Updated: Sep 28
My Story in Song: Part 13
Left, right, left right…
So move my eyes as I follow the meatball being pushed around in New Kid’s plate. The back-and-forth makes me think of those vintage cat clocks.
Or, I suppose, bracing against the inevitable punch to the gut, our dance lesson.
It’s only been a few days, but our post-waltz friendship feels years away from the easy rapport we once shared.
“Can I get you anything else?” my Mom asks her self-proclaimed adopted son, not yet having clued in to the fact that we’ve both lost our appetite for the evening.
“Oh, no, everything was great, thank you.”
New Kid smiles, but his lips are tight and it doesn’t reach his eyes.
He’s nervous. So am I.
Sigh… We’ve really stepped in it, haven’t we?
Well, I suppose waltzed in it would be more appropriate.
New Kid’s been over for dinner plenty of times before, and it’s always felt effortless. Natural. Like he belonged there with us. Tonight, for the first time, I feel like we’re not on the same page.
But what should I expect? That’s what happens when friends underhandedly confess their love. Things get weird. Very weird.
Remarkably, we still try to press on as though nothing has changed, but despite our best efforts to be normal, we’re failing miserably.
“Sometimes the heart wants to wander,” New Kid had said the day before. “But you’ve just got to lead it back into its cage.”
Cage? That doesn’t sound healthy.
But I heard his message loud and clear: We’re keeping things the way they are. Period.
Which is why New Kid and I headed for the computer after dinner. In the wake of my earlier breakup, I had given myself a year to put a pause on dating and get to know myself again. But I hadn’t counted on New Kid shaking things up the way he did, just by being his usual, sweet, and maddeningly adorable self.
Though my year was far from up, I was rapidly falling for a man who wanted nothing to do with love. Which is why, when I woke up this morning, I decided I needed to take action.
“I just need your approval on which pictures I’m going to use,” I explained along the way. “Since you’re in most of the good ones.”
Understatement of the century. New Kid’s in all of the pictures. He’s what makes them good.
He’s what makes me happy.
I turn on the computer and gesture for New Kid to take a seat as the aging machine whirs to life. The pictures are for my online dating profile. Signing up for the same service that my brother had used to meet his wife wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do right that minute, but I was fast realizing that the more time I spent with New Kid, the less interested I became in dating again. I had to do something.
The computer screen blinks and begins to load. We’ve still got time.
It’s funny. Just a few days ago, New Kid and I would have had no shortage of things to say to each other. In fact, we’ve never actually finished a conversation before. Only postponed, to be continued the next time we saw each other. But now…
Man, did this ever suck.
“So…” New Kid begins awkwardly. “Online dating.”
“Yep,” I reply, in just as stilted a tone. “I figure it’s time.”
Mostly because I can’t stop thinking about YOU.
I look down at the desk because it’s too difficult to meet New Kid’s gaze.
“I know you didn’t want anything from the start,” I hear myself say. “And neither did I.”
“I was fine until waltzing,” I go on, as much to fill the silence as to get this off my chest. “I thought I would be okay, but, I just wasn’t.”
I sneak a sideways glance in his direction and find New Kid nodding his head, lips set in a grimace, hinting at some turbulence beneath the surface of his otherwise composed façade.
“Well, that old heart does like to wander,” he offers, recalling his earlier words.
I nod at the hardwood.
“But, it wasn’t just me… right?”
I muster up enough courage to make eye contact, but the pained expression on his face is enough to scare me away again.
Of course not. Maybe I’d imagined it. Maybe I’d –
My gaze shoots up, hopeful, surprised. The pained look is gone, replaced by a jaw set in determination.
“I think about you.”
Those four softly spoken words send my pulse skyrocketing at a record-breaking rate.
“You have become,” New Kid says, regarding his slowly turning his hands as though looking into an invisible crystal ball. “The lens through which I see things. I’ll think to myself, ‘Isabella wouldn’t like this.’”
Wouldn’t like what?
But there’s no time to ask. Those soulful eyes of his have darkened to an intense black, and when they meet mine, they hold me captive.
Not that I put up much of a fight.
“It feels like we fit together like a lock and key.” He speaks the words slowly, cautiously, but also intentionally. “Like we’re… soulmates.”
The s word? He used the s word?! He thinks we’re… soulmates?!
Do I even believe in soulmates? I didn’t before. I was a cold-hearted cynic. But that was before I met New Kid. Before I experienced what it’s like to have someone know me inside and out, to care about me, even on my worst days, to… to…
That’s just it, isn’t it? Despite our best efforts to deny it, New Kid loves me. And I… I love him too. So much. More than I ever thought possible.
I don’t know what’s happening right now, but though it's new and fragile, and though I'm afraid of not knowing exactly where it’s headed, at the same time, I hope it never stops.
“But I want you to be happy,” New Kid continues, drawing my attention back to the present. “So much that I’ll step back and let you find someone else.”
Hold on a minute, now you’re losing me.
First we’re soulmates, and now he wants me to go find someone else? For my happiness? What gives?
The intensity in his gaze is softened by a sudden glistening that stops my racing mind in my tracks.
Is that a… tear?
Oh, don’t do it, I mentally caution. Because I won’t be able to hold back for much longer at this rate. And as beautiful as this all is, I still can’t tell where it’s all going. Does he intend to do something about all this, or is he just commiserating?
“I think to myself,” he manages to choke out. “‘Isabella is the kind of person that I’d give anything for.’”
The break in his voice is what breaks my resolve. I spring up from my chair, close the distance between us, and wrap my arms around his neck, drawing him close.
Well, as close as I can while he’s still sitting down.
“My job, my reputation, my family…” I hear whispered from behind my shoulder. “Anything.”
We freeze there for a few moments, just holding each other, but eventually, I let him go and sit back down.
There’s still some unfinished business we have to take care of.
“So,” I begin quietly. “What do we do now?”
It is up to him, after all. If he truly wants to pursue a relationship, his entire lifestyle is going to have to change. No more taking off at a moment’s notice. No more short-term jobs. No more running away from his past.
His brow furrows in serious contemplation as he mulls it over, and I smile in spite of myself. Such a look shouldn’t be so attractive, but that’s just the juxtaposition of New Kid. Instead of causing me concern, all that terrible pensiveness just makes me want to hold him close, to brush away the hair that’s fallen across his forehead, and to make him forget all about what’s bothering him.
Which I might just do, if the existence of that very impulse wasn’t exactly what was bothering him.
“We should take some time with this,” he finally concludes, allowing himself to meet my gaze once again. The intensity is gone, replaced by a glimmer of apprehension. “Maybe a few months.”
“We can pray and discern together. How does that sound?”
I nod and feel myself start to relax.
“That sounds like a good idea,” I agree. “Why don’t we start now?”
New Kid doubles over in his chair and clasps his hands, and I do the same. We make the Sign of the Cross and he begins to pray. As he does, I thank God for this sudden but wonderful turn of events. Maybe, I think to myself, maybe we haven’t ruined our friendship. Maybe this isn’t the end, but a new beginning. Maybe this is why we were brought together in the first place.
…Maybe we are soulmates.
Listen to Head Over Feet by Alanis Morissette here.