He took one last look around the renovated warehouse before he texted her the address. Everything was riding on tonight, so everything had to be perfect. The twinkle lights he hung around the room reflected off the sheets of plastic that separated the ongoing construction area from where they would be dining. The little lights gave off an ambient glow that he thought added the perfect touch to the hundreds of arrangements of Gerber daisies he had spread around the room. The caterer did an amazing job of setting up a table for two in the center of the room. Here goes nothing, he thought to himself as he typed the address into his phone.
485 West Main St. See you soon….unless you’ve changed your mind?
I haven’t…see you soon.
His heart skipped a beat at her response. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this alive or excited about something. He pulled his keys out of his pants pocket, gave the caterer some last-minute instructions, and then headed to his car. He had exactly an hour to go home, shower, change clothes and then get back to the warehouse.
It was quarter to seven as he lit the candles on the table. His hands were shaking so badly that it took him three times to get them lit and he was positive that his sweaty palms weren’t helping matters. What am I? Sixteen? He laughed to himself. Each second that passed seemed like minutes, minutes like hours, but time stopped when he heard the distinct sound of a car door closing. He grabbed one of the daisies out of a nearby vase and stood partially hidden behind a cement beam. He wanted to catch a glimpse of her face before she had the chance to see him. He had laid out a trail of flowers for her to follow…leading her to him…and his chest grew tighter as he heard the telltale clicking of high heels hitting the floor. This is it, he thought, in just a few seconds she’s either going to come running straight into my arms or totally crush my heart. Each ‘click’ of her heels echoed louder as she got closer, spiking his adrenaline levels to near fatal levels.
When she finally appeared in the doorway, his breath caught in this throat. He watched her eyes as she curiously took in her surroundings. The smile on her face, even if it only lasted seconds, was enough to make him happy for the rest of his life. He took a deep breath as he walked out from behind the beam, and when she saw him, she froze. She looked at him…then at the flower he was holding…then back up at him. She cocked her head to the side and looked at him with a puzzled look.
He knew that look. He could only imagine the million thoughts that were running through her head as she tried to figure out what was going on. All of a sudden her eyes grew wide with realization, and before she could say anything else he quickly closed the distance between them. He put his right hand around her waist and pulled her close to him, and then he placed his left hand at the back of her neck. He leaned in to kiss her and she breathlessly whispered, “What are you doing?”
“Keeping my promise,” he whispered back.
He watched her as she closed her eyes and without a word he knew she was waiting. He started out slowly, his lips barely brushing against hers. A soft moan escaped her and he could smell the scent of sweet mint on her breath. He was hungry for more of her, so without warning, he captured her lips with his, more forcefully this time. She parted hers ever so slightly, granting him access, and just like that they melted into each other. He couldn’t tell where he ended and she began. For the first time in what felt like forever, he felt complete. She was his home. His true North. He didn’t know how he’d ever let himself forget that. Trying to make up for lost time, he deepened their kiss once more and he felt her shiver in his arms. He was about to sweep her up off her feet, but she put her hands on his chest and pushed herself away.
“Wes, wait. Stop. All this time it was you? You’re Lucky?”
“I don’t understand what’s going on. Why? Why would you do that? Oh, God, please don’t tell me this was some sick joke to get back at me. I bet you and your little blonde…what was her name…Lisa…are having a good laugh at my expense right now.”
She hunched over, pain etched all over her face, trying to catch her breath. He wasn’t sure how she was going to take the news, but he never imagined that she’d think he was playing her…or capable of that type of revenge. He put his hand under her chin and gently lifted it so she was looking at him. Each tear he saw sliding down her beautiful face was like a sword piercing his heart.
“Julie, this is not a joke. Yes, I’m Lucky, but there was never a Lisa.”
“Come on, Wes. I saw you with her.”
“That’s impossible, because she doesn’t exist.”
“Four weeks ago Sarah took me to lunch at Demetri’s and we saw you walk in with her. She was young, blonde, and hanging on your every word.”
Wes raised his hand to cover his mouth to try to stifle his laugh, but he was unsuccessful. He’d never seen Julie jealous before, and honestly, it was the cutest thing he’d ever seen. He should have been mad but he was flattered. The fact that she was jealous meant she still cared. It meant he still had a chance. Although, it was becoming clear to him that if he didn’t finish explaining soon, that chance might be lost.
“I’m so glad that you think this is funny.”
“I’m not laughing at what you think I am. Please, just sit down and give me a chance to explain. I think you owe me at least that, don’t you?”
She shook her head and followed him as he led her to the table. He pulled out her chair and she sat down. He then pulled his chair around so they were sitting knee to knee. He took her hands in his, pulled them up to his lips, and placed a kiss on the back of each hand.
“That day that you think you saw me on a date wasn’t what you think. That was an interview.”
“You were being interviewed by that woman?”
“No, I was interviewing her.”
“I don’t understand. Interviewing her for what?”
She looked at him confused, yet again. She wasn’t putting all the pieces together and he could tell she was getting more and more frustrated with this conversation.
“Julie, when I got those divorce papers, I was gutted. I’m not going to lie, at first I was furious. I couldn’t believe that after all we’d been through that you could just walk away. When I finally pulled my head of out my ass, I realized I was to blame. I was the one who checked out first. Looking back on the past three years, I realized that I did everything in my power to push you away and I know that I really didn’t give you any other choice, but to walk away. I didn’t love you the way you should have been loved. I didn’t appreciate you the way I should have. It was at that moment of realization that I made a promise to myself to win you back. I knew that if I was ever going to do that I had to become the man you could count on again, the man who could take care of you the way you deserve to be taken care of. So, I swallowed my pride and asked my dad for help. Right now we are sitting in the headquarters of Harrison Consulting, Inc. The blonde you saw me with is now my secretary.”
“That explains the blonde, but why pretend to be someone else?”
“I needed time to put myself back together, so I could be worthy of asking for another chance. I didn’t think you’d believe me if I promised to change, because I’d made so many empty promises already. I thought you needed to see the change and I needed time to do that. I didn’t want to risk losing you to someone else and I didn’t know how much longer I could ignore your calls before you’d come to see me about signing the divorce papers. That’s when the idea came to me. “Lucky” held my place until I was able to come back to you a worthy man.”
Wes stared at the only woman he’d ever loved, waiting for her to say something. Waiting for her to forgive him. Each second of silence was utter torture. Her expression remained pensive and he was seriously regretting not just being upfront and honest with her from the beginning. He wished he just would have begged for her forgiveness instead of leading her on with a silly ruse. Panicked thoughts started running through his head. What if she wants Lucky and not me? You are Lucky, moron, just give her a chance. He knew that he had to let her know that whatever decision she made, it was okay. She needed to know that he’d love her no matter what….even if she still wanted to walk away. He let go of her hands and got up and retrieved the envelope that was on the table. He sat back down and handed it to her.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“The divorce papers. If you still want me to sign, I will. I love you enough to let you go, if that’s what you need me to do, because the only thing I want is for you to be happy. Before you make your decision I need you to know that if you give me a second chance I promise to always put our love first. I promise to always be the man you need me to be. To tell you every day how much I love you. To kiss you every morning when I wake and every night before I go to sleep. To never, ever take you or what we have for granted again.”
He watched as she pulled the papers out of the envelope and his heart sank as she began to sob.
“You said you needed time to come back to me a “worthy” man, but I’m the one who’s not worthy. I gave up on us..on you. I walked away. How can you forgive me for that?”
Her sobs broke his heart. He took her hand in his once again and intertwined their fingers. He knew that if they were going to move forward they had to forgive each other. He knew that she blamed herself for walking away, but he didn’t fault her for that because he knew his actions had given her no choice. As much as he wanted to take all the blame for their current situation, he knew she wouldn’t let him. Her integrity and moral compass was one of the things he loved most about her.
“Please don’t cry. I want you to know that I don’t blame you, but if you need to hear the words, then please know that I forgive you. You walking out was my wake-up call. I honestly don’t think we’d be here right now if you hadn’t. These past four weeks have given me the opportunity to fall in love with you all over again. It has been the greatest gift anyone could ever give me. You did that. So, now that you know that, can you forgive me?”
She let go of his hand and his heart beat wildly in his chest as he waited for her response. At that moment he would have given anything to be able to read her mind. He breathed a sigh of relief as he watched her tear the papers in half. His heart soared as he leapt to his feet. He swept her up and twirled her around. Her sobs soon turned to laughter as they twirled around the room. He set her down and then dropped to one knee in front of her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, velvet box.
“I think this belongs to you,” he said as he opened the box.
“My wedding ring.”
“Yes, but with a new promise.”
She took the ring out of the box and on the inside she saw that he had her ring engraved, always and forever.
“Will you do the honors?” she asked, as she held out her left hand.
“Nothing would make me happier,” he said as he placed her ring back on her finger.
“Can I tell you a secret?”
“Darling, you can always tell me anything.”
“I’m so glad it was you.”