The Autobiography of Solange Boas
By Leslaureate (aka Amy G.)
©2003-2005 All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author.
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ACT III / PART III - Conclusion
Before we knew it, our tenth anniversary together and our twenty year high school reunion rapidly approached. Keeley suggested, and I agreed, we should go to the reunion in celebration of our anniversary - that is where we met after all - and then take a honeymoon of sorts the week or two after. We booked an Olivia cruise (for those of you who don't know, it was a lesbian cruise) around the Caribbean a year in advance, also making reservations to go to the theme parks in Orlando while we were in Florida . We hadn't been able to spend many blocks of time together for vacation and wanted to rectify that.
On the Friday of the reunion Happy Hour, Keeley had a deadline to meet so I went stag. I'd be lying to say I wasn't disappointed. I was looking forward to sharing the entire reunion experience with her this time around.
I had none of the anxiety I'd experienced ten years prior, so at the time, I didn't think that was part of my disappointment with Keeley's absence. In fact, I didn't consciously think of Gretchen and the reason for that anxiety. My life was with Keeley and I had left the past behind. Or so I thought.
The reunion was held at a different hotel on Mission Bay than the ten year reunion. I again thought it unnecessary to dress up and stuck with jeans, a sky blue blouse, and a black linen blazer. Where I once wore loafers, I now wore low heeled cowboy boots. I had worn them enough from dancing with Keeley that they were more comfortable than most flat shoes. I parked my car and found my way to the hotel bar, looking for blue and orange balloons once I arrived. It was like déjà vu.
I quickly saw the area cordoned off for the reunion, stopped at the bar to get a beer, and then made my way over. A number of people were already seated. My mind flashed back to ten years ago. I noticed how many of my classmates looked considerably older than Keeley and I, and assumed that having kids aged people faster.
We had become fairly close friends with Janie and Tess over the years and I found them seated across from one another at one of the tables. They had become inseparable in the last year or two. Keeley and I suspected it was more than friendship, but they quickly denied such suggestions. I quietly sat in the empty seat next to Tess, not saying a word, allowing them to finish their conversation. Once they realized it was me who sat, I stood to give them each a hug, Janie coming around the table from where she was seated. We soon settled down and I greeted the few others at the table whom I recognized.
"Where's Keeley?" Janie asked concerned. I explained to them that she had an article to finish, but would be at the main dinner the next night.
Tess looked nervous, uncomfortable, and acted pretty fidgety, which was not like her. I asked her what was wrong.
"Sol, I should warn you . . ."
Before she could finish her statement I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and looked up. I think my jaw dropped once I realized who it was. Gretchen. She looked older, but as beautiful as when we first got together. She obviously had taken very good care of herself over the fifteen plus years since I last saw her.
"Hi Sollie," Gretchen said warmly with a shy smile and looking into my eyes.
"Gretchen! What a surprise!" Shocked, I stood up and politely greeted her, quickly deciding against a hug or any form of contact. I really had not given any thought to whether or not she'd be there or how I'd react if she did make an appearance. It was very strange, but in those few moments after I realized it was her, a series of flashbacks played though my mind. Quick recollections from when we first got together and lived together; little vignettes of sweet memories of our life together.
The next thing I knew, she embraced me and held onto me tight. At first I didn't know what to do, my arms shifted up and down and I felt they were flapping in the wind. I finally put my arms around her and loosely returned the hug. My head ended up on her shoulder with my eyes closed. My God! She even smelled the same and I was taken back to days long gone by. She squeezed me tighter for a few seconds and released her grip. We stood facing one another.
"You look fantastic!" she smiled.
"You do too," I responded softly.
"It's been awhile, hasn't it?"
"About sixteen years," I answered matter of fact, suddenly becoming angry. 'Yeah, sixteen years since you broke my heart', I thought to myself. My heart was thumping rapidly and part of me wanted to run and escape. At that moment I really wished Keeley was there. She and I had months before mentioned the possibility of Gretchen attending the reunion, but we didn't have any in-depth discussion beyond that. It didn't seem to be an issue.
"May I join you guys?" she asked, motioning to the empty chair besides Janie, directly across from where I sat.
"Sure," I said, trying to appear adult over the entire situation. Tess and Janie both gave me sympathetic and reassuring looks as I sat back down.
Gretchen walked around to the other side of the table and sat on the empty chair. She greeted Tess and introduced herself to Janie, not remembering her from high school. A waitress came around and we all ordered more drinks. For some reason I thought a screwdriver was more appealing than a beer. Once I placed the order my three companions each gave me an odd look, knowing I was not one to drink hard alcohol. Gretchen asked Janie about herself and before I knew it, our drinks were delivered. After paying for the round of drinks, Gretchen began to answer questions from Janie.
Gretchen explained that she lived in the Bay Area and owned a Public Relations firm. She modestly tried to tell us how successful it was without bragging. Well, the girl had done good for herself. I always knew she would. She was smart and had fierce determination when she wanted something. As she spoke I noticed she had a more sophisticated air about her, but she seemed as down to earth as she always had been. I remained quiet as her attentions soon turned to Tess and they spent time catching up from when they ran into each other at the play over ten years before. Janie's attention was drawn to other people at the table, quickly becoming engrossed in a conversation.
Left to my own devices, I pounded my drink down much faster that what I was accustomed and immediately became light-headed. I must have paled as well - both Gretchen and Tess looked at me and asked if I was ok. I told them I was, but excused myself to get water. Once at the bar I ordered two glasses of water, quickly guzzling one down. I took the other glass and walked to the bathroom hoping the water and solitude would allow me to collect myself and get a grip on the situation.
I walked into the empty women's room, stepped to the sink area, and placed my glass on the counter. I took a good look at myself in the mirror. I was pale and my skin felt pretty clammy. I grabbed a few paper towels from the dispenser, turned on the water and dampened one, then used it to lightly pat my face and the back of my neck.
I didn't think I'd react this way once I saw Gretchen again. I thought I'd be very adult and that she would not affect me because I was now in love with Keeley. Gretchen was just a big blip in my past. But no, here I was hiding in the women's room with butterflies in my stomach and my heart thumping out of my chest for the simple reason of just seeing and then hugging Gretchen. I was extremely confused. How could I possibly still have feelings for this woman after all this time, especially given the circumstances of our parting and my life with Keeley?
"Sollie?" Broken out of my ruminating, I looked up into the mirror and saw Gretchen standing behind me. I quickly patted my face with a dry paper towel. "Are you ok? We were worried so I volunteered to check on you," she stepped closer to me, her concern apparently sincere.
"I'm fine, I guess I drank too fast and the vodka hit me." I turned around to face her.
"Good. I'm glad it's nothing serious," she responded. We stood in silence. I felt awkward and uncomfortable.
"I'm glad to hear you're doing well. I always knew you would," I said to break the silence.
"Thanks. I really enjoy what I do. And you? I hear down the grapevine that you teach high school. From what I remember, you couldn't get out of there fast enough. A glutton for punishment, eh?" she teased.
"I guess. You know, I never really thought about teaching, but I seem to be pretty good at it and it's also very fulfilling. I guess in some ways it may be payback." Gretchen looked at me questioning. "You know, all the hard times I may have given certain teachers in my younger days, I get it back now. I now know what it's like to walk in their shoes. And it ain't easy."
"I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying what you do." We fell into another uncomfortable silence.
"Listen Sollie . . ." "Gretchen . . ." We said at the same time, causing us both to smile.
"You first," I offered.
She paused a few moments before speaking, trying to gather her thoughts.
"Sollie, I can't tell you how sorry I am for what I did to you and how I treated you. I behaved reprehensively. There is no excuse and I won't try to make one. I . . . I just wanted to tell you that and to let you know that it has been my only regret in my life so far. I . . . um, I also would like if you'd go somewhere with me so we can talk alone and maybe a little more comfortably than in the bathroom?"
"What would be the purpose Gretchen? To catch up like nothing happened?" It came out more bitter than I intended.
"That, and maybe a chance for me to absolve my conscience and guilt I've been carrying around with me for sixteen years." She sincerely responded.
I didn't know how to respond. I was terrified to be alone with her. I didn't know if it was from the pain of the past or, given my reaction to seeing her, fear of something else - fear of lack of control on my part.
"Please Sollie?" I never could say no to her when she gave me "that look", the look I was now seeing on her face; the look of the innocence of a child wanting something badly.
My fear and discomfort began to escalate. It was one thing to be with her in the same area with other people, but quite another to be alone where no one I knew was in the immediate vicinity. I knew I did not want to leave the hotel grounds with her.
"How about we go to the coffee shop in the lobby?" I finally proposed.
"That would be wonderful. Thanks," she smiled appreciatively. "How about a little later?" I nodded my agreement.
I picked my water glass up from the counter. "I . . . ah. . . I'm going back to the table. Coming?"
"In a minute. Might as well use it now that I'm here," she pointed to the stalls.
"See ya out there," I said walking past her and out the bathroom.
Returning to the table, I sat back on my chair. Tess immediately turned and leaned in to talk to me. "I'm so sorry Sol. I didn't find out until this afternoon that she RSVP'd at the last minute. I should have called you right away. Are you ok?" she asked concerned.
"I'm fine. Just a surprise, that's all. I should have expected it. There's nothing to worry about." I don't know who I was trying to reassure more, Tess or myself.
After about an hour I realized Gretchen hadn't rejoined the table. I looked around and saw her visiting with people at the other end of the long table. Over the next while I saw her glance at me periodically, smiling when I returned her look. If we were going to talk, I knew it had to be now or never. I internally debated whether or not to explain to Tess and Janie where I was going. If I did, I thought that they'd try to talk me out of it. But if I didn't, then it would appear I was hiding something. Not wanting a lecture and knowing they couldn't tell me anything I hadn't already thought, I opted for silence. I excused myself telling them I'd see them the following evening and went to find Gretchen.
By that time Gretchen was across the room speaking with Lori. I stood silently at her side waiting for a break in the conversation. As I stood there, my decision of silence to my friends irrationally gnawed at my conscience. I wasn't really hiding anything, was I? After all, we were just going to talk in a public place. That was innocent, wasn't it?
"Lori, do you remember Solange?" I was broken out of my internal debate when I heard Gretchen say my name.
"How could I forget her? Hey Solange, how are you?" Lori greeted, holding out her hand. Boy, had she ever changed physically. She was no longer the trim teenager I remembered. She had changed into a near middle-aged mother who never lost the child bearing fat and who looked worn and haggard.
"I'm doing well, and yourself? I responded, shaking her hand.
"Great! This is my husband Ron." She introduced the man standing slightly behind her.
"I don't mean to interrupt, but Gretchen, now will be a good time," I stated, not wanting to elaborate further in front of Lori.
It took Gretchen a second to comprehend my cryptic statement. "Oh . . . right! Please excuse us Lori. It was great seeing you again, and nice to meet you Ron. See you tomorrow?" she asked.
"Sure. See you then," Lori answered perplexed by her old friend's sudden dismissal.
I nodded my good-bye as well, and Gretchen and I turned and walked out of the bar.
"Where to?" she asked, stepping up close to my side. Although we weren't touching, I felt her body heat against my arm.
"How about the coffee shop? It should be quiet this time of night and we should have some privacy," I suggested as I lead her toward the lobby.
"Sounds good. Lead on."
We finally found the restaurant and saw, as I had hoped, that it was fairly empty, especially of reunion guests. I asked for a table in the back, away from the windows looking out into the lobby. Although I didn't think of it at the time, I was afraid someone would see us together and jump to the wrong conclusion. We followed the hostess to an empty table in an empty section. We slid into opposite sides of a curved booth. The hostess tried to leave menus on the table, but Gretchen informed her that they weren't needed. I nodded in agreement. Our waitress quickly appeared to take our drink orders. I ordered decaf coffee and a glass of water, while Gretchen ordered a glass of merlot and water as well.
After the vodka hit me, I drank nothing else but water and iced tea. Given my tumultuous emotions I knew I needed to keep my wits about me.
"You wanted to talk?" I asked once the waitress walked away.
"I am so sorry," she said sadly.
"I know, you already said that," I reacted tersely. I surprised myself how harshly the words came out of my mouth. I wasn't intentionally trying to be cold to Gretchen. I was being defensive - unsure of her motives and what she really wanted from me. I could see she was momentarily taken back by my tone.
"I guess I should cut to the chase, huh?" she responded as the waitress stepped up to the table to deliver our drinks. She gently placed them on the table and told us to "holler" if we needed anything.
"Thanks for agreeing to talk to me Sollie. I . . . um . . .I know you have every right not to, but I'm grateful you agreed."
"You're welcome. What is it you need to talk about Gretchen?" I asked nicely.
She looked at her wine glass for a few moments before lifting her eyes to look into mine. "I've missed you Sollie. I haven't stopped thinking of you in sixteen years and have always regretted, and still regret, what I did to you. I've constantly wondered 'what if' and I believe in my heart that we'd still be together if only I hadn't screwed up."
"We'll never know, will we? You broke my heart Gretchen," I said softly.
"I know I did, and that hurts me even more - that I caused you such pain. And again, I'm so sorry. I need you to know that it was all me and not you. I . . .I just fucked up royally." Her guilt and shame were apparent.
"It took me awhile, but I finally got that Gretchen."
"I was hoping you could forgive me"
I sat silent, contemplating how to respond. "I have forgiven you Gretchen. I guess I forgave you a long time ago. It was the only way I could move forward. I just haven't forgotten and don't think I ever can."
"I don't blame you. If the situation were reversed, I don't know if I'd answer differently."
"Gretch . . .," it was too easy to fall into old familiar terms. "You blindsided me. You took everything that was important to me . . . important to us, and threw it out the window, completely disregarding the foundation of our relationship. For God's sake, your own morals!" I shifted, trying to quell all the anger that was slowly starting to erupt after so many years. But I knew now was my chance to say the things I wanted - no, needed - to say, but was unable to at the time due to our abrupt split. "It took me years to be able to trust again. You were my life, or so I thought, and you betrayed me."
"I did. And again, I am so sorry and regret and am ashamed of what I did. Please, just hear me out. You may not want to hear some, or even all, of what I have to say, but I need to say it." She looked to me before continuing.
"After we broke up, Wendy and I only lasted a couple of months. It may not matter, but I only slept with her once before graduation. We were just friends until that time. I escaped to the Bay area to regroup and start over and I did. I went to Cal and received my MBA and went to work for the top ad agency in San Francisco . I quickly rose through the ranks and then ventured out on my own five years ago.
"It's cliché, but despite all my professional and material success, there's always been something missing. And relationships - that's been a joke. For me a long term relationship is six to nine months. The women simply couldn't compare to you. You set an extremely high baseline. The bottom line for me Sollie, is that without you, the realization of all my dreams has been empty. I couldn't be serious about anyone else because they weren't you. Sollie, since the time I was sixteen years old I've been in love with you and only you. I was lying to myself and to you when I told you otherwise."
How I wanted to hear those words sixteen years ago. Even hearing them now pulled on my heartstring.
"Don't you think it's too little, too late?" I finally responded softly.
"Is it?" she asked. "I still love you Sollie. We had something very special. I know you felt that way. Can it ever be too late to revive something like what we had?"
All the hopes and emotions from the past stirred inside me. I can't believe it, but for an instant I forgot about Keeley. Thoughts of seriously considering what Gretchen was asking actually passed through my mind. Before I met Keeley, I often wondered how it would be if I located Gretchen and we were able to repair our relationship and get back together. For years, and on my darker, more depressed days, part of me secretly prayed and fantasized it would happen.
"Yes, it is," I finally answered. "Gretchen, you destroyed me. My heart was blown apart into so many fragments that for the longest time I didn't know if I could put them all back together. But I was lucky and I met someone whom I absolutely adore and love. She's taught me that it's ok to love and trust again. We're celebrating our ten year anniversary this weekend." I held up my left hand and pointed to my ring finger and the sapphire and diamond ring I had rarely taken off over the prior nine years. I could tell she was taken aback by my announcement. I was surprised she hadn't noticed the ring, and quickly thinking, that she hadn't even bothered to ask if I was with someone before she made her impassioned plea.
"Really? Who is she?"
A smile spread on my face as I thought of Keeley. "Keeley Martin. She went to senior year with us in high school. I met her at the ten year reunion and we've been together since." I could tell Gretchen was thinking hard trying to place Keeley.
"I don't remember her," she finally stated. "I had heard from someone that saw you years ago and you were with someone then, but I didn't even think to ask whether or not you were single now. To be honest, I don't know if it even mattered to me in concept. I just want you back Sollie. I need you in my life. I wanted to contact you sooner, but I was terrified. That's why I didn't come to the ten year reunion - but I guess I should have."
"I am flattered Gretchen. But it's too late. And why now?"
She took a sip of her wine. "I guess with age I realized I had nothing to lose and you're worth taking the chance. I didn't want the constant regret of what I did and then the regret of not trying," she admitted.
"I see," I said softly.
"Listen, Sollie, I haven't become a psycho bitch and I won't press this further if you are really and truly in love with Keeley and she's the one for you. One thing I've learned is that you have to follow your heart, which is why I'm sitting before you right now. But if I have any remote chance, I need to know because I'll do almost anything to take it. You mean that much to me. And if there isn't, then I will bow out with my dignity and ever the wiser for trying. But I need you to tell me either way."
"Gretchen . . ."
She held up her hand to stop me. "I don't want an answer now. I know I've dropped a bombshell on you. All I ask is that you think about things and follow your heart."
I was too shocked to erupt in anger or righteous indignation in response to her suggestion. The truth be told, a part of me deep down was questioning. I didn't know how to respond. My silence made the situation even more tense.
"Listen, I'm staying with my folks. If you want to talk, call me there. I'm not leaving until next Wednesday. I will be here tomorrow night for the dinner. Just think about it." She slid a piece of paper with her parent's phone number across the table, then reached into her front pocket and threw money on the table. She stood up from the booth and stepped to where I sat, leaned down and gave me a kiss on the cheek. She was gone before I could say anything.
I was in shock and too emotional so I remained sitting alone in the booth. The spot where she kissed me tingled and I absently raised my hand to touch the spot. After a few minutes of staring into my empty coffee cup, I gathered myself and left to drive home. I don't remember the drive - I was still too lost in my own thoughts.
When I got home, Keeley was in bed sound asleep, lying on her side. I quietly readied myself for bed and slipped into the bed, spooning up behind her, and put my arm around her. I needed to hold her, but tried not to wake her up.
"Hey," I heard her say sleepily, "Have a good time?"
"It was interesting. Shhhh, go back to sleep", I whispered, kissing her on her temple. She grabbed my arm that was across her chest and pulled it tightly to her, and was immediately back to sleep.
But sleep eluded me most of that night. The evening's events would not stop playing out in my head. As idiotic as it may sound, isn't it most people's fantasy to reconnect with their first love, whether it be for reunion or revenge? The first person to reach deep inside and touch your heart; the first person with whom you not only shared your body, but your soul; the first person to whom you said 'I love you', and meaning it with every single cell in your body. I think many of us would be lying to ourselves if we didn't admit that at one time or another we harbored such thoughts. No matter how much you're in love with your spouse or partner, try to deny that you haven't once in your life thought, "What if . . ."
Few of us are ever faced with the reality of the fantasy. And once faced with it, some peoples thirst to relive the past can't be quenched without pursuing the dream and the sins of the flesh that accompany it, the consequences be damned. I imagine others realize what they should have known in the past and tell themselves, "My God! What was I thinking?!"
Here I was smack dab in the middle of a very real situation, and at first I didn't know what to do. When actually faced with the fantasy, the situation isn't as black-and-white as you may think.
I certainly was flattered. I have to admit that the thoughts of what it would be like to be with Gretchen as an adult, did float through my mind. But as Keeley stirred in her sleep and instinctively tightened her hold on my arm, as if she knew my thoughts, the fantasy quickly came crashing down. My thoughts turned to Keeley, away from Gretchen.
Should I tell her about my conversation with Gretchen and risk hurting her? And, worst case scenario, losing her to jealousy? Or should I not tell her at all, and in essence, lie by omission. Or, should I wait to tell her once we're on our trip and it's done and over with, but then ruin our trip?
After ten years I thought I knew Keeley well enough. If I didn't tell her right away she'd have my hide. The omissions or half-truths, even temporary, would devastate her more than the truth. I remember she made that clear the first night we had dinner in her apartment. But how would I tell her? You don't sit down to breakfast and say, "Oh, by the way honey, my first love wants me back and wants to make a go of it. She says if I'm not completely in love with you she and I should go for it regardless of our relationship."
In that insane thought process, it hit me. What type of person was Gretchen to even ask such a question of me knowing I've been in a committed relationship with Keeley for ten years? That one thought alone made me question my own honesty and integrity. Forget about what type of person would ask the question. More important, what type of person was I to even momentarily consider it? How could I live with myself, yet alone with be with someone who could even ask such a thing of another.
I suddenly felt dirty for even momentarily considering Gretchen's proposal. Guilt and shame consumed me. Acknowledging that one thought showed me how selfish Gretchen was now and how inconsiderate of others' feelings she could be. I didn't want someone like that even as a friend. I realized my bottom line, what she asked and the fact she even asked it knowing my circumstances, was contrary to everything I held near and dear to me,
I tightened my grasp on Keeley and soon fell asleep from pure mental and emotional exhaustion.
I finally awakened later that morning, alone in the bed. I glanced at the clock and saw it was after 10:00 am . I knew Keeley had already been up for hours and was probably working in her office.
I dragged myself out of bed and groggily made the few steps into the bathroom. Finishing my morning routine I went to the kitchen and made a fresh pot of coffee. As I sat at the kitchen table waiting for the pot to finish brewing, I internally deliberated how to tell Keeley what happened the night before.
Once I realized the coffee was ready I poured myself and Keeley a cup, adding the flavored cream to hers that I knew she favored.
Keeley was pounding away at the computer keyboard still working on her article when I walked into the office. I stepped up behind her and leaned over her, placing the coffee cup on the coaster on her desk. I kissed the top of her head before straightening up.
"Hey sleepy head. Have a good time last night? What time did you get in?" she asked, continuing to type away.
"I guess around midnight or so," I answered as I stepped to the recliner positioned in the corner next to the desk and sat. It was Keeley's reading corner. She stopped typing and spun her chair around to face me. I sipped my coffee and, being as transparent as I am, I was obviously pensive.
"Hey, what's wrong? What happened last night?" She asked, concerned with my mood and demeanor. She also knew me all too well.
I slowly looked up at her from staring at my coffee cup. "Gretchen was there," I simply stated.
"Oh!" I saw the look of surprise on her face. "Well, I guess we should have anticipated she'd show up. So . . . what's dear old Gretchen up to these days?" Her sarcasm exposed a bit of jealousy.
"She lives in the Bay Area and owns a PR firm. She's done rather well for herself."
"That's nice. Was she with anyone?"
"No, she's single."
We were both quiet.
"Sollie, is there anything you want to tell me? Your one and two word answers tell me something's up." Yep, by my answers and my obvious nervousness she could read me well. But how would I answer her?
"Yeah, there is. But before I forget, Janie and Tess said to say hi and they missed you and look forward to seeing you tonight." I tried to delay the inevitable, but by the look on her face I knew I hadn't dodged the bullet.
"Out with it Boas," she directed, crossing her arms over her chest. By that one piece of body language I knew I was potentially in trouble. It usually meant that she was starting to lose her patience and her temper would soon follow.
"You know I had no idea she'd be there. I'd just sat down with Tess and Janie and she came up to me. I inhaled a screwdriver and it went straight to my head and stomach so I went to the bathroom to put some water on my face. Gretchen came in to check on me and told me she wanted to talk. I We agreed to talk later, so I went back to the table. I didn't drink anymore alcohol after that. After awhile I knew I had get it over with so I went and found her and we went into the hotel coffee shop to talk." The words spewed out of my mouth so quickly I didn't know whether I was intelligible.
"OK," was all she said. Keeley knew me well enough to let me go at my own pace.
"She kept on apologizing for the treating me poorly and for her actions."
"She told me she was still in love with me."
"Not OK. What did you do?" I could tell she was concerned and was starting to become jealous and angry.
"I accepted her apologies and told her about you. And that it was too little, too late."
"I see . . ." She was silent, contemplating what I said. "And where did you leave it?" I could tell she was trying very hard to remain calm and not overreact.
"She went on her merry way and I came home and snuggled up to you." OK, I know it wasn't the complete truth. But I felt I had to fudge the truth a little and not tell her about my internal struggle.
"And she was ok with your rejection?"
"Not really, but she'll get over it."
"And do you know what possessed her to pursue you now, after all this time?"
"I did ask her that. She said she didn't want another regret and figured she had nothing to lose."
"I see . . . was this before or after you told her about us, you and me?"
"Um . . . both."
"I see . . ." I could tell she was a bit afraid and hurt as well. I stood up and stepped to her and kneeled down in front of her. This was the pain I didn't want her to feel. The uncertainty of my response and jealousy in general. I knew I wasn't responsible for creating the situation, but I did feel guilty for my momentary lapses and thoughts of temptation. I saw tears beginning to well in her eyes. I cupped her face in my hands.
"Honey, I love you. While Gretchen may have had a hold on me in the past, you are the one that I love and want now and in the future. Not her. You are my life. Whatever Gretchen may want doesn't change or have anything to do with a thing between you and me." I tried to assure her. I felt a tear slowly fall down my face. Knowing I was the one to cause her sadness hurt me more than anything.
"Are you sure?" she hesitantly asked.
"Absolutely positive. With my life. If anything, her proposal strengthened my love for you even more, which I didn't think was possible given how much I loved you to begin with." I stated firmly, gently kissing her on the lips. I embraced her, hugging her tight. I then felt her arms come around my back pulling me close in a vice-like grip. As we stayed there holding each other I knew we'd be ok. What I feared, was what would happen to Gretchen if she didn't keep her word.
After allowing ourselves some snuggle time on the couch to recuperate from the morning's emotional onslaught, we spent the rest of the day doing mundane household chores. By mid afternoon I was exhausted from lack of sleep and all the emotional underpinnings of the day. I finally had to take a nap. I woke up in bed two hours later being held tightly from behind. Keeley had curled up behind me after I fell asleep. I heard her deep breathing and knew she was sound asleep. I gently extricated myself from her arm and turned onto my other side and looked at her while she slept. I saw a little burrow in her brow and wondered what she was dreaming to cause it. She looked so beautiful and was very enticing. I couldn't resist placing a gentle kiss on her lips. As I leaned back, her eyes fluttered awake, until she focused on me.
"Afternoon," I said softly. "Good nap?" I teased.
"Hey. You looked so comfortable, I had to join you," she smiled.
"That's fine by me. I love waking up in your arms," I leaned forward and gently kissed her again. "You know what? Let's not go tonight. Let's just spend the night by ourselves . . . at home . . . in bed," I suggested, placing kisses on her face in between the last several words. Brilliant, I thought to myself. It was the best alternative and way of avoiding any further possible pain or conflict.
Keeley propped herself up onto her elbow, leaned in, and gave me a soft kiss on the lips.
"That sounds wonderful Sol, but we'll have plenty of time alone on our trip. We told Tess and Janie we'd be there tonight and we will. We planned on having a good time tonight and I'm not going to let Gretchen change that."
I looked at her in unbridled admiration. "You're something else." I smiled.
"And don't you forget it," she smiled in return, leaning in for another kiss.
Once we finally pulled ourselves out of bed, we hurriedly readied ourselves for the reunion dinner. I was very anxious and I didn't hide it well. I hadn't planned on dressing up until I saw Keeley pull out "the dress" from the closet. I know she's serious when "the dress" comes out. "The dress" is a beautiful rich ultramarine blue cocktail dress that's extremely form fitting on Keeley. She knows I salivate when I see her wear it. It highlights the curves of her beautiful body and brings out the blue of her eyes. Every time I see her in "the dress" I can't wait to get her out of it. It was obvious she wasn't holding anything back that night. So, instead of khaki's, I wore dark blue dress pants and a purple silk like blouse. I grabbed a matching cardigan sweater in case it became chilly. I finished getting ready before Keeley, so I waited for her in the living room. After a while I looked up from the magazine I was reading and saw her standing in the doorway. My jaw dropped. I don't remember ever seeing her look more beautiful. I stood and walked to her.
"You are absolutely stunning. Are you sure we can't stay home tonight?" I asked nuzzling and kissing her exposed neck.
"Stop it!" She teased, pushing me away. "We are going and having a good time!" She teasingly slapped at me with her hand purse. I held my hands up in defeat and led her out the door.
Once at the hotel, we leisurely walked from the hotel lobby to the banquet room. I had another sense of déjà vu from ten years prior. The reception area was decorated similarly and from what I could see of the banquet room just glancing through the doors, it appeared the same as well. Most of the people I recognized from school had changed a great deal, even from our first reunion. They were a lot grayer, heavier, and many men had less hair. I'm telling you, kids age straight people. And not to be prejudiced, but from what I saw of the group so far, Keeley stood out like a beacon she looked so good.
We approached the registration table where Tess and Janie sat with their heads together engaged in conspiratorial whispers and with smiles plastered on each of their faces. Looking down at them I again wondered if they had become more than just friends. I knew that both had individually and separately asked me questions over the years, 'How did you know?', 'When did you know?', 'What did you do about knowing?', and many others. Their curiosity seemed more than a polite interest. When we stood in front of the table they were oblivious to our presence. Keeley finally pretended to clear her throat to get their attention, while I chuckled.
"Hey guys!" Tess greeted, finally looking up. "Oh my God! Keeley! You look gorgeous!" Tess complimented standing and giving Keeley a hug over the table.
"Hey! What about me?" I pouted.
"You ain't so bad yourself slick." Janie stood and gave me and then Keeley a hug.
"And you too look striking as usual," I returned the compliment.
"We saved you seats at our table," Tess informed us as she handed our name cards. I glanced at mine before pinning it to my blouse. Damn! That picture seemed to only have gotten worse over the last ten years. Janie offered to lead us to the table so Tess could stay and direct registration.
As we walked into the room I quickly took a quick look around to see if Gretchen had arrived. I was extremely anxious and prayed that she changed her mind and decided not to come. I should be so lucky.
We drew near to a table in close proximity to the dance floor and where four people were already seated. My worst fears were realized when Janie directed us closer to the table. Gretchen and her sister were seated along with Reenie and another woman. Janie stopped abruptly and turned around.
"I am SO sorry you two. We saved the table and when we went to the registration desk, we had two other people sitting there," she apologized, very embarrassed by the situation.
It appeared that dinner was going to be served shortly, so most of the tables were already full. I looked at Keeley who had slowly realized the situation.
"What do you want to do?" I asked, leaving the choice to her.
"C'mon woman - let's take the bull by the horns," she said taking my hand and leading me to the table. I don't know if it's the Irish or Southerner in her, but I had to love this feisty side. Once we reached the table, Janie quickly disappeared back to the safety of Tess instead of staying to diffuse a potentially explosive situation. Some psychologist she turned out to be, I wryly thought to myself.
Keeley and I stepped over to the empty chairs next to Reenie and her companion, leaving the two next to Gretchen and her sister for Tess and Janie. I figured the more people between us the better. However, it also meant that we sat directly across from Gretchen at the round table.
Reenie looked up and stood to hug me. We had run into her over the years, so she had already met Keeley. She introduced us to her partner, Nancy, who appeared considerably younger than us. By her youthful ruddy complexion and straight brown hair, my guess she was in her mid-twenties.
"Hello, you must be Gretchen. I'm Keeley, Sollie's life partner," she held her hand out across the table introducing herself. I could tell the claws were out tonight. Gretchen stood and shook Keeley's hand. I couldn't help but notice she looked stunningly elegant in her tight black dress with spaghetti straps and plunging neckline. What's the old saying? 'I'm married but I'm not dead?' But I guess it is a bit tactless and inappropriate when it's said in reference to one's ex-girl friend. I understood she purposefully dressed to the nines as well.
"Keeley. What a pleasure to meet you. I've heard so many good things about you," Gretchen greeted civilly. "This is my sister Darlene," she introduced to Keeley.
"Hey ya Dar! How the hell are ya?" I used my pet name for her as I stepped around the table and gave her a big hug.
"Old, married, and have too many kids," she laughed returning the hug. Dar and I always got along well. Once she turned sixteen and received her driver's license, she was a constant fixture at Gretchen's and my apartment. I had nothing against Dar - she wasn't the one that hurt me. I was actually glad to see her.
"I'm sorry. Keeley seems very lovely. I'll try to keep Gretchen tame," she whispered in my ear before releasing me from our hug. I mouthed thank you before returning to my seat. I was very grateful a cocktail server suddenly appeared for our orders once we took our seats. I feared leaving the table and Keeley and Gretchen alone. After the reaction I had to the screwdriver the night before, I decided to stick with beer, while Keeley ordered her usual chardonnay.
I couldn't determine what Gretchen was up to or what to anticipate from her. She was obviously up to something by somehow finagling the seats at our table. It knew it couldn't be mere coincidence. But to be honest, based on Keeley's actions, I didn't know of which of the two I should be more worried.
By the time we settled, Tess and Janie joined us and our drinks were served. As I paid for the drinks I whispered quietly to our server requesting he come back soon and often through the night. I took a long swig directly from the bottle. Pouring it into a glass, although the proper thing to do, would take too much time and I needed something to take the edge off immediately.
Our salads were soon delivered and we started to eat. Apparently the bell sounding the end of round one extinguished the potential parrying of words. Everyone at the table instead concentrated on our meals. The conversations around the table remained light and civil. We almost made it through dinner without having to engage in direct conversation with Gretchen. The operative term is almost.
"So, Keeley, Sollie said you're a writer. What is it that you write?" Gretchen asked courteously.
"I freelance for local and national publications, mostly on things relating to San Diego , but other places as well. My subject matter is fairly diverse. Celebrity interviews, interior design, historical, a bit of crime as well. I've done them all." Keeley replied politely. "And Sollie's told me that you own your own Public Relations firm. How interesting! How have you adjusted to the Bay Area?"
"It certainly keeps me busy and on my toes. I don't get as much free time as I'd like. And after more than 15 years, I've adjusted to the Bay Area. I live in the Hills in East Bay now. But it certainly isn't San Diego ."
Further conversation was distracted by the serving of dessert and coffee. The DJ began to crank up the music. People began to move slowly onto the dance floor.
After a few songs Keeley grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the floor as well. She wasn't holding back, which I assumed was her way of marking her territory. The second song we danced to had an erotic rhythm to it and she turned on the sexuality, suggestively dancing up against my front.
"Behave, this isn't a lesbian bar," I teased in a whisper, desparately trying to fight the arousal her attire and actions were starting to cause in me.
She leaned, her mouth against my ear. "Moi? Sollie honey, I thought you liked it when I behaved like this." She whispered innocently.
"Oh, I do, but not at our class reunion?" Her breath in my ear made me suddenly doubt my questioning her actions. She was too damn cute and sexy. "Aren't you concerned someone may be offended?" I choked out as she pressed herself against me.
"Sollie, you know I can give a rat's ass what most people think," she stated, looking directly into my eyes. Who am I to argue? I relaxed into her and the song.
After a few more dances, during which I'm sure she turned more than a few heads, we returned to the table to rest, arriving at the same time as Tess and Janie. A fast song was soon played and I asked Dar to join me - she and I had spent many a time bopping around the apartment when she visited. I saw Tess grab Gretchen, and sent her a thankful look, glad that Tess and Gretchen would not be left at the table together.
Although the following song was not one of my favorites, Dar and I continued to try to dance to it.
"I'm glad you're happy kiddo. Being a Mom becomes you," I complimented.
"I've missed you Sollie. You always made me feel welcome, like you were my big sister as well."
"Me too Dar. I'm sorry I didn't keep contact with you after everything went down, but I couldn't."
"I've always understood that. It did hurt at first, but I never blamed you. My dip shit sister, on the other hand, is another matter. And I'm sorry for the entire table thing. I tried to stop her, but I'm sure you remember how she gets when she's on a mission."
"Yeh, I do. That's what scares me tonight. I no longer know her or what she may be capable of."
"Ah, point taken. I think you're pretty safe. She's changed a bit, but not that much. She really does regret the way she treated you, you know. She still has feelings for you."
"I believe that."
"As for anything else, she's not so tacky as to do anything completely tasteless . . . although she has been drinking."
I hope you're right. . ." I prayed she was right.
"And Keeley is adorable, and gorgeous. Even if you're not with my sister, I do want you to be happy. And from what I can tell, Keeley brings you much happiness and love."
"I guarantee you she does. I know it may sound like it's something out of a romance novel, but after Gretch I was so heartbroken I didn't know if I'd ever love like that again. Keeley showed me it wasn't only possible, but that I could love even more."
"I'm happy for you Sollie. And I'm very glad you're not holding my sister against me," she laughed.
"Naw, never could do that to you Dar."
The song finally ended, we walked back to table and found Gretchen sitting alone. Her hooded eyes made it readily apparent she was starting to get drunk. She and Darleen whispered amongst themselves and whatever was said, Gretchen was not happy. As Janie, Tess, and Keeley returned to the table and took their seats, a slow song that Gretchen and I used to love started to play.
"Keeley, I hope you don't mind if I borrow Sollie for old time's sake?" she asked standing and looking directly at Keeley. Keeley looked at me nervously.
"It's ok," I leaned in and reassured her in a whisper.
I stood and waited for Gretchen to move around the table, then followed her to the middle of the dance floor. We awkwardly stood there, momentarily not knowing how we should do this, when Gretchen placed her hands up around my neck and I loosely placed my arms around her back above her hips. I made certain there was at least six inches between our bodies. We started to move slowly to the song, where we once had clung to one another.
"Having a good time?" I asked.
"Could be better," she answered suggestively, trying to move closer. I ignored the meaning behind her comment and held her at bay.
"Remember when we used to dance to this at the bar?" she asked softly, looking into my eyes.
"Yeh, I do."
"It was nice. We were so in love."
"Yeh, it was."
"I do still love you Sollie," she whispered.
"But it's not then Gretch . . . it's now. And now is completely different."
"But it doesn't have to be."
"Yeh, it does. Gretch, a part of me will probably always love you and a part will probably always hate you. But regardless, I'm very much in love with Keeley now and I don't see anything changing that. If you had told me all this fifteen years ago, maybe things would be different, but not now," I tried to explain as gently as possible.
We finished the dance in silence. Once it ended she pulled me into a tight embrace. "Thanks." I heard her whisper before letting go of me. As we approached the table I saw everyone was there and seated. I also saw how closely Keeley watched us, a mixture of emotions battling in her eyes and on her face. When I slid onto my seat, I took her hand in mine, interlocked our fingers, and gave a gentle squeeze.
"I love you," I leaned and whispered in her ear, trying to relax and reassure her. But, by the look on her face I knew I should prepare for Round Two. Within minutes Keeley proved me right.
"So, Gretchen, do you miss San Diego ? Would you move back? I can't imagine living up North. It's just too cold for me," Reenie innocently asked.
"I miss it more than you can imagine," Gretchen answered longingly, looking at me. That did not go unnoticed by Keeley.
"But certainly we aren't as sophisticated or cosmopolitan as up there. And what about your clients? I'm sure they wouldn't want to lose your services." Keeley interjected.
"Well. There are commuter flights, email, teleconferencing, and other things. There are ways of making it work and also expand my client base."
"I see. So are you thinking of moving back?"
"If the right circumstances arose, I would."
Forget rounds - the battle lines had been drawn for full scale warfare. I sat back nervously watching this match of wills. I'd never seen Keeley like this; like a lioness protecting her cub. But then again, her turf had never before been invaded. But then yet again, I don't remember Gretchen acting like this either.
Dar looked at me apologetically. I could almost swear I saw her kick her sister under the table. Reenie and Nancy just looked on in confusion, not certain of what, exactly, was going on. Tess and Janie remained silent, but appeared poised to jump in if necessary. Still holding Keeley's hand, I gently squeezed to let her know I wasn't going anywhere.
I knew I should say something to try to diffuse the situation and stop the bantering, but I wasn't sure what to say. Keeley was obviously insecure despite my words and actions, and Gretchen rose to Keeley's bait; although it was now Gretchen baiting Keeley.
"But Gretchen, it would be a shame to risk everything you've worked so hard for up there if there wasn't anything here but your family, would it?" Janie spoke up, the calvary coming to the rescue - or throwing salt on the wound, depending on whose perspective.
"True Gretchen, you left here so long ago and everything's changed since then. It's not like what it used to be here," I finally stated, our eyes locking. "I know your family's here, but I can't imagine changing everything if there's nothing else but them. I know I can't imagine picking up our roots and moving somewhere else. Right Keel?" My eyes never left Gretchen's. I watched as the fire in her eyes slowly extinguished with each word I spoke.
"Nope, I think our lives will be here forever," Keeley smiled at me. I felt her squeeze my hand under the table.
I had said enough and I don't know where I got the courage to speak at all. I know it seemed like we were ganging up against Gretchen, but I knew it could only be my words to take the wind out of her sails. In my indirect, but very direct, way I again made it clear to her there was no hope for "us" and that I was staying put. I did feel bad for her, even though she was the one who created the entire situation. I could tell she was fighting to keep her composure.
"Hey Gretch, I need to use the facilities. Would you go with me?" Darleen asked, just loud enough for everyone to hear, and allowing Gretchen a graceful exit. As the stood, they both looked at me. I mouthed, "I'm sorry" to them.
We were all quiet for a few minutes after they left. What was there to say?
Keeley gently squeezed my hand again. I looked at her face and saw all the love she felt for me. I was impressed by the way she was willing to fight for me. Actually, I didn't expect less. I smiled and shook my head. Looking at her and quickly thinking over everything that happened within the prior 24 hours, every reason that made me fall in love with her in the first place hit me, along with at least twenty new ones.
"Are you okay?" Keeley leaned over and asked.
"A little rattled and relieved. How about you?"
"Me too. Are you sure nothing else is wrong?"
"Yep. Let's talk about it later." I assured her, gently kissing her on the forehead.
The rest of the evening was uneventful. Gretchen and Dar never returned to the table, nor did I see them the rest of the night. Keeley and I ended up dancing our asses off, with Janie and Tess joining in. As tense as the reunion dinner had started, it ended rather pleasant.
"So, are you going to tell me what was going through your head after Gretchen left the table? You had a look on your face that I haven't seen for a long time. Are you sure there's nothing I should be worried about?" Keeley asked me as we were pulling onto the driveway. I was driving, but held her hand on my lap. I smiled and looked at her lovingly. Coming to a stop, I turned off the ignition. I turned to her and gently wiped back a stray hair off of her face.
"To the contrary, I should think you'd be very pleased," I finally answered.
"C'mon, do tell."
I thought back to high school and college and how I prayed Gretchen would love me and stay with me forever. I told her last night how crushed I was after she broke up with me. And I was. I was absolutely devastated and wondered why God never listened to my prayers - I didn't get what I wanted, and I wondered why we couldn't stay together or even get back together.
"Tonight, with all the drama going on, I looked at you and it dawned on me - if my prayers had been answered back then, I never would have met you and never have fallen in love with you. In that second of realization, I was overwhelmed by such a feeling of gratitude and panic. The gratitude is self-evident, but the panic is of how miserable my life would be without you and terrified that I could have lost you this weekend."
Tears were falling down her face. "Oh sweetie, I'm here and I'm not going anywhere. I was so afraid I was going to lose you. I was scared that you'd change your mind and choose Gretchen."
"Keel, there was never a choice to be made. I'm sorry you even doubted me and my love for you. In that instant, I saw how much love you had for me, and I fell in love with you all over again for the umpteenth time. Not that I've ever fallen out of love with you, I haven't. But it seems different now - I have a new respect and admiration for you. Happy 10 Year Anniversary Keeley. You are the love of my life." I leaned over and passionately kissed her.
It was uncomfortable making out in the bucket seats, so we went inside where it was much more comfortable. Our passion for one another, although it never waned, was renewed. It was as if we first met, but the benefit of the knowledge of each other's bodies, souls, and minds. It was simply the best.
So, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. We did leave the next day for our long overdue vacation. Our love for one another had been strengthened and refreshed. It had to be the most romantic vacation I could have dreamed of.
Keeley and I are still together and still love each other immensely. I retired from teaching a few years ago, but I still volunteer to mentor and tutor students when I can, which is most of the time. Keeley does occasionally freelance when a subject is important to her. But, for the most part, we travel a lot and putter around the house with various projects.
Gretchen and I did speak shortly after I returned from my anniversary trip. She again apologized profusely for her actions, stating she hadn't been acting like herself. I forgave her and wished her well. A couple of years later she sent me an email telling me she finally met someone and was happy. We still keep in touch via the computer, but nothing regular or beyond pleasantries and general life updates.
My intuition about the nature of Tess and Janie's relationship was correct. The two had fallen in love somewhere along the line. They were together for over fifteen years, until Tess was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Despite her hard fight, the chemo didn't work and we lost her within a year. Janie remains a very close friend. As twisted and incestuous as it may sound, she started seeing Barb. They moved in together a few years ago.
At our 25 year reunion we started to organize and gather donations for a scholarship fund in the arts in honor of DJ and Kurt. We aren't able to award a lot of money every year, but every little bit helps those kids get through college.
I started this literary exercise and journey saying that I led an ordinary, unremarkable life. Some people may still think so even after reading my story. But, as I sit here and read the words that reflect my life, I realize that I actually had a blessed life. I had a profession and job that made me happy and that was very fulfilling; a family that loved and accepted me and my loves for who and what we were and are; and, I had not one, but two great loves in my life - one to prepare me for the other.
If that's not pretty damn remarkable, I don't know what is.
AFTERWARD, by Keeley Martin
Solange was kind enough to provide me with the opportunity to share a few thoughts of my own. This was her story, so I'll keep my comments brief.
It takes great courage to examine one's life and admit their shortcomings. Even more so when the person exposes them self to the world instead of keeping it private. I am extremely proud of Solange. She put her heart and soul into this endeavor. I realize she has portrayed me as somewhat of a saint at times, understating, loving, and calm. But I can't say I have; I've been far from it.
During that difficult reunion weekend I did want to claw out Gretchen's eyes and inflict other means of bodily harm. I admit I was consumed by the green eyed monster. Although I was terrified I'd lose Sollie, I don't think I ever really doubted her or her love for me.
There are two things I feel compelled to let her readers know and that she failed to mention. One, she really does talk like she writes. She loves to use metaphors, euphemisms, and go off on tangents.
Second. I did get her back in a small way. Four years later we went to my college reunion, taking a short vacation to the Bay Area. Guess who was there? Alexis. Ah . . . but that's another story Sollie doesn't want to share.
One last thing, although it is apparent from Sollie's recollections that neither of us were or are particularly religious, there is one thing for which I will be eternally grateful to our Higher Power - that many of Sollie's prayers remained unanswered. Had they been, I wouldn't have had the privilege of spending my life living with and loving her. At least my prayers were granted.
©2003-2005 All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed the show. Now that all 3 parts are posted please send me your lavish praise or constructive criticism (nit-picking on grammatical errors will be ignored). ☺
If you enjoyed this story, please read my other works, "All or Nothing" and "Memories of Love", both hosted on this website.
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