Chapter 26, april

“Living a life full of happiness is the best type of revenge.  Once someone realizes that they cannot ruin your happiness, they lose their power.”

I knew if I did not follow my heart, I would spend the rest of my life with regret and wishing I had.  I had fallen in love with John and the life that I imagined we would have together.  Of course, I wanted to marry him.  We had been drawn together like a moth to a flame.  There was only one problem that was deterring me from signing that marriage contract…he was potentially still married to his ex-wife.  

John and I continued making plans for our upcoming wedding.  I knew I had to let go so we could move forward.  I forced myself to heal from my past in order to be happy, even though I was terrified that I would never truly be able to.  A decision was made, I could not allow my thoughts and fears to hold me back any longer.  We quickly decided that we would elope, only telling our parents, sisters, and very close friends.  

There were still people in our lives that did not want to see either of us happy, especially if that happiness consisted of the two of us walking down the road to wedded bliss.  

With the help of an amazing wedding planner, the perfect date and location was chosen, the reservations were made, the dress was purchased, our vows had been written, and the marriage certificate was received.  The only thing that was missing – clarification that the divorce between John and Loren would not be reversed.  It was finally becoming real; I was marrying my Prince Charming.

As we began to pack for our destination wedding, tensions began to rise.  We were riddled with anxiety that something, or someone, would interrupt our plans.  The call from John’s attorney came with the news we had prayed for.  The divorce would remain in effect – John and I were given the all clear to continue with our plans to be married.  We were over the moon excited; nothing could ruin the elation we both felt…nothing except a text from Loren.

No sooner than the luggage was zipped, John’s phone received a message from Loren.  It was a screenshot of a Facebook memory from seven years prior.  

She reminded him of a time when “he was in love with her and she was madly in love with him”.  

That was just what a bride wanted to hear only days before her wedding.  Sure, I knew John had a life before me - a life that involved a couple of wives and a few children. I was just ready to begin OUR lives together and make OUR memories.  I did not want the last thought that went through his mind before marrying me to be of his ex-wife!

With an ounce of resentment, I tried my very best to focus on the present.  The past is where it is for a reason, and we had good cause to celebrate.  

I was about to be Mrs. Kirk – the new edition!  

 If nothing, John and I were equally sentimental.  Our wedding was planned down to the most meniscal detail.  The county our license was purchased was chosen based on the late, great Conway Twitty.  The date was the birthdate of the one and only, Ray Charles – also the singer of the very first song John ever sang to me.  The location was from one of our favorite movies, Shag.  The dress and style were straight out of a page from a Nicholas Sparks romance novel.  

Our simple wedding was going to be far better than I dreamed it could be.

The day could not have been more perfect.  John’s parents wrote a prayer and my mother picked the Bible verse that was read by our officiant.  A very talented photographer snapped as John and I read each other the vows we had written from our hearts.  Immediately following the exchanging of the rings and I do’s, our officiant and wedding planner serenaded us with the very same Ray Charles tune that John had once sang to me.  

We danced under the gazebo, staring into one another’s eyes for the first time as husband and wife.  That day, I was living a dream.  My fantasy had for once become my reality.  In that moment I realized that God heard my cries.  He listened when I asked him to send me a man that would love me unconditionally, forever and ever, Amen.

The blissful dream only lasted a very short time – we had to get back to reality.  We arrived home just in time to pick up the boys from a weekend with their mother.  

When I tell you there is nothing better than spending your first week of marriage with children that constantly remind you of how much their mother hates you, I mean it from the bottom of my dark soul.  That was just how I imagined my newly married life would be.  Hearing over and over how “You are not our mom” or “Why did you make my dad leave my mom” and “I really wish my mom and dad would live together again” was the icing on top of our non-existent wedding cake.

That was the moment things started to slide even further down the rabbit hole than they were before.  

The children began to manipulate both households.  When they were with us, they would beg us not to make them go spend time with their mom.  However, when we confronted Loren about it, we heard that they were telling her the exact same thing.  During that time neither of us believed the other, and those tales were only ammunition that was later used in court.  That type of behavior was only the beginning of the pettiness that we would all succumb to.

John had his own reasons for worry while the boys were with Loren.  He insisted on a FaceTime with them every day they were away from him.  This was not a welcomed notion by Loren.  She absolutely refused to go along with his demands.  I understood where John was coming from, and at that time I did agree with him.  The information we were being given during that time rationalized our actions.  His behaviors right or wrong, my heart ached for my husband.

My involvement only intensified the situation.  I was reminded on several occasions that communication was to only be between the biological parents of John’s children.  

During FaceTime, Loren made sure that I knew that the conversation should not include me.  If and when I attended any school function or extracurricular activity, a spectacle was made to ensure I understand that I was unwanted.

Anxiety had overcome me.  Heaven forbid we were late for a drop off or pick up.  There was so much pressure to be perfect at all times, and the pressure was causing me to spiral downhill, fast.  I began to lose weight, my hair, and the little shred of sanity I managed to hang on to throughout my life.  

 As a stepmother, you are allowed to be involved, but not overly involved.  You can do everything a real mother can do, but you are not allowed to receive any recognition for it.  You are expected to love your bonus children as if they are your own, while making sure to never forget that you did not carry them in your body for nine months.  

There is a handbook and there are rules for ‘stepmothering’. somehow, I was never privy to those rules and have never found that book.

 I was constantly in a state of panic, wondering what the next accusation would be that I would have to fight off.  It was starting to feel like I would never truly find my place as a ‘bonus mom’.  I struggled so hard with that concept.  I was a mother.  I had been a mother for twenty years; therefore, I was unaware of how to not be a mother.  However, there is an extremely fine line between motherhood and step-motherhood…a line I would cross several times over the next few years.

Yet another court date decided how John’s children would be split for the holidays that were fast approaching.  If you have ever wondered how exciting it would be to blend two families during the holidays, let me be the first to tell you – it is HELL.  There was constant fighting and arguing over every single minute of shared time.  And, God forbid the traditions that you have been celebrating your entire lifetime be placed upon your ‘new’ children.  There was not much I could do right in the eyes of John’s previous wife.  That left me contemplating the question of why I was trying so hard to make sure I did everything the way she would have.  Clearly, if John wanted to be married to a Loren, he would have stayed married to a Loren.  I wanted so badly to be able to be me – April – the new wife and not just the girl from next door.  

It was hard to look too far into the future, but I knew our current situation was only temporary.  

The struggles we were facing and the battles we were fighting were giving us the opportunity to reevaluate what we really wanted.  We wanted a positive co-parenting relationship.  We wanted to live in peace and happiness, a place where butterflies rode on the backs of unicorns through a town full of rainbows.  However, we lived in Jacksonville; there were no unicorns or rainbows, and the butterflies were replaced by mosquitos. 

My friends could not understand my new life, and many of them did not feel I had a right to complain.  After all, I chose to marry a man with children, and I knew what I and gotten myself into.  If I had a dime for every single time I heard that, I could buy everyone reading this a drink!  

I knew what I had to do, and I made myself a promise.  We were going to reach a positive co-parenting relationship, if it was the last thing we did.  I refused to live like that any longer.  With the courage of the cowardly lion, I made a call to Loren.  Any optimism that I had of forging a peaceful relationship with her was quickly shot down.  She reminded me that it was she who had married John, created life, and given birth to his children – not me.  Loren advised me to never call her again, and all communication would go through her and John.

There was no hope.  Loren was like a vault, and I could not crack the combination code.  She would continue to hate me.  Of course, her children would side with their mother, and they would hate me as well.  And, eventually my new husband would be a distant memory – or at least that is how I felt.  

Had I made the right decision?  

Could we all just get along?  

Would our children continue to suffer and be forced to choose a side?  

I had so many questions, yet no one had the answers to them.



You Don't Know Me