Back to Him? Ch. 01-03byvictoriawhita©
Doesn't every person you meet leave a mark on your life? How much more a person you pledge your life to and then lived with for two years? How do you forget about someone like that? Joanie woke up in the morning her head full of curly question marks. How many years of separation for each year of marriage? One year wasn't enough. Would she ever forget? The memory of Lawrence was stronger than usual. When the divorce finalized in two weeks, they'd go their separate ways. Lawrence could move on, if he hadn't already.
The progress of her day was normal as she prepared for her waitressing job and headed to work. Her thoughts weren't flowing normally though. She kept thinking of Lawrence. Now that it had been a year she could usually move through her day without the interruption of tears or longing for him; especially as the waitressing got busy. Sometimes she would not dwell on it until she lay in her bed alone at night. She always missed him in the darkness.
The thoughts of him persisted. She wondered about ‘their house', and if she'd ever see him again. She wondered if he ever saw ‘the other woman.' He said he'd never did again, but she didn't know if she believed him. He'd betrayed her once, and he had no reason to stay away from her now. In two weeks he could do anything he wanted with whomever he wanted.
Even now she still felt betrayed. Would it be easier when the divorce was signed?
"Guess who I thought of all day today?" Joanie asked Lori at the Frangipani Restaurant that evening.
"Frank?" Lori responded. Lori had been trying to set up Joanie and Frank. They'd spent time together but were still just friends. Lori had done everything she could to encourage the friendship, and once the divorce was final she planned on pushing ever harder.
"No, I wish it was though." Lori responded. "Maybe with Frank there'd never be ‘another woman' to worry about." It was a question and a statement.
"I think you should give Frank a real chance. I'd rather talk about Frank than the ‘other' guy," she said as she rolled her eyes with her reference to Lawrence.
"You're right! I can't figure out why I would go back to thinking of him all day again, after moving on with my life."
"Joanie, forget him, move on!" Lori wished Joanie would talk about what happened. She never opened up about it so Joanie decided the best thing was to help her move on. Unfortunately, matters of the heart aren't easily uprooted.
Joanie tried to forget, she rented a movie and stayed up late, sleeping on the couch so she wouldn't have to be alone in the bed. Instead of thinking of them being in bed together, she remembered how the couch was her favorite place to spoil and tease him.
She gave herself up to memories of Lawrence's warm body beside her, and cried in the morning when he wasn't beside her.
He still lived in ‘their' rented house. It had been fine with her, she was the one that had to get away from him and his betrayal. They had had their problems but she was still in love with him, and wouldn't have dreamed of going to another man. Lawrence had gone to another woman. He had fallen out of love with her. She must not have been good enough or beautiful enough. He must have needed more then she could give.
She never saw any of the ‘signs' other women spoke of. Had she been so blind? She hadn't even asked who the woman was. She had just merely closed her heart and mind off to the man she loved when he admitted the affair to her. Everything went fuzzy after that. She couldn't focus on anything else he was saying. She thought this thing happened twenty years into a marriage, not two years. He was on his knees and said he was sorry. She saw the tears in his eyes as he said still loved her, but her heart had already closed. She walked out. He had tried following her, but she had raised her hand signalling him to stop, and without a word she was out the door and off to a hotel room. She didn't even cry until later.
Today like yesterday, her will couldn't force thoughts of Lawrence away. She wanted to see him. It was the first time she had wanted to see him. She had often longed for him sexually. She had longed for things to be the way they were before. She often wished she had someone to take out the garbage, but today she just wanted to see him. She took off on her lunch break and drove to their house. She just parked down the street and watched the house. He would be away at work, she knew, but she felt closer to him being here.
Back at work, Lori phoned. "Joanie, you've been so flighty lately I don't want you to forget your date with Frank tonight."
"Right, no I hadn't forgotten." Lori lied to her friend. "Should I wear my new purple dress?"
"I thought you were going to the concert in the park. Why would you wear that dress?" Lori had caught her in her lie. "Just relax and wear jeans and a sweater. Or, don't wear a sweater and let Frank warm you up."
"Right, the park. That's a good idea." She didn't know what else to say.
"I hope you have a great time. Bye." Lori could tell that she'd need to find someone else beside Frank for Joanie.
"Good bye." Instead of thinking of Frank or Lori, Joanie went right back to thinking of Lawrence, and the times they had at the park.
She started the divorce proceedings immediately after Lawri's announcement. She moved to Lori's for a few months, then got her own place. She got two cats to keep her company because Lawrence didn't like cats. Lawrence tried talking to her several times, but she always refused. It was too painful, she just willed herself to forget. She never looked at photographs, and she made as many changes in her life as she could. She had been a teacher's aide before, now she preferred the less emotional but more physically demanding waitressing.
It was hopeless, she decided. She asked for a long break time, and drove to Lawrence's work. She probably shouldn't go in because she might get recognized. She just sat across the street aching for him to come out and see her, and tell her that she was all he ever wanted. No, that wouldn't happen, it was over.
She finished work and headed home. She dressed casually for her date. Frank was prompt and she let Frank talk, so she could let her mind wonder. They were headed for a spot on the grass when they spotted the drink table and they veered that direction instead. They turned with their drinks and Joanie spotted Lawrence headed towards the table.
Here he was. Here they were. What should she do? What did she want to do? She wanted to talk to Lawrence. She's spent the last year hating him, and now that she faced him, the hate didn't feel so strong. They were walking towards each other, and Lawrence saw her. He smiled and neither of them walked the opposite direction.
"Hi Joanie." Lawrence spoke first.
"Lawrence, this is a surprise. How are you?" Joanie found herself really wanting to know.
"Good, good," he said the words too quickly. "How are you?"
"Good too," she remembered Frank and introduced him. "Lawrence this is Frank. Frank this is Lawrence." Frank's face seemed to register that he realized who this was. They were all not sure what to say and didn't say anything until another woman walked to Lawrence's side, and handed him a drink.
"Here's your drink Lawrence."
She had been so happy to see him, and now all she could think about was whether this was ‘the' woman. She was beautiful and thin, and had perfect make up. She seemed perfect all over. Joanie needed to get away. Her own flaws seemed to stand out in comparison. No wonder Lawrence had cheated on her.
Joanie grabbed Frank's hand, "I hope you enjoy the concert. See you later." She hoped she'd never see him or her again.
The evening was beautiful. The stars were shining, the music settled over them, and all Joanie could think about was the perfect woman. During a slow song Frank and Joanie settled down so they were laying on the blanket. Frank slid closer to her, and she allowed him to. Frank leaned towards her, attempting a kiss. She'd always pushed him away gracefully before, but now she let him kiss her long and sweetly. In her mind it was Lawrence kissing her. Her pent up passion that was boiling up by seeing Lawrence again, was released in her body and she pulled Frank closer, giving in to his kisses and caresses. She wanted Frank to help her forget. She wanted Lawrence to see that she had moved on, and to get a feel of the pain he'd caused her.
Joanie regretted it the next morning when she realized that she'd kissed Frank for all the wrong reasons. It did feel good to be held in a man's arms again. She had missed that, and maybe with time he could take Lawrence's place. She didn't want another man. She wanted Lawrence. She knew that now that she had seen him again. She still hadn't forgiven him, and wasn't going to take him back, but she admitted to herself that she still loved him.
The divorce was now 12 days away. It was inevitable, but she needed some more closure before signing the papers. She needed to know more about what happened and why. She needed to know how she had disappointed Lawrence. She needed to tell him all the pain he had caused her. She needed to see if he was living with the woman. All the questions hidden away, like books never opened, just sitting on the shelf with the spines showing, so you cannot forget about them. Now she was wanting to open the books and clear away the cobwebs.
She awoke early the next day, wanting to see him walk out of their house, and to see if he was alone. She pulled a shawl over her head, to be less recognizable and parked close to the house. She was early to see what activity she could catch. Instead of waiting for him to leave their house, she saw him run up to the house and up to the door, stretching before entering. That was new, he could never find the motivation to run in the morning before. This woman must have done this to him. She wanted to leave, but she was too curious. At the usual time for him to leave for work, he left the house alone and walked to the car, driving off without noticing her. The house looked locked up and deserted now. She waited another hour but didn't see another woman exit the house. Just because she wasn't there didn't mean she wasn't in his life.
The questions still filled her mind about their relationship. She couldn't bring closure to it because she didn't understand it. She'd felt so out of control. Leaving him was the only thing she could do to bring a sense of control. Now she felt she needed to understand.
She called Lori's cell phone later that day when she knew she'd be on her way home from work. "Lori, promise me you'll give me an honest answer?"
"Joanie? Is that you? What are you talking about?"
"Just promise me."
"Okay, of course, I promise." Lori answered.
"What was wrong with Lawrence and me? Why did he cheat on me?" The question was out. It was a relief to say it to another person and not just wonder alone.
"Joanie, I know there's nothing wrong with you. I don't know what's wrong with Lawrence. I know he loved you. Look, can we talk about this face to face?" Lori asked. "I can't believe you're actually talking about your relationship."
"What do you mean? I talk about Lawrence all the time."
"Sure Joan, you talk about Lawrence and how you hate him. You talk about how he was in your dream the night before. You call him all kinds of names, but you've never talked about your relationship before."
That was blunt. Maybe she had been hiding from it. Maybe she had been running away from Lawrence and the pain. "I don't know what there is to talk about. I don't think there's any answers anywhere."
"Look, I'm turning around and coming to you. Where are you?"
"I can't say." Joanie replied.
"Just tell me. We'll talk about this."
"I'm parked outside Lawrence's work. I don't know what I'm looking for, but I just wanted to be here."
"Stay where you are, I"ll be there." Joanie stared at the office, until Lori arrived. Lori climbed in the car, without saying a word.
Joanie broke the silence, "What did I do wrong Lori? Why couldn't I keep Lawrence? Why did he betray me?" The tears started on the first question. This was new ground for her.
Lori's arm came around her, as she spoke. "Joanie, you didn't do anything to deserve this betrayal. I don't know what was going on between you at the time, but this is Lawrence's mistake not yours. You know I thought you were a great couple. I didn't see it coming either."
The tears continued as she allowed herself to think of all the ‘should have's'. "I should have been a better wife. I should have seen that he wasn't happy. I should have fixed it. I wish this had never happened." Lori's tears flowed too. She was facing her fears for the first time.
"Joanie, I don't see this as your fault. I never have. I don't know what's happened with Lawrence in the last year, but I don't think he'd blame your either." Lori had no idea her self-esteem had dropped so low. "I think you should talk to Lawrence. You need to work this out."
"NO, NO!" Joanie couldn't face seeing Lawrence. "He's moved on and he's happy, let's just leave him out of this." She knew is sounded ridiculous as she said it.
"Why would you think that he's moved on?" Lori asked.
"I saw him at the park last night. He had a beautiful woman on his arm. She must be really good for him because he's out running every morning and he lost the extra weight he had. He looks better then ever."
"Do you really believe that's the full story? Don't you need to know what happened? Don't you deserve an explanation?" Lori wanted Joanie to look past her immediate emotions, but it was a slow process.
"No, No, No. I won't talk to him." Her no's were less adamant this time.
"How about the two of us talk to him?" Joanie still shook her head to that suggestion. "How about the two of us talk to Jeff? He can give us a clue as to what Lawrence's life is like, and you can know about him without seeing him?" Joanie didn't shake her head, but she didn't nod either. "Get me Jeff's number, I'll call him, and see if he's willing to meet with us." Joanie gave Jeff the number from her cell phone, but hadn't decided that she really wanted to see him.
Jeff must have said yes because he showed up at the end of her shift the next day. She watched him as he ordered and was waiting for her to approach him. She appreciated that he wasn't pushy, and when she finished her shift she slid into the other side of his booth.
"Hi Joanie. It's so good to see you again." They shook hands formally.
"Did Lori call you?"
"Yes, Lori called. Is it all right that I showed up? She said that you had some questions. I was Lawrence's friend first, but I'd like to think that I'm also your friend and that we can talk. I was very angry at him myself when it happened."
"I feel very awkward about this still. I thought I'd moved on, but I obviously haven't since this is so hard. Look, I don't know what there is to talk about. It's over, right?" She stood up as she spoke and wanted to flee out the door.
"Joanie, we need to talk. Please stay!" Joanie knew he was telling the truth but she couldn't stay. She walked out the door, and saw Lori sitting on her car in the parking lot. When Lori saw her she walked towards her but Joanie just moved towards her car and started climbing in.
"Joanie, just talk to him. I'll come with you if you want. You need to talk about this." Her voice was pleading.
Now desperately needing the peace of knowing what happened she decided his would be simpler then confronting Lawrence. Maybe this was the best way. She turned to Lori, Lori took her arm and walked with her back to the restaurant, pushing her into the seat.
"Thanks for coming back," Jeff seemed very understanding.
She was so confused by so many questions, but the most urgent seemed to be, "Is Lawrence seeing anyone?" Why did she care, and why did she have to give the impression that she cared?
"No, he's not."
"I don't believe you, I saw him with someone the other night."
"I know he's not seeing anyone, it must have just been a friend." She was skeptical of his answer.
"Why did he do it?" They all knew what ‘it' was referring to. A year couldn't erase the memories.
"I think that's a question better directed at Lawrence. He wants to talk, you know."
"No," she started to rise to leave but Lori had her boxed in, so fidgetted with the silverware instead.
"I do know that he's regretted it ever since. Lori, he talks about you all the time. He hates himself for what he did and for hurting you. A day hasn't gone by that he hasn't wished that mistake had never happened."
Joanie looked up at Jeff's face to see his honesty. The words weren't what she'd expected to hear. She heard him say that Lawrence still cared, but the words didn't sink past her head into her heart.
"It didn't happen like a tornado happens, Jeff!" She was yelling now, "Lawrence MADE the mistake, it was his choice. He was messing with my life when he did that. How do I forgive that?" She also wanted to know how she could forgive herself. It was too complicated to be solved through one conversation. "You ask him that for me!" She pushed by Lori practically climbing over her, aware of eyes around them staring at her.
Joanie knew that the leaky walls of her dam had burst. There was still pain, gallons of it. Fortunately there was a freshness to opening up to the pain that made the path look clear ahead. She felt renewed by speaking her mind, and decided that Jeff wasn't the problem, Lawrence was. She would find Lawrence and ask him. It was past time he heard from her. She drove to his work, this time not cowering, but waiting to pounce. She watched others come and go, and when she saw him she approached him out in the open.
"Lawrence, Lawrence!" She called to him and enjoyed the look of surprise on his face. She knew that feeling of surprise. She's hated surprises ever since his announcement, and had wanted her life ordered and in control. Even good surprises weren't appreciated. "Lawrence, how do I forgive that?" She wanted an answer, she wanted the pain to stop. She pushed him, and he almost stumbled backwards. "How dare you do this to me? You betrayed me, and now I have to live with it." She was yelling at him in the middle of the parking lot. He wasn't trying to run away or even protect himself. "How can I live with it?"
The tears started, and she hated herself for crying. She hated that she couldn't control her emotions and that he was seeing her weak. She wanted him to feel pain, and she lifted her knee swiftly into his groin as hard as she could. He cried out in pain and surprise, bending over but not getting defensive or angry.
She felt the control returning and a rush of euphoria. She was the victor for the moment. But as she walked away she realized she didn't have any of her questions answered.
"Joanie, let's talk, please." Lawrence called out.
"Why? What for? Hasn't it ALL been said and done?" She turned and spoke cruelly.
"I want to talk to you."
"I don't care what YOU want. You didn't care what I wanted."
"We need to talk about this," he chose a different tack.
"You have one minute," she pretended to calmly look at her watch. A crowd was starting to form, but Lawrence didn't let any of them help him.
"I'm so sorry for what happened. I don't deserve your forgiveness, but I'm asking for it. I didn't love her, it was just a horrible mistake. I love you. I don't want to get divorced. Don't leave me again." The desperation in his voice was evident.
Did he say he still loved her? Did he mean it? Could she trust it again? What about the woman he was with at the park? What about the running? How could she give him control over her heart ever again? She couldn't, at least not yet, and she walked away.