I’m just going to jump right back in so if you want the backstory read Part 1
“Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps . . . perhaps . . . love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.”
― L.M. Montgomery
The idea of Doolin was getting harder to ignore and it wasn’t helping that 1. the thing between him and the girl he liked had fizzled out and 2. he was going to be in town for the whole month of November. He had returned home from his seasonal job in North Carolina and was about to begin a new job working for a cruise line. He was stuck without a car (remember it was totaled just before the funeral) and most days I was just sitting home with my daughter. As hard as I tried to resist the urge, I found myself inventing reasons for us to hang out. I would see him active on Facebook and knowing full well that he was probably bored, I’d shoot him a message, “Hey, I’m taking Jocelyn to park/zoo/mall today, would you like to join?” More often than not, he took me up on it.
I told myself that I was just being friendly. I simply enjoyed his company. He was a friend, neither of us had anything else to do. Why wouldn’t we hang out? And when I wasn’t able to convince myself of that I just dismissed the feelings as whimsy. Just a nice thought. It was probably just part of the healing process. In fact, it was probably good for me to start imagining the possibility of someone else. That didn’t mean it was real. Definitely not real.
One morning we took Jocelyn to the park. Being uncomfortably pregnant at 8 months, I mostly just watched as Doolin ran around with Jocelyn. She was fascinated by the tunnel and quite content to just sit in the middle of it. So Doolin climbed up on top of it and began to play peek-a-boo on either side. Jocelyn *loved* this new game. I sat there watching this happy little scene unfold and a warmth began to build in my center and slowly wrap itself around my chest. I watched Doolin hopping from side to side looking down into the tunnel, listening to Jocelyn giggling in response and then it hit me… “Oh no. These feelings.. are real.”
I was determined to crush my crush but I had no will power when it came to keeping myself from making plans with him. And I couldn’t help but wonder if my friends were right. Did Doolin like me too? I didn’t have to wonder long. He quickly made it clear to me.
We went to the zoo one afternoon. It was the first time Jocelyn started to get excited about the animals which made the trip a lot of fun. Then when we were waiting in line for ice cream he started a conversation,
“So my mom asked about you.”
“Ya? What about?”
“Well she knows we’ve been spending a lot of time together so she started to ask if there was something going on between us, but I quickly nipped it in the bud.”
“Ya, I told her nothing was happening, that you’re just a friend. When she pressed I said ‘she’s Jon’s wife.’ And that was enough to stop her.”
The icing on the cake was when he said, “Thanks, buddy” when I dropped him off home.
Message received. Loud and clear. He was not remotely interested. Of course, he wasn’t. What guy would be interested in his friend’s 8-month pregnant widow? I shouldn’t have been thinking along those lines anyway. How could I possibly be entertaining such a notion so soon? I went from feeling stupid to feeling guilty and back again.
I resolved to let the crush go and just enjoy his friendship while he was home. It was really nice to have him around and he helped me through a couple important firsts. His presence was reassuring and he had become one of the few people I trusted to see behind the “strong widow” mask.
When Doolin left for his first cruise contract I had more or less settled in my heart that we were only ever going to be friends and nothing more. I would be giving birth to my son in less than a month and needed to focus my attention on my children. But the night of my son’s birth would bring Doolin to the front of my mind once more.
That night I had two incredibly vivid dreams. (I gave birth completely unmedicated so these dreams were not influenced by drugs in my system.) The first was of Jon. It was the most intense and realistic dream I had had of him as if God let him come back to me for a moment.
The second dream.. was about Doolin.
I was sitting down, hiding in the folds of the pulled back curtains on a huge stage in a large auditorium. I was going back and forth between staring at the stage seeing Jon performing there in my memory and sobbing into my hands. I started hearing the voices of family members and friends calling for me. Everyone was looking for me but I did not want to be found. Then I heard Doolin’s voice. He was getting closer. I saw him walk out onto the stage and begin looking around, occasionally calling for me. I didn’t want anyone to find me, but especially not Doolin. I wanted him to think of me as strong.. not the pathetic heap I was in that moment. I held my breath and hoped he wouldn’t find me. He walked by me and I thought I was in the clear until I heard his footsteps stop and turn around. The curtains shifted and suddlenly he was standing there looking down at me. Neither of us said a word but our eyes were locked on each other, mine a mix of fear and dispair and his full of compassion and.. something else. Time slowed for a moment and it was like he could see through me into my soul and knew exactly what I needed. Suddenly a voice called out, “Doolin, did you find her?” Without breaking eye contact he answered, “No, she’s not here. We should look somewhere else.” After a moment he whispered to me, “When you are ready, I’m coming back for you.” Then he arranged the curtains so I couldn’t be seen and walked away.
Sometimes I have dreams that come true. (I actually had had a vision come true for Doolin once before. I talk about it in the first couple paragraphs of this blog. ) I can tell my random dreams from the ones that have meaning. When I woke up from that dream at the hospital I knew it was significant. I could feel the weight of it in my heart. From that point on I couldn’t shake the idea of Doolin. Any time I tried to argue against my growing feelings a quiet thought would creep into the back of my mind, “What about that dream you had, on the night your son was born, just after the most powerful dream you’ve had of Jon… doesn’t that mean something that you dreamed of Doolin that night?”
Over the next couple months, Doolin and I began talking over facebook messenger on a regular basis. My son’s first night feeding was the same time Doolin was finished with his evening shift on the cruise. I often found myself talking to him long after Nathan had fallen back asleep. We talked about everything from the newest Supergirl episodes to the things we missed about married life. Sometimes the conversation ended with me certain he must like me, other times I was just as certain that he didn’t. I felt like a child plucking flower petals, “He loves me, he loves me not..” It was making me go insane.
A few weeks before Doolin was to return in the spring, I had a series of incredibly difficult situations and events hit me all at once. I’ll spare you the details and simply list them for you.
- I was accused of being a threat to someone’s marriage. Wives thinking young widows are out to steal husbands is an unfortunately common occurrence. This ordeal was particularly painful because it led to me losing my *only* social outlet.
- I hit my first Valentines Day and my first Wedding Anniversary without Jon.
- One of my blogs was plagiarized. Doolin was actually my white knight in this situation. It happened the night before taking Jocelyn to her first Disney trip for her second birthday. I had no time to deal with it so Doolin rallied some forces and fought that battle for me. (The lesser part of me wants to add her twitter handle here and let you all give her some more grief. What kind person rips off a widow word for word and then denies it? But I’ll be the bigger person lol)
- One of my parents came and told me that they were leaving the other.
That last one was the tipping point for me. I felt like when Jon died the floor had fallen out from under me and no matter how far or how fast I ran, everywhere I stepped the floor just kept falling. It had been nearly a year and I still hadn’t made it to solid ground. The only two stable places in my life had been my weekly game nights with friends and living at home with my parents. And I had lost both of those things in a matter of weeks.
After my parent left my room that night I immediately messaged Doolin. He could tell I was distraught so instead of keeping the conversation on facebook messenger he asked if he could call me over the ship’s wifi. That phone call was the first time I remember allowing myself to cry in front of anyone since Jon. I don’t remember much of what he said to me that night, but I remember the gentle tone of his voice and the feeling of comfort that came with it.
We spent a lot of time together during his spring visit and I was more conflicted than ever. Did he like me? Oh course not, he just sees me as “Jon’s wife”. And even *if* he did, how would it work between us? There were lots of obstacles we would have to overcome. Our pasts. My kids. His job. My faith. Were the issues we would have to overcome too much? Was it even right for me to like him? I didn’t have the answers to any of those questions.
I hit the first anniversary of Jon’s death during Doolin’s visit. I wanted to get out of the house that night so I asked a group of friends to meet me at the river for drinks. It was good to be around people who all knew and loved Jon too. We kept the conversation light until I had just enough alcohol to lower my filter and I started to cry. I’m pretty sure it was the first any of them saw me break down. I was so embarrassed but it took me some time to regain my composure. After I got home that night Doolin messaged me to see if I was ok. I told him that what I really needed was a really long hug and he promised to give me one.
It would be another week before that hug came. Doolin had spent the weekend visiting some friends. Once he came back we ended up on the river again. After we each had a drink he suggested we take a walk along the docks. There was a nice breeze and the night sky was absolutely breathtaking thanks to a supermoon. We stopped at the end of the dock and started talking about our lives. How neither of us ended up where we thought we were going to be and neither of us knew where we were going next.
We had both been looking out over the water. I turned and looked at him and said, “sometimes all you can do is make the best choice you can with what you have in front of you.” He didn’t respond but didn’t break eye contact either. We stood in silence for a moment with nothing but the soft sounds of the river below us. Neither of us looked away from each other and I couldn’t help but remember the dream I had had some months before. Something was happening under the surface and I knew we both felt it. I thought he might kiss me until he abruptly broke the tension, “You know, I just remembered. I never gave you that hug.” I smiled up at him. Ya, he definitely felt it too. I stepped into his embrace and relax into him. I let him hold me as long as he was willing and simply enjoyed being wrapped up in his arms. We didn’t say anything when he released me just quietly walked back down the dock.
I wasn’t going to do it then. But I decided, before he left, I was going to tell him how I felt. I couldn’t wait through another 3-month contract wondering. As much as it terrified me that I would lose his friendship if I was wrong… I needed to know.
I know, I know, *another* cliff hanger. There will be one more part to this story. If it makes you feel any better… Doolin will be co-writing the next one with me ❤
1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient