Read Part 1 Here
In late September, a man emailed me from the dating site. I looked at his profile and the first thing that caught my attention was a list I recognized. He had quoted “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz to describe what he believes is important in relationship:
“The Four Agreements”
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
― Miguel Ruiz
He also wrote about his two beautiful daughters and how important they are to him. The photos he posted of himself on the dating site, showed a dark haired, tall athletic built man wearing dark sunglasses. In a second photo he was kneeling down and petting a little dog. I thought he was very handsome. I can’t remember exactly what he had written in the email. I do remember he mentioned that, like me, he was also a fan of David Sedaris. Shortly afterward he invited me to chat online. After a few days of brief chats, we exchanged phone numbers and started texting by mobile phone. He was new to texting, and responses were slow. I was too impatient to wait, so I asked him if he’d like to call me later. He called me that evening.
He called at the exact time he told me he would. He told me his name is Ernest. I found it quite old-fashioned and charming. As soon as I heard his voice, my judgment slipped in, and I felt he probably wasn’t a match for me. He had a deep, somewhat monotone voice that reminded me of the young potheads I used to hang out with in my youth. I certainly didn’t want another relationship with a drug addict.
A friend of mine was also meeting men online. We would talk to each other about our experiences. We soon realized we couldn’t keep track of which man the other was talking about. We ended up using nicknames to describe the men we were meeting. There was The Short Guy, The Lawyer, Southern Drawl Guy, The Fisherman, etc. It was much easier to remember the men by naming something descriptive about them. Unfortunately, I called Ernest the “Stoner Voice Guy”. Later, I would learn he wasn’t stoned when he and I were talking. However, he does have a distinct voice and style of speaking.
I also found out he had grown up in California, where he had been a surfer since he was four years old.
Ernest was kind and different from other men I had chatted with. He called regularly in the evenings. I really enjoyed our conversations. I noticed he had a rather advanced vocabulary. He was articulate and intelligent. He showed an interest in my day-to-day life and asked a lot of questions. I was curious as to how he was able to hold intelligent conversation when, presumably, he was high. He was extremely polite –never inappropriate. He made suggestions to help me deal with the chronic case of insomnia I had been suffering from. He also showed an interest in hypnotherapy, which I was studying at the time.
One Sunday morning, Ernest texted me while he was at a grocery store. In jest, I asked him to pick up a pineapple for me. He said he would. We agreed to meet that afternoon for lunch at a local cafe. I had to cancel shortly before lunch because my son and his wife had unexpectedly come for a visit. With the thirty year divorce shakeup in the family, I felt it was more important to spend time with my children. I cancelled, but I agreed to meet him at the same place for dinner that evening. The kids stayed much longer than I had anticipated, and we had such a lovely visit I wasn’t about to cut it short. Around 8:30 PM, the kids left and I noticed I had missed a few texts from Ernest. I texted an apology. He told me was getting ready for bed, as he had to get up early for work. I felt so bad, I told him that if he would like to come out, we could have a quick meetup. He agreed and we set out to meet at a local cafe.
I didn’t spend a lot of time primping for the meeting, as I felt quite sure this was not going to be a love connection. I enjoyed talking with Ernest, and I thought we could both use a good friend.
As I parked my car on the street in front of the cafe, a pair of headlights shone in my rear view mirror, as a car pulled in directly behind me. I had a feeling it was Ernest. I grabbed my purse and stepped out of the car, I looked up toward the curb and there he stood.
Ernest was tall with dark hair and sparkling blue-green eyes. He was looking down at me, with his million dollar smile. In hindsight, I believe I fell in love with him as soon as I saw him.
I found it so romantic that he actually brought me a pineapple. Later he would tell me how he had left the grocery store to go the natural foods store in order pick up an organic pineapple. He knew I was into cooking and he wanted to impress me.
I was impressed.
If ever there was such a thing as love at first sight, I was experiencing it in that moment. I find it very difficult to explain exactly how I was feeling. I was instantly drawn into his energy. When my eyes met his eyes I felt an immediate connection. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I wasn’t sure what was happening to me, but I knew I was completely taken aback by the strong attraction I felt for him. I can’t remember what I said at that point. I was completely smitten. I felt like a seventeen year old girl again. It was as though a spell had been cast, and I didn’t like it one bit. Falling in love wasn’t in the plan.
Inside the cafe, Ernest ordered fish and chips and I ordered scrambled eggs and hash browns. The waitress let us know that the cafe would be closing soon but that she would still serve us. I was disappointed that our meeting would now be cut short. After we ate, Ernest asked if I’d like to look for another place where we could continue our visit. We agreed on a local pub down the street from the cafe. As we strolled down the street, he asked, “May I hold your hand?” He also offered me his jacket, as it was a chilly fall evening. He was a perfect gentleman. We walked to the pub and sat by the fireplace. We both ordered a cup of tea.
We talked for at least an hour. Noticing the time, we assumed the pub would be closing soon. Ernest asked if I’d like to catch the ferry to continue talking. I really didn’t want to ride the ferry. It was too brightly lit and chilly. I thought long and hard about making a decision that would go against every bit of common sense I still had left. I believed he was safe.
I don’t recommend what I did next. It may be the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever done in my life. I told him that I live close by. I told him that he should not take it the wrong way as I was inviting him to my place because it was a warm and comfortable place to continue talking. I made sure he understood that I had never done anything like this before. I certainly did not want him to get the wrong idea. I told him I wasn’t that kind of girl (what does that even mean?). I knew my apartment would be warm and I had tea and cupcakes there. Yes, I said cupcakes. Yes, I’m that naive. He, of course, agreed. Maybe it was due to the fact that he had spent so much time pursuing me that somehow I intuitively felt he was safe. Again, don’t try this at home. It was like my brain had disengaged from the rest of my body.
Back at my place, I made tea and served them with the cupcakes. We sat on the sofa, drank tea, and talked some more. At one point, Ernest moved closer to me and gave me a kiss.
The next thing I remember were clothes, boots, and socks flying off, as passion took over.
At the critical moment, I asked, “Do you have protection?”
He said, “No, do you?”
“Uh, no. Why would I have condoms?”
Then, He said, “Well, I don’t carry condoms around with me, and I didn’t think this was going to happen”.
I guess I assumed all men carry condoms around for their frequent wild sexual escapades.
In hindsight I’m surprised I was more worried about catching a sexually transmitted disease than whether I had invited a murderer into my home. I may have lost my ever lovin’ mind that night, but I wasn’t completely crazy.
I thought for a minute and then said, “Well, I guess we can just talk some more.”
Ernest was already putting his boots back on. We were both back in our clothes and driving to the only open store in town.
I waited in the car while Ernest ran inside. As I sat waiting, I thought this is surely a sign from God. The Universe must be giving me time to think this whole thing through.
I imagined my mother’s voice in one ear warning me, “He won’t respect you. You’ll never see him again. He only wants one thing!”.
In my other ear a little Betty Boop-like devil shouted, “Who cares about being the good girl? You’re not a girl, you’re a woman! You can do whatever you want to!” Boop was winning.
Just then Ernest jumped into the car. I threw caution to the wind. Let’s do this thing!
I was dizzy with passion and lust. But there was still that other indescribable thing. What was it? It wasn’t about just having a good time. There was something more happening that I didn’t quite understand. It felt as though an outside power was pulling me toward him. I could describe what I was feeling, but like most of my description here, it’s just a long list of clichés.
As we drove back to my place, we couldn’t stop laughing. We both knew how crazy it was. Two adults, behaving like teenagers.
I’ll leave the rest of the evening to the imagination.
After that evening we were inseparable. We wanted to be together all of the time. We were together every moment we could be.
The first few weeks we took turns cooking for one another. He still didn’t feel like a match for me. We both have strong opinions and Ernest proved himself to be a formidable opponent during arguments. We couldn’t help but notice how different we were from one another.
In spite of our differences, the powerful draw to be together only became stronger.
Three weeks later, Ernest had gone to work and I was at my mother’s house having a cup of tea. Ernest and I had been texting one another back and forth earlier that morning. We both have a goofy sense of humor and the exchanges were light and flirtatious.
Little did we know how much our lives, especially Ernest’s life, were about to change forever.
In the early morning hours, a dark force had come in while we were sound asleep. What we believed had started as another typical day, was only an illusion. Those lighthearted exchanges and silly flirtations and the thrill of a new love, would soon be behind us and yet neither one of us had any idea.
The day-to-day problems that had seemed so important the day before, suddenly melted into nothingness.
My mobile phone rang as I was preparing to leave my mother’s house. It was Ernest.
“Anita, I need to see you.”
When I heard his voice, I knew something was different. You know that sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach? It’s like a sense of impending doom. The panicky shaking feeling you get when you know bad news is coming? I had all of these feelings at once.
“Ernest, what’s wrong?”
His tone was serious.
As he spoke, his voice cracked, “Anita, my daughter was murdered last night.”
I still remember that moment. For one split second, I wondered if maybe he was crazy. My initial thought was, “This can’t be real.”
It was so much to take in at once. I had taken call in my parent’s home office. Through the glass doors of their office I could see my mother and step-father oblivious to what had happened. They were laughing and talking to one another. Just a few moments ago, I was on the other side of that door oblivious and laughing with them. It took me a moment to grasp the gravity of what I was hearing. How can something this horrific have happened?
The pain I felt for Ernest was overwhelming. I was shaking. Somehow I managed to talk in a calm voice. It was as though something was speaking for me. I can’t remember my exact words, but I let him know I was there for him.
He asked me to meet him at my apartment.
Three weeks after Ernest and I met, his beautiful nineteen year old daughter, Scarlett, was murdered.
While walking home to her apartment, Scarlett was attacked by a young male wielding a butcher knife. She suffered several stab wounds, including the fatal stab to her neck. The attack was brutal. She did not know her attacker.
Scarlett was young and had just set out on her own five months prior to the attack.
Her boyfriend returned later to find her lying unconscious on the apartment landing, in a pool of blood. He called 911 for help and began CPR, but it was too late.
I have never lost a child, so I can only speak of what I’ve been told and from what I’ve observed. If you’ve ever loved somebody who has lost their child, you know the intense pain that can only be known to the parent himself. The lives of the family are changed forever. Forever. You never get over losing a child, you just have to live with it.
The pain is multiplied by the immediate unanswered questions. How did this happen? Who did this? Why? How badly did she suffer?
That evening when Ernest came to my apartment, he looked like a different man. There was nothing I could say more than how sorry I was. I listened. He was obviously in shock. I just listened to anything he said. I held him while he cried. I sat beside him as members of his family called. I held his hand as he spoke to the victim’s activist. He could only take a few steps before he would drop over and weep. I didn’t think he was going to survive. The victim’s advocate told me he shouldn’t be left alone. I helped him into the bath and bathed him. He was obviously in shock. He cried. It wasn’t like any crying I had ever heard before. It was a guttural cry. It scared me. Afterward we sat on my sofa in the dark until it became so late he fell asleep. I covered him and sat beside him the rest of the night. I will never forget the darkness in the room that evening.
Hours turned into days, days into weeks, and weeks into months of wildly swinging emotions.
I had no idea the challenges that were still ahead.