Fast forward through leaving the college prep school and finishing high-school at a local community college. I still had Amy as my constant, unwavering friend and companion. She and I grew closer as we got older. I still didn’t have any consistent friends besides her. I met some people at the school I was going to, but they didn’t ever develop into friendships. The same was true at church. I had outgrown the youth group and just floated through an awkward stage of not fitting into any one particular place there.
Then, I met James. He was a nice guy who was a cowboy type. He tutored me in math that first fall and then asked my parents if we could go out. We began a relationship that would last a year and a half. I had never had someone be so interested in me before. I loved it! Someone payed attention to the things that made me feel special and sought to be around me. Still, I was so naive and trusting. I looked to James for my significance and to tell me who I was. I was beautiful and interesting when I was with him. I felt stronger when I was with him. I liked being accepted by more people at school and treated like a cool person. The girls didn’t frown on me so much. He and I were a couple and we recognized as such. What I didn’t see was how false it all was. The people who liked me were his friends, not mine. They treated me well while we were dating. I never really knew any of them in depth. Our relationship was never one that was set to succeed. I didn’t realize how manipulative he was and how dependent I was on him for affection and meaning until after our relationship ended. We broke up shortly after he graduated. It was a very painful breakup and I never really had closure to the relationship with the particular way that it ended. The “friends” that had come with the relationship were gone and loneliness overtook my “self-guided” heart again.
Eventually, a college/career group started at our church and I made some friends there. I had fun. I got to know the people there a bit and we met on Fridays to hang out and play games and eat dinner. I was the life of the party. Being a social butterfly with my peers was something I had never been before. People were excited to see me. I cracked jokes and they laughed. I was silly and they got a kick out of it. The last time I had been in a group of friends like that was as a kid before we had moved. From the time I began coming to the college/career group and going to the college, I had had guys hitting on me. At school, it was mostly weird/mental/odd types of guys. I even had some guys at the church group hitting on me. I liked the attention, but I had no idea how dangerous it was. So I flirted. One Friday at a Halloween party, a new guy showed up with one of the guys who I had been trying to avoid. That’s the night I met Heath.