I calmly strode into the restaurant and made my way toward the source of the query.
We exchanged pleasantries, and I realized quickly: I am now sitting next to the person who not only shared James’ life for the past almost twenty years, but who is also the same person that as a result of my actions, along with her husband, was now forced to start a new life. A single life.
I sat down. I immediately flagged down the bartender.
We turned to look at one another, taking stock. Jessica was lithe and tall. Long legs, Small waist, warm smile, casual demeanor. I immediately warmed to her. She made me feel comfortable, regardless of the situation we now found ourselves in. I couldn’t help but notice that she seemed so laid-back. She was so relaxed.
Um, hello? I AM WITH YOUR HUSBAND NOW. Why are you smiling and laughing?
We discussed “important ” items, such as manicures, pedicures, hairstylists, and spray tans. Not once during our conversation did either of us seem at a loss for words. We were eager to test the waters. We wanted to interact directly. We were both curious about the other person.
My Cosmopolitan arrived. I took a long, slow, deliberate drink.
“We need these, don’t we?” Jessica commented.
I turned to her and smiled. “Cheers.” I replied.
Before we could talk further, James arrived. He pulled up a chair at the bar and greeted us both. Again, no awkwardness. No searching for the right thing to say. I immediately noted the comfortable feel between two people who have shared almost two decades together. I sat in between them and enjoyed the verbal volley.
“I didn’t know you liked Manhattans?” James offered to Jessica.
“I didn’t either, but I know now.”
Things change, including drink preferences.
Our conversation continued well beyond our reservation time. Food wasn’t the priority. The three of us all in the same room was more important than a meal.
Eventually, we were seated and dinner commenced. More chat. More stories. More banter. More insight. Jessica shared details about her new single life. James shared details of our brief time together thus far. I shared details about where I had come from, and the person with whom, up until recent months, I had shared a life with.
Another round of cocktails arrived.
We all raised our glasses.
“To us!” we proclaimed in unison.
The evening progressed, and with each passing moment, each dinner course, and each cocktail round, we found ourselves truly enjoying each other’s company. The conversation was flowing free and easy. Laughter. Smiles. It was all there. Yet, we never forgot the real reason that we found ourselves in that very room on that particular evening.
When the conversation inevitably found its way to our situation, Jessica responded: “I had checked out of our marriage a few years ago.” James agreed that he had done much the same. They found themselves in a situation where they may share many things, but not a bed. I offered up that I had inevitably settled for my life in Soledad, not thinking that all I wanted was out there somewhere. We all wanted different things in our respective lives, and based on decisions made, we found ourselves here. In this restaurant. Together.
So many statements. So many words of forgiveness. A conversation filled with one theme.
We realized the importance of our meeting, and we also acknowledged that most of our friends and family might find it strange that we decided to meet. In person.
That fact alone made it even more important. The irony wasn’t lost on us.
We did it. We rose above it all. We left the past firmly in the past. We acknowledged the hurt, the deception, the pain, the aftermath, and ultimately, the lives we all now led.
I give us all a ton of credit, but ultimately, the credit goes to Jessica. The one person who had every right to never accept James and I into her life in any way, went out of hers to reach out and forgive. I’m still humbled and blown away by her selflessness.
As the night came to and end, we agreed to meet again that weekend to watch football.
At her house. The house she once shared with James.
Hmm…..this ought to be interesting…..