“Bubbles lets have a fresh start. I’m going to come in a day early for the reunion. We really have a lot to talk about. And decide.”
I shook my head to still the frantic butterflies and began to think back on how far we had come. Or rather, how far I had come since Anton. My mind went back to when we first met…
It was the summer of 2006 and I decided to do summer school instead of heading off to Europe with my friends. That was when I met him. Best and worst decision of my life.
I was heading to the convention center for my political studies class. Our early morning class usually met in the classrooms in the main student center or in the library on the 4th floor, but we had a guest speaker today who had requested the main stage where we usually held large ceremonies. I knew it was a politician but no one was sure who. This was typical of my professor though – the only thing she loved more than guest speakers was applying the element of surprise.
I was running a few minutes late and grabbed a seat in the back. As I quietly settled in my eyes were immediately drawn to the stage. There was a young man up there working the stage with his long strong legs, his dark charismatic eyes and his equally dark skin. He was wearing a navy blue suit and strode across the stage like it was built for him. What shocked me most was upon closer inspection he couldn’t be more than a year or two older than my 20 years of age. But he exuded such confidence and poise that I was sure he was the surprise guest. I tried to listen to what his deep voice was actually saying, but it was so hard to concentrate. He had already introduced himself before my late arrival so I didn’t even catch his name. I turned to my neighbors on my left and right trying to ascertain his name, but both shushed me. Everyone was transfixed. So I forced myself to focus trying to figure out what was actually going on. He spoke. I listened intently.
“It has been a long and arduous campaign so far. In the politics of our nation it is often hard to drown out sentiment and silence sensationalism and get to the heart of issues. But that is exactly what Congressman Peterside has done and continues to do. And that is why I have pledged the next year and a half towards supporting him in any and every way I can to ensure that he becomes the next president of this great nation. A year ago I was sat where you all are. But after graduation my calling was clear. Sometimes you meet people whose vision resonates with your very core. I have met a man whose vision resonates with my core. Therefore it is my great honor to introduce you to a great man who deserves to be our next President – ladies and gentlemen please put your hands together for Congressman Russell Peterside.”
The auditorium erupted in applause. I joined in, not because I was excited to meet Congressman Peterside, but because I had just met a man who the very vision of resonated with my core.
Soon after the class that turned out to be an enthralling one hour history lesson and manifesto sharing session I found my way backstage to meet the introductory speaker. His name was Anton, he was an alumni or our university and he was on the campaign trail for Congressman Peterside, whom my classmates were more interested in.
I introduced myself to Anton as Miss December Darling and we soon exchanged phone numbers and emails. He found my name adorable and quickly began to call me his darling. The nickname made my toes curl. All through that summer we furiously emailed one another and the following semester I joined Congressman Peterside’s campaign office in the city. He was indeed brilliant. It was a great experience. But I was there for Anton. And he was there for me – between caucusing full time for the Congressman and coming to campus for masters classes every few weeks that is. He was very busy and I was very flexible, and we were very in love. We built what turned into a suffocatingly sweet and all encompassing relationship. We loved each other and for my two years of university we spent a great deal of time together.
I had niggling concerns about our relationship that plagued my subconscious from time to time but I forged on. Anton was different, special, therefore I could not hold him to regular standards. He was not violent or unfaithful, but he was very controlling. Little by little in his assertive way he inserted his decisions and preferences into my life. Soon I was dressing and socializing in ways he deemed appropriate. I had let a few friends go whom he considered too fun loving or focused on the wrong things. We met each others’ families and spent holidays and every day he was free together. He chose everything – holiday destinations, restaurants, movies, what books we would read, how I styled my nails and hair, and even my final thesis topic. I did not mind. He was very put together and I loved that he loved me enough to want to put me together too. I had no complaints. I said “yes” do whatever he proposed and he always showered me with compliments and gifts in return.
Fast forward to my graduation two years later I had everything I wanted. The man of my dreams. My Bachelors of Art in Journalism from which I graduated with honors. And an amazing job offer with one of the biggest publishing houses in the country. The only problem was Anton did not want me to take the job. I had my own thoughts and plans but Anton wasn’t having it.
“We have a plan babe. We have to stick to the plan.” he reinforced.
The plan he was referring to was a five year plan he had created for me that I had agreed to at the time, a plan which no longer fit my present state of mind. He wanted me to move with him to the center of politics, but I wanted to start my career in my dream job. I had actually requested a transfer to the same city, a big request for someone who had not even worked at the job yet and to my surprise the request was granted. However Anton wasn’t having it. It was not just that he wanted me to move with him, he wanted me to do so on his own terms. He had a different idea of what my post-graduate life should look like.
I moved with Anton and started work at the publishing house and would have been immensely happy if not for Anton’s disapproval. I thought he would be happy with the compromise and get over the fact that I had not taken the career path he recommended but it was not that simple. Anton’s disapproval with my decision to work at my dream job was expressed in subtle ways. He withheld affection. Chastised me often. His demeanor were calm and respectful, but he was deeply disappointed. Soon he began dictating and not suggesting – as if trying to take control of every other area of my life with greater force. We were both doing very well in our respective careers and it was clear he was going places. After Congressman Peterside lost the election, Anton was headhunted to work as a junior manager with a focus on public relations and advertising for a Fortune 100 company. He was a rising star there and it was evident to all. I wanted him to go places. I loved him and was so proud of him. I wanted to go places too and I was, but with Anton’s constant disapproval it did not feel like it. The places of my own choosing were not in line with his vision and with Anton there was no negotiating.
About 6 months after we had moved to the city of his choice Anton proposed. My heart was so full and I had never been happier. Of course I said yes! But the following morning over breakfast he made the conditions for his proposal very clear. There was nothing he wanted more than to be with me but there was a very specific version of me he wanted. One who would: 1) Take the ring. 2) Quit her job. 3) Stay home. 4) Volunteer for a few charities he had chosen while he held up the career side and we started a family. It wasn’t what I wanted.
After 4 years of being truly madly deeply in love the scales fell from my eyes. I finally found the voice to step out of his vision that involved no consultation from me and share my dreams with him. I told him I could be flexible while clearly articulating the things I wanted to accomplish. He was calm. He was calculated. He articulated that I either get with his program or he would find someone who will. I was devastated and shocked, and I was in denial thinking he would come around. Surely after 4 years of loving one another there was room to accommodate both of our dreams. Apparently not.
I spent that summer unraveling my life from his. I got a promotion at the publishing house and poured my heart, or what was left of it into the work. While Anton spent it getting to know, propose to, and marry Tanya – the same green eyed beauty from the Instagram posts I had been staring at earlier. They were married 5 months later. Something I still cannot wrap my head around. How could he move on so fast?
Now 6 years later Anton was emailing me and my heart was skipping beats and his butterflies were still fluttering in my belly. I must be crazy. I dug my nails into my thigh trying to snap out of it. I felt something cold on the back of my thighs and realized with a start that I was still perched on my bathtub. Meanwhile an amazing smell was wafting from the kitchen, through the bedroom and now under the bathroom door. I always teased Michael about how he purposefully left all the doors open when he cooked because he knew I couldn’t resist the smell. From the smell of it Michael was making his famous special fried rice. I was lucky and blessed. I sheepishly unlocked the door, quickly changed out of my work clothes and went to perch on the counter while my boyfriend of 1 year cooked me dinner.
“Tell me about your day darling,” he smiled as he looked up from the frying pan. “I want to know everything. How’s office politics and when are they giving you that promotion to Head of Marketing at the publishing house?”
I switched into work mode and began to pour out the details of my work as Michael listened intently while dishing the food.
Over dinner, when I’d finally asked and listened to the update on Michael’s start up and progress with the business grant he was applying for I dropped my bombshell. “I’ve decided to go for my school reunion,” I said quietly.
“Oh yeah? I thought you had no interest.” He responded. “Any special reason?”
“No. I just think it will be good to catch up and network,” I said as causally as I could.
“Okay darling. Do you want me to come with you?” He offered.
“No,” I responded quickly and curtly.
Michael looked hurt.
So I quickly added in a softer tone, “No thanks babe. You’ve got your hands full. It will only be a few days and someone needs to hold down the fort.”
“Okay darling,” he agreed. “I’ll drop you at the airport on Saturday morning. Just let me know when your flight is so I can rearrange my schedule.”
“I’ll just take an Uber,” I responded. “And I’m leaving on Thursday actually.”
“How come?” Michael asked. Concern and confusion etched across his forehead.
“The publishing house is meeting with some authors there.” I lied. “I offered to lead on them since I would be in the city,” I said attempting to look as nonchalant as possible.
I was going early to meet with Anton. I just couldn’t resist it. But I couldn’t let Michael drop me at the airport. I felt guilty letting Michael practically drop me into the arms of another man. Even though I had promised myself nothing would happen. I just wanted to catch up with an old acquaintance. After all, was that not the purpose of this university 150 year old anniversary? ‘Yes it was,’ I quietly reassured myself. There was nothing wrong with my decision. If I told Michael he would be hurt and wouldn’t understand. I was just saving us both unnecessary stress (on my part) and suspicion (on his).
Dinner got rather silent. When we finished up the special fried rice and generous slices of the Caribbean coccnut cake I had baked the night before, Michael bid me good night and headed home.
As soon as I had stacked the dishwasher I went back into the bathroom, retrieved my cell phone and checked my messages. Anton had more to say. I opened my email to discover he had sent me his hotel booking and let me know he had taken the liberty of booking me a room on the same floor. The butterflies fluttered again. I tried not to indicate the depths of my excitement. I simply replied “Yes see you there and then. -DD”
Then I busied myself booking appointments online – hair, nails, facial, spa. I needed to be prepared. For the reunion. The university reunion that is. I had to look my best for professors and classmates alike.
Finally I booked my flight and fell asleep thinking again of that day I’d met Anton for the first time. Trouble was brewing. I could feel it. Only three more sleeps and I would be coming face to face with Anton after all this time. My last thought was whether or not he would be coming with his family. A lump formed in my throat and I tossed and turned all night; going from one senseless dream to another.