Gather ‘Round Kids…

… I have a story to tell.  Get cozied up by the fire with some popcorn and your favorite fuzzy beverage.  I’m gonna tell you a story about friendship, loyalty, secrets and truth.  It’s a doozie and I hope you enjoy this campfire tale.

This here story is about a friend of mine.  I’ll call her Holly Homewrecker.  She ain’t really a home-wrecker, but some crazy wives might think she is.  Holly met a boy back in 1994 and they became fast friends.  We’ll call this boy Hal.  Well, they were a little more than friends, but that romance quickly ended when Holly moved out of the state and found her home in Colorado.  Over the years, she and Hal remained friends for nearly twenty years.  They were always there for each other–college, marriage, divorce, children,  family issues, laughter, politics.  Holly knew that she could always go to Hal for advice or she’d call him up if she just needed a good old fashioned belly laugh.  Hal always did have a witty sense of humor about him.

The tricky part of this story is Hal never told his wife about Holly.  In fact, his poor wife never knew Holly existed.  You see, Hal and his current wife have been together in one way or another since 1987.  You may wonder how Holly and Hal hooked up back in 1994, right?  Well, Hal told Holly a little white lie that he and the other gal were broken up.  Holly was 17 and believed him.  And she believed that was the truth for many years.  He finally came clean years later and told Holly that they were just in a fight–never really broken up.  Well how wonderful, Holly thought.

Through the years, Holly and Hal stayed in touch, but not on a weekly or even monthly level.  Sometimes a year or more would go by and Holly would get a call on a random Wednesday afternoon from Hal.  She lit up every time he called.  The first time he called in a while, he announced that he had gotten married.  Yep–to the gal from 1987.  Then a year or more would go by and he had a son.  This went on for years until recently.  The last few years, Holly and Hal probably spoke a handful of times per year.  Then, things got really frequent about six months ago, and Holly began to question their so-called friendship.

He came into town on a rare business trip and wanted to meet Holly for dinner.  They had dinner and it was a nice time.  Drinks and laughter and story-telling.  It had been almost 20 years since they had seen each other, but it was like no time had passed.  When it was time to go, Hal lingered a little longer than usual.  Holly could tell that he may have wanted more than just a good-bye hug and kiss on the cheek.  She acted like she didn’t notice and headed home to her family.  [She’s the type of girl who tells her husband everything, so she let him in on this.  He told her that, duh, Hal still liked her, laughed, and went to bed 🙂 ]  I almost forgot–he told her later that week that he thought Holly was the “one that got away.”  Holly didn’t think there was that much truth in that–maybe he was just feeling reminiscent because of the 2 hour dinner.  Maybe it brought back old feelings that were not really true feelings that were in the present.  Know what I mean?

Holly and Hal went on about their lives with once monthly conversations.  They also became friends on Facebook.  That was always off-limits, but Hal was feeling brave.  You see, Hal was afraid that his wife was always watching him.  If Holly posted or liked something on his page, Hal worried that his wife would find out about Holly.  Holly pleaded with Hal to come clean about their 1 month romance 20 years ago, but he never would.  Instead, Holly just watched her friend from afar online, never posted, and let him live with this secret.

She never understood why she was a secret.  If they were friends, what difference did it make?  This is where the story gets interesting.  You may want to top off your drink.

Along comes Hurricane Sandy.  It tore up the NJ and NY coastline.  It also caused quite the panic in places like Maryland, D.C, and Pennsylvania.  Well, Hal and his family were in one of those places that was panic-stricken.  They took the day off work.  Apparently, Hal’s wife was home and bored and decided to take part in a little spring cleaning.  She came across some of Hal’s old things.  She found a picture.  It was a picture of Holly from a long time ago.  I know what you’re thinking–this can’t be good.  Nope, it’s not good.  Not good at all.

The day after Hurricane Sandy hit, Holly was lying in bed and avoiding getting up.  She checked her phone and low and behold… a message on Facebook.  From. Hal’s. Wife.  No joke.  They had never had a conversation in their lives, but here she was.

You might think that the wife was nasty or rude or a combination of the two, but she was actually quite kind to Holly.  She asked her who she was, how she knew her man, and that there was a picture.  She said her heart was broken and that all she kindly wanted was the truth.

What do you think Holly did? She could have lied. She could have ignored the message and gotten in the shower.  She could have called Hal and cussed him out.  She did none of those things.  She politely told his wife who she was, how she knew him, and that she didn’t remember sending any pictures.  She assured her that she was never a threat–then or now–and to forgive her husband and to move on.  She went to work that day, sent Hal a nasty text, and went on with her life.  Or so she thought.

The plot thickened, my friends. You see, Hal didn’t tell his wife the truth.  She gave him an out and told him that if he fessed up and told her everything, she would let it all go.  He didn’t tell her the truth.  He tried to deny that he knew the woman in the picture.  And then when she told him that she knew who Holly was, he concocted lies upon the lies.  How did Holly know of all this?  She called Hal’s wife (by request of the wife), and told her everything.

There’s a lot left out of this story–like the details and specifics of the lies.  But they don’t really matter.  See, Holly had to make a crappy decision that day and was put in the middle of a lot of drama.  At first, she thought it was her fault, but after more careful thinking, she realized that it wasn’t her fault at all.  She wasn’t the one lying and continuing to lie.  She told the truth and she believed that the truth will set you free.

But the freedom from telling the truth ended a 20 year friendship.  That was the hard part for Holly.  She realized a lot about Hal that week.  He wasn’t the man she thought he was and that stung her like a bee.  He had a chance to come clean about a completely innocent relationship, and he couldn’t man up.  His marriage was on the line and he still chose deception.  The woman that she never knew but detested all these years, because of the horrid pictures he painted, was the victim here.  Oh yeah, and their 3 children. What a damn shame.

So, Holly chose honesty before loyalty.  Hal’s wife moved out that weekend–or at least stayed somewhere else.  That was the last Holly heard from either one of them.

I’ll leave you with this: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” [ Always thought it was Shakespeare, but it’s actually Sir Walter Scott]  Our mother taught us this line when we were young. Turns out, it’s the truth.  Webs are for spiders, not for people.  Stay out of webs.

xoxo ~Marisa

P.S. This is a true story.  While laced with sarcasm and wit, the author is very sad about the way this all went down.  She loved him like a brother and his presence in her life will be missed dearly and truly.

P.P.S.  If you’re reading this Hal, I wish you luck.  This isn’t the way I thought we’d end our story.

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