“Will you Marr—“

“No.”

The kneeling man at my feet snapped his jaw shut in surprise, his hands fumbling the black velvet box and folding the lid down. I didn’t even look at the ring. The symbol of slavery.

“Wow. Cut down before I could even pop the question. Is that a new world record? Can someone check?”

His stupid sarcastic smile ratcheted my irritation up fifty degrees. I crossed my arms and jutted my hip out.

“Look at me you idiot. Does this look like the face of a happy dewy-faced virginal teenager swooning over romantic gestures?”

“No. But–well–”

“What did you THINK was going to happen? We’ve discussed this. At length.”

Dark brown eyes surveyed the frown lines between my eye brows and the hard set of my lips before looking away and standing up, dejected. I knew I should have been more sensitive. I knew it took guts to propose to your cranky girlfriend. But if he had been any sort of observant boyfriend, he would have known all this time that I would say no. Without hesitation or doubt. He embarrassed himself thinking I would change my mind when faced with this moment. This was in no way my fault.

“So that’s it then?” he asked, pocketing the box.

“That’s all she wrote,” I agreed, ready to shoot down all his arguments and negotiations and logical factoids.

He snorted and glanced at me, a glimmer of hope still in his eyes. Is this a joke? they asked. No, it’s not. Is she going to burst out laughing and hug me and say ‘just kidding! Of course I’ll spend the rest of my life with you as your devoted wife!’ That’s a Hell No right there buddy. Is she really going to leave it like this? You betcha!

“I got work Stefan. I’ll see you later.”

I whipped my long red hair out of the way and swung my bag onto my shoulder, a practiced move. And I walked away.

“What?! Rory, come on!”

“Byyeeeeeee!” I gave a half hearted wave.

Great. My lunch break was wasted now. I stormed down the walk way, taking long strides back toward the business district. I wanted to take off my four inch heels as they pounded down the cement and stab the eye balls of every male within striking distance who so much as looked at me. I was expecting sub sandwiches on a park bench fifteen minutes ago so I skipped snacking on my break and did a mini work out instead, boosting my metabolism and psyching myself out for the sandwich and a some kisses. So not only was I hangry but now I had the added stress of an ego-bruised boyfriend to deal with at the end of the day. Did the day start out good? I can’t even remember. The haze of crimson dulled my brain functions.

Stupid idiot.

“Miss? Excuse me–”

I turned, my eyes glaring at the young man walking toward me in a hurry. He had on a dark blue suit that brought out the electric shades of blue in his eyes and a gorgeous paisley tie in shades of metallic silver and red. And he was British. Or maybe Aussie. Naturally tan with a more-than-pleasant looking face. I might have appreciated him a little more if the universe wasn’t so hell-bent on me having a shit day.

“What?” I snapped.

Mr. Blue eyes hesitated, not expecting such an unwelcome response. He fumbled in his jacket pocket and held out my work badge. There was the normal me, all smiles and pink glowing cheeks in the thumbnail photograph. What a contrast.

“Ah crap,” I muttered, taking the plastic from his outstretched hand. “Thanks. And sorry.”

I tacked on the last part quickly.

The badge must’ve unclipped from my bag when I whirled around and made my dramatic exit. My face heated in a tomato blush and I turned away, ready to go back to my office and look over photos and fonts and edit articles. Bury myself in work and forget the outside world existed.

“Wait! Miss um–”

I gave him a side ways glare, my red face going redder. We’re all men stupid today?

“Sorry.”

He did actually look properly sorry.

“My grandmum. She saw the um–she saw what happened. She wanted to talk to you.”

Oh this day just keeps getting better. Mr. Blue eyes winced, clearly uncomfortable facing a vengeful harpy such as myself. Now I had to deal with an elderly woman trying to “talk some common sense into me” by foisting her traditions and wisdom on the younger generation.

“I don’t have time. I’m going to be late for work and I still need to get something to eat.”

“Please.” He held out his hands to me palms up; a gesture of pleading and subservience. “We have a picnic set up in the park. Tea and biscuits and sandwiches. We have more than enough and we’re very happy to accommodate you.”

Damn Brits and their damn tea and suave mannerisms.

“I’m not exactly good company right now,” I said.

Clearly. He was startling to look frantic now and the part of me that had horns and a pitch fork basked in glee that someone might be having a worse day than me.

“She insisted. I–just–please? It’s incredibly awkward to beg in public to a brassed off stranger but she’ll be disappointed if I couldn’t convince you.”

I gave him my “Yeah right” eye brows and a glib stare. He looked at me dead serious.

“She very stubborn you know. She would come after you herself.”

The eye brow cocked.

“She knows where you work. Well, I do but I would be forced to tell her.”

He pointed at the badge in my hand and I blinked, my inner tirade momentarily silenced. Well Crap. If she wants to talk that badly…

“I have to admit having an elderly stalker is an amusing story but I’d rather not have to pay a hospital bill for a broken hip from her chasing me.”

“Thank you.”

The relief in his handsome face nudged a tiny bit of the chip off my shoulder. Oh fine. What could it hurt? At least I’ll be fed and I can spend a few minutes enjoying the craptacular afternoon.

I took out my phone and texted my boss, saying I stumbled onto a good story and would be late back in. She wouldn’t care. I was the best employee she had and rarely stepped a toe out of line. When I did, it really was for something good and she grew to trust my instincts.

“I’m Benjamin by the way,” Blue eyes said, holding out his elbow for me to take.

“Really?” I asked, eyeing the appendage offensively.

“Chivalry isn’t dead everywhere you know.”

“Just in America,” I said but took the elbow anyway. “I’m Aurora.”

“How beautiful. It suits you, this name of many colors.”

“Call me Rory.”

He smiled at me, showing perfect white teeth. I ran my tongue self-consciously over my one crooked tooth. Man I really should have gotten braces as a kid.

“It also suits you.”

We started to walk back the way we came. I felt so lame walking in my green pant suit with my hand tucked inside Benjamin’s arm. Weren’t manners like this reserved for fancy galas and High Teas at the palace or something? Or for young couples at Prom?

We crossed onto the grass and I looked out at the meandering groups of park-goers, wondering which way Stefan went. Where was he going to go to lick his wounds? The fitness center? His class room? A hike in the woods? I had no idea. I didn’t want to deal with him sooner than I had to so hopefully he wasn’t still in the park.

“There she is.”

I looked around for an old lady in a wheel chair or sitting in a collapsible chair but the only elderly person I saw was sitting on a thick plaid blanket and she had bright purple hair. Her legs were tucked neatly underneath her in creamy palazzo pants and a soft blue cashmere sweater. When we got closer I noticed her bare toes matched the color of her hair.

“That’s very purple,” I whispered, leaning in close.

“She was going for more of a lavender color but the color took too well to her hair. She’ll give it a couple washes to tone it down.”

“And this is a normal thing with her?”

Benjamin chuckled and the inner girly part of me deep down underneath the irritation sighed appreciatively.

“Oh yes. Last month it was emerald green for St. Patrick’s day.”

“Your granny is sublime,” I said and stopped at the edge of the blanket, releasing Ben’s elbow.

“Why thank you young lady, I appreciate you saying so.”

A barely wrinkled face covered by a large pair of designer sunglasses beamed up at me, showing me a smile that let me know good dental genetics ran strong in Ben’s family. I could feel the calm confidence radiating off this woman and I liked her immediately. Definitely not the lecture-y type and I knew women types.

“Grandmum, this is Aurora.”

“Rory actually.”

I held out my hand and she gripped it firmly for a moment.

“Rory, this is my grandmum Dame Leslie.”

“But you may call me LeeLee. The Dame ages me immensely.”

“Terrific,” I said, trying to edge out the sarcasm in my voice but not succeeding.

“Please sit. We have ham and cucumber sandwiches, a fruit and cheese platter, petite fours, tea…make yourself comfortable. And do take off your heels dear. I know you must’ve struggled crossing the lawn in those gorgeous monstrosities.”

My calves were indeed killing me, standing on tip toe to avoid aerating the lawn and soiling the heels on my $400 Prada.

“Thanks.”

Ben sat next to me and kicked off his shoes as well, stretching out and grabbing two thermoses.

“Iced Jasmine green or hot Darjeeling?”

This isn’t weird, having tea out of a thermos. No fine china for a High Tea at the park with a Dame and her grandson?

“Iced please.”

Benny boy busied himself pouring out drinks and the purple haired LeeLee took it upon herself to make me a plate of snacks while I looked on curiously. I took a dainty sandwich and put the whole thing in my mouth. Not exactly the sub sandwich I was hoping for but food was food.

“This is good. Thank you.”

I tried to make nice. It came out a little stagnant but manners were manners. I tucked my hair behind my ears and ate another sandwich.

“It’s our pleasure,” LeeLee said generously. “Now Rory, why did you turn down that young man’s proposal? It’s very unusual to see a young woman turn down a man on his knees.”

“Grandmum!”

I choked on a piece of unchewed cucumber and set down my plate, taking a gulp of the tea Ben handed me in a glass.

“How did you even see that from all the way over here?”

“We witnessed it as we were crossing the green,” Ben replied in a low embarrassed voice.

Right to the point. Don’t Brits usually sugar coat things? Perhaps not purple haired grannies. Maybe they learn not to waste time as they near the end of life.

“I’m merely curious Benjamin.” LeeLee defended herself in a voice tinged with amusement. “She doesn’t have to answer if she doesn’t want to.”

Her tone and her words didn’t match at all. Her words were polite but her tone said ‘I am the purple-haired woman who sent my grandson to prostrate before you to have lunch with us to satisfy my curiosity.’ Yikes. I answered her frank question with a frank response.

“Because I don’t believe in legal slavery.”

There was a moment of shocked silence and then gales of laughter from both of my lunch hosts.

“Marriage isn’t slavery–” “Oh how right you are my dear!”

Now grandmum and grandson faced off, one aghast and the other grinning and patting my knee.

“How can you say that grandmum? You were married for 48 years!”

“And now I’m free, my boy. Free to be whomever I wish without having to compromise or apologize.”

Ben looked down at his hands and I felt that a little corner of his world shifted irrevocably. His shoulders hunched forward and he bowed his head low, trying to absorb the blow.

“I take it for 48 years your hair was never any other color than natural?” I asked, popping a grape into my mouth.

“Never.”

We took a moment to reflect and drink some tea, waiting for Ben to recuperate a little.

“I think we’ve shocked him,” LeeLee said quietly to me. “Why don’t you go ahead and explain while he recovers his wits.”

I took another swallow of tea and cleared my throat.

“There’s one thing I want to say before I explain,” I said. “And that is that I do love Stefan. He is one of the reasons my heart beats every day and I would give my life up in a second for him.”

Ben looked at me, disbelief and relief warring on his face. He looked at his grandmum and she nodded, agreeing with his silent question.

“But I won’t marry him.”

LeeLee picked up a piece of watermelon with a small fork and smiled gently before she ate it.

“Why is that my dear?”

“The tradition is antiquated and irrelevant for one,” I explained, settling into the rant like a well worn couch that had my butt print permanently embedded in it. “Marriages were contracts between political and royal families to broker alliances and gain land and trade rights. It was also a religious commandment that man and wife should join in holy matrimony and breed like bunnies to continue humanity and the all-important royal genetics. Clearly. You Brits should know this intimately.”

“Long live the Queen,” LeeLee chuckled at this and I kept going, ignoring Ben’s scoffs.

“There’s also a difference between a wedding and a marriage. Weddings are lavish parties to celebrate the union of two people, two lands, two houses, two families. The reception was used to mingle the guests and show unity and provide entertainment and drink so people would forget they hated each other or whatever the case may be.”

“Not that much difference between now and then,” Ben muttered, biting into a sandwich forcefully.

“Marriage though; marriage is what comes AFTER the wedding.”

I stretched out my legs and took a sip of tea. I needed to repaint my toes.

“Most people don’t really think about after the honey moon. They get this fluffed up version of marriage from books and tv shows. They see these perfectly happy, perfectly in love couples that lovingly divide up the chores and go to work and come home to a horny partner that wants to shag them into the early hours of the morning and then make them breakfast afterward.”

No bitterness there. Nope. I shrugged a shoulder.

“It might be true for a couple of months. Maybe a year if you’re lucky. And then something happens. The car breaks down, there’s a pregnancy scare, a parent dies, a partner starts to snore at night, the sex starts to get boring but no one wants to say so out of fear. Suddenly the rose-colored glasses crack and the glass starts falling away to reveal what marriage truly is.”

I paused for dramatic effect and he couldn’t help but take the bait.

“And what’s that?” Ben asked, an edge to his voice. He’d been drinking his tea sullenly, all jovial humor gone from him now.

“Work.”

I know that’s not what he expected me to say and I could see the clouds of arguments wafting off of him. He was struggling to hold it in, his strict Brit manners binding him into civility.

“What if the work is worth it?” he finally got out, biting back the words he really wanted to say.

“How would you know?” I shot back.

He faltered. “Well I don’t have first hand experience but I imagine we’d talk about it of course.”

I smiled, predicting his answer. Like cocking the gun back to set up the kill shot.

“You’d talk about it? When?When is a good time to talk about if marriage is worth it? When are you going to sit down with your partner and really ask them what marriage means to them and what you’re hoping to achieve by legally binding yourself to another person? Before you say ‘I Do’? After your first fight? After your first kid?”

Ben and LeeLee were both silent, one dreading and one expectant.

“The answer is, you don’t know. How old are you Ben?”

“I’m turning twenty-two in June.”

The pride he had in his voice ticked me off. So proud of being ‘a man” now eh? College graduate and ready to take on anything. My god how I wanted to knock him into the real world.

“I take it you look so angry because you already have a marriage proposal in the works, am I right?

His silence and glare was enough of an answer and I gave a cruel smile. I wanted to save his innocent soul from the jaws of holy matrimony but I knew in his current state I wouldn’t be able to reach him. In a moment of brilliance I understand now why I was here. I looked for confirmation at LeeLee and she nodded over her tea and flicked a pinky at her naive progeny as if to say “Break him. Be my guest.”

“Ben, I know you really don’t like what I have to say because you want to cling to the rose-colored glasses. I get it. You want the fantasy, the dream, the white doves and the rose petals. You deserve it. But can I ask you one question?”

“I suppose.”

I was his least favorite person in the world right now, second only to his grandmum, who had just revealed a life-altering lie. As much as I wanted to force him to see the truth of the thing and hear me out, there was no way a lecture was going to move him. My ire drained out of me and my fighting muscles relaxed. My voice grew gentler as I threw the ball in his court.

“Can you do all that without a marriage contract?”

I don’t know if he expected that question but he blinked down at his tea cup and then looked up at me, cocking his head to the side. His eyes burned into me, lightning blue. He’s rallying, I thought. He’s turning his anger into logic and fighting back.

“You want me to say the obvious answer and I’m not inclined to because it’s unfair. You’re basing your question on the larger picture and you can’t do that. You have to take into consideration many factors like religious preferences, parental input, moral beliefs and modern stigma. Many couples get married solely on the fact their faith says they must.”

I leaned back on the blanket, supporting my body against my outstretched arms, my belly somewhat satisfied now. The raging redhead temper was quenched at least on one front.

“Does yours?”

He pursed his lips and I felt a flicker of satisfaction at his answer.

“No.”

He was annoyed at giving me that small win.

“Does hers?” I asked. “Or his?” I tacked on delicately.

She is not affiliated with any church organized religion.”

I nodded once, acknowledging.

“Do your parental units vehemently disagree with you loving and living with a woman without a marriage first?”

LeeLee waved a hand at us and chimed in.

“This parental unit has no qualms.” She turned to me and explained. “Both his parents were killed in Iraq when he was younger. His grand pappy and I raised him since.”

Oh crap.

“I’m sorry for your loss Ben.”

He gave a sad heartless smile. “Thanks. Grand Pappy would have insisted on a marriage Grandmum and you know it.”

Poor cornered Ben. Trying to garner support from the dead.

“And you would have used him as vindication to be right rather than listen to reason and experience? Shame on you for being so narrow-minded. Like a little boy pointing and yelling ‘see I told you!’ just for the sake of being right.”

Her glasses hid her eyes but I could tell her eyebrows would be down cast and her eyes filled with disappointment. Ben looked properly scolded. I felt the shadow of being a guest over-staying her welcome creeping up on me so I hurried through the rest of my questioning to get to the point.

“Do her parents need her to be married before she lives with you?” I asked, breaking up the tense silence.

He opened his mouth and then clicked it shut. I could tell he was running through the rolodex of facts in his brain, trying to remember if they did or didn’t care.

“Do your moral beliefs or hers say you need a big fancy wedding at this point in the relationship just to prove to everyone you belong together and are happy?”

Fed up, Ben threw up his arms.

“No, okay? No to everything!”

“Wait now,” I said, leaning forward again and putting a hand on his, getting his attention. “One last question and this one is easy.”

He waited.

“When was the last time you truly enjoyed yourself at a wedding?”

I heard LeeLee hum lightly and pick up a grape to hide her smile.

“I—well—There was Brad’s…no. Maybe Amelia’s? That one was okay but the food–maybe not. Definitely not Tom’s. Gawd–”

Ben physically shuddered and grimaced.

“Weddings are expensive Ben. To throw a really nice party, you gotta have the money. Young people are always in a rush to get married because they thing it’s romantic and will somehow enhance the quality of life together but really, all you end up with is debt. Who wants to start their lives as a married unit in debt? Why don’t you guys save up and throw a really nice party that everyone will remember as the one to beat? Or buy a house and have a beautiful back yard reception, celebrating your accomplishments as a couple and how strong you’ve become?”

It was a speech I had said probably a thousand times to eager friends and clients who wanted a shot gun wedding. Most of them didn’t hear me with tulle and rose petals dancing in front of their eyes but I never stopped trying. Ben looked like he would be one of the hopeful few that might take my advice into consideration, once he got over his need for tradition and the romantic fluff he was spoon fed since childhood.

I shifted to the edge of the blanket and grabbed up my shoes, preparing to rise and take my leave. I glanced over my shoulder and looked once more at Ben, who looked haggard.

“It is my staunch belief that if a couple decides to be together, dedicating their lives to enhancing themselves in order to be a better partner and person, that it is infinitely harder and more commendable than doing it because of a contract. To choose that person over and over, every day by a conscious and willing decision says so much more than a piece of paper.”

I struggled to my feet and picked up my purse, throwing my hair back to settle it on my shoulder. Ben, ever the gentleman, rose as well.

“I love Stefan today and although he pissed me off, I’ll forgive him and love him tomorrow too. We’ll come to a compromise on the whole wedding thing eventually and if that takes a year or five years or twenty, that’s okay. There also may come a day where one or both of us decide we don’t want to choose the other any more and that’s okay too. A least less expensive than a divorce. Marriage is work forged from a contract. A partnership is work forged from your own choices and desire.”

“But the only thing separating the two is a piece of paper and thousands of dollars,” LeeLee said, finishing the monologue gracefully. “Rory, it was a pleasure to have you for lunch. It was very insightful.”

She took my hand and rubbed it between hers.

“I hope that your Bridal Magazine does well this quarter.”

“Thank you. I hope you can find the perfect shade of lavender.”

I turned to Ben and offered my hand, unsure if he would be willing to take it after ripping his beliefs apart at the seams.

“You know, you would be a decent divorce lawyer. I may have an opening for a partner for you if you’re willing to take the Barr exam.”

I threw my head back and laughed loudly, genuinely amused.

“Is that what you’re training to be? Oh Ben, I may have a job for YOU if you flunk out of divorce court. You’re a romantic at heart. You know where I work. Look me up.”

“See you then Rory.”

“Thank you for lunch Ben. Take care and think carefully.”

I didn’t put my shoes back on as I walked through the park back toward my building. Maybe after work I’ll pick up some Pho and some potted flowers from the nursery down the street. I DID make my beloved boyfriend look like an epic fool in public. He was still an idiot for hoping but I loved him. My last thought before switching into work mode was “I wonder if I would be invited to Ben’s wedding?”

Advertisements

11 Years: Adult Merit badge earned– “Marriage”

Today is my 11 year wedding anniversary.

I’ve been married to 1 man for over a decade. That’s one-third of my life.

1 year ago I realized that things were falling apart in my marriage. It didn’t start one year ago. I just realized it then.

10 years ago, I went against my instinct and got married to a man-boy too immature to deal with what a marriage really was. (Not that I was SO much more mature or anything.)

Strange that I can barely remember much from the last decade. I get bits and pieces when I think back. Most of it is frustration because humans are programmed to respond to and remember the bad more than the good. I know there were many good times in my marriage. But given my current state of mind, I’m not inclined to want to remember them either.

They (you know, the proverbial THEY) say that humans will experience at least three great loves in their life times.

  1. The first great love is the love you think you should have. Your fairy tale love, the one you read about in romance books. The one your parents tell you about. The one you hope might give you the white picket fence dream. Usually it’s to someone you’ve known in school or your early career path. And yet, there’s something deep down that tells you…maybe not? But you ignore it because you’re getting your heart’s desire! It’s the love of the inexperienced and lonely.
  2.  The second great love is destructive, toxic. It is drama filled, border-line addictive. Not necessarily violent or soap opera worthy but it is a relationship that is not healthy for you. Could be an online relationship or a secret affair. A girl/boyfriend gone wrong but you can’t seem to get enough of them, no matter how many times they’ve hurt you. The drama excites you and you get a thrill off it. You crave them. *Insert “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga here*
  3. The third great love comes at you like a stray cat. It comes up to you, all innocent and cute and you pet it until it goes away. The it comes again and maybe you feed it a little. Then you let it in your house and suddenly, it’s there on your lap purring and you’re okay with that. Natural as breathing. What the hell just happened? It is a love that comes from someone unexpected; someone you maybe weren’t even looking for. And yet, they seem to fit you as if they’d always been there. They get you like no one else ever has. The give you space and yet appreciate your flaws and admire your experience. They make you laugh, enhance you as a person and you find that you want to do the same for them. They are like the sun coming out after a terrible storm. (Wow. Maybe the third love really IS an animal.)

I’ve experienced all three of these and I have learned a lot about myself and relationships from them. I’m glad for these experiences because it’s made me a better mom and person, someone wiser. I can look at both sides of love now and give honest opinions about it. Not that they’ll be listened to because everyone has to experience their own life. But I have them.

I don’t think I’ll give any advice right now because I fear it’ll be slightly skewed. This was more of an affirmation that I’ve Been There and Done That and I Know My Shit. Because I survived 11 years with one man.

The next step on this journey is to identify what’s wrong with me and fix myself so that if I ever do decide to get into a serious relationship again, I won’t bring the same problems with me.

I do have one silver lining: I can use all this in my stories. Yep. There ya go.

Quickie #6 Let them eat cake

PROMPT: Describe a wedding cake you have seen or had. 

I didn’t have a wedding cake. I didn’t even have a wedding, just a courthouse ceremony in a wedding dress, four months pregnant. Not to say I didn’t WANT a wedding but circumstances didn’t leave a lot of time to plan or pay for even a modest one. I don’t know what I would have chosen back then if I’d gotten a choice actually. Probably something with burgundy and green, since I remember those being my colors.

The cake I want to write about today actually isn’t a cake at all, in the traditional sense. Not an edible one anyway. It was a miniature clay cake I found on a crafting website.

It was bright pink. Instant love right there. Like, barbie pink. It was a four tier square cake, off set so none of the corners matched up. The cake was “quilted” and it is exactly what it sounds like. The cake looked like it was run through a sewing machine in a patchwork pattern and then painstakingly placed gold balls at every joint. If that wasn’t enough, the artist covered it in flowers. Gorgeous tropical flowers! Star gazer lilies, fat roses, birds of paradise, Gladiolas, and hibiscus in oranges, reds and purples with bright green accent greenery.

I remember thinking I would have wanted to go to a wedding that had that kind of cake. Incidentally, that cake is also what got me into making clay food for myself.

Pre-memory: Hope for a Friend

Blog from some indeterminate amount of time from the future:

It’s raining today. Imagine that. Rain in Spring time! It wasn’t like that in California. We barely had seasons, or rain for that matter. What a wonder it is to live somewhere that has proper seasons.

I sit in my cushioned window seat with a mug of milk tea, wrapped in a fluffy blanket and I smile at the drizzle. I love rain. There was never enough of it. It made my hair frizz out like a poodle and I often got colds from all the puddle jumping but it was a small price to pay. Now I’m especially grateful for it because it means the newly planted garden will be watered, the rain barrel will be a little fuller, and I have the chance to snuggle up with my new husband on his old couch, still rumpled from our morning love making.

Rain reminds me of renewal and there’s a lot of new things in my life.

My wedding is the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to big changes for me. It was only a few months ago but I unearthed my Wedding Photo Album yesterday while unpacking more boxes from the move and everything is fresh in my mind again. The personalized vows, the luxurious reception decorated in gothic red, black and silver, the dagger and heart pins that represented my past as well as my new husband’s. It was the “showy” wedding where everyone had been invited. Our personal and intimate vows had taken place months before in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Just us, a fire and the night sky.  The one picture we took out there was the first one I placed in our house in the middle of the fire place mantle.

There was a time where marriage to another man seemed ludicrous to me. After I’d messed up the first one and been broken irrevocably apart, I was extremely reluctant to repeat the experience. Who wanted to go through that kind of thing twice? But he wore me down with patience and love and logic. I’d been given room to explore this broken me and do as I wished since I had no children attached to me. I think I came around pretty well and it was on the upswing I’d met my now husband. My ex husband was, well–surviving I guess. We were face book friends and barely that. It was time for me now. Me and him. I didn’t stand a chance against him really, but I appreciate the fact he let me think I did.

Asshole.

I snorted and took a sip from my mug, amused at myself.

“You okay babe?”

I turned my gaze away from the wet outdoors to the dark haired man walking toward me with a water bottle in one hand and a plate of snacks in the other. My blood warmed at the look of his muscles through his black tank and the tattoos peeking out from underneath it. I’d licked and bit every inch of those tattoos. I would NEVER get enough.

“I’m friggin great,” I reply and smile coyly up at him, his blue eyes sparking at me.

“That you are.”

He set a plate of crackers, sausage and cheese on my lap and took the opportunity to capture my lips in a rough kiss. My chest filled up like a helium balloon and made me light-headed. Another new and amazing thing for me. I could have kisses whenever I wanted. I didn’t have to plan vacations around our schedules and drive thousands of miles to come and get them. He was here, with me, in the same room and I didn’t have to leave in x-amount of hours, crying as I pulled away from him into traffic and depression.

“Hey, I love you babe but your 5 minute break has already lasted 20. I’ve been painting the bedroom by myself.”

I pressed my lips together to stifle the giggle that wanted to escape and raised my eye brows in an “oh-so-innocent” expression.

“But look! It’s our first rain since the new garden was put in! I had to be sure the plants weren’t getting water-logged or beat up too badly! I’m protecting our hard work!”

His eyes went squinty on me and his mouth curved into a mock frown.

“Fine, finnnneeeee. Eat then and get your energy back. Looks like we’ll be sleeping on the fold out couch again.”

I smirked.

“You weren’t complaining about sleeping on the couch last night. Or this morning. But maybe it’s because we weren’t sleeping for a long time.”

He rolled his eyes and kissed me again with a satisfied smile, sitting by my legs and popping a sausage in his mouth.

I repeated his actions and crunched on a cracker,  returning to look at the green, beautiful world outside my very first home. MY OWN HOME! A dream come true. Two bedrooms, one bath with a front AND back yard (our number one criteria). I’d be using half the garage for my crafting/writing studio and the second bedroom would be his office. I was like a little kid in a toy store going to Lowe’s and picking out paint colors together and filling our basket with lush greenery. I’d finally have my herb garden! We’d already ordered new furniture and we made plans to go antique shopping for accents and lamps and pictures later that week. He played it cool for the most part but I knew he was thrilled to be sharing this with me.

Happy wife, happy life.

We had debated for a while about renting first and not going into debt straight out of our wedding vows with a big purchase like a house. I was okay with that. The market was wider for rentals and we could leave without a fuss if something happened. I’d managed to save a little money from my various grants and scholarships and the psychology jobs I’d landed and he’d been working steadily as a grease monkey for a few years at hot rod shops. Not glamorous but I got free rides in sexy fast cars whenever I was in town. We had a little money pooled together to start-up.

But then I had an offer I couldn’t refuse. Right at the tail end of finalizing our wedding plans, I got a call from a publishing agency. A big one. Like, head hancho big wig in literature agency. They wanted to publish my biography as a series of fictional novels.

Yeah, no shit! My jaw hit the floor and still hasn’t quite rolled itself back up into neutral position.

I’d pitched the idea to them beginning of last year and had crossed my fingers as I pushed the “send” button on my computer. I’d dealt with traditional publishers before. Usually it was an agonizing first month of silence, then a depressed two months of zilch and finally resultant acceptance for the next four to six months. When the rejection letter came, I wasn’t surprised or even hurt. It was what it was and writing was a competitive business. Honestly, when the offer came in I had been completely buried in wedding plans and had forgotten about it. I thought it was a prank from one of my oh-so-charming soon-to-be brothers in law. (They’d been saved a skinning. Would have looked funny during the wedding all gooey and red.)

The advance the agency gave me on the books was more money than I’d ever had in the sum of all my working days. I was afraid to cash the check, thinking still that it might be some sort of prank or scam even though my agent cut it herself. I’d witnessed it. But it was enough to send me to the internet and look at the price of buying instead of renting. When I came forward with the idea and a solid list of acceptable properties, I was rebuffed. I looked at him in chagrin.

My soon to be husband had a surprise of his own.

He’d been offered a job at a start-up custom car company in Texas. They catered to restoring old cars and motorcycles, something that he had always wished to get in to. After getting a few stable positions at the garages and getting some experience under his belt, he decided that he was ready for a change. He’d been sitting on the decision for a little while since the chaos of my book contract and my traveling schedule didn’t leave us a lot of face time.

“That’s a fucking awesome offer. You you need to get on that right NOW!”

I don’t know if he expected me to have doubts or play the devil’s advocate for him or what but my complete acceptance took him aback at first. Change had always bothered me and he knew it. Perhaps he thought I’d be overwhelmed or reluctant. But with this, I saw a future blooming before us. There was no doubt in me that this was what we were going to do. Get married, pack up, and move to Texas.

As soon as he had finalized the e-mail to his future employer, I hauled him to the floor and instilled some wicked rug burns on my knees and elbows. Sweaty, light-headed and very satisfied, I laughed and felt happy tears streak down my cheeks. This was the culmination of all the waiting we’d been doing. This was the reward for years separated, for failure and divorce and unemployment. Our lives were about to begin anew.

We found a few fixer-upper houses and flew out to inspect them. I put in an offer on our first pick and we spent our time waiting for the answer to come in exploring our future town and meeting with his company heads. I immediately located all the crafting stores and quickly found a favorite cafe to write in that had amazing hot milk tea and scones. When we got the house and signed our names (BOTH OUR NAMES!) on the dotted lines my only regret was I couldn’t yet attach my married name to the signature.

Now, here we are, in a run down two bedroom that holds all our merged belongings, our shared hopes and future dreams.

“I love you,”I said aloud and brought his attention back to me. “Thank you for being here.”

“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

He raised a paint-streaked finger and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear.

“Except maybe the bedroom, painting.”

“Or on the couch, not sleeping,” I answered and laughed when he waggled his eyebrows.

I love my life. Took a while to get here but it’s not about the goal is it? It’s about the journey.