She laid on the bed wondering where it all went wrong. A leftover tear rolled down her cheek and soaked into the quilt. She took a deep breath, with a slight hitch. She sounded like one of her toddlers, after settling from a bad tantrum. She wasn’t an emotional person, but crying had become common over the years. Crying wasn’t the right word. Sobbing? No. It was more like a wailing from deep within her spirit.
Rolling onto her back, she played the past out in her head like a bad movie. She convinced herself that she never regretted the past. It’s what made her who she was today. But who was she kidding? The person she was today was a dichotomy. Timid, yet strong. Yielding, yet stubborn. Accommodating, yet inaccessible. Happy, yet sad. Hopeful, yet defeated.
She barely held on to the small shred of who she was. Everything else had been lost….or at least buried. In truth, she knew what she had been through did make her a stronger person. It gave her conviction and defined her tolerances. But how do you exude that strength when it is beaten out of you; mentally and physically; every time you try to assert it?
Despite trying to stop it, the story still played over in her mind. It was a bad history lesson.
She had always gotten a kick from telling people how she had met him. A family reunion. The ensuing looks made her giggle.
The truth of it was that he had been her cousin’s guest to an annual family picnic. Rick was the odd duck in the family. Odd enough that some of the family began to wonder about his sexual orientation when the two men showed up together. Being a momma’s boy with strange proclivities didn’t help Rick’s cause. He was a fairly attractive, quickly-approaching-40 year old man who never in the long history of family gatherings brought a woman around. It was only natural to assume that this was very possibly his coming out. And being the ever awkwardly polite Pennsylvania family that they were, no one dared ask. They all just watched intently for clues the rest of the evening. Including her.
Rick’s “friend” was attractive, in that corn-fed, meat and potatoes sort of way. In spite of the fact that it was 1997, he had an 80’s haircut that bordered on being Amish. And there was obviously a dark-ish sense of humor under it all, as his t-shirt was emblazoned with a large yellow smiley face with a bullet hole in the forehead. She found herself smiling over it. Her own sense of humor leaned more toward the sarcastic.
There were a few times that evening where she had caught him looking at her. She was a young 22 year old who had just come into her own. She had finally shed the last remnants of the horrible high school years and now looked like the young woman that she was. Petite, well dressed, and fresh from the salon. She looked pretty damn good, if she did say so herself. And the looks that she was getting made her wonder if they were wrong about Rick; or at least his friend.
By the end of the evening, she had her answer. In true high school fashion, her cousin that she was closest with, approached her and asked if Rick’s friend could have her phone number. She agreed, wondering to what end. She wasn’t really looking for a relationship of any sort. Not that this guy was either, but did she want to find out? She had her friends that she went to the clubs with and had a few guys that she would see on occasion. She was content with how things were. But she was always open to new things, so why not?
She found that he was polite and charming, if even in a back-country sort of way. He explained that he and Rick were getting ready to leave to go listen to a band he was considering joining, but he would give her a call later that week. Even though she was young, she had learned not to hold her breath.
Even so, the little bit of attention left her feeling a bit lighter; and she got to be the one to break the news that they were all wrong about Rick!