Here we are again, at the end of the week. Thanks for the patience. It's been a fun few days around here. I'm hoping to get this wrapped up with minimal blood loss and tears next week. If not, I can guarantee that it will be finished before the 20th of June when I leave for some vacation.
Anyway, grab a cup of coffee--maybe two, depending on how satisfying they are--and grab today's installment of the story. In case you missed the previous entries, check here:
Sorry if you read this earlier this morning when everything was all chunked up on the top. I forgot that I need to write in the returns now on the html. It should be fixed now.
The shower had left me feeling completely and utterly cleansed--and exhausted. Crashing into the bed back in the cottage, I slept through the remainder of the morning. Again, the birds and their insistent singing forced me awake sometime around noon. After a quick wash in the sink, I bustled about the cottage. I still had two and a half days on the rental agreement before I had to leave, and I was unsure of how to spend the remaining forty-eight hours. I was close to Canada and I thought briefly about driving up to Mars Hill so that I could actually be the first person to see the sunrise, but decided that the experience I had had this morning would be cheapened, almost ruined if I went chasing after the sunrise along the eastern seaboard. Instead, I decided to maybe tour the wilderness, maybe see the famed Mount Katahdin, and take a drive into Canada.
Luckily, I had grabbed the pack where I keep my passport, extra checks, emergency credit cards and the like before I left the house. My original plans were to maybe tour a few of the states along the eastern seaboard, mainly to escape the dull crush of urban and suburban living. Maybe, if I found my way to upstate New York or over to the urban sprawl around Lake Erie, I would stop off in Canada and hit a few casinos. Mostly, I just wanted to take my mind off the job and the ridiculousness that came with it.
Almost on cue, my phone rang. I looked at the number before tossing it back on the bed. Whatever emergency they were dealing with at work could wait--I was really beginning to enjoy not going in to the office every day.
I sat down on the corner of the bed with the folder, pulling from it those things I deemed most important in my life. As I slid the mass of papers from its home, one loose item fluttered to the ground, tumbling end over end as it fell to the ground. Noticing the odd motion out of the corner of my eye, I turned my attention to it, reaching to pick the object up from the floor. I could see that it was a photograph, the image side lying face down on the floor. For a moment, I tried to remember what picture was so important that I would keep it in here.
Then, I turned it over.
She had eyes that glittered a thousand shades of green when the sun caught them and burned with a smoky sexiness even in the dark. Her cheeks were made for smiling, and even when she was sad or angry, there was a smile hidden somewhere in her features. Her hair--long and blonde, with just enough curl to it that your hand would get caught while you ran your fingers through it--was like gold spun into silk. Her body was firm yet soft, with curves in all the right places. When she lay in my arms, it felt right. When my fingers interlaced with hers, it felt right. When she put her head on my chest and snuggled against me, it felt right.
The first day she stepped on the campus at Saint Alban's, I fell in love with her. I was a sophomore when she first came to school, and as luck would have it, she lived in the dorm next to mine. When I finally got the nerve to ask her to dinner one night, I was amazed that she said yes. After that day, I had eyes for no other woman on campus.
The weekend of my graduation from Saint Alban's was a bittersweet affair. I would finally be done with college; I would have the degree for which I worked so hard. I had already been accepted to business school at Notre Dame. My future looked bright and promising. Unfortunately, I was leaving Tori behind. She would not graduate for another year, and when she did, she would not be following me to South Bend. She had been accepted to medical school at Indiana, and while she would rotate through their South Bend campus, most of the Hoosier State would remain between us while we tried to wrap up schooling.
She stayed on campus on graduation weekend. The weekend was hectic as both my parents and her parents were on campus to see me get my diploma. It seemed as though, every time we turned around, there was another ceremony to go through, another function for us to attend. The night before graduation, there was a dance for the seniors and their families along with the alumni who came back for graduation.
Naturally, I planned on going to the dance with Tori while our parents went to dinner together. Tori looked absolutely stunning, her long hair framing her beautiful features, her eyes sparkling in the low light of the afternoon and her skin glowing in the sepia-stained sunlight. She wore a black dress and though her skin was pale, it complimented her eyes beautifully and made her hair almost glow with an inner radiance.
Before the dance, we walked around campus one last time before I would graduate in the morning. Her parents came with us, though we walked apart from them, hand-in-hand, enjoying the last few moments we still had together. As we walked through the wooded grotto one of Saint Alban's founding priests had constructed, her mom stopped us so that she could get a picture of us.
It was the photograph that had fluttered to the floor moments before. It was the photograph that I held now, the one at which I stared blankly while I replayed those memories through my head of my graduation weekend. When I would drive to see Tori--either at Saint Alban's or down at Indiana--I would leave this photograph on the dashboard to remind me why I was driving for hours to spend a little time with this woman.
I could not have loved her more.
Life after graduation was going to be tough, and I knew that it would take some adjustments. The first year of school, I would drive back to Saint Alban's on the weekends, and it was almost as if there was no distance between us. We made love passionately, lovingly. We laughed. We enjoyed each other's company, each other's presence.
It was similar when she got to Bloomington. We would fall into each other's arms on Friday night and tearily say our long, lingering good-byes on Sundays. Rarely, she could escape her commitments and come to visit me in South Bend. In between weekend visits, we would talk on the phone until late at night, or chat via computer. Though it was tough, things were working.
When she entered her second year of medical school, and just as I was beginning to finish my final year, Tori began to grow more distant. Often, she would cut our conversations short, telling me that she was exhausted. Sometimes, she would be too busy for our weekend visits. Though I missed her, I understood. I knew medical school was a tremendous commitment, and I was working on finishing up my degree and preparing to look for a job. Things were hectic, to say the least, for both of us. Our calls began to be less frequent; we would go weeks at a time without visiting one another. The long distance in our relationship was finally beginning to show.
I had managed to secure an interview with a firm in Indianapolis, and while that was still a fair distance from Bloomington, it was far closer than South Bend. After my interview, I went back to my hotel room feeling good about the entire day. I dialed Tori, thinking I could surprise her since I was just a short drive away.
"Hey, guess what," I said when she answered the phone.
"I dunno, what?"
"I'm in Indy. I had an interview, but I'm wrapped up. You up for a late dinner?"
There was a long pause and then finally I heard her say something incomprehensible.
"Hey, are you okay?" I pressed. I heard her sob. My throat began to tighten.
"I'm sorry, Rob," she said, her voice choked with emotion and barely above a whisper, "but I've met someone..."