Luke was my ray of sunshine during a very dark time. At first I felt very guilty about our texting. We were flirting outrageously and some of our texts got a bit racy. I’d been very clear with him that I viewed myself as broken, totally and completely broken. I told him that I knew I would never have sex again or get married again because I’d never trust another man with my heart or body again. I was sure of it. I felt safe flirting with him because I was clear that nothing would ever happen. Besides, we were physically separated by quite a few states.
Luke got married the year before I did. I hadn’t even started dating Bubba yet. I can still remember exactly where I was when I heard the rumor that Luke had gotten married. And I still remember the kick in the gut I felt. I guess there had still been a part of me that had hoped we’d reconnect since we’d been friends for years but had lost touch. I went home that night and cried myself to sleep, knowing that Luke was lost to me forever. I would never get a chance to tell him that I would’ve liked to have been more than friends with him.
Then I met Bubba and got married the following year. I’d put Luke out of my mind because he was married and as far as I was concerned, marriage was forever. A few years later, I heard (again through the gossip mill) that Luke’s marriage was on the rocks then I heard that he’d gotten divorced. I didn’t let myself think too much of it because I was married and a mother by then and knew that it was pointless to speculate. It would just hurt too much to allow myself to think of it.
Over the next years, I would spend a few weeks with my parents each summer. I used to look forward to those trips like a drowning man looks for a life preserver. What I never understood back then was that I was using those trips to escape from Bubba. I just knew that sitting on my parents’ back porch, surrounded by nature restored my soul. I never questioned why I needed that so intensely. I just knew that every summer, I had to go back, like a moth drawn to a flame.
Sometimes my mom would mention that she’d run into Luke around town. They’d always said hi and he sometimes asked how I was doing. Oh, what an illicit thrill it gave me to know he was asking about me. Rationally, I knew it was just him being polite but there was a small spark, well hidden, that would flare at the thought of him thinking about me, if only momentarily.
I’d find myself driving by his house on my way to town, watching his yard and praying that he’d be outside just so I could catch a glimpse of him. I knew that at one point he was working at a store that I used to go to. I would go in, just hoping he’d be working. He never was. In all those years, I never caught that glimpse of him, I never ran into him. Until the summer after The Incident. I was driving back to my parents’ house and he was pulling out of his driveway. He followed me about a mile down the road and then we turned in different directions. I watched him in my rear-view mirror, just wondering what it would be like to talk to him again after over two decades. Would we still have the easy manner of talking that we did back then? Would we still laugh like we did back then?
The temptation to call him that summer was great. I resisted, however, because I was still bound and determined to work on my marriage. I knew, absolutely, that if I gave into temptation to call Luke, I’d want to see him. And I knew, absolutely, that if I did, I’d throw all caution to the wind and end up in his arms and possibly his bed. I knew I was vulnerable and I knew I was lonely. I also knew it would be wrong on every level to put either of us in that position. Even though he was divorced, I was married – I wasn’t free. I was still honoring my vows to Bubba.
Once I was safely states away from Luke and made the shocking discovery that Bubba had been raping me for the majority of our marriage, I felt safe to contact Luke because I no longer viewed myself as able to have a sexual relationship with anyone. I was completely broken and I never considered that healing was possible. Luke was safe. He was fun. He made me laugh. He made me forget the gut-wrenching pain for minutes at a time, then for longer and longer periods of time. He gave me encouragement and he made me think.
I don’t know that he ever meant to give me things to think about or if he meant to ask really hard questions. He would say things that would put hope into my heart. He challenged me and made me think and dig deep into why I thought the way I did. Just a couple of days after we started chatting, he said something that, to this day, still echoes in my head.
We’d been talking about my attitude about sex and how I was convinced that I would never trust another man with my body again and he told me, “Bring it but learn from it and let it make you better, stronger so the next man cherishes the battle you have fought through and the woman you have become because of it.” That had a profound effect on me. I want that! I want a man to cherish me. I want a man who gets what I’ve gone through and who thinks I’m amazing because of it.
Luke became an important part of my life. One of the first aha moments I had that he was good for me came about two weeks into our texting. Things had gotten very racy and I was feeling uncomfortable with it. I was struggling with reconciling the fact that I was still legally married even though I knew my marriage was dead and texting a man who wasn’t my husband. After a long night of thinking and praying, I knew I had to pull back on the naughty side of our texting.
It took me all day to work up the courage to send the text setting that boundary. I think I wrote it and deleted it 20 times before I finally texted and told him that I needed to stop talking like that and that I hoped he understood. He responded with “Ok. I understand.” I had been laying in bed when I sent the text and I remember just laying there, staring at my phone like I couldn’t make sense of his text. Indeed, I couldn’t make sense of his text because I’d never had a boundary respected that quickly or at all, for that matter.
Our texting moved from flirting to just talking about day-to-day life and what I was working through in counseling. It didn’t last long though because I missed flirting with him. So, I walked up to the line I’d drawn, danced on it a few times, then jumped right over it. Luke followed my lead. Again, I freaked out about having crossed the line and told Luke I needed to go back to having that line. Luke, again, followed my lead.
No matter how many times I reset the boundary and then danced up to it and jumped right over it, he always respected my decision and followed my lead. It never ceased being a source of bemusement for me though. It was just so strange to have a man respect me like that. I kept waiting for him to get mad about me jerking him around but he just went with the flow.
He was there to listen to me and to give me an outsider’s perspective. He also was very good at giving me a healthy dose of reality when I tried to have pity parties. Oh, there were times that he made me so angry! I would text him with whatever I was wrestling with. I wanted him to agree with me and be sympathetic and instead, he would basically tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself and work through it. It wasn’t in so many words but that was the general idea behind it. I needed that from him. I had enough friends in my life to cry with me and let me have my pity-parties for a bit until they gave me the same speech he did. But Luke gave me that speech from the get-go each time. Even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, it was exactly what I needed from him.
Luke was never anything but wonderful to me. It broke my heart that Bubba found out about it and decided to use Luke as a means to hurt me. I would’ve done anything to prevent that from happening but it was too late. Unbeknownst to me, Bubba had been monitoring my cell phone and calls for years. It became very evident that he had been watching me when he went to my family and told them that I was having an affair with Luke and that was the real reason I was divorcing him. Luke was about to be dragged through the mud right along with me.