New Age Break-Up

A Midsummer Tale ~ Third Place
Marissa VanWingen

Caitlin BW
Photo Credit: Paul Li

We had a whirlwind relationship from the start. Everything happened so fast. We weren’t perfect; we didn’t have an ideal relationship. We were both young, but I thought we were going to grow up together. I never thought things would come crashing down. He promised me forever and I believed him.

We had only been dating six months when he proposed, and the fact that we were five hours apart made our time together even shorter. We had seen each other a total of four times, possibly adding up to a month’s time face-to-face. He told me time didn’t matter; when you know someone is the one, you just know. Everything about the night he proposed was like a fairy tale. I was the Princess and he was my Prince Charming. He came to rescue me and we were going to live happily ever after.

It was two a.m. and we had been driving all night from his parents’ house in Indiana. I was wearing a tattered pair of jeans and a sweater that I’d had on the past two days. He had me wait in the car a few minutes before he led me in the front door with my eyes tightly closed. When I opened them, there were candles lit all over the apartment. Right in front of me he spelled out “will you” with rose buds. He took my hand in his and said, “Marry me?”

His hands were shaking as I nodded lovingly. There were tears in my eyes. I never thought a day like this would ever come for me. When he put the ring on my finger I tried to catch a glimpse of it, but he wrapped me tightly in his arms. My ear was pressed against his chest and I could hear his heart racing.

“I want to take care of you for the rest of our lives. I knew the second we met that you were the one. All I want is you.”

There he was, my Knight in Shining Armor. Telling me everything was going to be okay and that my whole life would be different. He was there to whisk me away. After minutes of still not believing the situation, I took a second to look down at my hand. I couldn’t believe the ring. It was flawless. He knew exactly what I wanted. The diamond wasn’t too big, the cut was simple, and it was silver and small. It looked as though the ring was made for my hand only, and it was perfectly mine.

After that night, our life was nothing like a fairy tale. Our relationship had a lot of rocks in it, but I thought we could fix the things that were broken. I thought we were in it together, forever and always.

I would get mad that he didn’t call me, and he would get angry that I was so upset. Because we were in a long-distance relationship, I felt it was important to talk every night. I needed that emotional intimacy since I didn’t constantly have the physical contact. If I didn’t get to curl up with him every night, I needed to feel safe some other way. All I asked for was to hear him say he loved me every night before I went to bed.

We both knew that it was going to be hard from the start. Nothing other than storybooks makes marriage and spending the rest of your life with someone easy. Just because he was in the military didn’t mean he loved me any less. We believed we could make it all work: deployments and the constant unknown of where he might get moved to next. I knew there were thousands of possibilities and none of it was within my control. And even though I knew he could be shipped out in the morning, I always believed we had what it took. I thought I was everything he wanted. He would tell me how perfect I was in his eyes, how he loved everything about me and how he couldn’t see himself with anyone else.

I knew I’d have to give up a lot, but that was okay with me. I was willing to follow him all around the world, and be the military wife. My only stipulation was as long as he was in the military I didn’t want to get pregnant. I didn’t think it was fair to move around all the time with children. So as long as it was just the two of us, I was prepared to go wherever he did.

The five-hour barrier was hard on both of us, but I think it affected me the most. I would pick fights with him just to know that he still cared. All I really wanted was for him to tell me everything would be okay. I wanted to hear him say he loved me unconditionally and was never going to let me go. That no matter how bad things were, he was in it forever.

Like a real married couple, we fought a lot about money. He spent every dime that he made, and I’m extremely frugal. Some of the things he bought were extravagant gifts for me, but I was never able to appreciate them. I always thought about how much it cost and how that money should be going to something else, like a savings account. I would say things like “I can’t believe how much money you spent.” He couldn’t see that material things meant nothing to me, that I would much rather have just known he was there with me for the rest of our lives. Or that we had money to build our future lives together and some day, possibly a family. He was all about the right now while I was about tomorrow.

I imagined the idea of us living together, in our own castle. Everything would be perfect. We would both be working, and he would get marriage pay. Once we moved on base, we wouldn’t have to pay rent or very much in gas. I saw myself taking charge of the finances and giving him an allowance for food when he was at work. We wouldn’t have to worry anymore. He wouldn’t be able to spend outside our means. We wouldn’t have anything to fight about anymore. Everything would be kisses and hugs.


I work as a lifeguard on base. It isn’t the job I always dreamed about, but it makes enough money for now. Plus, the hours are flexible so I can be home whenever he is. And if he gets orders, it will be easy to just transfer my position from base to base. He doesn’t have to do shift work anymore. Instead of changing hours every month, he works 9–5 Monday through Friday, and always gets home on time. He never keeps me waiting long, and if it looks like it was going to be late, he calls and lets me know.

I get home and pick up the house a little, and throw a load of laundry in the machine. I put on my blue-and-white checkered apron. While the clothes are in the washer I start to make dinner for two. First I make a chocolate cake for dessert, because it needs time to bake. I make my own tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes and parsley. Then it’s time to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.

Twenty minutes before he will walk through the door, I boil some water and put the spaghetti noodles in. I slice and butter the French bread, then season it just right.

The timer goes off, and the cake is perfectly done. I take it out and set it on the counter to cool.

After I put the pasta in the pot to boil, I unload the dryer and place the basket in our room, to be folded and put away after dinner.

With five minutes to go, I drain the pasta, but the bread under the broiler and set the table. Candles and wine. Not a moment later I hear a key in the lock.

“Honey, I’m home!” he says as he opens the door and places his keys in the basket.

“I’ve made dinner. Come, sit and let’s eat.” I pour a glass of wine for both of us. Kiss his cheek and sit opposite him at the table. We eat our dinner, have our dessert and then he does the dishes. After dinner we sit on the couch together holding hands. It is the definition of happily ever after. We are the perfect married couple, living in wedded bliss.


Instead, he had to be in control of everything. When he lost control of our relationship, he stopped trying. He looked me in the eyes and lied right to my face about a 600-dollar credit card bill. He hadn’t paid it like he promised. It took me well over a month to finally confront him about it. We were never the same after that.

I remember the day it all fell apart better than I remember his proposal. I was sitting with my knees up to my chin and my feet on my folded-up futon. My arms were wrapped around my legs. I was wearing pajama shorts and a tank top because my room was really warm.

Tears were falling from my eyes as I shook like a leaf. I hadn’t heard from him in almost a week. I didn’t know where he was or why he was ignoring me. He wanted to marry me and spend the rest of his life with me, but he didn’t want to talk to me?

My phone vibrated and I felt the futon move. I grabbed it and saw his name immediately in the text message inbox.

“I’m with my parents right now. I still love you but I don’t think I can do this anymore. I need some time to think. I’m sorry.”

Through my tears and shaking hands I replied immediately.

“What do you need to think about… us?”

After minutes of constantly picking up my phone and making sure it was still working, I got a reply.

A two-word reply. “Yeah us.”

That was it? I quickly wrote back. “Will you PLEASE just call me?”


“NO! I’m with my parents. I’m still mad about some things so I will call in a few days.”

I was pissed off and angrily typed through the tears. “If this is going to end, I don’t want it to end in a text message, so please. Just call me.”

I didn’t really believe that this could be the end. Not now. I had already envisioned our perfect marriage. I had bought the perfect wedding dress. The invitations were made, the colors picked out. This was supposed to be my happily-ever-after. Didn’t he remember that?

We had been through too much to really call it quits now. I tried to end it before, but he promised he would change then. That he would fix the mistakes he made. Things were supposed to be different, be perfect. I waited for his response. I knew he was getting mad because he hated that I couldn’t let anything go. But feelings like that didn’t matter to me at that moment. I was trying to save my fairy tale. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. It was never supposed to end.

“I have more class than that. I would never end it in a text message. You should know me better than that.”

I sat and stared at his answer. I had no idea how to respond. “I can give you a few days, but know this. I’m not going to wait around for you forever.” I thought he would be happy that I was giving him time. That was out of character for me. I was already falling apart; I didn’t think I could hold it together for a few days.

“OMFG! All I’m asking for is a couple of goddamn days so I know if this is what I want for the rest of my fucking life ok?”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I typed back with a fury. “DON’T YOU EVER TALK TO ME LIKE THAT! All I said is I won’t be waiting around for you forever and you respond that way? Take your couple of days. I guess this is good night. I love you.” I couldn’t control anything anymore. The tears fell without stopping; my body shook uncontrollably. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe.

“I’m sorry. I love you too.”

I thought things were okay because he said he loved me too. Things couldn’t end if he loved me. That’s not how love works.

That’s not how love works in the movies. But in real life, it was the end.

I felt so alone, but there was nothing I could do. The empty apartment was getting to me. I couldn’t stand not being close to anyone who loved me. I wanted to go for a walk to clear my head, but I couldn’t stop shaking enough to put on my shoes. My tears made it impossible to see, so I just stayed where I was and cried.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. I cried every second until I had no tears left. When the tears ran out, I began to dry heave. My body still wouldn’t move and I couldn’t even speak. When I tried, no words would even come out because my throat was so dry. Every thought, every image, started the tears all over again.

I was strong and didn’t call him for a week, at which point I broke down. I knew he wasn’t going to answer, but I called anyway. I tried not to sound too defeated, too broken.

I pictured him sitting on the couch staring blankly at the TV. Nothing was on, but he didn’t want to get up and change the station. His phone was in his pocket and when he heard it go off he grabbed it immediately.

He saw the nickname he gave me come across the screen: “Incoming call: Peanut.” But he wasn’t man enough to answer. He knew once he heard my voice he would give in to my sobs. He let it go to voicemail.

“I was okay waiting for a couple of days while you figured stuff out, but it’s been a week. When I said I wasn’t going to wait around forever, this is what I meant. I’m leaving for New Orleans next Friday. If I don’t hear from you before I get on that plane, you’ll never hear my voice again. I’m done. I’ll send you the phone back when I get there, and that will be the end. I’m really hurt by all of this, but I still love you, and always will. Please just call me, and give me that much.”

After the icon popped up saying he had one new voicemail, he clicked to listen to it. Three words in he quickly hit delete. He couldn’t stand to hear my voice shaking because he knew that I was crying. He hated to see me cry.

He went to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels and drank it straight from the bottle the rest of the night. He only got up to smoke. On his way out the door he punched a giant hole in the wall. He knew he wasn’t Prince Charming. He knew there was no happily ever after. He also knew right then, that he made the biggest mistake of his life. He lost the best thing that would ever happen to him.

That message was the longest I had gone without crying in a week. I didn’t want him to hear the vulnerability in my voice and I tried to sound mad. I know I failed miserably and instead he could hear my heart breaking through the phone.

I never heard from him again. He never called a few days later. We didn’t have time to fix what was broken. He didn’t have more class than that. My picture-perfect marriage was nothing more than a dream inside my head. He didn’t come riding in to save me. Instead he left me with a shattered world and my heart in pieces. It wasn’t a happily ever after, The End.

Marissa VanWingen is orignally from Michigan, but hasn’t lived there in over two years. She recently graduated from the University of Iowa with a major in Journalism and Mass Communications and a second concentration in English. She currently lives in New Orleans where she is working to start her real life. She is always reading and writing and is a football fanatic. Email: marissavanwingen[at]