I just stood there with my mouth open. I didn't know what to say and was trying to convince myself that I had to be wrong. I mean, Heather and I had been friends since we were kids! She was in my wedding! She said always encouraged me to work things out with Mandy. She had always been like one of the guys to me and knew way too much about me to be considered girlfriend material, right? So, yeah, I must be confused.
Heather pulled away from me as Chelsea walked up.
"Hey Sweety!" She said, wrapping her arms around my neck and kissing me.
"Heeeyyyy!" I said, trying to sound casual.
"Hey Heather! You coming to Darius' birthday dinner at 3 Forks tomorrow? It's my last night in town too" Chelsea said with a frown.
"Oh yeah, totally. I wouldn't miss it." Heather said also trying to sound casual, I could tell.
The next day Chelsea got up early and left my place so she could pack and I planned to pick her up at 7pm. I could tell it bothered her that we still hadn't had "the talk" but I needed to clear my head first.
I decided to head over to the church and go for a run with my brother. The church my brother pastor's is the same church we grew up in. So we knew that 2 times around the church campus was a mile and we had ran it too many times to count over the years. When we finished up, we sat down on the church steps.
"So Dan, have you made a decision about Mandy?" Caleb asked.
"I don't know, Man. I've got so many thoughts runnning around in my mind right now. Chelsea is aesome and really likes me and wants to continue dating after she leaves. And there is other stuff too-- I just don't know but I need to make a decision soon."
"Let me know if there is anything I can do." Caleb said.
"I appreciate it,Man. I will." I said.
"Well, I gotta go home and get supper. Wanna come over?" Caleb asked.
"No thanks though. Tell Jenn I said Hello. I have this dinner for Darius' birthday tonight."
"Oh, tell him we said Happy Birthday. I will see you later then."
When Caleb's car was out of sight, I still hadn't moved from the steps. I decided to pray. No one was around so I decided to talk to God out loud.
"Look, God. I realize you do things on your time. I also realize I hardly ever talk to you anymore and I generally fail you everyday. But, I also know you forgive me and though I take credit for most of my crewed up life, some of it is out of my control and I seriously don't know the right answer. So, if you could give me some clarity on this situation say, before 7pm tonight, that would help me out alot. Amen."
I paused for God's clarity but all I got was a bug in my mouth. Gagging and spitting, I decided God was busy dealing with bigger isssues. The church was unlocked so I went inside to rinse my mouth out.
I sat down in Caleb's chair in his office with my water to rest for a minute before going home. A picture on the bookshelf caught my eye. "Mt. Lebanon, 1994" was written on the bottom of the frame. It was of our last youth summer camp before we all went to college. There is Caleb with Kelly (Caleb's high school girlfriend that turned party girl the minute we got to UT),Mandy looking gorgeous sitting on my knee and Heather. . where was Heather?
Then I remembered Heather had taken the picture. She was always the one wanting to capture moments forever. Without Heather, we would probably have no record of those years. I stared at the picture for several minutes, smiling at it's memory. I realized that I used to not be able to look at this picture and smile because it reminded me that Mandy and I didn't work out. I tried with great effort not to ever go down memory lane in the last few years for the same reason.
But now, I could see it differently now. It was a great time in our life that came to an end and that was okay. It's still special. It's still inside of us. So, I bug in my mouth, huh God? That is how you give me answers? Next stop,Mandy's house.
"Oh, wow! Hey. I didn't know you were coming over?" Mandy said confused when she opened the door.
"I know,I'm sorry, I just really needed to come over and talk to you before I chicken out." I said.
Mandy started talking quickly. "Dan, I'm sorry about the Travis thing. I really meant to tell you. I just didn't know what to say or what to do and then he asked me to move with him and I said yes but---"
"Mandy, Mandy, Listen. It's okay, really." I said, cutting her off. I took her by the hand and sat her down on the couch.
"Look, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. And really I just want you to be happy. It used to infuriate me to think that any man could make you happier than I could. And I thought if that did happen, that meant that we never really loved each other which I wasn't willing to accept so I just got more and more angry. But, I get it now. If you go on and fall in love with someone else, it doesn't mean that we didn't really love each other. And well, it doesn't mean that we don't love each other now and will always love each other. It just means that what we had was for a briefer time than we had imagined. Life changed us for some reaon, I don't know why. But, I will always love you and be here for you if you ever need anything, I hope you know that."
Mandy was sobbing now and she said,"I feel the same way. That's what I meant when I said,'I loved you enough to let you go'. I knew I wasn't right for you anymore. I hated it but I knew it. I just want you to be happy too. It kills me to think of you not being happy or taken care of. I love you, Dan. I am just ready for us to close this chapeter in our lives, can we do that?"
"Yes, definitely. Let's call it a truce. If you marry Travis, I guess I will have to see you around anyway." I said, teasing her but still feeling sick at the idea of her marrying Travis.
"Oh no, Dan. I'm not marrying him. We broke up. He's not right for me. But I am moving. To Los Angeles. I'm gonna try and get back to acting again." She said, now smiling.
I held her and we cried. Then I kissed her with the same passion I had for her when we were 17. And then I said Good Bye.
I got to Cheslea's early and told her the truth. I really liked her but the timing wasn't right so I didn't think seeing each other long distance was a good idea. She was hurt but seemed to accept it. We hung out all night at Darius' party and had a great time except that I continued to look around for Heather who never showed.
Well, a surprise attack seemed to work with Mandy. Maybe it would for Heather too.
"Hey, I'm downstairs. Buzz me in." My text said.
I walked right inside after a quick knock which had been our standard practice in the past.
"You weren't at 3 Forks. What happened?" I said.
"Yeah, I just wasn't feeling up to it. I texted Darius and told him I would take him out next week and he was cool." She said sounding tired.
"Sooooo, uh, do you have something you want to say to me?" I said a bit too arrogantly.
"Uh, no." She said, looking hurt.
I cleared my throat and started again.
"When we were talking by your car the other night. .were you talking about me?" I said gently.
She started crying and nodded Yes.
"Don't cry." I said, pulling her to me. "It's not a bad thing."
"Yes it is, Dan. Us being together doesn't even make sense! I'm friends with your wife. Plus, tell me the truth, Dan. Have you ever even noticed me before? As a woman, I mean?
"Yes,I noticed you but-- I don't know." I said struggling to find the right words.
"Exactly. I'm foolish for allowing myself to feel this way about you. I know all too well what kind of a boyfriend and husband you are. That should send me running! Anyway, It's not like I don't the score, ya know? I know exactly how this game ends so please, don't say anymore. I'm already embarassed." She said, crying harder.
"Oh really, well, tell me how it ends then."
"It ends with one saying, 'Heather, I do love you . . .like a sister and it will never be more. You are just not what I am looking for."
"Well, that was close but not exactly." I said.
She seemed to be waiting for me to say I hated her.
"Heather, I have always loved you like a sister. Trust me, before today, you wouldn't have wanted any other love I said to dish out. I don't know if you are what I am looking for, that is true, but I am willling to try. No matter what happens in the end, you will be always be special to me. Nothing can take that away."
"What about Mandy?"
"She's moving to Los Angeles, we are cool and I really think that if she sees we are happy togehter, she will be supportive. I will explain more about that later."
"Gone back to school. I told her it just wouldn't work." I said, getting closer to Heather.
"Dan, we have to take this really slow. I mean, really slow. It's such a wierd beginning with all of our history, we can't rush things or it will get all messed up. I mean, in all seriouness, as much as I have wanted to be with you, the thought scares me. It sort of feels like I won't be able to believe you if you tell me you love me in any way other than friends. Does that make sense?"
"Yes it does. But, for now, can you just believe that there sincerely no other girl in the world that I want to go with to Cafe Brazil as much as you right now?" I said.
She smiled and my Heather was back.
"So, what are you saying is that you passionately want to have eggs and gueso right now." She said sarcastically.
"No, I'm saying I passionately want to have eggs and queso with you."
"That's good enough for me." Heather said.
And then we kissed and it I knew I had understood God's message for Big D.