The next few days were not completely difficult. I learned a greater appreciation for text messaging since it allowed for communication without my voice betraying me. A renewed flirtation sprang up between us. I knew he was just looking for someone to fill-in and boost his ego, but I didn’t mind. I had come to terms with what our relationship was, what it wasn’t, and how it worked. I wasn’t the one he wanted, but I could be his friend.
We messaged each other every day. I was usually the one to start since my day began so much earlier than his. The messages were simple – something to start his day with a smile or to remind him that there were only a few more weeks left on this project or that project. He would often respond with something equally flattering about me. There were the occasional jokes about gluttony or the monotony of having to do the same thing repeatedly, but in general, it was a light and easy flirtation.
After a few weeks we began to plan outings and dinners together. We went dancing and to parties together. We talked about the good and bad of our days and what we hoped for the future. We talked about our families and shared secrets that few other people knew. We hugged and even kissed occasionally.
Once, he surprised me by turning up at one of my competitions. He waited until I had a break; then, he danced me to a quiet corner where we took pictures of us huddled close in oversized leather chairs, talked at length about everything and nothing in particular, and he kissed me after I walked him to his car.
I was happy with him, and he seemed to be happy with me. We spent nights cuddled on the sofa just enjoying each other’s silence as we watched a film or television show. It was very comfortable and easy to be around him. He was my friend, so why shouldn’t I care for him and he for me? I wasn’t ready to introduce him to my family yet, but we did have several friends in common and often went together to functions where our friends were.
I began to relax and let my guard down. Although he never said it, and actually stated outright that we were not, we were a couple or at least in that awkward “are we a couple or are we not” stage. I began staying over on weekends when my schedule allowed for it. The broken pieces of my heart that had been smashed to bits only a few short weeks previously were beginning to fall back into place. I was beginning to heal and even allowed myself to think that this was it – maybe he was the one after all.
Our plans began to include events that were months away, rather than just the coming weekend, including a concert we eagerly awaited. I found it strange that he would buy four tickets, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I thought perhaps he was planning a double date with friends, so I surprised him with backstage passes for all of us.
There were other things, small things, which I began to notice but didn’t want to admit. He would encourage me to talk about my day and my dreams and my plans, but he would redirect the conversation to something flattering about me or give vague answers whenever I asked him a direct question.
I slowly became suspicious of his behaviors because I wanted to trust him. I wanted so much to believe that we could make this work that I ignored the nagging feeling as it whispered doubt and truth. Then I found it. A card he had forgotten to put away. It looked like any other card from any other friend, but it was different. This card contained a picture. No, it wasn’t that kind of picture. It was just a picture of a girl. THE girl. The one he had the date with that didn’t go well, but this card wasn’t months or weeks old. This card, this picture had been taken only a couple of days earlier. “Thanks for the great time,” it said. “I can’t wait for our next adventure!” With an exclamation point no less. I couldn’t breathe and the room began to spin.
Why wouldn’t he tell me about her? We were friends, weren’t we? Hadn’t I supported him when he first mentioned her AND when the date hadn’t gone well? What was I meant to think about this? I heard him moving around in the next room and vaguely recall him asking what I might like to do that night. I didn’t want to press the issue, so I quickly replaced the picture and the card. I had no right to be jealous or upset that he was seeing someone else. I had no real claim on him, but it hurt that we had been so open before and now he was hiding a very big part of his life from me. I was confused and hurt. I wanted to throw a tantrum like a three-year-old and demand just what the hell was going on, but I didn’t.
I left. I told him I had forgotten a few things at home, and I left. I needed time to think. Maybe he was planning to tell me, but hadn’t had a chance yet? I knew that wasn’t right. Deep in my soul, I knew he was hiding her from me and likely me from her because she was the one he wanted.
Over the next few days, I contemplated my situation. Do I tell him how I feel and fight for his affection and attention, or do I bow out gracefully? It didn’t take long for that question to be answered. He had found a solution, and it was going to be perfect. Or that was the plan anyway.