The One Who Broke My Heart
You'll have to excuse my attitude while I write this chapter. I'm going to try to not sound bitter, but I doubt I'll be able to help myself. Charlie and I went to middle school and high school together. You would hope I had learned my lesson about dating guys I went to school with but apparently I hadn't. We never dated during school, we barely spoke at all. He was kind of nerdy and kept to himself a lot but joined the ROTC in college and excelled, making a small name for himself around the University campus. My friend Annie took me to a party at his house a few weeks before I was scheduled to leave for Atlanta. Charlie was moving to Georgia as well though he would be living down in Columbus at Fort Benning. I was still excited to have someone I knew in the same state considering I was moving nearly 3,000 miles away from all my friends and family.
Charlie and I hung out at the party and got to know each other a little better. I kept on getting these ugly glances from some girl who I hadn't met before and Annie told me it was Charlie's ex-girlfriend. The one who had cheated on him and had a baby with some other guy. Poor Charlie. That must have been terrible for him. At some point in the evening, Charlie invited me to go rafting with him and some of his friends. I agreed because white water rafting is one of my favorite things to do.
So that weekend, along with Ali, we all brought our sleeping bags and swim suits and trusted Charlie and his friend Walker to guide us down the river. We only fell out once so I considered it to be a success. What was also a success was the fact that I now had myself a new boyfriend. Charlie had kissed me while we were hiding under a blanket, trying to escape from the swarms of mosquitoes. It was so romantic!
Charlie wasn't the best looking guy. Apart from his amazing physique (which was unfortunately hidden under a layer of body hair), he was nothing to write home about. He was shy - really shy - but very sweet and unbelievably strong, physically that is. We went out a few times before I had to leave for Atlanta and he was really upset to see me go.
My mom and I were driving the minivan to Georgia (can you believe that thing was still around?) and we had stopped in Norman, Oklahoma to visit family. My aunt was incredibly giddy when I walked in the door and immediately showed me the huge bouquet of flowers that had arrived for me only early that morning. Attached was a note from Charlie which told me that he couldn't wait to see me again and that he missed me like crazy. It was probably the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for me.
When we were finally both in Georgia, we spent as much time together as we could. Turns our Fort Benning is about 90 minute drive from Atlanta so it was easy for me to see him on the weekends. He would come up to the city as often as he could and things moved really fast as far as our emotions were concerned. I distinctly remember when he told me that he loved me. We had been together for about three months and he had left me a message when I was at work.
"Hey, Lydia. I was just calling to say that I missed you and I was thinking about you. I know you're at work, but I just wanted to hear your voice. I love you...(incredibly long pause). I mean...I'll talk to you later."
I knew he hadn't meant to say it just then. He had probably wanted to do something romantic, take me out to dinner and make a big speech, so I didn't ask him about it when I called him back. That weekend when he came to see me I could tell that he was nervous. He had some friends with him and we all went out dancing - which he couldn't do very well - so I waited until we were alone to reciprocate his feelings.
"Are you having fun?" I asked as we sat down in a quiet corner.
"Yeah, are you?"
I smiled and nodded my head, knowing what I was about to say.
"I don't know how you put up with me and my dancing," Charlie teased me.
Hello, opportunity. "It's probably because I love you."
Charlie looked surprised and then unbelievably happy. "You heard my message?"
"I did," I confirmed.
"I didn't want to tell you like that. It just slipped out and then I couldn't take it back and I was really hoping you hadn't heard."
"I thought it was really sweet," I promised him.
"I do love you," he said, taking my hand. "And I wanted to tell you, just in the right way."
"Hey, it makes for a good story, right?"
"Right," Charlie laughed and we kissed.
After that, things sped up even more. Pretty soon we were talking marriage and kids. He had been planning on going to Korea for a year and completely changed his plans because of me. He told me about being transferred to somewhere in Kansas and wanted me to go live with him. I actually looked up places to live in Kansas. Kansas. What the fuck? It helped that my parents adored him. I had finally found one of the good guys and he was head over heels in love with me. I was floating to and from work every day, completely smitten.
We lived for months in complete bliss, both of us crazy about the other, until the holidays came. Charlie had a two week leave lined up and I had only been granted three days off from my job, all of which I would be spending in Seattle instead of Portland. We knew we weren't going to see each other but that hadn't mattered before. We had gone longer than two weeks when he was on assignment somewhere and during those times, we hadn’t even been able to talk on the phone. Charlie called me on Christmas eve, called me on Christmas day, called me everyday until he left for his friend's cabin for New Year's. There wasn't going to be much reception but he promised to call from a land line at midnight Atlanta time. But the call never came. I waited for three days, calling his cell phone incessantly, leaving messages, begging him to call me back. At first I thought something had happened to him. But after a couple of days, I knew if he had been hurt, his parents or his friends would have called to let me know. That's when I became angry. There was absolutely no reason he couldn’t have called by now. I knew he was back from the cabin so why hadn’t he called?
Charlie had left his car in my driveway while he was home in Oregon. It was this old truck (almost as old as the minivan) and I opened the door with every intention of locking the keys inside and never speaking to him again. That's when I saw the papers in the backseat. They were printed from a website and he had clearly been researching engagement rings. About four pages of possible rings had been printed and I examined each and every one, my heart pounding out of my chest. I was getting engaged! I couldn't believe it! I knew I should still be angry at Charlie but I couldn't help it. I mean, I was getting engaged and I'm sure he had a legitimate reason for not calling.
That evening I picked him up at the airport and immediately asked him why he hadn't called, expecting a legitimate excuse and a proposal. His answer nearly killed me.
"I don't know why I haven't called," he said, refusing to look at me.
"I don’t really believe you. You don't just stop calling your girlfriend for no reason."
Charlie sighed and finally looked up. "I feel that we've lost the spark from our relationship."
"The spark? I don't quite understand what you mean."
"You know, the spark."
No, repeating the word didn't help. "So, does that mean you don't love me anymore?"
"Not at all."
"Does that mean that you aren't attracted to me anymore?"
"You know I think you are beautiful."
"What the hell does it mean, then?"
"I don't know what it means."
This was so frustrating. Just tell me what you want! Why is that so hard? So I gave him an option, opened the door of possibilities. "Look, Charlie, if you want to break up with me then please just do it. I'm really confused right now and I don't understand what you want me to do about this whole spark we seem to have lost."
He looked shocked. "I don't want to break up."
"So, what do you want to do? Because I can't take you not calling again. It nearly broke my heart."
"I'm sorry," he said. "It won't happen again."
"Okay." I didn't feel like we were making any progress and he certainly hadn't asked me to marry him yet. I wondered where he was keeping the ring.
Over the next few days I started thinking about things I could do to find the spark again. I went to the mall and picked up some new lingerie and some running shoes. I hate running. But Charlie loved it and I wanted to show interest in the things he liked. I started eating sushi with him, going for runs, letting him take me to the shooting range where I fired an actual weapon; we had sex all the fucking time and it was all because of that damn spark.
I asked Charlie only once if he thought the spark had come back into our relationship. We were jogging, (kill me now) and I pointed out all the time we had been spending together and all the plans we had made. But he didn't answer my question. He just smiled and told me that he loved me. I knew there was something he wasn't telling me but I couldn't figure out what it was.
Sometime in February was when Charlie went home to visit his family. He promised he would call but he didn't. I was heartbroken again, embarrassed that I had let this happen twice. And I had had enough. I didn't need this stress. I didn't need Charlie in my life. I deserved better. So when he came back to Georgia, I broke up with him. It was the hardest breakup I have ever been through. I cried and cried and told Charlie that I didn't want to do it but he had left me no choice. He didn't disagree and left without any promise of keeping in touch.
It wasn't until two months later that I learned what had really been going on. My friend Annie called, clearly distraught over something.
"Did you and Charlie break up?" She asked and I realized I had forgotten to tell her.
"Yeah. He was being weird and not calling me. I couldn't handle it anymore so I broke up with him. I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I've just been kind of a mess."
"If I tell you something, will you promise not to hate me?"
I laughed out loud. "I promise."
"Charlie is getting married."
"He's getting married in a couple months."
"How...why? I'm sorry, what?"
That's when Annie started confessing the entire story. "I ran into Walker at the store the other day and he asked if I was going to Charlie's wedding. I couldn't believe that he had asked you to marry him and you hadn't told me. Walker looked all confused and said that you two had been broken up since November and that Charlie was getting ready to marry his ex-girlfriend. They've been back together since before New Year's"
My heart broke all over again. Those rings that I found, those had been for her. They were never intended for me. I took a deep breath, determined not to cry any more tears over Charlie. "We broke up in February."
"Lydia, I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. I mean, I'm not okay right now, but I will be. I'm glad you told me instead of having to find out over Facebook or something."
"Do you want me to crash the wedding for you?" She asked, just like the amazing friend she’s always been.
"No," I laughed. "I'm sure City Hall is lovely this time of year. I wouldn't want to ruin the magic for them."
Annie laughed as well and I realized, after screaming and yelling out my frustration for a good ten minutes, that getting over Charlie would now be a lot easier. The so called spark that we had lost was in no way my fault and there was nothing I could have done to get it back. I wasn't who Charlie wanted and I would learn to be okay with that. Though, why he would want some ugly ex girlfriend who cheated on him and had another man's baby is completely beyond me.
"So what are you going to do now?" Annie asked after I had finished my bitching session.
"I don't know," I said and I really hadn't thought about it. "I think I'll write a blog about it."
And that was that. I wrote a very lengthy blog on my MySpace page, confessing everything that had happened including my misinterpretation of the wedding ring photos. I'm not, or at least I wasn't the type of girl who normally shares her secrets with the world. I would rarely talk about my relationships with any of my good friends, much less the masses of online friends. But it was actually incredibly therapeutic and liberating to share what had happened to me. The best part was the response I received. Not once did I use Charlie's name, but those friends who I had gone to school with knew who I was referring to. They thanked me for being so honest, praised me for focusing my anger on him and not the other woman. I didn't feel like a good person writing these things, I didn't think my story would help anyone but maybe it did.
I don't think his wife ever knew about me. He probably told her the same thing he told everyone else: that we had broken up a month before they got back together. But now Walker knew the truth. Now most of our high school knew the truth. I'm sure most if not all of his friends stuck by him because I'm sure he had his reasons for doing what he did. But I couldn't find them. I mean, I told him to break up with me if he didn't want me anymore. I made it so easy, and he was just too selfish or scared. There is so much I could say about him right now, but I honestly don't want to waste the effort.
After that phone conversation with Annie, I promised myself that I wasn't going to settle for another loser. I wasn't going to date someone because it was convenient or because I wanted them to like me. I wasn't going to fall in love until I knew that he was the right guy for me. And this little plan of mine, it totally worked.