I walked in to the classroom on the first floor of the 9-10 campus. It was Valentine’s Day, 2012, and I had just had my hair cut the night before so I was feeling pretty good about life. My mom introduced me to the teachers in the room and my eyes were automatically drawn to the tall, dark haired, brown eyed, Portuguese man sitting on one of the tables at the end of the room. He was eating a pink, heart shaped donut and when he asked if I wanted one, I think I just stared at him for 30 seconds before I could answer. The guy was beautiful. He was dreamy. I needed to know more about him. And dang, was I happy that I’d spent time fixing my hair that morning. I don’t even remember if I took a donut or not because all I wanted was his name and his number. So, I played cool the rest of the morning, ran in to him a few times throughout the day. He told me he had to give a presentation at a professional development meeting later that afternoon and he hadn’t even began to prepare for it which made me laugh. When I got home that night, I started quizzing my mom on this man who remained a mystery but she was pretty vague and left the investigating up to me. And we all know how women are when it comes to investigating. So I found him on Facebook and did a little
stalking researching and it appeared as though he was single. So. I waited a day and then I sent him a message and asked how his presentation had gone. A few days went by and I was standing in a dressing room at a clothing store in Rogers, AR when my phone buzzed and I had a message from none other than the Valentine’s Day Teacher!!!! I must have stood in that dressing room for 30 minutes exchanging messages with him. He was sitting at a local dive in Joplin drinking a Bud Light and I told him I was jealous and I went on to bet him that I could drink him under the table any day. And so he accepted the challenge and we agreed to meet for drinks a few nights later. When we met, he was just coming from a work meeting and he was still wearing his work clothes….a blue shirt with a tie, which was loosened around his neck and the top button of his shirt unbuttoned. I couldn’t even breathe. My Lord, was this a dream? So we started drinking which led to great conversation because neither of us were nervous anymore. We played a game where each of us pulled every thing we had in our wallets out and laid them on the bar in front of us and we both got a good laugh out of some of the things we’d had stashed away. When it was time to leave, he walked me to my car and as I was about to get in and drive away, he reached down and picked my up by my waist and gave me a little kiss and I knew I had to see this guy again. Like, I didn’t want to wait more than 45 seconds to see him again. But I had to, so we parted ways. We met up a few more times before Spring Break rolled around and when it did, we were inseparable. We spent the entire second week of March laying on his couch watching reruns of Golden Girls and Top Gear. We couldn’t get enough of each other. The more time we spent together, the harder it was to say goodnight and leave for my own bed. So many nights I wanted to stay curled up next to him and just doze off, but he respected me as a lady and he’d always promise me that he’d see me in just a few hours and then he’d walk me to my car, kiss me, and then as he’d walk back to his front door, I always whistled and said something like, “Dannnnnnnng. I hate to say goodbye but I love to watch you walk away.” And then he’d kinda half way turn around and wink at me and blow me a kiss. Every time. One night, we were walking the trail that ran near his house and I told him that I’d always wanted a star named after me. So we stopped, he grabbed my hand and he pointed up towards the sky. He said, “See that one right there? Just right over from the Big Dipper? That one’s yours. From me to you. There’s your star.” Talk about butterflies in my stomach!! March flew by. He bought a house in April. We spent every spare moment cleaning and painting and cleaning some more and packing and unpacking but he never once forgot to stop and tell me that he appreciated me. And Tuesday’s were always, without fail, our special Taco Tuesday/Top Gear night. We’d head over to the taco place in Webb City and we always ordered the same dang thing. And we’d go back to the house, curl up on the couch and we wouldn’t move for anything for at least two hours. I loved the simplicity of his life. I loved the routine. I loved that every Saturday morning, I knew he’d be up way before me and that if I needed to find him, he’d be in the sale aisle at Wal-Mart, just checking things out. The middle of April was really rough for me. Actually, December 2011 to April 2012 were some really hard months. My aunt got sick and was diagnosed with leukemia in December and passed away in April. Her decline was extremely fast and he was there for me through every single moment of the journey. He was there for the viewing and he’d never even met my aunt but he knew I needed him and his comfort was a tremendous reason why I didn’t lose my sanity during those months. The night she passed away, I remember calling him. It was late so I woke him up. I told him what had happened and he said he’d be right there. I told him to stay put, I would come to his house. And when I got there, he let me just lay beside him and cry. And I did just that all night long while he held me. He was just what I needed during that time. May rolled around. We took a trip to Columbia for a work thing he had to attend. While we were laying in the hotel room, watching (you guessed it) Top Gear, he looked at me and said, “Rachel, you’ve really stolen my heart and I think I’m falling for you.” And I just lost it. Like a big ‘ol idiot. I just started crying. Who was I that this amazing, talented, educated, handsome, wonderful man would love me? But I knew he did. A few days later, we were just waking up from a nap (one of our favorite past times) and he rolled over and said those three little words that made me nearly just stop breathing. He told me that he loved me. I remember that night when I was texting him before bed, I said to him, “I opposite of hate you.” And he responded with, “You’re the biggest dork. We fit perfectly together.” And in that moment, I couldn’t have agreed more. He was wonderful. He is still a wonderful person. But as those seconds ticked away on the clock, I couldn’t think of one single thing about him that made me not want to spend the rest of my life with him. He called me Cantwell which drove me crazy, in a good way. He loved my family, adored them, rather. He spent every Sunday afternoon at my parents house with me. He planned Harry Potter marathons with my brother and sister-in-law. He laid in the bean bag with my nephew and read Goodnight Moon to him. He brought his dog over just so my nephew could chase her around the house. This was the total opposite of the man I had dated for almost five years before him. I think my ex had been to my parents house three times for a total of 30 minutes in all those years. This man was exactly what I had hoped for when I dreamed about someone loving my family. June is all kind of a blur to me. I’m not sure what happened. I think the summer heat got to me a little. It was a new season. I was used to every summer prior to that one being at horse shows and rodeos or being on the lake with people from my past. I knew I had left that old life style behind but there were parts of me that longed for the familiarity of it all. Being in a totally new environment started to scare me. I didn’t know what to expect and not knowing what this new life style would bring made me start to question if it was something I even wanted. I struggled for two weeks, begging for advice from Christin, asking my dad what I should do. I remember my dad telling me I was an idiot if I broke up with this Valentine’s Day Teacher because he was exactly what I needed for my life. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of “what if?” What if he wasn’t the right one? What if I was moving too fast? What if I wanted to live in the country again? What if I wanted horses and cows and chickens? Because if I stayed with him, I’d probably never have those things. So at the end of June, I handed over my key to his house. I hugged him for the last time and I drove away. I cried the whole way home because I wasn’t sure if I had just made the biggest mistake of my life or if I had just shut a door that would allow a new one to be opened. I acted like a freaking maniac at times, I’m sure (no doubt in my mind) I drove him crazy with questions of wondering if I’d done the right thing. It’s been seven months since that day. For the most part, I’m confident in knowing that I made the right decision on June 26, 2012. But there are some Tuesdays that I wonder if he makes the drive to the little taco stand in Webb. And some Sunday afternoons, when my brothers and their wives are here with my mom and dad, I wonder what it would’ve been like if I hadn’t drove away that night. Truthfully, there were probably more things than either of us care to admit that we didn’t agree on. But one thing is for sure……the teacher I met on Valentine’s Day, 2012, showed me what it meant to be loved genuinely. He made me remember what it felt like to be myself and not be afraid to be goofy and to laugh at the things that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of it all. He helped me see that in order to move on and let go of my past, I had to forgive, starting with myself. He’s a great person. We don’t talk anymore. And that’s okay. I get that. We’ve both dated since we broke up. And that’s just fine, too. I want him to be happy. Heck, I want to be happy, too. I can’t believe an entire year has gone by since the day he offered me a pink, heart shaped donut. And it makes me wonder where I’ll be, who I’ll be spending my February 14th with this time next year. Only time will tell.