In the blustering storm that is life, where all the leaves are bills and worries and exes and money and illness and the bright sky and warm sunshine are jubilation and health and bonds and friendship, there is always a center. It’s our soul, our heart, and it can be found in purpose.
My center is Peyton, which equates to love; I am anchored by a precocious, sensitive little person who has a wee lisp and a wild imagination just like the mama in the story, me. And my other center is The Neighbor, a different kind of purpose and love, a grown up, complicated, left-of-center, warm, sloppy, and wanting love. Between the two of them, I am filled to the brim with sunshine even as the leaves twist and flip about me.
On the 21st of December TN and I had our Christmas. One of my gifts was going to be my declaration of love, but I was nervous. We lit a fire and I cooked for us — filet mignon with a wine reduction sauce, fried Brussels sprouts and roasted acorn squash with brown sugar. We drank wine and talked, opened many wonderful, thoughtful, loving gifts (I gave him a shirt I made that said, “Logically Logical,” a throwback to an inside joke).
We held hands as we stumbled into my bedroom and undressed each other in the candlelight. We kissed with soft, wet tongues and beating hearts. He pounded into me and I arched back into him, the words so close on my lips, yet held tight behind a seal.
I came and came and my heart melted then blew into glittering bits. He was business as usual, ignorant and blissfully so. We lay in each other’s arms and I thought to myself, “Now is the time. Now,” but I couldn’t bring myself to be so vulnerable. There was every chance that he would be angry, that he wouldn’t return the words, that we might even break up.
TN has always been reluctant when it comes to me, in his words, at least. He’s called Peyton “6 strikes against” me. he’s said he never wanted to date a divorcee, a mother, or someone this much older than him, that I’ve read too much into his actions, and that he takes me for granted. He’s said such terrible things in an attempt to keep a distance between us and I’ve believed him intellectually, but in my heart I always believed otherwise, miraculously so. Such a tangled dance we did for almost two years and here I was on the cusp of tipping my hand completely; giving it all away.
I took a deep breath and splayed my fingers through his chest hair and trailed my fingers down between his legs and squeezed his wet, thick cock. “You know I love more than just this about you, right?” It was all I could do.
He nodded and said he knew. I quietly chastised myself, so weak, so scared. He was leaving in two days to go home for Christmas. This was the moment.
While he was gone shit hit the fan with my ex. I found out via social media once removed that he was getting remarried (“once removed” would mean that a friend texted me about my ex’s relationship status change) and that he was keeping it secret from Peyton for some reason. Between my head exploding in rage and the barrenness I felt due to our physical distance, I felt more than ever the urge to tell him how I felt. It wasn’t because of the news, but in spite of it.
Life is short and I love him. He has the right to know.
His flight arrived late the day after Christmas, about the same time Peyton and I pulled up in front of our apartment from a quick out-of-town trip to see friends. “The eagle has landed!” he texted.
I tucked in my baby and rehearsed what I’d say to TN. My plan was to just blurt it out the second I saw him. “Hi, TN! I love you!” and just see what happened. But when the time came, I was seized with nerves again. We hugged and playfully sobbed into each other’s arms over our stressful family holidays.
I took a deep breath, “I have to talk to you. I have good news and I have bad news.” He looked alarmed as I led him to my room and sat down on the bed. “Which do you want to hear?”
“The bad news first.” I sighed with relief.
“The bad news is, Exhusband and Kathy got engaged Christmas Eve, I found out via Facebook, and he still hasn’t told me about it.” TN knows that whenever my ex does stupid shit, it can affect my moods and my feelings about our relationship, in particular. “And the good news has no connection to this bad news whatsoever.”
“Ok..” he said speculatively.
“You know how I feel about you, right?” he slumped down and covered his face with a sheet. I felt every element of oxygen enter and leave my lungs. “I love you.”
He dropped the sheet and looked at me. “And I always feel it more when you’re away and we’re apart and my friends are asking about you. I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you and you never heard the words from me.”
He looked at me for long moments, blinking. He thanked me.
I didn’t fall apart because it was what I expected, but when he asked for me to lay down with him, I refused. “No, thank you. I don’t feel like it right now.” I sat against his thighs, my arm straddling him, but the last thing I wanted to do was lay down with a man who didn’t return my love.
We talked about I don’t know what for a long while until finally, for some reason, he suddenly said, “Of course I love you, too.”
I sucked in my breath and looked at him intently. “Really??”
“What?!” I said incredulously. All those stupid, wasted weeks of torture and tears could have been avoided. “Then why did you date her?!”
“I don’t know,” he said simply. I let the silence hang between us and my heart softened towards the man who couldn’t help himself but love me. I quietly laid down into his nook.
“So I tell you I love you and now you want to be close?” he asked, not without sarcasm.
“Yes, pretty much. I didn’t feel close to you before. Now I do. It’s simple.” He squeezed me and I sighed into him. “I really do love you. I’m sorry.” He cringed and my heart broke for him a little knowing that this complicated things in a way he’d been athletically avoiding for at least 18 months. “At least you’ll have a lot to talk about with your therapist: ‘Theresa! It’s terrible! Hyacinth admitted she loved me and I told her I loved her, too!'”
He chuckled at my dry humor and said it was true. I felt simultaneously angry, relieved, and blessed. And royally fucked.
When he left that night I said the words I’d wanted to say so many times before as he headed for my bedroom door, “Goodnight, I love you, TN.” He paused and turned with a twinkle in his eye and through a tight smile said, “I love you, too, Hy.” And then he was gone from my doorway, still my center, but also still somehow a new leaf.