After Mark and I went out the first few times it became pretty clear to me that Mark was in full pursuit. If I am being totally honest with all of you, I wasn't only not ready to fully commit, but I wasn't 100% available. See I had been in this rocky, on and off relationship since my Junior year of high school. The relationship was the kind that you probably know in your head needs to end, but for some reason your heart holds on, even if you keep getting hurt. I knew that Mark was serious, he told me as much, he even intentionally passed by jewelry stores to see if he could tell what type of jewelry caught my eye. So I knew I needed to keep my distance until I had resolved my situation. Other than that I also wanted to be careful, to be sure I wasn't setting myself up to get hurt. Mark called it me "playing hard to get." My understanding is that girls never really "played hard to get" with Mark. Here is the thing, I think we are both glad that I did, and its what we would tell our daughters to do, be careful, be smart, get to know the character of the person you are spending time with. So here we were, Mark telling me that he was literally looking for a wife, and me telling him that I wasn't emotionally available to be anyone's wife. So we were friends. When I look back on it, I remember the details least of any time in our relationship, but I remember the feeling with some of the greatest fondness. Being Mark's friend is fun, and time with him always left me feeling happy. I remember begging him to join me at a co-worker's birthday party, to which he declined because it was held at a bar, and then complaining to him for not being there to protect me from being hit on. I remember taking him to get frozen yogurt and listening to him complain when he realized it was just a "healthy version of ice cream." I remember peppering Mark with a million questions about his crazy life in Chicago, and looking at him wide eyed with every story he told. I remember making sure I looked cute to go see him, even though we were just friends. I also remember the times when he told me he would need to step back because I wasn't ready to commit, and me knowing I couldn't argue with him. Mark used to give me advice about this guy I was hooked on, about how I deserved better, about how even if it wasn't with him, I should find better. Mark was right, but I had to figure that out for myself. So, for about 2 months we didn't talk, I didn't go looking for him in a unit at work, I didn't text, and he didn't call. I did however manage to sever ties with the on and off relationship, and that was right, it was necessary.
One day in May, I was sitting at my desk in the leasing office at Autumn Ridge and Mark walked in. It was the first time I had seen him in those 2 months, he was avoiding me, we both knew it. He spoke to me and I was cold, he said "What, you don't want to talk to your friend?" to which I responded that I didn't know we were still friends. I was being mean, and it wasn't his fault, it was mine. He could have been mean back, he could have blown me off. He didn't, he offered kindness, he put himself out there to get hurt, and he offered to bring me some ice cream when he got off work. Mark returned just after 5 with three small containers of ice cream so I could choose a flavor. He set the bag down on my desk and told me to have a good night, I said "Wait, I don't want to eat ice cream alone." Mark turned back toward me and said "I wasn't trying to not be your friend, I was just giving you time to take care of your business." We both knew exactly what he was talking about so I said "I took care of it already, I haven't spoken to him in 3 weeks." Mark just stared at me, I could tell his mind went somewhere else. I said "What's wrong?" I will never forget Mark's response, because it was the cutest thing he ever said to me. He said "Nothing, I just saw a whole life with you flash before my eyes." He sat down in an armchair and I walked over and sat on the arm. I could tell I surprised him by sitting so close, because I generally kept a fairly safe physical distance from him. We talked a bit, and made a plan to go to dinner the following Sunday evening. Until then I promised to think, to think about what kind of future Mark and I would have or not have. I already knew how serious Mark was, getting into a relationship with him meant a real commitment. He would intentionally be moving us toward marriage if I committed to dating. After all, he had just seen a whole life with me flash before his eyes.