by Jennifer Anne F. Messing
French vanilla cappuccino
“Karina Rose Weston,” my daughter’s name is announced, and I watch with pride and misty eyes as she walks across the stage to receive her high school diploma. The entire class stands and claps. Not only is Karina their valedictorian, but she’s also the last one in her class to receive her diploma, since our last name begins with “W”!
I rise to my feet and clap loudly, too. My ex-husband, Jacob Weston, stands up beside me, then leans and whispers in my ear, “You’ve done a great job, Lorelei. I’m proud of Karina!”
Jacob and I both take pictures as the principal shakes Karina’s hand. All are asked to sit down again for a few more minutes as the principal gives his concluding remarks.
During this quiet moment, reality sets in. It feels odd for me to be sitting beside my tall and still very handsome ex-husband here inside the Lincoln High School auditorium. The last time I saw him was four years ago, when he flew in to Charlotte for Karina’s eighth grade graduation.
We separated when Karina was ten years old. For over a year, he’d often worked overtime at his hotel job with no extra pay, hoping to get promoted. But Jacob was always exhausted when he got home, rarely helped with housework and hardly gave me or Karina any attention. I felt neglected and very much taken for granted. Then, one day Jacob came home and announced that he’d been promoted to the position of Marketing Manager for a different hotel within the same chain—a job offer that required him to move to Duluth, Minnesota.
He accepted the offer without even asking me if I wanted our family to move to another state! I wasn’t prepared to be uprooted and moved away from Charlotte so easily.
Jacob gently touches my arm just then, as the principal closes the ceremony. We stand and quickly walk to the front to meet up with Karina.
“Hi, Mom and Dad!” Karina calls out, beaming with excitement. She runs up to us.
I open my arms and give her a big hug. “Congratulations, sweetheart! So proud of you!”
“Thank you, Mama,” she answers.
“I’m waiting for my hug...” Jacob says, giving his daughter a wink. Karina giggles with pleasure, then hugs her Dad.
“Congratulations, baby,” he says. “I’m so proud of you!”
“So glad you could make it, Dad!”
“I wouldn’t miss this for anything,” Jacob replies.
“We’re so proud of you, too, Karina.” I hear some familiar voices. “Congratulations!”
David and Kathleen Shaughnessy, parents of Karina’s boyfriend, Logan, who is also a graduate, have found us in the crowd. Logan is with them.
“David and Kathleen,” says Karina, “I’d like to introduce you to my Dad, Jacob Weston.”
After exchanging introductions, hellos and goodbyes, we are off to a graduation dinner at Harborview Lounge, which Jacob planned in advance and invited us to, including Logan.
Honestly, I’m a bit curious as to why Jacob chose to have dinner at this restaurant where he proposed to me twenty-one years ago. I’d been out of high school for two years and had just earned my associate’s degree. Jacob had already completed his bachelor’s degree and was working full-time in Guest Services at a hotel. A wave of nostalgia floods my mind as we stand in the entryway, waiting to be seated.
I also remember vividly that a year after our divorce was final, Jacob wrote me a letter of apology and initiated a reconciliation. He’s called from time to time, and has faithfully sent me a handwritten card and gift on my birthday for the last four years.
In a few moments, the hostess says our table is ready and walks us over to a beautifully set table with a river view.
I’m surprised to see not one, but two gorgeous bouquets set in two different spots at the table. There is a card attached to each arrangement. One card says, “Karina Rose Weston,” and on the other card is written, “Lorelei Audrey Weston.”
“These are lovely,” I say to Jacob. “Thank you. But, really, you didn’t need to get one for me. I’m not the graduate.”
“But you’re the lovely mother-of-the-graduate,” Jacob replies, looking into my eyes. “You deserve to be congratulated, too.”
It’s flattering to know he still finds me attractive.
“I agree,” says Logan, smiling.
“Thank you, Daddy!” Karina says. “They’re beautiful.”
When we’re seated at the table, a waitress brings the menus over. She returns after a few minutes and takes our orders.
Later, before we start the meal, Jacob offers a toast for our graduates. Then we raise our glasses and partake of our drinks together. My champagne is delicious and in spite of what I thought might be an awkward evening, I find I’m enjoying myself.
“What do you plan to major in, Logan?” Jacob asks.
“Business management, with a concentration in International Business,” Logan replies.
“He just received an acceptance letter yesterday from North Carolina State,” Karina announces proudly.
“Very exciting,” Jacob replies. “All the best.”
“Thank you, sir,” Logan answers.
How precious to see Karina and Logan so sweet together and so in love, standing at the threshold of adulthood and the future. It seems like it wasn’t long ago when Jacob and I were exchanging vows, looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together...
In the years we’ve been apart I’ve come to regret my actions that contributed to our separation. I should have been willing to move to Duluth. I knew the promotion meant a lot to him because he wanted to provide for us better.
Right after dinner, Karina’s favorite love song, “The Power of Love” starts playing. Harborview Lounge has always been popular for its music and the dance floor.
“Wanna dance?” Logan asks, looking at Karina.
“Of course,” Karina answers, ever spontaneous and ready for a fun time. They stand up and make their way to the dance floor.
Jacob looks on as Logan puts his arm around Karina, appearing lost in deep thought.
“I’m glad you came for the graduation,” I say softly. “This means a lot to Karina.”
Jacobs turns and faces me. “She’s a beautiful and accomplished young lady—” he pauses, then sighs with a look of regret. “I’m sorry that I missed out on so much of her young life.”
“But you were always in touch, texting, calling, sending gifts—”
“It’s not the same as being around,” he says.
“It’s not too late,” I tell him. “Karina is mature and forgiving; she’ll allow you to build a close relationship with her if you’re sincere.”
“That I intend to do,” he says, taking a sip of water.
I look up then and see Karina and Logan back at our table.
“Mom and Dad,” she says, “remember, Logan and I planned to join his parents for dessert tonight?”
“Yes, dear,” I answer. “I remember.”
Karina gives her Dad and me a parting hug, and after the two say their goodbyes, they take off.
Later, one of my favorite swing tunes starts playing. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out dancing, and Jacob is a terrific dancer.
“Wanna dance?” he asks.
I should have known this was coming! Well, you only live once, and tonight is my daughter’s graduation night! My ex never remarried, and neither did I. Why not enjoy a dance with him?
“All right,” I answer.
We stand up, and he leads me to the dance floor. For the next few minutes we swing, twist and spin with familiarity—almost as though we’re doing this every weekend! I’m breathless by the time the song ends, and just then a romantic, slow song starts playing.
“We can stop now, if you’d like,” Jacob says. “But I’d much rather have this next dance with you.”
“We’re too old to play games,” I tell him.
“I’m not playing games—” He looks at me, his charcoal-gray eyes intense.
I certainly don’t mind sharing a slow dance with a man I once loved, and might be willing to love again...
I place my hands on his shoulders and feel his arms gently encircle my waist. Slowly, we begin to sway.
“I’ve missed you, Lorelei,” he whispers in my ear. “You’re the woman I’ve always loved, and I blew it, I know. But I want you back—”
As we dance I look over at the colorful bouquet on our table, remembering the words I’d read written in the card, earlier:
Being with you and Karina is like coming home. I’ve missed my family.
You’re as beautiful as ever. And sweet Karina is a heaven-sent gift. I hope we can talk and work things out, so I can come home to you—forever.
“I’ve missed you, too, Jake,” I whisper. Then I lean my head on his shoulder. “I’m not even sure I’m ready yet, but I’m willing to try.”
His arms around me tighten, and hopeful anticipation fills my heart.
About the author
JENNIFER ANNE F. MESSING is an award-winning author of four books, a
poet, writing teacher, wife and mother of three children, with a
bachelor’s degree in journalism. Philippine-born, she has had 250
articles, short stories, and poems published in 60 magazines including:
The Storyteller, Aglow, Standard, LIVE, and FellowScript.