Note: Every Monday until July 31, I’ll be posting chapters of Room for Two on my blog. Read Chapter 12 below. If you want to start from the beginning, here's Chapter 1.
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The day after Jennifer returned to Arizona, Bekah invited me to dinner. I had a feeling this wasn’t just a friendly dinner invitation but an excuse to talk with me about Jennifer. I was glad for the chance. Since I was unable to talk with my family about Jennifer and wanted a sounding board for my feelings, Bekah was the perfect for that.
The meal was simple but one of my favorites: pepperoni pizza and breadsticks. Bekah and I made small talk and watched as Anderson, who was now fifteen months old, ate and played with his food. I was on my third slice of pizza when the subject of Jennifer finally arose.
"Did you have a good time with that girl?" Bekah asked. She said it in such a way that let me know she wasn’t fond of Jennifer. "The way she was all over you in church, it was obvious she was enjoying herself."
"We had a good time," I said. I summed up the highlights of her visit and emphasized how much we had in common and how comfortable I felt around her. I wanted Bekah to see that the relationship was more than a physical thing.
"And when are you going to see her again?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "Labor Day, maybe."
Bekah looked down at her plate. She had barely touched her food.
"What’s wrong?" I said.
"It’s just that . . ." Bekah’s voice trailed off. She looked unsure how to say what was on her mind. "It seems like it’s happening so fast."
I looked out the kitchen window to the horse pasture where a brown mare nibbled at some grass. "A lot of people feel that way," I said. I thought back to the barbeque and my family’s reaction to Jennifer.
"How serious are the two of you?" Bekah asked.
I looked back at Bekah. She looked as if she was bracing for bad news.
"I’m not sure," I said. "But if I was to ask Jennifer to marry me, I’m certain she’d say yes."
"You’re that serious?"
"She’s that serious."
"How do you feel about her?"
"I don’t know," I said. I looked down at my plate, at the half-eaten piece of pizza. Suddenly I wasn’t hungry anymore. I pushed the plate to the middle of the table. With my right hand I played with the lace edge of the tablecloth.
"We have the most amazing time together. It’s like we’re best friends." I glanced back at Bekah. "But there’s something missing that I can’t explain."
"Try to explain it to me," Bekah said.
It took a moment to gather my thoughts. "There was something about Krista," I said. "Something that I’ve never felt for anyone else. I don’t know how to begin to describe it other than a very intense attraction. When Krista and I were first dating, she consumed my thoughts. I wanted to be with her every minute of the day. I don’t feel that way about Jennifer."
I smiled remembering the early days in my courtship with Krista. I had fallen in love with her the first time I went out with her, though it took her longer to warm up to me. After our first date I knew I didn’t want to be with anyone else. I had found the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
"If you feel differently about Jennifer, then why are you spending all this time with her?" Bekah said.
"When Jennifer and I go out, we have a fabulous time together. I get along with her just as well as I did with Krista. In some ways, I get along with Jennifer better."
"What are you saying?" Bekah said. "Do you love Jennifer more?" The quiver in Bekah’s voice made me think she was about to cry.
"What if those feelings that I had for Krista are something I can only have for one person?" I said. "Does that mean I can’t be with anyone ever again? Do I need those same feelings with Jennifer to have a strong relationship with her?"
Anderson picked up a piece of pepperoni, threw it to the floor, and squealed in delight. He had been so quiet, I had nearly forgotten about him. He threw a second piece to the floor before Bekah could stop him. She removed the uneaten pizza from his tray, then wiped his face and hands with a washcloth.
While she was doing this, I looked back at the horse pasture. The brown mare was now walking slowly toward the other side of the field where a large, metal tub was filled with water. She put her nose in the water and took a long drink.
Bekah set Anderson on the floor in the living room with a few toys. He picked up a blue plastic ring and began chewing on it. She sat back at the kitchen table and took another look at Anderson to make sure he was all right.
"It’s really none of my business who you date," she said. "I don’t mean to pry. It’s just that Krista was my best friend, and I have a hard time seeing you with anyone but her."
Anderson crawled into the kitchen. Using the table leg as a balance, he stood up and took two unsteady steps toward Bekah, who picked him up and placed him in her lap.
"Tell me," Bekah said. "If you knew how your marriage to Krista would end, would you still have married her?"
"I’d do it over again a hundred times if it were possible," I said.
"Even if it ended the same way each time?"
"Even if," I said.
Bekah started crying. "It makes me so happy to hear that," she said. She wiped her eyes with a napkin. "So you know, I’ll support you if you decide to remarry."
I went out with Julianna the following Saturday. We ate dinner at a local pizzeria, then headed back to my place and watched a movie. It was a horrible date. What little conversation we had felt forced. Julianna had always been reserved when we were out, but this evening she was frigid. She said as little as possible during dinner and, as we watched the movie, she sat on the far end of the couch with her arms folded. About an hour into the show I moved to the chair next to the couch so I could sit closer to her. Julianna slid to the next cushion as if to empathize she wanted nothing to do with me.
After the movie I drove her back to the apartment and walked her to the door. I tried to coax some final words out of her. The date was frustrating enough that I thought about never asking her out again. I wanted some sign that she was still interested in me or that this evening had been a fluke. But all Julianna said before retreating into her apartment was, "Thanks for dinner."
On the drive home I listened to the three voice messages Jennifer had left on my cell phone. The first two were playful. She sounded annoyed on the final message and wanted to know where I was and why I hadn’t returned her calls. I was too irritated from my date with Julianna to talk to anyone and decided not to call her back.
I lay on my bed and thought about Julianna’s behavior. Over the last two months we had gone out a total of five times. None of our dates had been spectacular. The first one and this one had been downright awful. Yet Julianna continued to accept every invitation to go out again without hesitation. And despite the less than stellar dates, I couldn’t shake the attraction I had for her. I tried figure out what was going on behind her pretty green eyes. As my eyes grew heavy, I decided that at church the next day I would talk with her and settle things with her once and for all.
The talk almost didn’t happen. After the first hour of services, Julianna quickly left the church. I had to run to catch up with her.
"We need to talk," I said.
From the look on her face, talking to me was the last thing she wanted to do.
"I don’t have time now," she said. "It’s my sister’s birthday. I’m late for her party."
We were twenty feet from her car, and Julianna’s long strides were rapidly closing the distance.
"I need ten minutes," I said.
Julianna took her key chain from her purse and pushed a button. With a chirp, the car alarm was deactivated. Another three steps and we were at her car.
"I’ll call you after the party," Julianna said. "If it’s not too late, we can talk then." She got into her car and put the key in the ignition.
"I’ll be home all night," I said.
Julianna started the car and drove away without another word.
As the day progressed I grew less confident that Julianna would call. The way she brushed me off in the parking lot made me think she would stay as late as she could at the party, simply so she wouldn’t have to talk to me. While waiting for her call, I decided to visit the cemetery. I thought it would be a quiet place to sort out my feelings. And I hoped that if Krista were lingering nearby, she would hear my thoughts and know that even though I was moving on, I still loved and missed her.
I was sitting next to Krista and Hope’s headstone when Julianna called. It was dusk and I was looking over the valley watching the lights from the city come on like stars, one at a time. I was positive Julianna was going to tell me that she had stayed late in Salt Lake and we wouldn’t be able to talk. To my surprise, Julianna said she was at her apartment. I told her I’d be there in five minutes.
I stood and took a long look at the headstone. "This talk could change everything," I said. "But it won’t change the way I feel about you." My words seemed to disappear into the gathering darkness. I walked back to my car and drove to Julianna’s apartment.
Julianna was wearing red-rimmed glasses when she opened the door. I had never seen her with glasses before but thought the small frames looked good on her. It wouldn’t be until months later that I would learn she had worn them to help disguise the fact she had been crying while she waited for me to arrive. She invited me inside her sparsely-furnished apartment. A worn eight-foot couch lay against one wall, and a small twelve-inch television stood in a far corner on top of a cherry wood chest. The only other furniture in the living room was a bookshelf, half of which was filled with books and the other half with ornate dolls.
"Have a seat," Julianna said. She gestured to the couch. I sat on one end, Julianna sat on the other. It felt like there were miles between us. Julianna stared at the far wall and looked like she was going to be sick.
"Are you feeling okay?" I said.
"I’m fine," she said.
We both sat in silence, dreading what was coming next.
"Do you like going out with me?" I finally said.
"Sort of." Julianna didn’t look at me when she said this. She continued to stare at the wall. I wanted to see her full face while we talked.
"I can never tell how you’re doing when we’re together." I said. "You hide your feelings well."
"I’m not sure how I feel about you," Julianna said.
More silence. I tried to read Julianna’s face. It was expressionless.
"Tell me about her," Julianna said after a minute. She was looking at me now. Even behind the glasses, her green eyes could be piercing.
"Who?" I said, though I was pretty sure she meant Krista.
"Your wife. Tell me about her."
"What do you want to know?"
"What was her name?" Julianna’s tone indicated frustration that she had to pull even basic information out of me.
"Krista." Julianna repeated, as if the name suddenly added a human element to this previously unknown person. "How long were you married?"
"Almost three years."
"When did she die?"
Julianna looked at the ceiling as if she was counting the number of months between November and July. "How did she die?" she said after she had reached her answer.
"She took her own life."
Julianna’s literally shook at the news. It was like she was expecting something else — an automobile accident or a fatal, unexpected disease. Anything but suicide.
"How did she kill herself?"
Now it was my turn to look away. I still felt embarrassed when I told this part of the story. "With a gun. My gun. I came home one afternoon, and as I entered the apartment I heard a gunshot."
Julianna nodded her head slowly. "Did you have any kids?"
"Krista was seven months pregnant when she died," I said. "Our baby, Hope, lived for nine days."
Julianna seemed surprised by this answer, too. I couldn’t tell if it was from the fact that the child had lived or that Krista was pregnant when she committed suicide. There was a sad but curious look in her eyes that indicated she wanted to ask more questions but was unsure how to proceed. Her gaze returned to the far wall.
"There were too many compilations with her coming into the world so early," I said. "I made the decision to remove life support."
Julianna’s lips were pursed as if in deep thought.
"I don’t know if I can do it," she finally said.
"Date a widower."
"Why? You have to ask why?"
"Tell me why it would be hard," I said. I could foresee a lot of potential problems but wanted to know if Julianna’s concerns were the same as the ones I saw.
"I don’t know if I can live with having my every action compared to a dead woman," she said. "I don’t want to compete with a ghost,"
"Have you felt like I’ve been comparing you to Krista?"
"I don’t know you or Krista well enough to answer that question," Julianna said. "But I know when someone dies, they tend to be put on a pedestal. It doesn’t matter what they did wrong, all anyone can remember is the good, loving things about them. Meanwhile I’d be with you making mistakes and being compared to a woman who is a saint in some people’s minds."
"I never thought about it that way," I said.
"I’ve thought about it a lot since we’ve been going out. I almost think it would be easier to date a divorced man. At least then I can assume that there’s some sort of hostility toward the previous spouse."
I thought back to my family’s reaction to Jennifer at the barbeque. I realized that a lot of their response to Jennifer was because they were comparing her to Krista. This comparison was going to be an issue whoever I dated was going to have to deal with.
"Why are you dating again? Julianna said.
I didn’t have a good answer to that question. "I enjoy spending time with other people," said.
"What exactly do you enjoy about it? Being close to someone? Is that the only reason you’re dating? To satisfy some physical need?" Julianna looked at me. "I don’t want to be a warm body. I want to be loved and appreciated for who I am."
"We really haven’t been physical — "
"What did Krista look like?" Julianna said. "Did she have long, blonde hair like me? Did she have my green eyes? Maybe I’m a spitting image of her, and that’s the only reason you want to date me. I don’t even know if you’ve dated anyone else. I don’t want to be the first and only woman you’ve gone out with."
"I’ve gone out with other people," I said.
"Then there’s the communication issue," she said. "We’ve gone on five dates and aside from the bomb you dropped on me during our first date, you’ve never talked about Krista again."
"I haven’t been sure how to bring her up."
"I don’t want you to feel that way," Julianna said. "I want you to be comfortable talking about her, and I want to be comfortable asking questions about her and the life the two of you shared."
I leaned back into the soft couch cushions. As far as I could tell, any chance of having another date with Julianna was history.
"Where do you see this relationship going?" I said.
"For now, all we can be is friends."
"Friends," I repeated. I was willing to take that. Perhaps with a little time, we could take another run at the dating thing.
"Just friends," Julianna said.
Julianna still looked like she was going to be sick. Considering how things had gone, I thought this would be a good time to leave. I thanked Julianna for making time for me and told her that being friends would work out fine.
As Julianna followed me to the door, I felt impressed that I should ask her out on a date for Saturday. I quickly brushed the thought from my mind. We had just agreed to be friends. Asking her out could undo everything we had worked toward this evening. I put my hand on the doorknob and again felt that I should ask Julianna for a date. I opened the door, then turned and said, "Would you like to go out on Saturday?" Even as I said those words I stood there wishing I could take them back.
"Sure," Julianna said. She looked surprised at her response. I thought it best to leave before she changed her mind. "Plan on dinner," I said.
On the drive home I cursed myself for asking Julianna out. I didn’t have the confidence that our date on Saturday, if it happened at all, would go any better than our previous ones. But something about our conversation felt right. The issues she had raised were valid concerns, and I thought if we could find a way to work through those problems then there might be a chance that things would work out between the two of us.
My cell phone rang as I pulled into the driveway. It was Jennifer. I hadn’t spoken to her all day. I put my finger on the button that would send her straight to voice mail. There was so much I wanted to think about, and Jennifer was only going to be a distraction. But if I didn’t answer now, she would call back. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk with her. I just wanted some time alone to sort things out.
"I’ve been waiting for your call," she said when I finally answered her call.
"I spaced it," I said. "I’ve had a lot on my mind this evening."
"Is everything all right?"
"Everything’s fine," I said. "Things are finally starting to make sense."
Whatever had been stopping Julianna and me from getting along well on our previous dates had disappeared by Saturday. For the first time our conversation flowed. It was as if our talk the previous Sunday made us feel like we could open up with each other about anything.
Julianna excitedly told me about her marathon. She had finished the race in three hours and thirty minutes — twenty minutes slower than her previous marathon — but she seemed happy with her time. And overall she had done well, finishing fifteenth out of 250 female runners.
Several times we swapped jokes and funny stories and found ourselves doubled up with laughter. For the first time together we relaxed and acted like ourselves. And I was sad when the evening had to come to an end.
As I stood outside Julianna’s door, we made plans to spend the following Saturday together. My gut told me this date that this was the date that was going to show whether or not there was a real possibility for us to take the relationship further.
It was. We watched the M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs and went hiking. Through the movie I resisted the temptation to hold Julianna’s hand, which lay on the armrest. I told myself we needed to take things slow. One wrong move could send our relationship tumbling back to square one. I kept my arms folded telling myself to be patient.
After the movie we drove to the summit of North Ogden Divide. There was a parking lot where trail heads for several popular hiking trails were located. We each carried backpacks with several bottles of frozen water and lunches of turkey sandwiches, chips, carrot sticks, and chocolate chip cookies that Julianna had prepared.
We started up the trail toward Lewis Peak. Even though the trail snaked along the north edge of the mountain and was shaded by pine trees, it was still hot. We stopped every ten minutes or so and took long drinks of water. I let Julianna set the pace. Mostly I wanted her in front of me so I could look at her long, tan legs without her knowing I was staring. Her legs were strong from running, and I enjoyed watching the muscles in her legs expand and contract with each step she took.
After about a mile and a half, the trees thinned and the trail leveled out and snaked its way south toward the summit. We followed the trail for another half mile until I spotted an outcropping of rock fifty feet off the trail. The rocks formed a small ledge that extended over the east side of the mountain. I told Julianna that would be a good place to stop and eat.
Both of us were soaked with sweat. We sat on the ledge that looked over the farms and homes that made up the cities of Huntsville and Eden.
"It’s very nice up here," Julianna said, after we had rested for several minutes.
"There are many good hiking trails in the area," I said. "My favorite is the one that goes to Ben Lomond." I pointed to the mountain to the north.
"Do you go hiking a lot?" Julianna asked.
"Not as often as I’d like to."
"I don’t like hiking alone. I’d rather do it with someone." My stomach grumbled, and I smiled. "We should eat if we’re going to have any strength make it back down."
We unpacked the lunches and started eating. A slight breeze kicked up and felt cool on my shirt, which was still clinging to my back with sweat. While we ate, I took a long look at Julianna. The light gave her hair a gold tinge. Julianna glanced in my direction. I looked away, embarrassed to have been caught staring.
"What are you looking at?" she said.
"Why are you looking at me?"
"Because you’re one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen."
Now it was Julianna’s turn to look away. "I’m just plain and ordinary," she said.
"You’re anything but."
"How do you know that?" she asked.
"I don’t go out with plain and ordinary girls."
Julianna face reddened. The wind blew a strand of her hair across her face.
"So tell me," I said. "How come a beautiful girl like you doesn’t have a boyfriend?"
"Who says I don’t have a boyfriend?" She smiled and looked me right in the eye.
Her green eyes let me know that she was serious. I had assumed that since she was always available to go out and never came to church with anyone that she didn’t have anyone special in her life.
"Do you have one?" I said.
"I broke up with him three weeks ago."
I waited for her to say more. Instead she pulled a cookie out of her backpack and chewed it slowly.
"Can I ask why?" I said, after she had finished the cookie.
"It wasn’t because of you," she said. "I broke up with him the day before we had that serious talk at my apartment."
"Are you sure it wasn’t because of me?"
Julianna threw a cookie at me. It hit my shoulder and landed on the ledge. I picked it up and took a bite. "Five second rule," I said. Julianna shook her head and looked back over the valley.
"He lived in Provo. That made it hard to see each other on a regular basis. I need to spend time with a person to feel like the relationship is going somewhere. Phone calls and a visit once a week aren’t enough for me."
"I can understand that," I said, thinking about Jennifer. I wondered how many voice messages were going to be on my voice mail when I returned home. "It’s hard to know if you want to spend eternity with someone when you’re never around them."
Julianna finished the water in her first bottle. She pulled the second one out of her bag and took another drink before continuing. "He wasn’t ready or willing to commit to a serious relationship, anyway. He seemed happy living apart and seeing each other once a week. I think a relationship should be moving forward or backward. Our relationship hadn’t been going anywhere for several months, so I ended it."
I chewed on a carrot stick, pondering what Julianna had just shared with me.
"So if you had a boyfriend, why did you keep agreeing to go out with me?" I said.
I nodded. Julianna brushed her hair away from her face and looked down at the valley. She pulled her legs up to her chest and rested her chin on her knees.
"After our first date, I was ready to be done. I drove to my parents’ house that night and told them about how awful it was. When I was done with the story, my dad told me I should give you a second chance."
"Why did he say that?"
"I don’t know. It was a strange thing for him to say. He’s the type who wants to make sure his daughters are dating men who will treat them right."
"Did he tell you to give me a third and fourth chance, too?"
Julianna shook her head. "I don’t know why I kept going out with you. I wanted to say no but felt I should do it."
We heard a sound of voices and turned as two teenage boys ran down the trail. The wind carried their voices back up the mountain long after they disappeared.
"Since we’re on the question of past loves," Julianna said. "How long did you wait to date again after Krista died?" Julianna kept her eyes were on the valley below, her face expressionless. I was learning she could hide her body language when she had to.
"About five months."
"Have you been dating regularly since then?"
"As often as I can."
"And how often is that?"
"Just about every weekend."
Down in the valley a black pickup drove along a dirt road leaving a trail of brown dust. It turned into a long driveway of a ranch-styled house that was surrounded by several pastures. I looked back at Julianna for any clue on what she was thinking or feeling. Her poker face remained intact.
"Am I the only person you’ve dated more than once?"
"Have you been serious with anyone since your wife died?"
The pause before I answered made Julianna look at me. "Actually, there’s someone else I’ve been seeing while we’ve been dating," I said.
Julianna’s raised her eyebrows for a split second. That was an answer she wasn’t expecting.
"You’re with someone?"
"Yeah. For last two months."
Silence. My eyes wandered from Julianna back to the black pickup truck. The driver lowered the truck’s tailgate and lifted something that looked like a long rectangular piece of plywood out of the back and carried it to the garage.
"She lives in Phoenix. I brought her to church about a month ago. I thought you saw the two of us together."
"I wasn’t paying close attention to you a month ago," Julianna said. "If I would have seen you with someone else, I would have been glad for an excuse to turn you down."
"I’m glad you weren’t paying attention."
"What are you going to do about your girlfriend in Phoenix?"
"I don’t think it’s going to last much longer," I said. "I think I’ve found someone better. Someone I’ve wanted to know more about since the first time I laid eyes on her."
Julianna blushed and looked away. I rummaged through my backpack and found a cookie. I moved closer to her and said, "Have a cookie."
We talked for the next hour. It was as open and honest a conversation as I’ve ever had with anyone. It was during this talk that I knew without a doubt that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Julianna.
The shadows of the bushes and trees grew long. It was at least a thirty-minute hike to the parking lot. To be in the car before dark, we’d have to leave soon. But I didn’t want to leave. I would have preferred to stay on that ledge with her all night.
The wind caught a plastic sandwich bag. I grabbed it before it went over the ledge and put it in my pocket. "We should get going," I said. I picked up the remains of our lunch and put it in my backpack. But Julianna didn’t move. She sat, looking over the green valley. A gust of wind caught her hair and blew it over the side of her face, obscuring it from my view.
"Everything okay?" I said.
"I’ve really enjoyed this afternoon," Julianna said. She pulled her hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear. "But before we go, there’s something I have to tell you."
I set the backpack on the ground. There was something about her tone that indicated this was something important. I braced myself for bad news.
"I suffer from depression," she said.
A memory of Krista flashed through my mind. She was having one of her bad days and telling me that there was no hope for anyone and that we were all going to die. The look in her eyes was dark and dreadful.
"How bad is it?" I said, without looking at her.
"I’m not suicidal. I’ve never thought about killing myself," she said. "Considering your history, I think it’s something you need to know."
"Do you do anything to treat it?" Though I doubted Julianna’s depression would lead to any dark episodes like I experienced with Krista, it was enough to make me pause and wonder if it was something I was willing to live with.
"I’ve been off and on medication for several years."
I looked back up at Julianna. "Off and on?"
"I’ve always believed that you are responsible for your own happiness. No matter what happens, you should try to make the best of the situation. Sometimes medication is necessary, but I’d rather try to be happy on my own."
Her answer intrigued me. Maybe it was because I spent so much time with Krista’s family where prescriptions were preached as the cure-all for every ailment; this was the first time I had heard someone say they’d rather not be on antidepressants.
"What do you do to make yourself happy?" I said
"That’s part of the reason I run marathons. The endorphins running releases make me feel better. I also try and do things for others when I’m feeling bad. And I try to concentrate on the positive when bad things happen." Julianna looked up at me. "It’s not easy. It seems like when life is going good, I stop taking the pills. Then something bad happens and soon after, I’m back on them."
"Some people would say that there’s nothing you can do about the way you feel," I said. "Take a pill and enjoy the ride."
"I’m not saying that medication isn’t helpful. I think that people have more control over the way they behave and act than they think."
I looked at the ground. An ant approached one of several cookie crumbs in the dirt. It picked one up in its pincers and turned back to the direction it had come. Krista’s dark days had been difficult. There was no guarantee that Julianna wouldn’t act similar or that one day she could wake up and her depression would be much worse. I had to decide if this was something I could live with. It was tempting to simply give up and find someone who didn’t have depression. I’d been through a lot. Who would blame me if I decided to throw in the towel?
Then my mind went back to Krista. Despite those hard days, I never thought once about giving up on her. I wanted to see her through those hard times because I loved her. She had meant more to me than anyone else, and I was willing to be help, no matter how bad the situation became. And in that moment I realized it didn’t matter if Julianna would have good days or bad. She was trying her best to work through her depression, and I was willing to take a chance and love her not matter what lay ahead.
"Thanks for telling me," I said. "There are a lot of people who think if they don’t take a pill every morning, they can’t be happy. I think it’s great you’re doing your best to resolve these issues on your own."
Julianna smiled. "Thanks," she said. "That means a lot."
We gathered our things and headed down the mountain. When we walked by some mountain flowers by the side of the trail, I picked one and handed it to Julianna. She took the flower and smiled. And with that smile, I knew there would be many more days together in our future.
It wasn’t until we were on our way home, warm night air blowing through the car, that I realized I needed to call Jennifer and end things. I hadn’t been honest with Jennifer about our relationship. All that needed to change. It was time to come clean.
After dropping Julianna off at her apartment, I turned on my cell phone. There were three messages on my voice mail — all from Jennifer. In the messages she sounded happy and anxious to talk to me. I sat in the driveway and brought up Jennifer’s number. I imagined myself pushing the call button and hearing Jennifer’s voice answer. I went through a dozen different ways of telling Jennifer our relationship was over. I tried to think of the kindest, nicest way possible to end it until I realized there’s nothing I could say that would ease what I was about to do.
Ending it was something I would have done eventually, even if Julianna wasn’t part of my life. Despite the wonderful times we had together, I never felt for Jennifer the way I did for Krista. I had rationalized the lack of those feelings by thinking it was impossible to have them for anyone else other than Krista. But after tonight I realized it was possible to love someone just as much as I loved Krista. The hard truth was I had pursued a relationship with Jennifer because I was lonely. And when the opportunity presented itself to be loved again, I took it.
I listened to a couple of songs on the radio, putting off the inevitable. The music was happy and made me think of being with Julianna. Finally the music broke to a commercial. I turned off the radio and got out of the car. I unlocked the door to the house. In the dark, I took off my shoes and walked to the couch. I lay down and dialed Jennifer’s number and waited. There was two seconds of silence before the lines connected. Jennifer answered the call on the third ring.
"I’ve been trying to call you all afternoon," Jennifer said. She sounded excited to finally talk with me.
"I know. I got your messages."
"Where were you?"
"That’s what we need to talk about," I said.