Hi! It’s me! Lily!
I’m feeling a little better today. I cried myself to sleep a little but I was able to sleep, and I had okay dreams. No nightmares or anything like that. The cat decided to crawl up and sleep next to me, and she rarely does that, so that was nice. I don’t talk much about the cat. We get along. She washes her butt and plays with stuff and scratches things, and sometimes crawls on your lap and purrs. Just a cat. Her name is Cat. They let David name her.
I guess it fits.
So I went to work this morning, after running. Back to the daily grind. The owner was very happy to see me and put me right to work. He did see something in my eyes, though and asked me what was wrong. I gave him a very brief version.
He thought for a bit, and said “You’re young. Remember. Love is a choice. In India we had arranged marriages. That’s how I met my wife. And we love each other. We have for years. She chose to love me and I chose to love her. It was hard work, but it happened. If you choose to love each other, nothing will tear you apart. Not distance, not beliefs, nothing. But if you don’t, then everything will. You have to decide how badly you want it. Both of you.”
I thanked him, and went off to doot doot and stock shelves and do all the stuff that you do at that job. He’s a little different, but he’s a nice enough guy. He always tries to take care of us – it’s like we’re his extended family. We take care of him, he takes care of us. Oh, I had a little souvenir for him that I bought. He appreciated it and put it on his desk.
It was a little harder to be cheerful and bubbly but I managed it. I was a little meaner to the occasional karen than usual, though. The owner just stood there and smirked. He hates karens as much as everyone else. Of course, there’s a limit to how mean I’m allowed to be. And that’s fair. Karens are people too.
Even if they try their best not to act like it sometimes.
After I got home, Sabby sat me down.
“I don’t think I’ve ever told you how I met Dave, did I?”
I shook my head. “I figured you’d tell me when you wanted me to know.”
“You can ask me anything, Lily. Dave too. The worst we’ll say is we don’t want to talk about it. But you’re always welcome to ask.”
I nodded. She looked pensive.
“I told you I was a wild child,” she said sadly. “When I was your age, I had a few boyfriends. I didn’t… I didn’t make the kinds of decisions you did. My foster parents were always there for me, but they didn’t tell me the things I told you. I was always out, drinking, doing other things that weren’t good for me. It was a very… dark… time of my life, Lily. I had no reason to live and I was just trying to get from one day to the next.”
I sat and let her continue. Emotions were warring on her face. I guess some things don’t ever truly go away, just dull with time.
“I met this boy, though. He seemed to have it together. He got good grades in school, was quiet, kept to himself. Something about him attracted me, and I wanted to make him another one of my boyfriends.” She paused. “He refused.”
“Yeah,” she said, quietly. “He told me he thought I was beautiful and that he was truly sorry for all the things that had happened to me, but he didn’t want the kind of life I was heading for.” She shifted in her seat. “Do you remember when I said I was faced with a choice? Whether to stay with the past or to move on to the future?”
“He was that choice.”
My breath hitched. “Really?”
She nodded. “I had to choose. Should I go for the life I had, or the life I wanted? And what kind of life did I want anyway? Thankfully he never completely closed the door. He just said that he didn’t want the kind of life I was heading for.” She sniffled a bit. “So I dumped all of my boyfriends. I stopped drinking and doing other things. I started taking school seriously. It was hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But… but he noticed. And eventually he agreed to go on a date with me.” Her eyes were far away. “He was wonderful. Everything I’d ever dreamed. And soon I’d fallen for him. Hard. But he hadn’t fallen for me, yet. He was still cautious. He didn’t know if I’d go back to the life I had before I met him.”
She sighed. “He was right to be. But he came around eventually. And he was worth it. He’s not a perfect man, Lily. He’s got his faults, just like you and me and everyone else. But I fell in love with him at your age, and I never fell out of love with him. It’s been years now. We have two… three children and a nice house and he’s still everything to me. I love him just as deeply. Maybe more.”
I stayed silent. It was a nice story, but I didn’t know where she was going with it.
“He was worth everything I gave up. Absolutely everything. All the boyfriends, all the drinking, everything. He was worth more than all of that. Someday, Lily, you’re going to have to decide what someone’s worth to you. Maybe Jack. Maybe someone else. But there is no relationship at all that is without sacrifice, without giving something up. There’s always a price. And if he’s worth the price, whoever he is, pay it. Pay it and don’t look back.” She sighed. “But whether he’s worth the price, and what the price is, is something only you can decide for yourself.”
“How did you get so wise, Sabby? You were sooo right about.. about earlier. I didn’t know how right you were. I couldn’t. How?”
She sighed. “School of hard knocks. I did everything wrong before I did everything right. You’ll understand that in time too. I told you, you made better decisions than… than I did.”
I believed her. I would have believed nearly anything she told me at that point. Before she’d earned my respect, but now she’d earned my trust.
“I think God every day that Dave gave me a chance. A chance to prove to him I was willing to pay the price to be with him. And what I didn’t know was that in paying the price, I was freeing myself as well. Sometimes that happens, Lily.” She sighed. “Sometimes you think you’re paying a price but what you’re giving up was already costing you far more.”
She patted my knee.
“What do you want for dinner? Your choice. Spaghetti, spaghetti, or spaghetti?”
I pretended to think. “How about spaghetti?”
“That’s a great idea, Lily. I hadn’t thought of that.” And she went off to make spaghetti. I didn’t mind. She makes the best spaghetti ever. With meat sauce and lots of parmesan and mushrooms and OMG is it good.
I had Sabby on my side. She knows things. She is my rock. And I love her. But now I more than love her. I trust her.
After dinner I asked Dave if I could talk to him.
“Sabby told me how you two met.”
“I have a question. She told me she had a bunch of boyfriends and wasn’t… behaving well. But eventually you came around and fell for her too. What made you give her a chance?”
He looked thoughtful. “You don’t ask easy questions, do you, Lily?”
I chuckled. “The easy questions aren’t worth asking, are they?”
“I suppose not,” he said. He leaned back in his favorite chair, and thought for a bit. “People are complicated, Lily. Some are just rotten through and through. You peel away their rotten layer and all you find is more rot. But some people are just rotten on the surface. They have this layer of horrible hurt and pain and they act out and lash out and behave in horribly irresponsible ways. You’d think they were awful people. But then you look deeper and you find out that they’re actually really wonderful people and no one’s bothered to dig deep enough to see that.”
I nodded. I’d seen Sabby’s chewy center. I wouldn’t call what she has on the surface “rot”, but then, I didn’t know her back then either. She’d described some truly self-destructive behavior.
“You can’t ignore the rot. It’s there and it will get you hurt. But if they see the rot too, and if they want to work at getting rid of the rot, and you’re willing to wait for them to get their act together, well, maybe what’s underneath it is worth it.” He paused. “It was for Sabby. She turned out to be this wonderful woman who just wanted what everyone else wants in life. Someone to love, someone to love her, a little security, a little happiness…” He looked wistful. “And when she realized that, then, well, I could work with that.”
“When did you know realize you loved her?”
He looked wistful. “We were on a date,” he said. “I told her she’d changed. That she used to be this wild girl who was always out with boys and drinking and… she wasn’t doing that anymore. I asked her what made her change? What made her get her act together? She looked at me and there was the most vulnerable look in her eyes, one I’d never seen in them before. And she said that I was worth giving all of that up for. Sometimes people just say something, and you know they mean it with all their heart, and it just penetrates right through all your defenses and you’re left utterly speechless.” He paused. “That was one of those moments. When I knew she really did love me. Even if she didn’t know it herself, necessarily.” He looked wistful. “I saw something in her that night that I hadn’t seen before. And I wanted to do anything, anything at all, to see it in her eyes again. That’s when I knew I’d fallen for her.”
I thought of Jack, and some of the things he’d said to me, the things that made me melt and my breath hitch and my heart jump out of my chest, and I thought I knew what he meant. It’s not what Jack said. It’s how he said it. When I knew he meant it with every fiber of his being, when the look in his eyes promised nothing but truth and love.
“What do you think of Jack?”, I said.
“Never met the boy,” he said. “I hope he doesn’t hurt you. But from what you’ve described and what Sabby’s told me, he could be the real deal.” He paused. “If he is the real deal – only you can decide that – but if he is… don’t let him go. Some things are worth fighting for.” He leaned back in his chair. “Sabby fought for me. She thought I was worth it. And years later, and two – no, three – kids later, I am so glad she did.”
I hugged Dave, thanked him, and walked up the stairs to my room, lost in thought. Is he the real deal? I don’t know. It’s only been a week. I don’t think it’s fair to either of us to try to make that call just yet.
But he could be. He could be. And that’s worth putting some effort into. Dontcha think??
I’m not going to relate all of the conversations that Jack and I have from now on. It’ll just get repetitive to talk about how we make virtual googy eyes at each other. But we talked about what Beth had said, about him being able to come visit every now and then. He hadn’t thought of that either. Frankly, I think both of us were so caught up in the whole “Florida being far away from both of us” and “dramatic Romeo and Juliet” thing that we’d forgotten that Liz and her parents were just a few houses down, and they actually come to visit every now and then. We’d still have to work at it. It still might be difficult. And it might not even work. But it doesn’t seem quite as hopeless as before. For either of us.
Maybe someday I’ll be in his arms again. I can’t wait.
He’s not my boyfriend. I’m not his girlfriend. Yet. But if that time comes… I’d say yes without any reservation at all.
I did go over to Liz’s house for a little while to thank her parents. Her father was getting ready for a business trip, but I told them how much I appreciated them taking me along with them. I know that makes them a bit uncomfortable but I really had to say it. It was one of the best times of my life and it wouldn’t have happened without them. I gave them a hug and spent a little time with Liz, too. She told me all about the guy behind the front desk. He was a dud, but she did get her first kiss, and while it wasn’t earth shattering, it was about what she expected for a vacation romance.
After all, every girl needs a vacation romance once in her life, right?