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Head Held High: A Tale of Heartbreak, Lies, and Redemption
I stared out the window of my mom’s red Camry. Tears poured from my eyes as I replayed everything in my head. I couldn’t believe it.
Let’s go back a little. Back to when everything was fine and dandy, and I never felt the need to cry. November, 2009. I’d never had a boyfriend before, but I knew that I sure wanted one… and bad. I’d scope out guys everywhere I’d go; some could say I was boy-crazy. But I didn’t care. I was tired of being lonely.
So the moment my friend Sydney informed me about a guy that was into me, I was completely psyched. His name was Terrence. I was 16, and he was18. He was tall, in the Army National Guard, and went to my church. He wasn’t the cutest guy I’d ever seen, by far, but I’d always thought of him as kind of good-looking. I’d never talked to him much, but when I did, he seemed like a sweet and caring guy. So I went for it.
Setting aside my fear of rejection, I got his phone number from Sydney and started to text him. It was nerve-wracking, the first couple of times I’d receive a line of text from him. I remember sitting in my room in the dark, the only light coming from the lamp on my bedside table, shaking uncontrollably because I was so nervous. I almost hyperventilated. Looking back, I feel like a fool, but that can’t be helped or changed.
It was a couple of days before he got up the courage to actually ask me out. And, in my desperateness to have a boyfriend, I said yes. He came to pick me up that Friday with a smile on his face. A smile I realized later that I couldn’t stand.
My parents saw us off, giving him a warning before we left. His little sister, who was my age, was in the backseat of his truck with her boyfriend. We all went off to the mall to see a movie. The game had begun.
The date went well. I found out that I liked Terrence a lot more than I had planned. As the months passed, I found myself falling slowly in love with him, despite my efforts to guard my heart. He was sweet, kind, smart, funny, adorable, and more. He was all I ever wanted. At least, I thought so. Later I’d be able to discover how much I really hated about him.
Months progressed. Our relationship grew. And for once in my life I was truly happy.
But I should’ve known that it couldn’t last. Nothing like that ever did for me. But even now, I can’t believe how blinded I was, and how much he duped me.
It all started with a conference. A Catholic youth conference, to be more specific. You see, I have always been pretty strong in my faith, and I would go to conferences and retreats and seminars all the time. Every time I’d come home, I’d be so full of God’s love and mercy and I’d strive so hard to stay holy. But, within a week, I’d be back to the way I was before, feeling guilty for letting Terrence get away with things that I knew were less than appropriate.
I had told Terrence at the beginning of our relationship that I wanted to wait to have sex until there was a ring on my finger and I had said “I do.” He had heartily agreed, leading me into a sense of understanding and safety. But as time wore on, holding hands and kissing were growing old to Terrence. He wanted more, and he tried to push the limit. “How far can we go?” he’d ask me over and over again. I’d grow exasperated, telling him every time that if he had to ask, it was too far. I’d tell him that I wanted to stay pure and holy, and I wanted him to do the same. And every time he’d agree, only to bug me again not long after.
Every day, I’d grow so frustrated with him. I’d cry every night, and I’d pray so hard that one day he’d understand my point-of-view and respect my choice. I had this fantasy that we could be that perfect couple, that prayed together and grew in God’s love together. But he resisted every effort to make this happen, and he’d ask me, “How far can we go?” yet again, and I’d cry some more.
But one weekend, after a particularly inspiring conference, I came home and realized that I was tired of it. I was tired of crying myself to sleep every night. I was tired of praying so hard, when I knew that he wouldn’t do the same for me. I was tired of feeling holy, and then having that feeling vanish because of him. So I put my foot down.
I called him as soon as he got off work, and explained to him, in tears, that he needed to respect my decision to be pure and help me with it, or we couldn’t be together anymore. I told him that, if he really loved me, he’d help me and respect me.
The next morning he broke up with me.
And, not only that, but he was so much of a coward that he did it in a text message.
I cried, and I cried, and I cried. I went to school and I cried. I came home and I cried. I went to bed and I kept on crying.
It wasn’t the fact that he had broken up with me that hurt me so much. It was the fact hat he had lied to me. Every time he said “I love you,” he was lying. It made me feel unlovable, like I wasn’t good enough.
“We can still be friends,” he texted me that day. “And later, if I decide that I can be pure, maybe we could get back together.”
I told him no. He’d lost his chance. I wasn’t going to allow him to break up with me, sleep around with a whole bunch of girls, and then get back with me.
“I’m sorry I was such a terrible girlfriend, and that I stressed you out, and that I couldn’t give you what you wanted,” I told him angrily. “Maybe now you can find a girl that will.”
His reply: “Yeah, maybe.”
This was the first taste of his true self that I experienced. But, little did I know, it wouldn’t be the last.
I sat in my room that night, going over the events of the day in my head. I was still in disbelief when my cell phone buzzed. It was a text from my friend Faye. I hadn’t told her what happened yet. I opened my phone to read the text and was presented with a picture of a Facebook status.
Terrence’s Facebook status.
I read it slowly, anger building up inside of me until I threw my phone down. “The single life is great!” it had said. I fought the tears in my eyes. Not even 24 hours had passed. He couldn’t wait one day.
So I forwarded the picture to him, saying, “Hey, glad to see you’re moving on so quickly. Sorry I was such a burden to you.”
It was a while before he replied. When he did, all he said was, “I find it creepy that you continually check up on me.” He called me a stalker. And, against my better nature, I hated him. I wanted bad things for him. I wanted to make him as miserable as he made me.
“I can’t even believe you!” I said, tears running down my face. “You don’t even care what you’re doing! I loved you, and you hurt me. And why? Because I have morals and you didn’t love me enough to try for me. Do you realize how bad that feels?! Knowing that you didn’t love me enough?!”
He never replied. He didn’t deny it. Out of all the things he had said to hurt me, it was what he didn’t say that hurt me the most. My self-esteem dropped. It was then that I knew that he had lied to me. And it tore my heart in two.
The next day, I refused to feel worthless. I refused to feel empty. Instead, I bounced back like never before. I was done with him. In the end, it had turned out that the boy I had loved was never real, so I figured that there was no reason to cry over him anymore.
My friend stole Terrence’s number from my phone before I deleted it. He sent him a text that said, “Caitlin is one of my best friends, and if you ever go near her or hurt her again, I will hunt you down.”
Terrence replied, “I don’t have to explain anything to you.”
My friend persisted. “Well, if you didn’t leave her because of sex, why did you leave her?”
Terrence simply stated, “She was too clingy and too religious.”
When my friend relayed all of this to me, I just shook my head. I knew at that point how stupid and ridiculous Terrence actually was, and this only confirmed it.
But I wasn’t saddened. I was glad. Because, when he’d have to go around and face everyone who knew the truth, face God, and face the real reason he broke up with me, he’d regret it. Later on down the road, he would regret what he’d done, and I wouldn’t, because I would be happy with someone else who understands and respects me.
While he’d have to face everyone and everything, while he’d have to battle with his conscience, I could hold my head up high. I could be proud of myself and my decision, just like everyone else was proud of me. I could be glad in the fact that I didn’t back down, no matter what the cost. He’d have to face everyone knowing how much of a jerk he was, while everyone could see how strong I was. And this made me thankful.
And so I walked away from the pain. I walked away from the heartbreak. I walked away from every lie he’d ever told me. And I walked away for good with my head held high.