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AbandonThought

Happily Ever After

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Happily Ever After

The heat coming in through the open doorway was stifling. Even positioned underneath the window air conditioning unit as I was, I found sweat beginning to trickle down my forehead and between my breasts.

The moving men were shuffling in and out of the small ranch house, carrying the packed boxes and miscellaneous furniture out to the truck on the street. I glanced around me from my perch on the couch. Only a few boxes remained; they would be finished soon, I thought with a sigh of relief.

I hadn’t known what to do with myself the whole time that they’d been there. I felt inexplicably self-conscious watching TV while they were traipsing through my home, and anyway it was difficult to concentrate since they kept having to cross in front of the television and obstruct my view. Eventually I’d turned it off and picked up a book, but I couldn’t even stay focused on that.

So, despite my better judgment, I found myself sitting on the couch, watching quietly as they schlepped out the last of it. The burly man nodded to me as he carried out the carefully packed high definition television, indicating that that was the last of it, and they were finished.

I shot him my best attempt at a smile and allowed myself a deep sigh. Now that it was done, and it was all moved out, I didn’t know whether to be relieved or sad. I got up from the couch and made my way over to close the front door, to save myself from the stifling New Orleans heat, but a figure appeared in the doorway when I was a few steps away, stopping me in my tracks.

“Well, I guess it’s done,” he said quietly, giving me the same pathetic attempt at a smile that I had given the moving man. I found myself thinking that his words carried more meaning than he had intended. His icy blue eyes cut through me as I stumbled to come up with an appropriate response.

In the intervening seconds, I allowed my eyes to play over him, perhaps for the last time: the flawless smile that had warmed my soul, the solid arms that had held me when I needed comfort, the soft yet strong hands that had caressed me tenderly.

“Yup. I hope it goes as smoothly moving into your new place,” I nodded, making small talk. It felt so foreign making small talk. It was strange struggling to make conversation now, when I used to be able to talk to him for hours on end. But he had the same look on his face. There was little left to be said.

He reached for me and I stepped into the hug. It was the last thing that felt comfortable between us, despite the sweat of our bodies and the thick oppressive heat surrounding us. I leaned my head on his shoulder momentarily and closed my eyes.

“Good luck,” he said to me simply, his mouth only inches from my ear.

“You too,” I nodded as I pulled away.

With nothing left to be said, he turned and walked away. I didn’t bother to watch him make his way down the front porch or over to the driveway where his Ford Explorer was parked. I retreated into my home and closed the door.

Inside, I stood for minutes, not knowing what to do with myself, glancing around at the suddenly spacious living room. The overturned frame sitting atop the surround speaker at the corner of the room caught my eye. I walked over to it tentatively, reaching for it, but then jerking my hand back at the last second, before finally picking it up and looking at the picture within.

The image of Mike and I smiled back at me. It was from our last vacation. We had just spent the day hiking the trails around Bryce Canyon and were sitting on a bench at an overlook site. We were glistening with sweat and sun, and I was leaning up against him tiredly. He had his arm around me, holding me tightly, and we were both smiling genuinely for the camera, with the bright red and orange canyon serving as a backdrop. It had been a good vacation.

I allowed myself a small smile at the picture before I turned and carried the frame through the kitchen to the back bedroom. I placed it on the bed and left the room, returning with my step stool. I slid open the closet door and reached up to the high shelf, pulling down the Nike box from the running shoes that I had bought fifteen years before. The box was dusty from inattention.

I placed it gingerly on the bed and sat down between the box and the framed photo of Mike and I. I popped open the clasps and pulled the photograph out from inside the frame. I reached for the shoe box, but hesitated again before opening it.

Inside was a small stack of pictures and an array of miscellaneous objects. Ticket stubs, key chains, a small silk rose, a few pieces of jewelry, and other objects stared back up at me. I started to place the picture of me and Mike on top of the pile of photos, but I hesitated.

Instead, I pulled out the stack and began flipping through them slowly. Andrew, Justin, Peter, and Brian’s eyes all watched me as I thumbed through the pictures. The rush of memories and emotions hit me at the same time. It felt like all of my blood had suddenly left my body. I became lightheaded and my hands shook as I held the pictures.

There was Andrew and I smiling in our formal wear before the Senior Prom.

There was Justin and I decked out in purple and gold at the Louisiana State University homecoming game.

There was Peter standing with me in my cap and gown at my medical school graduation.

There was Brian and I on our Caribbean cruise.

And to the back of the pack I added Mike and I at Bryce Canyon.

Still trembling, I shoved the pictures back into the shoe box and replaced the lid, but once I’d opened the door, I couldn’t stop thinking about the past.

I hadn’t had the best luck in love.

Andrew and I had been together through two years of high school and the first year of college. As my first boyfriend, I didn’t know what a real relationship was about, and I refused to see that he wasn’t the right one for me. I loved him at the beginning, but the last year and a half of our relationship was mostly a result of my fear of letting him go. I finally let myself accept it when I found out that he had cheated on me. Not only had he slept with someone else, but it had been one of my best friends. After screaming at him for an hour I had walked out of his apartment, sent him a box full of whatever he had left in my dorm room, and never saw either of them again.

I had met Justin shortly after I had my twenty-first birthday. I was an introverted soul by nature, but Justin was as sociable as they came. He succeeded in pulling me out of my shell, and we spent nearly every night hanging out and drinking with friends. We went to the Tigers games and tailgated for hours before and after. We hosted house parties at his apartment with beer pong as the main entertainment of the evening. We did pub trivia and spent far too much money on beer and shots. We blew off classes, and showed up for exams drunk. It took me over a year to realize that while being more sociable was a good thing, Justin had taken me too far. Once I let the pendulum swing back the other way, it took me almost another year to realize that while I had grown up and grown out of it, Justin hadn’t. Justin was an alcoholic.

Peter and I met in medical school. I finally thought I’d found a good man. He was smart, motivated, thoughtful, and devoted. He was a year ahead of me in school, and he had his life together. He owned his own home, he had no debt or difficulty paying bills, and he showed up on time for both his shifts at the hospital and our dates. He doted on me, and constantly told me how much he loved me and how he couldn’t live without me. I should have seen the problem earlier, but he had isolated me from my other friends so gradually, that it didn’t seem strange. His jealousy seemed to be just another indication of how much he cared about me. It was when he broke my nose for having dinner with a male colleague that my eyes were finally opened.

And Brian… Brian was my fault. Brian was like a force of nature. We began spending nearly all of our free time together immediately after we met at a friend’s party. We would laugh for hours; lying on a quilt in the park, walking around the city, making dinner together, working out at the gym. We found a way to share all of our time, and somehow the time we spent together never got dull. Brian had led such an interesting life, and he was very unpredictable. I never knew what he was going to say or do next. Even though I knew deep down that we were incompatible and he couldn’t be the right man for me in the long run, I couldn’t draw myself away from him. His personality was magnetic, and I couldn’t detach myself from him. He had told me that he and his girlfriend were having trouble and it was just a matter of the unpleasant detail of breaking up. Within six months though, they were married.

I closed my eyes tightly, trying to stop the tears that were threatening. Still, a lone tear escaped my lids and slid quickly down my cheek. Memory lane was bumpy.

But then, after the year of isolation and punishment that I’d imposed on myself as a result of my disgust with what I’d allowed myself to become with Brian, I had met Mike. Understandably, I was wary. Mike was patient though. He knew I’d been hurt before, and he didn’t mind putting up with my irrational fears. He was by no means a perfect man, but he was amazing. He was caring, understanding, and loving. He gave me space and he let me have my own life, while still making it clear that he wanted to share it with me.

Lost in my thoughts, I rubbed the empty spot on my finger where the ring had sat until two weeks before. After wearing the engagement ring for almost a year, my finger felt odd and naked without it.

Mike had asked me to marry him after a little over a year. Despite the bad luck that I’d had in the past, I didn’t even hesitate. I knew I’d found the one that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. After all the s**t I’d been through, I finally would have my happily ever after.

There was no big tragedy with Mike. He didn’t become inappropriately controlling, he didn’t give in to a vice, and he didn’t cheat on me. And neither did I do any of those things. To the outside observer, nothing went wrong between us. Even then, after it was all over and Mike had finished moving the last of his belongings out of the house that we had shared, I couldn’t really understand what had gone wrong. The only way I could think to describe it was just that over time we had grown apart. Somehow, despite the lack of tragedy, we had fallen out of love with each other.

Although we’d both known for some time, we worked hard to ignore it. We tried to rationalize that we were both distracted with work, or that we were stressed by the move to the new city that we’d undertaken together. After awhile though, neither of us could deny it any longer. Things weren’t the same anymore, and we didn’t think they ever would be again. I loved Mike and knew that he was an amazing man, but somehow, I wasn’t in love with him anymore. I saw in his eyes that he felt the same. So, two weeks before, we had the sad conversation, I gave him back the ring, and he went to stay with a friend for awhile.

I shook my head and returned the box to its high perch on the closet shelf. There were so many painful memories in that box; I didn’t know why I kept it. Still, although I had removed every other trace of my past relationships from my life, it felt important that I hold onto a few artifacts. I couldn’t explain why.

I had thought that going over in my head again all my failed relationships would make me feel better about what Mike and I had had. Even though it ended, he had loved me, I had loved him, and we had had something beautiful for a time. Mike was the one that I was supposed to look back on and smile. He was supposed to give me hope. See? If I can meet one great guy, then I know it can happen again, I was supposed to be able to tell myself.

Instead, all I felt was empty.

Instead, I couldn’t help focusing on the fact that I had had what was as close as I could imagine to a perfect relationship, and somehow, it had ended. I had loved him more than I ever thought I could love anyone, and somehow, that love had faded away. I had thought that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, and somehow, my feelings had changed without my permission. It was out of my control.

If a relationship that perfect could end, how could I ever trust any relationship, ever again?

I lied back on the bed behind me and curled into a ball. I wanted to cry, but now, no tears would come. I felt myself be swallowed by the emptiness within me as I realized that I no longer believed in love that lasted forever.

There was no happily ever after.

Steph

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I almost missed this, Steph! You slipped it in quietly. This was a thought provoking and sad story. One that kept my interest and one that has no doubt been played out for real many times in women's lives. You presented it without naming the girl. Was that on purpose? Without a name one could insert their own more easily in their mind if it fit their own life story. Cleverly written, as I have become to expect from you. A different story for you in that the ending is not a "Happy Ever After" ending. I like the fact you do not write the same type of stories over and over. Play around with your imagination and go down different avenues and see what you come up with. It is always fun to experiment in writing. Looking forward to your next written masterpiece!!

~HUGS~ Kathy

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Thanks Kathy! Yep, I guess I did kinda slip it in all stealthy like... :)

Yes, the failure to name the female character was on purpose. I know it was a little sad, but I was tired of stories that were artificially happy. I wanted to try something new... something realistic.

Thanks for your comments Kathy, as always. I love hearing what you think of my stories, which is the main reason why I post them here. :)

:hugs:

Steph

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I just found this tonight and it nearly brought me to tears. I had no experience

like this, but you certainly made it feel "real" to me. Good one!

Judy

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