The Perfect Life
I'm planning on starting a Diary, as you may have guessed. I don't know, but I just want to document my feelings and position in life in a less public way than through my articles in the magazine. I bought a typewriter because it makes the whole thing seem so much more romantic, and old fashioned, I guess. By the way, I'm Carla Reed, I'm 28, and I work for Kiss magazine, a woman's magazine based in New York. I'm not American, I moved from England when I was 22. Since then I've moved up in my career and now am very successful. Not that I'm big headed.
I suppose the reason I chose today as the day to start my diary, was because of what Jem told me. It's wonderful news, but I think it puts my apparently 'perfect' life into perspective. I first met Jem when I moved first to New York, I was working for a lower standard woman's magazine, it couldn't cover fashion as it's couldn't afford to pay the models, and the writers all had to work from home as there wasn't enough room for us all to work in the 'office'. It was a terrible job, but I needed a job immediately and they wanted me! So anyway, one of my colleagues was leaving, and although I didn't know him that well, it was an excuse to go out! Jem was at the party, he was her boyfriend at the time or something. We got talking, and she told me of the position at KISS magazine. I applied and got the job. Jem was a writer there and really helped me find my feet. And over the years we became the best of friends. We'd always done everything together; we bought a flat together, we bought our first Balenciaga bags together, we got promoted at the same time. It was only in the last 2 years that we've not been identical, single, independent women. It was since Jem met Chris. He was working as a model in our Christmas fashion shoot. He invited us to a party. They got on really well. As I stood there watching them flirt and eventually, kiss, I felt for the first time Jem was succeeding in a way I had never. She was falling completely in love in a relationship that could work. I'm not saying that I've never been in love, just that I've never been in love when I was in a relationship that could work.
Anyway, a year after meeting, and I was bridesmaid for her, Jem moved out to go and live with her new husband. I suddenly felt completely inferior to her. She didn't make me feel that way. I'm not in anyway blaming her. But whenever I saw them together, whenever he phoned her whilst we were at work just to tell her that he loved her, I just felt like my life should be heading in a way similar to Jem's was. I felt like I was stuck being a single, independent woman, and I had no-one to be one with. So, with all these hidden feelings firmly buried in my heart, never to be opened on pain of death, I was moved to tears today, when Jem took me aside and told me that she was expecting a baby. I hugged her and made all the right noises. But inside my heart was breaking, as Jem took one giant leap away from my stationary life.
So, finally I have reached the real reason that I decided to start a diary. I was sick of keeping all my feelings about Jem, Chris and their perfect life hidden. I just needed to let them all out, and as I couldn't do it verbally, it seemed the only thing left for me to do, was to write them down.
I can't sleep. It's 3 in the morning, and I've lain in bed for hours just thinking. I've bumbled through all of my life, recapping each heart-ache, each smile and each tear. Perhaps this diary isn't such a good idea. The box of secrets has been opened and my perfect life doesn't seem so perfect anymore. I think for the past 6 years I've been fooling myself, trying to convince myself I've made the right decision. I've carelessly slept around, falling into relationships with men I don't really like, buying pointless goods that I don't need just to reassure myself that I have the perfect life. And those hours lying in bed, thinking, I came to a decision, my whole life lead up to those few weeks, 6 years ago. And my decision that I made then determined what life I would lead, happiness or success. Now, I know that I made the complete wrong decision, but the thing is, I've travelled this path for 6 years, and the cross roads are so far away, can I go back, and take the other road?
I read my last entry over, and realised that I probably didn't make much sense. So I've decided that, for the first time, I'm going to allow my memory and heart to recap exactly what happened, and tell you exactly why I feel like I do.
It all really started when I was 19. I'd just left home, and had moved down to Manchester, where I was going to university. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I'd known since I was 13. I'd planned every inch out. Nothing could go wrong. There would be no point in my life that I would have to make a decision, because I found them so hard, I wanted to eliminate any possibility that I'd have to make one. So far, the plan had gone well. I'd got into the University of my choice, and was doing well in my classes.
I can't actually remember meeting him, and I know I should, but I just can't remember much apart from those last few weeks.
He was in the year above, gorgeous longish brown hair, large brown eyes and an amazing smile. Even when I didn't know him or like him I thought he was gorgeous, with an astounding smile.
Anyway, as I said, I can't remember much about first meeting him just that he'd been seeing my friend and just finished her for no reason at all. My friend was in tears, constantly crying over him. He was completely ignoring her, turning and walking the other way when he saw her, blanking her calls. Finally, when she began skipping lessons I went to see him. Everyone else was going home, and he was at his locker, and I stopped him. I told him that he was being stupid and he had to give her a valid reason. We argued for a bit, and then he stepped towards me, I had my back against the locker, he smiled, and I was just breathless. He leant in towards me and kissed me.
I remember that I knew it was wrong. But if felt so right.
Me and that friend, god what was her name, well we fell out. She refused to speak to me. But I was 19, and I had a gorgeous boyfriend.
I didn't sleep with him for about a week. I had slept with a few other people before, but with him, it was just so¦ right. We went out for about a year, before he asked me to move in with him. My shared flat was having problems, and I said yes. For the next 2 years we were so happy, we had our own flat, and everything was so right.
He, Michael, was like me in a way. He knew what he wanted. He was going to move to a small little country village and set up his own restaurant with school attached where he would teach others his recipes. I suppose I should have really registered that we would run into problems, but I was just so caught up in the bliss of it all. But then, a few days after we'd graduated I was on the phone about a New York apartment I'd seen. When I hung up, Michael quizzed me about it. Asking why I wanted to move there. I told him that I'd wanted it since I was little. And now I had a chance to get it, and I wasn't going to miss it. My perfect life was just waiting for me.
He then looked at me, and I'll remember this till the day I die, he looked at me with such hurt and sadness, and said, "What if that perfect life didn't include me? I asked him what he meant. He refused to answer. I grabbed his arms gently and asked him again. He turned his head away from me. I took hold of his face, cupping it in my hands, I kissed him on the lips and asked him once more. He looked at me with those brown eyes.
"I love you Carla. With every inch of my body. But I can't move to America, I can't do that to my family. I know what kind of life I want to lead. I want to have a life of love, family and friendships. I know that I couldn't find that in America. So, you're going to have to choose. Me or that perfect life.
I looked at him. I'd known him for 3 years. Fallen in love with him. I was certain that I was going to spend the rest of my life with him. But I'd dreamed of the perfect life for so many years. I wanted so badly for it to happen and now I had the chance to do that. All of my life I'd planned every out so that no big choices would have to be made, I'd already know the answer. And I did, I already knew the answer, I wanted the perfect life.
So now it's all clear. Michael moved out a few days later, and I sold up and moved to New York not long after that. I'd not thought about him in that much detail for years. For the first year I pretended that he hadn't existed, that I hadn't fallen in love and experienced such happiness, but I felt like an enormous weight was resting on my shoulders, so I told Jem about him. Not that I loved him. Or that my decision had ripped every possibility of happiness into shreds. Just that he was a boyfriend that I'd lived with. Just one of many. No-one that mattered. And for the past 6 years of my life I've wanted him, and his life style and everything about him. I know now that if I'd just kissed him when he'd asked me that, I could be Mrs. Michael Henderson. Living in a gorgeous country house with a man that I loved and a brood of children. I now know that the perfect life isn't the one I'm living, the one filled with material goods, money and success. He was right, just like our relationship. Right.
But now, I'm approaching 30, I'm lonely, and my best friend is leaving me behind.
I'm writing to you from a hospital ward in England. So much has happened. I'm seriously in shock. I was out shopping with Jem; she's buying stuff for the baby's room. And I got a call from my mum. My dad had had a heart attack. She'd booked a flight leaving that night and I had to go home immediately and pack my bags. I felt sorry for my mum. I only had one younger brother, but when he was 23 he killed himself, by then I was already living in New York, firmly set up, and her whole life fell apart really. Her and my dad began sleeping in separate bedrooms. She suffered from depression and was really lonely. I was scared I'd end up like her. So, that night, I flew back to England. I nearly wrote home there¦
My dad was fine. He was just an old man, and his health was declining. He'd be up on his feet in no time. My mum was by his side, but he was constantly making snide remarks, belittling her. I had to get away from them and wandered down to the canteen. I bought a large coffee but then when I turned round I was shocked. Michael was sitting there. He didn't see me. He was just sitting with his head in his hands. I took my coffee and left.
I think life is one long road, the destination being death. However, like most journey's the way you get there determines how you feel once you reach the actual destination. When you are born you are put on the road that leads directly to death, this road is the longest, everything that God has planned to happen to you happens. Every thing is perfect. But every now and then, choice tempts you, it shows a different path, and you have to choose, between the promised path and the one God planned for you. More often than not, you find that the promised path isn't what it was advertised to be, but by the time you realise this, you are too far to be back on the ideal road. And soon, the whole purpose of your life is not enjoying every step but getting back on the path that you should have spent the whole of your life on.
And to finish that last entry off, sometimes, you happen to stumble upon a short cut that you didn't know existed.
Yesterday, I went to visit my dad in hospital again, he's getting better and is needing less help from the doctors, not that he would accept it anyway.
He was asleep, and I way by his bed reading a magazine. I heard some one come into the shared ward, I thought it was just a doctor so I didn't turn around. But then someone tapped me on the shoulder.
"Hello Carla. They said in a deep Manchesterian accent. I turned around, and standing above me was a handsome man, dressed in a suit. He smiled, and there was no doubt left in my body. The man that I loved, that I had missed was standing less than 10 cm's away from me. I stood up.
"What are you doing? I asked him, our noses almost touched.
"I, I saw you the other day. Your dad said that you'd be here today.
"You've spoken to my dad?
"Yeah. Sorry. You want a coffee?
"Yeah, He smiled at me and took my hand. He seemed as nervous as I was. His hand was shaking.
He bought me a coffee and we sat down, on a wall just outside of the hospital, next to each other.
"How've you been? He asked as we watched a family picnic just over the road, where there was a park.
"I'm a journalist for KISS. You?
"I work in Manchester. I own a restaurant.
"We both got what we wanted then. I whispered.
He turned and looked at me. We gazed into each other's eyes for some time.
"Why did you leave? He asked after a while.
"I had to. I answered; I got off the wall and began to walk back into the hospital
"You didn't. If you really loved me then you'd have chosen to live with me.
I was completely stunned, I couldn't believe what he was saying. I stormed up to him and stood in his face.
"You asked me to choose between perfection and you. And I'm sorry to disappoint you but perfection trumps.
I took one last look at him before turning on my heel and storming back to my father's side. I rested my head on his leg and cried. I cried 6 years worth of forbidden tears.
I've been back in New York for about a month. My dad's much better and is back home. Life has proceeded as normal. Jem looks absolutely stunning. She's now 8 months pregnant. She and Chris have decorated the babies' room ready for the arrival. It's perfect.
I'm still confused about Michael. I know that for some reason I can't tell him that my apparently perfect life is nothing, absolutely nothing compared to being with him. I don't want to tell him that he means more to me, even after all this time, than anything else in the world. I don't want to risk that he's not the same person he was when we were in university, or that he's with someone else. I don't want to tell him that he's the only reason that I smile. The memory of the time we spent together. I don't want to risk that he's not going to feel the same.
I can't risk that.
It's something that doesn't depend on me, and I think I hate that even more than making a choice.
Michael is in New York. He's set up a restaurant.
It happened one night just after Jem and I were summer sale shopping. She was paying for a gorgeous blue summer dress that was chiffon and flouncy, her hand clasped at her belly and she dropped her change. I ran to her side.
What's wrong? I asked. She didn't need to say anything. The small pool of water on the floor beneath her said everything. Jem was having her baby. I called Chris who met us at their apartment. From there, I called the midwife who arrived within minutes.
Hours later, and an exhausted but smiling Jem held tightly on to her beautiful baby boy. He was latched onto her breast, sucking away. Chris kissed the top of his wife's head. They were a perfect little family.
And I realised in that moment, that risk is dependent on success. If you don't risk then you don't chance the possibility of something better than good happening.
So, I smiled and left Jem's apartment. I got in my car. I drove. My head didn't have a clue where I was going, but my hands and my heart seemed to. I found my self outside of Michael's restaurant in New York.
I got out of the car and found my self in the middle of the restaurant. I saw him instantly. He was by a table occupied by an elderly couple. As I got closer I could hear that they were thanking the chef. I tapped him on his shoulder. He turned around and I could hear the tiny gasp. He looked at me, I could tell he wanted to say something but couldn't decide what to say.
"Michael, I chose the perfect life over one with you. But now, I know that any life that doesn't include you, can't be perfect. I love you. And I always will.
The whole restaurant was listening now, as he took my face in his hands and kissed me. This kiss had so much passion and romance as the very first one we shared. As he broke away from me, he looked me in the eyes, kissed me on the nose and whispered,
It's been 2 years since I wrote in here. So much has happened. I moved to Suffolk with Michael a few weeks after the incident in the restaurant. We bought a lovely little house with a large outbuilding on the side, which we developed into the restaurant that Michael wanted. We married after about a year, after all the work had been finished. Jem was my maid-of-honour. That was the hardest part of moving back to England. Leaving Jem, I wasn't bothered about my job. I didn't really enjoy it. But I loved her and Henry and Chris.
But when they stayed over one New Years, Jem fell in love with a beautiful country house not far from ours. They moved only a few weeks after I found out that I was pregnant.
Now, I'm 31, I'm pregnant with my second child. I've got a beautiful daughter named Charlotte. I'm with the man I love. I'm home. I have the perfect life.
Before, I thought that success and money, the so called perfect life trumped Michael.
But now, I've learnt that love no matter what form, trumps everything, including perfection.