More and more, I’ve been contemplating the idea of writing a book. I’m not a perfect writer but I do love to write. I hope that one day, I can see some body of work of mine come to life. But for now, I’d like to share a story. A story of the hardest thing. Enjoy!
To celebrate Shane’s 26th birthday, his ex-girlfriend Mya picked him up at his apartment to treat him to dinner. They had been high school sweethearts and, although they were no longer in a relationship, they had remained the best of friends over the years. They both secretly hoped for the same thing. Originally, Mya broke up with Shane because she felt the timing was off for their relationship. They both needed to mature before revisiting the idea of a relationship. Their closest friends and family hoped they worked out their differences because any one with a pair of eyes could still see the love they had for each other.
“Do you mind if we make a quick detour? I forgot something at my house,” Mya said.
“Sure, not at all,” he said.
They drove across town to her apartment and quickly went inside. She threw her pocketbook on the couch and briskly walked to her bedroom.
After a few minutes, she called Shane.
“Could you come in here? I need your help with something,” she said.
Shane walked toward her bedroom. His palms sweated and he chewed his gum fast. His heart pounded through his chest. He pushed open the door and froze. His eyes went big as he took in what he saw.
“Happy birthday!” she said.
Mya chuckled and snapped a photo of his surprised face.
An assortment of birthday cards was taped on a wall in the shape of the number 26. Splayed across the bed were 26 black-and-yellow birthday balloons with an assortment of photos of their most memorable moments together.
Shane noted the detail in the arrangement as yellow was his favorite color. He slowly walked over with a smile and picked up a photo. An assortment of cards was glued to the back of the photos and on each one, Mya had written a reason why she loved him. A big balloon that played a song when touched, sat in the center of the bed above a carefully wrapped, silver-foiled gift box with the number 26 cut out of black, glittering decorative paper on the top. He looked at her, his eyes wide.
“I can’t believe you did all of this for me,” he said.
“Well, I thought you deserved it. This was a big year for you, your accomplishing so many of your goals and I wanted to make you feel special,” she said, “because you are.”
Mya walked over to him and gave him the biggest hug she could muster from her 5-foot 5-inch frame.
“There’s more! Go ahead, open the box!” she said.
Mya sat on the bed as Shane pulled open the lid. Inside were 26 individually wrapped gifts, with black-and-silver checkered decorative paper and hot-pink numbers on them. Each little gift coincided with the 26 reasons why she loved him she had written on the back of each photo. The sequence of gifts, reasons and photos all told a story.
“It’s sort of a game. You have to pick a photo and find the box that matches,” Mya said.
She grinned as he picked up the first card. It read, “#1 I love you because you are the biggest nerd I know. You know so many random tech facts and you get too excited about Marvel comics.”
Shane chuckled and picked up the gift labeled, “#1”. He unwrapped it and had two Nerds Rope candies. He laughed even harder.
When he picked up card #10, the note read, “See package.” He opened it and saw an envelope and a folded shirt. He opened the envelope and photos of his first dog, Jax, fell out along with others of his recent pet. He had died two months earlier. Water welled up in his eyes and he sat down and put his hands to his face.
Mya furrowed her eyebrows and stopped snapping photos. She moved to his side and gave him a hug from behind and caressed his back. She knew this was a sensitive topic because he loved the dog so dearly and never spoke about how he felt. He would hold everything in and Mya could see right through it.
After a minute, he read the note: “To the biggest animal lover I know, something to remember your first child by.” He laughed as he wiped away the tears and held up the gray shirt with Jax Teller, from the Sons of Anarchy on the front. He clenched his chest, and reached over and gave her a bear hug. He immediately understood.
“Ah, man. Thank you,” he said, “I can’t believe you got me to cry.”
They laughed and he opened the rest of the gifts.
Shane sat back in his chair and stared directly in her eyes, his eyebrows raised and mouth open. Mya sat across from him on the bed staring back, smiling. She eventually broke the gaze and fiddled with the camera. He leaned in, pulling her small hands into his and kissed the back of each one.
“I wanted to do this because I wanted you to feel how much I care about you. I love you to pieces, and we are the best of friends, even after all these years. I know we have been through a lot, but I’m willing to try one more time if you are,” Mya said.
Shane cupped her face with his palm as he gave a half-smile. He looked toward the floor for a moment and sighed.
“I love you so much, Mya. I don’t even want this to be my answer,” he said, “but it has to be a no for now.”
Her smile disappeared. She looked away as she fought back tears.
“Please understand,” he said.
Shane pulled her into his lap and caught the tear that ran down her cheek.
“You mean the world to me. It breaks my heart to even say this to you,” he said.
“So then why even say it?” she said.
Full blown tears overflowing as she interrupted him. She cried into his shoulder.
“Because, Mya, look at me,” he said.
He pulled her face to him and looked her in the eyes.
“Because I want to be the man you have always seen in me. I don’t want you to settle for less, and I don’t see that man in myself yet. You don’t deserve that. I’m not sure I understand myself and I don’t ever want to hurt you again,” he said.
His voice croaked as he spoke. “I hate to say it because it really does sound cliché, but it’s the truth. This isn’t about you, it really is about me,” he said.
They laughed at the phrase as they wiped away their tears.
“If I’m with you, I want to be sure I can only bring you tears of joy. I don’t want to ruin our last chance,” he said.
“I understand,” she said, “and I respect your decision.”
Shane wiped her tears and held her face in his hands. He kissed each, wet eyelid, the tip of her red nose, each damp cheek and one on her full lips, a vaguely familiar ritual. They remained there for a moment, their foreheads pressed together and sighed.
They eventually stood and left the apartment for dinner. At the end of an amazing night, Shane lay in his bed looking at the ceiling. He couldn’t sleep. He already missed Mya’s presence.
“Did I make the right decision?” he thought.