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The Exception

A third person retelling of my conversation about love.

By Emma Edwins (R.T. Edwins)Published 2 months ago 10 min read
Top Story - March 2024
11

Adelaide took a sip of her caramel flavored coffee before she let out a sigh and placed the cup back onto the table. She looked across the chestnut colored table at Lisa who was watching her with curiosity. This was their ritual. Every Monday evening they came to this same corner diner and talked about Adelaide’s life. Most nights the conversation centered around the trials and tribulations of Adelaide’s all-too-often chaotic love life, but tonight was different.

“So you don’t miss dating at all? You are actually enjoying being alone?” Lisa asked, a hint of skepticism in her voice. She knew Adelaide too well to take things at face value. It was her job as a sponsor both for alcoholics anonymous as well as eating disorder anonymous to challenge Adelaide when she was in denial or lying to herself.

“I actually am. I can’t explain it, I just don’t feel sad any more about being alone. The idea of dying alone used to terrify me, but now I think I would be okay if that’s how my life is meant to go. I’m genuinely happy being alone.”

Lisa nodded, her brown eyes searching Adelaide’s face for any hints of deception. Seeming to find none she said, “I have been your sponsor for a couple years now and compared to when we first began working together, this is completely different. You’re completely different. You know, it wasn’t all that long ago when you told me that you had no interest in being okay with even just the idea of being alone, let alone being happy while alone.”

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are times when I miss Lillian, but when I think about her there is no desire whatsoever to be with her again. In fact, I had a dream the other night that she and I made the decision to try dating again. It was awful. I was so relieved when I woke up and realized that it was just a dream.”

Lisa nodded, a slight expression of surprise on her face. Running her fingers through her short black hair, she tucked it behind her ear and smiled at Adelaide. “I have to say, again, that’s so different than it was in the past. I remember in previous relationships you were always a wreck after they ended. You would completely fall apart, and sometimes even relapse because of the heartbreak. You haven’t done that at all this time and it’s been, what, three months since you two broke up?”

“Four, actually,” Adelaide replied.

“Right! And I’ve seen you go through six different relationships, I believe, in the past couple years. By now you would have either rushed into another relationship, or would still be terribly hung up on your ex. But instead you’re enjoying being single. I’m really proud of you.”

Adelaide gave her a slight smile as she felt a familiar pang of sadness pass through her. After taking another sip of her coffee she said, “There is one, though, that I still think about and miss.”

Lisa grinned and said, “I bet I know which one it is.”

Adelaide gave her a bemused look and asked, “Oh yeah? Which one?”

Lisa thought for a moment before answering, “I bet it’s Ashton.”

Adelaide’s smile faded but not for the reasons that Lisa likely thought. Frowning Adelaide said, “No, not Ashton. When I think of her I just feel sad. I told you that she killed herself last year, right?”

“Actually, I think I remember that.”

“It’s been almost a year since she died. It was right after Valentine’s day. That’s the reason I relapsed and started using again, actually. I was so devastated by her death, especially with how things ended between us.”

“I don’t know if I knew that,” Lisa admitted.

Adelaide nodded with a faraway look in her eyes before saying, “After I found out, I went back and read every message we ever sent to each other, and there were a lot of them. Like, thousands and thousands of them.”

Lisa groaned, “No, tell me you didn’t.”

“Yep, I did. It was hard to read them and to realize all the ways we had terrible boundaries, and all the ways I pushed boundaries that I never should have. The worst part was feeling the regret of never having made amends with her before she died. That’s what drove me to relapse.”

“That makes a lot of sense. Things between the two of you were pretty toxic. I can see why you have regrets, which is why I thought it would be her.”

Adelaide shook her head and said, “No it’s not Ashton that I miss. It’s Jessica. Of all the people I’ve dated in the last few years she’s the only one I would even consider dating again.”

“Really? I wonder what makes her different from the others. Do you know?” Lisa asked, slightly surprised by Adelaide’s answer.

Adelaide paused for a long moment as she thought over the question. She could feel her heart’s yearning for Jessica, which was an all-too-familiar feeling, even years after things had ended. Looking past Lisa for a moment at a man getting up to leave the diner, Adelaide answered, “I think the thing that separates her from the others is that it was the one situation where I had absolutely no control over the outcome.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, with all the others I can easily see the ways that I contributed to the relationship ending. With Ashton it was the terrible boundaries and wanting things she wasn’t willing to give. With Alexa I just stopped having feelings for them. With Lillian I had one foot out of the door for a long time before things ended. Even with Bie, I could see how I contributed to her calling off the engagement. I can see all the ways I became insecure and needy, not to mention suspicious that she was cheating on me, which only hurt her feelings. But it was different with Jessica.”

Lisa furled her brow and asked, “How so? If I remember correctly it ended because of something that happened with her husband.”

“Sort of. What happened was he finally made good on his end of their agreement to have an open relationship and he slept with someone. She had a complete meltdown over it and was devastated by that, which kind of pissed me off. I mean, she always said she had his permission to be with me but near the end of things I realized that she had been lying to me and was actually cheating on him with me. So, I told her that she didn’t really have a right to feel upset about him sleeping with someone else.”

“Right, that’s not exactly fair on her part.”

“Precisely. So I told her that she had a couple options. One, she could finally come clean to him about us having been together for several months and us falling in love with each other. Two, she could leave him to be with me like she’d talked about doing previously. I mean she straight up told me that she wanted to leave him and move in with me at one point during the relationship. Three, she had to just suck it up and be okay with him being with other people the way she had been with me. Or lastly, she could cut things off with me so they could fix their marriage... unfortunately she chose the last option.”

“So why does that feel like it was out of your control? You did a great job setting a boundary with her regarding being honest with her husband or ending what was essentially an affair.”

“Because it didn’t end due to an argument, or a loss of feelings, or some failure on my part that jeopardized the relationship like poor boundaries or insecurities. It ended because she couldn’t handle the insecurity of him being with someone else. He made a decision I had no control over that ultimately led to Jessica and I breaking up. I don’t think she stopped loving me, and I obviously still love her… but that wasn’t enough. She was too scared to lose that relationship, even though she’d talked about leaving him to be with just me numerous times. So, I guess it just feels like an ambiguous loss.”

“Hmm… I think I can see what you’re saying.”

“It was so bizarre. One minute we were so in love with one another, talking all the time to all of a sudden it was over and it was no longer appropriate for us to have any kind of relationship. There was no going back to being just friends after that. Not when I felt so disappointed that she chose not to come clean to him and chickened out of what it meant to have an ‘open’ relationship with him.”

“That makes sense, but again, you did so good at setting that boundary. It sucks that she chose what she did, but ultimately you stood your ground that you weren’t okay with her continuing to lie and hide things.”

Adelaide nodded with a sad expression. Letting out a long sigh she said, “The worst part is there is this extremely popular song that reminds me of her every time I hear it come on the radio. At least a couple times a week I hear it and can’t help but miss her. You know, despite everything, I think I’d take her back, even after all this time.”

“Really?”

Adelaide gave her a sad smile and replied, “Yes, without a doubt in my mind. I loved her so much and I think if she’d chosen differently we’d still be together and would probably even be happy. Maybe there is some version of reality in the multiverse where she made a different choice and we ended up together. If so, I think I envy that version of me.”

Lisa laughed, “You’re such a nerd… but maybe you’re right.”

“So yeah, that’s where I am at when it comes to love. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to date. The thought actually makes me cringe. I’ve truly enjoyed doing my own thing, just spending time with myself doing the things I like without needing anyone else to join me. It’s not like before when me being alone was just some respite between one relationship and the next. This time there is no relationship on the horizon, and I’m actually relieved by that. In fact, I don’t think I’ll try dating again for a long time, if ever. Despite that, however, if Jessica came back and told me she left her husband, I think I’d take her back in a heartbeat.”

Lisa shook her head and shrugged, saying, “Love is messy, man. That relationship was especially messy, what with the lying and cheating. Still, I think I can understand where you are coming from. I guess you never know what will happen. Maybe someday she will change her mind. I just hope you’re still doing as well as you are now. You never know, maybe you would decide to tell her no.”

Adelaide shook her head, “Somehow, I can’t imagine that. It's like, there is nothing in this world that makes me want to try love again, not because I'm jaded or heartbroken, but just because I don't feel like I need it anymore. I am able to provide enough love and companionship to myself that having another person involved just seems unnecessary. It only took me thirty-eight years to get to this place of stability... but even as sure as I am that I don't ever need another relationship, Jessica is the one person I'd make an exception for."

"That's some dedication right there. I'm not sure I've ever felt that way about anyone I dated. There were a couple that we were off and on again, but it was for different reasons than what you've described."

"I don't even know if she thinks about me anymore. Maybe to her I'm just some mistake she made that she's in denial about. Maybe she's truly happy with her husband. I'm pretty sure they are still together, so maybe she made the right choice."

"Or maybe she loves you exactly the way you love her, but things just weren't meant to be. If it hadn't been for you setting that boundary, she might never have decided to fix her marriage. Maybe you're role in all of this was to teach her a lesson about lying and cheating," Lisa said with a shrug.

Adelaide frowned and said, "Maybe you are right. We will likely never know. Anyways, it’s getting late, so we should wrap things up. I have a dog that needs to be let out.”

“Dogs! Now that’s unconditional love. Who needs relationships when you can just have pets?” Lisa said, laughing as she began to gather her things to leave.

“I think my dog might love me a little too much, if I’m being honest. He definitely needs to work on his boundaries,” Adelaide finished with a smile.

Dating
11

About the Creator

Emma Edwins (R.T. Edwins)

Novelist, blogger, poet, and therapist.

Author of the thriller "Dark Offerings," and the "Chariots of Heaven" sci-fi series.

Author of the serial novellas "Scarlet Dreams" and "The Definitely Dead Debbie Downer."

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  • Anna about a month ago

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  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

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