Remember the 21-year-old girl from last time, looking back and wondering “What if sex hadn’t complicated our relationship?” Today it’s the guy’s turn. Even four years after they broke up, he can’t shake the memories of her… of them together.
And then a chance encounter leaves him wondering …
“I have to go …”I cut-off the old friend going on about nothing that interested me. Not with Bree standing on the sidewalk across the street, looking at me with… with what? Regret? Anger? Interest? I swung around hoping to connect with those brown eyes again. The air swirled heavy with snowflakes where she’d been just a minute or so ago, but she was gone.
In five days I’d head back to college for my last semester. So would she. I hadn’t seen her for so long. But ever since I’d gotten home on break, she’d been on my mind. It was so weird… Through all the family Christmas stuff, church services, and hanging out with friends, I couldn’t shake the memories of her and of us together all those years ago.
I knew I’d hurt her real bad when I broke it off our senior year. Practically killed me to break her heart like that, but I didn’t know what else to do. We were in way over our heads—I couldn’t see any other way out.
The end of high school couldn’t come fast enough after that. I wanted a new life in a new city, far away from the mistakes and memories of the past. The funny thing about memories though—they don’t care if you move away. They stick around anyway.
Originally we were supposed to go to the same college, but I knew that would be awful so I headed for the opposite side of the state. After a doozy of a freshman year—a miracle I didn’t flunk out—I buckled down and it all eventually worked out—the college part this is. Took a lot longer to wrangle my personal life back into shape.
Want to complicate your life real fast? Sleep with your high school girlfriend. Want to continue the insanity? Sleep around in college. Once you open the door to sex, your body and mind expect it to make regular appearances in your life. Man, I wished I’d understood all that before I slept with Bree. Sex totally messed with our relationship. And after that, I figured what was the point?
One of the guys at college—Jordan—married his high school sweetheart at the end of our sophomore year. They’d dated for three years but somehow managed to save sex for the wedding night. “How?” I asked cause I really wanted to know how people now a days could still do that. “A lot of prayer and honesty, iron-clad boundaries with absolutely no compromising and lots of friends checking up on us,” he’d explained.
“Well, it’s too late for me,” I’d admitted, the sting of regret sharp as a white-hot poker. Bree and I weren’t big on boundaries, but we specialized in compromising situations. And our friends knew nothing about our struggle cause that’s what we thought was best.
“Nah… really it’s not. Sure, there’ll never be another ‘first time’ but man, stop the casual sex. You deserve so much more than that.” I bristled at him calling what I’d been doing “casual sex” because that’s not the way I saw it. I wasn’t that kind of guy. But even while I tried to pretend my cavalier attitude toward relationships and sex was no big deal, I knew it wasn’t the way I wanted to live the rest of my life. The truth? I was miserable. And lonely.
Even after Jordan and his wife settled into married life, he kept trying to convince me it wasn’t too late to set a new course. He’d assured all us guys—some who were waiting, many like me who hadn’t—that the long wait, though incredibly difficult had been well worth it. And they seemed so happy despite super hectic schedules and not a lot of money. They were together and that was more than enough.
Would I ever have that? I didn’t see myself in a long-term relationship with any of the girls I’d dated in college. They were nice enough and everything, but the deep connection wasn’t there. I had no desire to be with any of them for the rest of my life. Yet, we’d joined our bodies in the most intimate experience possible, and each time when I wanted out, those invisible physical ties complicated the situation a thousand fold.
As much as I hated it—like some crazy automatic thing I could’t control—I found myself comparing every girl, every relationship to Bree. Which really ticked me off. She was history. We were history.
I’d finally wised up and distanced myself from sex. Last summer I avoided the friends who would push me toward that way of life. When senior year began, I made a point of hanging out in groups and getting involved in a church near campus. I showed up at Jordan’s often where others who didn’t buy into the “everyone’s doin’ it” excuse hung out. Kind of an impromptu support group.
I’d squashed the memories, the feelings, the guilt from my relationship with Bree into a cold, hard box buried deep inside me. But that box burst open when I saw her, and the intense emotions flooded through me all over again. The image of her on the sidewalk permanently engraved itself in my mind. No question our gaze had connected for too long for it to mean nothing. Did I want it to mean something? Pretty sure I did. But did she?
One thing was for sure. I owed her a long-overdue apology. Somehow her cell number had survived three phone changes over the years. I remembered not deleting it when we broke up just to prove to myself that I cared so little, that it wouldn’t bother me if her number stayed there forever. What an idiot.
She owed me nothing. But since I’d ended it, I felt I owed it to both of us to put out a feeler.
It was a long shot. Still, adrenaline pumped through me at even the slightest possibility of another chance.
Was nice to see you too.
I stared at her response. Positive and pretty quick. So I pushed on.
I’m really sorry about all that happened between us.
The phone was silent in my waiting hand. Sweat formed across my palm. Endless seconds ticked by. My stomach knotted.
I heaved out the breath I must have been holding and sucked in another. Go for it.
You have time to talk before you head back to school?
I’d like that.
A jolt like an electric shock zinged through me. All the stuff I wanted to say to her raced through my head.
I never meant to hurt you. I never stopped thinking about you.
I tried to reign in the hope surging through me. Maybe we needed closure and nothing more. But just maybe we’d get another shot. My thoughts continued to race.
…is there a chance we could try again? And do it right this time?
Maybe you’re like Bree or Brandon–not proud of your past but committed to wiser choices in the future. Setting a new course is tough. But it’s worth it. Surround yourself with people who will support you and hold you accountable.
Don’t let the past make today’s or tomorrow’s choices.
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