To Love, To Lose
Third String Of Red
Three of Three
Sally Goodwin had been raised a Christian. But since the instant her memories started to form she had always questioned or doubted the infallibility of those teachings. As she grew her own personal feelings found comfort in new age spirituality, picking and choosing from any religion that would make sense to what she felt personally. This belief system either left her feeling completely confident in herself or it left her in the dark questioning everything…hurting and alone.
In this struggle of vast polarity, she came to realize that she needed someone to take care of her. Almost as a paradox. Sally who was a passionate, selfless, ever-loving, beautiful, strong, independent-minded person knew she needed someone else in the picture for her to be truly safe, protected, and successful. At first, her parents naturally filled that role, then her best friend, and then it became her boyfriend David.
And then, on top of having a best girlfriend for years, a loving family, a wonderful boyfriend...his best friend had become closer to her, becoming as much a part of her support group as anyone else. Gabe, short for Gabriel, often fell into the ‘third wheel’ role, thought it was friendly and free of awkwardness. He was a great friend, to both her and David, and it was easy for her to understand why David had stayed friends with him for so long.
On a night when the three of them are out and about, waiting for a restaurant reservation, wasting time before they can be seated at the Gothic Industrial, they wandered into a a nearby arcade. The boys play air-hockey while Sally finds a free-standing arcade version of one of her favorite 3DS games, ‘Doodle Jump’. Over-the-moon excited, she plays and plays and gets through all the levels, actually finding it easier in this machine than her handheld device.
Every time the winning bells rings, she looks back at her boys and smiles triumphantly. It was a silly game that was mostly made for children, but she still enjoyed it. It was the little things that mattered in life and finding joy in silly things led to found true happiness. After conquering another level, hearing the ringing of the bells, Sally looks at her boys, but her eyes linger on Gabe’s smile.
She was grateful for Gabe’s presence in her life because sometimes David was a little too stubborn, a little too tunnel-visioned, a little too scientific. Gabe was able to find a middle ground and help Sally express herself to David in a way he could understand. Gabe is always nice to her, makes a point to listen, makes her laugh, and is thoughtful. He was a very good friend to her, not just to David.
Another level, another ringing of bells and Sally looks straight at Gabe, who seems more enthusiastic and proud of her triumphs. He likes her silliness, her child-like qualities, unlike David who on occasion has told her she needs to grow up. Gabe was always fun to play video games with or talk about comedy television shows which David claimed he didn’t have time for.
Over all she was really happy with her life and the people in it. She wouldn’t want it any other way.
Time is an unstoppable force and it passes just as expected, seasons changing from winter to spring, landing at the weeks before summer semester. Unexpectedly, things began changing in Sally too. She was finding that her time spent with Gabe was more enjoyable than her time with David. She gets tired of fighting with David when he refuses to understand her point of view; she is getting tired of the fact that she always has to be the one to make an effort to spend time together, he seems content to spend his time playing games online. She is beginning to realize the fundamental differences between them aren’t cute idiosyncrasies, but an impassable chasm of unlikeness and incompatibility.
As the summer semester continues, she finds herself making more plans with Gabe than with David, admittedly only seeing David at home because he lives there too. Gabe is the one she turns to when she is stressed with homework or other worries. When the summer days are dwindling down Sally if forced to accept how she truly feels.
This summer was her last semester at Community College. She is starting University in the Fall. This will be the first semester where she will be taking classes that pertain to her major and she has decided, against David’s advice who had suggested editing or more practical applications, she will pursue her passion and get a Bachelor’s in writing. Gabe is fully supportive, understanding that following one’s passion, dream, and purpose can lead to great things. For instance they company he had started two year prior was flourishing and he was making more money than he knew what to do with.
Why shouldn’t Sally follow her dreams as well? Why shouldn’t she follow her heart? ‘What does that really mean?’ she wonders, staring at the text from Gabe as David played video games across from her on the couch. She has a lot to think about and it was making her nauseous.
The next morning she rises with the sun, unable to sleep; her mind racing with thoughts and choices; options and decisions. Wholeheartedly, without a doubt she knows that The Day fate had intended has arrived. She cleans the quiet apartment, realizing that she is taken care of: she has a roof over her head, food to eat, clothes on her back. But she was not happy. Not here, not in this apartment, not in this life, not in this relationship, not with David. Taken care of and protected, but not happy.
What is life worth without happiness?
She starts making breakfast because cooking and eating are an easy stress reliever and it gives her something to do with her hands while her mind is still running wild. Is she really going to do this? Could she really do this? It isn’t exactly abrupt…retrospectively all the signs were there, but she has been with David almost four years! And then he would be gone, just like that… gone forever, never to come back.
Cooking and thinking, thinking and cooking, trying her hardest not to feel but look at the facts, she’s startled by David’s arrival to the table. Even with sleepiness he seems to notice something is different, something is wrong, but he doesn’t say anything. While eating breakfast, neither of them say anything. When Sally clears the plates she hovers at the sink, not sure what to do. Frozen, eyes unseeing, heart pounding so hard it makes her chest shake, lungs unable to accomplish full breaths, her mind works subconsciously. Minutes after the fact, her brain registers that David went to his office.
Before she knows it, it's lunch time. Before she knows it, she can’t take it anymore. Before she knows it, her body is moving, her brain playing catch-up. Unlike normal, she does not go ask what David wants to eat. ‘It will never be normal again’ she corrects herself as she slips into the bathroom. Running the sink at full blast, she falls hard, without direction, to the floor. She falls and curls into a ball and then it starts. Crying, sobbing, shaking, hyperventilating… she was about to do it. Today is The Day.
Out of tears, out of breath, out of emotion and thoughts, her body moves for her. Lifting from the floor, the sink is turned off and the door is opened. Her feet take her down the hall, where David meets her half-way. His eyes don’t look at her directly, but over her shoulder… his thoughts consuming him. Then, to her surprise, he hugs her. He hugs her the same way he had always hugged her, the same way that he will never hug her again.
Then, he says, with a voice full of emptiness, “I’m not going to say it doesn’t hurt. I’m not going to say I’m not angry. I’m not going to say anything other than ‘I love you’. You will always be my Sally Mae and… I’m sorry I wasn’t enough.”
Sobbing all over again and shaking uncontrollably, he breaks their final hug and heads back into the office, clicking the door shut softly. Unable to move, minutes go by until her hand reaches for the phone in her back pocket. It was over. It was over and she wants to go home, she needs Gabe to take her home.
Selfishly, Sally gives Gabriel the responsibility of finishing the break up. Which, in turn, means that their family and friends go over to the old apartment and pick up her things. For those few weeks Sally is in a horrible, conflicting tornado of a world where she is grieving but also ecstatically happy. She just needs it to be over, to be truly over, past the point of no return.
She gets her wish one Saturday afternoon, her family and friends surrounding her and Gabriel in their new home, all choosing to ignore how they got there but celebrating the couple that was seemingly meant to be.
Though only months pass, everything is going better than Sally could ever ever imagined. She and Gabriel share the same ideals: belief that they came from the same star dust, were fated to be together, and were so perfect for each other that they fit together like halves to one whole. It does not take long for them to find the beautiful rhythm of successful relationships. It does not take long for Sally to sit in awe and realize all she had been missing. This, right here, right now, with Gabriel, was truly where she was meant to be.
And, of course, he seemed to be thinking and feeling the same thing, because at just the right moment he drops to his knee, a ring box open in his palm and asks “Will you marry me?”
With an uncontrollable smile and uncontrollable tears, Sally practically tackles Gabriel, screaming “Yes!” again and again and again kissing him all over. Not just from joy or happiness, but an expression of pure bliss from the Heavens that fills her heart.
Of course their families and friends knew it was coming and are not at all surprised at the revelation. Ready to celebrate the soon-to-be union of the deeply in-love couple, they all wander around the historic downtown of the city. It was one of Sally’s favorite places, due to loving the art, history, live-music, and food, all the culture that gathers so peacefully and productively in that one place.
She felt like it mirrored the happiness she had found. All the different parts of her life were finally fitting peacefully and productively together. There was no fighting, hardship, or negativity at all. It felt like Karma was finally rewarding her with beauty and wonder. They were moving into a phase of their lives that was going to be one of adventure and prosperity.
Full of love, happiness, and laughter coming as easily as breathing, the group of them huddled around a food truck when night came. Sally and Gabriel were joined at the hip since she had laughed a little too hard and lost her balance with the uneven sidewalk and grabbed his shoulder quickly. When their food was ready, they all moved to the side and took the time to enjoy the eclectic dishes they had ordered.
Enjoying the practice of people watching, Sally looks up and down the cobblestone street. She has to do a double take when glancing at the sidewalk in front of a large bar, recognizing a face from a thicket of memories she’d long since shoved away. David, her David, her first love was right there, staring back at her, looking the worst she’d ever seen him. Unshaven, messy hair, clothes wrinkled and unkempt, sunken eyes, hand tight around a beer. Even surrounded by all his friends, he is alone.
Blinking hard, Sally forces herself to draw her attention away from him and to her maid-of-honor who is asking questions about the wedding cake. As quickly as that conversation started, the image and thoughts of David slipped away just as quickly.
The most important nine months of Sally’s life come to an abrupt climax when they are visiting with her parents. Sally and Gabriel had planned to visit at that time, knowing having family around to help with the new baby would relieve some of the stress and pressure. It would give them the support they needed and let everyone feel the joy of the miraculous occasion.
And after all is said and done, some thirteen hours later, early into the morning, Sally sighs with such relief, happiness, joy and wonder, feeling bliss, support, and love. All the intense hormones make everything on this wonderful night positive, beautiful, and as wondrous as the stars above.
Gabriel sits with her, his eyes on the tv even though he isn’t really watching, his hand absentmindedly going up and down her arm. Very sleepy, Sally is comfortable in the hospital bed and remembers she packed herself some sweets in her purse.
“Hey love?” she asks softly.
“Can you hand me my purse?”
He shrugs and turns to pull it off the table behind him and gently places it on the sheets next to her leg. She shifts gently to sit a little forward and then starts digging around in the bag. And though she finds the little candies she’d left herself and her special necklace (that was given to her by Gabe, a rose that would never die - like their love, that she wore every day), she noticed that The Envelope was missing.
Her mind instantly flashes to the memory of when she’d written the letter, her heart racing and confusion spreading. She’d written the letter a year after their wedding day and it had been to her ex, David Green. He had been her first love and she had found that there was nothing wrong with that - to find yourself loving more than one person was actually a gift. For instance, now she feels a whole new kind of love for her little baby and she is so overwhelmed she wants to cry.
In the letter to David, she explains the love idea, but she also hopes to give him some sort of closure; to make sure that he understands he wasn’t wrong, or bad, or not enough…he just wasn’t right for Her. It was that simple. It really wasn’t about him at all, as cliche that may sound. It had been about her truly finding herself and the life she wanted to live. She had kept the letter in her purse knowing one day the stars would align, that fate would look down upon them, and the letter would be given to him personally.
So, viscously confused, Sally looks to her husband, “Gabriel?”
He focuses in on her, knowing his full name means it’s serious. “What’s wrong?”
“Where’s…where is…where’s the letter?!”
His furrowed brows soften and he breathes deeply. “He was in the lobby… when we got here. He was in the lobby, so I gave it to him. It just… seemed the right thing to do.”
“He was here? Was he okay?”
It seems they share the thought that ‘remember, this man had been important to both of us and brought us together’ and Gabe is quick to reassure her, “He was fine. He was with some guy… maybe his brother-in-law.”
Gabe would only say that if he’d seen a ring. ‘Well good,’ Sally thinks, ‘at least he’s married’. “Did he look okay?” she asks softly, thinking of the last time she’d seen him.
“Wonderful, really. Older, sure, but happy, healthy… nothing seemed the matter.”
She nods and leans into her pillows. She reaches for her husband's hand and holds it tight. There was a part of her that wondered if this meant fate was bringing David back into their lives… if that was a good thing or if she should be worried. But almost as if her guardian angel found this to be too stressful for her, she is overcome with sleepiness. A few deep breaths, eyelids heavy, and then it was a long time before she thought of her first love again.
It seemed fate had stuck with the choice she made all those years ago: David Green never came back into Sally’s life. After some time, she and Gabriel agree it is for the better. That some things need to be laid to rest and some things need to stay in their past. Why question fate now, anyway? After all the rewards they had been given in their lives. All the success, adventure, and wonder, all the passion and happiness. With their amazing careers, their beautiful family; their children are so talented, smart, and impressive. There is just too much to be focused in the present and then in the future; there are things just too important, the past stays undisturbed.
Time passed like a blinding shooting star. The children grew and married and turned into parents. Their children then grew and married and turned into parents. Leaving Sally and her husband, of this life and every life after, her soulmate and her truest love, with a huge and beautiful family when they reach almost ninety years old. Of course, there had been loss, challenges, and hardship, but when all those things make up the minority of your life, they barely seem noticeable at all. Sally recognizes that her life has been so glorious that there is not a single thing she can possibly regret.
And then the night came that she knew the fairy tale was at an end. She isn’t sad or is worried. She isn’t even scared. Wrapped in her husband's arms she watches their last Autumn sunset. She has always been a women of spirit, of passion, of fire, but all those things can only last for so long.
Even more obviously, she knows this is the night because for the first time in many months, many years, she feels no aches, no pains, none of the normal elderly bullshit. She feels as young and beautiful and wonderful as she did the first time she’d slept in Gabriel's arms. And again, she listens to his heartbeat, wrapped so securely in his arms, and fitting so perfectly against his body. And just for those few last moments as they fall asleep, they are forever young, forever blissfully happy, forever in love.
Forever… for always, no matter what.
The End of String Three.