I had been in a decade-long relationship with Max, a rich, self-centered man who treated me like a personal maid. However, all that changed when I met a stranger.
I was a young woman in my late twenties, beautiful, smart, and above all, adaptable. It was that last trait I employed when I found myself falling for Max. Speaking of him, he was late… again.
I had been waiting for nearly an hour outside in the cold. I wondered what his problem was because he was always late.
A bouquet lying on the floor. | Photo: Shutterstock
I was starting to get irritated, but even that could be a costly mistake, so I kept rubbing my frozen hands together periodically to keep the blood flowing and generate heat.
My legs were another matter entirely. I feel like they're beginning to freeze and still no Max. My phone had run out of juice minutes ago so I couldn't call him.
Not that he had called when the device was worki— oof! Some snow dropped off the tip of the roof I was standing under.
I was shivering in the snow. | Photo: Getty Images
It shocked me out of my musings, so I took a look around. I quickly noticed that I was no longer alone. There was another couple some meters away from me.
I recognized the guy; he had stopped at a flower shop to purchase the bouquet he now held towards a girl who must have arrived after he did. I wanted to give them privacy, but I was cold and tired so I watched the spectacle unfold before me.
The romantic man handed the lady the bouquet, but she did not accept it. They spoke for some time before she departed. It was clear what had happened, and I felt sorry for him.
The man smiled and offered me the bouquet. | Photo: Getty Images
Now feeling guilty that I witnessed such a private interaction, I decided to leave the spot and head home. I was done waiting.
As I turned to leave, the guy spotted me and walked purposely towards me — I was stuck, like a deer in headlights, I was so shocked, I stayed put.
When he reached me, the man smiled and offered me the bouquet, adding, with a flourish, that he picked them himself.
"Look how beautiful!" he exclaimed.
It was a lovely bouquet. | Photo: Getty Images
I hesitantly accepted the token, touched by the unexpected gesture. From a stranger, no less.
"You should go home, it's cold outside," the man continued.
I saw the wheels turning in his head and realized that the man must have seen me earlier, just as I'd seen him.
"How long have you been waiting here?" he asked.
I answered, "Probably forty minutes…"
The man suddenly looked angry. Should I run? I wondered.
The man appeared puzzled. | Photo: Getty Images
Before I could decide, the man launched into a full-blown lecture. He was appalled by how long I'd been waiting. "You are so lightly dressed for this weather. You need to value yourself!" he practically screamed.
I wouldn't have heard him otherwise over the wind if he didn't, but still, it made a lasting impression.
"... you'll catch a cold this way."
I had zoned out at some point; his statements had triggered a line of thought I had been following. However, his next statement jarred me out of my reverie.
"The man you are waiting for is definitely not worth waiting for hours in the cold…"
He wasn't happy about me waiting in the cold. | Photo: Getty Images
I returned to the house, where I sat in the hallway for almost 30 minutes until I could warm my frozen hands and feet. My jacket went off, replaced by a pair of warm sweaters and wooly socks, then I entered the kitchen to brew some coffee.
After some time, I called Max and asked why he did not show up.
"Is it today? No, we did not make any plans for today. No baby, we made plans for tomorrow," he said.
"Tomorrow?" This was news to me.
"Well, of course," he quipped in that voice I loved so much. "Yes, for tomorrow. I guess you got something wrong."
I hung up, collapsed in a chair, and wept…
I began crying on the couch. | Photo: Getty Images
I had been with Max for about five years. He was gorgeous and could have had any girl he wanted, but he chose me. In return, I tried to please him in every possible way to prove that I was worth it.
Max wanted his woman to look stylish and always well dressed, so I kept up with the trends even though it was exhausting.
We met only on weekends. Well, sometimes Tuesdays too. Sometimes he would make me do his laundry. His excuse? "Nobody will do it better than you!"
I couldn't stop crying. | Photo: Getty Images
I always made him lunch for work on some days. And I needed to cook precisely what he liked even though the cost of making the dishes would be carried solely by me.
When we met, most times, Max was tardy, although sometimes he came on time. The years passed, and the thought of marriage did not cross his mind.
"So what will I ever get from him?" I thought as I wiped away my tears. The TV was on; I could hear the weatherman; it would be colder tomorrow.
I asked myself why I was in this relationship. | Photo: Getty Images
Suddenly, I remembered my encounter earlier and looked at the bouquet of flowers I received from a heartbroken stranger. I moved the flowers to a vase and started thinking of Max again.
I completely forgot to wash his clothes, and I still have to go to cook… He also needs lunch for work for a week. And it would be desirable to go to the store, the fridge is empty…
I knew it meant going out in the cold, but I was loathed to do so. I wrapped myself more tightly in a blanket.
I recalled the words of the stranger: "Value yourself… You should value yourself." I glanced at the flowers and made my decision. I was done.
I began to wipe off my tears as I decided I was done. | Photo: Getty Images
I washed my face, changed into comfy pajamas, did Max's laundry, and then settled down on a couch to watch my favorite series. I stayed awake through most of the night, binge-watching the fascinating series, and closed my eyes in the wee hours of the morning.
I awoke to the doorbell ringing. It was noon already. I went to open the door, and Max strode in like he owned the place. He was furious.
"Why are you at home?" he asked. "We agreed to meet at a specific time but when I arrived there you weren't there! I thought you didn't wait for me cause I was running late but look, you aren't even dressed yet!"
Max was furious. | Photo: Getty Images
"And what is that?" He pointed to the flowers.
"This is a bouquet of flowers Max. Very beautiful, right?" I said.
He scoffed. He had never given me anything — not even flowers. "You're not dating me for money or gifts," he always said.
"So why didn't you come?" he asked.
"I just got up," I replied. "Yesterday I decided to binge-watch a series until the early hours of the morning."
"Series? You jeopardized our meeting because of a series?" he asked. "And where are my lunches, my clothes? I have to go to work tomorrow, and you haven't prepared anything."
He kept asking me all these questions. | Photo: Getty Images
"We can cook the lunches together," I said. "And I will iron the clothes now, they are washed already."
Max balked at the utterance, furious at me for expecting him to join me in the kitchen when he was the breadwinner. I knew he would say that. I was ready with a counter.
"You make money. And where is that money? You never give me a penny!" But he would not let me win so easily.
"Let's get married, then I'll give you the money," Max said irritably.
I asked when that would be, but that only got him even more annoyed.
"It'll happen when I decide. Is it just money you need? Are you with me just because of this?!"
Max accused me of being after his money. | Photo: Getty Images
At that, I walked out, returned with his clothing, and told him to get his mother to do his laundry if he can't take care of it himself.
"But mom can't do that…" he began.
"Max!" I shouted. "Goodbye! Find your personal assistant elsewhere…."
Ten years had passed. I was walking with my husband and my daughter in the park when I caught sight of Max. He was walking ahead of a woman who was struggling to catch up. Then he noticed me.
We exchanged pleasantries, albeit stiffly, and made introductions. He introduced the woman as his friend. She was a beautiful lady named Anastasia.
I exchanged pleasantries with Anastasia. | Photo: Getty Images
I really looked at her and I saw the tell-tale signs that I used to put up with a long time ago. Anastasia looked really, really sad. It was how I looked in the past! I smiled then said, "Well, we have to go now. We were all going to the movies."
"Goodbye," Max stated and moved on without looking back.
I watched the two go. Looking back, I am happy I met that stranger that cold fateful day. His words really changed my life for the better.
My life changed for the better because of the words of a stranger. | Photo: Getty Images
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