Just An Echo, On Bittersweet Drive

I should’ve known by the way he stood so close to me. By the way he pulled his chair close and put his arm around the back of mine. My Gemini senses tingled – it was a possessive move and blocked my view of the room behind him. I was immediately annoyed and this knee-jerk reaction surprised me. It was me who suggested we go out that night, and to that particular venue. Was there an ulterior motive? It was, after all, a place I frequented with girlfriends and that old boyfriend years before. I didn’t have any conscious motives, truly.

I’ve never been “good” with possession. Don’t you dare try to hold me down. You will pay the price. I also learned much earlier, that the downside of that is the attraction to men who are exactly the same way.

But him – he was never on my radar. I never knew he existed until someone interfered and put him there – to be sure, it was downright intentional and in that is something sinister. I was embroiled in a passionate affair of sorts that had history and a bit of longevity, the potential to be life partners if the wind blew the right way and all of our pieces matched in the puzzle we’d created.

I was caught up in the current of a weekend away with family, with no expectations or even an inkling of what turned out to be a well-planned setup. I should’ve known by her history that she had no respect for the institution of a committed relationship. The older folks turned in early, we two ended up barhopping until at least I had consumed enough to send me running for the bathroom at the end of the night. The next day, hungover, we went jet-skiing. Me, exhilarated by the wind in my hair and the freedom of speed over the bay, jumping the tiny waves and feeling nothing between the earth and my body but the spray of water washing away the alcohol and my sins of the past. I shouted at the sky and celebrated living free again. Except that “free “wasn’t going to last.

I should have known by the way his eyes followed me as I descended the stairs from the restroom at the Iguana Grill. I felt them before I saw them. A pretty girl I’ve always been, and I’ve always known when I’m being noticed. That sounds arrogant but it isn’t meant to be. There were, are, and have been many women far more beautiful than I could ever be. Although I expected it, I was never entirely comfortable with the attention.

We parted ways after the weekend with no plans to see each other again. We were merely new friends, and that was all I thought of him. Somehow though, he turned back up again, and we went to that bar.

I should have known. How many times had I gone out with someone, and felt the heat of them near me, and felt my stomach flutter when they reached out to touch me? The butterflies alight to the thrill of a long-time friend’s lips on mine for the first time, or a different kind of forbidden kiss, or a slow dance with a stranger, or a new date’s initial reach for my hand? With him, there wasn’t a flutter.

Mom didn’t want me to marry him. I called her while she was overseas on vacation, to tell her my news – a real shit move, considering how close we are. She said, I don’t think this is a good idea. Why are you rushing into this?

But, alas, I was twenty-eight years old. I know what was best for me. I know what I’m doing, mom, I told her. I could hear Richard’s naughty laugh in the background. He is amused with me, as usual. I know he’ll keep her marinated until she can digest this and not come home angry with me. I heard the words of a thousand objections – you’ve only known him two months. What about this? What about that? But I’m an adult, I know what I’m doing, I’ve fallen in love. Whatever she has to say to me, now or when she gets home, I know will fall on deaf ears.

The ring was a monster. A full carat diamond, flanked by two smaller diamonds on a gold band. He told me his mom helped him pick it out, and that it cost him $8,000. When I saw her after he proposed, she gazed longingly at it and joked with me about how it had looked on her finger.

We never discussed money. I had no idea how much he had or how much he made. $8,000 seemed like an awful lot of money. Where did he get it? Was it in savings? Did he borrow it? Charge it? He still lived at home so it made sense he might’ve had all this saved and more.

He slept at my apartment nearly every night. I did want him there but some nights, especially after a long, late night at work, I just wanted to go home to my empty apartment. We were already apartment hunting together.

We found a place in a nearby town that I fell in love with instantly. A two-bedroom condo with cathedral ceilings and a loft overlooking the living room. It was an end unit with lots of windows and full of light. We put the deposit down on it as soon as we could, and began planning the move.

The night before the move-in, we had a wicked fight. It was to be the harbinger of things to come. I was exhausted from working another long night and he insisted we stay up to keep packing. I didn’t want to. All I wanted was sleep. I don’t know how it escalated, but we were soon screaming at each other. I threw a glass bowl, which shattered on the kitchen floor. He stood there staring at me, stunned.

I don’t know how it happened, really I don’t. I was so damn tired and wanted to sleep. He had other ideas. It’s like he wouldn’t listen to me and I lost it. He stood his ground and looked at me like I was a rabid animal, which only made me feel worse. How had this happened?

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