"Lord, please send me someone to love that will love me back ..."
This was my morning and nightly prayer. I bargained with God, promising that I would forever work at being the best wife and mother that I could be if He would just please send me someone to love that would love me in return.
I found a small white rock with "Love" etched and color-filled in gold. I put it by the radio in the bathroom and focused on it each morning. The rock was my muse ... my mantra ... whatever they call it. It was simple, direct and exactly what I wanted. Love.
I had just broken up with Nate. I had done all I could for two years to try to make him love me. I cooked for him, cleaned for him, dressed for him, and entertained for him. I even went to the extent of getting hair extensions and I purchased a "how to" book on make-up. Although I never mastered false eyelashes, I gave it a good try every morning. On winter days I would have a fire in the fireplace when Nate walked through the door after work. He was always starving by the time he got home and really enjoyed himself when I had what we called a "pre-meal" ready for him while he waited for me to prepare dinner. The list grew and grew until I found myself putting in a full day of work, racing home to walk the dog, get a fire started, put the right music on, prepare and display his "pre-meal", set the table, have dinner in the oven and a beer freshly cracked and ready when he walked through the door. Daily. But no matter what I did, it was never enough. The nicest compliments I remember getting from him were; "Eh, they did a good job on you", after I had my hair done for his brother's wedding, and his buddy let it slip once that Nate said I was a good cook. "Oh – he does like my cooking," I thought. Yeah!
One day I saw things clearly and I put an abrupt end to the relationship. I felt insignificant more than I felt loved and I just couldn't do it anymore. I cried for months. I didn't know what to do with myself. My whole world revolved around pleasing Nate, and now that was over. My aunt said it best, one simple word, heartbroken. Looking back now, I wonder if perhaps it was exhaustion. I worked my butt off to please Nate and never succeeded.
Going to the gym by 6:00 am for an hour of cardio, a full day at the office, back to the gym to workout with my trainer, and then to my mother's house for dinner became my new daily routine.
My mom lives directly across the street from me. Our driveways align. Yes, a rather odd situation, but it works great for both of us. I was exhausted by the time my day was over and walking across the street was the most energy I could muster in the evening. Mom made dinner and afterward we retreated to the porch. We solved the world's problems and I cried over Nate every night for longer than I care to admit. I was so lonely and so broken.
Mom's advice to mend my broken heart was always the same. "God has a plan for you. Stop trying to make things happen, let God drive. God's dreams are bigger than yours." She kept pushing for me to get out there and to be positive. "God is with you and good things will happen. Be patient, your turn is coming." Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay Mom.
"Lord, so far my choices haven't worked out so well. I'm letting you take the wheel; you drive. Please send me someone to love," I added to my daily prayer.
I very reluctantly signed up for Match.com. Ugh. I never thought I'd have to do this, but I did. After solving the world's problems one evening, I broke the embarrassing news to my mother. She was thrilled that not only did I make the effort, but I had already been on two dates. "Why didn't you tell me? Where did you go? What did you wear? Were they nice?" My mother lives in what my dad referred to as "Sara Land". I've heard it's a lovely place. All is simple and everything is pretty. I hated to have to disappoint her with the non-"Sara Land" truth.
Match.com #1 was a lunch date. He couldn't keep his hands to himself and asked if I wanted to go and make out in his car afterwards. I didn't want to.
Match.com #2 and I met at an elegant four-star restaurant. I expected fine dining with a gentleman. Unfortunately, he turned out to be loud, drunk, and looked like the "I slept in this shirt" guy.
The first two experiences were insulting. Match.com #3 was quickly approaching and I was ready to bail. But somehow my mother managed to talk me into keeping the date for "just coffee".
* * *
Match.com #3 and I were emailing. He seemed to be sweet, charming and harmless. After several days of emails he made his move.
"Take a chance; and let's meet face to face. You decide where and when."
I thought, "Okay, why not? I could do a Sunday coffee date." I set the date, the time and chose Starbucks. It's a nice place and convenient. If we didn't hit it off and there was nothing in common to talk about, I could people watch, gulp my coffee, and run out.
We decided to meet at 11:00 am. I spent the morning leisurely getting ready for our first date. My heart wasn't in it, but I decided to make half an effort. It was another beautiful, warm summer day, so I decided to wear a black tank top with cream colored short shorts. My blonde, wavy hair fell just below my shoulder blades. No need for much makeup, just a hint of blush, mascara and lip gloss. I slid on a pair of heeled sandals, which put me at a hair under six foot one. There! I was on my way to meet another loser.
I arrived at Starbucks first, ordered my usual latte and decided to go to the second level. I positioned myself by the railing so I could see him when he entered. I only had to wait a few minutes and in he walked. He was handsome and muscular, stood about six foot four, and had dark hair and an angular face. He looked up and spotted me immediately. I smiled and his jaw hit the floor. I was pleased to think that I made a good first impression.
He proceeded to climb the stairs to greet me. "Hi, I'm Luke. You must be Kathryn Woods," he said in a soft spoken tone. He embraced me with a genuine hug; it felt good, fitting into him. It was obvious that he worked out. I could feel his muscular arms and his toned abs. Our conversation continued effortlessly.
Finally I said, "Why don't you get yourself a coffee?" He did and when he returned, he led me to a nearby table where we sipped our coffee and had no trouble conversing. He told me a little about himself. He owned a roofing company, loved music, produced and starred in a work out video, played in a band and served in the Marine Corps. Previously, he was in the mortgage business. To me, he sounded like an entrepreneur and was not afraid to work. Both of my parents started their own businesses, so I appreciate a man who thinks for himself.
Luke was not the usual guy trying to impress me with his title or possessions. His conversation revolved around me, which was certainly a switch. I shared a little about what is most important to me ... my family. I explained that I still find it difficult to talk about my dad. He was my hero. He was kind, gentle yet strong, always defended the underdog, and he loved his family fiercely and unconditionally. He suffered for nearly two years with brain cancer and had been in heaven almost eight.
I started working for my dad's company when I was thirteen years old. I did odd jobs, including stringing the secretary's paper clips together, just to annoy her. After I graduated from college, I worked full time with my dad. When he became ill, I stepped up. Since then, I have run the company with the help of my younger brother, Tom. My dad was one in a million and the void he has left in all of our lives is ever present.
Our family has always been very close. Working with Tom has brought us even closer. My brother Mike owns his own successful business, yet finds the time to always be available to us. My mother keeps the family together. Her faith, strength and devotion are undeniable.
Luke was amazed hearing about my family. His parents are divorced and both had remarried. Unfortunately, most of his family members had drifted apart. He hoped that one day his own family would be close like mine.
The morning flew by. Realizing the time and the fact that we were both a little hungry, Luke asked if I wanted to get a bite to eat. We walked down the street to a small restaurant, ordered lunch, and our conversation continued to be light and easy.
Our first "coffee date" was coming to a close around 3:00 pm. When I arrived at my mother's to pick up my dog, Pete, she was trying her best to be cool. I knew she was dying to know all the details, but patiently waited for me to offer them. I finally put her out of her misery and told her all about Luke. I had to admit that I had a nice time.
Mom and I sat on the deck with our iced tea and spent the remainder of the afternoon rehashing my date. It was a pleasant surprise that Luke looked like his picture on Match.com. He was 38 years old, which was perfect, just a couple years older than me, appeared to be a hard worker, his family lives in Medina, etc. I told Mom he seemed just a little nerdy, but very nice and soft spoken. He appeared to be a kind man. I'm a stickler for table manners and he passed the test. I kept wondering what was wrong with him. Does he have six toes, an alcohol problem, or is he married?
My mother hated it when I started looking for the negative. "Kathryn, give the guy a break! You just met him. Give it some time and see what develops. No one is asking you to make a lifelong commitment, just enjoy yourself for once. Stop driving the bus and see where God takes you." She was right.
My mother is my best friend. We don't always see eye to eye, but she gives me my space, loves me unconditionally and is always there to share in my joy and sorrow. Maybe I should listen to her once in a while. The older I become, the wiser she appears.
Luke and I were texting and emailing constantly since our Starbucks date. This guy was really nice and so thoughtful. He was distracting me from my work, but I loved the distraction.
* * *
Sade concert tickets went on sale in the spring. I immediately went for the best tickets available for Nate and me. The highly anticipated show was a couple of days away. I had a hot dress, floor seats, and no Nate. I just couldn't imagine attending this sexy show with my best friend, Lauren, as my date. At the risk of being overly forward, I sucked up my pride and invited Luke to take the other ticket. To keep up my oh so cool front, I lied and told him that my girlfriend had to cancel at the last minute, and I was "stuck" with an extra ticket. He quickly accepted my invitation.
For years, Sade had been one of my very favorites and this was the first time I knew of her being on tour. I was so excited for the show. I had been saving a dress for this special evening. It was a one shoulder, very fitted white number that I only had the courage to wear due to my "two-a-days" at the gym. I straightened my long hair and vamped up my makeup. With no hesitation I wore my new favorite four inch heels that put me at a whopping six foot one. Luke would still be three inches taller than me. Perfect!
I didn't know Luke well enough for him to pick me up. I suggested we meet at Charley's Grill for a cocktail and then walk to the show together.
I left my car with the valet and made my way to the restaurant. The front was all windows. I stood tall and sucked in my stomach as I walked by, just in case he was already there and could see me. I walked through the door and there he was. That tall, dark, handsome drink of water was sipping on a vodka and soda, looking in the opposite direction. I walked up to his side and put my hand through his arm as I greeted him. Luke gave me a kiss on the cheek and started laughing. He said he was watching me as I made my way to the restaurant. He told me that he thought to himself, "Stop staring – you are meeting someone here and it's rude to be staring at other women." He didn't realize that the woman he was staring at was me. Luke made me feel fabulous!
It was time to make our way to the concert. Luke offered me his arm and off we went. I loved walking beside him. For once I was noticeably shorter than my date. I handed Luke the tickets and made finding our seats his job. He was so impressed when the usher escorted us to our seats; tenth row on the floor. Shoot, I was impressed with me and my seats! Damn, I'm good!
When we weren't singing with Sade and dancing in our seats, we were talking, making fun of the people around us and laughing. We got closer as the show went on. My shoulder rested against his chest. Within a few songs we spoke so closely that I could feel his breath on my neck. I felt so comfortable being this close to him.
One of my favorite songs began to play, "By Your Side". My heart ached, my stomach flipped and my throat tightened. I felt my eyes begin to well. I was going to lose it. It hit me so unexpectedly at that moment that things with Nate were really over. I stepped in front of Luke, wrapped my arms around him, and buried my face in his shoulder. Somehow there I was, in the arms of someone new, thinking I should have been there with Nate. "How did this happen, how in the hell did I get here?" Somehow I felt more beautiful and safer than I ever did with Nate ... and I just met Luke. My thoughts were racing. Luke put his hands on either side of my face, guided my head back to kiss me, and slid his hands around my face and through my hair. I actually voiced my thoughts. "Oh, my weave! I have a weave," I stammered as I realized the shock and awe he might have felt as he raked through the beads of my extensions. Our sweet, romantic was cut short with my embarrassment and his confusion. Our first kiss ended in laughter.
After the show, we went around the corner for a glass of wine and a bite to eat. I was so comfortable with this man. Conversation came easily and I felt as though I had known him for years. I floated home on cloud nine. Could God have answered my prayers? Is this the man God has chosen for me to love? Has He chosen Luke to love and care for me? The next morning, I woke to a texted invitation that included a bottle of Pinot Noir.
I put Luke off for five days, though not more than a couple of hours went by that I didn't receive a text, email or phone call from Luke. I wanted to be sure I was thinking clearly, not diving into something just to heal the wounds left from Nate. I was reeling from the way I felt about Luke.
We decided that grilling on my patio would be a lovely way to add to the enjoyment of the Pinot he was saving. A flood of dread washed over me as soon as I agreed to the plan. Our plans were for a Thursday night and my old routine came to mind. Plan the menu, hit the grocery store, marinade something on my lunch break, rush home from work at five, straighten the house, sweep the patio, walk Pete, fix my hair, touch-up my makeup, time appetizers and light the grill ... ugh.
Luke interrupted the mock speed mental listing. "I'll bring dinner." What?! Please repeat that.... "I'll bring the food. Do you need me to bring charcoal? Do you need anything else while I'm out?" I couldn't believe it! I stopped at the grocery store anyway and bought ingredients for a salad and a side dish before I went home.
The house was straightened and the patio was ready for company. All I had to do was wait for Luke to arrive. I watched the clock all day in anticipation of seeing him again. He was going to arrive at any moment. Everything was ready, so I positioned myself in the kitchen to appear casually busy rather than overly anxious for his arrival. A wave of awkwardness, nerves and guilt rolled over me again. It should be Nate walking through my door. Oh shit ... what was I doing?
Pete barked wildly at the front door as Luke's car pulled into my driveway, startling me back into the moment. As I glanced out the front window, I saw my mom mowing her front lawn. Are you kidding me? Wonderful timing, mother! You couldn't have waited until tomorrow? Well, nothing I could do about it now. I suppose we were getting this all over with from the get-go. Yes. I live across the street from my mom and there she is. Yep, there she is ... this is my life! It's weird and I'm sure he will never want to see me ever again, but he can't say that I hid anything from him. So, oh well ... here goes nothing. Th anks Mom.