Chapter 18, april
Have you ever wished you could be a bird? Imagine being able to open your wings and fly to your happiest place, whenever you feel the need. I prayed for God to make me a bird many times throughout my life. During the next few months, I begged Him to take me…wherever He wanted me to go.
Letting go was one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn. Especially, letting go of something I imagined would last forever. However, God must close the door to one chapter of your life in order to prepare you for a much bigger one. I had no idea just how true that statement could be.
Roy and I were only speaking when we absolutely needed to; our relationship was very business-like. He asked about Tanner, and we discussed how our marital assets would be divided, and how we would handle our custody arrangement.
As the finalization of our divorce drew near, I started to have mixed feelings. I was anxious, scared, embarrassed, and relieved. Anxious of what was to come, scared of letting my children down once again, embarrassed for being a failure, and relieved that maybe things could go back to normal…whatever that may be.
Even though Roy and I were very mature throughout the entire process, our divorce was still difficult, and our emotions played a large factor in the ability to remain peaceful. Neither of us received the closure we needed, nor did we fully understand what was occurring. It seemed like one day we were happily married, and the next day we were splitting China plates.
My life had fallen apart, my dreams were shattered, and my future looked dark. Roy had been my very best friend for so many years. I could not imagine the thought of not telling him about my day, or celebrating milestones and making memories, or watching our children grow together. I was extremely naïve to think that we could remain as close as we were once upon a time.
After Loren returned from Texas, the atmosphere seemed to be quite eerie. There was one last blowout that resulted in her and John not speaking for a few months. Oddly enough, they communicated mostly through me. I had an ounce of hope that she and I would develop some form of a friendship.
John was getting ready to leave for deployment workups, and we were trying to spend as much time together as possible. Our friendship was growing stronger, and the pressure for something more than that was rising. Even though he and I had not officially declared our love for one another, we knew it was only a matter of time. I wanted to make sure everything was perfect before we made the commitment to have anything other than the simple relationship we once had. I certainly did not want to begin our lives together with the mother of his children despising me.
With all the stress he was under, we rarely had time to discuss what the future looked like for the two of us. Out of anger and resentment, Loren had been causing problems for him at work, and things were coming to a head. Along with not being able to see his children, and the accusations that were flying around about him, I imagined he would spontaneously combust at any moment.
John left for training and asked me to keep an eye on his house while he was gone. I agreed, even though there was not really much I could do. His divorce was final, which lifted a giant weight from his shoulders. The pain and agony he had been living for so long was finally coming to an end. He and Loren both wanted the finalization of their marriage to happen rather quickly, so they opted to handle child custody at a later date. John believed that once things settled down, he would have no problem working out an agreement with Loren regarding the boys.
Due to his hectic training schedule and the terrible cell service, John and I were not able to communicate as often as we would have liked.
Even though the texts and calls were few and far between, we managed to grow our relationship tremendously. I would like to think that it was during that time when I realized was falling in love with him. The things he said to me, the notes he sent to me, were straight out of the best romance novel I had ever read.
That was such a hard time for me emotionally, but he never let me go a day without reminding me how much he cared for me. Could it be, had I finally found my knight in shining armor?
He asked about the boys every time we spoke. I did not have much to tell him, as I was unable to see them during that time. I caught a glimpse of the boys rarely in passing, but Loren did not feel comfortable with me visiting. She had also not allowed John to speak with the boys in quite some time. She told him that she was extremely hurt and hearing from him was just too hard for her at that time. Loren advised him that his visitation with the boys would have to be put on hold until she healed. I did not understand what her healing had to do with his relationship with their children, but everyone handles things in their own way.
It was breaking my heart to watch him go through the pain he was experiencing. John was an amazing father, and he loved his children more than anything in the world. He tried to FaceTime and text every single time he got a cell signal, but he was never able to get through. Loren and I had not spoken in quite some time; therefore, I had no idea what was happening on her side of the fence. My curious mind drew several conclusions, simply based on the interactions we encountered previously.
I noticed a lot of traffic coming and going from the house next door, but what really caught my attention was the moving van parked in the driveway one Saturday morning.
I watched as she loaded her belongings into the back of the truck, piece by piece. Without hesitation, she gave me one more middle-finger wave while she laid on the horn and passed my house for what was sure to be the last time.
On the second of May at 1:12 am, I received a text from John that there had been an incident. He told me not to worry because he was fine and that he would explain later. Later, while I was at work, the phone rang…it was John. I was so relieved to hear his voice and had so many questions for him. The cell service seemed to be finicky, so he told me to hold on while he walked to another spot in hopes of getting a clear signal. I noticed my office door open, what was before my eyes made the phone fall to the floor and tears to flood my eyes. It was John.
There he stood, looking more handsome than I remembered, holding a dozen roses, his phone still up to his ear. I ran straight into his arms. In that moment, he squeezed me so tight, it seemed all my broken pieces began to melt back together.
I was able to leave early so we could have the rest of the afternoon to catch up. He checked into a hotel, not knowing that Loren was no longer occupying the home they once shared. When he began asking me about the boys, I was so confused. Apparently, the text messages I sent, advising him that Loren was gone, had not made it to him. The face that was so happy to see me less than an hour ago was now completely white as he stared blankly into the distance.
He showed me the text messages he had sent and the log of unanswered calls he had placed to Loren’s number. I told him that he should try again, only this time he should block his number. Maybe she would answer if she did not think John was on the other end of the phone. At that point, he had no idea where she was living, or how his children were doing. After a few rings, she answered. Loren told John that she had moved to Georgia to be closer to her family. She advised him that she would not be allowing him to visit the boys right now, and he should contact her attorney for any further communication.
The next few days were only the beginning of the stress and Hell that were to come. John went back and forth with Loren, begging for the chance to see his children. Finally, she agreed. He was told that he could pick the boys up and spend the week with them. John took off to South Carolina to visit with his parents, where he would also be returning with his boys to enjoy his visitation. He called me the moment he picked them up, his voice full of happy tears. He told me how handsome they were and that he would be spending the next few days enjoying them and making as many memories as possible.
A few days later, much to my surprise, John showed up at my office once again…only this time he was not alone.
He had three little boys in tow! I was ecstatic to see their sweet faces, not to mention the smile on the face of their handsome father. John told me to hurry home after work because he and the boys would be making me dinner.
After helping him put the boys to bed that night, John and I sat down to discuss the events that had transpired within the previous days. He explained how the pickup went, the conversations he had with the boys on the car ride back to his parents, and the details he was made aware of from his oldest son. We sat on the couch and cried together for what felt like hours.
The emotions of the last few months, coupled with the new information we had just found out, all pouring out of us at once. We were not sure what to do in that moment, but we knew that we had to act fast. His visitation was coming to an end, and he would have to return the boys to Loren in a couple of days.
After a lot of prayer and a long conversation with his attorney, John made a decision…he would not be returning the boys to their mother. Instead, they would be staying in North Carolina with us.
On Friday at 6pm, the agreed upon return time, John hit SEND on the email that would rock our world and change our lives forever. When he pushed that button, we held our breath for the mere few minutes it took for his phone to start ringing. Threats were made and words were exchanged. Hell had officially broken loose.
As we sat in shock, wondering what our future held, the doorbell rang. We heard the words that sent fear through our bones, “This is the police department, we need to see the children.”