Like all new fall students heading off to college and leaving behind a sweetheart, there was a bit of trepidation - not of going to college per se, but of the relationship lasting. I had no doubt ours would last. I was deeply in love with Debbie, and there was no other girl who was worthy of a second look. I promised her I would write at least once a week and call her twice a week after 9:00pm or on weekends (we didn't have cell phones or computers), plus, I would come back to Tulsa at least every other weekend to see her. What happened next was definitely not part of my “master plan.”
September went well enough, a lot of letters flowed, phone calls were placed, and I would journey back to Tulsa every other weekend to see her.
I hate to get sidetracked but I have to address a lost art, Love Letters. In today's fast-paced technology, everything is almost instantaneous. Sometimes that’s a good thing but it cannot replace writing or receiving a love letter. At times, I believe I spent more time developing and writing letters to Debbie than I did applying myself to the subjects at school. I loved telling her how I felt about her and how much I was in love with her. Writing the letters always made me smile but not nearly as much as when I received hers. The one act, other than eating which I performed religiously, was checking the mail to see if “my love” sent me a letter. I always knew when one arrived because when I opened the mail box, I could smell a hint of her favorite perfume. And believe it or not, all the guys on the floor thought it was so cool when I received those letters. Knowing the woman you love has sent a letter puts one on cloud nine. I guess I'm plugging letter writing. Yes I am, so girls and guys, if you really want to know what your girlfriend/boyfriend is thinking or feeling, try writing him/her a love letter. I think you'll like it. Okay, let me get back to going to Tulsa and seeing her.
I loved watching her perform at halftime with the band. She was the most beautiful flag girl on the line, and she made captain or the equivalent thereof. She was beautiful. I loved coming back and spending the weekends with her.
In October, something was changing. My roommate’s girlfriend’s younger sister, who was still in high school, was passing on information that was somewhat disturbing. Debbie was seeing someone else. No way, not Debbie. I didn’t believe it, but the reports kept coming in.
I did the only thing I could – I wrote a letter asking her to explain the situation. I really don’t remember what I wrote, but I’m sure it was inflammatory and accusing. She wrote back saying there was nothing wrong, and I had nothing to worry about. She loved me more than ever and did not want to hear that type of talk from me again. She knew how to calm me down, and I believed it. But her letter was missing something - perfume.
A week after receiving her letter of assurance (I believe it was late October), it was time for the weekend visit. I showed up at her parents’ house Friday afternoon just aching to kiss and hold her. She opened the door wearing a brownish-tan blouse. I believe we boys called them “easy off.” She gave me a quick kiss, and we went into the living room. Guess what I wound up doing? Watching her clean the house. She said she was sorry that she had chores to do, but her mom told her it needed to be done this afternoon or she wasn't going to the game. In the two years we dated I can't ever remember her “having” to clean the house. Okay, she has to do chores, fine. But there is something even more disturbing. I couldn't put a finger on it, but there was something missing in her smile.
Her smile appeared to be forced instead of loving. After an hour or so of watching TV, waiting for her to finish, I became quite agitated and told her I would see her tonight at the game. As I left the house, something dawned on me. It was the first time I saw her in a sexy top and wasn't interested in how she would look if it accidentally fell off.
Something terribly wrong was happening. She weakly smiled and gave me a quick kiss, saying she was sorry. I was not a happy camper.
As I mentioned earlier it’d been one week since receiving the letter of assurance, her actions were anything but reassuring, everything was alright; everything wasn't alright. It was evident with the kiss she gave me as I left her house that our spark of electricity was missing. I went to the game to watch her perform knowing something wasn't quite right.
I would usually sit with her after the half-time show for at least a quarter. The band director knew me and allowed it. Tonight she said she had to stay with the band, that Mr. Good told all members that the band stayed together. No more boyfriends or girlfriends allowed. Okay, I could deal with that.
After the game I picked her up from the high school and headed off to one of our favorite spots. She was very nervous and distracted. She wasn’t really talking, just looking out the window lost in thought. I found our spot, parked the truck, turned it off, unfastened my seat belt, and looked at her. The eyes I looked into were not of love but worry. She couldn’t bring herself to kiss me. She only said she should probably get back; there was something she needed to take care of.
I wasn’t dumbfounded; I was getting pissed. I took her back to school and dropped her off. She didn’t even look back. She was in a very big hurry. If I saw her that weekend, I don't remember, which is a pretty good sign that the relationship was coming unglued. Since I didn't know what was wrong, there was nothing I could do to stop our train from becoming derailed.
A week after my nineteenth birthday I received a letter from her. She asked if I could please come home next weekend. She really needed to talk to me. This was on the heels of my parents bringing her to Stillwater for a football game. Dad gave us a few hours together, but it wasn’t the same. I was losing her heart to someone else. I agreed to come to town and maybe find out what’s going on.
It was a Saturday night, and I picked her up around 8:00 o’clock. She got in on my side of the truck, then slid over to the passenger seat. I asked her what she wanted to do. She didn’t respond. I was hungry so I decided to drive down to Peoria and stop at Taco Bell. There was a sadness in her eyes shielded by her smile.
I ordered half a dozen tacos and a few tostadas. I was still a growing boy. She got something to drink. After eating we went to the Riverside Bridge to walk around. I don’t remember talking much, we just nervously milled about for around an hour or so. She was trying to talk, but she couldn't put anything together. Her eyes were wet, but no tears. Whatever was going on wasn’t good. I finally ran out of patience and said, “I’m taking you home.” She agreed.
It took her five miles to finally speak words I didn’t want to hear but knew were coming, “Jeff, I love you, but I’m breaking up with you.”
All I asked was, “Is it because of Steve?” No answer. I was so damn mad. Instead of pulling off the highway and demanding an explanation, I did what any crazed nineteen year would do - I took out my anger on the accelerator. The truck was approaching 85 mph on the Broken Arrow Expressway, and I didn’t care. My heart had just been ripped out of my chest. She asked me to slow down.
“No way! I’m going to drive as damn fast as I want, and there is nothing you can say to make me slow down!” There was nothing to say; it was over. The only sound that could be heard for the next twenty minutes was the high-pitched whining of the engine screaming out as we sped towards her house. The only difference between the engine and my heart was you could hear one of them demanding an answer. Why? The other, my heart, couldn't make an audible noise as it rapidly fell to pieces.
I got her home as fast as I could. She was crying. Too bad! I’d been lied to; I’d been true to her, and now this! I pulled into her driveway, she handed back my class ring and said, “I’m sorry.” Like hell she was! She’d been trying to say it for at least a month. I think somewhere during the night I told her I was going to beat the hell out of her new boyfriend.
The worst part of losing your first true love is the feeling of your heart breaking apart. As I drove myself home, my emotions were all over the place. Name one: pain, anger, anxious, wanting, longing, and a host of others.
It was years before I was told the rest of story that led to the break-up.
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