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Breaking the mold - Moving On
‘Well at least I did it on the phone’, Bella thought ‘and not with something as impersonal as an email’. The blow could not have been softened any which way, she soothed herself. ‘But a blow to his ego or something deeper…?’ She was momentarily hit with overwhelming doubt punctuated with hints of remorse. But Bella did not want to give that thought much thought. ‘Sorry Antonio’, she said out aloud, ‘never again will I let a man lead me’. ‘From now on, I live for myself’, became her mantra.
Bella’s cell phone had rung dutifully as it did every evening at 8pm. Antonio had ended his work calls and called her to catch up on the day. Four months into a long distance relationship had made this habit into a customary ritual that both looked forward to. Travelling back and forth was getting expensive especially with the sky high tuition fees at Harvard. Antonio complained about that often and Bella commiserated with him. The Executive MBA program was rated as one of the best in the country but it did not come cheap. Add to that, living expenses in downtown Cambridge, bitterly cold weather and no family or friends in a new town was not the type of smooth transition that Antonio had hoped for.
However, Bella was certain that if anyone could stick it through, it was Antonio. He had always been the solid, steadfast type, someone who you would naturally gravitate towards for his calm and unruffled exterior. That quality had attracted Bella from the onset. Apart from the little transition anxiety regarding the move to Cambridge, Bella had never seen a man without a purpose. Over six feet tall, with super model good looks and built, Antonio was not only charismatic, but considered a man’s man. Many of Bella’s friends and family gushed and swooned over his charm and sophisticate in the first fifteen minutes of meeting him. It never ceased to humor Bella who was aware of the fiercely ambitious man under the composed and easy going exterior. She always believed, almost took for granted that the decisiveness in his professional life, popular extroverted nature in his social life would easily flow into his personal life.
The Antonio that Bella knew and admired never second guessed his decisions, was focused in his work, expressive and communicative with his family and friends. And so she had trusted him. Trusted him to respect her, acknowledge her support and encouragement, trusted him to share his vision of a life together. Thinking back, a simple thanks and a smile was enough for her to power through many a late nights with Antonio, working on his MBA school application. She never once left his side when he just needed to hold her hand or read a school essay aloud to her. She patiently listened to every word, smiled at every exasperating correction and drank in every expression. Through the words, she listened to his dreams, his aspirations, his goals that he set for himself during childhood. Her wonderment grew with every application submission on how close both of them were to making all his dreams come true. And then the Harvard program acceptance letter came. That day Antonio held Bella close and said, ‘let’s celebrate’. She was happy for him.
Five months from the day Antonio left for Cambridge, to the evening of that fateful phone call, Bella had visited Antonio in Cambridge twice. Both welcomed the New Year of 2008 on a freezing cold and wintry New Year’s Eve at the Cambridge pier watching the fireworks display with throngs of party goers and New Year’s Eve revelers. With the party still going on, Antonio and Bella walked back to his apartment, two blocks away. Next Day, Bella left for home in Washington DC. It was the last time she saw Antonio.
That phone call abruptly ended the vision of a life together with Antonio which Bella had nurtured for two years. It is like a fogged up mirror in her memory now. If she tries really hard, she sees snippets of it in her mind, but no sound or emotion in it. However, there was one moment that reverberated with Bella for days after the phone call. She constantly wondered whether it was shock or relief that she detected in his voice. Bella remembers the long seconds of silence and then a very calm almost steely, ‘I told you we have to wait. I will not do this without my parents blessing’. Bella ignored that. ‘Antonio, I will come to your School’s Partner weekend only as your fiancé, not as your girlfriend’.
‘He was always a gold digger! I knew it!’ Bella smiled at that thinking her friend was simply expressing long pent up frustrations which she did not when Bella and Antonio were together. ‘Marrying a US doctor for a green card, how typical of him!’ Bella started to laugh and Elena joined in. Both realized that ex-boyfriends marrying before them was the real problem, nothing more. ‘Elena lets wish him all luck and not waste our energy any more into regurgitating the past. God knows I need every ounce of that energy in the next 6 months.”
The doorbell rang just at that moment and Bella lightly skipped over to open the door. It automatically swung open and there on the threshold stood Javier, freshly showered from the gym, smelling musky and spicy. ‘Hey you, ready to go see some more wedding venues today?’ Bella looked back, winked at Elena and planted a kiss on Javier’s lips, ‘you bet!’