When I was 15, I had a friend in high school who had an English penpal. It was all the rage at that time to have multiple penpals all over the world. My friend, GirlWithGuineaPigs, had been writing to this English guy whom she was half in love for about a year. They had arranged to meet up at Disney World that year when both of their vacations coincided.
As it happened, my family would be vacationing in Disney World at exactly the same time. (Serendipity, huh?) EnglishGuy was bringing his "mate" along -- his best friend, and GwGP did NOT want MateOfEnglishGuy hanging around as a third wheel. So -- can you all see this coming? -- GwGP decides that she wants me to lure the friend off so she and EnglishGuy can have multiple and frequent chances to snog. ("Kiss", for all you Queen's English-impaired.)
Like the lemming that I am, I follow along with GwGP's plan, thinking "How I *hate* this..." We all get to Orlando, and I meet up with two absolutely scrummy English Guys with accents to kill for, but GwGP is *nowhere* to be found. Mind you, I've never met either of these men (we were 15, they were 22...I know, I know...lecture me later!) before, but we are getting along like a house on fire. We have a great time getting to know each other. We start to branch out beyond the hotels -- going to various eateries, riding rides at the parks.... We finally hear from GwGP, and she had gotten stranded by an unreliable car on the way down to Orlando, but she's now in town, and wants to meet up. We swing by her hotel and pick her up.
Right away, the two supposed "lovebirds" are not hitting it off. I'm not sure what, exactly, the source of the friction is, but GwGP is highly peeved at me that I've been off with the blokes all day, *and* to make matters worse, we've been *gasp!* having fun! I know -- cardinal sin, right? So, we end up breaking off into pairs, me going off with Mate, and GwGP with EG.
Mate and I have a GREAT time. We ride rides, we take pictures, we do all the touristy things, and we start to get to know each other. Mate jokes with me about my accent (says I sound REALLY Southern) and I return the favor (his accent is thick enough to slice leather); and about how he likes tall, blond, American birds. Yay for me! :)
At any rate, GwGP and EG *do not* fare so well together. They've only been together a few hours when GwGP wants to throw in the towel and go back to the hotel. Mate wants to take me to dinner, and then go swimming later that night. (I won't tell all the gory details, but suffice it to say that I'm moonstruck by morning.) Mate says I'm much more adventurous than GwGP, and that EG wishes she were more like me. NOT a good way to get into her good graces, since she's the "pretty" one, and I'm just the tag-along friend.
The vacation ends all too soon. We all have to get back to our homes, and our lives. Mate and I begin a long-distance romance that would continue for years. I fell in love. Deeply. He was my first love, and while it was difficult to foster an overseas flame, I did it because I felt he was worth it.
After almost a year, Mate comes to visit me. He says how much I mean to him, and he gives me an engagement ring. He says it's more like a promise ring at this point, but he fully means it with the intention of our one day being married. I am just shy of 16. He is 23. We know it means problems and hassles. It's also what we both feel we want. We write and telephone, sometimes daily. I miss him desperately, full as I am with the flush of first love. We go on this way for what seems like eternity.
One day, about two years later, out of the clear blue, I get a letter. It's postmarked from France. Mate says he's very sorry, but he got engaged in France that weekend. He doesn't mean to hurt me, but it would have never worked between us. There was too much to stop us. (Yeah, like him dating other people.) I didn't leave my room for days. My first heartbreak. My first real letdown in love.
Mate has a terrible time with this woman he's thrown me over for. She cheats, she's mean to him, and I keep hearing from him, off and on for the next two or so years. They're on again, now they're off... I begin to move on. Fast forward to late summer 1992. I have met JF, and we are about to be married in about 3 weeks' time. I get a phone call from Mate. He wants to know if I'm seeing anyone. He's such an ass -- he realized what he threw away, he's so sorry... Will I entertain the idea of trying again? He hangs up rather quickly when I state that I'm about to be married.
I carry this hurt, this rejection, for years. JF knows the whole story, and says that Mate's loss was his gain. JF is even magnanimous when he hears that Mate has called, sniffing around.
I wanted so badly to send Mate a wedding invitation, just to reinforce what he gave up, but decide not to. When my daughter is born, I again very briefly think of sending a birth announcement his way, as Mate adored children. I, again, think "no...." and don't send it. I often think about Mate for a while there -- what's he doing, is he married, is there any way I can make him wish he'd never left? I feel sort of dishonest about thinking these things, though. I love my husband and I, in no way, shape, or form feel that he's a second choice. I feel bad that I'm wondering what could have been with Mate, even though I know it's a natural human reaction.
JF is wonderful. I never wanted anything more. He gives me all that I ever needed, and I have no wish for anything else. I have a talk with God, and decide to give up all those old feelings and what-might-have-beens into His keeping. I know that I made the right choice in JF, and God does, too. Since having that epiphany years ago, I haven't thought of Mate again. Until yesterday.
I don't know how he tracked me down, and I don't know how he knows my married name, but you can find damn near anything on Google if you work at it diligently enough. I got an email from Mate. I haven't seen this man in almost 20 years. I've long since stopped thinking about him. He wants to know how I am. Am I well? My family? He wants to apologize for all the ways he hurt me, and wants to know if I'm single.
No. No, I'm not. And quite happily so. I deleted his email. I decided my life was too good to dwell in the past a long time ago, and I'm not changing my mind because a ghost from my teens says boo. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have to go snog my husband.
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