Twenty missed calls. He was just going to keep calling.
I pressed talk, “Why are you calling me?”
“I’m so sorry. Please listen to me.” Desperation filled his words.
“I don’t want to.” The numb feeling set in thirty hours ago and hadn’t dissipated. I was wrung dry of emotions. Hopelessness hung around my neck.
“Please let me explain,” Mark asked quietly.
I exhaled loudly; wanting him to know I was over him. This whole thing was a nuisance I’ve moved past; he wasn’t someone worth my broken heart. It was a lie, but I wanted him to believe it.
If only my ears could disconnect from my head, so he couldn’t confirm what his ex-wife told me when she answered his phone.
“I just, you know, fucked it up.” His smooth, confident voice shook as he spoke. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I wouldn’t have gone, but Tessa said that Lee’s old girlfriend, Hailey, would be there. I hadn’t seen her since his funeral.”
Is that supposed to make me feel better? Rage reared up, but I didn’t spew all the expletives that swirled around in my head. Because we’re done. It doesn’t matter what he said.
"Please, say something.”
Why won’t he let me be? I made it easy; I begged my sister the morning after to go to my place, get all his shit out of there, and change the locks.
As soon as his drunk ass called me, I told him it was over, and he should get his stuff before I trashed it.
So why was he on the phone pleading with me?
He couldn't explain why hours after I left, he met with Tessa and Hailey. Then slept with Hailey. Nothing would change what he did.
How could I put myself in this position again? Why does this keep happening? Is there something wrong with me?
I closed my eyes pressing out the destructive thoughts.
It was different last time. I’d been with Will for three years when he moved back home. Promising it had nothing to do with us, just that he needed to be close to his family after his brother died. It didn’t take long before my suspicions began. He lied about why he wasn’t home when I called. He lied when I ask why Melanie kept coming up in our conversations. He lied when I asked him directly if he was living with her. I got physically sick thinking about her there while I was on the phone with him.
I vowed it wouldn’t happen again. I won't go through the agony of doubt and worry ever again. I let Will lie for too long.
I won’t let another year of my life be sucked away in lies.
I smothered the flood of emotion raging inside. “I have to go; we’re about to eat lunch,” I lied.
“Oh, okay. Can I call you again?”
Another sigh. “I don’t know.”
I sat down motionless, screaming inside, why didn’t I just say no. I wanted it over. He cheated. I ended it. Why does he keep calling?
The distance between us would be gone when I fly home. My trip was only four days, and it took him one to throw it all away.
My best friend listened and let me cry, helped me mold the hard shell around my heart. When I’d cried all the tears I thought possible, he called again. I ignored it and tried to enjoy my vacation despite the sadness that swallowed me. She answered his calls, giving me the buffer I needed.
He wasn’t making it easy. Why wouldn’t he just leave me alone?
Finally, I took his call. Then the next call. I hung up on him countless times when my anger boiled over at his confessions. But my heart wouldn’t let it end. I kept answering his calls.
Two months earlier, I tagged along with my friends to the next town when they suggested another bar had cheaper drinks. I saw him at the end of the bar right after we walked in, drinking and talking with some guy; I had to meet him.
When Mark sat down with us at our table, I couldn’t take my eyes off his handsome face and deep brown eyes. He asked me to dance and then kissed me. After talking and flirting, we decided to walk back to his truck together. More talking and laughing through the quiet neighborhood.
When he asked me to drive, I didn’t think anything of it. I spent the night with him and woke up a few hours later to be ushered out of his apartment because he said he had plans that morning. He drove me back to my car; the thirty-minute drive filled with our conversation. We connected so seamlessly. Then I realized I forgot my lipstick and we had to go back. Almost to my car again, I bit my lip and admitted I forgot my keys. He teased that I was leaving stuff behind on purpose, which made me laugh nervously because the truth is that I just forget stuff a lot when I’m rushed. Almost two hours later, we made it to my car with all my belongings. I kissed him goodbye, and I knew I wouldn’t be calling him. Despite our connection, a one nightstand leads to nothing good.
And then as I was starting my car, he rolled down the window and asked me what I was doing for the day. I didn’t have plans. So when he asked if he could come over, I agreed with a smile.
When I got back from my trip, Mark asked if he could come over to see me. I was hesitant. On the phone, I had some control; I could hang up as soon as I was overwhelmed. Seeing him. I didn’t know if I could hold up my wall of protection with him so near.
But I wasn’t strong enough to say no yet. So I agreed.
The dark circles under his eyes and hurt when I pulled away from him was hard to ignore. I sat as far away from him as possible avoiding his eye contact. He talked while I listened.
Then he said something that made sense. “It wasn’t about you. I slept with Hailey to rub it in Tessa’s face that I didn’t want her. She cheated on me and threw our marriage away. I wanted to show her she’d never have me again.”
It didn’t make me feel better about what he did to me. But I understood that better than all his apologies. Tessa broke him when she left. I naively thought it wouldn’t matter. I’d never dating anyone that was divorced. I didn’t understand the ramifications that went into the loss of a marriage.
Unable to disregard the anguish he felt or the deep remorse, my ice encrusted shell cracked. And that’s when he cried for the first time with me. I couldn’t deny that I felt the same torture at being without him; I wanted him and his promises to change to be genuine. But I still didn’t trust him.
He called every day. And little by little he asked for more. Asked to see me again. Then asked me to look at him. All his efforts were like the tide coming in closer and closer to my sandcastle fortress, inch by inch eroding my walls. Then when I looked at him, his red-rimmed eyes drove home his regret; he asked if I would sit closer to him. We progressed slowly, but all this did was cement how much I loved him and how angry I was at what he did to us. Sorrow and fury would boil up, and I couldn’t move past the ache. He asked for another chance. He told me he’d do anything.
So I told him if he was serious that he made the biggest mistake of his life by cheating on me, and he wanted me back, then there were no more chances. I made him promise to leave me alone if he screwed it up again. I knew I still wasn't strong enough to do it.
But if I asked for too much then he would fail, and it would end. So I laid out all my demands. He said he wouldn't fail me.
I didn't believe him, but I agreed.
Looking back twenty years later, I’m so glad I agreed.