Jessica sat in the corner of a bustling coffee shop, sipping her delicious latte while people watching. She had learned the hard way to cherish these moments of peace. As I watched another couple holding hands, my mind drifted back to the beginning of my own fairy tale romance or so had I thought. As a matter of fact, it all started here.
Six Months Ago
Jessica had been enjoying her lunch at this same coffee shop. Looked him and lost herself in her romance novel again. It wasn’t until he spoke that she realized he was standing in front of her.
“Hello,” he said. “May I sit down with you?” He was six feet with blonde hair neatly styled, physically fit and a smile that brightened the room.
She sat there shocked. Her co-workers and best friend Wanda always told her that she was pretty, but she never saw it. Her long wavy brown hair was dull, her eyes never sparkled, and she wasn’t curvy as other women.
Shell-shocked, she replied, “Um, if you’d like to.”
He sat down with his captivating face just a few feet from hers. What was she supposed to do now? “I couldn’t help but notice you from across the room. I’m Robert and you are?”
“Jessica,” she quietly replied.
“I don’t believe I’ve seen you here before. Then again, I usually stop here in the mornings. Since my afternoon meeting was cancelled though, I decided to treat myself to one their turkey sandwiches.” He kept smiling at her as if his interest was genuine.
“I work about a mile away, but their lattes are my kryptonite.” She laughed lightly. “Plus, I get my steps in during lunchtime.”
Robert laughed with her. “They are to die for. As for the steps, I don’t think you need to worry about those. You’re beautiful.” He reached across the table quietly taking her hand. She held her breath, feeling like this was a dream. Suddenly her watch alarm went off reminding her it was time to get back to work.
“Oh my gosh,” she replied. “I must get back to work. Sorry.” As she started to pull her hand away, he tightened his grip slightly and said “You’ll have dinner with me tonight? What is your address?”
Hesitantly she said, “Sure.” After he released her hand, she scribbled her home address for him. He picked up the piece of paper carefully. “Good. I’ll be there at seven tonight.”
Still in disbelief, she started to walk away when he spoke again.
“Remember,” he called back firmly, “Be ready at seven.” Then smiled warmly, “See you tonight, beautiful!”
Their First Date
She told her co-workers about meeting Robert who encouraged her to have some fun. Still incredibly nervous and eager, Jessica rushed home after work. She only dated a few boys in high school, but they hadn’t gone anywhere. She’d always been the quiet one in the corner keeping to herself. Yet here was Mr. Tall, Dark & Handsome wanting her! This was how all her romance books began. Could this be her chance a happily ever after?
She was already dialing her best friend Wanda’s number eager to tell her everything. During their senior year in high school, Wanda had volunteered to tutor Jessica with math class. After that, they quickly become best friends. Despite growing up, they were closer than ever.
Wanda answered right away. As Jessica started to fill her in, Wanda interrupted, “Catch me up when I get there!” and hung up.
After showering, Jessica put on a satin robe & pinned her hair up. As she waited for Wanda to arrive, she did her makeup and curled her brunette hair. She never had a talent for hair and makeup but could do the basics.
Deciding on the long flowing black skirt, silk red blouse and black pumps, she dressed quickly. “Simple but classic,” she thought.
Wanda gave her a big hug before saying goodbye. “Good luck!”
The doorbell rang at 7 pm sharp. Opening the door, she was surprised as Robert stood there with a brilliant smile, holding a large bouquet of lilies, looking as handsome as before. “Hello again, beautiful! Ready to go?”
“Let me just these flowers in water. They look gorgeous! Come on in.” Jessica walked into the kitchen as Robert followed her. She arranged the flowers in a vase with water.
“All right, why don’t we go?” he asked. “Of course,” she replied. He was such a gentleman opening every door for her.
The restaurant was romantic with small candles lit on every table. They were seated at a booth, quietly tucked into the corner of the restaurant. After the waiter took their order, he reached for her hand. “Tell me about yourself,” he said smiling at her, “I want to know everything.”
Jessica’s voice faltered as she said, “There’s really not much to tell.”
“I’m sure that not true. Just start at the beginning,” he pleaded softly.
She started sharing some childhood antidotes and her friendship with Wanda. Everything about her seemed to flow out as if she knew him forever. He was so easy to talk to. When she explained how she was terrified of flying because her parents had died in a plane crash just a few years ago, he squeezed her hands for a moment looking into her teary hazel eyes as if to say he understood. Before she knew it the restaurant was almost empty. She realized that she had talked all evening.
“I’m so sorry,” she exclaimed, “I didn’t let you get a word in at all.” He just smiled sweetly and said, “I’m happy you did. I told you I wanted to get to know you and now I do.”
After paying for the check, he slipped her coat on leading her to the car and opened the car door with a smile. They sat in comfortable silence on the drive home as the radio softly played music.
“I’ll walk you to the door,” he said helping her out of the car. They walked hand in hand to the door where he leaned over with his lips just a caress away from her ear and whispered, “I loved spending the evening with you.” He smiled and said, “Let’s do this again tomorrow at the same time.” Kissing her softly on the cheek, he said goodbye before she closed the door.
Four Months Earlier
It was amazing how quickly he swept off her feet. They spent almost every evening together either eating dinner out, meeting for lunches, and watching movies at her apartment. Jessica found herself falling head over heels for Robert. She wondered how she had fallen in love with him in just a few weeks. He was always a gentleman, making grand romantic gestures towards her. Wanda and her coworkers were happy for Jessica but worried that it was happening too fast. She just brushed it off though because she had found her dream man and now her own fairy tale was coming true!
Friday evening after watching a movie together in her apartment, they shared a few soft kisses. Instead of saying goodbye per usual, he looked deep in her eyes and asked, “I’m going to stay the night, ok?” She smiled whispering yes.
The next morning, she awoke the next morning to the smell of coffee, alone in bed. She remembered how gentle his touch had been. Then it was as if he was someone else, suddenly making rough demands of her. Was this how it was, she wondered? She had never done this before so who was she to ask questions. Perhaps the romance books were exactly that…fiction. She thought about talking to Wanda about it but knew she would only embarrass herself. “It was a guy thing,” she told herself, “Just get over it.”
“Hey beautiful! How about breakfast in bed? I’ve got eggs, toast, and coffee.” He approached her with a big grin, laid the tray upon the bed and gave her a soft kiss on the lips. She smiled tentatively replying, “Sure.”
As she started to eat, he stroked her back and said in a husky voice, “Last night was amazing!” She paused eating for a moment. Pulling back with a concerned look he asked, “You didn’t enjoy it?”
Telling herself it was fine, she reassured him with a smile saying, “It was wonderful.” He kissed her on the forehead and started to dress for the day.
“Remember we’re meeting for lunch, right?” he asked.
“Of course,” she replied, “I wouldn’t miss it.”
Three Months Earlier
That morning at work, Jessica thought about Robert’s request to move in with him. Her apartment lease was ending soon, and they did spend most nights together at her apartment. Why not live together? She had doubts though because of what happened every night they spent together never changed. She was always surprised of who he became when they were in bed together, an entirely different man, almost cruel with his demands. The next morning though he was always so sweet and gentle again. How could she not forgive him?
Although Jessica rarely saw Wanda these days, she called often, telling her of his grand romantic gestures. Wanda was suspicious of Robert, but Jessica could not understand why. Jessica never mentioned their evening activities to Wanda because she knew she would sound ignorant.
When Robert picked her up for dinner that night, she knew her answer. After they ordered, she leaned over the table and whispered, “Yes.” His eyes lit up with happiness and he spoke excitedly, “That’s amazing! This calls for champagne!”
They each talked about their future that night, both in agreement. They both wanted to be married in a year with children a few years after that. Everything seemed perfect.
Two Months Before
She had moved into Robert’s place to make him happy. Only somehow, he had changed overnight. He always seemed to run hot and cold. Instead of going out anymore, he insisted she start making meals. She always had to hurry home after work, declining dinner to go out with co-workers whenever they asked. Robert began arriving home late criticizing whatever she cooked but then enjoyed the meal, still making little cruel comments to her. Then he would be this loving gentle man again, until bedtime came. She wondered if she would ever get used to that.
Just last night she made his favorite chicken picada. He arrived home late per usual and complained how dinner was cold. “You do know how to manage time, right???” Walking abruptly away, he demanded, “Let me know when it’s ready.” She reheated it nervously and reset the table. Calling him into the kitchen she sighed as he walked in with a big smile, “That looks lovely, baby! Let’s eat.” After dinner, he exclaimed it was delicious and volunteered to load the dishes. This was what happened every night now.
He had also become jealous of Jessica’s phone calls with Wanda since Wanda made it obvious that she didn’t like him. “You can talk to or have lunch with her anytime during the day at work! Why do you have to do it on my time with you?” He would sometimes rant about how Wanda was trying to take her away from him. Jessica tried to defend Wanda but started to wonder if there was some truth to what Robert was saying. Could Wanda be jealous? Later Robert always apologized of course. He told her how much he loved her and couldn’t bear losing her.
More recently, he talked to her about the idea of staying at home. “You don’t have to work,” he would say, “Then you could have more time for your hobbies. I know how you love painting.” The more he talked about it, the more she considered it.
One Month Ago
When she quit her job, Wanda had made it into a big argument. “Why are you doing everything he asks? He’s trying to make you all his! You never see anyone else anymore. I can’t even talk to you whenever he’s around. It’s all about what you are for him! He doesn’t love you!” Jessica had been so mad that she had just walked away. From then on, she ignored Wanda’s calls always deleting her voicemails as well. Every couple argued sometimes.
Today she had been painting all day and forgot about the time. When he walked into the door, he was in a rare mood with a wide smile holding a large bouquet of flowers. Startled she looked at the time then at him and said, “I’m so sorry about dinner. I’ve been so inspired! What do you think?”
His smile seemed frozen as he put the flowers on the table and walked closer to her. Examining the painting, he said, “Inspired huh?” Carefully he looked at her with cold blue eyes. “You’re so inspired that you forgot about dinner? You forgot about me and what I do for you? I work so you can stay home now, and you forget?”
She smiled weakly starting to apologize, only to shriek as Robert viciously punched his right hand through the large canvas and yanked her hair back. “Please! I’m so sorry!” she begged. Her scalp screamed as he dragged her across the room. “All you had to do was make dinner. You never do anything right!” he yelled throwing her onto the sofa. His bottomless pit of rage was drowning her as his fists rained hitting her again and again. Jessica closed her eyes wishing herself away to a place where she would not feel the pain anymore.
The next morning Jessica awoke in bed as her muscles moved in protest as she rolled over. There upon Robert’s pillow he had left a yellow rose with a note. “I’m so sorry beautiful! I never meant to hurt you. I love you so much and promise I’ll never do it again! We’ll go someplace nice for dinner. I’ll call you later. Love you always!” She walked into the bathroom, stopping suddenly as she saw her reflection. Her arms and ribs were covered in dark bruises, telling her that Wanda had been right all along. She was no longer herself; she was nothing but whatever Robert wanted her to be. She ignored her beautiful canvas which lay in ruins with a giant gaping hole through it that seemed to stare at her as if it was the eye of truth. “It’s broken just like me,” she thought.
The next few days were like a dream for her, an actress playing her part. She was so afraid, never knowing which version of Robert she would get. She smiled and did everything Robert expected until a few nights later he flew into another rage, leaving her covered in fresh bruises again. The next morning, lay another yellow rose and note pleading forgiveness. She knew then that she had to leave but didn’t know how.
A few days later after Robert had left for work, Wanda tried calling again. Ever grateful for Wanda’s persistence, Jessica picked up asking softly, “Wanda?”
Wanda sighed with obvious relief, “Thank goodness you finally picked up! I’m so sorry that I...”
Immediately Jessica broke down, clutching the cell phone as if it were a lifeline. She interrupted Wanda sobbing, “You were right! All along you were right! I could never see what he was and now he broke me! Please help me!”
Dropping everything, Wanda had driven over and helped Jessica pack everything important quickly. Within two hours, they were out and settling in at Wanda’s.
“You can stay here with me however long you want, roomie. I’m so sorry he hurt you,” said Wanda. Hugging her gently, Jessica said, “I never knew until it was too late. I wish I had seen it like you sooner. I just wanted my happy ending.”
“One day you will,” promised Wanda, “and I’ll be there when you do.”
It had taken some time with Wanda’s help, but Jessica had finally broken free from Robert. Thankful he had moved on so quickly had made her realize that she had never really meant anything to him. Now she knew to be more careful about trusting others.
She finished her latte and walked out the door. As she turned the corner, she found herself facing the morning horizon with renewed belief that her fairy tale ending was out there.