If I had taken the time to write down the things I wanted to accomplish during the short weekend with Ellen, by Saturday night I would have been well on my way to checking off the entire list. Everything I planned was executed flawlessly and everything that occurred that I hadn’t planned was handled with poise and laughter. From exploring the city all afternoon to breaking bread with Wally and Rochelle at night, the entire day was unblemished. By the time we entered the condo at midnight, I was as full of confidence as I had been for months, maybe years. I, we, had proven our relationship was bigger than the individuals creating it, stronger when united, and that was my primary goal for the weekend.
“So, this was good, right?” I needed verification that her experience paralleled mine so I cornered her while she brushed her teeth. She looked at me with a questioning look, not quite understanding my intent and continuing to work the brush around the inside of her mouth. “The day, the weekend, everything! It’s been great, hasn’t it? I’ve had a great time and I was wondering how you enjoyed it.”
She held up one finger then bent over to spit out the toothpaste into the sink, rinsing her mouth with some water and wiping the paste residue from her lips with a towel. When the towel pulled away from her face, she flashed me a big smile. “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this trip. I actually was dreading it—”
“Why?” That shocked me.
“Because I didn’t know how, or if, you’d changed. All of my assumptions were that you’d slowly take on this dark role, exploring areas of life that you’d held back from in the past because of the ‘limits’ placed on you by your faith. I wasn’t sure how that would play out in real time so I was worried about what I’d find up here.”
“So, what your saying is you’ve been surprised in a good way—”
“—absolutely! It’s been marvelous; the whole weekend has been perfect. If you’ve turned into a monster, you’re hiding it very well.” She laughed and walked around me to go into the bedroom. I followed her, happy and satisfied, as we crawled into bed. As we lay in the dark, she continued her thoughts.
“I know that you’re different. You have to be if you’re honestly following through with your original decision…” She let that trail off, giving me an opportunity to deny or affirm. I chose to abstain.
“I’ll take your silence to mean your decision stands. Since that’s the case, I can say I’m pleased at how little it seems to have changed you outwardly. What hasn’t changed is how concerned I am about what’s going on inside of you. You’ve always been pretty complex, thinking too much, with a lot going on in your head. I would love to be able to see a glimpse of that traffic. I’m sure it’s pretty interesting.”
“Actually, it feels less cluttered since I threw out the troublemaker.”
“Wrangling with God was always my biggest hassle. Questioning, trying to make sense of events and turns in my life, even in the world. The wrestling was constant and tiring. Since I pushed that out of the forefront and made it a non-factor, it’s been a lot easier to cope. I just write everything off to fate and inevitability and move on to the next task. It has been hard at times, but I honestly attribute the current void I’m fighting to loneliness. I’m a family man and I ain’t got no family with me. Getting you and the kids back into my life full-time will squelch that emptiness. The last couple of days proved that.”
Ellen was quiet but I could tell by her breathing she wasn’t asleep. “Did I say too much? Did I mess up the perfect day?” I was joking but the words were born out of an honest fear.
“No, you haven’t messed anything up. Hearing you talk just reminds me about our differences, that’s all. Again, the last couple of days have been encouraging. I’ll leave it at that, okay?”
“Your encouragement has me encouraged as well.” I sighed, the release of air making a bit more noise than I’d anticipated. “I need you up here, Ellen. I’m not kidding. I need this to happen, soon. I want this to be the everyday reality, not an occasional weekend.”
“Believe me, it’s what I want as well. It’ll be soon, okay? Can we just leave it at that?” She posed the question not expecting an answer. I wanted to lie there and beg some more, all night if needed, but I complied with her wish to drop it and swallowed the frustration that accompanied her request. I fell asleep hanging on to the thin thread of hope that she seemed to be coming around. All I needed was a time frame attached to the word “soon” and I would feel like we were really making progress.
This is an excerpt of a full length novel entitled “Back Again.” You can read it in it’s entirety by downloading it from here or you can keep coming back to this site and read it in chapter chunks over time. Your call but, either way, I hope you will read it and, most of all, enjoy it. And leave a comment or two. It lets me know you are out there…