It was a beautiful Midwest fall day. The sky was a deep blue, a deeper blue than usual. There was a chill in the air, a hint of the coming winter. The fall leaves were brilliant with their reds and oranges. Once upon a time, it used to be my favorite time of the year, but that had come to a crashing halt long ago. I unlocked the door to my apartment and went inside, tired from a long week at work. I didn’t mind the job I had, but it had lost the glow of enjoyment a long time before. Shit, my whole life had lost that glow a long time ago. I was 40 years old, divorced, paying a mortgage on a house that my ex-wife lived in with her flavor of the week, and up to my ears in debt thanks to her and her habit of spending a shitload on toys for them before I found out about her whoring around. I felt like the American Dream had whipped out its dick and pissed all over me. The only good thing about it was that we had no children that would have gotten hurt. I grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and headed to the bathroom for a shower. Before I could get there though, the phone rang. Looking at the display, I saw it was my brother Bill. “Hey Bill, what’s going on?” “Hi, Paul, listen, I have some mail here from our high school. It seems they’re having a reunion this summer. It’s an all-class reunion. I’m going to go. The letter they sent is asking if I would ask you if you are coming,” my brother said. I laughed. My opinion of class reunions is pretty low. To me, all they are is a bunch of fortunate people sitting around bragging about their job, their kids, their big houses and fancy cars, and rubbing that shit into the not-so-fortunate ones’ noses. Bill, two years younger than me, was one of the fortunate ones. He was the star quarterback, and the success of taking our team to the State Championship and getting a scholarship to the University of Florida was only the beginning. Leading the Florida Gators to the National Championship added to it. The only thing that stopped him from being probably the best quarterback in the NFL was the career-ending injury to his knee in his first preseason game. His business was thriving even during this economic downturn; he had married his high school sweetheart who had gave him two perfect children who were going to college. He and his family lived in a large house in a gated community and had all the toys. While the American Dream pissed all over me, Bill got ice cream and rainbows from it. If I sound envious, you’re right. Once upon a time I had what he had, but that was gone now. Except for the bills, that is. “Billy, you do what you want. I’m not going, period. I’ve got better things to do than listening to you and all the other jocks and pretty people reminiscing about the old days, bragging about whose got the better BMW and bigger house. Fuck that shit.” “Paul, don’t be an ass. I didn’t make myself clear. There was another letter enclosed from Jaime Miller. She was the one asking if you would come.” Fuck. My asshole of a brother would have to play the one card that would make me say yes: Jaime Miller. Jaime Miller was the homecoming queen, a cheerleader, and for three years, the love of my life. Until she broke up with me escort izmit the summer before we went to college, saying she didn’t want to try to make a long distance relationship work. Twenty two years later, I still held a torch for her. Anybody out there who still doesn’t have a thing for their first love is either lying to themselves or dead. My brother went on. “She wanted to know if you’re on Facebook, and if you were married or not. Do you want me to tell her what’s happening in your life?” “No, I’m not going to let her get her information second-hand. Look, Bill, give me the address and let me think about this, all right?” I said. Bill gave me her address, and said good bye. I hung up, sat in my easy chair and drank my beer. I ended up drinking the better part of a case and passed out. I woke up the next morning, stiff and sore from sleeping in the easy chair and very hung over. After the shower I was going to get last night before Bill laid the mental cheap shot on me and a breakfast of aspirin and coffee, I almost felt human. I booted up my computer and paid some bills. After I had finished that, I thought Oh what the hell, and went to Facebook. I entered the information and started an account. When I came to the area to add friends, I entered Jaime’s name. After sifting through ten pages of Jaime Millers, I finally found her. I clicked on her name and looked at her photo for a while. Time had been good to her; Jaime’s face still looked the same as I remembered it. Her brown eyes were bright and clear. Her long dark hair was in a shorter cut now, but it looked great. With fear grabbing my stomach in a death grip, I clicked on the information tab. The page said the usual thing about only sharing some information with everybody and only gave her birthday. Fuck. With a shaking hand, I clicked the Add as a Friend button. The friend request sent pop-up came up, and I logged off. Later that afternoon after running errands and sending the mortgage payment, I logged into Facebook. There was a notification and a message. I clicked the notification and it said that Jaime accepted me as a friend. Then I clicked the new message. It was from Jaime. It read: Hello, Paul. It’s nice to have found you after all this time. Call me; my number is on my information page. Jaime I went to her information page. I looked at her marital status; it said single. I don’t believe it. Nothing good has happened for me in a long time, I thought. I found her phone number, grabbed the phone and dialed her number. I let it ring twice, and then hung up. What the hell am I doing? What do I say? ‘Hi, Jamie, It’s Paul. Remember me? You broke my heart over twenty years ago and I’m still not completely over you?’ I must be a god damned idiot, I thought. “Fuck!!” I said. The phone rang. I looked at the display; it was Jaime. My mouth went bone dry. I picked up the phone. “Hello?” “Paul?” My heart skipped a beat when I heard her voice; it still sounded sweeter than honey. “Hi, Jaime.” “Paul, it’s so good to hear your voice.” Same here, Jaime, how are you doing?” “Paul, I’m doing well. How are you? “To be honest, Jaime, I’m not doing well.” “I know, Paul. Billy told me what happened. izmit escort I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve what happened to you.” “I’m going to punch my brother in the mouth for being a rat. I told him yesterday not to tell you.” I heard Jaime laugh. Then she said, “Oh Paul, don’t you dare!! He told me three weeks ago when he found me on Facebook. I guess it took him until yesterday to come up with a way to get you to get on Facebook.” Damn Bill to hell, that sneaky bastard. Jaime continued, “Paul, don’t be mad at Bill. He worries about you. He cares about you, like family should, Paul. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Bill should mind his own business, and I agree. He should mind his own business. But his business is that his brother is hurting and has been for a long time. He knows you won’t talk to a stranger about it, or him. “Paul, he knows you need a friend, someone to talk to. I know, what he did was sneaky and devious. If I were you, I’d be mad at him too. But he knows you’re too proud to get help. So, he brought you help, Paul, that’s all.” Jaime was right. I was too proud, and too embarrassed. So, I did the only thing I knew how to do; I emotionally closed everybody out. Problem is the emotions will eat at you. And right now, I’m eating myself alive, I thought, and then I said, “Jaime, why are you always right?” With a laugh, Jaime said, “Because once upon a time, I knew you better than you knew yourself. And even after twenty years, I still know you better than you know yourself.” Damn it. She was right, again. I sat in my easy chair, and asked the one question that had been on my mind for twenty two years. “Jaime, what happened between us? Why did you walk away?” There was silence from the phone. After a minute she answered in a shaky voice, “Paul, I was afraid of losing you. So, I thought it would be better if I walked away rather than you walking away from me. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was also the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. You don’t know how many times I’ve regretted what I did that day. Paul, I know I have no right to ask this, but……..do you forgive me?” As I sat there, I felt a tear on my face. I had not cried in nearly thirty years since the day my father died. But now, here I was crying like a child. Finally when I could speak, I said softly, “Babe, there’s nothing I couldn’t forgive you for. I can’t lie, it hurt like hell. But it doesn’t matter. I loved you then, and I still do. I never stopped loving you, Jaime. ” I heard Jaime weeping. Then I heard her say, “Paul, sweet, sweet Paul. I’ve done so many things to try to forget you, a lot of terrible things. So many mistakes I’ve made to try to forget about the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. But I couldn’t forget. I couldn’t forget you. I couldn’t forget that I love you. I couldn’t stop loving you. Paul, I still love you too.” For the first time in a long time, I felt happy. I said, “Jaime, what do we do now? I mean, I want to be with you, wherever that may be, here or where you are, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing holding me here; I can do my job wherever. I could move with a week’s notice; I don’t even have izmit kendi evi olan escort a lease to contend with.” Jamie laughed again. I couldn’t get enough of that. Then she said, “Paul, there is something I need to tell you, something I should have told you a long time ago. When we broke up, I was pregnant. I did not know it at the time. Our daughter is twenty two years old. She knows you are her father. Cristina graduates from the University in two weeks at Fall Commencement, and really wants her father to watch her get her degree. Will you be there, Paul? She really wants to meet you. I’m so sorry about not telling you sooner, babe.” “Darling, like I said, there’s nothing I can’t forgive you for. And, yes I will go to our daughter’s graduation. I only live an hour away from the University. I can’t promise much for a graduation present though. Seems my ex-wife and her lawyer have my wallet in a wringer. Are you going?” Jaime said, “I wouldn’t miss Cristina’s graduation for anything. But I live in Fargo. And don’t worry about a present; meeting her father is present enough, babe.” “So you can stay here with me, Jaime. It isn’t much, but it’s what I’ve got.” “All right, but I don’t want to put you out, Paul. I don’t want to impose.” “Jaime, it’s not an imposition. Everything I have is yours. You’ve had my heart for over twenty five years.” “Okay, now it’s your turn to be right. I accept.” Jaime and I talked on the phone for another hour, and we hung up. We talked all day Sunday. We shared everything that happened in the past twenty years with each other. That night as I slept, I dreamed about the night that my heart was broken twenty two years before. I had picked up Jaime to take her with a movie. Usually, she was happy, but tonight, she was distant. Finally, just before I dropped her off at her house, she turned to me and said, “Paul, in two weeks we both leave for college. I’m going to be a thousand miles away from you. I don’t think what we have will survive the distance. “Paul, I’m so sorry, but it’s over between us.” She got out of the car and walked away. I was stunned. I did not have an idea that this was coming. I awoke with a start and sat at the edge of my bed with my head in my hands crying until the sun came up. We talked on the phone every day for hours, from when we got up until we had to go to work, then after we got home until we went to bed. The Thursday before Cristina’s graduation, Jaime said, “I’m leaving in the morning to drive down there, baby. Are you sure about this?” I replied, “Jaime, I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life. I’m taking tomorrow off just for you. I’ll be here waiting. I love you, Jaime Miller.” “I love you too, Paul Thomas. I’ll call you before I head out. Goodnight, my love.” The next morning, I woke up early, having not slept much the night before. I was so nervous I was shaking. My mind was playing the what if game at full tilt. What if she can’t stand the way I look? What if she doesn’t like my apartment? Finally, I said out loud, “Fuck!! It’s been twenty years. Of course I’m not the same person; yeah, I’ve gained a little weight and my hairline has receded. It’s not like Jaime is still a cheerleader anymore and she’s older as well. Just KNOCK THIS SHIT OFF!!!” Finally at seven a. m., the phone rang. The display said Jaime. “Good morning princess!! Are you ready for your trip?” “Good morning Paul!! I just got the car loaded up and was just about to leave, honey.