Goodbye

The following day, as if on cue, Laura rang to see how things were going.  There was no use trying to gloss over the facts.  So I just came right out and said, “I told him I wanted a divorce last night.”  Unfortunately, between her kids and mine, we couldn’t really discuss things further as we were surrounded by several pairs of listening ears.  We both hung up, promising to reconnect in a few days.

I grabbed my iPad and opened up Facebook, only to find I had no reply from Billy.  I could see he read my message though.  And to be honest, it was driving me nuts.  I didn’t know where Billy’s head was at, and all I wanted to do was talk to him face to face.  My heart was still racing every time I thought of him.  But his silence was invading my thoughts during the day.  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him going mute, so I decided to go for a run.  In fact, I spent several hours running that week.  I just had to keep myself busy, as any downtime brought my thoughts back to him.  Perhaps Billy just needed time to mull things over before he responded.  That is what I told myself, until Laura finally phoned later that week.

“Please don’t be mad.  I am your friend and I want to talk to you about something.  Are you alone?”

Catching my breathe I replied, “Yeah, I just finished my run.  I’m walking back to my car.  Why?  What’s up?”

Laura filled her lungs in and sighed, “I kept thinking about Billy and how you told your husband you wanted a divorce.  And it was really bothering me that Billy hadn’t replied to you.  I couldn’t sleep.  I kept tossing and turning thinking about everything.  First the reunion, then the party.  By around midnight, I finally got up and logged into Facebook.”

“Yes…and?”

“Billy was online so I messaged him.  I explained that I knew everything.  That I had read his messages and didn’t understand why he wasn’t replying to you.  I said if he didn’t feel comfortable talking to you face to face, would he talk to me?'”

I implored, “And what did he say?”

“He said yes.  So yesterday, Nick and I met Billy for coffee.  Just the three of us.  Nick just sat there listening.  He knows everything too.  But he just sat there for moral support while I grilled Billy.”

“FUCK, are you kidding me?”

“No.  Look, I was just trying to help out because I don’t want you throwing your marriage away.  I told Billy that I considered you a really good friend and as your friend, if he is serious about you, then he better step up and say so right now.  You have kids.  You’re seriously contemplating leaving your husband now.  And while trying to pull this relationship into the real world, it appears he is stalling things.”

She continued, “I honestly think you married the right person.  Yes, he cheated on you.  And yes, you’ve been through some shitty years now.  And likely, you haven’t entirely dealt with that.  But I really believe your marriage can be restored.  I care about you honey.  I don’t want you making a mistake that you will end up regretting later.”

Wiping the sweat away from my face and the occasional tear I said, “So what did Billy say?”

“He admitted to having feelings for you.  And flirting with you.  But he has been down this road before.  And he was emphatically clear that he wants no part whatsoever in breaking up any marriage.  Good or bad.  He just can’t go down this road again.”

“Ok…” I said as I tried to swallow the ever present lump in my throat that was forming.

Laura continued, “You know our church talked about this before.  But I have never seen it play out before my eyes.  They talked about people reuniting with past boyfriends or old classmates from school.  One thing leads to another and the next thing you know, both parties think they have feelings for one another.  The thing that struck me the most about your story was the second you tried to take your relationship outside the virtual world, he froze.”

“My phone is about to die.  And I have to get home.  Can I call you later?”

“Yeah that’s fine.  I just wanted to say that I am sorry if you feel I overstepped any boundaries.  But I felt you deserved an answer.  Billy suddenly turned into this wimpy little kid that couldn’t even communicate.  I mean come on, what are we fourteen?  He needed to man up and respond to you.  This is just bullshit from my perspective and Nick agrees too.”

Feeling pressure mounting in my chest now, I responded, “Yeah I agree.  It’s just I would have rather have had the opportunity to talk to him face to face.  So I could get closure myself.  There is a lot to be said for body language and all those non verbal clues.  I know he feels what I feel.  But I get it.  This would be a game changer for his life.  Who really wants to date a divorced mother with two kids?”

“Honey, there’s a reason why Billy is still single, despite being incredibly good looking.  He sucks at relationships, that’s why he’s not married!  Just keep that in perspective ok?”

“Alright.  Thanks Laura.  I do appreciate it.  The closure part.  Should I email him one last time?”

“Sure, say your goodbye’s but then unfriend him immediately.  I’ll be watching.”

I fished my key out of my sports bra and unlocked my car.  Tears started to well up in my eyes thinking I would never see him again.  But I clenched my teeth and held my composure together.  As I turned the key counter-clockwise in the ignition, chords from a piano started to play solemnly on the radio.

 

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

 

The tears that I had been holding back leaked from my eyes.  One streamed down my face.  Then another.  The salty liquid reached my quivering lips as I felt my heart surging with sadness.  A sense of loss overcame me as I closed my eyes and pursed my lips.  In a flash, I was standing back at the bar.  Billy locking eyes with me.  Smiling.  Staring at me intently.  I could almost reach out to him, it was that fresh in my mind.  The image and that moment seemed purposely ingrained.

So poignant.  That moment.  Sitting in the car.

As the lyrics played out over the radio, I knew what I had to do.

It was time to say goodbye to Billy.

For good.

 

 

 

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Overly Attractive

It was so surreal to be opening up my heart to Billy in this way.  We hadn’t even kissed, just talked.  But I felt so strongly that he would be my husband.  That he was truly “the one” I was meant to have married.  Chemistry like that doesn’t come along often.  I felt in my heart that Billy and I would have ravishing, mind-blowing sex.  The holy grail of connections coupled with an intense love and chemistry so elusive, it’s only written about in novels or shown in films.  It was that electric between us.

I continued, “Whether we end up together or not, I can’t say.  But I deserve to have a faithful husband.  And that is all I truly want in the end”.  He said, “You totally do.  But I’ll tell you what I told Anna.  That decision has nothing to do with me and you need to make that decision as if I was never born…And if I’m around, I’m around.”

Our flurry of messages stalled.  I didn’t know what to say.  So I sat there reflecting back on my husbands confession.   Pondering my age and questioning if I had the wherewithal to endure a divorce, when Billy finally replied.

“I do find you overly attractive.  But I’ve been in this once before.  It caused all kinds of problems for all kinds of people.  And I can’t do it again.  No one can blame you for doing that.”

It wasn’t exactly the response I was expecting.  And it confused the hell out of me to be honest.  I felt like he didn’t want any part of me divorcing, but once I was single, if he was still single, then yeah, something would happen between us.  In a nutshell, he was leaving the door wide open.

I didn’t know what to do at this point.  And ironically, both Kara and Laura eventually called to discuss the party.  Kara started with, “Honey, I just want to come right out and ask you something.  How is your marriage?  You’ve been on my mind for the past two weeks but I’ve been so busy with the kids.  I meant to call you earlier.”

Fucking Kara!  Her gifting, as they say, is intuition.  At several junctions throughout my life, she is like having a conversation with my conscience.  Which is why, during my affair with CEO, I rarely took her calls.  I just knew the truth she would be speaking and frankly, I wasn’t ready to give that relationship up.  But that’s getting ahead of things.

I really wanted to talk to her about Billy, so in that moment, I finally opened up.  Very few people really know me, struggles and all.  But Kara is one of them, which is ironic because we see each other maybe three times a year.  Perhaps it’s because she has known me since I was a kid.  Whatever it is, she can pry me open like a can of sardines.  “Kara, things aren’t going so well.  And I am starting to have feelings for someone else.”

“I know who you are talking about…”  She said, “It’s Billy huh?”

My heart dropped.  “How did you know?”

“Sweetie, I could see the chemistry between you two at the reunion.  He spent the most time talking to you.  There was an obvious connection.”

So I told her everything about Billy.  I explained how he had reached out to me.  How we had been emailing back and forth.  And how I was utterly confused as to what to do.  She replied, “You’ve always clicked.  This goes all the way back to Miss Blain’s 7th grade English class.  Don’t you remember the three of us sitting at the back of her class talking?  You guys had a connection way back then.”  Honestly, I didn’t even remember that.  I still don’t. But she is that friend that remembers everything about everyone, going back to when we were little kids.

The next call came from Laura.  Kara must have filled her in because she phoned the following morning.  I sat in my car, with tears in my eyes, confused because I really wanted to talk to Billy face to face.  But he was being distant, and not his usual self.  My heart was racing uncontrollably and I felt as if it would never stop.  Laura gave me two pieces of advice.  The first one being, “You know, your emotions will change over time about this.  Our emotions can and will deceive us.”  My rebuttal was, “Well I have always followed my gut.  And that has never happened before.  I mean I get what you are saying, but my gut has never steered me wrong in this way.”

“Start exercising.  Do something every day.  It will help stabilize your emotions about this whole situation.”  Looking back now, I can say emphatically, that it was great advice.  And I took both to heart, in the deepest of ways.

I started walking, then running.  Religiously.  That first month, I logged 125 miles.  I ran as much as I could.  Even if it was just ten minutes, I carved out time just for me.  Something I hadn’t done since before I had kids.  And I quickly realized, just how much I had missed it.  And how much I loved running again.  It was the only time where my heart got back to a regular rhythm.  For sure, it sorted out my head.  During that entire time, Kara and Laura were there counseling me.  “I know how much your husband hurt you, but I do believe God can restore your marriage.  I think you forgave too soon and perhaps, this connection with Billy isn’t so genuine after all.”

Both Kara and Laura told me to unfriend Billy immediately.  And they went on to say, “Although Billy was a great kid growing up, he’s actually kind of a trippy guy now.  He can’t even give you close to the life you lead.”  And they were right, he couldn’t.  Deep down I knew.  But it took them verbalizing this for it to sink in.

Collectively, we agreed that Billy would always be a bachelor filled with wanderlust.  Never willing to truly commit to another or settle down.  They were right.  Plus I knew leaving my husband would be financial suicide.  We worked so hard to get where we were in life.  It would ruin our kids and turn facets of our lives for the worse.  If I thought things were difficult in my marriage now, they would be compounded once divorced.

But I still didn’t want to let Billy go.  I simply…couldn’t be the one to unfriend him.

 

 

Signal Red

“They call it signal red.”  Billy was trying to enlighten me about the finer characteristics of vintage cars, something that wasn’t exactly on my day-to-day radar.  This was after explaining, “I like the red better than the green one.”  I laugh about it now because I know nothing about cars.  But as fate would have it, my brother crashed his Cayenne that morning.  I forwarded Billy the photos knowing he would cringe looking at the twisted heap of metal.  He quickly responded, “Oh man, that sucks.  He must be so bummed.”

“He looked down at his phone to read a map, rear-ended some lady.  50k of work and they haven’t even gotten to the frame yet.”

“Ouch!  That’s gotta hurt.”

“Don’t feel bad for him.  He can afford it.”

We stayed up talking till 1:00 a.m. that night.  It wasn’t a regular habit of ours.  But that is the night I shared the story of my husband cheating.  He was genuinely saddened to hear that, as he met my husband and thought he was a really cool guy.  As an outsider looking in, we make a striking couple, accomplished and successful with a few kids thrown in for good measure.  But I shattered that vision when I bared my darkest secret.

“That’s a tough position to be in.  I’m sorry.  Tough feeling like you don’t quite have a choice because of the kids.”  I countered, “He’s doing everything he can to keep me.”  Billy waited a second then replied, “As he should.  You’re a keeper for sure.”

Fast forward to the night of the party…At 3:00 a.m. my husband went to bed, leaving me with a small group of friends, Billy included.  We sat on the outdoor lounge furniture side by side.  He showed me his crooked finger, the one that got broken so severely in a college basketball game that it no longer lays flat with the rest of them.  Billy told me about all his surgeries.  But I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw it for myself.  I touched his hand, moving it about, trying to figure out how the surgeon did such a horrible job of resetting his bones.  He didn’t get his money’s worth, that’s for sure.  For several seconds, I didn’t want to let it go.  It was the only moment I had to touch him and I wanted to savor it for as long as I could.

The next day, my husband left.  We previously arranged that I would spend the morning helping Laura clean up.  You know, get her house back in order from the party.  As Laura and I started to wash dishes, my mind wandered to the previous night.  I kept thinking back to the garage and I really wanted to talk to Billy.  I wanted to apologize for putting him in that situation.

I messaged him, hoping he would meet me.  “Billy, I’m so sorry.  I shouldn’t have put you in that situation last night.  It was wrong.  Can we talk?  Either I come to you, you come to Laura’s or we meet at a coffee place?”

And you know what happened?  Nothing.  Total crickets.  He was mute (although I could see he had read the message).

So I upped the ante and sent him a photo of my red bra and matching lace thong.  I wasn’t actually wearing it people.  Come on.  It was just a photo of the actual lingerie, which for me was pretty brazen at the time.  You could say, it was the first sexy photo I had ever sent a man.  In my life.  As in ever.  I know such a prude eh?  But don’t you worry, what I lacked in frequency, I more than made up for it with CEO (and those college photography classes certainly came in hand–it’s about angles people!).

With my heart racing, I hit send with the following message, “Billy, don’t push me away too.  Unless…you don’t want my version of signal red in your life.”

Finally!  He coyly responded, “I do like that red.”

“But you’re married and that’s a bit heavy for me.  I’ve been down this road before.  And I can’t do it again.  Remember at the reunion, you asked why I was single?  Well the girl I told you about at the bar?  You know, the one I pushed away–Anna?  She left her husband and I was the shoulder to cry on.  I can’t do it again.”

“I don’t need your shoulder Billy.  You’re not responsible for the demise of my marriage, that happened two years ago.  I’m stronger now, ready to tackle this head on and leave my husband.”  My heart was pounding as we typed a flurry of responses back and forth.

“Billy, I really wanted to say this face to face.  Not over email.  Not like this.  What I wanted to know was….Do you feel what I feel too?  I’m not looking for an affair.  You deserve better than that.  You deserve all of me.  I need time to wind down my marriage.  I guess what I wanted to know was…would you wait for me?”

 

 

The Party

“We’re throwing a post-Halloween party at Laura’s house.  Everyone had so much fun at the reunion and wants to hang out again.  You in?”  Billy waited all of three seconds to reply.  “Why don’t we just show up at Laura’s house one random night, like a flash mob.  That would be hilarious.”

“Umm, yeah…well for single people that works.  But for those of us with kids, it’s….not so great.  These things have to be planned Billy.  How does the first weekend in November sound?”

“DEAL!!!”

And so the wheels were set in motion.  There was going to be a party.  A soiree of sorts.  And for sure, I would be seeing Billy very, very soon.  Tasked with contacting everyone, I was constantly in touch with him (Guess who can make it? Oh so-and-so can’t come etc.).  One day I noticed a beautiful photo show up in my newsfeed and it was his.  It was a place he hiked to- a peaceful, serene, nature kind of shot.  The kind that speaks to my soul as I love getting away from civilization.

We talked more and more that day, until eventually our conversation rolled into the evening.  I have always been the night owl.  My husband?  Not so much.  Looking back, I can say we had a few break through conversations, very deep, very personal.  I confided in Billy about my husbands infidelity, something very few friends even knew about.  I explained I initially wanted to leave him, but I was barely pregnant with Zane.  I felt vulnerable after he confessed.  Scared.  And yet steely in my determination to not let my family be torn apart, let alone have my children affected by his indiscretions.

Billy asked how things were now.  I explained things were rough.  He replied, “I reckon not quite the same”.  And he was right.  They weren’t.  It had been two years since the confession and over that time, I made a conscious decision to forgive.  I said it so many times that eventually it became my reality.  I let go of the anger.  I honestly came to terms with what had happened and moved on.  Friends that knew were enthralled we stayed together.  And in fact, I think I was as well.  You could say, with certainty, that we were creating a new marriage.  A more honest one.  Where I knew the “real” person I married, not the fantasy I had been living under all these years.

But there was also a new element to our marriage post-confession.  One that got under my nerves more than anything else.  I suddenly had a “yes” husband.  I can’t describe it any other way than to say he had become….a wet noodle.  He had no backbone whatsoever.  And despite being the leader in our marriage, I too needed a soft place to rest my head.  I wanted someone stronger than me.  Someone to be the leader in our marriage.  This wasn’t something I just wanted on a whim.  I had desired this dynamic our entire marriage.  But now, I craved it.  Immensely.  Like in the most primal of ways.  It had always been lacking in our marriage, but I had somehow been able to quell those desires.  But post-confession, my husband changed.  And I needed and wanted that alpha-male leader dynamic more than ever.

I guess you could say a seed was planted that evening.  A woman not entirely happy with her marriage is an easy target to lay claim to.  This much, I know.  I found myself still having this racing heart beat, ever since Billy’s first message landed in my inbox.  I thought for sure it meant something.  In fact, I was positive it was a sign.  A sign that somehow, I had made a terrible mistake in marrying my husband.  Perhaps Billy was really “the one”.  How else could I explain the 24/7 racing heartbeat?  This wasn’t some school girl crush kind of thing either.  In fact, I had only felt this once before, which confused me down to my core.

The night of the party arrived and I was late.  When I arrived and saw his car, I immediately knew he was inside.  Laura later confided in me that Billy was the very first person to show up, something that struck her as odd.  In hindsight, I’m certain that he wanted to see as much of me as he could that night.

I came into the party but had my hands full of food, bags etc.  So it took me a while to set things up.  I caught him staring at me out of the corner of his eye.  But I kept busy with the things I needed to do before socializing.  As it turned out, he never came up to me.  I made my way around to all the guests, thanking them for coming, talking about how great the reunion was etc.  But eventually, I finally greeted him, giving him a hug and a light kiss on the cheek.  For talking so much everyday, I was taken aback by his lack of enthusiasm.  He definitely was keeping his distance.  And acting like a shy little school boy around me.  I finally approached him saying, “You haven’t even come up to say hello, stranger.”  Without missing a beat, Billy replied, “I was being a gentleman and waiting my turn.”

As he reached forward and gave me an obligatory side kiss on the cheek, the awkwardness only continued.  If I was on one side of the party, he seemed to be on the other.  If I was inside the house, he seemed to be outside.  We were, in essence, doing a dance…of avoidance.

If I left to go inside the house, I would see him checking me out.  He would pretend to be knee-deep in conversation, yet stealing glances to check out my ass.  So I returned the favor by pretending to have the most fabulous conversations, with laughter beyond words.  But deep down, I felt sick to my stomach.  This party was not turning out the way I envisioned and I was actually starting to feel quite sad.

Closer to midnight, a group of people were congregating in the garage and he was in there.  So I decided to join them, resting my body right next to his.  He, leaning against the washer.  Me, the dryer.  As if on queue, everyone suddenly left the garage.  And we found ourselves alone, the first time ever since reuniting after all these years.  It was unbelievably quiet.  He stood up and looked at me with lustful eyes.  I finally broke the ice saying, “There is so much I want to say to you…”  He took in a deep breathe and sighed, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

“Look Billy, I am not some young girl in high school.  I know what I want…”  He stepped a few feet away from me, looking at me again.  I had the most incredible butterflies swirling around in my chest.  That feeling you get when falling in love.  Yeah that one, coupled with pent up sexual desire and excitement rolled into one.  “Just kiss me” I said boldly.  He replied, “I can’t. Someone could walk in.”

So I instantly turned around and made a bee line for the garage door, planning to lock it.  He stopped me, while I said, “I don’t care.”

“Well I do.  What if someone comes in and sees us?  Do you know how awkward that is going to be for me?  And besides, your husband is like 10 feet away on the other side of that door!”

Reluctantly, I turned toward him leaving the door unlocked.  “Well are you attracted to me then?”  And like a man taking his last breathe of air, he replied, “Am I attracted to you?  Do you even know what I want to do to you right now???!!!  I wish I could…”

And just like that, the door flung open.  And party goers were flooding back into the garage.  Our only moment alone was now fractured and we would never be alone again.  We parted ways but the sideway glances…the staring from a distance…continued till the wee hours of the morning when the party finally dismantled at 5 a.m.

 

 

 

The Prelude

As I sat across from my husband, nursing a hangover, I kept thinking about how “Billy wants to be friends”.  I was mentally trying to figure out how he found me, in between bites of my breakfast.  Like a Polaroid going off in my mind, I suddenly recalled the bartender taking a group photo from the night before.  That must have been it.  Jeff must have tagged me.

You could hear the clanking of our silverware, as we continued with our breakfast.  Him, bacon and eggs.  Me, hash browns and coffee.  Not much has changed in fourteen years of marriage.  I can predict my husbands wants and desires like a weatherman predicts tomorrow’s California sunshine.  We were both utterly exhausted, so no words were exchanged.  This wasn’t the first late night between us.  We actually met at an underground club in Europe.  And not your ordinary club in the American sense.  This place was legendary for hardcore music lovers who had been up for two days.  A Sunday afternoon session if you will, to cap the weekend off.  But those days were long behind us.  And had been from the start of our marriage.  However, it felt eerily familiar to be this narcoleptic sitting across from him.

[click here to ACCEPT] kept popping in my mind.  That, and wondering if Jeff had really posted the group photo.  My curiosity grew as my stomach swelled full and I finally reached for my phone.  Sure enough, I was right.  There on Facebook was the photo from the previous night.  I was surrounded by my dearest girlfriends from twenty years ago, while Billy stood directly behind me…smiling.

I would look at that photo several times in the coming weeks, wondering if I should finally leave my husband.  Wondering if my marriage had completely run it’s course.  I didn’t know how else to reconcile the racing heartbeat that never stopped.  I had that exact same feeling when I met my husband, which I took as a sign.  A sign that somehow, I had made a terrible decision in marrying my husband.  And that perhaps, Billy and I were meant to be together.

But Billy knew I was married.  For the duration of our meal, I rationalized that perhaps I had misinterpreted everything at the bar.  And adding me, to the other 2158 “friends” Billy had, likely meant nothing to him.  So I accepted his friendship.  In one click, we were reconnected.

It took all of three days for Billy to contact me. Very PC of course.

“Good to see you!  You haven’t aged at all.  Your husband is rad too.  Next time I’m up that way, maybe we can meet at the brewery.  You guys get a sitter.”

I broke out in the biggest grin replying back, “Yeah I feel the same.  I really was surprised to see you.  In all honesty, I thought you were someone’s husband and not alumni.  You look so different than how I remember you.”

Without missing a beat he replied, “Ha.  Reynolds didn’t even recognize me.”  All the guys referred to each other by their last names.  It started back in junior high, when the boys PE teacher called them out by their last names during drills.  It stuck.  And to this day, that’s how they refer to one another: Reynolds, Weaver, Fuller and Collins.  They were thick as thieves at one point.  But time had distanced everyone from each other.

And so our friendship began.  It was mostly benign stuff, like comparing notes about the reunion.  Did you talk to this person or that person?  Wasn’t that person funny?  But eventually our chit-chat turned more personal, like most people’s would after you’ve flushed out all the boring stuff.

One morning, I was told that a classmate was murdered and it floored me.  I immediately sent Billy a message.  “I just heard about her passing.  Did you know?”  He immediately got online to talk.  “Whaaaat?  When?  How?”  I quickly replied, “All I know is she was murdered.”  Billy wrote, “So sad.  I liked her.  Urgh, I’m reading about it online.  So so sad.”

A few days later, my husband took the kids to a soccer game.  So I had time to myself which rarely happens.  Pouring myself a glass of wine, I logged back in and Billy sent me a message.  “Hiiiiiiiiiii.  What are you doing?”  “Just sitting her with a glass of wine. Everyone went to a soccer game.  I’m actually alone for once which never happens. You?”

“Sitting at a bar watching the World Series.  It’s empty.  Too many Halloween parties.” Billy wasn’t in California.  He was back east, a trip he made several times a month to oversea business.  Wondering where he would rather live, I asked, “Do you like being back there?  Or are you a So Cal guy at heart?”  He said, “Ha!  I only ever “visit” here, even when I moved.  I’ve never lived further than four miles from the house I grew up in.  Except when here.”

“So your parents are still in town?” I asked.  Billy replied, “My mom is.  Old man died a few years ago.  Same house across from school.”  Regretfully I said, “I’m sorry Billy.  I didn’t know.  We put mine in a home.  Twelve brain surgeries, two comas, nearly died a few times.”

“That’s tough.  At least mine went quick.  Died on his motorcycle surrounded by his friends, with the sun on his face.  Kinda awesome.” Collecting my thoughts, I finally replied, “You can’t ask for a better way to go.  Surrounded by your friends, doing something you love.”  Billy paused and finally replied, “True.  Very very true.”

I should probably share that Billy has a penchant for restoring vintage cars.  Or rather an obsession for a certain German manufacturer.  It started with his father and migrated down to him.  One day, he shared some old B&W photos of his Dad leaning against one of his prized possessions.  It was definitely unexpected.  Quite sweet and nostalgic.  And in that moment, I realized just how much his fathers death had impacted him.  He missed him.  And I understood.  For although my father was still alive, he was completely brain damaged.  I lost him in every way, except the physical.

A few days passed and Billy sent me more photos.  Only this time, it was inside his business.  Maybe he was trying to impress me.  Who knows.  I wish I could divulge more because it’s interesting.  And especially for someone like him.  You could say our friendship was getting closer at that point.  Although I yearned to see him again, I figured it would be another decade until that would happen.

My phone rang.  It was Kara.  “I’ve been so busy honey, but I’ve been wanting to call you.  The reunion was so much fun.  Now everyone wants to hang out again.  How about me, you and Laura throw a Halloween party?”

 

 

After Midnight

“The bar is closing.  But there’s another one around the corner that stays open later.  You guys in?”  Jeff was trying to round everyone up but it was like herding cats.  He had been Billy’s best friend in high school and was the nicest guy.  Even to this day.  The poor bartender wanted to go home and Jeff was doing his best to get us out the door.  Finally, he pulled out his iPhone and yelled, “Everyone, let’s take a group picture” after asking the bartender to snap one.

We then left, running to the next bar, where we got in before they shut the doors.  Jeff ordered a round of shots and started reminiscing about the antics various friends pulled.  At one time, we all lived fairly close to one another.  And being kids, we would regularly sneak out of our parents houses to go ice blocking on the local golf course.  Quite often, this led to several teenagers riding a forgotten golf cart through fog covered hills.  Now a days, kids would be arrested for doing such things.  But back then, well…things were just different (thankfully).

As the laughs and reminiscing continued, whatever I had felt with Billy earlier seemed to dissipate.  And actually, I started to question whether I misjudged the situation entirely.  The rest of the night, it just felt like old friends catching up.  The same four or five girls (and their husbands) were hanging out with the same 6 or 7 guys (some single, some married, and a few in committed long-term relationships).  I couldn’t help but think, for being so hesitant to go, this reunion honestly turned out better than I imagined.

And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way either.  As the final bar closed, the stragglers descended upon an empty parking lot where everyone continued to talk.  Eventually, a couple offered to have everyone back to their house.  So we jumped into some waiting taxi’s and headed over to their place.  My husband went straight to bed (we previously arranged to stay the night at this couples home).  So the group whittled down to six, Billy included.

Someone had the bright idea to raid the freezer and started making food.  There we stood, leaning against kitchen counters listening to Jeff and Billy trade insults, just like when we were kids.  Only now, one made fun of the extra weight one carried, while the other made fun of how skinny he was.  Needless to say, being the best friends they were, they could joke about stuff like this and get away with it.

I finally went to bed around 4:30, where my husband laid conked out.  As I drifted off to sleep all I could think was, “This was single-handedly the best night out I have had…in years.”

Two and a half hours later, my husband and I woke up.  Unfortunately, we are trained to do so.  Because this is the time when Vivian would normally crawl into our bed.  We decided it would be best to drive back home and relieve our sitter.  Halfway through our journey home, we stopped for breakfast.  Slightly hung-over and definitely exhausted, I sat quietly waiting to order while my husband left to use the restroom.

Beep. Beep.

It was my cell phone going off, deep inside my purse.  I fished it out and saw one of those automated messages from Facebook in my inbox.  As I looked down at my phone, my heart began to race.  Considering it was only 8 a.m., I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“Billy wants to be friends”

 

The Reunion

“So did you buy your tickets?”  That’s how the email started out one summer afternoon.  It was a friend from high school contacting me.  You know, one of those friends that you just pick up where you last left off.  We go months without talking.  And then we resume our conversation as if a day hasn’t even passed.  I love her for that.

After mulling it over, I finally replied, “I’m not going.”  I had no desire to see anyone from high school.  Still nursing Zane and carrying an extra fifteen pounds of baby weight, I didn’t exactly look my best yet.  “Oh please come”, Kara said.  “Everyone is talking on Facebook but I noticed you weren’t on the reunion page.”

Two months later, Kara prodded again.  “Today is the last day to buy your tickets on eventbrite.  Please go!!!  You’re the only one left in our group of friends that hasn’t bought.  I promise you…it will be fun.”  I thought peer pressure was long gone but apparently it’s alive and well twenty years later.  At the last possible moment, I finally caved.

My husband and I were late for the reunion and feeling kind of frazzled.  And honestly, we were feeling a bit nervous too.  It took me a solid hour to work the room with my husband by my side.  Every step brought me deeper into a sea of familiar, yet aged faces.  Although I had lived overseas and led an interesting life in my twenties, I was now a full-time mother.  Not exactly exciting or tantalizing to share.  I couldn’t help but think of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, where Lisa Kudrow tells everyone she invented Post-It notes.  Somewhat laughing, I thought to myself, “I so wish I could say I invented the iPad or something marvelous right now….instead I just created another human being-ha!”  Needless to say, I was feeling slightly insecure but that faded quickly.

Pretty much everyone was sharing similar life stories, “I’m married now, have two kids, blah, blah, blah.”  Before sitting down to eat, I finally excused myself to use the restroom.  There before me stood two men.  They were standing at the entrance of the ballroom but I didn’t recognize either one of them.  I figured they were somebody’s +1 or just random husbands.

As I walked past them I heard, “Heyyyyyyy…Oh my gosh I haven’t seen you since graduation.”  When I looked up, there was an incredibly hot looking man talking to me.  He was tall.  At least six-foot, with salt and pepper hair.  He had a great smile and beautiful blue eyes that glistened.  His arms stretched out before him, till they met the small of my lower back as we embraced.  Breaking our hug, I stood there staring, wondering who this person was before me.  I frantically looked at his name tag only to draw a blank.  Totally clueless, I kept thinking, “Who the hell is this?”  The name tag read “Billy” but I couldn’t recall going to school with one.  That’s because in high school, everyone knew him as William.  And pretty much everyone called him by his last name.  The penny dropped a few minutes later and I finally remembered who he was.  But it certainly took a while.  He looked nothing like he did in high school.  Time, you could say, was good to him.

Billy was our star basketball player.  Tall, pasty-white and lanky would be adjectives to describe him in high school.  Lacking confidence would be another.  However, staring at him now, he seemed self-assured and confident, qualities that I love in men.  If I had to describe him visually, he looks a lot like the model Gael Nicolas but with Jake Gyllenhaal’s eyes.  Basically, not a bad combination.

Billy was within our circle of friends but always on the outer edges, even way back then.  After graduation, he left California and moved out-of-state to play basketball.  Did pretty well in college and got offered to play overseas.  But he declined.  Ended up moving into finance and working for one of the big investment firms, until he totally switched gears and started a successful business.  I can’t say what it is for fear of exposing who this really is.  However, let’s just say it made my mouth salivate when he told me.

We sat there talking for a good twenty minutes till I finally excused myself, heading back to my husband.  As I walked away, I thought, “Wow has he changed.  And for the better.  What an interesting person he turned out to be.”  That’s it.  That’s all I thought.  Honestly.

As the evening progressed, all the stragglers were moved to an adjacent bar.  Our group was dwindling but we still had a solid twenty people there.  I moved to one end of the bar and my husband ordered us some drinks.  He then walked away and started talking to people nearby.  I took one sip of my chardonnay and looked up through the bottom of my eyes.  There Billy sat, at the opposite side of the bar, staring at me intently.

We locked eyes in an instant.  It was electric.  Fiery.  And real.

And totally unexpected.

I immediately tilted my eyes back down, trying to shift my gaze away from his.  I entered that room as a married woman “working on my marriage”.  But here I sat, clearly being admired by another man.  I didn’t think something like this would happen tonight.  Nor ever (fuck I was lactating people!).  But it happened.  In an instant.

As I lifted my head up, I looked again in his direction.  He smiled.  Big.  And then he got up.  “Oh.My.God.  Wow, has he changed.  And in a good way.  He sees what he wants and is going after it.”  That is what went through my mind.  Total alpha male. Very assertive.

My mind raced as I saw him walking towards me.  With a giant smile across his face, he sat down next to me.  “So, tell me.  I don’t get why you are single.  Obviously, you’re an attractive guy.  What happened?  Were you engaged and it didn’t work out?  What’s your story?”

His mouth began to move as I studied the contours of his face.  I still couldn’t reconcile that this was William in front of me.  He looked nothing like he did in my childhood memories.  For several minutes, I felt like we were the only two people in the room.  Everyone else became a blur.  And in that moment, I started to feel something foreign in my chest.  “What is that feeling?  Is it my heart acting up again?  No this was different.  My chest felt funny, yet exciting.  Oh my gosh, I know what this feeling is.  Shit…I haven’t felt this since….since I fell in love with my husband!”

Months later, I would recount that very moment and liken it to playing dominos.  In hindsight, that night was a game changer.  It was the first of many pieces to fall down in my life, each one intrinsically connecting to another.

Call it kismet.