Love and Loss 4

A few days had passed since Ellowyne met online with their friend group to share the news about Rufus’ parents. As promised, Pru sent healing gemstone bracelets to both of them. Lizette and Lawrence, her new beau, brought by some groceries. Amber dropped off some of Marisol’s delicious baked goods. And Penn drove by with frozen chicken wings and pizza, as well as margarita mix and craft beer. 

Little by little, day by day, Rufus worked through his grief. He wasn’t quite so withdrawn anymore, and occasionally he texted Penn or his other friends. He even scheduled a Zoom meeting to catch up on everyone. One night he arranged for a COVID date night, complete with carryout food, fine California wine, and a pick of rom-coms Ellowyne would surely enjoy. Eventually he learned to laugh again. Right after his parents died, things that used to amuse him failed to garner so much as a half-hearted smile. But the clouds dissipated, and he found he could once again laugh at the little and great absurdities of life. 

He mustered up the energy to deal with practical matters. He got in touch with his advisor, who assured him that not only did he pass all his classes, but his 4.0 GPA was safe as well. Almost obsessively, Rufus went to work sorting through his parents’ personal affairs. The money, house, and property were willed to him as he was an only child. After virtually meeting with bankers and lawyers on Zoom, he learned that he was quite well-off because everything was paid for and he would inherit no debt. He began to determine what things might need to be removed or replaced. He and Ellowyne had moved to his parents’ bedroom, although he wanted to replace the bed and other furniture. Ellowyne wanted to redecorate the house, one room at a time. She went to work helping him clear out closets, sorting things that they might want to keep, items that she could readily upcycle, and stuff to donate to her favorite thrift shop. 

As Rufus and Ellowyne set about sorting his parents’ clothing, he marveled at how kind and supportive she was. She listened patiently every time he said he couldn’t believe his parents were gone. She was a calming presence when he was angry with his parents for going on their trip and getting sick. She was also there when he prayed and when he promised anything to God if somehow his parents could still be alive. 

As he gazed at her, he remembered the first time he saw her in middle school. He was attracted to her because she was beautiful and wore creative, eye-catching clothing. But what intrigued him the most was that she looked so sad. At the ripe old age of 13, he decided he would fix her and make her happy. Fixing things was part of Rufus’ DNA, and Ellowyne’s grandmother hired him as a handyman when he was still in high school. He figured that if he could repair leaky faucets and dings in drywall, he could mend almost everything, including Ellowyne’s ennui-ridden heart. He deployed what he thought were the tools of romance—flowers, gifts, and candy—and wrote gushy, sappy poetry that he would never share. He used to daydream about what it would be like to be in a romantic relationship with her but whenever he would try to tell her how he felt, she shut him down, often saying that she loved him as a friend, nothing more. He would be devasted that his efforts failed yet again, but a few weeks later, he would try again. 

He never could have imagined how a real romantic relationship with Ellowyne would be so different—and so much better—than his one-sided infatuation. He didn’t need to give her flowers, candy, or other gifts. He just needed to be himself and respect and accept her authentic self. This was good. They were in a good place.

That evening, Rufus asked Ellowyne an important question.

“Things are good between us. I love you so much! I could never get through my parents’ deaths without you. I don’t want to pressure you or force things too quickly, but, would you move in here with me? Permanently, not just during lockdown.”

To be continued… 

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