My husband vanished weeks after our wedding; 17 years later, I met him in church.

Richard, my spouse, is the love of my life; he is devoted, kind, trustworthy, and accountable. After a fantastic two years of dating, we were married at age 26. With hopes of having children and a house of our own, our journey felt like something out of a fairy tale as we carefully planned our future.

Then suddenly he was gone. Richard vanished without a trace, vanishing like a passing mirage. Not only was I astonished by his abrupt disappearance, but so were his friends—he was an orphan with no relatives. I went to the police for assistance, fearing the worst had happened to him. Regretfully, their inquiries turned up nothing. Years went by as we waited impatiently for the day he would come knocking on our door and go home.

I was surrounded by other men, and I could feel their desire, but I just couldn’t let Richie go. Jake, a close buddy, was always there to support me, and my buddies inspired me to take chances. I felt the same way, and I knew he cared for me. However, every time I considered moving on, guilt would constantly seep in.

I diverted my attention from other guys and concentrated on establishing a prosperous engineering profession. I recently traveled to a different area of the nation for work, where I had meetings, went shopping, and had an early Monday morning flight. In search of comfort, I went to a nearby church on Sunday, a custom that reminded me of my daily schedule at home.

I started for the door as the ceremony was coming to an end, but as I got closer, I heard a voice I knew. I thought I was losing my mind. I spotted a tall man as I turned around. That was acknowledged by me as well. That chuckle was one I knew. His eyes grew wide as if he spotted a ghost as he turned around. The same is true for me. He was the one. Without a question. My chest congealed with breath.

“Hey, how are you doing? Will we be arriving? asked the woman sitting next to him.

He forcefully swallowed.

Yes, you depart. I simply wanted to greet Mr. Jenkins.

She said, “Okay, I’ll wait for you in the car,” and drove off. With a strong hold on my shoulders, Richard walked up to me and said, “Not here. See me at Tom’s Cafe, River Street, 6 in an hour.

He left with those mysterious words. I woke up at the designated cafe in a haze. After an hour, he arrived and began to babble. “You want an explanation, I know that. I really am indebted to you for that. And he began telling his narrative, which made me feel progressively sicker.

He’d had his high school sweetheart, the love of his life, before me. She left their relationship abruptly after seven years together. Richard was broken but he got up and pushed on, ultimately running into me. Before she reappeared, declaring her love and pleading for forgiveness, our married life seemed ideal. He knew then that she still had a special place in his heart. I had been faithfully waiting for years, and then the realization came at me like a tidal wave. It was a pitiful story; I felt resentment against him and myself.

“You are aware that I waited for you for these years without getting married again?”

I stammered out the words, a mixture of anger and shock. His eyes rolled, reflecting our first encounter in church.

“What? No, you are not able to.

“Yes, I did.”

My chest hurt so much it seemed like it might smother me. Richard knelt with me as I walked outside to collect my breath. “Anna, I apologize.” But I said nothing and turned to go, just like he had.

I would still find forgiveness for Richard in the coming weeks, and I would call Jake and ask him out for the first time.

However, I made a vow to myself at that exact moment to never live for a guy or anybody else except myself.

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