Sweet Seth

autumn-walkSeth has been so wonderful lately. After a kind of rough patch in October where we talked through a few points of conflict (an important aspect of any healthy relationship), the past few weeks have been some of the sweetest we’ve had.

The weather finally turned cooler a few weeks ago down in the South where we live, so Seth and I took the opportunity to bundle up and go for a nice walk outside in a cozy, historic part of town. I had a warm latte in one hand and Seth’s calloused palm in the other. The leaves started changing, and we talked about everything and nothing.

At the end of our walk when Seth escorted me to my car, he gave me a kiss goodbye and then asked me to wait a second. “I’ll be right back.” He jogged to his truck, grabbed something out of the back seat and then jogged back to me. He wrapped his left arm around my waist and, with his right hand, threw a paper airplane through my open driver door onto my passenger seat.

I laughed, genuinely happy. “What was that?” I hugged his waist. He gave me a quick kiss on my forehead and said with a grin, “See you later.”

He jogged back to his car and got in while I, still smiling and curious, reached for the paper airplane. I unfolded it delicately and read one of the sweetest notes Seth’s ever written me. He acknowledged that he’s not always the most verbally affectionate boyfriend, but he wanted to make sure I knew how much he cares about me. I think I actually teared up a little bit. He’d written me a love note. And folded it into a paper airplane. It was the perfect combination of thoughtful and playful; quirky and sweet.

cinderella-stairsA few days later, after dinner with a group of friends, my high heels – glittery, silvery three-inch heels – were killing me. So Seth carried me up the stairs to my apartment. On the way, one of my heels fell off, so Seth set me down at the top of the stairs, ran down the stairs, picked up the silvery shoe, and ran back to the top of the stairs where he knelt down and gently slipped the glass slipper back onto my foot. I felt like a princess, especially when he scooped me back up again and carried me across the threshold of my apartment.

festival-of-lightsThe next week, Seth surprised me with a road trip, ensuring that he catered to my planning nature by telling me how to pack. “Dress for cool weather, and plan to be outside.” He wanted to keep the destination a surprise, but he is also learning how I operate and is lovingly choosing to adjust his style. He threw in a couple of red herrings (“Pack a hammer and a baseball cap”) just to keep me off track, but he ultimately took me to a lights festival modeled after my favorite Disney movie. I felt so loved, not only that he thought to surprise me with something he knew I’d enjoy, but that he also presented the surprise in a way that catered to me.

Last Sunday, he called me before church just to say “hello beautiful” and to let me know he was looking forward to worshiping with me. We watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and he told me I remind him of Mary because I’m a beautiful brunette who is lovingly supportive, resilient and a Proverbs 31 woman. And the next morning, he sent me off to work with an unexpected text: “Good morning, sweetheart. I hope you have a wonderful Monday!”

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the wedding of some dear friends who attend church with us. It was a beautiful ceremony, and at the reception, Seth leaned over to kiss my cheek and whisper quietly, “You were worth waiting for.”

My eyes widened in surprise, and he laughed, “It was a long wait!” He smiled. “But you were worth waiting for.”

Authentically Aurora

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TBT: La Beauté de Paris

Photographs I took during my trip to Paris this summer

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Authentically Aurora

Perks of Frugality

Seth TextWhen Seth took me to his ranch a few weekends ago with a group of mutual friends, he and I were tasked with grocery shopping for the group, so we threw a couple of ice chests in the back of his truck and went for an honest-to-goodness grocery run in town.

After picking out produce together, Seth sent me off to find some mustard. Eager to get back to him, I scanned the shelves, grabbed a small value brand mustard and hurried back to where he stood by the deli meat. Seth took the mustard from me and started to throw it in our cart, but he did a double-take at the label and cried in dismay, “Organic?! What in the world are you doing buying organic mustard?!”

He marched me back down the condiments aisle, replaced the distasteful container and, two shelves down, picked up an almost identical mustard by the same value brand. “80 cents. That’s more like it. Your fancy organic mustard was $1.20. We just saved 40 cents by not going organic.”

“Wow. I guess you can really treat me on our date next week!” I teased with a nudge.

Having thoroughly learned my lesson, I took extra care with my personal grocery shopping last week. When Seth came over to make stuffed bell peppers together – bringing meat from one of his family’s own bulls – I nodded at the bell peppers I’d purchased for us earlier in the day.

“You may notice that all of our bell peppers are yellow and green,” I said casually. Seth paused chopping the onions to glance over at me, sensing that I was about to say something of note.

I shrugged in mock nonchalance, continuing, “That’s because these were two for a dollar, whereas the red bell peppers were $1.25 each.”

In an instant, Seth was at my side, arms wrapped around my waist and face just inches from mine. “You are so attractive to me right now,” he told me in his low drawl before he lowered his lips to mine, rewarding me for my frugality.

Authentically Aurora

Roy? Gee Whiz

Colorful camp counselors.png

The Camp Counselor type: Everybody knows at least one. Loud, colorful, extroverted, crazy, zany, loud, talkative, attention-seeking, loud, animated, effervescent… and did I mention loud?

When I met Roy at church last fall, he’d been out of college for six months but was still unemployed. He spent a lot of time volunteering at various sports camps, which suited him perfectly, since he is one of the aforementioned camp counselor types. A Sports Management major with dreams of being a basketball coach, Roy stands just a couple of inches taller than me at 5’5″.

Roy is actually a very attractive kid – I think of him as a miniature Abercrombie model – but I can’t help but think of him as just that: a kid. The small child, Ashley calls him. So when he expressed interest in dating me, sweet as he is, I just couldn’t get past his age (23), his height (5’5″), his work experience (0 years) and his employment status (unemployed).

Don’t get me wrong; Roy is a very kind-hearted guy, and kindness goes a long way. In fact, my late grandfather told me that what drew him to my grandmother (“well, besides the fact that she had great legs!” he interjected) was her kindness. And my grandmother said the same about my grandfather (about his kindness, not his legs). I know that kindness is important, and I want to end up with a kind-hearted man. But I don’t particularly want to end up with a kind-hearted man-child.

When Roy initially asked me out back in November, I told him I thought he was a sweet, godly man, but I just felt we were in different life stages. Camp counselors are nothing if not persistent though, so he asked again in January. Now he has a job at the YMCA. But I was able to legitimately tell him that, despite his new employment status (employed! woo!), I am still not dating for a while (possibly a year, reevaluating at the end of each quarter, depending on how attractive my perspective dating pool is what God tells me about the state of my heart).

The puppy was not deterred. “So we just have ten and a half months to go,” he told me sincerely, taking me by the hand in the parking lot outside where we’d both been attending a party.

“Roy…” I said in exasperation, pulling my hand away. “Please don’t wait for me. I think you have a lot of great qualities – you’re a sweet, attractive, godly man – but you really should be dating other girls. I am not dating anyone right now, and as much as I admire you, I should not be a love interest of yours.”

Roy refused to try dating other people, insisting that there was something special between us. “Every time I’ve tried going out with another girl, I always end up comparing her to you, and she just doesn’t measure up. You are the standard.” Oh boy.

Just three weeks ago, we had to have the conversation again. Roy really is a sweetheart, and I enjoy his company, plus we’re in the same bible study at church, so I perhaps had been too gentle with him. Besides, my mom was really rooting for him. The little boy, she called him. The small child, Ashley called him. Roy vey, I thought to myself.

My mom liked that he was kind. I liked that he was kind. I knew though, deep down, that Roy and I weren’t a fit. And I needed to make sure he knew that. I didn’t want to hurt him, but after months of apparent lack of clarity on his part as to our status, I decided the time had come to be more direct.

Roy had walked me to my car, given me a hug and kissed my forehead (which required him to take my face in his hands and tilt my chin down). I sighed. I’d really thought I had been clear that we were just friends. Obviously we needed to have yet another DTR (can I just say? “not dating” 23-year-olds is exhausting).

“Roy, do you know why I’m not dating this year?” He nodded, but I continued anyway. “A big part of it is that I want to reinstate God as my First Love. I have allowed men to become idols in my life – a crutch of sorts – that keep me from going to God for comfort, encouragement and guidance. My sense of self worth tends to be tied up in men’s attraction to and opinion of me.”

Roy nodded again, big brown puppy eyes unaware that they were about to have their light dimmed. “I know we’ve said that we’re not dating, but whatever this is? This walking me to my car, texting me all the time, kissing me on the forehead? This pseudo-friendship-dating is a crutch that is completely undoing the purpose for which I set out not to date. You are a crutch. And I need this to stop.”

Suffice it to say that Roy got the message.

There’s a new girl at church, Jess, who I saw sitting alone and who I welcomed into our group about a month ago. Curly black hair, loves sunflowers, hates gluten. Sweet girl. I invited her to join our community group, which she did – so successfully, in fact, that last Saturday, she posted a Facebook photo of her and Roy cheek-to-cheek with the caption: “Successful first date!!! ❤ ” Umm, what?

I was confused. Just two weeks earlier, Roy had been fawning all over me, telling me that no other girls could compare to me. Two weeks was all it took for the puppy dog to pull his tail from between his legs and start wooing some other girl? Two weeks and he’s already posting photos with Jess to social media? I’m the one who invited her into our group! I’m the one who basically introduced them! And who posts first date photos anyway? Isn’t that a bit presumptuous?

Last Sunday they sat together holding hands with their fingers interlaced, and at lunch after church, Jess – apparently oblivious to the history between Roy and myself – plopped down right next to me so that she could gush to me about how amazing Roy is and then tell me all about their plans for their romantic second date.

As Jess giggled and showed me their selfies together, I ordered an alcoholic beverage. It shouldn’t bother me. It shouldn’t. I know this. I could have had him if I wanted him. In fact, I encouraged him to date other girls. And I legitimately think they could be a good match. I am happy for them. She’s a sweet girl, and he’s a sweet guy. They just seem like they’re both rushing into this like they have something to prove.

In the past week, Roy must have let Jess in on the fact that he pursued me for a while, because this Sunday when I walked into the sanctuary, I caught Roy putting his arm protectively around Jess and giving her a comforting hug as I walked by. Really? Am I that girl now? Hours later, they made their relationship “FBO” as Jess tagged it in their latest selfie – Facebook Official, “and I couldn’t be happier!!! ❤ ” Well go poop a rainbow, why don’t ya?

I really hope – for both their sakes – that she is not a rebound. And I really hope I can still be welcoming to her and kind to him. They are my brother and sister in Christ, and I want them to be happy. They are just moving really fast. And it’s hard to watch people move on from you. I’ve discovered as I’ve aged that all too often, even if we don’t want someone, we all still want to be wanted.

Authentically Aurora

The Aviary

Sleeping Beauty Aurora with Birds

Hurt people hurt people. Those with damaged hearts end up wounding others, sometimes intentionally; sometimes unintentionally. I am trying to remember there is a difference.

My mom has always told me that I am drawn to “the bird with the broken wing.” As I age, I would argue that birds with broken wings are actually drawn to me, hopping over to me in the forest where I dance happily alone, singing softly to myself like a scene from my namesake, Sleeping Beauty. These broken-winged birds are drawn to my voice; a voice calling out in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord – the one true Healer of hearts.

Grant is one of the birds I’ve seen around my proverbial aviary for a while now. We met at church when we both moved to town after college, and I’ve known Grant for nearly seven years. He’s a 31-year-old, six foot tall banker with a quick wit and penchant for playfulness. We share an alma mater and a love of country music, so about once a year, we end up going to a country concert together in the stadium downtown.

Grant is my go-to “plus one” for weddings and such events. And I am his. We unknowingly grew up down the street from one another, went to sister high schools, and he frequently teases me about being on the math club in junior high. We have seen each other through all manner of seasons – better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health; job layoffs, broken relationships, flat tires and the flu. He can be a jerk sometimes (evidencing his XY chromosome set), but I trust him, and I know that, deep down, he’s a good man who has just been wounded. His girl friend – who at the time he’d just looked at rings for – dumped him for his lifelong best friend. It happened three years ago, but he still bears the scars.

This year, Grant and I went to see Chris Young, and the concert was amazing. We went to dinner together beforehand, laughed a lot, got dessert; then walked and talked before entering the concert venue, where we danced and sang along to every song we knew. When Chris Young started singing his platinum “I’m Comin’ Over“, I leaned over to Grant and yelled into his ear over the noise, “This is our song!”

He looked surprised; then embarrassed, and yelled back into my ear, “I don’t know whether to laugh or feel convicted!” It was a fair response. Grant and I have kissed a few times and kind of gone on pseudo-dates over the years, but he has never intentionally pursued a serious relationship with me. We get along well, and there is mutual physical attraction as well as a shared faith, but – although he is turning 32 this month – Grant still lacks the maturity and commitment to lead a meaningful relationship.

I tend to assume that Grant and I are just going to events as friends, but occasionally he surprises me and wants a kiss at the end of the night. This time when tickled my sides and leaned in, I put my hand on his chest and reminded him, “I’m not dating this year, remember?”

“I know,” he said glumly, giving me a hug instead. But as he pulled away, he allowed his hands to linger and wander.

“Grant…” I warned. “We’re not doing this.”

“I have a roommate now,” he told me in a playful tone. “But you don’t. I won’t even kiss you. But if I were to choose between sleeping alone in my bed or just getting to hold you all night, there’s no contest.” He winked at me.

He was inviting himself over. To hold me all night. Just as friends, of course. Because it wasn’t enough for Cory to make me feel like a piece of meat. My friend, companion and brother in Christ had to do it, too. I am not valued for anything other than my body.

“Grant, you are not coming over. We are not going to be friends with benefits.” I paused. “Do you even want to date me? I mean, I know that I’m not dating right now, but if I were, would you be interested? Would tonight have been a date?”

Grant looked uncomfortable with the turn of conversation. He enjoyed flirting with me and getting the occasional kiss, but he didn’t want to talk about his feelings or intentions. “You’re a beautiful girl, Aurora. You’re smart and godly… You’re the kind of girl I should want to date.”

Wow. And with that line, he told me all I needed to know. “So you wouldn’t ever actually date me? You’d rather have all your busty girls in low-cut shirts who are willing to do things I’m not?”

“That’s not it at all. It’s…” he hesitated. “It’s your engineer personality. Sometimes you make math jokes that just aren’t funny.” This from the man who, earlier in the evening, asked me why cows don’t have feet (because they “lactose”).

“Wow, Grant. Wow. You make sports references all the time that I don’t get, and you make lame groaners of jokes that I don’t think are funny, but that’s a part of your charm. I care about you, and man, you’ve got to learn to accept people’s quirks as a part of what makes them who they are.”

“You don’t like my jokes?” he asked. He completely missed the fact that I was trying to point out to him that, to be in relationship with someone, you have to learn to cherish their “faults” as well as their strengths. Or that if he didn’t think he could ever live with my “engineer personality”, he needed to stop flirting with the line between friends and more-than-friends.

I got out of his truck without another word. I had nothing more to say, and I didn’t want him to see me cry. The ones closest to you are the ones with the most power to wound you. If I hadn’t gotten out of his truck as fast as I had, with him calling “Aurora” behind me, this is what I would have said:

Someday there will be a man who will love me just the way that God made me, engineer personality and all. You are not that man, so please never again call me to be your plus one play date. You have repeatedly demonstrated to me that you love my body but not my brain, and if you respected me, you would want better than that for me. As of now, you are too broken and selfish to be bothered by how much you damage those who you falsely convince yourself you care for. So I’m opening the aviary gate and setting you free. Your wing is still broken, but I am not your keeper. I am not your Healer. You are no longer my concern. There are other birds in the sky – ones without broken wings.

Authentically Aurora

Cruise of the Bruised – Part II

Book BeachLaying on a quiet beach reading a good book is my idea of a good time, so at the first port stop of our Bahamas cruise, I convinced the girls that we should find a secluded beach location rather than one of the party spots (it helped that my travel companions were 32 and 42, whereas I have no excuse for my preference). No Señor Frog’s for us!

After chatting with one of the locals who advised us of the best beach for what we were looking for, we got in line for a taxi headed to the appropriate location. As our group of three climbed into the back of a long taxi-van, a much larger group also stepped forward to board: Jordan, his slender orthopedic buddy and the entire gaggle of kids! Of all the taxis going to all the beaches in Freeport, we managed to end up in the same one. With a cruise ship of literally thousands of people, and with everyone disembarking at different times, I can legitimately say it was not planned. At least, not by mere mortals.

It was a cold day in Freeport – overcast and in the 60s – so everyone huddled together on the bench seats, joking and laughing as we all shivered at the cold wind cutting in through the open windows of the van. As soon as we got on the beach, some shady guy with dreadlocks came up to me and let me know he could set me up with the goods if I wanted to have any illegal fun. “What kind of illegal fun?” I asked, perplexed. “You’ll know what to ask for if you want it,” he told me with a wink, slinking away.

Shaking my head, I found a flat stretch of sand and laid out my beach towel, digging in my backpack for the book I’d started reading the day before. All the Carolinians (for the orthopedic group was from a mix of North and South Carolina) got out snorkel gear and splashed out into the chilly water. Verna and Marina got into the water, too, but they quickly returned and wrapped themselves in their warm, fluffy towels, chatting away in Spanish (they are from Argentina and Ecuador, respectively).

Less than half a chapter into my book, the Carolinians returned, and Jordan came over to talk to me. Only, he didn’t say anything; he just stood near me, pretending to examine his scuba gear. “Wanna explore?” I asked finally, gesturing to the beach.

“Sure.” He sounded relieved. The beach was ruggedly beautiful – rocky with a dense tree line close to the water – so I grabbed my camera and followed him down the shoreline, my long hair whipping around my face in the wind.

Jordan and I made small talk for a while, stopping occasionally so I could snap landscape photos as I felt inspired. We fell into an easy rhythm, and before long – as I have come to expect – Jordan started opening up to me about his past, telling me about his nine-year-old daughter Grace and his divorce from her mother four years ago. Apparently his ex-wife was abused as a child, and she became violent herself during the course of their marriage. According to Jordan, his ex was suicidal during the few years of their marriage; then she turned homicidal near the end. Jordan is still fighting a custody battle for their daughter.

After a time, we turned the conversation lighter, and Jordan told me more about his work. He loves what he does. He loves being a healer. “It’s amazing to see people who were wheelchair bound for twenty years start to walk again,” he told me with awe in his voice. His enthusiasm was palpable.

“How does your faith play into your role of healer?” I asked Jordan. He’d made a passing reference to a church, and I was curious how deep his faith went.

Jordan looked surprised but not uncomfortable. “I tend to keep a pretty tangible, scientific outlook, but I also know that God is ultimately the Great Physician,” he told me. As our conversation continued, I found out that Jordan had gone to seminary for a few semesters. Prior to becoming a massage therapist, he had been a youth pastor. It was my turn to be surprised. Jordan knows Greek and Hebrew, is an orthopedic massage therapist, and is also working as a carpenter, remodeling his home himself. This simple country boy was quickly becoming more and more interesting!

About a mile down the beach, Jordan and I came upon a large outcropping of rocks. I am normally pretty sure-footed, but my wet flip-flops kept slipping, so Jordan offered me his hand to help me climb over the rocks. Once I was safety on the other side, though, he kept my hand in his. For a moment, I thought of pulling my hand away, but I was cold, and his hand was warm and welcoming. Besides, I thought, there’s nothing wrong with holding hands.

Shortly thereafter, I suggested we turn back around and start heading back. We could no longer see our group of friends down the winding stretch of sandy beach. Jordan agreed, and we started to turn, but then he stopped. With my hand attached to his, I had to stop, too. I looked up at him, and he stepped closer, eyes full of intent. I barely had time to think before his arm was around me and he had lowered his lips to mine. I let him kiss me, but when we pulled away, I told him, “Jordan, I’m not dating this year. And you live in South Carolina. And you’re still fighting for custody of your daughter.”

He sighed and smiled. “I know.” He paused. “But I enjoy your company.”

I smiled, too, and we kept walking. But it was further back to our group than either of us had realized. And the day was getting colder and colder. And I had brought nothing with me but my camera – no towel, no I.D., no cell phone, no cash. So when we got back to where our group should be and found an empty patch of sand, I started to panic. Just then, the illegal-activity-encouraging dreadlocks-wearer appeared from behind the trees to offer some insight into the situation in which we found ourselves.

Apparently our group had left him as a messenger that the last taxi driver had capriciously decided to go back to the pier an hour earlier than agreed upon. And our group had been forced to leave us behind or be left behind themselves. But the drug dealer told us that he knew someone who could take us back to the cruise ship from our remote location. He gestured for us to follow him back to the parking lot where we’d been dropped off, and he introduced us to a heavy-set woman whose name I never caught. She seemed unhappy to be the errand girl, but clearly the druggie held some sway with her, so she hurried us into her car, and away we went, presumably back to the pier.

I was glad Jordan was so ripped.

I was not glad when I found out that Jordan had purchased marijuana for the high school boys from the dreadlocks man.

“It’s better than the stuff they usually do. At least this will keep them away from the pills,” he whispered to me in the backseat of the rotund woman’s car. “Last night, one of the kids was doing uppers and downers at the same time. I told him he’s going to kill himself that way.”

I was scandalized.”I thought you were a youth pastor at one time. Why are you encouraging this?! You told me you were on this trip to be a positive role model to these kids!”

“I am. I’m better than what they’ve got back home,” he told me in his slow drawl. “And, like I said, they’re going to do drugs regardless. At least I can help guide them toward the softer stuff. I won’t smoke any of it myself.”

“But you’re enabling them. And you’re a Christian. Don’t you believe that God is able to emotionally heal these kids fully, not just control how bad their drug usage gets?”

Jordan shrugged. And then, to my astonishment, told me the biblical story of Zacchaeus. “God doesn’t change our outward actions and then our hearts. He changes us from the inside out. Making these boys do the right thing – not doing drugs – without getting to their hearts first is just going to create a bunch of little Pharisees. I’m doing what I can to have a more lasting impact… and try to keep them out of too much trouble in the meantime.”

I was absolutely stunned. Jordan speaks with a   v e r y   s l o w  Southern accent, sometimes pausing so long that I think he’s forgotten to finish his sentence. During our walk on the beach, he seemed nice enough, but he didn’t come off as overly intelligent, and after the marijuana revelation, I had doubts about his moral code. So to have him pull out the story of Zacchaeus and insightfully apply it to our discussion left me dumbfounded.

I was momentarily swayed into understanding where he was coming from, but then Jordan went on to tell me he’d taught the kids how to smuggle alcohol onto the ship using listerine bottles. “They tried doing it last year, but they did it wrong, so they got caught. At least if I teach them, they won’t get in trouble with the authorities. A couple of them have already done jail time.”

I remembered my own childhood, my mother telling me, “If you ever do anything wrong, I hope you get caught!” I was hurt at first, not understanding, but she explained, “I would want you to get caught because I love you. And sometimes being disciplined is the best blessing we could receive.” If we are never caught – never disciplined – we may never turn from wrongdoing. Getting away with wrongdoing is often a worse punishment than getting caught because, without facing the consequences of your actions, your character may never be refined.

I tried to talk to Jordan about his approach to mentoring these kids. “Be relevant and relatable to the kids, yes; meet them where they are, yes, but don’t damage your witness in the process. Don’t compromise the line between right and wrong in order to try and reach them. I can’t imagine that’s God-honoring.”

We had to agree to disagree. Jordan told me I didn’t really understand the kids; didn’t know what it was like to come from a broken family. He told me they wouldn’t understand all my “high-and-mighty talk” if I tried to reach them my way. But the next day would prove otherwise. All these kids needed was a little love, encouragement, inspiration, I thought. …and boundaries.

Authentically Aurora

Hold My Heart – Part I

Queen's throne

In the weeks following our kiss in the parking lot, Cory and I saw a lot more of each other. One evening, he came over for dinner, and I made a savory pumpkin sausage soup. His grandmother called near the end of dinner – Mimi, he calls her – and since I knew from our conversations that she basically raised him, I waved him off to answer the phone while I washed the dishes.

Once I had finished scrubbing the pots and pans, I ventured into my living room where Cory was laying sprawled out on the couch. Seeing my approach, he scooted over and patted the spot next to him with the hand that wasn’t holding his phone. When I sat down, he pulled me down to a lying position and maneuvered me on top of him so that I was laying flat on my back on top of his stomach.

We laid there for a long time, Cory talking on the phone to his Mimi as he gently stroked my arm, my body rising and falling with his breathing. There was nothing sexual about the interaction, and yet there was a profound emotional intimacy in sharing those moments together.

When Cory got off the phone, he’d had enough down time and – like his puppy, Stout – was eager to do something active. So he taught me AcroYoga, a combination of yoga and acrobatics. I’d never heard of it before, but I have a yoga mat, so we put it down and started with some basics – throne, queen’s throne, front plank, plank on plank and front bird. It was terrifying and thrilling and silly and sexy and exhilarating all at the same time.

Cory mentioned that AcroYoga is something he did a lot with his ex-fiance and that it’s a great trust-builder in a relationship. I wondered what he meant by that and why he shared it with me. Was he looking to build trust with me? Was he testing how much I trust him? Was he hoping to build new AcroYoga memories? Was he thinking of her when he was with me?

When Cory and I did the plank on plank position, Cory did some push ups with my weight on top of him. “Show-off!” I teased.

In response, he flipped into a handstand against the wall and started to do handstand pushups. His untucked shirt fell and flopped into his face, so he righted himself, took off the shirt, and resumed his handstand pushups. He knew I was watching, and he wanted to be watched. He liked showing off for me. 

After a few reps, he turned around so that his face was to the wall. “This way you can see the muscles in my back,” he told me. Oh geez. This man made me feel so many conflicting things all at once. Was he attractive to me? Yes. VERY. But his desire to show off and the bluntness with which he directed my gaze to the muscles in his back quickly reminded me that he is very much a still-maturing 24-year-old.  I smiled to myself, enjoying the moment but also chuckling internally at the absurdity of the situation. Guard your heart, I told myself. Too late, I replied, looking into his happy face as he righted himself again.

Later in the week, Cory had me over for dinner. He’s rather health conscious, so he made us fish and broccoli with a side of mac-n-cheese, a personal favorite of his. After dinner, he showed me his bedroom, gesturing for me to sit on his bed while he perched in his computer chair. He pulled out several old folders of weathered sheet music – mementos of his days as a music major. Then he rummaged around in his closet for a moment, emerged with a small box and opened it to reveal a conductor’s baton.

He held it gingerly, and I could tell it was very special to him. “This was my first wand,” he told me. “My college choir director bought it for me when I graduated,” he added, handing it carefully to me.

I took a few swishes with it, smiling at the electric blue handle – an expression Cory didn’t miss. “Yeah, he teased me about the color I chose, but it suited me.” He looked at me and grinned – an adorable, innocent, sideways smile that reminded me of all that could have been… and perhaps all that still could be.

Returning to the pile of sheet music spread out on his bed, Cory instructed me to pick out a few favorites; then proceeded to serenade me for about an hour, giving me a private performance as he sang some of his old pieces from his undergrad showcases. I occasionally harmonized, but I quickly learned that Cory derives great pleasure from showing off and being delighted in, so I let him shine and showered him with praise.

After a while, Stout was ready to go out, so we took him for a walk around the block. Figuring I should head home so Cory could study without distraction, I gathered my things on our way out to walk Stout.

As Cory walked me to my car, I reached over and interlaced my fingers with his. I was a bit shy, but it felt natural after all we had shared together, from kisses to stories of our pasts; our joys, our hurts, our hopes and dreams.

Cory allowed the interaction, but I sensed a slight hesitation from him. Ah, so it’s one thing to kiss me in the privacy of an apartment but another to hold hands walking through the parking lot. Funny how holding hands can be so much more intimate than kissing. And his reaction was telling. It hurt a bit, but I chided myself that I shouldn’t be surprised.

When we reached my car, Cory opened the driver door for me, as I had come to expect. He briefly kissed me goodbye and closed the door for me after I climbed in. I started to drive toward the exit gate of his apartment complex, but just as I reached the gate, I saw Cory and Stout in my rearview mirror running toward me. I slowed to a stop and rolled down my window, wondering what I’d forgotten.

When Cory reached my car, breathing hard, I started to form a question with my lips, but before I could speak, Cory bent down and kissed me. “Stout wanted to say bye,” he said breathlessly by way of an explanation.

I couldn’t help but smile. It’s obvious that his heart is spoken for, but as much as he hurts me sometimes, this man is adorable. 

Authentically Aurora