THE LIGHT AT THE END
Edited by: Pat
They hold to each other till they find the light at the end of the tunnel.
CHAPTER 1: LAURA
Hi, my name is Laura, Laura Lane. Yes, that's right, L.L. like Louise Lane, except that I'm not in love with a superhero. As a matter of fact, I don't have a love interest in my life at all.
I'd been single since the end of my last relationship (go figure). I broke up with my last boyfriend (if you could call him that) three years ago. He was from a 'good family', meaning my parents approved him.
Too bad I didn't.
From his tan to his perfectly groomed hair to his manners, everything about him was fake. Whenever I met him, he'd plaster a smile, call me 'babe', and place his hand on the lowest part of my back. My marriage with him was being planned among our parents to be a business transaction. A melding of important families.
Call me a romantic, but I always wanted to marry for love. They weren't happy when I broke up with him and told my parents I wasn't going to marry him.
"Mother, I don't want to marry someone who I'm not in love with. I want to be in love when I marry."
"Oh, poor silly girl," replied my mother, "love will come later. You will learn to love the man you marry. You'll eventually have a wonderful life of luxury in your own house with your own servants."
Every guy my parents brought around was worse than the last. I've been avoiding them since then.
My parents... well, as you might have noticed, they are a sore spot. My dad would have killed for a boy. He didn't get one. Surprise! It's a girl!
Since I was a kid, he pushed me so hard, God! He is a partner in a well-known law firm. He wanted me to be a lawyer like him. I studied arts instead.
I started formal art training in college at the Art Institute much to my parents' dismay. I paired it with lots of additional classes in figure drawing and character design. I also attended the Concept Design Academy after graduating.
I am happy with my job as a concept artist and illustrator, even when it's a lot of hard work. Luckily the effort always feels more palatable when it's something you're very passionate about.
My mother is a stuck-up snob. I have annoyed her all my life doing just the opposite of what she wanted or expected me to. She made it very clear, that the man I chose to marry would have to be approved by her. She had already planned my wedding which would be a monstrously ostentatious event at the church my parents attend. There will be hundreds of people there that I don't even know. My feelings and wishes won't matter at all. As you can see, my mother is the main reason why I'm still single. I would rather die than marrying someone she approves.
This year I'll be 28 and I'll be another year older and single. My biological clock is ticking and becoming louder by the day. I want what we all want, to find someone to love and be loved for what I am. However, Mr. Right is nowhere to be found. It doesn't help that dating scares me.
If love is a game, then I'm in search of a tutorial.
My interests are important to me, and finding someone who is like me is really hard. I love dancing. Hiking, bicycling, or doing pretty much all the cool stuff out there. I love cooking vegetarian recipes and listening to World Music. My friends use to say I'm crazy, in a good way I hope.
I'm starting to think I'm not compatible with anyone. It's really hard to find a kindred soul. I don't find many people interesting. I wanted to have a family by now. I'm tired of attending everyone else's wedding.
My friends are always pushing me to meet someone. Most of them are already in relationships.
One day I said, "why not?" So I agreed to be paired with the single weirdo from their work or someone's cousin who just got divorced. Who knows? It could be fun.
Fun? Who am I kidding? Dates are nerve-wracking. I'll tell you one of my experiences.
I was trying my fifth outfit when I received a text from my date, "Sorry, I'll be 10 minutes late." Two Grey's Anatomy episodes later, he arrived. That was the start of a very disastrous date.
After awkwardly stumbling into his pickup truck and landing face flat on the seat, I stuck my hand out and introduced myself. Our first stop was a bowling alley. During the drive, he apologized for being late, while I reassured him that it happens (but usually not two hours!). Upon arriving at the bowling alley, he realized we were the only ones in attendance above the age of 14, so we left the place and he proceeded to ask Siri where to take a girl on the first date.
We ended up at Applebee's and I finally got a good glimpse of him. He was the younger brother of a coworker's boyfriend. During the meal the conversation was easy. He talked and talked and I listened. He didn't ask a single question about me. His stories ranged from bar fights to his experience with a hernia he got trying to lift weights. He even showed me the scar.
We left Applebee's and decided to go to Sonic for dessert. Making our way through the parking lot he remarked, "Did you see that? All the guys sitting there just turned to stare at your butt while you walked out."
Did I instantly feel uncomfortable? Yes, yes I did.
At some point, he claimed that it was the best date he had ever been on. Not knowing what to do, I lightly chuckled and stuck a spoonful of cookies and ice cream into my mouth. During the drive home, he mentioned wanting to go on a second date. Again, I stuck a spoonful of ice cream into my mouth. We hugged goodbye and I promptly scurried up my driveway with yet another guilt-ridden spoonful of ice cream in my mouth to avoid a kiss.
Dating is going to make me fat.
CHAPTER 2 PERCY
Hi, I'm Percy. I'm almost thirty and I'm still single. As a matter of fact, I've been single since I left college. I have dated a few ladies, got laid with some of them, but nothing serious. Not even a friend with benefits relationship.
I know you must be asking yourself, 'what's wrong with him?' Well, nothing is wrong with me that I know. I'm not Brad Pitt, but I'm not ugly. I guess, I focused on my career and didn't try so hard on relationships.
I'm in the construction business. When I first started my career as an apprentice, I wouldn't have guessed I'd end up as a contractor, but I am certainly glad I did. I first picked up a hammer back in grade school. From that point forward, my desire to learn and excel in my trade has only intensified.
As soon as I was done in high school, I wanted to pursue the dream of being a full-time contractor. I wanted to become the type of man that people called when they needed renovations or home improvement.
All these years, I've been fulfilled with my life as it was. After a long day's work, I felt more like putting on pajamas and crawling into bed than going out into the uncertain and anxiety-provoking world of dating someone.
I was fine on my own. It never bothered me to be single... till it did. One day, I realized I was going to be thirty and all my friends were married or engaged. When I visited them, they had their wives, their kids, a dog, while I came home to a lonely place.
"When are you going to get married, Percy?" Amanda asked me, she is Joe's wife. Joe is my foreman and a great friend. They invite me to have dinner with them once a week.
"I'm not sure I'll ever get married," I said, letting out a long sigh.
"Why not? You're a great catch," Amanda insisted.
"Because all the good ones are already taken and settled, or committed to someone."
"There are millions of amazing single women out there, Percy. My friend Laura is one of them," Amanda smiled at me.
I didn't take the bait, "But there aren't millions that are right for me. All the available girls are in the 'no-go' category: ugly, career-oriented, or divorced bitches."
"Career-oriented?" Amanda frowned. "I never thought you would be the machist type that thinks that women must stay at home."
"I'm not talking about her being employed. I'm talking about women who work more than 40 hours a week. Women who are so busy chasing a higher position in their companies, that they lose track of other things, like socializing, traveling, or enjoying a lazy day."
"I get what you mean," Amanda conceded.
"If many social studies are to be believed, professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it."
Amanda was still processing my words, looking for a crack in my reasoning, when my friend Joe asked me, "What do you have against divorced women? Anyone can make a mistake."
"I said 'divorced bitches'. You know, the ones that come with a backpack of bad experiences. I remember I dated a divorced woman once. Every decision or idea that she came up with, was because she didn't like how it was done the 'first time'. She made me feel like our entire relationship was be based on how things went with her first marriage. It made me feel like I was a sloppy second. I was especially burnt by her."
"I'm starting to see why you aren't in a relationship, Percy," Amanda shook her head. "You have high standards."
"Is it bad to have high expectations in a relationship?" I answered.
Joe supported me, "I get Percy's point of view."
Amanda gave Joe the kind of look that could only mean "no sex for you tonight".
"To be honest, I'm very close to giving up finding love, Amanda. In that way, I'll get rid of the pressure of finding anyone," I explained to my friends.
"My friend Laura is not like that," Amanda insisted. "You should give her a chance."
I knew Amanda would keep pushing till I agree to date her friend. So I gave up, making a mental note not to accept dinner invitations from them in the near future. Every time a married female friend invited me to dinner, I knew she had an agenda. And the agenda usually included some single or divorced woman she knew.
"Okay, I give up. Who is this hidden gem?" I said in a light tone.
Amanda was not amused.
"She is a great girl. She works as a concept artist, set painter, and illustrator. She does a lot of work for the advertising company I work for. She's a vegetarian. Keep that in mind when you chose a place for your date."
"A vegetarian artist, huh?"
She noticed the expression on my face and quickly added, "She can be a bit crazy but in a good way. She's a great girl. You'll see."
CHAPTER 3: LAURA
I met Percy at Amanda's home. She made the introductions. Percy had dark hair and was fairly good looking. He didn't look very enthusiastic about meeting me, but he was polite. He took a good look at my clothes. I had dressed in a nice summer dress. Nothing fancy or extravagant.
"Laura, meet Percy," Amanda said with a giggle. She was clearly enjoying the situation.
"Nice to meet you," Percy held out his hand to shake mine.
I accepted his hand, smiling back. "Nice to meet you."
We spent the first few awkward minutes doing small talk with Amanda.
"My car is parked just outside. Are you ready to go?" Percy asked me.
I agreed, took his arm, and followed him. Amanda quickly departed and teased, "Have fun you two!" And she giggled.
Percy gained points when he opened the door and held it open while I got inside his car.
He drove us to a vegetarian restaurant which had, quite possibly, the best vegetarian cuisine I had ever had. He didn't look like a vegetarian, so I guessed Amanda told him about my eating habits. More points to him for doing his homework.
We engaged in the sort of casual conversation most couples endure on a first date. Percy had a nice personality and was easy to talk to. He was nice. I did my best to learn all I could about him. He asked a lot of questions about me and my work and he actually listened to my answers. We found our works had a lot in common.
Then, we went to a bar that looked like an English pub. We drank brown ale, which Percy explained to me was sweet and low in alcohol. We played darts, and we challenged each other to a contest. I had a lot of fun. He later drove me home and kissed me on my doorstep. A nice kiss, I must say.
After the kiss, he gave me a curious look. "You're not quite what I was expecting."
"No?" I replied. "Is that a good thing?"
He smiled. "Yes, it is."
A-plus date all around, a true gentleman, great company and conversation, and we tried something new.
I'm not sure what I loved more, the amount of laughing we did, or how relaxed I felt with Percy. I was able to be myself to my fullest. It surprised me how easy it was to talk with him.
There goes my theory about having to go on seven dates with seven different men to find the right one.
As soon as he got home, he texted me to tell me how great of a night he had with me. He added he couldn't wait to see me again. I texted him back telling him I felt the same way.
Throughout the next week, we texted back and forth every day.
"Don't get too clingy", I said to myself. "He is too good to be true. Wait till you find the skeletons in the closet."
We dated three more times and I found no skeletons at all. He was kind, caring, smart, and easy-going. That was the beginning of our romance. We started going steady and, one magic night, we had sex for the first time.
The more I got to know Percy, the more I realized what a special guy he was.
When I was with him, he made me forget the world around me. He was enough, and, together, we were everything. I felt I had found the man of my dreams, even if I knew him just for some months. I was trying to play it off like my heart was taking it 'slow'. However, I had no clue what 'taking it slow' really entailed let alone how to actually put that action into practice.
CHAPTER 4: PERCY
Laura and I dated for six months. We became exclusive. I learned that Laura's favorite color was blue and she loved to dance in rain. We loved to curl up together and watch movies. She preferred romantic movies and used to fall asleep during action or superhero ones. She loved cats, plants, and flowers. We both loved onions and pizza.
We used to talk for hours. She was a fantastic listener. When I was with her I felt life was a good thing, and I felt like it might just go on and on this way.
One Friday night, Laura asked me to pick her up at a fancy neighborhood address. I used to pick her up at her apartment, so the change of place surprised me. Maybe she was visiting a friend.
When I arrived there, I discovered with horror that it was her parents' home, and we were going to have dinner with them. I wasn't even dressed properly. Ambush, anyone?
The house was a two-story structure, painted yellow with brown trim. It screamed wealth with its polished white-marble floors and subtle gold accents.
Honestly, I didn't think our relationship was at this stage. You know, meeting the parents is both a sign that you're taking the relationship seriously and a test to see if you and your partner's parents will get along. What was Laura trying to pull?
I gave Laura a puzzled look when I greeted her, but she was too nervous to notice.
My first impression of Laura's parents wasn't good. They looked like snobs of the worst kind. The kind who put you down with just one look. They were country club people, I certainly was not. They gave me a cold welcome.
"Dad, I want you to meet my boyfriend Percy," Laura introduced me to her father, a short stocky man who never smiled.
I offered my hand to him, "I'm Percival Wittmore. Nice to meet you, sir."
I rarely used my full name, but I thought I might impress him. My mom was a fan of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. She used to call me Sir Percival.
He looked at me as if I were an annoying insect. I dropped my hand when he didn't offer his back.
Her mother simply looked at me as if I was something she scraped off her fancy shoes.
Laura did her best to alleviate the uncomfortable moment. She kept looking at me, apologizing with her eyes.
During dinner, her parents gave me the third degree. They interrogated me about my politics, my religion, my social position, my diet, my community involvement, my job, and especially how much money I was making a year. My answers got shorter and shorter with each question, and I refused to answer the last ones.
It felt like that nightmare where you dream you're back in high school taking a test you haven't studied for.
At some point, Laura tried to stop them, "You don't need to interrogate Percy like he's a criminal or something."
However, her parents would have none of it.
"I'm in my right to know if this young man you brought to our home can provide for the lifestyle you are used to," her father said in an affected tone of voice. "We have social obligations. We need to know if he'll fit."
As far as I knew, Laura was an artist living in a loft, not some princess in a palace. One thing she never talked about was her family. Now I knew why.
"I'm not sure he is the right person for you, Laura. I'm not your enemy, neither is your father. We are willing to give this man the benefit of the doubt. So long as he understands there are ground rules he must abide by," Laura's mother was doing her best to sound upper crust.
I hope you noticed that they were talking about me as if I weren't there. At that point, I'd had enough.
"Ground rules?" I asked wiping my mouth with a napkin and raising an eyebrow.
"Well, yes, young man, we have a social position in this community..." her father started to say.
"There are only two people in this relationship, Laura and me," I interrupted him. "We'll live our lives according to OUR rules, not yours. You and your wife have no say in OUR relationship. IF I marry your daughter one day, and that's a big IF considering the 'warm' reception you gave me tonight, you'll be the ones abiding by OUR rules, not the other way around."
I don't like your tone, young man."
"I don't like yours either, so I guess we're even on that score."
"How dare you talk to me like that? Do you have any idea who am I?" Laura's father exploded. His face was red with anger.
"A pompous asshole," I thought, but bit my tongue.
I stood up. "You're right, sir. This is your home, I apologize for my rudeness. However, I won't apologize for not letting you rule the way we live our lives. You may have money, but you certainly lack manners."
"How much will it take for you to go away?" He asked me.
"I'll go for free right now."
He shook his head. "I mean how much will it take for you to leave my daughter alone and never see her again?"
He articulated every word as if he was talking with an idiot.
I couldn't believe my ears. "Are you trying to buy me off? Let me tell you I'm not on sale. I don't want your money. I didn't even know Laura was born into privilege at all till tonight."
He cocked his head to one side and pulled out his check-book. I shook my head. This wasn't about Laura anymore. This was about me standing my ground.
"Mr. Lane," I said with conviction. "I won't accept ANY amount of money. If you think I have a prize you are completely clueless about the kind of person I am."
I articulated my words in the same way he did a moment ago.
I turned to Laura, not for help, but understanding. She had been caught off guard just like me. "I don't appreciate you trying to buy my boyfriend off and out of my life, Dad. I'm not on sale either."
Not bad, but not exactly the kind of endorsing support I expected.
"I'm obviously not welcome here. Since I've lost my appetite, if your royal highness excuses me, I'm leaving now," I took a sarcastic bow, and stormed towards the door without bothering to look back.