Hold My Heart – Part IV

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In the weeks that followed, I struggled to figure out how to be Cory’s friend – just his friend. It was easy being more than friends or not interacting with him at all, but to have a healthy friendship seemed nearly impossible to me.

Cory, seemingly unfazed by any change in our status, continued to send me text messages. Late at night, he’d send simple ones, like, “Ask me a question.” So I’d ask about his family’s Christmas traditions and his favorite color and his middle name.

One night, Cory – obviously feeling lonely – sent me a text, “Has anyone ever made you feel like you are the only thing in the world that matters?”

Thinking of my ex-fiance, I wrote back, “Yes… and that’s a simultaneously wonderful and dangerous place to be.”

Cory texted back immediately. “What’s it like? I’ve never experienced that before.”

My mind went to Cory’s ex-fiance, Mary. Cory dated her for four years, lived with her for one of those years, proposed to her and was engaged to her for several months, and she never made him feel like the center of her world? I couldn’t explain over text what it was like – both my celebration of and reservations about such feelings – so I called him.

“Wanna talk?” I asked when he answered.

“Yeah.” His voice sounded muffled, like he was lying in bed. A likely scenario, given that it was rather late.

So I told Cory a bedtime story – a partial story of my courtship and engagement to R, and how he’d put me on a pedestal and frequently looked at me in absolute wonder, whispering softly, “I love you, Aurora. You’re more than I ever dreamed was out there.”

It was thrilling to be so loved. R broke down in tears, overcome with his love for me when he asked my parents for their blessing over our marriage. He cherished me; adored me; worshipped me. At least, until the day he woke up; the day he realized I was human and therefore fallible and wouldn’t always have perfect hair, a winning smile and the patience of Job.

In the case of R’s love for me, our relationship really was too good to be true. His love was an immature, lusty kind of love that quickly fades when the bloom is off the rose. And that’s why I told Cory it’s a dangerous place when someone makes you feel like you are the only thing in the world that matters. It breeds pride in the object of affection and idolatry in the adorer.

One Saturday night as I climbed into bed, Cory sent another text. “What time are you going to church tomorrow?”

I’d never invited Cory to church before. I didn’t want to push it on him, but he knew that I attended services every Sunday, so I figured if he wanted to come, he’d say something. I guess this is him saying something, I thought to myself.

“I’m volunteering during the 9:15 service and then attending the 11:00. Interested in joining?”

“Maybe,” he texted back. “Where is your church?”

I sent him the address, and he responded with, “Do you want me to come to your church tomorrow?”

What kind of a question was that? Of course I did, and he knew it. Red flags went up in my mind. He was fishing somehow. I tentatively typed back, “I would love for you to be there. I want you to come if you want to come. I’ll be in jeans because I’m volunteering with the kids, so if you do come, feel free to do the same.”

“Hmmm. Can I make a deal with you?”

I read his text and sighed. I’d known he was up to something. “Depends on the deal,” I wrote back.

“Can I trade cuddles for church? Lol. I.e. cuddle now, church tomorrow. And I respect your desire to not kiss anymore. I’m just feeling snuggly.”

When I didn’t reply immediately, he added, “I also respect a no answer. It’s probably a dumb idea. Lol”

I knew Cory was showing me a rare moment of vulnerability, so I wanted to tread lightly, but I also knew my answer had to be no, so I made a teasing joke about how I thought his puppy Stout would probably need to suffice for a snuggle buddy that night.

“I guess he’ll have to,” Cory conceded. “His kisses are much more messy, haha.”

After a pause, I sent a follow-up text.

Question

Answer

Do you still want to come to church, or was that just part of an exchange?

Haha. I actually want to check out your church; it’s just really far from where I live.

The cuddles were more of a motivator to overcome the drive than to get me to want to go to church with you.

Makes sense.

If you would like me to come to church tomorrow, I can make that happen

Are you willing to make the drive? I know it’s far

Probably not regularly, but I could make at least one trip

Okay 🙂

So is that a yes you want me to come out tomorrow?

Yes

Alright. Get some sleep. See you mañana 🙂

And so, in the morning, Cory met me at my church. The sermon was absolutely perfect for his visit. Our pastor spoke on James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Since Cory is so anti-organized religion and is so passionate about loving and helping the less fortunate (i.e. “being a good person”), I loved that he got to hear my pastor’s perspective on what it looks like for a Christian to live out James 1:27.

After the service, we went out to a casual lunch with a group of my church friends, and as I looked around the table where we ate our burritos, I tried to see our group through Cory’s eyes. We are collectively a very authentic, loving group of people. Everyone is very open about their current struggles, and we all try to speak light and life into one another.

When I privately asked Cory what he thought about the church service, he told me, “I could really feel the warmth. I see why you go to church there. But I like a more traditional service, singing out of hymnals and such. It’s what I grew up with.” I was disappointed that he didn’t have more to say; that the sermon didn’t resonate with him and that his only real comment was that my church wasn’t his “style”.

After lunch, Cory wanted to spend some more quality time together, so we went to a Starbucks for coffee. Actually, we went into the Starbucks, ordered our coffees, and went back outside to my BMW where Cory plugged in his iPhone so that we could sing duets together. He chose a song first, which we belted out together; then it was my turn. I picked a duet from one of my favorite musicals, and our voices blended beautifully during the harmonies of the chorus.

We sat out there for a full hour, taking sips of our lattes between songs. What other man would sit in the parking lot of a coffee shop and belt out duets with me in the car? This is why I have such a hard time letting him go. He is so fun… and spontaneous… and free-spirited… and passionate. 

Cory had brought study materials with him, so we went back to my apartment, where I got out a book to read while he studied. But he didn’t get much studying done. He kept looking up from his textbooks to ask me questions about myself or share a story he’d been meaning to tell me.

We were sitting together on the couch, and I got caught up in the moment and let Cory kiss me again. I knew it was a bad idea, but it was just as wonderful as I’d remembered. Feeling conflicted, I asked him between kisses, “Is there any part of you that is confused? Is any part of you feeling torn? I know you said none of this means anything, but I have trouble believing that.”

Cory rested his hands on either side of my face and looked deeply into my eyes. “In my head, everything is clear. But if I’m honest with myself, my heart and emotions are confused.” He kissed my forehead; then nudged my nose with his own.

“If you could describe how you feel about me in one word, what would it be?” I asked him.

He thought a moment before answering, “Wistful.”

“Why?”

He smiled sadly at me. “Because I see the potential we have. We could be so great. But we could never be together without one of us trying to change the other. You know that. Our world views are just too different. Besides,” he continued with compassion in his eyes, “You’re too wonderful a woman to ever be someone’s second choice.”

Authentically Aurora

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Mixed Signals

It may come as a surprise to some of you that I am not confrontation averse. That statement was made with complete sarcasm.

Now, I don’t consider myself a contentious woman or someone who stirs up trouble just for the sake of excitement, but if someone needs to be rebuked or held accountable, I have no problem speaking up. Granted, some might say I still need work on the whole rebuking “in love” thing. I’m a work in progress.

Kate Not ImpressedFlynn hosted a Christmas party at his house last weekend. Yes, the same Flynn who has insinuated his interest in me but is still dating the girl he’s been “meaning to break up with” for two months. He said he knows I need an alpha male and “could be the kind of man [I] need”, but if he’s having trouble cowboying up and breaking things off with this soon-to-be-ex, I’m not so sure he’s as much an alpha male as he’d like to believe. This is my Not Impressed face.

I showed up to his Christmas party two hours late because I was spending time with Bryan, who left on Saturday for a week long trip to Colombia. It was a beautiful night out, so the doors and windows of Flynn’s house were all open. Since it was formal attire, I’d chosen to wear the same knockout floor length green formal I wore to sing in my brother’s wedding. I’d curled my hair and gone heavy on my eyeshadow for a dramatic look. As I waltzed through the doorway, the three gentlemen standing in the entryway stopped their conversion and watched me float by. Just the reaction I’d been going for.

I made my way to the kitchen for a drink. A girl I hadn’t met before greeted me with, “You look gorgeous!” just as Flynn turned around from where he’d been standing at the sink. At the same moment, Patricia, Flynn’s girlfriend, walked into the kitchen wearing a dress the same shade of green as mine. This new girl I’d just met oohed and aahed over how well Patricia and I matched and then insisted we take a photo together. #facepalm

The night progressed, and Flynn and I proverbially danced around one another. I agreed to sing karaoke with Trey, a sweet but awkward thespian. He chose the Frozen duet “Love is an Open Door.” We hammed it up, and the rest of the party loved it. Flynn jumped up with mistletoe on a stick and held it over us; then he videoed the end of the song when Trey’s character proposed and mine said yes.

“It’s official now,” Flynn said to me as I passed off the mic. He’s been teasing me about Trey ever since the camping trip.

“If you make one more crack about us…” I threatened jokingly. He just grinned.

When I sang karaoke for “Silent Night”, I glanced up to see Flynn watching me intently. Then he took the mic and imitated Elvis with “Blue Christmas.” His eyes locked with mine several times with silent communication I couldn’t decipher.

Patricia wasn’t feeling well and so left early. Meanwhile, the girl who’d loved my dress got out a violin, and Flynn went to a back room to pull out a cello. He plays cello. A super hot engineer in a suit and tie playing a melancholy line on a cello?! That’s not fair. That’s not fair at all.

Hot CellistI walked past him at one point while he was tuning and commented, “I didn’t know you played cello.” He looked up at me through dark lashes from his seated position and said with a sideways smile, “We haven’t gotten that far yet.” A present perfect verb tense. My heart fluttered. Interesting.

Over the booming of the speakers and the volume of the higher pitched violin, I couldn’t hear Flynn’s cello very well and told him as much at the end of the party. “I was disappointed I didn’t really get to hear you play.”

“I guess you’ll have to come back then,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

“…or you could stay,” he mouthed silently to me when the others in our conversation weren’t paying attention. Then, embarrassed, he said out loud, “I didn’t say that.”

I pretended not to see or hear either comment. What was there to say? There was no appropriate reaction, because those comments shouldn’t have been made. He’s made his choice. He’s still with Patricia.

I left at the end of the evening feeling frustrated. I’m attracted to Flynn but feel like I shouldn’t be. Why does chemistry have to be so unpredictable and uncontrollable? And how much should raw attraction play into our relationship decisions?

The whole drive home, I kept hoping he’d break his silence and call. This party was the first time we’ve interacted since our lunch a month ago, and based on how things went, I felt like there was much to be discussed.

I typically don’t like to initiate (because I’m traditional and think that’s the man’s role), but I was so frustrated and confused that – for the sake of my health and sanity – when I got home and still hadn’t heard anything, I decided to call.

When Flynn answered on the third ring, I opened with, “Hey, it’s Aurora. Can we talk about the mixed signals I’m getting?”

“From Trey?” he asked without missing a beat. But surely he knew better.

“No.” I wasn’t letting him off the hook. “From you.”

His response was immediate, with a tone of knowing he had some owning up to do. “I’m a horrible person. I never should have said those things.”

“Stop. You’re not a horrible person,” I countered, “But you’re still with Patricia, yes?”

“Yes.”

“Well, a month ago, you told me you’d been planning to break up with her for weeks. So… things have gotten better with you two?”

“No! No. I just… it was her birthday on Monday. And before that, it was Thanksgiving. I keep rationalizing to myself, putting it off. I’m being a pansy. I just need to man up and do it. But I know it will devastate her, and I don’t want to hurt her. There just never seems to be a good time.”

“Well, there never will be a good time. But you’re a man and can take responsibility for how to handle your relationship with Patricia, so I’m not going to speak to that, but if you’re going to keep dating her, you can’t keep flirting with me the way that you do. You do realize you’ve put me in an uncomfortable situation, right?”

“Yes. And I feel horrible about it. After our lunch, I knew I couldn’t even talk to you until things were settled with Patricia. There’s this tension between us – you and me – this attraction. That’s why you haven’t heard from me. It’s taken so much self control for me to have your phone number and not call you. Or instant message you at work.”

He continued, “And you’re like a ninja at lunch. I’ve started sitting at a different table where I can see all the doors to the office cafeteria, but I never see you come in or leave.” Aww. He’s been looking for me.

I decided to show my cards a bit since he was doing the same. “I guess that’s why I haven’t seen you. I keep looking for you at your usual table.”

We both grinned into the silence over the phone line for a moment before I sobered up and sighed. “Okay. I’m sorry to have initiated this potentially awkward conversation, but I felt like some of these things needed to be said.”

“No, I agree completely. Better to get them out in the open and address them.”

“Good. Well, like I said, it’s your choice what you do about Patricia, but I think you know I’m not a boyfriend stealer, and I have no intention of being ‘the other woman’, so I’m not going to wait on you. You do your thing, and I’ll do mine. If the timing ever works out, great. But I need you to know that I’m setting aside any expectations.”

“Right, of course,” he agreed. “That’s the way it should go.”

“And I’ll stop looking for you in the cafeteria,” I added.

“And I’ll stop checking your status on Communicator,” he concurred.

There was a brief pause before he closed out, “So I guess I’ll see you at work on Monday.”

“Maybe,” I replied cryptically.

He chuckled. “Okay, have a good night.”

“…Night.”

Authentically Aurora