I really have no way of knowing what Heather was thinking after I popped the question. No it wasn’t the big question; the one that involves a diamond ring and the promise of a lifetime but it deserved no less consideration. Imagine you had just met someone a few months earlier. All you knew about them could be written down on a cocktail napkin and that practical stranger had just asked you to pack up everything, say goodbye to everyone and come live with them and their estranged wife because that’s exactly what I had done.
Heather had friends and family in Maine whom she loved but she also had her share of demons there with fresh wounds still festering from her fiancé’s infidelity and a brutal attack she endured as a teenager. She had given me graphic details of the rape and I still fantasize of finding the vile piece of shit responsible and beating him bloody. The rage inside of me lets me know that if given the chance, I wouldn’t stop there.
I remember Heather’s expression when I asked if she would like to come back to South Carolina with me; that look of surprise and disbelief but behind the fear of the unknown, her eyes held a glimmer of excitement for a new beginning. She opened up and began talking about all of the arrangements that needed to be made. She didn’t think her car would make the trip because the chassis had been eaten away by salt on the wintry roads and she would have to leave many of her belongings with her sister to be picked up at a later time.
The move had been set in motion and there was that brief moment where she asked, “Am I really doing this?” Heather was packing up her bags but she had to understand the absurdity of the situation. I was moving back into a warzone, to live with a woman that had made it very clear she didn’t want me there. I found myself grasping for reasons as to why Madison had invited Heather into our home but there simply were no answers to be found. It was absolute madness and between the three of us, I don’t know who took home the prize for being the craziest.
I thought about Heather’s question and answered, “I don’t know. Are you?”
She concluded, “I think I am.”
And with that Heather took a 2,000 mile leap of faith. All arrangements were made and our bags were packed. The back of the Mazda was so loaded down with our shared belongings that the rear window was completely blocked from view.
We had a farewell dinner with her family at one of the local taverns and her sisters threatened me with the usual “If you hurt her, we will hunt you down and kill you” sentiment. They were laughing when they said it but I knew there was at least some truth to their words. They were fine with me being there but didn’t want her to leave and joking about inflicting pain on me was their way of dealing with the inevitability of her departure. I promised to be a good boy and laughed along with them with that nervous uncertainty people sometimes feel when venturing into unknown territory.
I can’t really blame them for worrying about her. In those dark days of the internet before social sites like MySpace and Facebook gained popularity, horror stories involving predatory strangers seemed to run rampant and Heather’s family knew even less about me than she did. They had no way of really knowing me and only saw a guy with long hair, earring and leather jacket before them. All I needed to do was bite the head off of a bat to seal the deal and confirm their worst fears.
As a parting gift, Heather was given a small stitched pillow with the image of a home having hearts for windows sewn across its face. Across the top, it read “Home is Where the Heart is” and though I agree with the statement, I questioned the reasoning behind it. An optimist might have seen it as a suggestion to follow your heart but I suspected that it was to serve as a reminder that if things didn’t work out, Heather could always return home to her family. Were they right to be so concerned or would I prove them wrong by not being such a bad guy after all? Only time would tell.