As I watched the chaos unfold in front of me, I realized I had to go. I had to run. Run as far away as possible from all of this. Even Blair. So I did, I turned, and I ran as fast as I could.

“Heeeey!!! Wait up!!!” I heard from behind me. I stopped and turned toward Blair’s exhausted voice. I could feel the mascara stained tears caking on my cheeks and my bangs were wet with sweat. It felt like slow motion, waiting for Blair to approach my stance. I looked up searching for breath. The thick summer air was suffocating me like this town was. A huge oak tree hung over top of me partially blocking the black night. the oak was massive, and sturdy, and solid. Everything I was not but so desperately desired. The mighty oak amplified my weakness. When had I become so easily broken? I looked back towards Blair’s direction and she was surprisingly right in front of me waving her hands in my face. it was time to go. I let the words that separated us leave my mouth, and I knew it would be the end.

I was ready to live as if he had never existed. It was easy to let her walk away…the emotional numbness that had consumed my mind for months had officially suffocated my heart. I watched her walk away from me, knowing it would be the last time I would see her. Her pretty blonde hair danced in the wind. She was probably better off without me. I had nothing left to give to anyone.

That was the night the walls went up. I promised myself to never let anyone in again. I would never love or be loved again. And in return I would never hurt or be hurt. I would keep everyone at a playful distance, unable to break the barrier I had now placed between me and the rest of the world. I would never be broken again. I would never be vulnerable or cheated or fragile. My life would be my own and no one else’s.

Or so I thought.



When I See You

Over the past few months I had anticipated this very moment. I imagined seeing him, not being able to form a sentence, let alone a single word…wondering if he would walk up to me or would I approach him. Would he look the same? Who would he be with…what if he’s with her? I came back to the present as we pulled into the parking lot. I immediately felt like I was going to pass out. I took a deep breath and put my hands over my face. I hadn’t even noticed that Blair had got out of the car and walked around to my side, she opened the door and held out her hands. I took her hands into mine and stood up, I could do this.  Blair smacked me on the butt and we started our walk towards the bar. I turned around and looked at Blair, gosh what would i do without her, she smiled at me and caught up and grabbed my hand. I gripped it hard and was not letting go. We opened the door to Lou’s (probably the most popular bar in our little town) and I immediately started scanning and….nothing. He wasnt there. I couldn’t believe it, oh thank goodness. I let out a huge sigh of relief followed by an excited eek! Blair laughed at me and led me by the hand to two empty bar stools. One drink led to two and two led to three, we were having a blast catching up with all of our old classmates.

“Well, time to break the seal,” I said to Blair as I rose from stool.

“Right behind you, sister.” Blair said as she got up to follow me.

I was rounding the corner towards the bathroom when I froze. Blair slammed into the back of me almost knocking me over.

There he was.

Our eyes met, and he smiled at me. I stood there frozen. He started walking towards me and before I knew it he was less than a foot away from me. I could feel his breath on me and everything around me was muffled. I just stood there staring at him, or not even really at him just in his direction, I wasnt even sure that this was really happening. My daze was interrupted by Blair jumping in between us. Blair’s back was to me and she was screaming at him. I took a step back unsure of what to do. Blair’s reaction was so unexpected.

I think I stopped breathing for a full five minutes. Ok, that’s dramatic but that’s what it felt like.
“Hey pretty lady, say something” Blair said as she snapped her fingers in front of my face. I fell back into focus and just stared at her. A million different scenarios were going trough my head all at once. Blair could tell what I was doing by the look on my face.
“Stop doing that…don’t lose yourself in all those wild thoughts playing in your head. It will be fine!! You’re beautiful and confident and most of you are totally ok without him!” Blair said this as she stood in front of me with her hands on my shoulders. I wanted to cry…for the fortieth million time. Her stance turned into and embrace. I hugged her back and took a deep breath.
“We don’t have to go…” she whispered.
“I want to.” and that was it. Blair started dancing with excitement and my sweet pups joined in the fun. I stood there and smiled and laughed…what I would do without those three I had no idea.
As my best friends continued to dance I turned and faced myself in the mirror.
“You can do this.” I told myself. But did I really want to? And once again the “what if’s” took over my mind.
I was smiling on the outside but a nervous nelly on the inside. Ugh I wanted to barf.

I needed a drink asap. I walked into the kitchen to pour a glass of wine. “I want some!” Blair yelled from my bathroom. Make that two glasses of wine. I walked back into my bathroom and handed Blair a glass. I took a long sip (ok maybe it was a gulp) and set my glass on the countertop. I continued to wind my hair around the curling iron….this was a long process with my mane. With each swig of wine and twist of hair my confidence slowly crept back in and my anxieties faded to the back of my mind. I finished my hair with half a can of hairspray…I really can’t get enough of the stuff…and puckered up for my favorite lipstick. I took a good, long hard look in the mirror. I used to see a broken, fragile, scared girl. and im not sure if it was just the wine or an immense calming from up above but for the first time, ever really, I felt of great worth. I smiled at myself, closed my eyes, and said a little prayer. If I could get through the past few months, I for damn sure could get through one night…and not even ruin my mascara.

After our much-needed meeting over Mexican food, Blair and I decided that I was going to be ok. It took a bowl of queso and too many to mention tortillas to talk myself off the cliff. I had made a huge mistake and I was letting it take over. I was sending myself so deep into regret that my bones ached. If I had to choose one life lesson I had learned over the past months, it would be to not dwell on the past, so I was going to put that lesson learned to use. Up to this point, my adult life had been twisted and sinful and I was determined to turn it around the best I could. I had experienced more than I wanted to and more than anybody should have to.

            As soon as I walked through my door I was reminded of the promise that I made before I left. I grabbed the leashes and we were out the door. As we walked, I prayed. And prayed and prayed and prayed, which almost immediately turned into crying. It was time to slow down. It was time to hand everything over to the Lord. We, God and I that is, had a really long talk that day. I asked for forgiveness for my countless wrong doings and I could literally feel the guilt, shame, and sadness being lifted from my heart. And while I knew it wasn’t the last time I was going to mess up or do something to disappoint the Lord or myself,  I felt secure in His love for me, and I knew it was time to rock and roll. I was broken in the worst way…I wore my burdens on the outside. It was time for a little peace.

            I attended church the next day for the first time in a very long time. Thank heavens my sister, Kristen, never stopped inviting me. I cried the whole time.

            The following week seemed to fly by. Blair and I picked up a strength training class at the local YMCA and between that and work it was all I could do to find time to eat…which was nice for a change. Before I knew it, it was Saturday night again.

            I was curling my hair when Blair walked in. I stuck my head out of the bathroom to greet her and see what she was wearing for our night out…a black tank top, jeans, and black heels…the same thing I had on. We did this more times than not, the only difference is Blair always wears silver and I gold. She patted each pup on the head and made her way into the bathroom with me.

            “Oww oww pretty lady!” she said as she smacked me on my butt.

            “What?! Geez.” I said a little bashfully, as I knew what she was referring to. I had dropped a considerable amount of weight since the departure from my past. Turns out negativity, sadness, fighting, and dishonesty didn’t suite me.

            “I’ll pick a different top, hold on I’m almost done with my hair.” I said as I twisted my long dark strand around a one inch barrel.

            “Oh yea right, you’re wearing that top, you look hot!…You know what tonight is, don’t you?!” she said as she looked at me wide-eyed as she took out her predictable tube of lipstick.

            I didn’t. I didn’t have a clue. I just looked at her with confusion.

            “Class of ’99 reunion is tonight…we’re going to see everyone from school…everyone probably.”

           I wasn’t ready.

And it all hit me. This is what Blair was trying to protect me from. I woke up the next morning feeling lower than ever before. I made a huge mistake, I thought to myself as I let Jake out the front door….wishing I could send my mistake with him.

 Anxiety and self-hatred was boiling in my stomach and I thought I was going to throw up. I went to lie back down, hoping to go to sleep so that I could quit replaying the events of the night before in my mind.

 The tears were back.

 I was more disappointed in myself than ever before. It was clear that I was not as strong as I thought I was and I for sure had no idea what I wanted…or more importantly, what I needed in my life. My heart was in pieces once more and this time is was my fault entirely. I had let myself down…I was not becoming the person I so desperately wanted to be. If anything, I was running in the opposite direction. God had granted me a wonderful opportunity…another chance to fulfill His plan…and here I was, messing it up all over again.

 So quickly all of the sadness returned as if it had never left and the loneliness slowly crept back into my soul.  I shut my eyes.            


 “Get up! We’re going to eat some Mexican!” Blair yelled as she made her way through my front door. I guess she didn’t get the hint from the lack of response to her texts and phone calls. Mexican was our go to food of choice. We went for just about any reason we could come up with. Today the reason was obviously to talk about how far I have not come.

 “B, I’m just not in the mood. I just want to lay here.”

 “You have to get up; you can’t stay in bed for the rest of your life. Come on. We’ll talk about it and you will feel better.” she said as she tried to coax my out of bed by one arm.

 “Talking about it is the last…” 

 “Just get up!!” she said interrupting me before I could even finish what I was going to say.

 I could see that I was probably not going to win this one so I sat up and looked at her with an ‘ugh’ expression. She threw a pair of jeans at me and a white v-neck t-shirt (she really was my best friend…this was my go to outfit…a staple of mine you might say).

“I’ll take the dogs out while you get dressed…hurry I’m starving!” Blair was always starving, yet was always skinny.

 I slid the jeans on and buttoned them effortlessly (about the only positive effect of my recent downfall) and pulled my shirt on. I slipped on my favorite Rainbow flip-flops, grabbed Louis (aka my Louis Vuitton…something special enough to send me over the edge in credit card debt deserved a name) and met Blair at the door as she was coming back in. I loved on my two precious pooches, promised them a walk when I returned, and we were out the door.

© Stefanie Skeen and FaithfullyTaken, 2010-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Stefanie Skeen and FaithfullyTaken with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I was completely overheated from the rush…I could feel my cheeks bursting into a rosy glow of fire. I could see that he wanted me; I could see it in his smile. For a second I was saddened by the realization that I hadn’t felt this feeling in a long time, how could I have gone so long without noticing all the things missing from my life. I had traded all of it for a wounded heart. Not a fair trade, I decided.

All the days since I left him I thought about moments like what just happened, what I would do if I ever actually found myself with another man. I had wondered how it would feel, if I would know what to do, how to respond, all these thoughts, worries really would consume me at times. I would eventually calm myself by telling myself that I am sure it was like riding a bike….you don’t do it for a while but as soon as you get back on it all comes back to you.

So far so good…but I still felt like I had training wheels on with a little basket on the front…I sure wasn’t ready to take of with no hands.

As I stood there with my hip glued to Blair’s, I watched her make drinks for her guests, and I smiled, genuinely smiled. It might have been the first time in a while that happiness overcame me, and the source of all the sudden happiness was still up for debate. It only took a couple of weeks after I left to know I did the right thing, after all, it was almost too easy for me.  God definitely gave me His reliable grace to move forward and I found myself in disbelief over this sometimes. I often felt like I should be more upset, or wanting to go back to him, or missing him, and I just didn’t. How incredibly lucky I was to just know that it was the right thing to do…I feel like that rarely happens in life…certainty.

My thoughts were interrupted with a touch on my lower back, I turned towards the feeling, it was Jake. He smiled at me and continued to move through the room. I watched as he exited the kitchen and entered the room full of people. Once he was out of my sight I turned to look at Blair where my eyes met her’s.

“How do you feel about what just happened, Stef?” B said surprisingly concerned.

“I’m a little shocked it even happened…I mean that was the first time I kissed another man in over seven years…” I made a confused face as I expressed this to my best friend but I think she already knew how I felt.

“I think its great that your putting yourself out there, Stef, and I totally support whatever makes you happy, but you  know Jake, he doesn’t even live here, not even close to here.”

I thought about this briefly and quickly decided that I didn’t care if he lived here, I wasn’t ready for another relationship, and I knew that for sure.. I felt really independent and free and for the first time, in a long time, I felt like I didn’t need anyone else. I was making progress and I knew this, but I couldn’t help but wonder what would come next.

“Blair. It was a kiss. A really great kiss. I enjoyed it. It doesn’t mean I am going to marry him tomorrow.”

“That’s my point, marriage isn’t an option with Jake, Stef. He’s a traveler, he comes and goes, not to mention his ultimate bachelor status.” She looked at me with a crooked smile. Now I was all confused, I didn’t know why she was saying this.

Copyright © Stefanie Skeen and FaithfullyTaken, 2010-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Stefanie Skeen and FaithfullyTaken with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I took off towards the kitchen, taking the way least populated by strangers and opportunity for another one of “those” conversations. I was in a daze of sorts when I caught the stare of Jake. He was watching me move across the room, his gaze followed me as I went,  I followed his eyes with mine. I sudden heap of self-consciousness jumped on top of me. I felt anxiety take over my face and took on the most awkward demeanor possible. What was it that made him so inviting, I mean, I was so drawn. Was he this appealing to every girl I wondered to myself? Probably so, he certainly had me intrigued. He gave me an alluring stare from across the room, and then he turned and started to walk to the front of the house…and I followed.

Wait, what was I doing? Why was I following him? Oh this is bold I thought to myself, this was definitely the new Stefanie, the old Stefanie would have rather crawled into a hole than put herself out there like this. I just wanted more, and I had a feeling he had just that. We entered the front of this house, my steps close behind his, and then he  suddenly turned and looked at me as if he just noticed I was just behind him.

            “I’m sorry, I…” I was starting to say. Oh geez, did I misread him, did he not intend to look so inviting? I knew it, oh great, what was I going to say. Maybe he was looking past me; I turned to look behind me, as the awkward demeanor took over my body once more. There was no one behind me, I turned to face him.

            Before I could get another word out, his mouth was wide open against mine. He kissed me hard, hardest I had been kissed in a long time. It was intoxicating. He held the back of my head; his fingers tangled in my long brown hair, and pressed my face harder against his. I rose to my tip toes as he slowly slid his hand down my back pulling my lower body close into his, slowly making his way down further while holding my body tight against his, the kiss consumed me and I fell into him, letting go of all the anxiety.

            “Oh whoa sorry ya’ll, just looking for you Stef…um come find me when you’re um, finished….” Blair said as she steadily made her way back out of the room, grinning from ear to ear. Jake’s hands were still pulling me to him, I returned my gaze to his, he was totally unphased by the interruption. I could feel his breath on my mouth, it seemed like we stood there frozen forever. I broke away and stepped back, trying to maintain my balance, still fixated on the grip he had on my body.

            What was this all about? Whatever it was I was into it, and realized that I was ready. I was ready to be on my own, ready to start living, living for me. It was invigorating and the thought filled my mind and body with excitement.

            “I better find Blair” I said, barely able to speak, trying to catch my breath. I turned away from him and slowly walked back towards the kitchen, a smile spread across my face. This was going to be fun. I found B making me and Will another drink. I had completely forgotten about the drinks. I joined her, hip to hip, and she looked at me and smiled.

            “So Stef, I see you are doing just fine!” she said half laughing, also with slight satisfaction, as she knew this was exactly what I needed. Vodka and a house full of cute boys, one of which I found myself to be rather fond of. It was what I needed…for right now anyway.

© Stefanie Skeen and FaithfullyTaken, 2010-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Stefanie Skeen and FaithfullyTaken with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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