Everything about Adam seemed perfect. We spent sun soaked days at the beach jumping waves together and nights going to dinner and getting to know each other. I constantly pinched myself, unable to believe that I could possibly be this lucky. That the first one could actually be “THE ONE.” Before long Adam admitted that he felt it too. He was in love with me. On a night when the moon was in the sky and fireworks burst overhead he pulled a ring from his pocket and spoke of the future. He slipped it on my finger and I believed every word of it.
There is something about the way that first love catches you off guard that makes it seem magical and simple. As you first experience the sensation of butterflies deep within you find yourself not just singing along to love songs on the radio, but relating to them. Then, before long: flowers, doors being held open and waking up in your partners arms leaves you convinced that you are the only person in the world who can possibly feel the way you do and you are content that it will only get better.
I was twenty-one when I met Adam and only days into an exchange program that had me living abroad. I had spent the high school and college years where girls typically experience first love first love practically “dating” the company that offered the exchange program. Trying to get them to notice and even like me. So as the dream became reality it felt good to finally let my hair down and relax. I wasn’t too far into the year long exchange program when my eyes first connected with Adam’s across a restricted staff area. Before I knew it I was falling for him, and not only was I falling for him but I was falling fast and hard.
The exchange program ended only a few weeks after we got engaged and I was forced to move home. Adam promised me it would only be temporary and that before I knew it we would be together forever. I believed him and flew home with the ring tucked in my pocket. He hadn’t even met my parents yet and it all seemed a bit irrational, but everyone said that this was how love felt.
When Adam and I started to miss each others calls it seemed normal. I convinced myself that he was likely working extra hours like I was; money to pay for airfare and long distance had to come from somewhere.
Then, one night, just as I was about to fall asleep he called. His number flashed on my call display and my desired to hear his voice quickly outweighed the minutes of sleep I knew I was giving up. I was excited to talk with him. Imagining that we would talk about the engagement party or that he would simply call to say I love you. He used to do that. I hadn’t expected what he was about to say.
“Hey baby, I kinda need to talk to you about something. God how do I tell you this? Followed by a deep sigh and then “There is someone else.”
For a moment I said nothing. What is the appropriate response to that? Then when I finally able to breathe again I was frantic. “I thought you loved me? There is a ring on my finger. Why do I have a ring on my finger if there is someone else?
He spoke “I never wanted to hurt you Kristen I promise.”
Too late! I was hurt, how could I possibly not be at the news that there was someone else.
“It was a mistake Kristen. It wasn’t supposed to …”
I cut him off, for a second I wanted the upper hand in the conversation. I didn’t care about the excuse and there appeared to be a glimmer of hope. He had said it had been “a mistake.” Mistakes happened, you could work through them. I certainly wasn’t perfect. I had found myself looking at other guys, I hadn’t done anything but I had still looked so I was partially guilty myself.
“Kristen, I wish it was that easy, but its not” he said.
Then I realized I didn’t know who the third person in our relationship even was. I needed to know.
Who is it? Just tell me who she is dammit” I screamed as tears began to run down my face.
His voice dropped to almost a whisper “It’s Lexie” he said. Lexie was his roommate. “There is something else I have to tell you” he said. “She’s pregnant.”
I didn’t know what to say so I hung up. He called back, but I didn’t answer. I couldn’t.
Suddenly I knew what it felt like to be caught off guard. But it didn’t feel like anyone had described it feeling. I was in love right? This was supposed to be simple and magical. So why did I feel a sting like someone had ripped off a thousand band aids all at the same time.
The last time I flew down to Orlando to spend a week with him she had been there. She had even given me a hug at the airport when I flew home. My head was racing as I thought back to those last moments where I had seen them both. Had there been a bump when I hugged her? Would there have been a bump at however many weeks she would have been at the time? I didn’t know. I’ve never been pregnant and I was starting to wonder if I had ever even been in love.
I looked down at my shaking hand and there was the sparkling ring he had given me. I thought back to to the night he had slipped it on my finger. The night where he had easily convinced me that there was something magical about keeping it as “our little secret” for just a bit. Had he told her the same thing? That this mistake could be their “little secret.” If a baby wasn’t involved he probably wouldn’t have even told me.
Instantly I felt not butterflies deep within me but rage and ripped the ring off throwing it across the room. It seems almost unbelievable now but the damn thing actually ended up hitting the wall and landed in a still half packed suitcase on top of a picture I had printed of the three of us smiling the night he and I had gotten engaged. How was that even possible right? She was one of the only people who had known about our engagement. I hated everyone in the picture, including myself. How could I have possibly been so blind? The weekends where they had gone out of state with each other to watch football games. He didn’t even like football. There were instantly so many signs.
In the days and months after we broke up I found myself for the first time thankful that there was distance between Adam and I. The distance which had once been a barrier now allowed me the benefit of learning to live without him without the fear of running into him, or worse: them.
It hurt a lot. More than anything I had ever experienced. But I began to let myself feel love again. I went on dates, this time with a checklist in my head of warnings signs. I questioned flowers when they came, missed phone calls and then I began to allow myself to believe that I would one day I would allow myself to fall in love again.
Before long it happened, I found myself falling in love again. I met a guy at my office in Toronto and we went on simple dates where we sipped hot chocolate and held hands walking in the glow of the lights of the city. When I first spent the night at his place I convinced that I was again lovable when he surprised me sneaking up from behind and planting a kiss on my lips.