I couldn’t suppress my grin as I hung up the phone and leaned back against the pillows on my queen-size bed. He was here. This was it.
I threw back the bed covers and swung my bare feet to the cool, wood floor. Moonlight was streaming through the curtainless window adjacent to my bed, and in its light I could see clearly the contents of my room. There were two antique trunks, a bed, the antique velvet fainting couch my mother had given me, a make-shift closet, my dark brown saddle on a stand in the corner, and my desk and bookshelf.
I quietly made my way through the room to the clothes I had set out the evening before and slid on my jeans, a white T-shirt, and socks. I laced up my cowboy boots slowly and deliberately, as if my physical motions could slow down my racing heart. Grabbing my coat and flashlight, I silently slipped out of my room and down the stairs, careful not to wake anyone.
I grabbed the dog leash hanging on a hook on the wall, and opened the back door as slowly as possible to minimize its annoying squeak. The warm August air wrapped itself around me as I slipped my arms into the sleeves of my light jacket.
My movements caught the attention of Duke, our Rottweiler, sleeping nearby. I called quietly to him and turned on the flashlight as he silently took his place by my side. I clipped the leash onto his harness, took a deep breath, and headed down the driveway, out into the dark.
Our driveway was a gravel county road that twisted and turned for a quarter of a mile through the trees, where it finally opened up at the end with a 300-yard stretch through a meadow by the stream. In places, the canopy of trees bent over the road giving me the feeling I was walking down a lane in “Sleepy Hollow.” As the newly laid gravel crunched under my feet, I couldn’t help but think back to the day this all started and the events that were now bringing us together for the first time…
The hum of the computer’s central processing unit (CPU) was the only sound I could hear other than the rain spattering against the roof and windowpanes.
I turned my attention for a moment from the electronic screen in front of me to stare out the windows onto the expanse of lawn and rolling hills outside my home. The rain always made the colors seem brighter. The grass was a bright emerald green, and the bark on the trees outside were darkened almost black.
A pair of red cardinals flirted on the porch of our 150 year-old home, seemingly oblivious to the danger of our 100-pound Rottweiler sleeping in the barn just across the driveway.
I turned back to the computer with a sigh. Are cardinals compatible? I wondered. They certainly seemed happy together. Why couldn’t it be that simple with humans?
I scanned over the documents I was working on one more time before hitting the escape key. No use saving something that was trash from the start. I had been asked by a friend to write a short article on natural healing for animals, and I hadn’t a clue what kind of content he was looking for. Maybe surfing the net would help me get my head together.
I am by no means an “Internet Junkie,” spending hours of my time glued to a computer screen, surfing, chatting, or constantly checking my e-mail. My life was complicated enough without it. Still… at this point in my life, I wouldn’t mind at least a pen pal. Everyone I had written to before had either stopped writing at some point, lost interest, had gotten married, or seemed bent on insulting and offending me.
I typed in a web-site address for my favorite singles page. I had never really found anything there except an Italian Australian. He was convinced it was his duty to marry me so I could bring him to the United States and allow him to dominate me for the rest of my life. That never worked out. Not that I was looking, anyway. I was just feeling lonely, and wished I had a close friend to talk to.
I had looked through all the single men’s profiles a couple days ago, and didn’t find anything that interested me. I’m not in the habit of looking for divorced men to chat with (they usually come with a lot of emotional baggage I’m not prepared to deal with), but I gave it a shot today. “Let’s see what cyber-space has to offer in this department,” I muttered to myself.
At first glance, there wasn’t anything that interested me. I found a couple of men who sounded interesting, and I sent them off a quick e-mail. I scanned the top of the list for the first twenty or so individuals, and then moved to the bottom of the page to scan the last twenty or so. Nothing. On a whim, I moved my cursor right smack in the middle of the page to see what that would turn up. It read, “Tom, Thirty-something, Divorced-Male.”
I read the paragraph he had written about himself and was more than a little intrigued. He sounded like my kind of guy, so I sent a short e-mail to the address he had listed, not really expecting a reply…
Duke’s insistent jerking on the end of his leash brought me back to the present. I looked ahead around a bend in the road, and noticed a pair of headlights casting cones of light through the trees. His car must be stopped, I thought to myself. I hoped he would turn the lights off so he couldn’t see me before I had a chance to see him.
I wanted every advantage I could get, and knowing the last stretch of road was open through the meadow, I switched off my flashlight in hopes that he wouldn’t know I was coming just yet. If only he’d turn off those headlights, I thought to myself again. Even as I was devising a plan to cut around through the trees and avoid the lights altogether, they disappeared. I said a silent “Thank you,” and Duke and I continued to walk in the dark…
We e-mailed for a week or so, sometimes several times a day. Eventually our curiosity got the better of us and we decided to talk on the phone. His voice was warm and soothing, and he expressed himself articulately. Still, aside from the apparent ease I felt talking with him for the first time, something in his words told me I had been listening to this voice for an eternity. Something in my soul recognized him. I found myself hugging the phone closer and pulling my knees up to my chest in an effort to feel closer to him each time we spoke.
So here I was, meeting him face to face for the first time. It had only been two weeks since we had first begun e-mailing each other, and only a week of that time was spent in conversation over the phone. Sometimes it felt as though this moment would never arrive. I felt compelled to be with this man by a force beyond anything I had previously experienced. I loved him. I already knew that I did. There wasn’t any question in my mind what role he was meant to play in my life. The only question was… did I have anything to give in return?
Since the headlights ahead had disappeared, I was left to make my way down the winding lane in the dark. The moon had ducked behind some clouds and my flashlight had been turned off for a while now. I could hear Duke’s breathing as he tugged more insistently on the end of his leash. “Easy boy, we’re getting there. Calm down.” His excitement to find what was at the end of the driveway echoed my own anxiety.
I could feel my heart beating faster as the road I followed made its last turn, came out from under the protection of the trees, and entered the meadow. Ahead I could see the glow of a white car at the other end of the driveway. The closer I got, the more details I was able to make out. There he was, leaning up against his car, barely visible through the blackness. If I turn back now, I can forget this ever happened, I thought.
Almost sensing my indecision, Duke pulled more insistently on the end of his leash, half pulling, half towing me toward the car. I tried to take in every detail around me as the distance between us slowly disappeared. Every step closer I took, the more aware I was of my own appearance. Was my t-shirt too wrinkled? Were my jeans too tight? Would he like my hair? As it was 1:30 a.m., I had only pulled it up in a ponytail.
Finally, I could see his face. He stood up from leaning back on the front fender of his car and took a step toward me. He was even larger in real life than I had imagined. He had told me before that he was over six feet tall, but his physical presence and stature made him seem like a giant. Suddenly, I was completely overwhelmed and started wondering where I could duck for cover away from his probing gaze.
His soft-spoken “Hi” sliced through the paralyzing silence and I was almost surprised when I heard myself reply. His long legs closed the last few feet between us, and as he opened his arms to me, drawing me closer to his chest, every fear I had, disintegrated into the night air. The warmth of his soft lips on mine muffled whatever questions I may have had, and as I kissed him in return, I knew my life had been changed forever.
From this moment on, I would never, ever be the same.
I had just met my future husband… the future father of my only child.
I had also just met my first sociopath.