To Love, To Lose
Second String Of Red
Two of Three
Gabriel had never really been a man of religion, but he did accept many theories that came along with spirituality. He understood science and where it fit, but found that spirituality could work perfectly with science and fill in the holes humans had yet to uncover. And one of these holes was a little too close for comfort, a little too personal… the hole left is his heart by not being with Sally Mae Goodwin.
How classic of him, to be jealous of his best friend, to covet his girlfriend…. To dream of her since the moment they met, and question all of his beliefs as to why they were not together. How stereotypical to be the odd man out, to be the third wheel, to be in this love triangle that was a straight line. He hated that part of himself, he really did, but for all the hate he had for himself, he had infinite love for her.
And this lazy afternoon was no exception. Waiting for the dinner reservation at the new Steampunk-themed restaurant, the three of them were spending time in the nearby arcade. They wandered around for a bit, then Sally found a game of interest. Just beyond the Doodle Jump arcade machine, Gabriel played two games of air-hockey with David. But it was too easy, made for kids, so they stopped and leaned on the edge of the table to watch Sally as she had her fun.
She was honestly the cutest, most selfless human being he’d ever met and as he watches her the monster in his heart rears its head. Her existence seems necessary to complete his and he would rather waste his life pretending to be content just being her friend than have to forget her for one whole minute. His smile is soft and unstoppable - uncontrollable when he is with her.
He sees David shift his position out of the corner of his eye, then hears him heave a sigh. “She’s going to fall in love with you,” David says absently.
Gabriel perception slows. His heart, his breathing, his mind - time itself seems to slow as he tries to wrap his head around the statement. His smile is gone and his eyes force themselves to meet David’s. “... What?”
David lets out a laugh along with a grimace. His arms are wrapped tight around his chest and his right hand gestures to Sally. “Next time she wins the game, notice who she’s looking at…. Who she’s showing off to.” And just as he finishes, the game’s winning bells goes off and she turns around to look only at Gabriel. All the happiness and love in her eyes are only meant to meet his gaze.
Gabriel shifts, not knowing what to make of this. He didn’t trust his judgement, his heart, his mind…. But if David - the practical, atheist, science-minded, straight-forward man realizes something as life-changing as this maybe there is something to it. It frightens him. Gabriel thinks surely David is about to hit him or excommunicate them from his life.
But David does nothing… just watches his girlfriend play her game. Taking his time… it seems time is needed to process the revelation. After a few minutes, David says in monotone “Just take good care of her, okay? I’ll let her come to the decision in her own time. But... just take good care of her.”
Gabriel nods quickly. If David is right, if this was really true, he would get all he ever wanted.
Anxiously awaiting The Day, it was hard for Gabriel to stay in the Friend zone. He subtly flirted to make sure she was in fact her interested and comfortable with hi,. Over several months, the now obviously inevitable change happens slowly. Sally stops talking about long term plans with David, stops posting about him on her social media, and then stops talking about David all together when she is with Gabriel. She didn’t do these things maliciously or vindictively. It was simply because he moved to the back of her mind and then left her mind all together. It seemed to Gabriel that Sally Mae was so focused and happy when she was with him that he eclipsed David from her mind and heart.
Gabriel is anxious and nervous, but also very impatient. He has to resist the urge to tell her how he feels, because he knows David was right. She needs to come to this decision on her own. But then when her summer semester is coming to a close and she has a few weeks before she moves on to University for the Fall, she lounges with Gabriel and makes plans with him.
Future plans, private plans, plans that could have been seen in a dark light, but this was Sally….She could not cheat of David; she would not do something so hurtful. No, she just wants to make plans with the person that makes her happy. Was that bad? Gabriel couldn’t truly answer that, his personal bias arguing that it wasn’t at all. Gabriel notices that he is starting to cause confusion and internal tension in Sally and he doesn’t like that at all. It inspires hope that the Day might be coming soon, but he also knows the decision will cause Sally pain.
Even with all the hoping and impatience and mental planning, The Day seems to come unexpectedly to Gabriel and he awakens to a call from David, whom he hadn’t spoken to in weeks. “Hello?” he answers nervously.
He hears a huffed exhale. “She is going to call you….” David says slowly. “She is going to call you in a few minutes to say,” an inhale, his voice is still impassive, “to say that she broke up with me and she needs you to pick her up.” A pause and then, “Bring food okay? She loves those dollar chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s but fries or onion rings and a cookie dough shake from Steak’n’Shake. She won’t eat unless food is in front of her - she’ll tell you she’s not hungry, so just show up with it.” As if Gabriel doesn’t know these things already...
He wants to give some sort of reply but this was his best friend of five years and this was their goodbye. Gabriel clears his throat, “Are you-” he tries.
But David abruptly cuts him off “Just show up,” and hangs up.
Heart pounding, mind racing, Gabriel stares at the phone’s black screen. Just waiting… waiting for Sally’s little picture to pop up so he can answer as quickly as possible. First ring and he was ready, phone already to his ear, “Hey….”
They speak for a few minutes and she does in fact relate that they broke up and she needs Gabriel. She says she needs him to pick her up, but she really just needs him. The call is ended even though Gabriel can tell she doesn’t want to hang up and wonders what she’s going to pack or what David is going to say. Very anxious, Gabriel hurries to get his shoes, wallet, and keys, to get all the food she will need, but also stops in to the local drug store to pick up her favorite: pink roses and a little brown teddy bear.
It is now his job to protect her, to keep her safe, healthy, and happy. Happiness was the most important factor and that’s all he wants for her.
Neither Gabriel nor Sally go back to the apartment… it is selfish of them, maybe even cruel, but they ask their friends and family to get all of Sally’s belongings. To Gabriel, there was no reason to cause Sally the harm, distress, and pain that would be caused by going back there. He also made the choice not to go to the apartment because there was no way around the fact that he and David could not be friends anymore. David is now someone they used to know.
Being with Sally is better than he ever dreamed. His gut feelings of what their lives could be together had just been the tip of the iceberg. They are made of the same star dust; are so like-minded they fit together like perfect puzzle pieces. It does not take them long to fall into a wonderfully perfect rhythm. It does not take them long to realize they are truly meant to be. And it does not take Gabriel long to get down on one knee and ask her the question he has waited years to ask: “Will you marry me?”
Tears of joy, a smile from Heaven. Sally’s love and passion apparent on her face, exuding a blinding and all-encompassing light. She immediately exclaims “Yes!” as she tackles him to the floor in pure joy.
In celebration they invite their friends and family to go to one of the engaged couple’s favorite places - the historic downtown district of the city. Brick townhouses covered in ivy with hidden gardens; cobble streets with pop-up artists and food vendors on the sidewalks; huge trees older than the city itself that change with the seasons, now in a brilliant display of Autumn. The buildings hold bars, pubs, restaurants, art galleries, high-end clothing stores, new age shops, and bookstores ranging from rare, second-hand, and chain. It is a place where conversation never ends, where stomachs never go empty, where day turns to evening turns to night without a second thought.
Gabriel and Sally are rarely separated and are so high on love that it seems nothing can go wrong or bring them down. While buying dinner at a food truck, Gabriel’s best-man-to-be makes Sally laugh so hard she snorts and stumbles on the uneven sidewalk, grabbing Gabriel’s shoulder for balance.
Things settle and everyone moves to the side of the truck to start their meal. Gabriel notices Sally looking around with a beautiful content smile on her face. In the same moment his friend asks him something about the wedding, he notices her brows furrow as she’s looking over his shoulder. He turns to check behind him but sees nothing of consequence and by the time Gabriel can look back to Sally, she’s contentedly chatting up her maid-of-honor-to-be.It must have been nothing.
Many happily married years go by and then a very important nine months abruptly come to an end. They had been visiting Sally’s parents in central Florida when her water broke. Gabriel and Sally were hurriedly shuffled into the back of her parents’ car and dropped off right at the ER doors. Sally waddling, Gabriel calling for a nurse and wheelchair, they were greeted by both and hurried into the hospital. The nurse explained they were just going to check Sally’s vitals and dilation and then move her into the other part of the hospital. Nodding, Gabriel waits to be handed paperwork and hopes that some of the family would be in soon - not just for his wife’s sake but for his own.
Looking around desperately, as if his fear would magically make his in-laws appear, he comes across a face he recognizes. An older version of a face he used to know. “David?” he asks with furrowed brows, “David Green?” he old best friend… his wife’s ex.
He was looking in Sally’s direction but his eyes did meet Gabriels. “Yeah….”
‘Damn, what are the chances….’ Gabriel thinks. ‘After everything that has happened… after all this time….’ He looks over David who has seemed to age well He has the same thoughtful eyes and strong build, the same straight-forward-don’t-fuck-with-me stance but with more wrinkles around his eyes and gray streaks in his hair. To Gabriel’s relief, he notices a wedding ring. His mind sparking with all sorts of thoughts and feelings and memories, Gabriel raises his hand to David, “Hold on a second, okay?” and then he rushes off to find his wife.
A long time ago, a year or so after they had been married, Sally had written a letter for David. And though some friends and family knew where to find him, she shook her head and replied, “No…I’ll do it when the time is right.” It seemed to Gabriel this was the time. She had always kept the letter in her purse and she was so directacted by the nurses that she didn’t even notice her husband come and go.
Meeting David back in the waiting area, he hands the letter over. “I don’t know what it says,” he explains honestly. “But it’s always in her purse just in case. It’s for you,” and he hands the thick envelope over.
Gabriel feels a tug at his heart, a churn in his gut that there was more that needed to be said. That surely, even after all this time, David deserves some sort of closure. But selfishly, Gabriel wants to know that David is truly alright, has truly moved on, that he ended up happy. But before anything else can be said, the nurse calls for the father-to-be.
With a small smile, David raises the letter and nods. “Go.”
Gabriel nods back and a very small part of him hopes that maybe their long lost friend will come back to them.
David never did come back into Gabriel and Sally’s lives. In the end the beautiful, in love, and brilliantly happy couple agreed that it was for the best. The couple never questioned fate, having been so rewarded in their full lives. Gabriel was an extremely successful entrepreneur in the technology and development field while Sally finally got into the swing of writing and publishing and became an internet sensation. And their kids! Their three children; smart, beautiful, talented. Gabriel and Sally agreed all three of them would change the world. David may have been a thought once or twice shared in private, but he faded away just like every other irrelevant memory.
Children turn into parents who then turn into grandparents leaving Gabriel and Sally with a huge loving family in their eighty years of life. The loss of pets, the loss of friends, the loss of time was hard to accept. But in the end their life had been so full, so beautiful, so adventurous, neither of them regretted a thing.
One quiet night came where they both felt a change in the wind. Sitting on their wrap-around porch, relaxing on their swinging bench, the elderly couple watches the sun settle. Gabriel had always been a man interested in the duality of science and spirit and as he held his wife against his chest he knew…. Just as he had know he loved Sally with all his heart, just as he had know Sally was meant to be his, he knew that tonight the sun was going to set in more ways than one.
It seemed Sally seemed to feel it too because for the first night in many years she seemed to feel no pain… no need for the specifics of their bed and piles of pillows. They could lay together, in each other's arms, with the beautiful Autumn night air washing in from the open windows. It was like they were young again. Young and beautiful, blissfully happy and in love.
And for them, Death came as easy, and painless, as falling asleep.
The End of String Two.