Paula was having a great time. She had a full-throated laugh that invariably made other people laugh. As her co-workers looked at her with surprise, they couldn’t help laughing with her. They had never seen her quite so relaxed before and had definitely not heard her laugh so uninhibitedly. In fact, they were laughing with her as much as they were laughing with her friend Jack, who was making everyone laugh with the stories he was telling and the way he told them.
When Jack told stories he did not use words only; his entire body was involved and his voice mimicked the tonality of everyone he talked about. Somehow even his face appeared to be transformed. His children never got tired of hearing their dad’s jokes and watching as he told them.
Paula was glad she’d invited her childhood friend, Jack, to meet some of her colleagues at the small celebration dinner at a really elegant upscale restaurant. Because this was the first time in a long time she’d socialized with anyone but her inner circle, she felt she need the additional support. She was sorry Janet, his wife, had not been able to join them. It was a school night and their youngest daughter needed her help with a school project.
They all knew that they could have had more to eat for less money at other restaurants, yet they felt they deserved to honor themselves after working so hard on and completing their last project. They were especially proud of their results as the CEO had stopped by her direct supervisor’s desk and offered his congratulations.
As she stood with a glass of wine in her hand, for just a moment Paula allowed herself to think back to the painful events of the past year. Just for a moment, she allowed herself to ask the questions, “Why was it that everyone else enjoyed her company except the man she’d been married to for 15 years? Why was it he never seemed to want to be around her, and when he was he hardly ever had anything to say?”
She then asked herself the same question she’d asked herself for the past 24 months? “Why did I allow Michael to treat me with such disdain for almost seven years?” When he told her he wanted a divorce, she felt that familiar stab of pain, but it was no more than he’d inflicted for the better part of seven years. When he left two years ago, even before the painful divorce, it almost felt like a relief.
She realized she was going into a dark place and she was surrounded by people who had no idea of what her life had been like before she met them six months ago. The only person with any knowledge of her past in this group was Jack. She also realized that someone had asked her a question and was waiting for an answer. Other people began looking at her questioningly. She had no idea what the question was and felt some of the turmoil inside may have been reflected on her face.
It seemed that Jack picked up on something and started relating another story, which again had everyone laughing and causing some older patrons to look at them, smiling at their happiness.
Paula and Jack
Jack’s mother and hers had been best friends before they were born and that friendship had lasted for over 60 years. She and Jack were both the first children for their mothers. Paula was six months older than Jack and they had spent much of their childhood together. They separated only when they both went away to two separate colleges. Coming home each holiday was like a grand re-union.
Despite the warnings from his parents, Jack had married pretty young and was blessed to be still in love with his wife after 25 years. And she still looked at him with love in her eyes.
Paula could not help herself. She actually felt a little jealous around them at times as they had managed to get it right, whereas she had waited for ‘Mr. Right,’ and it had not worked out. She was honest about it and told them how she felt, but they knew it was not malicious jealousy.
She could hear Jane’s voice now, “Your Mr. Right is going to come from an unexpected place, honey. You’ll know him when he appears.”
She doubted it would happen but allowed herself to remain hopeful.
Pretty soon everyone decided it was time to go home because tomorrow was another work-day.
Jack drove behind Paula’s car until she got to her home and stopped long enough to see her open her front door and enter her home.
Paula dropped her handbag and keys on the foyer table, kicked off her 3-inch heel shoes and decided to rest for a minute on the sofa before going upstairs to the bedroom.
Back to the Restaurant
She parked her car and walked slowly back into the restaurant she left an hour ago. She had a confused look on her face. Why had she returned to the restaurant? She reached for her right hand and felt her third finger. She did not have on the ring her parents had given her when she was 16 years old. She always wore it on the third finger of her right hand.
Over the years, whenever she was nervous or worried she would reach for the ring and twist it round and round. It made her feel close to her dad who had passed away five years ago.
The thought quickly went through her mind, as it did many times over the years, she was glad he had not witnessed the demise of her marriage, especially as he never felt Michael was genuine. He never could explain to her exactly what it was but he always felt Michael was not whom he appeared to be.
She never shared with her dad what she was going through because she did not want to admit to him that he was right and her Mr. Right had proved to be very wrong for her.
Her missing ring was the only reason which would have motivated her to drive over 35 minutes each way to return to the restaurant.
Paula asked the Receptionist, who was clearly very tired if anyone had found a ring and dropped it off. The Receptionist replied that she’d not and suggested she talk to the head chef.
As she walked to the dining room she assured herself that the kind of people who paid these prices would not need to walk out with her simple ring, if they found it.
The head chef had no better news for her. No one had reported finding the ring. He took her name and telephone number and promised to call her if anyone turned it in.
She turned to go. She just wanted to get back home. It had been such a wasted trip.
As she was about to turn and walk out the door, they began playing ‘her song.’ Even though her husband was no longer a part of her life, she still thought of it as ‘her song.’
That was the first song they had danced to. In fact, they had been at a mutual friend’s home, although she’d never met him before, at an intimate party surrounded by friends and relatives. So confident and assured she was that she had been waltzing by herself since no one else was dancing. She’d seen him on the patio by the pool earlier. He walked up to her and said, “A beautiful woman like you should not be dancing alone.”
Before the dance was over she knew that this was Mr. Right she had been waiting for. Six months later they were married. The first five years were beautiful then gradually everything changed. It was as if all the vibrant colors were gradually being removed and all that was left were dark, grey and black images.
She felt as if she were rooted to the spot and could not leave. She had to hear it through, even though she knew she was torturing herself.
As the tears welled up in her eyes she reached into her handbag for her trusted pack of tissues. She was about to dry her eyes when she looked across to the table in the middle of the room. Funny, she had not noticed earlier that there was a table in that spot. She assumed she and her friends had been having too much fun to notice.
Raising her glance, her eyes met and held those of a man she had never seen before in her life. He looked at her with a certain knowing as if he could read her mind and know her story. She got the feeling he knew why she was crying.
It was the look in his eyes that made her gasp. It was a look of pure, undiluted love. It was the look she had imagined as a teenager she’s see in the eyes of the man who would love her for life. She had never had anyone look at her with so much love.
As she gasped she woke herself from the deep sleep she was in on the sofa. It was only a dream.
She wished fervently that she could recapture the dream. Days and even months later she never forgot “that look”.
In some subtle yet profound way, the look she saw in the eyes of the man in her dream changed her attitude gradually. She found she could get on with her life much more easily and not look back. Somehow that look made her realize she would not settle. She wanted someone who looked at her the way the man in her dream did. If it never happened, she felt she could deal with it.
Her renewed confidence made her accept that while she made mistakes, she was not responsible for the breakdown of her marriage to Michael. She tried and begged him to try but he had left years before he said goodbye.
She found her ring in her jewelry box upstairs and remembered she’d exchanged it for a bigger ring that morning since she knew she was going out to dinner with her co-workers.
She never told anyone but her very close friends about her dream. Since she was one of the few in the group who did not have more than one glass of wine, they often joked with her that perhaps she should have a couple so she could dream again about the look.