My mom’s cancer was in remission. No one had any idea why. The Doctor’s had said it was incurable and gave her only a few months to live. But there we were, 16 months after her initial diagnosis, and no cancer.
It was Christmas Eve, 1997, and the four of us were all at home, sitting around the Christmas tree in our basement. My Mom and Dad were quietly holding hands in the glow of the twinkling lights. My brother lounged on the couch, picking at his socks, waiting for the right time to go to his room and play on his computer.
I suddenly felt exhausted. For the last 16 months, my Mom had spent all her time and money on curing her disease with eastern medicine. It was last year at this time when they had decided to fly to Europe for three months of treatments.
And it had worked! Extensive testing over the last 6 weeks had proven that the cancer was gone!
Life could go back to normal.
But…how could we ever go back to normal? It may have been easier for my parents, but my life felt like it had been in limbo for a long time. I was living in the city, an hour and a half away, going to University to be a Teacher. All my spare time outside of school and studying was spent at home or driving to and from home.
Home, with my Mom.
So, now what? I had just turned 22 and my whole life was suddenly in front of me. I now had a chance to live my own life.
The doorbell rang. It was rather late by small town standards. It was just after 8:00 pm.
I stood up to go upstairs to the door, allowing my parents to remain in their warm glow and my brother to escape to his hermit hole.
I opened the door and a blast of winter wind blew in a few fresh snowflakes…and my ex-boyfriend. This was unexpected.
“Heh,” Bob said softly. “Merry Christmas.”
“Uh, yeah. Merry Christmas. What are you doing here? I thought your family was in the city?” I pulled my sweater tight around me and slowly shut the door.
“Yeah, my mom decided to come spend Christmas with her brother. I came too.” He brushed snowflakes off his jacket and looked at me from under his dark eyelashes.
We had known each other for four years, dated for two and a half of those. The last six months we hadn’t seen each other at all. The remaining year in the count? Well, that’s complicated. Our last encounter had not been pretty. He had begged me to come back to him but I knew I didn’t have the time or mental energy to play his games. I was done.
I was saved by my Dad calling, “Who’s there?”
I quickly yelled, “It’s Bob! He’s just dropping off a Christmas card from his mom!”
“OK, it’s time to go!” I hissed. “I have nothing to say to you!”
He touched my arm. “Heh, I’m sorry for what happened in summer. That was my mistake. I knew I wasn’t good enough for you and I…I’ve changed.”
“Here.” He pushed an envelope into my hand. “Read it? Please?” His brown eyes reached for mine.
It didn’t take much for me to forgive anyone. And I had loved Bob, despite all of his flaws. He had always been needy, and that’s what drew me to him in the first place. But when my Mom’s life was up in the air, I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle him. But maybe things might be different now?
I sighed. “Okay. Thanks. Merry Christmas.” He knew how to get me. Even when I tried to stay strong.
He glanced at my lips and I quickly looked down so he wouldn’t get the wrong idea.
“I’ve gotta get back downstairs.” I was tempted to tell him about my Mom’s cancer-free diagnosis but I decided against it. I knew he’d want to hug me and I wasn’t ready for that. I knew I would cave.
He opened the door, turned and nodded to me, and left quietly. I leaned against the door and held the letter behind me.
After our goodnight’s had been said to each other and I was sitting on my bed, I took a big breath and opened the letter. I was pretty sure I knew what it would say.
“Dear Andrea, I love you, I always have. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m going to Bible Study again and I have an appointment for counselling. I’m going to go. For real this time. Please, take me back! I love you! Isn’t that enough?”
Ugh. Did I really need to have him make me feel guilty again? Yes, I suppose I did.
I opened the envelope.
“Dear Andrea, I need to make one thing clear. I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
I inhaled sharply. We’d talked about marriage right before we broke up the first time. And then we had decided we weren’t good for each other. He had changed his mind, but I never had. Or at least, I never told him when I wavered.
“But there’s more. After we broke up, I did something really dumb. I slept with someone. It was a girl at Bible Study. Crazy, heh? Anyway, she got pregnant but she had an abortion, so I’m basically free. But I feel awful. I screwed up big time. I can’t expect you to forgive me but I’m begging you to. Can you forgive me and can we at least be friends?”
I was shocked. The number of times Bob and I had been close to having sex was more than I cared to admit, but we had always been able to stop.
My mind was filled with doubts. What made HER better than me? How could he say he loved me and then do this to me? And…abortion? What were they thinking?
Tears came suddenly. Hot and heavy tears. My nose was stuffed up in no time from crying.
I knew that if I didn’t love him, it wouldn’t hurt this bad.
Why did I have to love him? After all the stupid things he had done?!
I was finally able to have a life and give him the attention he wanted but he had screwed it up before we had even tried.
I dropped the note to the ground, on the side of my bed farthest from my bedroom door. I didn’t need my parents seeing it. They already disliked him.
I sunk under my blankets and heard the winter wind pick up intensity and rattle the house.
I had never felt so heart broken in my life. And I knew my life was about to get even more complicated than the last 16 months of my life had already been.
This is not my story, but it could have been.