When they called me into the office to let me go from Auto Trader, I was completely blindsided. I slept in late, forgot to turn in clients ads, wore short skirts and clothing that wasn’t appropriate for work, but as far as I could tell, I was doing great. Me now at 45 looks at me from my teens until I was about 40 and I have no idea who that person was.
I took the news with grace and held the lump down in the throat until I heard the ‘dink dink’ of my car alarm. I was ATT for 5 years, what did I do???? That was one of those jobs you don’t quit, even my manager said that in his 25 years with them, no one ever quit a union job. Here I am in a car I can’t afford, no money in the bank, stacks of credit card bills, my lease was about up and my roommate was moving out. They fired me after 1 month….wow! Here I was about 27 years old making ok money for Florida’s inflated prices but always hanging on by a string, it was exhausting.
My already nonexistent self esteem had just hit rock bottom when my cell phone started singing. We had been on exactly 5 dates in the 2 weeks since I had stopped by his auto warehouse to see if he wanted to run any ads. He was super funny, successful, cuter as I got to know him and definitely attentive but at no point did I ever think it would go anywhere. As soon as I answered, he knew something was wrong, that’s just how he was, and it was one of his best traits. I rushed to his house and within minutes of my arrival, he invited me and my doggie to come and live with him. Live in his giant 4 bedroom house with a pool for me and a yard for my puppy dog…why would I say no?
When I broke the news to my friends, they were weary, but not surprised that I said yes, I was a free spirit and went with the moment, there weren’t any marriage papers or documents holding me there, so why not? He was super sweet, what could go wrong?
The first 6 months were actually pretty awesome. We moved my living room furniture into one of the bedrooms that weren’t occupied and my bedroom furniture into the other one. Travis had a brand new dog bed loaded with toys chillin next to the sofa and we were living there for free. He was the first man, other than my college boyfriend, that I had ever lived with, but this time, it was much more grown up. His neighborhood was exclusive, but also in a part of South Florida that was mainly residential, which didn’t help when it came to finding work.
As luck would have it, Bonefish Grill was opening up 5 minutes from his house and I was hired on as the lead bartender. The money was great and we were always busy. I would come home after a long shift at work to find my pajamas washed and folded sitting on my bed and a plate of food ready for me in the fridge. Blue Eyes would greet me at the door with a drink, walk me to my room, help me get my work clothes off, start the shower and once I was done, massage my feet while he served me dinner. Here was this sweet man tending to my every need and without me ever asking. Too good to be true right????????
Since he had the means, we ate out pretty regularly which always included drinks, Coors Light for him, Merlot for me. No rent, no cable, no electric, no Publix, not even laundry detergent bills, household expenses I’ve always known had now disappeared, I’d hit the lottery. The $8000 or so I had run up in credit cards had somehow escaped me, I worked just enough to pay for my cell phone, car payment, insurance, clothes and gas. At times it felt like I was living in a romantic comedy, one with a few ups and downs, but then in the end…love would prevail or at least you hope.
The first time it happened, I didn’t think twice about it. Blue Eye’s was getting a bit jealous about a guy I worked with, then he made a comment about the waiter I was apparently too friendly with after he scolded me for talking to the valet guy. Ok, this was weird, we’d been together almost 8 months and not once did we raise our voices, argue or have any insecurity. Figured it was just part of the relationship process until he flipped out in front of the whole bar because he thought I was hitting on the 80 year old man next to me. His jealousy and rage in public places was too much and all the time! It was obvious things had changed at home, I was sleeping in the other room and there was constant tension. Once again, my world was shattered and with no money to move out, rock bottom was starting to become all too familiar. It was definitely time to get out, but how?
New Year’s was approaching, I believe it was about to be 2002, a chance to try again but how when I’m stuck in Suburbia? So I picked a fight with him and stormed out of the house to go party with my usual crew for New Year’s Eve. Before I knew it, 6 am had arrived and I was still out. I knew he would be drinking all night, fuming and contemplating how he would punish me for it. It was about 7am when I snuck in and snuggled onto my sofa to pretend to sleep. The first thump wasn’t bad, the second was harder, by the 3rd, I was scared. He was standing with a Big Gulp in his hand, chomping on his gum while cursing at me, calling me names and kicking me with rage in his eyes.
‘This can’t be me’ was all I could hear in my head, if I ignored him, he would go away, but he wouldn’t go away. He then followed me from room to room leaning over my shoulder to scream in my ear. When I saw that cordless phone sitting on the counter, every muscle in my body lunged for it, and then he lunged for me as I dialed 911. We struggled for a bit as I punched in the numbers, but it was too late. Blue Eyes managed to hang it up and then mashed it against the wall. I got mad, screamed at him then ran to my room to start packing. He threw that big gulp right at my head, laughed and said,, you’re stuck here and you know it’. I’ll never know why, but I dropped to my knees, put my hands together and prayed for him while he stood in the doorway mocking me. I’d never prayed for someone like that before and haven’t since, but within minutes, the door bell rang.
You know the police shows where the women who answers the door is all beat up, in a big t-shirt with no pants on, crying about how she was just battered by her man? Well that was me, except I was standing at the front door of a gorgeous estate owned by a very successful man. Turns out the 911 call went through, my prayers were answered, and you’ll never convince me otherwise. They questioned both of us but once they saw the giant scratch on my neck, he was immediately arrested and taken out in handcuffs, for all the neighbors to see.
Wow, this was all too crazy and it was happening to me. The officers told me since all of my belongings were in his house and I had lived there more than 6 months, it was ok for me to stay as long as I wanted and there was nothing he could do about it, can you believe that? Well my mom and her best friend just happen to be flying in the next day for a week so you can bet I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. After we partied it up and mom left, there was a knock on the doorbell…it was his mother! She fkew into town to help me pack up and since Blue Eyes felt awful for the whole thing, he decided to pay the first 6 months rent in my new apartment.
I transferred to the Bonefish in Tampa, met a whole new group of really cool people but the money wasn’t that great. After almost a year of struggling, again, my roommate decided it was time to move and there was no way for me to stay in a 2 bedroom alone with my income. Again, when I’m at my lowest point, by the grace of God, a conversation I had while rolling silverware with a coworker changed my life forever….