My Only Daughter Terrified Me When She Revealed the Rare Habit Her Boyfriend Had

2 | My Only Daughter Terrified Me When She Revealed the Rare Habit Her Boyfriend Had

maybe.” My daughter was always dating people who were slightly older than her. I couldn’t figure it out, just that it was entertaining to navigate her mind when she let me into it. I knew that I would step in if she needed me to. “I was just thinking about this strange habit that he picked up. He only eats the top of muffin because he says that it’s the best part. Like there’s something different about the top versus the bottom. Can you believe that?” she giggled. The plate I was washing fell from my hands and broke into pieces. Shards flew off the sink and landed on the floor. was dumbfounded. Names are common, sure. But are strange habits common too?

“Mom, what happened?” Susan asked. “Are you okay?” She picked up the dustpan and began to sweep the remnants of the plate into it. Sorry, darling,” I said, feeling winded. “I just got a bit light-headed there.” “Maybe you should take a nap,” Susan said. “I’ll finish up here.” I went to my room and lay on the bed. Hearing about Susan’s boyfriend’s habit had thrown me back in time, catapulting me back to those tender years of my late teens and early 20s. I was instantly reminded of Jack — my Jack — the one love that had profoundly etched itself upon my heart. His kindness, intelligence, and that peculiar muffin habit had been the center of my life for years. “Why do you eat muffins like that?” I asked Jack once. “Because the top is always a little crisp and the inside is soft. And when you get deeper into it, it just starts to taste weird. And the textures get all muddled.” His explanation made absolutely no sense to me — but it made him happy. But then, along came life. Jack went off to study abroad — he had a desire to learn. While I remained anchored in our hometown, taking care of my ailing father. I didn’t have any regrets. Not really. Although, I did wonder what would have happened if Jack had asked me to travel with him. Would I have gone? Would we have remained together, or would life have found a way to separate us after all? The years that followed were a long and grueling testament to moving on — or at least, an attempt at it. I met Phil while I was at college. I married him, brought Susan into the world, and eventually faced the heartache of divorce, realizing the love I held for my husband was but a pale shadow compared to what I had felt for Jack. “Elizabeth! You cannot still be hung up on Jack,” my best friend, Catherine, said when I told her that my marriage just wasn’t working. “I don’t know, Cath,” I said. “But I’ve tried to make it work with Phil. It’s ridiculously difficult trying to make a relationship work when both parties are not in it.” “So, you think that your only chance would be to find Jack?” she asked. “No!” I exclaimed. “I’m not looking. I’m going to focus on Susan.” And I did. My daughter became the most important aspect of my life. Phil and I got divorced, but we continued to co-parent the best we could. And even during those years — I only looked Jack up on Facebook three times. But there were never really any updates of note. Just mentions of places he had been to. I continued to keep my child at the center of my world. Even now, Susan and her happiness came first. Yet, as she had told me — unveiling her boyfriend’s name and his eccentric muffin habit, my world once again spiraled into chaos.”What if he’s my Jack?” I said to my empty room. Susan had mentioned that her boyfriend was older — but how much older? Jack and I were the same age. Surely my child couldn’t be dating someone old enough to be her father. The thought was ridiculous. But still, it felt as though something had come undone inside me. I fell asleep that evening not knowing how to navigate the situation. I could be reasonable and ask Susan about it straight out. I could ask her to show me a photo of Jack — that would immediately confirm who he was. But then, on the other hand, if I had to see his face next to my daughter’s, I didn’t know what that would do to me. The following morning, things went back to normal. Susan went back to her apartment and I was left to wonder about her and the mysterious Jack. I channeled all my feelings into my garden. “It’s the healthiest thing you can do,” I told myself as I continued to plant new seedlings. I knew that I could have reached out to Catherine. But the thought of her snickering at me still holding some kind of torch for Jack would just be too much to deal with. In the ensuing months, Susan would only speak about Jack when she called. He had become a beacon of light in her life, and she had fallen in love. “It’s different, Mom,” she gushed. “It’s real and I think Jack is going to propose. I’m sorry that you haven’t had a chance to meet him yet.” She wasn’t wrong. Every time my child wanted to bring Jack over or have us meet someplace, I would always cancel. I knew that I was being a horrible mother — it was easy. I just had to ask Susan for a photograph. But because I didn’t ask, she didn’t share “Mom,” she said the day after he proposed. “Please let me know when you’re free. We’ll come to you.” She had sent a photo of her ring, and it was beautiful. But Jack wasn’t in sight. And still, I refused to give her a time. I just felt that if I didn’t know any details — I would be in the clear. And besides, Phil had met with Jack and Susan. If there was anything I needed to know, he would have told me. “Mom,” Susan said, her voice low and tired. “Do you want to help plan this wedding or not?” she asked. “I don’t think I can,” I admitted to her. “Is this about the divorce? Is it too much for you?” she asked, her voice laced with concern. That was it. That was my way out. “Yes, honey,” I mumbled. “I think it’s just a sore spot for me. But I’ll be there.” The day of the wedding arrived like a storm I’d seen coming from miles away yet still hoped to somehowevade. My heart was a cacophony of emotions as I prepared myself to finally meet the man my daughter was about to marry. The man who, until now, I feared could shatter the precarious peace I had managed to build around my heart. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Davis,” the young man at the altar greeted me, his voice warm yet unfamiliar. “It’s an honor to finally meet you. I’m so glad you could come!” Relief washed over me momentarily, easing the tightness in my chest. This wasn’t my Jack. This was someone new, someone important to my Susan. But the calm was short-lived. Then, the true Jack emerged, his presence as jarring as it was unexpected. “Elizabeth!” he exclaimed, his voice a mix of surprise and joy. “Oh my God! Are you Susan’s mother? My boy is so lucky to marry her! I had no idea it was you.” In that instant, a flood of emotions overwhelmed me. Years of what-ifs, of memories suppressed, came rushing back. But there was no room for them here, not today. Today was about Susan, about her happiness and her future. Jack and I managed to find a moment for a quiet conversation amidst the festivities. He shared the outline of his life since we’d parted—so strikingly similar to my own. Married, then divorced, with children who meant the world to him. It was oddly comforting to know that our lives, though parallel, had been filled with love, even if it wasn’t the love we had once shared. As the ceremony began and I watched my daughter walk down the aisle, a sense of peace settled over me. Susan was radiant, and the love in her eyes as she looked at her Jack was all I needed to see to know that everything was as it should be. Later, as Jack handed me a glass of champagne and said, “I came back for you,” I realized that some chapters of our lives remain open, not for us to return to, but to remind us of how far we’ve come. “About two years after I left,” he continued, seeing my puzzled look. “But nobody knew where you had gone.” “My father passed on,” I replied softly, a part of me healing with the acknowledgment. “After that, I needed to move. I came here, and settled down.” Jack’s smile was gentle, his eyes conveying a world of emotions. “I’m sorry,” he said, and I knew he meant for everything—the pain, the separation, and the years lost. As Susan called me to dance, I realized this wasn’t just a celebration of her new beginning but also a healing moment for me. Dancing with my daughter, I felt the weight of the past lift, leaving behind a sense of gratitude for the present and hope for the future. Today was not about lost loves or what could have been. It was about family, about bridges built from the pieces of our pasts, and about the unwavering strength of a mother’s love. As I looked around the room—at Susan, at Jack, and at all the faces filled with joy—I knew that everything had led us to this moment, and it was exactly where we were meant to be.

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