All for Love

by Fatu Cooper

All For Love

Maria, Lauren and I loved to hang out together after work at our regular pub and catch up on the events of the day. It was our way of unwinding after a hard day at the office before having to return home to our respective domiciles. Our less than perfect lives awaited us. Tonight was especially exciting for us because a local band had been asked to perform on the weekend to liven things up a bit. As usual I'm always the first one to arrive. I come in and head straight for my usual seat corner at the far end of the bar. I put my bag on the other two stools to reserve for my friends. While waiting I order a gin and tonic. Ten minutes later Maria and Lauren walk in giggling like first graders. I say SSSSHHH!!! Girls keep it down. What's so funny I ask? Maria replied Sandy we just saw this short, ugly man with eyes that look like they could eat you in the parking lot. I replied when it comes to your description of anyone and anything I don't buy it. Maria and Lauren have a vivid imagination that knows no bounds. Their tendency to exaggerate was phenomenal.

However, we all settled back in our stools eagerly waiting for the band to start playing. The bar was getting crowded fast with everyone exchanging mindless pleasantries of the day. Gee I could kill to read their minds as I listened to the echo of all their chit chatter. The band finally starts jamming playing some old school songs. As we sipped our drinks humming along with the music the door opens and in walks Mr. SHORTY with a friend. (that's the name the girls had already given him.) For all intended purposes I will have to continue with the shorty name for now since at this point we still did not know his real name. Maria and Lauren burst into a fit of laughter again. They kept elbowing me look, look Sandy its shorty, see his eyes they are going to get you hee!!!hee!!!. I turned and look and I see this bald, clean shaven, stout man, wearing a pair of jeans, a white linen shirt with eyeglasses on his broad face with a big smile.

He was greeting people at the bar as he made his way in. As I continue to look at him the girls kept poking me to laugh but at the same time getting a bit agitated as to why I wasn't by now on the ground laughing. I continue to stare keenly at this man and I liked what I saw looking back at me. His eyes finally caught mine and he gave me the most gracious smile I've ever seen. It left me glowing and confused! Wow I said under my breath next thing I knew Lauren hits me. "What is wrong with you?" I replied what do you mean? She says "you are not laughing?" I said "there was nothing to laugh at". By this time shorty with drink in hand was working his way to the rear end of the bar where we were seated. I said to the girls he's coming keep it down. As he slowly approached us he stopped at Lauren's stool first and stretched his hand out to introduce himself. He said hi I'm Raoul. I saw you ladies in the parking lot when I was coming in. Lauren was stuck. Could not laugh! The next word I heard was "that's right hi it's nice to meet you. I'm Lauren, and these are my friends Sandy and Maria." He greeted us politely and when he got to me he said "there is something in your eyes?" I immediately started rubbing my eyes and looking around for a mirror to find what it was. He then gently took my hand away from my face and said "stop I didn't mean that literally, I meant you have a shine in your eyes." I felt so silly. I kept thinking his hands are so soft. I managed a sheepish smile and a clumsy laugh and said oh ok. He said "yes it's true I saw that from the moment I looked at you". He started laughing and we all joined in the laughter. That broke the ice and that was the beginning. Throughout the course of the evening Raoul did most of the talking entertaining us with an endless supply of jokes. He was so naturally funny. He proceeded to inviting me to dinner which I gladly accepted. Lauren and Maria of course by now looked like they had been struck by lightning. They remain frozen. I was like now who's laughing fools. At the end of the night Raoul generously paid our tab. What a gentleman I thought. This stranger appears to be intriguing. As we drove home the girls kept wanting to know what I saw in Raoul and why would I want to go out to dinner with him. I don't even know him and on and on and on they said. I finally answered "I find him interesting and sincere since you insist on knowing".

As the week went by the more we talked, the more I looked forward to my dinner date with Raoul. The date was set for Saturday evening at his place. He had insisted on picking me up. He had boasted what a good chef he was and was going to prepare me a special meal. As Saturday drew closer I became more anxious wondering what this stranger was really like. Well I said you will soon find out. On Saturday at 7pm prompt he was at my doorstep. I was impressed that he was on time and had insisted on driving me. We arrived at his house. I curiously looked around and marveled at what a good home he kept. The dcor was very subtle yet tasteful. The dinner table was beautifully laid out with a vase of roses in the center of the table with and raspberry and vanilla scented candles lit. Raoul brought out my favorite bottle of red wine, a South African Shiraz, I was stunned. How did he know. He said I did my homework. I found out later that he had gone through the trouble of calling Maria to find out what I liked. That was touching. He poured me a glass of red wine and led me to the dining table. He proceeded to the kitchen to get the food and came back wearing a chef's hat and a chef's apron. I said giggling "this is way too much". He said "nothing is too much for you my dear" and we both burst into a fit of laughter. I relaxed. I knew I was going to have a wonderful time. The menu was meat fondue and mixed salad with cake and ice cream for desert. I said what "meat fondue I had not had that in ages." He placed the fondue pot between us at the table, the temperature was ready, the oil was sizzling and we began dipping our skewers of meat into the pot. It tasted divine. Raoul was funny and attentive all night. We must have sat at that table across from each other for what seemed like forever just eating talking and drinking.

The more we talked the more we realized that we had a lot in common. Raoul loved to listen to soft jazz and played his collection for me teaching me about the history of jazz music. The mood was mellow, just right . I could not believe my luck. I was having an incredible time with a remarkable man. Right there and then this was a stranger that I wanted to know better. I did get my wish. After that we went on several dates and I opened up more and more each time but he on the other hand he took a lot more prodding to reveal personal details about himself. I thought well it's a guy thing. They never say too much but what matters is what they do and not what they say.

On one of our dates out Raoul said to me "I truly enjoy your company and I like you so much my dear. You don't know what being with you does for me and I want to spend all my time with you". I was beaming with joy and pride because that was how I felt too and to hear him say it out loud was my stamp of validation. Now definitely no holding back. At that moment he took my face in his hands and looked at me with his piercing brown eyes, (I felt he could see the very depth of my soul because the look was so intense) he then gently kissed me ever so softly, our lips barely touching at first. I exhaled. His hands were tender, his lips moist, and his kiss passionate. I exploded inside. He said this is how you make me feel. Did I mention that Raoul had a deep and sexy voice to go along? I had never met anyone who had been so attentive to me in my entire life caring about all the little and insignificant things that mattered to me. He made them seem so important with his sense of humor. Being in his presence made you feel important. He had a gentleness about him that was indescribable. I fell in love at that moment and I think he did too.

As time went on Raoul and I fostered a very close and unique relationship. We would go places on weekends, talk and laugh about anything for hours on end. We always had something to share. There was never a dull moment. I hardly had time for Maria and Lauren. I tried avoiding them because they were always trying to tell me to go slow. "You are moving too fast with this guy." I would hear. My response was that "you girls are just hating". Let me be. "Can't you see I'm happy?" They could not argue with that. That much was obvious. I was convinced that with time they would warm up to the idea of us. They keep saying that he was too nice to be trusted. Can you beat that? They were always skeptical of him. Lauren would say "I don't trust him" and I would reply in his defense and say "of course you don't, you don't know him", she defiantly said "and what do you know about him?". I retaliated by saying" I'm learning and it will take time". I was fine with that so why wasn't everyone else. Oh well that's people. My last words to them were "I know what I'm doing so don't worry, just be happy for me."

On one of our regular weekends over at his place he received a phone call and minutes later he asks to be excused and goes into the guest room to continue his conversation in private. He comes back in after a while but didn't say anything right away. He looked flustered and had a kind of smile on his face that he could not hide. He seemed somehow relieved and happy. I thought maybe that it had to be some extremely good news at work. I didn't want to pry believing that if he wanted me to know he would tell me in his own time. I waited and waited but he offered no explanation. That was unlike Raoul. I noticed that these calls became more frequent with him having to excuse himself at each turn. A few weeks later he announced that he had to travel on business which came as no big surprise. He usually had to travel often enough for business. I never saw Raoul off at the airport but he always insisted that I be there to pick him up. That was perfect for me because I didn't like goodbyes anyway but I looked forward to welcoming him home each time. He always brought be back a lot of goodies. He spoilt me. I was his princess and he my prince.

Raoul was away for two long weeks when he finally called for me to pick him up. From the moment I picked Raoul up from the airport I could sense a change in him but yet could not really put my finger on it. I decided to let it go. As we kissed hello I also sensed a change in the kiss, the severity with which he always kissed me after not having seen me for a long time was missing. I kept saying to myself you are being paranoid. It's just your imagination. I tried even harder to dispel that thought. I asked him how his trip went. He said with a big smile a lot better than expected. I said well "that's good right?" He replied "yeah somewhat". He didn't feel like talking much so I let it go. We drove the rest of the way to his home in silence. We arrived at his house and he complained of jetlag and a headache and wanted to rest and be alone. That was my cue to go on home which I did reluctantly. Asking myself the entire time what was wrong, why all of a sudden this change. I began to feel nervous. I literally kept shaking myself to make that ugly apprehensive feeling go away.

On my way home I decided to call up Maria and Lauren to see whether we could get together for a drink, they said giggling" we thought you were picking up Lover boy up today from the airport?" I said "yes I already did but he's tired and wants to rest." Lauren always sarcastic responded making a sound like "HMMMM right". Anyway we settled for our regular bar the 'velvet lounge'. We met there in under an hour. I was unusually quiet for most of the evening. The girls asked you are awfully quiet tonight. Is something wrong? I replied nothing is really the matter but I sense that something is wrong with Raoul. He is usually very excited to see me when he gets in from a trip and this evening he complained about being tired and wanting to rest and didn't feel like company. Maria replied oh that can happen. Nothing to worry about. He will feel better tomorrow and then you will see him. No worries. That allayed my fears somewhat. We parted soon after.

The knowledge that something was very wrong had been festering in me for a while now. I didn't sleep well that night. I rang Raoul the following morning to see how he was faring and he said he still was not feeling better and that he was afraid that he may have caught some bug on his travels. I immediately offered to take him to the hospital and he declined, I also offered to come by but he also declined and said he preferred to be alone. Days followed by, weeks went by and if I didn't call Raoul he would not call me. That was not the Raoul I knew. I knew he was avoiding me. I finally summoned the courage to go to his house unannounced and confront him. I needed answers because I was going crazy trying to discern for myself what the problem was. He was the answer and the key. I drove to his house and fortunately he was in. He opened the door and was surprised to see me. I said "please tell me what is wrong and I'm tired of hearing nothing is wrong. We both know that is a lie." He asked" why do you have to be so God damned honest with your feelings?" I meekly replied, "I don't really know, I guess that is just how I'm built". He sounded exasperated and said "I can't do this any longer." "I apologize. Sandy but you have been pestering me into telling you what's wrong, well here goes" with his eyes downcast he said "I've made up with my fiance and we are getting married soon." "I said what did you say?" He repeated the exact same words. I felt like someone had dropped a ton of bricks on my head. I said look at me and explain what you mean because when we met you told me that you had a girlfriend before but it was never a serious relationship. That you both had stopped seeing each other long before you met me. This puzzle had too many missing pieces.. He replied I was not altogether truthful when I met you Sandy. I had just broken up with Tamia who had left me for another man. She called me up a few weeks ago and told me that she realized that she had made a grave mistake and begged me to come back to her. She had realized her mistake and wanted us to get married and do all the things that we had waited our entire lifetime to do." I wish I had gone deaf at this point because I didn't want to hear anymore but he went on to say that I had helped him through a difficult time in his life whilst trying to get over the love of his life. He could no longer be with me. So therefore we had to stop seeing each other. How convenient for him. His words slashed deep like a knife through my veins, my throat, my heart was on fire, my palms sweating. You often hear about this sort of thing happening to other people but you could never imagine it happening to you. I loved this man and the entire time he was using me to get over someone else. How pathetic I am. Love is too high a price to pay. I said to him afterwards "how come you could be willing to let someone back into your life who shattered you but you won't give someone a chance that's shown you nothing but love and commitment". He said "you wouldn't understand" making me feel so shallow. All of a sudden "I'm incapable of understanding." He said " please stop crying that won't help". How humiliating.

He explained further saying that when Tamia left me, "I was devastated and heartbroken. I took the job back home to help me forget. I wanted a fresh start on life again. I have known her for years and she is the love of my life. There is no one else I would rather be with and now more than ever. I need you to know that no one can ever take her place. You have helped to show me that". I said "how?" He answered "Sandy you are everything a man could desire but you are not Tamia and that is who my heart belongs to." In tears I said so when you told me that you loved me and wanted to spend the rest of you life with me it was all just a lie. No he said "at the time it was not a lie. I meant every word I said because Tamia was not in my life anymore so as far as I was concerned I had lost her forever." Reality hit! That was the end of my intense and memorable relationship with him.

For what seemed like an eternity, I closed my eyes in disbelief. My world is ruined. I've gone cold. I say gently is this how it all ends? As I anticipate a reply. I hear nothing but silence. I open my eyes and Raoul is gone. I feel my body give away as I slump to the floor with a thud. My head is spinning. In all this somehow I feel relief because I knew this was coming as ill prepared as I was. I will take solace in saying I don't have to try harder anymore. I don't have to be what he wants me to be but that's a lie. I can go on with my life but how will I feel warm at night, wanted and tucked in like only he knew how to do.

Where is my dignity, my justice, where did I go wrong? I'm crying so much. I feel I'm going to die. I would be the first one in history to die from crying. I stare down at my body looking at myself as if for the first time. I have a blunt feeling that is beginning to make me feel nauseous. I tighten my muscles trying to hold it back. God I'm not going to throw up in his house. That would be worse than any form of humiliation. I finally muster enough strength to leave his home and make it to my car. I drive home crying all the way.

When I get home I decide to do something to make me feel better. I don't want to listen to music right now. I don't want to listen to anything but darkness. Help my soul dear LORD I implore you. Save me. Memories come crashing back. I miss his touch, I miss his smell. I'm afraid, I'm alone.

The sound of the door bell startles me. I go to the door. Its Maria and Lauren come to visit. I struggle to hold back the tears because I don't want to hear we are sorry, neither we told you to be careful. All the things that I already knew so well. But then why? Who needs to hear that kind of rubbish at a time like this? DAMN them!! Damn everything!!! and damn the day I laid my eyes on him!!. I'm contemplating running away. How do you run from yourself? Stop asking too questions. An idea comes to mind I'm going to burn all his belongings, all that he holds dear. Revenge yeah that's it!! HURT HIM. that's right. I'm wallowing in self pity. A little voice says Sandy where is your self-esteem? I ignore it. It's persistent don't you remember who you were before him? No I don't want to remember. I'm happier remembering my life with Raoul. I dream of his soothing touch once more. I feel awful and ashamed.

Maria and Lauren are waiting for me to get dressed. They insist on taking me out to dinner. They believe I need a change of scene but I all I need is him. I wash slowly and throw some clothes on. I look at my face in the mirror I'm close to tears again. I attempt to put some eyeliner on but my hands are shaking uncontrollably, eyes are wet and puffy. Oh well just leave it Lauren says as she wraps her arms around me. I say to them I don't want to go to our usual bar. I don't want anything to remind me of him. I'm fearful.

We arrive at this newly opened Italian restaurant. We enter. Its dimly lit, soft colors on the walls, smelling of sweet spices and in the background soft Italian music is playing. The decor pleasing to the eye and distracting. I begin to relax a little. We sit at a table for four. A young man brings us the menu and asks us if we would care for a drink? I immediately respond? Who cares? The waiter looks down at me as if to say are you alright? I lash out what the hell are you looking at? By this time Maria and Lauren are furious at my outburst and waves the waiter away apologetically. They ask what is wrong with you Sandy? I answer the same shit that is wrong with everyone else. Lies, deception, I'm sick of it! Why do people say what they don't mean? They continue to look at me as I revel in my own misery. I say look at you Lauren, you dare to ask me what's wrong, look at you, you are so miserable inside, you are nothing but an envious ugly bitch. I have had to put up with you for years, overlooking all the many times that you have hurt me and others. The one reason why I have held on to your friendship through the years is because I believe that underneath all of that you are hurting deep down and that you need to have someone who truly cares and accepts you with all your faults. The one thing you have going for yourself is your sense of humour so don't you dare patronize me. Lauren is stunned, speechless, nothing's coming back at me. She slowly stands up and walks away. Maria runs after her and I'm left alone at the table.

I order a bottle of pinot grigio praying in my heart that Maria would come back for me or will she also abandon me in my hour of need... I sat staring into space for Lord knows how long. I finally summoned the nerve to ask the waiter to whom I had been so rude to previously to find a taxi for me. Thank God I didn't live very far. For what seemed like an eternity the security guard entered the restaurant and beckoned to me that my taxi was waiting. Still no Maria. Damn Bitch!!. She never came back for me. I finally arrive home after 15 minutes. I will resort to what I enjoy most, listen to music. I put on my favorite cd and slouch back on the sofa. I need something to fill me up completely and take over. I feel that yearning. Nothing else can do nothing else will do. I go to the liquor cabinet and pour my self a stiff shot of cognac. Ummm that should help. I'm feeling very tired. As I walk to the bedroom I remember the distinct smell of his cologne, the feel of his face against mine, I've memorized every curve, every line on his face, from his brow to his chin. The tears are choking me. I need something to numb my pain before going to sleep. I take my glass of cognac into the bedroom as I prepare for bed. I slip on his boxers and t-shirt without even realizing what I was doing. Oh well too late, that was what I had been accustomed to wearing almost every night, I needed to feel close to him. I could not believe how much my heart was aching and there was nothing I could do to make that ripping pain go away. I turned the lights off in the bedroom and crawled into bed. My silk sheets always made me feel better. I continued to sip my cognac and it looked like it was working hooray!!! A smile began to form at the corner of my mouth. I stumbled out of bed to fetch the entire bottle of cognac. I knew I would need it during the course of the night so I may as well have it near me to avoid going back and forth all night. Yep it was working. Why waste my pure emotions on being angry and miserable. I knew better than that.

As I walked to the living room I tripped over my sandals and fell very hard face down on the cold marble floor. I felt something snap. My head exploded, stupid me damn!!!. Why had I not turned the lights back on in the bedroom? The darkness was my friend, so comforting. My head was pounding and hurting. The pain was excruciating. I laid on the cold floor for what must have been at least thirty minutes with my head spinning. I could not find the strength to stand up. Was I about to die? What is happening? I finally summoned every ounce of strength in my body and crawled to the bedside table and reached for my cell phone. I rang my neighbors, Amy and Bob. They hurriedly came over. I kept crawling again until I made it to the living room and switched the lights on there. I heard the door ring and went to open the door to let them in. As soon as they entered Amy began screaming, "My God what happened to your face, what happened to you."? I motioned her to be quiet because I was having difficulty speaking. Her screams were like daggers in my side. Amy and Bob threw a gown on me and carried me to their car. Blooding was dripping from my nose all over my gown. We quickly sped to the hospital. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw this distorted reflection of someone looking back at me. I said to myself who is this person?. This cant be me. My face had swelled to the size of a grapefruit and it appeared from touching my nose that it was broken .I started crying again. The pain was too much to bear. All in the name of love.

We arrived at the hospital and I'm led to the emergency rooms still trying to stand regal in all my humiliation with both hands covering my face. The doctor examined me wanting to know how I had hurt myself. I told him I fell but somehow he didn't believe me. I wasn't going to tell him everything that I had led up to this anyway. He said I had sustained a concussion and needed x-rays done to see if there was any internal damage to my head but definitely my nose was broken. He said I was very lucky. I didn't feel lucky. I felt stupid. I was admitted to the hospital for three days while they ran some tests and patched up my nose. I just wanted the swelling to go down so badly because you could hardly see my left eye from the impact. Luckily for me I was dealing with a very efficient doctor who tended to me with the utmost kindness giving me the best treatment possible. I was released from the hospital after three days. My friends came and picked me up and of course they all wanted to know what had happened. I explained to them how I stupidly tripped over my sandals and hurt myself. They felt so sorry for me. They gave me a group hug and we all cried and laughed together . I finally pushed them away and assured them that I would be fine. They were so nice to me. I felt so bad for the way I had spoken to them earlier but Lauren was gracious enough not to bring up our quarrel. My eyes told her all she needed to know. I took some time off from work to recuperate. I decided to leave town and visit with my sister. I spent a month visiting with her and fortunately for me there was no permanent damage but just a lot of headaches that I sustain from time to time.

My nose went back to almost as good as new. God was good to me and I will forever be grateful. It took a lot of time for my face to completely heal and during that time I felt like Quasimodo. When I would accompany my sister on errands in town I always had a scarf over my head to partially cover my face. I felt ugly on the outside and ugly on the inside. I prayed every night for the bruising to go away and not leave a scar. Passersby whenever they caught a glimpse of my face seemed to look at me in awe and I could see that they felt somehow sorry for me. The doctors that continue to treat me where my sister lived prescribed a magic cream for me. ( I called it magic because of the miracle it worked on my face ). I had to rub this cream three times a day on my face but I was rubbing it at least ten times wanting it to work ten times faster ha ha!!! The bruising finally began fading away completely, nose healed and I was as good as new. Ready to go home and face the world again. The only thing that wasn't visible was the scar and pain that I carried in my heart. That was my true dilemma and how was I going to rid myself of that.

Upon my return home I decided to visit my aunt whom I knew was very fond of me. If anyone would make me feel better it would be her. She would know exactly what to do. I summoned the courage to speak to my aunt whom I had always confided in. She was a very wise woman. I explained everything that had happened to me from beginning to end. She listened calmly without interrupting once. After I was done she simply said "Sandy you will learn that everyone has a story and that was Raoul's story and you will have to accept that. You are either going to let it mold you, make you or break you. The choice is yours but you will survive". I wasn't sure those were the words of wisdom and encouragement that I was looking to hear however I listened intently.

I went back to work and was quite happy to be back. My friends were thrilled to have me back. The months went by and I began to find a renewed vigor for life. I often thought of Raoul but it didn't hurt as much anymore. Thank God time was healing me slowly. I'm home one evening getting ready for bed and my phone rings I answer hello, the voice says, hi its me..................................................

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