Val explains moving on.
That's not to say that I never thought about him. I did, every now and then. I would sometimes have dreams about him, where he would appear in uniform, looking at me with the most haunting look in his eyes. I still received updates on him, which I politely and quietly listened to, but I never asked anymore. It was over and done with. And I was moving on to other things. Other things which included a new relationship with one of my long time best friends, Luke.
I had been hesitant at first because we'd been friends for years, and I wasn't sure how the transition from friendship to relationship would go. I discovered pretty quickly that it was, in fact, very easy. In no time at all, I was head over heels for him. Things were going great.
And then, the news.
Jenny was married. It had spontaneously happened while on a trip to some far off place with her boyfriend of 5 years. They had eloped. We were all shocked, and Jen was undoubtedly hurt at not being let in on the plans. But she held back her hurt feelings and only sounded vaguely bitter as she told me that Jenny was planning on having a reception back home in just a couple weeks. My sister made me pinky swear to save the date to go with her. Still reeling from a recent breakup, Jen was in a fragile state and needed my support to brave this exciting, happy and romantic gathering for her best friend. Not that I had asked, but my sister was quick to inform me that James would be absent as he was still serving time in the military. I was more than happy to oblige.
One day, as the date got closer, I received a message from an unknown number. I didn't have to know the number to recognize who it was. It said, "I'm coming home for the weekend to be with Jenny, I sincerely hope you'll be there. I'd love the chance to see you again."
I decided to be civil. I responded, shortly, and told him that Jen and I would both be making an appearance.
The day of, I felt like I was in a dream. I got ready quickly, called Luke to wish him a good day at work, and then ushered Jen into the car, and we were off. As we drove out to the reception hall, Jen filled me in on some news that I had apparently missed out on. She told me that James and his "wife" were soon to be exes. He finally broke, and couldn't take it anymore. Apparently he had been asking about me, and he was informed that I was now dating someone. Jen was sure to mention how hard James had apparently taken the news. I just scoffed and made a sarcastic comment about how he one-upped me by getting married.
And then, we arrived at the hall Jenny had reserved for her party. There were crowds of people, yet as I pulled into a spot, putting the car into park, I saw him. My body went into immediate panic mode. Jen stared at me, her eyes narrowed, waiting for me to say something. He stood with a couple of people, relatives I supposed, with his back towards us. I felt slightly unnerved that I had been able to identify him so quickly, just by seeing the back of his head, but there was no doubt in my mind. I knew in the pits of my soul that that was him. Jen stared at me, eyes narrowed as she tried to assess what was going on with me as I sat there clutching the steering wheel.
"He's right there," I pointed to the figure, and my voice seemed far away, as I continued, "I haven't seen him in 13 years." My heart began to pick up speed until it was pounding like it was moments from bursting out of my chest. Reality was setting in, and it was tying my stomach up in knots. Jen smiled encouragingly for a second and then grabbed her stuff, saying, "Just stick with me, it'll be fine." I fully intended on doing so. And yet as she gathered her things and began to head towards the building, I was still there, stuck in my seat, my hands clutching the wheel, and my seatbelt still fastened. Jen's patience vanished immediately and she lunged back into the car, hissing, "Val, unbuckle your belt and let's go. You'll be fine." I looked at her, daring her to feel the panic I was experiencing. In response she reached over and unbuckled the belt for me, giving my shoulder a shove towards my door. I gathered myself and pushed myself the rest of the way out of the car. I felt like I was floating as we walked up towards the party, people beginning to turn as we approached.
Jenny was standing near the entrance to the building, greeting people, and I let a sigh of relief. James was far out of sight, so I was able to skirt around him as we came up. The second Jenny spotted Jen and I though, she shrieked and came sprinting towards us. She grabbed us both into a hug and as soon as she let us go, she turned to me, giving me her signature coy Jenny look, and said, "Oooh hot mama, check out who's all grown up! Speaking of gorgeous and grown up, have you seen Jimmy yet? He's here!" I barely had time to respond before she grabbed our hands and began dragging us across the garden to where I was avoiding going the most. The whole way over, Jenny continued talking about her brother, saying how handsome he'd become since I'd last seen him, how things were pretty much shot to hell with him and "the wifey", and how he still asked about me constantly. She told me he was pretty heartbroken when he found out I was dating someone. I didn't get a word in and by the time she finished speaking, she pulled us to a stop, right before at the group of people where he stood, socializing.