how much both of them needed each other--how they'd already impacted one another's lives.
    "All right," I said, clearing my throat on the other side of the glass doors, "you still want your picture taken?" 
    That's when my boy shoved his face up against the glass and said in a mumbled way, "Come on, Mark!"
    I didn't take a picture for a second and when I finally held my phone up, Mark's face was pressed against the glass smashing his cheek and nose into a blob of flesh just like my son's.  I took some pictures, and my son started laughing so hard.  His laughter was darling, completely contagious. I began giggling. The Mark laughed, still pressed against the glass an shaking with pure happiness.  I thought it was the best moment ever, utterly cute. And of course that's when my phone vibrated in my hand--a message from The Schmuck flashed on the screen.
    It's strange, but he was my boomerang. No matter how any times I sent him away, he always swooped back in.

Every time I have a hard time I think of you.

The text said.

I miss you, Gina. I really am getting divorced now.
It's terrible.
We can really make it work now.
I want to be with you.

Mark had pulled away from the glass and noticed that something was wrong.
    "What?" he asked, sprinting toward me with my son,
    "It's the Schmuck." I handed my phone to Mark and let him see the message.
     "Why won't this guy leave you alone?" he asked.
     "I don't know," I said. "We said our goodbyes. I don't know why he keeps trying. I wish you could tell him we're dating now--that he needs to have more respect."
    "You mean that?" Mark asked.
    "Yes, actually. I do. Text him back if you want." And I insisted that he keep holding my phone.
    Moments later, the three of us sat in my car: my boy playing Lego revolution, me driving a little bit too fast, and Mark...texting The Schmuck.
    I bit my lip as I drove, a little worried about what they might be saying to each other.  But I trusted Mark; he'd take care of this, somehow.
    My house was about forty-five minutes from the Lego store, but that seemed like forever. After about twenty minutes Mark set my phone down. "Did you think The Schmuck was really handsome?" he finally asked.
    I didn't know what to say. What WAS the right answer? I decided honesty was best. "He was handsome."  I took my eyes off of the road and glanced at Mark, who looked very sad. "WAS, but then after I knew who he really was, he didn't look very handsome anymore." I went on, trying to rectify the situation. "He wasn't the person I'd expected he would be--that changed the way I'd seen him--I started noticing things I'd ignored before." 
    This seemed to pacify him, until a few more miles sped by.  I wanted to know what he was thinking and I also wanted to know what he'd said to my ex.
    But his silence slowly killed me, like a bad addiction. When I was upset, I was honest and in-your-face. How could he remain so quiet?
    "You have everything," I finally said. "You're handsome and a good guy." He didn't respond. 
    We'd arrived at my house and my son ran inside excited to see his sisters--and probably get away from Mark the Mute.
    I checked my mail while Mark stood staring at the mountains like they held the meaning of life. "Are you okay?" I asked, flipping through letters.
    "I'm just a little upset," he said. "The Schmuck seems like a dick."
    "Yeah...What gave you that idea." I said it sarcastically.
    He didn't laugh though and instead responded with, "It sucks that you dated him."
    What was that supposed to mean? "Well, it sucks that you dated people too." I smiled, but said the words in a rude tone. He glared at me. Oh it was on! "Like that one girl you dated years ago. I saw her picture on Facebook--you thought she was gorgeous!"
    "Yep." He nodded, that man of few freakin' words.
    "What? You said she was gorgeous? At least I was nice with my answer."
    "You thought that was nice?" he balked.
    Not even caring what he'd just said, my thoughts went back to the "hot chick" he'd dated. "Her picture on facebook was cute, even if she does have a huge jawline." I shut my mouth, wishing the words had never come out.
    "Big jawline, huh! I never noticed that."
    "Heck yes you did! Doesn't everyone?" What in the hell was wrong with me? I wanted to stop--at least some part of me wanted to. But I couldn't even quit while I was ahead.
    He didn't respond for a moment, just turned paler and paler.
    "You know what?" I put my hands on my hips and stepped back toward my front door.  Then I stuck my hand out behind me and felt around for the handle. "You and...JAWS, you'd make a great couple!"
    I stepped inside, then slammed the door in Mark's face.

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    It didn't feel great. There was no victory, no satisfaction. I realized momentarily that we were both being incredibly stupid. And after about a minute, I opened the door to see Mark still standing there, appearing a bit confused.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say, and I didn't feel like apologizing, so I just blurted out the first thing that came to my mind.  "Do you want to go to counseling?" I asked.
    "Yes!" he nodded, and we booked the appointment the following day.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Have you ever had a stupid fight with your spouse?

If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story

That weekend, Mark brought his doberman to the house. She was absolutely sleek and very well behaved. I knew someday we'd be close, but I shied away, not great with dogs. The kids instantly loved her, petting her, not giving her a moment alone.  My children--and the dog--were so tired at the end of the night that they practically put themselves to bed.
    "You two better get going," I told Mark after a while, motioning to him and his dog, who was dead-asleep in the corner of the front room.
    "I just made you and me coffee though," he said.
    We walked into the kitchen and I had to laugh because even though he didn't live there sometimes it sure felt like he did.
    I went to grab a mug from my cupboard, when Mark sidled up behind me and started tracing my arms with his hands.  I exhaled, hardly able to think. 
    "I don't want to leave any more," he said. "This feels like home. I come here every day after work and spend every chance I can get with you and the kids. I do homework with the kids. I cook with you. I mow the lawn. You guys are everything to me--you're my family."
    "You really love those kids, don't you?"
    He nodded. "They're pretty amazing."
    I threw my arms around his neck, then tip-toed so I could hold him closer. We stood in my kitchen, for the longest time, me slightly crying as I hugged him, and him wrapping his arms so tightly around me, I hoped he'd never let go. 
    You know, life can be so strange--when I'd gotten divorced and later found out the Schmuck was married, I'd never thought I'd find a love like this. It baffled me how Mark could love us so much, selflessly making sure our needs were met, being a father-figure to the children, and the man I so desperately needed.
    I wiped my tears and kissed him on the cheek. "I would like to snuggle with you tonight. I miss you when you aren't here--I feel like you should stay tonight too."
    So we walked up the stairs, hand-in-hand, to my bedroom, and that's when the dog woke up....
    I really don't have a problem with dogs, unless they're sniffing my butt, barking, pooping, farting, or barfing.  Really, other than all of those things, dogs are all right. And I really liked Mark's dog until her face was practically glued to my crotch as I walked up the stairs.  I wiggled away, trying to seem all right, but freaking out inside.  Didn't he notice I was getting molested?  Instead of saving me, Mark laughed--like his dog was hilarious.
    "Oh, how...cute!" I lied, side stepping up the stairs.  I thought once we got to the bedroom we could leave his dog outside, but Mark invited her into MY ROOM before I even got to go in!
    I was fine with Mark staying the night--until he invited his dog to sleep by us.
    I cleared my throat. "You want her to sleep where, honey?" My voice went up an octave, sounding like a pre-teen boy during puberty.
    Mark rolled close to me and started kissing me. I wasn't in the mood, but I tried.  Then his dog was licking my neck!  I swatted her away, trying not to cringe.  
    Seriously, getting licked on the neck while I was kissing Mark--that was sick.  I instantly remember something my aunt once told me: "If a man asks another woman into the bedroom, she better be a "dog!" 
    I never knew exactly what she meant by that, but either way, this felt like a night gone very wrong
    After a couple of minutes--dog free--I slowly opened my eyes while still kissing Mark and saw his dog glaring at me from the other side of the bed.
    "Okay!" I pulled away. "I'm a bit creeped out!"
    "Gina!  I've accepted your kids. You can't accept my dog?"
    I wanted to, but wasn't this fast! It was her first time over and now she was in my bedroom--alone with us--AND she stared at me like she wanted blood. 
    "Yes, you've accepted my kids--and that means the world to me--but at least THEY don't sniff your butt!"
    Mark was livid. I was livid.  His doberman looked back and forth at us, panting--happily!
    "Fine, you want to stay the night in here with your dog? Great!"
    "Gina, you're being ridiculous!"
    "I told you I'm not great with dogs, that you'd have to ease me into this. Now she's in my room?"
    He went to touch my arm.  "Don't touch me!" I said, then I went out of my own room, and slammed the door so loud I was shocked it didn't wake up the kids.

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    Mark didn't come out for a while. So I paced back and forth thinking, I could have communicated that better.... He was finally going to stay the night.... Why can't I just accept the dog?  But I was taught that dogs don't even sleep in your bedroom, let alone your bed.
    I paced and paced. That's when Mark came out.
    "I'm putting her outside," he said.
    "Why don't you two just leave? Maybe we can try this again another time."
    His eyebrows raised, and he looked genuinely heartbroken.  "I really want to stay," he said, then without waiting for a reply, he put his dog outside, and gave her a treat.
    I folded my arms and waited for him in the TV room.  I somehow knew that I'd been wrong, that I could have handled the situation better, but I couldn't quite figure out why I was so mad. 
    After coming back inside alone, Mark remained quiet, waiting for me to say something.
    "What?" I asked.
    "Why are you so upset?" he queried. "I know you said before you don't like to have animals in your bedroom. I didn't think it was this big of a deal though."
    That's when I exploded. "I told you I wasn't okay with something, and you did it anyway." And suddenly my anger made sense. "The men I've dated never listened to me. If I said I didn't want to do something, they didn't care--somehow we'd end up doing it anyway. Their hobbies became my hobbies.  Their dreams had to become mine.  I couldn't be myself, or say what I wanted! I always had to be nice. Did I want Chinese?  No, but I had to eat it and hardly ever got a chance to choose the restaurant.  Could I use conditioner, no because one guy I dated didn't like it!  Could I wear makeup? No, because I looked too pretty and other people checked me out.  Could I get new clothes? No, they cost too much." I paused then fearfully said, "You might be just like them."
    "You can't really think--"
    "You might be!" I interrupted.
    I expected him to yell at me, act like others had in the past. Instead, he calmly folded his arms. "Are you done yet?" he asked.
    I wanted him to yell, be angry. I wanted to feel something other than this uncertainty and fear. If he yelled, then we could have it all out for each other and make up--it would be fiery--and somehow it would feel like love had in the past....
    "Why aren't you angry?" I shouted.
    "Maybe I am. But I'm not going to yell back. I'm not like that.  And I'm definitely not like those other guys you've dated."
    I was sobbing now, so lost in memory. "They knew how to get their way. With money. With time. With...sex."  I cried so hard.  He tried holding me, but I pushed him away and leaned against the wall. "And you!"  I could barely see him through the tears.  "I never have to be someone else with you.  You listen when I say 'no.'  Mark, you never push me.  You respect what I say. But you didn't tonight. I've been through some hard things.  I need to be with someone who respects my choices. And maybe you can't do that! I know this seems like something small, but that's how it starts. Next thing you know, I'm stuck in some shitty situation again, the shell of who I really am, a mirror of whoever I'm with.  I don't want to be a damn mirror anymore. I want to be myself."
    "I'm so sorry," he said, slumping down.  "I understand what you're saying. I'll get my dog and go.  I promise you, though, if you tell me something is a big deal to you, I'll respect what you're saying."
    He went to the back door, but I stopped him. "I'm so sorry, too!  It's hard for me to understand where all of this is coming from. Maybe I need counseling. I just hope this makes sense." I took a big breath. "You...meant what you said; you're not like those other guys?"
    "I just want you to be yourself."
    My body suddenly felt so exhausted.  My arms reached out for him, and he held me close, stroking my hair. Then he gingerly picked me up and carried me to bed.
    "You're tired, baby," he said. "You need some rest."
    "Will you please stay?" I pleaded. "I'm sorry I got so upset. I could have expressed myself a lot better."
    "I'll stay," he nodded, "but if it's okay, I'd like to stay up and drink another cup of coffee and write. Can I use your computer?"
    "Sure," I whispered. And I couldn't believe how tired I was.
    The next morning I woke up really early. Even though we'd fought, it was the best feeling in the world to wake up to feel Mark's arms around me. I gently moved from his arms, then tip-toed down the stairs to the back door and let Mark's dog inside. She seemed so happy to see me that I let her follow me into the kitchen.
   I started making Mark and my kids breakfast.  Mark's dog rested next to me, looking so cute that I had to give her some bacon. After each child woke up and hugged me--and the sausage sizzled in the pan--I realized my computer was open to a Word document that had my name on it.
    Spatula still in my hand, I went over to the computer and read the words as my kids pet the dog and chattered happily. 

    Yes, we both make mistakes. But, Gina, no matter what, I want to be old with you, feeling young 'cause we're together. Love can carry us through all of this. It doesn't age. Its back doesn't go out it doesn't get arthritis, it doesn't need a motor. It doesn't lose its hearing or become forgetful. It is what keeps on when the years get late and our hair is grey. Its what can heal and get both of us through anything. I'll work as hard as I can to be here for you. I want to be old with you yes, but I want to feel young with you forever.

That's why I have faith, 'cause I've grown into the man I am now and I know what I want and need and I choose where I'm meant to be. That's with you.

    "Are you okay, Mama?" my baby boy asked because I'd been covering my mouth with my free hand. as I read
    "Yes." I nodded to him and grease dripped from my spatula. "I just feel like a jerk," I said, then looking up, I spied Mark walking down the stairs.
    My three youngest kids squealed before running to Mark and hugging him. "You stayed! You stayed!"
    Mark's dog ran up too, wagging her tail.
    "I knew he'd stay," my little boy said. "That's why he brought us an awesome dog!"
    "I'm so excited," my middle daughter smiled, hugging him again, making it so he could hardly walk down the stairs.
    "You let the dog in, huh?" Mark's eyes widened. 
    My oldest daughter had remained by me. At this point, she whispered, watching her siblings, "It's weird, Mom, but sometimes I think we need Mark even more than you do."  I wondered what she meant, but I didn't have time to ask because she went over and hugged him too. "Parent teacher conferences are tonight. You promised you'd go!"
    "Wouldn't miss it for anything. All that homework we've done, you better have good grades." He smiled down at her, obviously proud.  And I found myself again, stunned by that man.

Sunday, August 16, 2015



If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story
I peered out the window, admiring my favorite mint-green tree. It's a strange thing how certain objects can mean so much to us for previously unforeseen reasons....
    Once, that tree had meant nothing to me; in fact I'd thought it was an ugly color and quite twiggy as well. But my cat had loved the tree, basking in its shade, always rolling or stretching contentedly in the grass at its base. In fact, my cat had loved it so much, after she died I buried her in the tree's shade, knowing there's no other place she'd rather be. 
    Staring out the window that day, I was in a nostalgic mood, thinking about how much I'd missed my cat after she died. How things come and go in life. How much I'd lost over the years: my innocence when I dated the Schmuck, my husband years before we were ever divorced or separated, my resolve at many points.... But just like that tree, new things were becoming meaningful in my life, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.
    I'd nearly lost Mark too--this thought brought a whole other slew of emotions because things were going rather well again with him. We weren't moving fast, but instead enjoying our time together for however long that might last.
    He'd come over to cook for me and the kids. We'd watch late-night shows together, snuggling after the kids had gone to bed. We'd go fishing early in the morning, eating a crappy sack lunch that tasted like Heaven just because Mark was there with me. And even though he didn't stay the night at my house, I gave him a key so he could stop by anytime he liked.
    That particular night, Mark had planned a romantic evening for us. I hired a sitter so we'd have the house to ourselves for several hours that night, just as Mark had requested.
    I didn't know for sure where things would go. But for the first time in my life, I shed many uncertainties--some that had been with me for years--and learning from Mark, I just began to enjoy life.
    It was almost time to drive the kids to the sitter as I stood looking out at my favorite tree.
    "Do you still miss our cat?" my middle daughter suddenly asked me. "Because I do."
    I hugged her. "Yes, I do. I know she didn't pass long ago, but look," I pointed, "the grass is growing back around her grave. You wouldn't even know we buried her there. And at least we can go say 'hi' to her whenever we want to."
    My daughter nodded.
    "You guys almost ready?" I asked, "It's time to go."
     After dropping the kids off, I received a call from Mark. "Can you stay out for another half-hour?" he asked. "I have a surprise at the house for you, but it isn't ready yet."
    "Okay," I said, not even hiding the excitement in my voice.
    When I finally arrived home, the sky had darkened fully and candlelight flickered through my front windows. The main level of my home had transformed into an energy-healing spa or massage therapy office! Mood music played softly from the lit-up computer; flutes and a synthesized keyboard harmonized with soothing tones. Candles lined literally every nook and cranny throughout the house, and the best smells wafted from the kitchen.
    But once in the kitchen, instead of seeing the roast or stew I'd expected, only a bunch of white candles sat on the counter.
    "Mark?" I whispered.
    A trail of candles led down the stairs, so I followed them to the backyard. My breath caught in my throat as I opened the backdoor--that's when I saw it...
    Mark sat so masculine and handsome, surrounded by a ring of candles at the base of my favorite tree--ON TOP OF MY CAT'S GRAVE. 
   My hand instantly covered my mouth in horror.  What kind of sick joke--I'd never told Mark about my deceased cat; why was he having a séance on her grave!
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    "Gina," Mark motioned me over, completely oblivious to my freak-out. He pointed at two steak meals resting next to him in the ring of flickering candles. But all I could stare at was the slight pool of red surrounding my obviously rare steak.  My cat had bled the day she'd died. It was--that same damn color.
    "Oh!" I choked out the word, taking a seat next to Mark, disrespectfully sitting over my dead cat all because of love. As Mark talked, I wondered if I was sitting on her entire body, or just one part, like her head or butt.  Did it still look like it always had?  Had it decayed already? Was it covered in worms because I'd done a shitty job burying her!
    "Take a bite," Mark chirped, so freakin' happy!
    The meat on his fork oozed blood. His teeth gleamed sharp and white.  
    My throat remained tight, as I tried to stay calm, but every time I took a bite of steak, I thought of how the cow was dead...and so was my freakin' cat. And what would SHE think of us having a party on her grave anyway--how damn sacrilegious was that?! I just knew she'd haunt me forever after this. 
    "Are you okay?" Mark finally asked, getting a clue.
    "Everything is..."  I turned pale like a vamp.
    "Okay?" he pro-offered. "I've tried so hard to make this night special. What is bothering you?!"
    "It's just that..."  I didn't know how to tell him. He'd tried so hard to make this romantic.  "It's just that," I repeated. "Don't hate me for telling you this instead of just enjoying the moment. But there's something you should know... There's a dead body buried...right underneath us."
   "You're kidding?" he asked, and I noticed he'd stopped chewing the piece of steak in his mouth.
    "No," I said.
    Mark paled, then swallowed that huge piece of steak. I watched it slide slowly down his throat. He held so still a bit of reddish steak juice dripped from his beard and his round, rabbit-scared-eyes studied me until he knew I wasn't joking.
    "Who," he cleared his throat several times, "is buried underneath us?"
    "Sam," tears filled my eyes, "my childhood friend. Maybe a foot under--okay maybe six inches!"
    He scooted slightly away from me. 
    "What?" I balked. "You're judging me! I'm not the one who made a picnic on her grave!"  He didn't respond. I would've buried her deeper, but the ground is hard out here!  I couldn't dig farther than that!"
    "Oh, thanks for clarifying."  He cleared his throat--again. "Who cares how deep you dug the hole! Why is your childhood friend buried--IN YOUR YARD?"  Mark wore this I-should-have-know-this-was-too-good-to-be-true face. He stood up and stared at me with laser-eyes. "You aren't going to answer me--oh this is sick!"
    My jaw fell open, appalled. "You're upset I buried her in my yard?"
    He nodded vigorously. "A-huh! I just want to know how she died! You know this isn't normal."
    Well wasn't he inquisitive, Mister Ring-of-Fire himself! "Listen Mark, I buried her where I wanted to. She loved this tree. And I don't want to sit here and tell you all about how my cat died.  I sat on her grave already, I don't want to relive the entire thing."
    "Yeah, my cat. I already told you that--thanks for listening!" At this point, it dawned on me that maybe, I'd been so upset, I hadn't said she was a cat. "Oh my gosh, Mark...you thought I buried a--"
    "A Sam-person. Not Sam the cat."
    I forgot that I stood on my deceased cat's grave. I forgot that Mark had created the biggest fire-hazard known to man.  I also forgot that I'd probably just scared the shit-balls out of the man I loved.
    "Mark, I'm so sorry." Then seeing his horror-stricken face, I found the misunderstanding so amusing I laughed until I nearly had a six-pack. I snorted and giggled, completely red in the face and almost dripping snot. 
    Then instead of being angry, Mark actually laughed too. 
    "Of all the romantic things I could have done," he finally said, "I made a picnic on your cat's grave and then I surrounded it with candles."
    "It does kinda look like a freaky ritual," I confessed.
    He agreed.  "You wanna move this picnic to another part of the yard or should we just give up on tonight?"
    "Let's relocate!"
    So we moved the entire shebang, candles and all, to the other side of the yard.  We actually had a wonderful time.
    "This is a night we'll never forget," Mark said.
    I looked up into the night sky, wondering if my cat was somewhere up there, laughing her furry ass off.  "You've got that right!" I said, then I blew out the candles and snuggled into Mark's arms.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Camping Trip to Remember: Just Like Jurassic Park


If you want to read this story from the very beginning, please CLICK THIS.
Based on a true story

Days and weeks passed. I missed Mark more than I’d imagined; I’d go to sleep thinking about him, and wake up wondering if I’d ever feel his arms around me again. When I thought I couldn't bear the heartache any more, he called.
    “Gina, I want to be with you and the kids. It’s where I belong.”
    I plopped down on my bed, flustered. “But you can’t have a baby with me,” I said. "That's not something you just get over."
    He didn’t respond, and the silence dragged out until I continued. “You’re a single guy who has never had kids, never been married. Why would you want to be with an emotionally-damaged woman who has four kids?”
    “Listen, Mark.” I held the phone close, then leaned back into a pillow and closed my eyes. “I wouldn’t choose this situation. Why should you?”
    “I’m not choosing the situation.... I’m choosing you.”
    My heart fluttered.
    “I know we might not get back together, but can we at least try something?” he asked.
    Part of me wanted to just say ‘no.’ We’d already tried and it hadn’t work. But then I was too curious. “Like what?”
    “I want you and the kids to come camping with me. For a weekend. We can see how it goes with all of us together.”
    It did sound fun. And the kids had wanted to go camping. “Okay. We'll leave Friday?” I asked and he quickly agreed.
    So we went camping. The kids had the best time paying Boochie Ball. We all took a hike together. Mark and I set up two tents with more ease than I’d expected. It wasn’t until the kids were “trying” to go to sleep at night that things went awry.
    My eldest girls slept in one tent while Mark and I slept in a separate one with my two youngest kids. I didn’t snuggle with Mark—worried about getting even more attached if he decided this was too much commitment for him. Instead I slept in the middle of him and my youngest kids.
    It was pitch-black, when something scurried near the tent. I immediately pulled my sleeping bag up to my face, eyes darting, and made sure that Mark and the little ones were okay.
    The scurrying continued. And I had just snuggled back into my sleeping bag and closed my eyes, when a hellacious growl vibrated through the air. My older daughters began frantically talking in the tent next to ours. “Holy… Did you HEAR THAT?”
    The growl rumbled again, closer. Then the most terrifying sound of all filled the air—the sound of an animal in the throes of death. I shook Mark, but he rolled over—grabbing my sleeping bag—and snoring loudly.
    “Shit!” I whispered, terrified.
    “Mom,” my oldest daughter screamed. Then, because they’ve never seen Jurassic Park, my oldest daughters turned on a flashlight that was so bright I could see it wavering back and forth even from inside of my tent. “Shut up,” I screamed, an oxy-moron. But seriously—they were about to lure the beast right to their tent! Didn't they know light attracts danger!
    Their high-pitched screamed filled the air as the flashlight continued shining here and there and freakin' everywhere. I unzipped the tent, and had just managed to fumble into theirs when they both rushed at me, nearly knocking me off my feet.
    I snatched the flashlight, quickly brought them over to the big tent and told them to HUSH UP or we’d become bear food!

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    They ended up snuggling into my sleeping bag and I squished next to Mark who had finally woken up.
    “What’s going on?!” he asked, big-eyed, gorgeous and COMPLETELY oblivious.
    “An. Animal. Died!” one of my daughter’s said ominously. "I heard it."
    “And there’s food all over the ground by our tents!” my other daughter said.
    “Well, I didn’t hear anything,” Mark said—since he’d practically just woken from a life-threatening coma.
    “We’re scared,” my daughters both said.
    “Shhhhh! Don’t wake the little ones up. Just go to sleep,” I whispered—a bit terrified myself. “We’re all here together.”
    “And you guys were probably just having a dream," Mark said.
    If that was a dream—we’d ALL had it!
    Mark turned, lying sideways because there were six of us now in the tent.
    I fell asleep, freezing cold and dreaming about bears. When I woke up, it was still the middle of the night; Mark no longer slept beside me, and a fire flickered and popped outside of the tent.
    I covered my kids up, then went outside. Mark slept, balancing oddly between two camp chairs he’d pulled together. I couldn’t help looking around—food was everywhere—we’d been ransacked for sure, probably by an army of squirrels! The marshmallow bag had tiny holes in it. Hot dogs were strewn about in little pieces. Toilet paper was clumped in messy wet piles all around camp. Wow—those animals had had quite a party.
    And there rested Mark amidst the midnight mess. His hat covered quite a bit of his face, but I could see just enough in the firelight. He was such a handsome man, with those dark features and strong build. I studied his face after a moment and realized how truly kind he looked, just as he was when awake. He shivered in his sleep, only using a thin blanket since he’d left his sleeping bag in the tent with the kids.
    I peered back at the tent; those kids were having the experience of a lifetime and so was I. As my thoughts turned back to Mark, I couldn’t help it anymore, I curled up into his lap to warm him up. He instinctively wrapped his arms around me, and I fell asleep next to the fire, snuggle]ing with the man I loved, in the middle of the woods where a bunch of animals had just eaten all of our food.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Eulogy: How You Changed My Life

Chapter Thirty continued...

To read the beginning of this chapter, please CLICK HERE.

Dear Mark,
    I don’t know how to explain everything that’s inside of my heart right now; it’s breaking at the thought of never seeing you again. I’ll miss so many things about you, like your laugh, your smile, or how you look when you know you’ve done something awesome and you want me to notice.
    I’ll miss your deep voice, and all the sweet things you used to say to me, once upon a time when I was your girl.
    I feel bad that I never told you how very much you impacted my life and changed some of my views.
    You see, you’re one of the most genuinely good people I’ve ever met in my life. To think of all the times you selflessly gave to me and my children... I remember when I told you that my ex-husband wasn’t able to spend much time with my kids because of his job. You rushed to your house, and showed up at mine with a faded book. “Can I give this to your son?” you’d asked.
    “Sure,” I said. And even though you didn’t know it, I stood outside of the door, listening as you gave him the book.
    “This book is for one of the most awesome boys in the universe!" you said. "I’ve had it for years, just waiting to give it to someone—then I met you and I knew this book was destined to be yours!”
    My son squealed, so excited.  And even after things weren’t perfect with us anymore, he kept that book on his dresser as a reminder that someone knew he was special—and that made him realize his potential too.
    “How long have you had that book?” I asked you later.
    “Six years,” you said. “I’d planned on giving it to my son someday. That’s why I gave it to your boy.”
    I cried after you left because your words meant so much. You’d touched our hearts that night, in a way I’ll never be able to explain. You'd accepted everything about us, and loved us for it all.
    I remember another time, I called you when my life had completely spiraled out of control. “My ex-boyfriend said the most terrible things about me. My kids aren’t home to distract me. I’m all alone and I feel worthless. I just don’t see the point,” I said. “I’m so sad today…I make everyone miserable just by being around.” I paused before deciding to tell him the truth. “Part of me just wishes I could stop breathing.”
    “Gina! Don’t say that.”
    “But it’s true!” I sobbed, desperate.
    “Tell me everything. I want to hear all of it.” You kept me on the phone; I had no idea that you’d jumped into your truck, and been driving over to my house all the while.
    “Get some cute clothes on—we’re going to coffee.”
    But I wouldn’t get dressed, so you dragged me out of the house in my pajamas. I couldn’t bear to drink all of my coffee, but you didn’t judge me. Instead you drove around with me for hours. When my eyes were too tired to stay open, I fell asleep on your shoulder and woke up to you bringing me into the house and tucking me into my bed. You smoothed the hair from my face and told me the sweetest things until I fell asleep again.  The next day, I opened my eyes and you were still there, dozing off, waiting to make sure that I was okay. And I truly was because you’d helped me through.
    I’m not exactly sure what day or hour I fell in love with you, but I do remember the moonlight. I looked into your eyes and fell hard. And that love hasn’t been some whimsical romance, or a fleeting feeling, it’s the strongest kind of love, when you have a friend--a companion--an equal--who you’d do anything for and it would be worth any sacrifice. Someone who’s worth spending your life with, or giving your life for. I’ve never had someone treat me with such kindness. I’ve never had a man swoop into my life like this and revolutionize how my children feel about themselves and their worth.
    I remember watching you do homework with my daughters, telling them to try again because they’d get it for sure the next time. “You’re so smart,” you told my oldest.
    “Not everyone thinks so,” she said.
    “Well, I can tell when people are intelligent and YOU definitely are.”  You worked with her every night when you came over to visit us after work and her grades went up after that.
    I’ll never forget when you held me for hours, both of us whispering our unending love, me thinking that was Heaven as your fingers traced my skin and I felt your breath on my neck.
    But you already know all of these stories. And there are so many more… I just wanted you to know that every moment I spent with you mattered.
    Knowing you has been life-changing. In the end we had different goals. I wished you’d meet a beautiful girl who could have your darling baby, and love, and everything you deserve. I’d smile, knowing what a good father you’d be. And Mark, even though I couldn't give you a biological child, I’d be so thankful you got your dream. 

    I guess I just want you to know that I’ll always appreciate what you did for me and my four children; I cherish those memories. And because of the impression you made on my life, I will never be the same.

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I folded the paper up, stuck it in the mason jar, and watched as Mark finished the letter he’d just written for the time capsule as well.