XVIII. He Loves Me, He loves Me Not

About three things I was absolutely positive. First, I’m the one that introduced Her to the vampire. Second, I kind of wished that he thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with Edward Cullen before She was. This is how it happened for me.

It had been four months since I'd packed up a Budget truck and drove over the mountains and through the woods to Cincinnati, Ohio. It started off wonderfully. I loved the idea of exploring a new city, of creating my own home. I found a sweet little walk up apartment in Forest Park and decorated it with treasures found during date nights at IKEA. I drove the quaint neighborhoods surrounding the city and spent an afternoon photographing statues of giant black squirrels wearing charming outfits that I would send to my step father. He was that rare hunter who had aged into a squirrel and bird feeder after years of popping them with pellet guns in our pecan orchard. I knew the photographs would amuse him. It was starting to feel like home and I was positive I had made the right choice by following my heart to Ohio.

When I’d first arrived I had immediately started developing a new team at work and impressing my superiors with my strong merchandising and people skills. I was putting in a lot of hours but it didn't bother me. I was content to come home after a long day at work to find my boyfriend playing Tony Hawk's Underground on the Play Station. He had come to Ohio eight months before I had taken a giant leap of faith and followed him there. After being separated for so long, the short distance between our apartments was refreshing. My job didn't leave much time for socializing but we made do with date nights strolling around town or seeing movie after movie snuggled up in posh leather seats at the upscale theatre minutes from my house.

As summer dwindled down, I took a promotion to Store Manager and he began preparing for his second year of graduate school at Xavier. Everything seemed well but as my 24th birthday approached I felt lonelier than ever. I'd never been away from my family. Having a boyfriend wasn't enough for me. I thought by moving there that he'd be enough, that I'd meet friends and adjust in the same fashion I had when I moved to Virginia. Unfortunately, I failed to realize how difficult making friends would be. I wasn't in school being surrounded by people my age. By being the boss at work, I wasn't allowed to befriend my employees. My neighbors were senior citizens and families. I longed to be around people that knew me but I didn’t know where to build those relationships and I spent so much time at work, I didn’t know when I’d ever find the time to. He tried to be understanding and helpful but he couldn't relate. He had grad school and an instant circle of friends.

I expected he would gather those friends of his to celebrate my birthday but he did nothing of the sort. Instead, it was a lovely dinner and a Labor Day fireworks show on Newport on the Levy across the river from Cincinnati. Labor Day is more celebrated in Cincinnati than the Fourth of July. I joked about how wonderful the city was to honor my birthday with such a display and I put on a brave face. It was a nice idea, but my escalating depression prevented me from enjoying it. When we arrived at the Levy and the swarms of people pressed in around me, I felt panicked and filled with anxiety. Families were camped out with bright colored coolers of alcohol and snacks, kids ran around with noise makers and balloons. Everyone was excited and having a wonderful time; everyone except me. When the fireworks show started and the sky lit up in a rainbow of colors over the Ohio River, the Cincinnati skyline winked back at me and I just sobbed. I ached for the companionship, love and support of my family and friends back home. He knew I was upset yet made no effort to console me. That was the night I realized just how alone I was. My job demanded my time. School and social obligations demanded his. It was the beginning of the end but I didn’t want to acknowledge it.

Of course, I told Her about the dreadful day at the Levy and the distance growing between The Boyfriend and I. Knowing how upset I'd been that I'd only been able to visit home once since leaving, She planned a short trip up with her Husband. Seeing Her was just what I needed, my loneliness abated for a weekend. I showed them around Cincy as best as I could, barely having seen it myself! Both Vegans at the time, they enjoyed the famous Jungle Jim's; a locally owned giant supermarket full of exotic, ethnic, international foods, live fish and local vegetables. I braved going back to Newport on the Levy, pushing my horrible birthday memories aside to take them to my favorite Turkish restaurant. We meandered through the outdoor mall peeking in the specialty shops. It was there at Barnes and Noble that I met Edward Cullen.

Being an avid reader and vampire enthusiast, I had heard about the Twilight Series long before the movies caused a stir but hadn't committed to reading it. With my parents lost in search of The Deathly Hallows on audio book for the long ride back to Virginia, I wandered over to the Young Adult section, picked up Twilight and combed through the pages. The book art had always intrigued me and in fact, I'd had Twilight in my hands several times before but never bought it. This day, that would change. I walked the aisles of the two story bookstore searching for my lost parents, book in hand and I noticed a young blonde girl, around my age staring at me. I made eye contact with her and she approached, stating simply: "You will love that book. You will." I giggled awkwardly, clearly caught off guard and said, "I think so." I started reading that night.

The next day my parents headed home and I headed to work, Twilight book in hand. It was a Sunday, never a particularly busy day for my beautiful plus size fashion boutique and its upscale outdoor mall. The team and I noticed it was unusually dead that day. We stood at the glass front door watching the wind bend the trees along the walkways. There had been talk of a storm heading our way but we hadn’t expected this severity. As the hours passed, the wind increased, so much so that it picked up a metal trashcan and tossed it around the parking lot, hitting cars. I feared that one would hit our glass store front and shatter it. The power went out in the entire center. After a few frantic phone calls to my District Manager, I was instructed to try to wait it out for the sake of business. With my safety, and the safety of my girls foremost in my mind, I disobeyed those instructions and closed shop. By that time, it was already unsafe for driving. That thirty mile drive to the other side of town, going 15 miles per hour, was the scariest of my life. I was terrified.

Winds were up to 80 miles per hour, street signs were uprooted, power lines came crashing down, and limbs littered the streets. I stopped at a store close to my house in search of one thing, candles. I knew I had a few at the house, but not nearly enough to read by and being able to read was my main concern. The massive windstorm, losing power, food, survival, were all secondary to reading Twilight. For five days I raced home from work each night to read by candle light, staying up until 3 or 4am to finish the entire four book set. I didn't sleep that week. I didn’t need to. I had fallen in love with Edward Cullen. I had fallen hard, I'd become a Twilighter.

The writing is simple and repetitive, yet I honestly fell in love with the characters. I caught myself laughing out loud at Edward's wit, and getting teary eyed at their confessions of love. I'd never had a book move me to that extent. And this was a young adult book! That's what shocked me most. I'd heard this book was popular among teens, why was it affecting me so?

On the other side of town my Boyfriend sat comfortable in an apartment that never lost power watching sports on television and drinking with his college friends, all the while making fun of my choice of reading material. Looking back, the timing was right for me to fall in love with a fictional character because I was already falling out of love with the character that had lured me to Ohio. I was reading by candlelight to escape into a fantasy world as a distraction from the reality of my mistakes. The desire to make the best of things, to prove to myself and others that I had made the right choice, was leading me down the same paths She had taken. We had fallen out of love.

I showed up at my parents house that New Years Day with the Twilight Series on the top of my suitcase. Its pages dog eared and the spines cracked from my rereading the story that would help heal my broken heart. I’ll never forget that autumn and the winds that blew change through my life. Just as it had been my time to fall in love with Edward then, her time would come that spring. ~Braticas

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