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Part II

Hope

With Doubt Running in the Background

I avoided his calls and texts for almost a week. I was afraid I could still fall in love with him, and he would be nothing but trouble. But, so much about him was attractive. I remained on the dating app searching through potential matches but they all seemed like duds compared to Joe. Unemployed, underemployed, out of shape, married. It was discouraging.

I was lonely. I was heartbroken after accepting that my husband of 28 years was not coming back. He had moved on to a very successful, long term committed relationship with the woman he was involved with for the last ten years of our marriage. It made me feel that much worse for being alone even though he had been unkind to me. I had had a struggle with letting him go, but I felt I finally had.

Joe called me every day and left pleading voicemails asking me to return his calls. He also sent flowers throughout the week I had him on blackout.

On Wednesday a package was delivered. Inside was a signature blue box. I was stunned when I opened it. There was an intricate diamond choker from Tiffany’s with a card that read: “Miranda, when I saw the sparkle of this necklace, I thought of you. Love, Joe”.

I was torn. This guy was obviously very into me. He had a lot going for him. I caught myself considering giving him another chance. But I couldn’t dismiss my suspicions about his lifestyle. He had a gun in his closet. This alone could be a deal breaker for me.

On Thursday Joe texted and asked if I got his present. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful or rude, so I simply texted back, “Yes”. “Are you going to give me a chance to see it around your beautiful neck?” Shit. Now I was engaged in a conversation with him. I had avoided this for six days. Then, I thought, “What’s the harm of a little texting?” It might alleviate the boredom and lonlieness. It wasn’t as if we were seeing each other. I knew I should stay away from him in order to protect my fragile heart. If we had a relationship and my suspicions about him turned out to be true, where would that leave me? Could I be “married to the mob?” How could I even think about marrying him? I wasn’t even divorced. I had only had two dates with him. Sure, there was chemistry and I certainly liked him. When I left his house the week before, I was planning on not going back even though I was curious about what staying with him would have been like.

By now I was more than curious. I was bored and lonely which I knew could be a dangerous combination. I had seen myself jump into relationships before from this unstable perch even if I knew there was potential for trouble by getting involved with men who weren’t right for me. I usually told myself that no one is perfect and if I was too picky I would never find anyone suitable to spend quality time with.

There is only so much housework with which to distract oneself. I cleaned the house from top to bottom in hopes of getting my mind off Joe. I went shopping and bought things I did not need.

By Sunday afternoon, I was still bored, lonely and heartbroken over all of my failed relationships. My house was spotless, and I had some nice new things to wear, but I started feeling sorry for myself. I took to swiping through the dating app again. Surely there had to be a decent guy out there somewhere to keep me company. There were a few who were either good looking, educated, or successful. Some of those were also married, and there was no way I would ever get involved with a married man. My husband had betrayed me with another woman, and I had sworn I would never be a party to that kind of betrayal.

I carefully weighed the pros and cons of getting involved with Joe. On the plus side he was handsome, educated, and rich. He was also clearly into me. I wouldn’t have to chase him down. He was available and seemed to have the time for me with his “flexible” work hours. Maybe he wasn’t the most interesting man in the world, and maybe he was a criminal. I told myself that that last bit was pure conjecture, and if I was wrong about that, I was probably throwing away a perfectly good guy. If only there was a way to really know. But there wasn’t. I would have to take a big chance. But really, what was the downside risk? I would fall in love with him and maybe find out he was a killer? That would certainly ruin it. Then I would be more heartbroken, alone and bored again.

I have always been a believer in “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. At 50, I had taken more than a few chances in my life. Maybe Joe should be my next big chance. I warned myself not to let the loneliness lead me to making a stupid decision. But sending a text wasn’t that risky, was it? I knew in my heart that sending what I believed to be an innocent text would be construed as encouraging him. The broken part of me wanted to do just that. I knew he would potentially swoop in and rescue me from my lonely pit of despair. I also knew I was playing with fire and might get burned.

By Sunday night I was exhausted from the conflict. I finally decided to text him in response to his question about the necklace. I told myself it would be harmless to do this. “Joe, thank you so much for your generous gift. I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I’m not sure if we are right for each other at all. I don’t know if you will ever have a chance to see me wearing that beautiful necklace.- Miranda”

As soon as I pressed “send”, I had a pang of regret. I mean, I wasn’t sure if he was right for me, but what if he was my next best hope for love? Had I just given him the kiss of death?

I had my answer in less than 5 minutes. He texted me back, “Miranda, I don’t know what you mean.” I decided to leave it at that for the night, and went to bed.

I slept fitfully with my mind racing in different directions all night. There wasn’t any more clarity when I woke up. I hated waking up alone.

I went for a run to try to clear my head but it only muddied it up more. Joe seemed to be the only thing I could think about. I needed to get back to work on writing my novel.

As soon as I got out of the shower, the doorbell rang. I threw on a robe and answered the door. I was greeted by a delivery man carrying an exotic, very large flower arrangement. They were magnificent. The card read “I can’t stop thinking about you, Miranda. Love, Joe”

I wasted a few hours staring at my novel on my computer. There would be no focused writing for me today. My trance was interrupted by a ping on my phone. Joe texted, “How is your friend’s brother?” “Don’t engage”, I told myself.

I was a little surprised that he had the presence of mind to follow up on how Dawn’s brother was doing following my abrupt departure from his house the weekend before. I didn’t know if he was really being kind and considerate or just looking for a way to get me to engage. I wondered if he was trying to buy my affections with the flowers and gifts.

Why did I have to be so cynical all the time? If I just accepted that he was an almost perfect guy for me I could be having a lot of fun instead of sitting home by myself all the time. But, I was afraid.

The constant mental turmoil kept me from being productive all day. I started to wonder what I had done to make this kind of impression on Joe. He had heard of my best selling romance novel and commented more than a few times on my beauty. I wasn’t sure if this warranted this level of reaction from him. A crisis of confidence would not be helpful when I decided to move on.

It became clear that I would get no work done that day so I went shopping again. I knew this was no way to fill the emptiness I felt inside. I had tried this when my husband had been cheating on me so I knew there was going to be no real relief no matter how many pretty things I bought. At least it passed the time. It also kept me from returning Joe’s text.

I passed the rest of the day in a bored blur of watching tv and drinking wine. I wondered if Joe would take me out to dinner. Surely not, I had him on blackout again.

Tuesday morning brought another fresh bouquet of flowers to my door with a card that simply said, “Where are you, Miranda? Love, Joe”

I wondered how long I could resist. I struggled through another day trying to get some work done. It seemed I was getting used to living in a constant state of turmoil when I was able to bang out a few more chapters on the computer.

There was a voicemail on my phone when I turned off the computer for the day. “Hey Miranda, I don’t understand why you won’t talk to me. I thought we had a great time together and would really like to try to make a go of it with you. Please call me back.” Nope. I wouldn’t. Insecurity reared its ugly head again and suggested that maybe he was a stalker. If this was the case, he was a stalker who also owned a gun. I told myself not to let my imagination go too far.

By some miracle, I slept better that night perhaps from the exhausting conflict. I used a sleep meditation practice that had worked before for me.

I felt refreshed when I woke up, but was still tortured by my indecesion about Joe. The days were starting to drag on one after the other. I was putting one foot in front of the other.

When I opened the box of expensive perfume that was delivered on Wednesday and read the card that once again implored me to call him, I stopped and wondered why I was torturing myself. Shouldn’t I just give him another chance? He was trying so hard.

I woke up on Thursday full of energy to try to put this whole issue to bed. I couldn’t live my life this way. Take a damn chance, Miranda. I texted him, “Hi Joe, Dawn’s brother is home and doing well. Please call me tonight.”

I remembered that Joe did not work during regular business hours when I saw the call come in. “Hello?”

“Hey, Miranda, what’s up?”

“Oh, hi there, I was wondering what you’ve been up to?”

Suddenly, I couldn’t remember why I had asked him to call me. “Oh, not much other than trying to find you. What do you say we go out to dinner together tomorrow night?”

It was just dinner, I thought. “OK, yes, I’d like that.” He said he would pick me up at 8:00.

Hope springs eternal.

To be continued in Part III

Thank you for reading :)

Young stroke survivor, mother, champion equestrian, tambourine player, storyteller, https://www.victoriaponte.com amazon.com/author/victoriaponte

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