I was actually getting used to going to the library everyday and learning what the Internet was all about, I had no idea what I was missing until I got my own computer. A whole new world had been opened up to me. It was somewhat overwhelming, but exciting at the same time. The thought of being able to talk to someone on the other side of the world without calling them on the telephone or writing a letter was a fascinating concept.
Thankfully, I had a friend who helped me "learn the ropes" and took me into some chat rooms and introduced me as a "newbie." I said hello and was welcomed with open arms by the other people in the chat room. Such strange and unusual names, but what was the strangest part to me was that some people were actually addressing each other by their given names, not their screen names.
For months I ventured into the same chat room and got to know the people on the other side of those names quite well. We chatted into the early hours of the morning on some occasions, on other occasions, we had a short but sweet chat session, ending it with our goodbyes until the next day.
There were men and women in the chat room, but one man in particular caught my attention. He was witty, charismatic, intelligent; a real charmer. He didn't pick favorites, he spoke with everyone and was always polite and courteous. He sent me an instant message just to say hello. He introduced himself as John, and said he was from the same area as me, and we discovered he was actually only a few miles away from me in the next town.
There was a mystery about him, or at least I felt there was. Perhaps it was because I had never seen his face, perhaps it was because he was someone I might have met on the street and didn't even know it.
We ended up talking every night. After about two months he asked if I wanted to meet him. I was a bit nervous because of all the bad stories I had heard about people meeting other people from the Internet and being hurt or killed. He assured me I had nothing to worry about and proceeded to give me his full name, address and telephone number. Then he said I could choose the place for us to meet, he didn't want me to feel pressured into meeting in a possibly unfamiliar area.
Naturally, I was still nervous, but I agreed. I passed the information he gave me on to my roommate and told her where we would be, just in case. It turns out he was right and I had nothing to worry about.
We met in January, shortly after the new year, at a local restaurant not too far from either of us. I was standing in the doorway of the restaurant when a man approached me, he smiled and reached out his hand while introducing himself.
John was one of the most handsome men I had ever met. He had shoulder length sandy blonde hair and emerald green eyes. He stood about six feet tall and had a muscular build. Yes, sounds like a typical description that men give when in chat rooms, but in his case, it was true. When he spoke, I could detect a slight accent, perhaps British or Irish, and I asked him about it. He said he was originally from London, but moved to the United States with his parents when he was a boy.
It was around two in the afternoon when we met at the restaurant, and we had gotten so caught up in talking that we completely lost track of the time and when we left, it was nearing eight o'clock. He walked me to my car and we said our goodbyes. We met for lunch everyday after that. On the weekends, we would catch a movie or just sit at home and talk.
He was always a perfect gentleman. After six months of dating, I told him I was falling in love with him. He confessed that he felt the same way. The day after we told each other how we felt, he came by with a dozen long stemmed red roses and a small package. I let him in and greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. He handed me the roses and led me to the living room where he sat me down on the sofa.
He handed me the small package he was holding and asked me to open it. The package was the size of a ring box and I had a pretty good idea of what was inside. He got down on one knee and took my hand in his.
John took the ring and placed it on my ring finger on my left hand and said, "My heart belongs to you now, Sheryl. I give you this ring as a promise that I will never leave you. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you." While he was still holding my hand, he reached up with the other and wiped away my tears, he kissed me gently and asked, "Will you marry me?"
I looked at the ring then at him. I was speechless. Here was the man of my dreams, down on one knee, proposing marriage to me. I thought I was dreaming. Of course, I accepted, and told him, "I love you, too."
A few days later, we began talking about plans for the wedding, when we would get married, where it would be and who we would invite. He seemed rather distant, and when I asked him what was wrong, he smiled and said he misses his parents since they moved back to London recently, but he knew he would get to see them again soon. We decided to have the wedding in September, two weeks before my 31st birthday. As the day approached, the plans fell into place and everything was going smoothly.
On the day before the wedding I received a phone call. It was a nurse from the local hospital. She told me that John was in a car accident. There was apprehension in her voice. Was there something more she wasn't telling me? Or something I did not want to hear? I didn't ask but hung up the phone and rushed to the hospital to be by his side.
When I arrived at the hospital and approached John's bed, I was shocked to see the condition he was in. His head was wrapped in gauze and he had a breathing tube coming out of his mouth. There were machines everywhere that helped him breathe and monitored his brain waves and his heart. It wasn't an easy sight to deal with. I left his bedside long enough to go to the waiting room and call my parents. My mother answered and I told her what happened and asked her to get in touch with John's parents some how. They had flown in from London for the wedding and I told her what hotel they were staying at. After she made the appropriate phone calls, she and my dad came to the hospital to be with me.
A police officer came into the room shortly after I returned, introduced himself and said he wanted to explain to me what had happened. I didn't want to leave John's side, but eventually I complied. We went to the waiting room, I got myself a cup of coffee and sat down at a table in the corner of the room waiting for the police officer to join me.
He started off with telling me how the accident had happened. "I was on the opposite side of the freeway following another car that was driving at high speeds and swerving in and out of traffic. I tried to catch them, but it was too late, they had lost control and jumped the median, they were heading into oncoming traffic. John probably wouldn't have gotten hurt, but we found an open bottle of alcohol at the accident site."
I told him that was impossible, John didn't drink.
"It was the occupants in the other vehicle, a man and woman both in their 20's, who had been drinking. The collision happened quickly and they were killed instantly," the officer informed me.
I began to cry. The officer looked at me, his eyes filled with remorse. "He was conscious only briefly, repeating your name as he gripped my hand," he paused, inhaled the exhaled deeply. "He was wearing his seat belt, but the impact of the crash caused his ribs to be crushed and caused his head to crash through the windshield of the car."
I broke down, I told him I didn't want to hear another word. I jumped up from my chair and ran out of the waiting room back into John's room, took his hand and put my head on his shoulder and cried.
"John, you're the love of my life, you promised me you would never leave me. I won't know what to do without you. I love you with all my heart and soul." I felt him squeeze my hand. It was a good indication that he had heard me. "My life hasn't been the same since I met you and I cannot possibly imagine my life without you."
At that moment, the life support machines in the room went silent and all I heard was the steady tone of the heart monitor. John had flat lined. I frantically reached for the call button, but before I found it, several nurses and two doctors rushed into the room pushing me out of the way in an effort to save his life. I sat down in a chair in the corner of the room, stunned. My love, my everything, was dying. I was helpless. The doctor's worked feverishly to revive him and there were brief signs that he would recover, but then nothing. I couldn't hear what the doctors were saying. I was numb.
This is the day before our wedding, how could this be happening? I thought to myself.
Then just as everyone thought all hope of reviving him was lost, he opened his eyes. The doctors called me over. I took John's hand in mine. He looked up at me, smiled and whispered, "I love you. I am sorry." He closed his eyes and I felt his grip on my hand loosen. The room fell silent and we all knew he was gone.
I leaned over and kissed his cheek and said, "Goodbye, John, I will always love you."
One of the nurses took me out of the room. I was devastated. I found my parents in the waiting room and approached my mother, I hugged her tightly and she hugged me back and let me cry on her shoulder.
"Mom, he's gone," I cried, "he's gone." She just held me as I cried and told me everything would be okay.
"Now you will have John watching over you in heaven, you have your own guardian angel. You know he won't let anything happen to you." She hugged me tighter and let me cry for as long as I needed.
"Why did this happen, mom? Why is God punishing me?" I loved John with all my heart and soul and God took him from me. What did I do to deserve this?" My mother didn't answer, I don't think she knew the answers herself. "He's gone, mom. I will never be able to love again."
My mother helped me to my feet and we walked out of the hospital. I got into the backseat of my parents' car and and I felt hollow inside. Suddenly I had a feeling that a presence was sitting beside me. I looked to see if my mother had decided to ride in back with me but I was alone on the seat. It was a cold feeling, yet not evil. I looked around but saw nothing to explain this sensation. The cold presence turned warm as it covered my body.
Then I heard John's voice whisper in my ear, "Never forget me, I love you with all my heart." I felt something similar to a kiss on the cheek and a gentle breeze blew across the inside of the car as the feeling of warmth subsided and left me staring out the window.
At that moment, I felt peace and happiness. I know that for one brief period in my life I learned what it was like to be loved unconditionally and to give love unconditionally.
As we drove home, I knew that my mother was right, I would forever have John watching over me, protecting me from harm, and allowing me to one day feel love again.