25 Days Before The Masque

 Heart racing he said he was back in town….

I could barely breathe and my head was spinning as he asked if I’d like to meet for breakfast on my way to my morning appointments. I hadn’t expected to see him this morning. He was supposed to still be in Florida on business…

But…

I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to finally meet this wonderful man that I had been talking to for the last 25 days. He traveled a lot for work as a consultant. I myself know the life. So when I met him through an on-line dating site it never occurred to me that it was odd that he was being shipped off all over the country…home for portions of the weekend only to fly out on Sundays. An avid golfer, he was pulled to tournaments as well during his free time… As a single parent my priorities limited my availability for dating. He lived in the area. I knew it would eventually happen…

We would eventually meet…

Conversations…

Honest exchanges for hours at a time, in the quiet of the evenings or early mornings were a daily event as we got to know each other. A sharing of hopes and dreams began to evolve into a friendship and desire for more. A trust developed and an intimacy began to take hold. It felt like we had known each other for years…our connection strengthening every day.

He sent pictures to me to stay connected. A handsome man just a few years older than me with prematurely grey hair, a warm smile, and beautiful clear blue eyes that sparkled back at me. The caring, wit, and intelligence was ever present. I responded in kind. My heart was beginning to wake up…so was his… He seemed to really want to know me. Anticipated my thoughts and feelings and worked hard to be there with me even if it was only a virtual existence.

He sent flowers twice…

The first time he actually purchased them and left them behind in the store since he didn’t have my address. He texted me the location and instructed me to go pick them up. Two weeks later another bouquet arrived at work combined with a personal card and a specially chosen book he thought I would enjoy. The romantic gestures left me giddy every time.

Finally…

We set a date to meet a couple weeks into our adventure, for one of the weekends he was home…but he had to cancel. Flying so frequently had caused a sinus infection to compound into a painful problem. He needed to get well…to go to the doctor…We would need to postpone.

Two weeks later…

He was finally coming back home! His trip had already been extended an additional week. One of the other consultant’s wives had just had a baby so the associate was flying home early and my gallant man was staying behind to cover for him. Knowing we would spend time together over the upcoming weekend I let my mind wander in anticipation. How wonderful to finally get to blend the still face from photos with a live animated one and pair it with the voice that had become so familiar. The voice I could close my eyes and hear because I had listened to it for 25 days.

Getting out of my car at the restaurant that morning my legs could barely function. I was shaking and knew it was from happy anticipation…not fear… For a split second I thought maybe it was a hoax but knew him to be kind, not cruel and trusted that all would be okay. After all he had earned my trust. Worked hard for it….

As I entered the lobby…

I looked around and didn’t see him. We were meeting in the restaurant so I turned towards the hostess stand. Before I could take a step the voice I had grown to know was in my ear as a hand engulfed mine. He spoke my name and said, “I’m here.” Excited to finally meet, I turned to lock eyes. My eyes connected with a set of brown eyes on a face I didn’t recognize. The hair was dark, the features dark, the face was much older, and the stature shorter. In the same instant he spoke and said, “But I’m not Charles, I’m Joseph”. I was confused, dumfounded and speechless. I was waiting for him to tell me he was sent by Charles to take me to him…maybe this was his driver…. But that thought was fleeting because as this stranger kept talking I could clearly hear the voice that belonged to the man I thought I knew. He started to explain that people like him couldn’t attract people like me on the dating site so he had created this persona. The masque was crumbling right in front of my eyes…and with it crumbled my trust and respect. I guess most people would have turned to run but instead I squared off.  I needed to know why he had done what he did. Why he wore a masque for 25 days. I wanted him to answer me and understand the gravity of his hurtful behavior. I wanted him to witness the pain he had caused. He couldn’t make it right with me but hopefully he would think twice before doing this to someone else. I also wanted to take back my power and not let him steal any more emotion from me. Needless to say, breakfast didn’t happen.

We parted company that morning…

He continued to reach out to me throughout the day. He said this should be our secret… Just between us so that I’m not ashamed in front of my family and friends.  Me? Why would I be ashamed? I did not willingly participate in this ruse!

As I sorted out my feelings and emotions it became all too clear…. This was deception in its cruelest form. Lies and truths were interchanged and served to me in a calculated manner. I was his lab rat in a twisted misogynistic experiment. He had never been traveling for business. He had used old itineraries from years ago and sent me flight tracker links for flights he was not on. The pictures of “him” were pulled from Google of a man he didn’t even know. The part in his dating profile that said he was widowed was also a lie. She was very much alive. They were divorced. He had created fake social media accounts under his alias to be barely traceable.

Our very last conversation happened that evening when I was clear as to what I wanted to say. I called him a thief and a despicable human. He asked if I hated him. I told him I didn’t feel anything. He could no longer steal my emotions on any level. It will be interesting to see what Karma has in store for him. I will not be around to witness it.

Today I am free.

The masque has been shattered.

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