A Rainy Night by the Sea

17 of #100DaysToOffload

At twenty-two, I explored different styles of Christian worship and drifted from one church to the next.

I eventually found a positive environment in one church and became involved with the youth club. Soon after, Debby crossed my path. I'd been spotted, and she made gradual moves into my line of sight.

Childhood had been a lonely affair, replete with bullies and long periods of isolation. As my twenties began, I acquired a car and with it, a sense of independence.

Then this beautiful girl showed interest in me.

It took another couple, Thomas and Elise, to do the match-making. Thomas convinced me to buy a car — I did and boy I loved the freedom. I could go anywhere, anytime and take Debby out on dates, alone.

Some dates led to night-time use of car parks. Steamy car windows progressed to the sofa while housemates slept upstairs. When the chance arose to spend the night together, we took it. Our passion only limited by the guilt-induced fears of church-based religion.

Our faith didn't stop us from being physical but made it feel wrong but more exciting.

Decades later, I can't say if we loved each other or if sex created an illusionary bond.

Debby was kind, sincere, and beautiful. Falling in love was fun and carefree.

One rainy night, a year into the relationship, we strolled along a seaside promenade.

“I can't imagine being with anyone else,” I said.

“I can't either.”

“Will you marry me?”

“Yes, I will, Alan. Yes.”

I spent all my savings on a ring — a ruby surrounded by six little diamonds. Though how we'd afford the wedding on a minuscule salary I had no idea.

Soon friends and family adorned us with engagement presents but around the corner awaited an overwhelming loss.

Less than a year into our relationship, Debby returned from a trip to England in a strange mood. She became distant. While my confidence was never sky-high, Debby's behaviour didn't help.

Soon the atmosphere returned to usual, and wedding plans continued.

However, the arrival of Debby's English friend, Dorian, marked the start of the end.

Debby used to babysit for Dorian and family. I can't recall all the things we did except for a few day trips to show off the sights of Northern Ireland.

Dorian left, but my relationship with Debby had changed.

Months later, Debby did what I suppose is the honourable thing and explained the peculiar background to Dorian's visit.

A marital affair occurred between Dorian's husband and Debby during their time at bible college — yeah, bible college of all places.

Rather than lose her husband, who still longed for Debby, Dorian came to explore if they could agree on an arrangement to live together. But Dorian hadn't known about me or the planned marriage.

Although Debby rejected the offer, the atmosphere darkened, and I had to ask myself — do I want this? Would the marriage last?

Debby became colder, and I wondered if she still had feelings for the other man. We tried to keep the relationship going with several splits and reunions, but nothing worked.

Angry exchanges led to the inevitable crash and burn.

It was a painful time and rumours spread as to the reasons we cancelled the wedding.

I was distraught.

But I never reached the point of no return. After all, bullies never broke me so neither will a broken heart.

I was left with questions, memories and a bloody ruby ring.

The ring failed to sell at a local auction, so I went to my Dad's garage and crushed it between the steely teeth of his workbench vice.

The diamonds and ruby turned to dust, and I realised the ring was a fake.

The crushed pieces in my hand were not real, like the relationship it represented.

One of my favourite haunts was a local lake surrounded by a woodland walk. I would go there to walk and day-dream.

At a wooden footbridge, I flung the crushed ring into the lake, and there it lies beneath the bulrushes.

Looking back, I'm relieved the relationship went pear-shaped.

Five years later, I married Rita, and we've been together and happy ever since.

I’m publishing this as part of #100DaysToOffload. You can join in by visiting https://100daystooffload.com.

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