Best of Both Worlds Ch. 09byandrewpeters©
It was about a week after Jennifer's birthday when Sarah phoned me, which in itself was still a rather rare occurrence, indicating she would like to meet just with me to talk about a number of things she felt were important, but not revealing what they were. Considering the fact that this would be the first time that we had met alone, without Jennifer being in the vicinity since day after I'd walked in on her and Jacques, I somewhat hesitantly agreed to meet her the next evening at her apartment.
I can't say I knew what to expect, or how I'd react if it was what I thought it would be, but I knew that it might be an important step in allowing us to continue to move forward. Still, I couldn't help but think about what might be discussed, and what my true feelings were.
After reflecting on my love life following Sarah's betrayal, I remembered that my not so sweet trip down memory lane had been started by Jennifer's comment about being a family again, and the realization that I had just shared a pleasant evening with Jennifer and Sarah. As various thoughts rumbled through the deep dark recesses of my mind, it occurred to me that my feelings about Sarah had changed over the past years, from hatred to just bitterness, from bitterness to indifference, to a form of tolerance, or acceptance, though if pressed, I couldn't say when this had occurred.
The moment my overwhelming love had turned to hatred was easily defined, but the other changes were not. Clearly in the immediate aftermath of the sudden separation, while I was busy plotting my revenge against Jacques, I was still filled with hate, hatred for Sarah and how she had destroyed my love, and hatred for what she had done. Looking back, I now realized that this hatred had been reduced to bitterness, I'm not sure when, but likely by the time of my early dating. I realized my thoughts were more a sad reflective about everything I'd lost, than filled with hate for Sarah. There was also indifference, as to what she may or may not think if she knew what I was doing.
I had to admit I'd been floored when Sarah invited me to join her and Jennifer for that Christmas. Looking back I realized that if the full feelings of hate had still existed, I would have rejected her quickly, and cruelly. As it was, I'd waited a couple of days to respond, allowing me to make a proper, and hopefully thought out response. It was because of Jennifer that I'd accepted, together with the fact that I dreaded the thought of being alone at Christmas. In addition, the knowledge that Sarah was for once, thinking about our daughter and her happiness, and not her own personal pleasure, drove me to accept.
Until that day, I'd kept contact with Sarah to a minimum. Since I wasn't there when she was with Jennifer, I wasn't sure how things were with them, how Sarah behaved, though when Jennifer came home, it was obvious she'd enjoyed being with her mother. At the same time, it was clear she was sad about our family situation. Christmas was therefore the first time I'd a real opportunity to watch them interact with each other, and I must say that I was pleased at the effort Sarah made. For once she reminded me of the mother I remembered from before, and not the selfish home wrecker she had become.
We hadn't become regular companions, or friends for that matter, though Jennifer and I started to invite her to sit with us if we were at a school or team function. It was clear to me that Jennifer enjoyed having us there together, and after all, they were functions for Jennifer, so if sitting with Sarah would bring my daughter some comfort, I was more than happy to do it. Looking back, I know that it wouldn't have been possible for me to sit with her in the months immediately following our break up, despite my resolve to be polite when Jennifer was present. Forcing me to acknowledge her in public for an extended period would have been more than I could have handled.
Gradually over time we progressed to exchanging invitations to share in important events for Jennifer, Christmas, Thanksgiving and like earlier this evening, birthdays. While conversation that first Christmas wasn't easy, gradually it got to where we could discuss the world at large, general things about our life, though nothing about our personal life, and anything about Jennifer fairly comfortably.
I'd thought that I'd done a lot of thinking after Jennifer's comment about being a family and our first meeting, but it was nothing compared to what went through my mind following that evening at Sarah's. The passage of time had helped to some extent, but the wounds were still there, and I won't suggest that I didn't feel any pain as Sarah told her story. But at the same time, the pain while sharp, was significantly duller than it had been not all that long ago. Like Sarah, there was no way that I would ever get the image from the moment of discovery out of my memory bank, no matter how much I would love to. It was unfortunately, one of those moments that would be forever burned into my mind.
Yet, I couldn't help but appreciate much of what she said, maybe not the content, okay definitely not a lot of the content, but the meaning, the feeling behind it. There were still a number of unanswered questions, in particular the why, but I accepted the fact that Sarah herself could not now, nor perhaps ever answer it herself. Her statement that it was almost like she went under Jacques spell was on one hand utter nonsense, but clearly the bastard had some magnetism, after all, look at all the other married women who were captivated by and succumbed to his charms. But it wasn't an excuse, and thankfully Sarah had made that comment in passing only.
Still, was it enough for me to forgive her for her actions? Maybe if Sarah had not gone back that second time I could have. And like it or not, I accepted her reasoning that she was trying to prove it to herself that the first time was some strange aberration, after all, that would be just like her. But she did give in the second time, and again and again and again, and I would never forget that. Could I forgive her, or more importantly, should I forgive her?
Yet the Sarah who spoke about finally coming to grips with reality, the reality of what she'd done to us, and through it herself, and committing to do whatever she could to help Jennifer grow up, was a lot like the Sarah I had loved for so long. I accepted that she finally realized the impact of what she had done, accepted her guilt, and her place away from home arising from her action. At the same time, I couldn't help but note that she'd acted in the best interests of Jennifer, and by doing so, had also acted to benefit me, whether knowingly or not. After all, by improving Jennifer's adjustment and lifestyle, I benefited greatly, after all, a happier contented daughter made life easier for me.
I accepted how hard it was for her to invite me to share that Christmas with her and Jennifer, especially after the times I'd so rudely ignored her. Somehow, looking back, I had realized that she was different than the person I'd tried to avoid those first months after our separation and divorce. Had she invited me over during those months, I would have suspected it was all a ploy to gain sympathy. I admit I was concerned about her motives when she did ask, but quickly relaxed when I observed her with Jennifer.
Throughout the next couple days various thoughts kept running through my mind, happy memories about growing up with and falling in love with Sarah, most of our life together and the joy of having our daughter. At the same time, there were bitter thoughts to, my suspicions, finding out from the investigator, and of course, that final blow of walking in on her in the act, and confused thoughts about what I wanted, what my future would be, and uncertain thoughts, again about the future.
It was these confused thoughts about what I wanted, for me, for Jennifer and the future that occupied most of my time. At the same time I had to try and figure out my own true feelings. For the first time in a long time, I encountered sleepless nights, as I tried to come to grips with what I needed to do.
While I realized that it may be easier to continue to procrastinate and not come to a decision, I knew it was time, time to sit down again. This time I picked Sarah up, suggesting we go for a walk, largely because I believed that it would be easier for me to follow my thought process, then if I was just sitting there, in part as well with the hope that being out, at least to a degree in public, may help both of us control our emotions.
"Sarah, I sat and listened to you the other day, and now it's my turn. While it wasn't easy listening, I can honestly say I know it wasn't any easier for you. But I can understand how it was necessary for you to get it out the other day, and, well, I guess it's necessary for me to say my piece as well. Unfortunately, this can't but help to reopen some wounds, but it can't be helped, and I'm not doing it on purpose. And maybe, we can finally get that healing we both deserve, and need."
I started off by talking about the before, about how I fell in love with her, how special she was to me, how truly in love I was with her, how I valued her friendship. I pointed out that the most special moment in my life was when she gave birth to Jennifer, the moment I held that bundle of joy we had created. Yes, I acknowledged that things weren't perfect, we'd had our disagreements, though surprisingly few, and until then, not serious. I reminded her how special the making up was, on those few occasions when we fought. "It wasn't a perfect marriage, after all, perfect doesn't exist, but I truly thought we had something special."
"Our friends often referred to the fact that it was us together, not you, and not me, at least that's how they saw us doing things. Maybe that's one reason why you doing this, doing it for 'you' took me so much by surprise. It seemed so out of character for the Sarah I knew, or thought I did, the Sarah I'd fallen in love with."
"And your right, I don't think you could ever really understand the depth of the hurt, the pain you put me through. Finding you with him was only the icing on the cake, the slow realization as the evidence made it clear what you were doing was already eating me up, almost pushing me over the edge. But still nothing can compare with the feelings I felt that day, feeling that my life had ended. Part of me wanted to hurt you, and castrate that asshole, but thankfully I was in such a state of shock that I couldn't react that day."
"You were not only my life, the love of my life, but you were my best friend, or so I thought. And maybe that's why it hurt so much, you never expect your best friend to stab each you in the back, or to rip your guts out."
I went on to describe for her the hell I went through, pointing out that I wasn't doing so to add to her hurt, but to explain what my life was like. Sarah was shocked when I talked about those nights I drank myself to sleep, after all she knew how I didn't like getting drunk, or to see others like that. I talked as well about Jennifer, and how I knew I had to get my life under control so to protect her best interests.
Sarah did get pale when I talked about going out with other women, finally getting anal sex, but perked up when I explained that while physically satisfying, these encounters had been emotionally lacking. "I'm not telling you about this to spite you, but merely telling you what my life was like, the ups, the downs, just like you told me about what you went through."
I went on to tell her how there was no doubt I hated her at first, but that somehow that hate had diminished by the time she extended that Christmas invitation. Explaining my changing feelings took some time, but I made it clear that it was seeing her interact with Jennifer that made me realize that some of the Sarah I'd fallen in love with still existed.
"It's easy to look back and realize that some of our passion had ebbed over the years, but I thought that our sex life was great, all that I could want. I never thought about cheating on you. Sure, like every other guy I'd notice a good looking gal, mentally undress her and think about fucking her, but that's all it was, a fantasy that I'd never follow up on. And I never dreamed about making love to them. At the same time, I probably took you for granted from time to time. But I never stopped loving you, after all, you and Jennifer were always the most important thing in my life."
"Like you, I've done a lot of thinking since Jennifer's birthday, and it's finally hit me. I still do have feelings for you, though right now I'm not sure exactly what they are. Obviously I've always had feelings for you, or I wouldn't have felt the hatred. Watching you and Jennifer this last while, has helped rebuild some of the respect for you that I'd lost. Trust is another issue, do I trust you, could I trust you. If it was about Jennifer, yes, if it's about us, I don't know."
After a moment of silence I went on, "I appreciate the fact that you weren't begging for forgiveness, but merely apologizing, telling the truth. And I thank you for that. I still wish that you could explain why, but I accept that you can't explain it to yourself, much less me. But if you ever do, please tell me."
"I now realize that you also felt pain, the pain of realizing what you did, and the pain of facing the consequences after that. And I know that it wasn't easy. And I understand now what you did to try and deal with it."
"So where do I go, or we go. Well, firstly, I accept your apology, and the sincerity with which you gave it. I fully believe your regret and remorse over what you did, and what you caused, and if you could get a do-over, it would never happen."
"But at the same time, I don't think I can say that I forgive you. To me, saying I forgive you would mean what you did was okay, and I don't think I could ever do that. And clearly, neither of us will ever forget it, as much as we might like to. So no, at least now, I can't give you that absolution."
It was easy to see the reaction in Sarah as I said that, after all the tears in the corner of her eyes were a dead giveaway. As she started to interject I cut her off quickly, saying "But before you get too upset, let me also say that while I can't forgive you right now, the memory doesn't hurt as much anymore."
"I can truthfully say that it doesn't occupy my every waking moment, and the pain isn't as sharp any more, but the memory will always be their....I don't know, maybe I should say I forgive you, but I'm sorry, I can't. But at the same time, I do accept the apology, and it means a lot to me to say that. I couldn't have done it a few years ago, so like you, I guess I've grown a lot."
"It's taken me a long time to get here. I remember somebody talking to my friends about a colleague who new his wife was screwing around, and did nothing about it. We all agreed he was a wimp. I must admit, I've done a lot of thinking about that comment the last few days."
"Yes, people probably would have been right to call me a wimp, a fool, or worse if I'd done nothing back then. Not only would I have lost their respect, but I would have lost mine. In thinking about things, I realize that my personal happiness is of most importance. After I found out for sure, there was no way I could have been happy by staying with you. But a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then."
"Now I have to ask myself what would make me happy today. I've enjoyed the women I've been with, but none have made me happy. I know that I was happy with you before, but I don't know if I can be again. But even the fact that I'm thinking about it shows that I am looking ahead. Maybe I never will be able to overcome what happened, but if we don't try, I'll never know. And if I don't try and do what's best for me, I'll be as big a wimp or coward as I would have if I'd done nothing in the first place.
"And that begs the question, where do we go from here. We have a child, and she is something we will always share. We both still have feelings for each other, even if mine are a bit fragile right now, and we both, or at least I, still have issues."
At that point Sarah interrupted and acknowledged that she did to. "Trust and fear are big ones for me, can I trust you, do I want to risk getting hurt again. Should I risk anything?"
I could see that Sarah was on the verge of tears, so I plunged ahead. "I know you weren't asking me to take you back, to get back together. But for the first time in a long time, I realized that maybe it isn't totally over."
"I'm not ready to get back together, and maybe I never will be, but...maybe we should try getting to know each other again. I know we can't ever go back, but maybe somehow we can try and move forward. Maybe it's not possible, that too much has gone on, maybe that memory of that day will be too much to overcome."
"My feelings for you still exist, but I don't really know what they are. At this time I'd say that love is too strong a word to describe them, but I do have them. I have to admit that some of what I've seen lately impresses me. I appreciate what you've done for Jennifer, and for me as well. Maybe all we'll be is friends, who share a child, and if that's all it is, it's still a step up from the last few years. And maybe that's all you'll ever want, after all, a lot of water has gone under my bridge too."
"But maybe, if you're willing, we can try and get to know each other again. No promises, after all a lot of time has passed. I think I can safely say that both have us have changed a lot. Thinking about it, what you said, and what I've seen, its easy to see that you have changed, and it appears, at least from the time we separated, a lot of it is for the better."
"Obviously I've changed to, and maybe some of it isn't for the better. Unfortunately I'm not as trusting, but at the same time I'm more independent, set in my ways. And clearly you have become more independent as well. I like much of what I see, but obviously there is more to you than what I see when we get together."
"When we first got together, we already knew who each other was, we were friends first, and more after. I'd like to see if we can become friends again, maybe that's all there will be, maybe not. Time will tell"
We continued to walk along, though both of us talking, rather than just her listening to my rant. In some ways saying we both walked along is almost an exaggeration, I think Sarah was almost floating. She did shed tears as she told me that this was more than she ever hoped for, another chance. And she agreed that whatever happened, we needed to go slow, to get to know each other again, and to decide together, if there was a future together in being more than just Jennifer's parents. We both agreed that if nothing else, we could share a friendship, though how deep or strong it would be waited to be seen.
As I headed home I realized that I felt more content than I had in years, like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, that a sad story chapter in my life had finally received the necessary degree of closure.
There will one final chapter to this story, which hopefully will be out soon.