After a lot of back and forth, I decided to accept John’s invitation for coffee.
Zoey, Penny, and Molly all gave their approval and encouragement for the idea of me dating again, although, I think if they knew about the brief thing with Sean they might have a different viewpoint.
Anyway, our first date was simple and easy. We decided to meet for coffee about a week before Thanksgiving. We have more in common than I thought but occasionally I found it hard to concentrate because people were stopping to take pictures of us. Two girls even came up to John to ask him for an autograph. He obliged and quietly apologized to me after they left. It wasn’t a big deal but it definitely highlighted how different our lives are and John’s is only going to get less private from here once his enormous superhero franchise opens.
There was really only one awkward part of our date and it was when John asked me about my family.
“Isn’t Thanksgiving coming up?” He asked.
John doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving because he’s originally from Spain.
“Do you have any plans with your family?” He continued.
“No. We have a show that day and they live in another state so…”
“Oh, well, you’ll get to see them around Christmas…” He said.
There was an awkward beat of silence when I didn’t answer. I hate the holidays.
“So, what does your mom do?” He asked.
I squirmed in my seat. How do you explain to someone all of your complicated family issues on a first date without revealing too much?
“I…am not on good terms with my mother….”
“Oh.” The way he said it made me cringe internally. I don’t want pity from people with perfect families. Poor Faith with the mommy issues. I just want to be free from it all.
He cleared his throat and changed the subject slightly.
“So…maybe you’d be up for spending Thanksgiving with me? I could make you the traditional dinner and you could come to my place after the show. I’ll DVR the parade and we can watch it together. What do you think?”
“You’re going to make me an entire roast turkey?” I giggled.
“Well…no, probably not. But I can roast a turkey breast and mash some potatoes.” He smiled.
I laughed and said I’d bring a side and a dessert.
And that was our next date.
I showed up at John’s house after closing up the theatre, changing clothes, and grabbing the pie and grocery store deli sides out of my fridge.
He put me to work mashing the potatoes and heating up the sides I had brought (corn and roast asparagus). As he pulled a pan of dinner rolls out of the oven, I smiled to myself. What a weird way to spend Thanksgiving, but it also felt right.
In a funny but also a kind of sad way this Thanksgiving was the first drama-free, stress-free holiday I’ve had in years. And I knew it was because I didn’t have to worry about dealing with my family. My dad had only asked once if I would consider coming. I changed my phone number so he emailed me the request and I declined it. I miss my dad so much. I know this fallout with my mother has been hard on him but she’s just too toxic to have in my life anymore. My brother has also added his air share of guilting to the mix but I’ve stayed firm. The closer it got the less they pushed.
“What are you thinking about?” John asked.
He must have noticed I was lost in my own thoughts.
“Nothing.” I smiled.
As I helped him set the table and we sat down to eat, John studied my face.
“What?” I asked looking at him over a small fall-themed centerpiece.
“You seem to cover up a lot.”
I looked at him with a smirk and he continued.
“I just mean, that sometimes I feel like you pretend to be happy and maybe you think you’re doing that for my benefit but I can handle the sad, too, Faith.”
He’d really caught me off guard.
“I’m not sad I just…look it’s not that I’m ungrateful for all of this, it’s a beautiful dinner. I’ve never had a man do something so sweet for me.”
“I don’t know. It’s….it doesn’t feel like a real Thanksgiving,”
“Well, it doesn’t have to. It can just be a nice dinner.”
“I’m sorry.” I said I knew I was ruining everything, “John…it doesn’t feel like a real Thanksgiving for me because of my family.”
“I see. I get it, people want to be with their families for the holidays-”
“No, John, I’m used to Thanksgiving being terrible because of my family. It doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving because this has been so wonderful and…and easy.”
He was quiet for a second and I felt obligated to explain.
“I know I told you I don’t have a good relationship with my mother and just left it at that. But I really don’t. I’ve refused all contact with her for months, she’s toxic and abusive and I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. She will never see me as anything more than a failure and I deserve better. And I know that this is A LOT to take in for a second date, but the way I’m feeling? What you’re picking up on? Is really complicated and has a lot of complicated feelings behind it but it’s not you, John. It’s just….the holidays. I hate them and I probably will never stop hating them. There are just too many bad memories.”
I shrugged and John seemed to accept it.
“Well, should we eat?” He asked smiling at me.
“That’s it?” I asked with hesitation.
“That’s it. You’re one of those people that choose your family. I’m lucky you’ve chosen to spend today with me.”
I wanted to cry. Everything about John seemed to be so easy. He didn’t play games. He was straight-forward and clear. It was refreshing. The night he made me a Thanksgiving dinner I knew we’d start dating seriously.
At the beginning of December, Adam and I were having a Project Runway night. I’d kept my distance from Adam’s personal life with Heather. I knew they were still struggling even after getting back together but I decided to stay out of it and keep my thoughts to myself. Personally, if I ever found myself as miserable as Adam seemed because of who I was dating I wouldn’t want to still be in the relationship. I know you’re all rolling your eyes really hard at that sentence but I’ve come a long way from where I was. Life is just too damn short to give your time to people you don’t care about.
“I don’t know how Tim can be so polite about some of these designs. I mean these are just terrible!” I said.
Adam had been mopey all night so I paused the DVR, sighed, and got comfortable.
“Tell me what’s going on.” I said.
“It’s fine.” He said.
“Heather and I broke up. For good this time. It’s over.”
I let Adam talk. Heather skipped right over moving in together and started pushing for a ring and Adam was having none of it. According to him it was the same fight over and over and he just didn’t think he’d be able to give her what she wanted. I do see things from Heather’s point of view. Why be with someone if they don’t want a future with you or can’t see themselves having one with you? Adam seemed so indifferent to her viewpoint, like he didn’t really care if she had a point. He’s always been a really caring guy so this worried me a little.
While I was listening to him, Adam suddenly leaned in and kissed me. At first, I kissed him back, our arms wrapped around each other and he was on top of me on my couch pawing at my shirt. But then I pushed him away.
“What? What’s wrong?”
I sat up and disentangled myself from him.
“Well, first of all…I’m seeing someone right now and we’re not exclusive yet but I want to see where it goes. But second of all? I am not the girl you get to use for sex whenever you break up with your girlfriend. If you feel lonely or if you miss Heather, then you need to work it out with her because I deserve better than to be treated like this by you. I’m not just someone you can fuck to make yourself feel better, Adam. I have feelings and whenever you show up and pull this shit it’s confusing for me and it’s not good for our friendship so cut it out!”
I looked at him angrily and he sighed. I was expecting a fight but it definitely turned out differently.
“You’re right. I’m sorry, Faith. You deserve more respect than that. And it’s not fair to you, it puts you in a weird position, and I should know better. I’m just so screwed up. I hate my life right now.”
“Adam, has Heather ever done or said anything that makes you not want to commit to her? You guys have been dating for a long time. Don’t you think it’s a little unfair to expect her to just keep going with the ways things are if she doesn’t know what you’re moving towards?”
“She’s never done anything wrong…I just…need more time before take things farther. I know that as soon as we make any sort of solid commitment to each other I’ll be dragged into my family’s world and that’s what I’m really not ready for.”
“Well then you need to tell her that. She deserves an explanation for your behavior. And if you hate your life right now? Well, you’re the only person who can fix it. If you hate working for your dad then quit. Do some freelance work to keep yourself human. Do whatever you need to do to be yourself again because this pity party train you’ve been on isn’t good for you.”
We finished eating pizza and watching Project Runway but after he left I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about what had happened between us over the summer and then again that night. And then my thoughts drifted to John and then I was just angry about Adam putting me in a situation where I wasn’t sure what to do. John and I hadn’t had the talk yet, and for all I know he could be dating five other women. I was annoyed at being in this situation AGAIN and still not knowing what to do. Do I tell John? Do I let it go? Do I just crawl into a hole and give up?