Chapter 14, april

Have you ever heard the old saying, “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see”?  

That statement precisely depicted what was going on in my life.  I knew what I was living, yet everyone around me believed something entirely different.  I also knew exactly what I was seeing, yet perception is rarely ever reality.  Sometimes we only see what we want to see…

I will do anything in my power to help someone, for no other reason than to provide a sense of happiness in their lives.  Knowing that the pure thought of me disgusted Loren, ate at me daily.  She was not my friend, or a family member – she was my enemy.  However, that was not what I wanted.  At that point, I had no idea what would happen with my life, let alone my friendship with John.  That did not mean I wanted someone going through life hating me.  It takes so much more energy to hate than to love, and I was going to do everything I could to make my neighbor love me – and I would love her.  After all, God says you are supposed to love thy neighbor.  He must have never lived next door to Loren.  This was going to be harder than I imagined, but I was up for the challenge.

We did our best to steer clear of one another.  Knowing that Loren did not approve of our friendship made things difficult for John and me.  

Gone were the nights of porch sitting and wine sipping.  Those days were replaced with text messages and phone calls or the occasional lunch gathering.  It did not seem to stop our relationship from growing, but it did provide a large elephant in the room.  John’s job had become extremely demanding, even more so than usual.  This left me with a little more time to ponder life’s greatest mystery – why did Loren loathe me?  What exactly had I done to cause her to have such hatred towards me?   Finally, one night it hit me like a ton of bricks – her hatred for me had nothing to do with ME, it had everything to do with HER.  Mystery solved.  Case closed.  On to the next chapter, what was I going to do about it?  Well, I am a fixer, so naturally I will cure what ails her.   Remember, I was going to make her love me.  So, I began to think - how does one get another to love them? The answer quickly came to me…WINE!    

I relayed to John my plan of attack.  He was off training, which gave Loren and I plenty of one on one time.  He advised me against it saying, “You know how much she hates you.”  I did, but I did not care, I had nothing to lose with her.  I knew I was the last person she wanted to see, but how could she turn down wine?  I set off to battle, with wine in my hand and courage in my heart – I was off to face that giant. 

 I knocked, she answered, I shoved wine in her face.  

Before she had a chance to respond, I invited myself over to partake in some Cabernet Sauvignon after she put the children to bed.  Reluctantly, she agreed.  We spent the next five hours talking.  We talked about friendships, relationships, family, parenting – you name it and we covered it.  She was easy to talk to, like someone I had known my whole life.  I reassured her once again that she had nothing to worry about between John and me.  I left feeling that she and I were in a much better place.

The next few weeks came and went without incident…but it was short lived!  I was heading out to run errands when I heard a knock at my door.  Before I could open it all the way, the voice on the other side was screaming frantically, “You can have him!”  Low and behold – there stood Loren.  I could not get a word in between her shouting, “John told me he was in love with you and he wanted to date you, so you can have him.  Just so you know it will not be easy, because you will never be around my children, oh and his family will hate you too!” 

I did not even bother to go back and forth with her.  Clearly, she was crazy, and nothing I could say was going to change what she already believed to be true.  I simply said, “Whatever you say Loren, please get help.”  Later that afternoon I received a call from Japan – it was Roy.  He wanted to let me know that Loren had gone down to his parent’s house to advise them of the affair I was having with her husband.  Seriously.  We were back to that place again?  Roy was very sympathetic to my embarrassment of the situation, because he believed that I was telling the truth – and I was!  My first thought was to march over to her house once again to set things straight.  However, after hearing the details of her barefoot, pajama wearing visit down the street, I decided against it.  Something in me said, “this woman is not in her right mind”.  Maybe she has issues that are beyond my ability to assist in.  I also thought that my confrontation would only add fuel to the fire.  The people that mattered knew the truth, and that was all I cared about.

Things were tense for the next couple of months.  The holidays were approaching, and they brought everything but joy.  

The relationship between Loren and John had reached an extreme boiling point, so he decided to spend the holidays with his family in South Carolina.  He and I were able to talk often while he was away.  We caught up on how crazy things were for him at work, and how the stress from Loren and the thought of having his children move away again was breaking him.  I reminded him that I was only a phone call away, and if he needed to talk, I was always here to listen – that’s what friends are for!  

One night, while playing music trivia over the phone, the conversation turned serious.  John asked me, “Have you ever imagined what it would be like if you and I dated?”  That was followed with, “Would you allow me to take you on a date?”  I guess I would have been lying if I said the thought never crossed my mind, but even if it had, I rejected it just as soon as it entered my brain.  I gave him a simple and politically correct answer, “In another life, if things were different, that sounds like a wonderful idea.  For right now, I think we should just ride this friend train on down the tracks.”  His response, “As you wish.”  

Roy would be visiting, and we had yet to tell anyone about our pending divorce…or at least that is what I thought.  We decided to wait until after the holidays were over. We wanted our family to have one last peaceful memory of us as a unit.  Roy brought more than Christmas gifts home from Japan. He brought a frigid coldness, and I do not mean the weather.  He was so angry, and rightfully so; he could not accept that our marriage was over.  If I am being honest, I did not want to accept it either.  I had failed – again – at marriage, and I did not like to fail at anything.  We went to dinner with Roy’s family on Christmas Eve.  Little did I know that would be the last supper, literally, that we would ever have as a family.  I left in tears that evening at the hateful things that were said to and about me.  Roy had confided in a family member about what was going on between us.  The only thing was – he gave his version, purely one sided, and I was the villain.  

That would go down as the absolute worst Christmas of my life.  I spent the day alone – completely miserable.  

My children were angry with me, my family turned their backs on me, and my friends had no idea what I was going through.  My sadness quickly turned to anger.  I was mad at everything - myself, Roy, the people that promised to always be there for me, no matter what.  Everyone turned against me based on perception and false information.  I was tired of defending myself.  I was finally broken beyond repair.  All I wanted to do was hide in my bed and not have to face the world…or my reality.  

After the dust settled on the Holiday from Hell, I decided it was time for a break.  I needed to get away from this nightmare, if I was ever going to get out of my Christmas Coma.  I needed to go where every girl goes when her life is crumbling…to momma’s house.  

I packed a bag and was headed South.  Before leaving, I wanted to go to breakfast with my babies.  My son was glued to his iPad and would not get dressed to leave, so I took it from him.  I placed it on the counter while I finished doing my hair.  Annoyingly, it kept buzzing and beeping.  I flipped it over to turn it off, but before I could something caught my eye.  

My son’s iPad was receiving text messages…from Loren.  

My first thought – why was this woman texting my son?  After further investigation, I realized that the iPad was connected to Roy’s phone.  Ah, beautiful technology!  I did what any self-respecting woman would do, I read the text messages!  My body filled with fury and resentment.  While I was spending time wallowing in my self-pity, Roy was next door with Loren, “ending it with a BANG – pun intended”.  How dare these two accuse John and I of having an affair, when they were secretly texting and meeting up behind our backs.  

I waited a day before I told John the news.  Not sure of how he would handle it, I wanted to calm down before exposing this growing love ‘square’.  He was just as angry as I had been – not at the fact of what we believed had happened, but of what we had been accused of for so long - that was not true. Yet the very people that were at the head of our firing squad, were seemingly doing that very thing right under our noses!  That weekend, we met for a drink to discuss all the chaos that was going on in our lives.  It was nice to get out with my friend; the laughter was just what I needed.  Suddenly, the conversation turned serious.  “Why are we not dating”, he asked.  Because dating ruins everything.  Because I do not know how to date.  Because we are both still technically married, and you are too perfect!  There really was not a correct answer for that question, so I sat there smiling.  

I began realizing – for the first time since I met the guy next door – I could possibly fall for this tall, dark, and handsome man.  

For the next couple of months, things were like a rollercoaster on both sides of the fence.  John was still waiting on the answer to his question as to why I would not entertain the idea of us dating.  I had thought about it long and hard, part of me wanted to go running into his arms so he could save me from the darkness I had been in.  The other part of me knew I should just leave things exactly the way they were, because where there is smoke – there is FIRE!

Un-love Thy Neighbor