My Enemy and I Were Forced to Raise Our Mutual Friends' Child – Story of the Day
Friends introduced me to the manand I went on a date with. He turned out to be ugly and I threw him away, but life turned out the way I never expected.
Do any of us know what makes us fall in love or hate? I thought I did, but life has taught me otherwise.
When I was 32, I lost my best friend Amy, the one person who understood and accepted the real me from the time I was six years old. What I didn't realize then while living through the pain of her loss was what an incredible parting gift she left me.
A year before Amy passed away, I had been standing outside the church in the wedding dress of my dreams waiting for my finacé James. I thought he was late, had a flat tire, or had an accident.
Then his brother arrived, looking unhappy. "Silvia," he said, "I'm so sorry. James isn't coming."
"Is he alright? Is he hurt?" I gasped, and I felt my father put a supportive arm around me.
James' brother was shaking his head. He doesn't deserve you, Silvia," he said bitterly. "James has changed his mind. He doesn't want to get married." I just stood there, feeling small and stupid and unloved -- unlovable.
That feeling lingered for months, and I thought it would never go away. After a while, Silvia, who was happily married to an amazing guy called Gary and the mother of the adorable Gary Jr. decided to take a hand.
"Silvia," she told me firmly, "it's time you stopped moping around about James the Sleaze. You need to go out and meet new people."
"I'm not ready," I whined.
"No one is ever ready," she told me, "Which is why Gary and I have set up a blind date for you and Rafael."
"Rafael? The guy who was Gary's best man?" I asked.
"Yes. He's Gary's best friend and a very nice man." Amy said.
I was dubious. "He's not exactly my type," I told Amy.
"Your type is James the Sleaze?" she asked me. "Maybe it's time you dated someone who's NOT your type!"
So to please Amy I went on the date and it was a disaster. I'd arranged to meet Rafael at the restaurant, a trendy Italian trattoria, but I had changed my outfit so many times that I was half an hour late.
Rafael was not nice about it. "You're late and we've lost the reservation," he told me in an irritated tone.
"Oh!" I said, startled by his hostility. Then I tried to be flirtatious. "Girls are allowed to be late..." I smiled as charmingly as I could.
"GIRLS are, but you're not exactly a spring chicken, are you?" he replied. That seemed to set the tone for the evening. Instead of looking for another restaurant, Rafael took us to a drive-in takeaway for hamburgers. He parked in the parking lot and we ate the burgers sitting in his car.
"This isn't what I was expecting!" I said, watching him stuff half a burger in his mouth.
"Well, that makes two of us," he replied. "Gary told me you were funny and cool, but you're uptight and neurotic."
"NEUROTIC?" I gasped. "UPTIGHT?"
The evening wasn't a success and didn't end well. There was no goodnight kiss, I can tell you that. The next day, I told Amy never to set me up again with ANYONE.
If Rafael was what was out there, I'd stay single. But not six months later, we were sitting side by side taking on a huge joint responsibility and agreeing to live in the same house.
We're so used to stories of love at first sight that we forget that real relationships take time to grow.
Amy and Gary had asked me to take Gary Jr. for the weekend so they could take a little romantic getaway to Vegas, and I was glad to have him. Gary Jr. was my favorite person in the world.
That night, the phone rang and I said to Jr. "That's your mommy missing you already!" But it wasn't. It was the hospital telling me that Amy and Gary wouldn't be coming home, not ever.
Amy's death wasn't the last shock. A week later, I was summoned to a meeting at Gary and Amy's lawyer's office, and Rafael was there too, looking as devastated as I felt.
"Mr. and Mrs. Silverman have named you two guardians of their son Gary, and trustees of their estate," he said. "They hoped that you would both agree to co-parent little Gary and raise him with love."
I was stunned. It was a huge responsibility, but I wanted to do right by Amy and by little Gary. "I accept," I whispered, and Rafael nodded with tears in his eyes.
Since Gary was just eighteen months old and moving him from my house to Rafael's would be too disruptive, we agreed to both move into Amy and Gary's huge house and raise the baby there.
It wasn't easy at first. Gary cried a lot, and we both did our best to fill the gap the death of his parents left in his life. I'll admit Rafael was great at horseplay and making him laugh, but bedtime was tough on me.
Every night, Gary would fall asleep easily enough, but then he would start whimpering softly in his sleep. It just broke my heart. One night, Rafael found me sobbing in the kitchen.
I was expecting some harsh remark but he just put his arms around me and held me. From that moment on, we became friends, then I found myself noticing how attractive he was, and I knew he was looking at me differently too.
One night, we kissed. It felt so right, but Rafael backed away immediately. "We can't do this," he said. "We have to think of Gary."
"But this would be good for Gary too..." I protested.
"Not if we break up, and let's face it, neither of us has a great track record as far as relationships go." He was right, of course, so we awkwardly went back to being 'just friends' and tried to forget that kiss.
But one evening, there was a knock on the door. I was stunned to see James standing there with a hang-dog look on his face. "What do you want?" I asked.
"Silvia," James said, "I'm so sorry if I hurt you. I was a fool. I can't stop thinking about you, missing you. Please give me a chance..."
I stared at him. Had I ever loved him? I must have, but now he seemed so immature and shallow standing there with a bunch of red roses in his hands. I liked roses, so I grabbed them and said, "I'll think about it and let you know."
I slammed the door in his face and walked back into the kitchen where Rafael was crawling on the floor helping Gary build a tower or soft blocks. He saw the roses in my hands immediately.
"What are those?" he asked.
"Roses," I said, and started running water into a vase. He was on his feet and at my side in seconds.
"Where did those come from?" Rafael asked.
"My former fiancé crawled back and he wants to marry me again," I explained casually.
"WHAT?" Rafael gasped. "The creep who left you at the altar? You're joking."
"It wasn't at the altar," I said primly. "It was at the church door."
"And you're going to MARRY him?" Rafael asked.
"I told him I'd think about it," I said calmly.
"And?" asked Rafael anxiously.
"Well...Considering I'm no spring chicken and I'm unlikely to have another offer..." I said coolly. And that was when Rafael dropped to his knees in the middle of the toys and the blocks and proposed.
We're married now, and Gary is three, and very excited since we are now expecting a baby in the autumn, a little girl we're going to name Amy, for the wonderful woman who gave us to each other.
What can we learn from this story?
- Not all love happens in an instant. We're so used to stories of love at first sight that we forget that real relationships take time to grow.
- The person you fall in love with is the person who is there for you through the good and bad moments. Silvia and Rafael saw the worse and the best of each other and supported each other through their grief.
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