Thursday, April 30, 2015

Do you think absence makes the heart grow fonder?

If you'd like to read this from the start, click HERE
This is fictional, based on true events....  
 
TIME APART

TWENTY-EIGHT


I woke up the next morning to the sound of an incoming text message.
    

Sorry. It's been a busy night. I hope you're well.
    
    It was the most impersonal message I could have imagined, coming from Mark--and that hurt.
    I slammed my phone on the bedside table, rolled out of bed and got ready for the day.    My kids were darling at breakfast, albeit giggling, screaming, jabbering, and only intermittently being quiet. The kids were so precious though; I could hardly keep myself from gazing at them fondly as they stuffed their little chipmunk faces with cereal and kid-flavored oatmeals.   

     "All right, guys. Time for school." I huddled them all together, made sure their backpacks had been zipped, their hair was done, and they looked totally ready. I couldn't help being a bit nostalgic, peering into their growing faces, and thinking how much change all of us had gone through the previous years. But here we were, making it through, and still together.   
    After bringing the kids to school and finishing some of my work projects, I looked at my phone; Mark hadn't sent any messages. It was time for me to solve this whole situation. 
    Before I could really think about his full reaction, or the fact that he'd been working the graveyard, I quickly called him.
    "Hello?" he asked in a groggy, I've-been-sleeping voice.
    "We need to talk," I stated. "How's this afternoon? You aren't working tonight."
    "Oh, this afternoon is good...." he said.
    "I'll head over to your house later."
    His voice seemed a bit more alert. "You okay?"
    "I'm okay. But we really need to talk. I've gotta go, okay?"
    "See you soon," he said, then I hung up. And I'm not quite sure why, but I pulled my hair up into the world's messiest bun, put on some crappy clothes, and got ready to see Mark.
    When I pulled up to his house later that day, he was already waiting outside, lackadaisically leaning against his red truck.
    "The kids are at school and daycare?" he asked. I nodded. "You really want to talk about something, huh? You made me nervous."
    "There's just a lot going on. You know, I went and talked with The Schmuck. I wanted to talk with you about it, but I couldn't really get through to you--you must have been busy?"
    "I really was."
    The statement seemed a bit dishonest. "Anyway, that's beside the point. I need to talk with you now. Meeting with The Schmuck made me realize that sometimes you can date someone and it'll just never work out. It was actually good to see him."
    "Do you ever miss him?" Mark asked, looking so incredibly vulnerable that it broke my heart.
   "Sometimes," I said. "We had fun together, but I don't miss him in the way you might expect. I miss him because somehow through all of his lies and through all of the bullshit, I thought we were friends. It made me think about you...and what we have. I love you, Mark. Really, really, love you, through thick and thin. I think I'll love you for the rest of my life. But I'm not good for you, and I need to let you go."
    "What?! Where is this coming from?"
    "You want to have biological kids. MY baby factory is out of business. I have nightmares about having another child." And it was true. I'd had a recent dream that I had a baby and subsequently died of pure stress.
    "There's no chance that you'll change your mind?" He reached out and held my hand so tenderly. "You're the first girl I've been able to see a future with. The only girl I'd want to have a kid with."
    "I can't offer you the full package, Mark. I think it's been bothering me for months. You deserve someone who can give you everything, a blank slate, a biological family, a lifetime of happiness. All I can offer you is a pre-made family; my kids, myself, and our love. If you want biological kids, we won't ever be enough."
    "But, Gina. You guys are enough. You're more than I ever could've hoped for...." He gazed down at me, so filled with emotion. "You've shown me what it could be like to be a father...and maybe even a husband someday. I've learned so much from you. And I always want to be in your life. To be your guy, the one person you'll lean on throughout life. But...I have always wanted to have a kid, just one." He sighed, deeply. "I'd give up that dream, just to be with you."
    I bit my lip hard, to keep it from quivering as I listened to his words. He wasn't making this easy at all. "You know the worst thing about seeing The Schmuck?" I asked.
    "What?" he asked.
    "It made me realize how I always pick douche bags. I usually go for the bad boys, who could care less about me. But you're nothing like those guys. You're good and kind. You've made me realize that I'm worth a whole lot more than I thought. It's okay to be treated well and to expect being treated that way. You've given me such a gift...." 

    My eyes watched some of the cars driving down his street, and the whole time Mark followed my gaze. "But it's not in the cards for us," I finally said, struggling to keep my voice steady. He kept looking at me with those amazing eyes, and I couldn't help remembering how good he'd been to me and how nice it'd felt being wrapped in his arms, without facing the truth of the situation. "I've realized," my words came out slowly, "how much I care about you. But if we stay together longer this will just get harder and harder. We'll keep coming up against the same issue whether it's on the surface or not. We can't be together. I'm done having children and you haven't even had one yet."
    "If we break up will you even want to talk to me?" he asked.
    "Of course I do." And I understood something then, that I hadn't wanted to admit to myself before. "You are, without a doubt, my best friend. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't at least talk with you."
    "How about we both just think about things?" he asked. "We won't break up; just give this time. I need to think about everything you're saying."
    "Maybe we can talk in a couple of weeks and just see how things are going?" I asked, "It could be good."
    "All right," he said. Then I gave him the world's longest hug, before getting into my minivan, and driving away to pick up my kids. I cried the entire drive, having no idea what the future would hold.

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