283 Days Remaining
It had been almost six months, and things were going well. HB and I had such a comfortable, relaxed and easy courtship, and I couldn't believe how easy it was to be around him. He met my children, and even they - always extremely protective of their dad and hating the thought of anyone "replacing" him - seemed to like him. My youngest, especially, had a great rapport with HB, and they had begun their own special friendship, and when the three of us spent time together they would chase each other like they were both little boys, making up games and laughing uproariously. Seeing HB and my little one together was often the best part of my day; I loved that they enjoyed each other so much and was looking forward to a future building our little family. I knew HB would happily include my three children in his life.
|I hoped we could build a family together.|
Unfortunately, as soon as I opened the door, I knew the evening was not going to go the way I had planned. HB did not grab and kiss me with his usual loving intensity, although his face did light up slightly as he took in the dress and my long legs in their high-heeled shoes. "Hey," he said, "you look amazing."
I kissed him and thanked him and drew him into the apartment, ready to pull him into the bedroom and snuggle up, but the look on his face made me worry. “What's going on?” I asked, and he answered with those four deadly words: “We have to talk.”
This is probably part of why it's taken me so long to get around to writing the full story of HB that so many of you have been asking for...it's difficult to really express and explain our entire conversation without feeling like I am betraying HB. I know that the things he brought up that night were incredibly important and real to him, and although several of my friends have spent hours over the last few years listening to me go through it over and over again, I still don't feel right about exposing him that way. I feel it's important to keep his fears and worries private, and in the long run, why he said what he said that night doesn't matter...the fact that he said it at all – and the long years that followed his words – is what is important.
|Let's just not.|
- - - -
We lay in the dark in his room, laughing and whispering together. His eyes crinkled in the endearing way that had captured me during that first coffee date, and his fingers threaded through mine as he brought my hand to his lips for a kiss. Suddenly I couldn't keep it in any longer.
“I love you,” I said, searching his eyes for his reaction, my heart pounding.
He grinned and kissed the back of my hand again. “You can't,” he said matter-of-factly.
Amused, I squinted my eyes at him. “What do you mean, I can't?”
“You haven't known me long enough,” he said with a shrug.
I laughed. “Oh, okay then. So when will I have known you long enough to love you?”
He pondered this, then gave me another grin. “A year sounds about right.”
“All right,” I responded. “Let me know when it's been a year, so I'll be allowed to tell you. But until then, I'll still love you, even if I can't say it.”
He winked at me. “I know.”
Now, a few short weeks later, and six months short of what I had been sure would be our first anniversary, he finally told me that he was in love with me too...but in the same breath he was telling me that our relationship would never get to that year marker. I was heartbroken.
I did everything I could to reassure him that his fears – although valid, and, I knew, extremely real to him – were surmountable. I offered scenario after scenario of how we could overcome those obstacles that he was so sure meant we should not be together. I cried, he cried; I beat my fists on his chest and asked in tears how he could do this to me, he held me in shaking arms and wept into my neck. But in the end, I remembered how Stringer and I had kept coming back to each other after every fight, and how I had reasoned and justified and pushed him to come back to me. I didn't want HB to be with me because I had convinced him to be with me; I wanted him to be with me because every part of him wanted to be with me; because he couldn't imagine living a life without me in it. I decided that he could walk out that door, and if he truly loved me, he would be back.
And now, you know what HB stands for. He is my Heart Breaker.
That, however, is not the end of our story. In fact, and as hard as it may be to believe, it is very nearly the beginning.
HB could not let go of me. I absolutely would not let go of him. We continued to spend time together, with nothing physical between us, and no longer in the role of boyfriend and girlfriend. Neither of us dated anyone else, and as “friends”, we still enjoyed many of the same things that had bound us together, but no matter how much we both tried to pretend that we were not in a relationship, we still were in love with one another. After two or three months of that, we had settled into our comfortable routine again...the only difference was that we did not kiss each other, or hold hands as we walked down the street, or anything else along those lines.
I didn't worry about how it was going. The weeks of loving time together and the way we drew closer to each other every day had me convinced that we would end up together, despite the fears that kept HB still at the very strange “arm's length” that he was trying to keep himself at. I knew that our relationship was so much more than the physical, and that the labels of “boyfriend and girlfriend” were the least of what made us who we were together. I hoped, prayed, and believed that HB would eventually see that.
Eventually, he did. And it scared the crap out of him.
We were – once again – lying on my bed watching whatever TV series we were making our way through at the time: I think it was Battlestar Galactica (I never would have watched something like that on my own, but sharing it with HB was another one of the things I now found so enjoyable). I lay on my stomach, facing the TV, while he leaned up against the headboard of the bed. HB absentmindedly reached out with his hand and stroked the back of my calf affectionately. I luxuriated in the gentle feel of his hand; I craved his touch any way I could get it, and I looked back over my shoulder to give him a smile. He smiled back, but as I turned my attention back to the television, his hand stilled on my calf.
Without warning, he jumped up and started moving out of the room. “I can't do this,” he muttered. Startled but somehow having recognized the inevitability of this moment, I followed him as he grabbed his motorcycle jacket and shoved his arms into the sleeves.
“What's the matter?” I asked, scared to hear the answer I already knew was coming.
He reached for his boots and turned to me. There was pain and confusion in his eyes. “I thought that if there was nothing physical between us,” he began, “I would stop feeling the way I feel for you. I thought it would make it easier for us to just sort of...drift away from each other.” Dropping into a chair, he yanked a boot on and began angrily lacing it. “But...my feelings for you now are so much stronger even than they were three months ago.”
I was strangely calm, though my heart once again was rhumba-ing in my chest. I nodded. “I know,” I said softly. “I knew that would happen. What's between us is so much more than physical.”
“I can't do it!” he cried. His boots securely fastened, he scooped his helmet from the table and moved as though to jam it over his head, then stopped and looked at me. I was sure he could see the loss in my eyes. “I'm sorry,” he said in a strangled voice, then moved to the door.
I struggled to get some words out before he disappeared from my life. I love you. I need you. Don't do this. Don't you understand what we have? So many thoughts and feelings, but I had resolved to learn from my past relationship mistakes, and once again, I could not reduce myself to trying to convince him to stay with me. “I can give you everything you need,” came brokenly from my mouth. I was keenly aware of how desperate I sounded, but the promise forced itself out.
He looked as though he was going to cry again, his eyes incredibly sad. “You already do,” he told me. And while I stood pondering the strangeness of those words when compared to his actions, he once again - not for the first time, and not for the last - walked away.
...to be continued...