Angel could hardly wait to call her best friend to share her news. Her heart was so full of excitement and love that she could not hold it in one minute more. She walked more quickly on her way home to the phone. It was a chilly night, the stars were twinkling brightly overhead and she was not the least bit uncomfortable. When the heart is filled with the warmth of complete committed love, perhaps winter could have little if any effect.
Just over a year ago Angel and Burt had met at a church function. He had asked her out after only a few hours of conversation. The man had never known a woman quite like this one. She was straight forward, not coy, honest to a fault and very attractive. Burt did not like skinny woman, not at all. He loved how voluptuous Angel was as a bonus to all the other good qualities she offered. For her part, Angel was blown away by the comfort she felt when she was in Burt's company. They were the same height, if she was wearing her usual 2 inch sensible shoes and she guessed they weighed nearly the same, as well. He was not a big man nor was she a big woman, but neither of them would be asked to model anytime soon. Their friends would say they were the perfect little round couple, but not to their faces. No one would ever want to hurt either of them or cause them any discomfort. Funny thing though, they referred to each other with the same phrase, but only in private.
The first "I love you" had come from Burt after a lovely dinner and a long walk home about 4 months into their relationship. The weather had been mild and they were walking near the river on the boardwalk hand in hand when he stopped, turned to face her and simply said, "I love you. I plain and totally love you, Angel." Then he smiled at her and slowly kissed her full on the mouth while holding her as close to his body's full length as possible.
She was breathless. Speechless. Useless. Her legs were holding her up, but barely.
Somehow she whispered, "I love you right back."
Now she was scurrying on home to call Adriana and Marian to share her wonderful news. Burt had proposed a few hours ago. She had accepted and then they made love on his bed for the first time. He was incredibly gentle and loving and he accepted the fact that though she was 46 years of age he was her first, he had just deflowered the love of his life. What are the chances that two people who had never been married would meet in their forties, fall in love and now be planning their first wedding. It was a miracle. No two ways about it. As she reached to insert her key in the lock, she stopped to stare at the diamond on her left hand. WOW, it's real. I'm getting married!
Adriana was so happy for her friend. She adored Burt and so appreciated how much he brought to Angel's life. He always made time for Adriana and since she had also met a nice man, they had even double dated a few times. Things were working out well for both of them and Angel surely deserved such a wonderfully loving man. Marian would find out tomorrow because she had gone out with her fundraising group for a dinner meeting and wouldn't likely be in before midnight. Angel made Adriana promise not to tell her. She wanted to tell everyone herself.
After her shower, Adriana called Paul, her almost boyfriend. She shared the news with him. He was very happy for Angel and Burt. They talked a while longer and then warmly wished each other a good night after agreeing to meet for breakfast before work in the morning. Adriana always enjoyed meeting him in the morning because he was so enthusiastic and she needed that jump start some days. He made every day a little bit brighter. Adriana felt him becoming indispensable in her life and she rather liked that, though also feared it. She had been left so many times. Maybe, this time would be different.
All tucked in her bed for the night, TV playing at a low pitch, she began to think about Angel and Burt actually getting married. Her first thoughts were happy love and kisses thoughts. Her friend so deserved this and she was a big Burt fan. Then she remembered her other friend who fell in love. She tried not to remember anymore, but the thoughts flooded in. She couldn't stop them and they broke her heart and ate away at her happiness. Finally, she fell into a nightmarish sleep filled with so many regrets. So much pain. So much guilt.
Right after breakfast with Paul, Adriana rushed into her office and called her therapist. She hadn't talked with her for several months because all was going well. But today she must see her. Today they must dissect these thoughts and put them away. She needed to be happy for Angel and Burt. She needed to be happy with Paul. She prayed and then went quickly to work. The morning passed and lunch went without a hitch and then off she went to see her therapist, Dr. Leann Vinney. She knew everything and had been such a major factor in Adriana dealing with her 'others' in the past and they could NOT come out again, ever. Nipping it in the bud was the game plan and Dr. Vinney could help her do that. She prayed she could at any rate.
As the week played out, Angel and Adriana talked several times and had a quick lunch together once, but otherwise each had so many things going on they had not spent any time together. Marian had been over to Adriana's one evening and they talked briefly about the engagement and then Marian had a phone call and had to run off. Since the first night, Adriana had not had any difficulty with her thoughts, but she was not comfortable yet that they wouldn't return. She kept Dr. Vinney on her speed-dial and made bi-weekly appointments until she felt safe again.
She did not share any of this with anyone. Paul had no idea she was seeing Dr. Vinney and knew only that she had a nervous break-down a few years back which stemmed from years of neglect and abuse. He accepted it all with a grain of salt, but he did not know the details. She had wondered many times if she should be sharing this and now would discuss this with Dr. Vinney, as well. Deep inside, really deep, she knew if they were to have a relationship, he would have to know. They were getting very close to that point, or so she felt.
At dinner on Thursday night Paul asked her what was keeping her so preoccupied. She said, "Work, Angel's wedding, not seeing enough of my boyfriend." She had winked at him when she said that. Wondering if 'boyfriend' was okay to say.
"I miss seeing you, too. I only have a few more days on this project and then I'll be my old boring self again. This museum is a giant job and I want everything to go well. I have hired the best people in each area and now all I really need to do is get names on contracts and the work can begin in a few weeks. Then we will be working 45 hour weeks, but regular hours! Not so bad. Plenty of time for my little princess. I'll make it up to you, Baby. I will."
Paul was a General Contractor and had won the bid for a museum of natural history to be built with city funds and government grants in the city square right downtown. He was very excited about the job and so was everyone he was bringing on board. He was also very happy to notice she had called him her boyfriend. That was gold.
"It's all good. Really, it is. I've been a little swamped with my crafts the last few weeks trying to stock up for the spring craft shows. I really enjoy doing them, but have little time to produce while actually doing the shows, so it's been good for me to get at some of those. And of course, I want to be available for Angel and whatever she needs from me. You are the one who might have to take a back seat soon. Is that gonna be okay?"
"I'll sit in your back seat anytime!" They both laughed and then he added, "But I still think something else is going on in that pretty brain. Can I help?" It was a sincere offer and his caring about her was equally sincere. He was falling, if not already flat out in love with this woman. She was the polar opposite of his first wife. She had up and run off with a man from work after 12 years of marriage. Paul had always wanted babies and the day she left him, he bowed his head and said, "I understand now why we weren't able to have babies. Thank you, Lord. It is a blessing." She had been a whiner and a complainer almost from day one with Paul. He didn't work hard enough, or he worked too hard and was gone too long. He didn't make enough money and their house was in need of repairs and he didn't do enough around there to make her happy. He didn't make her happy in any aspect of their marriage with the one exception of the bedroom. She was satisfied and pleased with his sexual prowess. It wasn't enough to keep her there, though. She wanted more, much more. And she apparently went after it. They were divorced and Paul recovered rather quickly. Noticed, even, that his life was actually much better without her. How sad.
Now with Adriana he could see how life with a woman is really supposed to be. Each with their own life, but meshing together for all the happiness and sharing making everything better. They would be together a long time, he thought. He would even consider marriage again, when it felt right. It would feel right, soon, he surmised. When he thought of Adriana, he thought of love, he thought of kisses and he thought of the kind of life he had always expected to share. He was sure she was equally happy.
At home alone Adriana begins to ponder her decision months earlier to do something for someone in need. She has decided to sort of adopt a family. She has run across a few families with great need and much disappointment through her work at the hospital and one of them has come across her desk more than once. She read every file she could get about them and had been trying to figure out a way to help from behind the scenes. She would not allow them to know it was coming from her.
Her second idea, and she could well afford to do both, was to anonymously get money to Carmen, her old friend whom she had hurt grievously. Carmen had not been doing well financially and would never consider anything from Adriana as acceptable, but if she could get it to her anonymously, well, that would be a different story. Adriana felt it would be a bit like making penance for her unforgivable sin.
Falling in love with Paul had not kept her from carrying out these desires, quite the opposite. Knowing real happiness made her want to keep good on her word to herself even more. She needed to pay forward the incredible good will and second chances she had been given in her sordid past. The plans were well under way and she knew what and how to accomplish each task. Within the next month both of her personal programs would be in action and knowing that made her feel warm and worthy.
Calling Paul before falling asleep had become a habit. Somehow hearing his voice just before settling in for the night was very soothing. She slept much sounder after knowing he was still part of her world and that he was about to slip into slumber as well.
"I'm just crawling into bed and what are you doing?"
"I'm answering my phone to tell the prettiest girl I know good night." His voice was very quiet and almost a whisper.
"You are so sweet." Was she gushing?
"I know, you're a lucky girl."
Laughter, then silence. "Adriana, I have been thinking a lot about us." He stopped to wait for a response.
"And..." is all she could muster. He might be saying good-bye.
"I love you." It just fell out of his lips. No taking it back.
"You do? You love me?" What the hell? Why did she say that? She should have just whispered it back to him, it was certainly true.
"I do. I have known for a while that you are the one for me and I haven't known if you felt the same, but now, I know. I don't know why I know, I do know though." He laughed at himself. What a stupid sentence.
Slight giggle escaping her lips, "I love you, too. I have loved you since I first kissed you. I've been waiting for you to know!" The smile she was wearing now would stay all night.
"Adriana, good night. I don't want to ruin anything by running my mouth anymore. Just tell me again and hang up...okay? I love you, Baby Girl and good night."
"Paul, I love you, honestly love you. Good night."
They each hung up. The only thing missing from this LOVE was a good night KISS, but there would be many of those to come.
Many good night kisses and much good will from Adriana to people who needed a hand up. Her hand up.