Friends and More with 42 at heart.
I first heard about Andee when I was fairly young. She was a friend of one of my cousins. It wasn't until a couple of years after graduating high school that we actually met.
A love of theatre first came into my life during high school, and it was this that allowed me to meet Andee. The teacher of theatre had suffered a house fire and was unable to carry on the show at the high school. Being one of her more capable former students, I stepped in to help. Andee was working on the backstage crew, and we hit it off.
By the time I started college, Andee had become my best friend. She was amazing: intelligent, perky, beautiful, and alluring in so many ways. It was natural to fall in love with her. But try as I might, that jump from 'best friend' to 'love of my life' never happened. She's told me on more than one occasion that I mean more to her than anyone, family excepted, that I have a special place in her heart.
As so often happens, life pulled us apart. I moved to a big city, she stayed in the town where we grew up. Because of my technical abilities, she asked me for help when it came time for her to marry. I never actually saw her get married; I was 'backstage'. It wasn't easy to accept; I still loved her, wanted her to be happy. And she was.
Claud was a wonderful man, she said. He was involved with his children (two lovely daughters, Natalie and Kari, whom I also adore to this day), loving to Andee... all seemed well and good. As time flew by, my life in the big city and Andee's never crossed paths much anymore. We'd see each other once a year during a summer festival in our home town, and that was it. A few minutes, less than an hour each year. It was enough to see that she was happy. I was always polite to Claud, but never felt easy around him. Perhaps it was because he had Andee... perhaps it was because (I found out later) that she'd told him exactly what I meant to her.
And then about seven years into their marriage. Claud's brother attempted suicide.
Claud changed. He began to withdraw. He dropped out of his daughter's lives, became indifferent to Andee. Soon he was looking elsewhere...
Andee wasn't at the last summer festival. Some five years had passed since her brother-in-law's suicide attempt.
In the fall of 2004, I moved back to a nearby town from the big city.
Out of the blue on a Wednesday in April of 2008, Andee called me. Things weren't going well at all between her and Claud. She was thinking seriously of divorcing him. Selfish as it was, my first thought was "perhaps now I'll have my chance!". We made plans to meet that Saturday for lunch.
Friday afternoon, she texted, asking if I was free that night, which I was. It was all I could do to contain my excitement about seeing her. As she came up the sidewalk, I could see that she hadn't changed a bit; she was still as beautiful to me as ever.
We talked deeply that night. When I told her of my feelings for her, she replied "There are always second chances in life."
Thus began the contradiction that is in my heart. On the one hand, Andee
loved Claud deeply, even though he'd hurt her, even though none of the many attempts at saving their marriage had been successful. I wanted them to work it out, to find the love that they once had.
On the other hand, I was furious that he'd hurt her; wanted nothing more than for him to screw up so badly that she'd finally leave.
It finally took him screwing up one more time for her to tell him "I'm done." My heart both broke and leapt at the same time. But that made a change in Claud. He began to show interest in his daughters and his wife once again.
And so I feel as though I'm losing her once again, even though she was never really mine in the first place. I'm happy that things are finally beginning to look better for them. I'm devastated that the love that seemed to be within my grasp is gone once again.
Andee was right... "There are always second chances in life." It's just not the second chance that either of us thought it would be.
So long Andee, and thanks for all the fish!