As I text my final goodbye to Jake, I powered down my cell phone and placed it snug in the back of the seat in front of me. I crossed my arms and stared out the airplane window. I had so many things running through my mind. I had a few hours to be totally alone with just my thoughts. The plane began to move and before I knew it I was 30,000 feet in the air and I felt safe. I felt as if no one and nothing could touch me. I felt a sense of ease because for the next few hours I didn’t need to make any decisions. Yet my mind raced and my heart was heavy. I closed my eyes but could not escape the visual I had of Derek.
For the record, Derek wasn’t a bad guy. At the time, he wasn’t trying to nurture our relationship or go out of his way to show me attention or affection. He went to work each day and came home each night. He coached the boy’s youth football team, played semi-pro himself and volunteered his time in the community. We both spent our spare time focused on everything except our marriage. While he was at practice, I was at PTO meetings. While he ran the kids through football drills, I sat on the lacrosse board. We were always busy. We both worked out and occasionally we would spend time together. For me, it just wasn’t enough. Derek didn’t pamper me enough and wasn’t romantic enough. When my birthday would roll around and he didn’t meet my preconceived expectations, I would get upset and tell him he didn’t love me. Looking back, I could not have been more wrong. His way of loving me was through providing a comfortable, stable and ultimately wonderful life for the boys and I. Again, hindsight is 20/20. So, it’s no wonder, when Jake began to show me the attention I wanted, it was like a drug. It drew me closer to him, almost like a high. “He always knows exactly what to say and when to say it” I thought to myself on the plane. I was starting to believe that maybe we were meant to be together. Maybe the day he talked to me in the hallway at school when I first found out I was pregnant happened for a reason. Could it be that I got pregnant with my oldest son so I could meet Jake and all these years later, find my happily ever after? In my head this seemed possible, and I was starting to believe that it was fate. It made sense because after all, we had so much in common and it was so easy for him to open up to me and be totally truthful. He shared with me that he hadn’t ever been able to open up in that way with anyone. I felt so at ease around him and was also able to just be myself and he seemed to like me just the way I was. It felt so right.
As the plane began to descend into Texas, I felt my stomach begin to rise into my throat. Jake was on my mind, but Derek was picking me up from the airport. I missed Jake. I missed the way he held my hand, how he understood me and how I felt around him. I was afraid to see Derek. How was I going to feel around him? Would he be able to see Jake in my eyes? I felt transparent and guilt stricken. Per his instructions, as soon as the plane landed, I text Jake and let him know I landed safely. I loved that he worried so much about me already. I tucked my phone into my bag and got off the plane. After collecting my luggage, I met Derek outside at the car. The fact that he waited for me outside was a sure sign that he was not changing his mind about the separation. He helped me load my bag into the car and we made small talk on the way home. Derek was still living in the house, but we were in separate rooms. That night we had a long talk and decided it was time for him to move out. This would be an opportunity for us to see how we felt without each other. I truly didn’t believe we were going to actually separate. In my mind, I thought he would move out and realize how important I was to him, he would vow to change and we would work everything out. After all, he was the one who needed to change in order to fix our marriage, not me. I was everything a man could want. Again, I could not have been more wrong.
When I shared with Jake that Derek was moving out, I was sort of surprised at his lack of reaction. He asked a few pragmatic questions like “when is he moving out?”, “where will he go?”, “will he pay for the house, bills, etc.?”. I did my best to answer his questions and the weight of what was happening washed over me. It was 3am when I hung up the phone and I sat on the floor of the bedroom that was “ours” just a month prior. I sat against the wall and I sobbed. I was scared. The fear of the unknown overwhelmed me and I had no idea what to do on my own or where to even start in figuring it out. What did my life look like without Derek? I knew he and I had problems, but would we end up divorced? Nothing was certain in that moment. All I knew was that after seeing Jake, I had feelings for him. Strong feelings. It was those strong feelings that help me up off the floor and into my bed that night. I covered myself with the same sheets and comforter that once covered Derek and I… and cried myself to sleep. I woke up the next day with a mean case of cry face. As I moved around the house getting the kids ready for school, I convinced myself that it would probably take anywhere between 5 and 10 days to get over Derek and then I could move forward with a relationship with Jake. Up to this point, Derek was my only relationship and I was incredibly naive to the toll a heartbreak takes on a person. In my defense, I was clueless as to how long it actually took to get over someone and having Jake as a distraction certainly helped me get through the day.
As the days went by, the reality set in that Derek was moving out. I got closer and closer to Jake and began planning another trip to see him. It was perfect timing because his brother’s 40th birthday party was coming up and he wanted me to go with him to meet his family. This had to mean something – he wanted to show me off. I didn’t quite know how to handle this but I was excited and flattered. The day Derek moved out, I went to my sister’s house. I couldn’t bear the sight of him moving things out. He told me he would take everything he wanted and whatever was left, I could keep. After he called to tell me he was finished, I slowly made my way home. I was afraid to go in and had no idea what would be left, if anything. He did tell me that he had hired movers to help me move to my new place so I assumed he left some items. Derek decided to sell our house and move in with his business partner and I was moving into a house of my own. Jake told me he didn’t want me to be in the same house I lived in with my ex so it made sense. Within a week, we were totally moved out, living separately and our house was for sale. We were officially separated and I was totally lost.
The first weekend apart Derek had the kids, and I hopped on a flight to Boston. I was sad about Derek, but seeing Jake was exactly what I needed. Up to this point Jake was supportive but he didn’t like when I talked to him about Derek, so I learned to avoid that topic. Instead, I talked to my friends about the separation and with Jake all was well in my world. At the time, I understood why he didn’t want to hear it and I was focused on moving forward. This time, getting off the plane in Boston was different. I was filled with excitement and couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around Jake. I left my thoughts of Derek in Texas and I was focused on my time in Boston. When my flight touched down I text Jake to let him know I had landed. He responded quickly saying he was already at the airport and couldn’t wait to see me. The butterflies in my stomach danced around so happily that I could almost taste their colors. I rushed off the plane and practically ran to the baggage claim. I almost fell as I went down the stairs to meet him, I was elated to see him standing there waiting for me. A soon as I could, I threw my arms around him and hugged him tight. My eyes closed as I felt every ounce of him against my body. I inhaled his cologne and time stood still. He grabbed my waist and at the same time, he kissed my face. In that moment, I had never been happier. We joined hands and together we looked for my bag. Hand in hand, we made our way to his car. Honestly, we could not keep our hands to ourselves. I felt amazing. I felt loved. I felt wanted. I felt things I had never felt before and I was in love with that feeling. With him close by, holding my hand, I felt safe. We got to his car and he had a bottle of water waiting for me. “It’s the little things” I said to myself as I got in and buckled the seat belt. On the way to the hotel, we talked and laughed and I felt free. He had my hand in his the entire way there and each time he looked at me from his seat I melted. Those brown eyes, they got me every time. They held some sort of trance over me and I let them.
That night was his brother’s 40th birthday party. I was meeting his family for the first time and I was terrified. Not yet divorced, I felt what I was doing was wrong, but I did it anyway. Jake reassured me that his family would love me. As it turns out, one of my very good friends, Erika, was married to Jake’s brother’s best friend. So, I relaxed knowing she was going to be there. As we drove to his brother’s house I was quiet. I didn’t know what to expect, but Jake was amazing. He told me to just be myself and have fun. I smiled at him and appreciated how patient he was with me. As we pulled into the driveway, I started to sweat and I am pretty sure I had a small, unnoticeable panic attack.
After walking in and meeting everyone, I felt better. Erika arrived soon after and helped to ease me into the party with a drink. At one point I was standing in the living room talking to a stranger. I had what was probably the second drink of the night in my hand and I stood there chatting with my new friend. I could feel eyes on me. Eyes burning a hole in the side of my head. I slowly glanced over to my left and there was Jake. He was standing next to his dad and they were both looking at me. Jake holding a drink of his own, wearing that smile and showing off those dimples. Suddenly my body warmed and I melted all over the living room floor. I returned a smile and his widened. His dad looked at him then back at me and he smiled. Right then and there as those familiar brown eyes were set solely on me from across the room of a crowded party, I fell in love with Jake Williams.
As the night grew stale and darker, the drinks flowed heavily between all the party guests, (myself included). Jake’s brother, Pete, lit a bonfire at the top of the hill. Jake and I hand in hand walked up the hill to join the group. Waiting for us at the fire was Erika and her husband. Erika disappeared to get a drink and I stayed with Jake and talked to her husband. We continued to talk as Jake made his rounds. A few minutes later, Jake angrily paced around the bonfire a few times then he grabbed me by the hand and quickly led me down the hill toward the house. By the time we got to the door, he was now sort of pushing me in the direction he wanted me to go, but still holding my hand, tighter. I noticed as I tried to keep my balance, his brother and dad were close by looking at us. When we got in the house, Jake began to yell at me. He demanded to know why I wanted to make him look like a fool by talking to another man in front of him. He wanted to know and he wanted to know now. I struggled to make sense of exactly what was happening and when I stumbled over my words trying desperately to tell him what he wanted to hear, he began to call me names. For the first time in my entire life, a man was calling me a bitch… a whore. He was screaming at me and telling me that I had embarrassed him and myself in front of his family. I began to cry and he stormed off leaving me standing alone, intoxicated, scared, confused and in a strange place. As I was trying to figure out what exactly I had done wrong, I looked around and saw Pete talking to Jake. I didn’t know my way around the house so I made my way to the hall entrance, stood against a wall, slid down and cried my eyes out on the hardwood floor. Moments later his dad found me and he sat next to me on the floor. He said Jake was not good for me. He told me to go home and never look back. He said Jake didn’t know how to treat a woman, especially not a good one. He insisted that he would end up hurting me and that I deserved better. Just then Jake walked up to us, told me to get up and that we were leaving. “You’ve embarrassed me enough for one night and it’s time to go”, he said angrily. Both his dad and Pete tried to convince him to stay because Jake had been drinking, but his mind was made up- he wanted to leave, so we did. We got into the car and headed back to the hotel.