My husband, Richard, has been the love of my life — loving, tender, reliable, and responsible. We dated for two wonderful years, tying the knot at the age of 26. Our journey felt like a fairy tale as we meticulously planned our future, complete with dreams of children and a home we would call our own.
Then, abruptly, he vanished. Like a fleeting mirage, Richard disappeared, leaving no trace. An orphan with no family ties, his sudden absence shocked not only me but also his friends. Concerned that something terrible had befallen him, I sought the help of the police. Unfortunately, their investigations bore no results. Years passed, marked by a relentless wait for the day he would knock on our door and return home.
Although I was surrounded by other men, their interest palpable, I couldn’t bring myself to forget Richie. My friends encouraged me to explore new possibilities, while Jake, a dear friend, remained a constant source of support. I knew he cared for me, and I felt the same way. However, guilt always crept in whenever I entertained the idea of moving on.
Uninterested in other men, I channeled my focus into building a successful career in engineering. Recently, a work trip took me to another part of the country, involving meetings, shopping, and an early Monday morning flight. Eager to find solace, I attended a local church service on Sunday, a ritual reminiscent of my routine back home.
As the service concluded, I made my way toward the exit, only for my heart to plummet at the sound of a familiar voice. I felt like I was going crazy. I turned around and saw a tall man. I recognized that back. I recognized that laugh. He turned around, and his eyes widened as if he saw a ghost. Same with me. It was him. No doubts. My breath caught in my chest.
“Honey, are you okay? Are we coming?” inquired the woman beside him.
He swallowed hard.
“Yeah, you go. I just wanted to say hi to Mr. Jenkins.”
“Okay, waiting for you in the car,” she responded before leaving. Richard approached me, his grip on my shoulders firm as he whispered, “Not here. See me in an hour at Tom’s Cafe, River Street, 6.”
With those cryptic words, he left. In a daze, I found myself at the specified cafe. He came in an hour and started to ramble. “I know you want an explanation. I definitely owe that to you.” And he started his story, making me feel more and more nauseous.
Before me, he had had a high school sweetheart, the love of his life. After seven years together, she abruptly ended their relationship. Broken but resilient, Richard moved on, eventually crossing paths with me. Our married life seemed perfect until she reappeared, confessing her love and seeking forgiveness. At that moment, he realized his heart still belonged to her. The revelation hit me like a tidal wave, drowning the years I had spent in faithful waiting. It was a pathetic tale; anger swelled within me, directed at him and myself.
“You know that I didn’t remarry and waited for you all these years?”
I choked on the words, a mix of disbelief and rage. His eyes rolled, mirroring the moment we met in church.
“What?? No.. You couldn’t.”
The pain in my chest threatened to suffocate me. I walked out to catch my breath, Richard following and kneeling beside me. “I’m sorry, Anna.” But I walked away, just as he had, without uttering a word.
In the weeks to come, I would still find forgiveness for Richard and call Jake, inviting him to finally go out.
Yet, in that very moment, I swore never to live for a man or anyone else but myself.