So much of the next few years, Danielle and I just spent time redefining our relationship. Who were we to each other, exactly? What were the expectations? The parameters? Honestly, we're still working on that, and I think to some degree it will be a lifelong journey. (Because really, aren't all relationships constantly evolving?)
After all, to Danielle I have always been her daughter… but that was a bit weird for me at first. I mean, I have a mom (and a dad)... and it's not her. She was always a family friend, and someone who I really liked, but I felt no real connection to her, no familial love. It was difficult to just flip that switch. And I think we both struggled with how much we should expect to be in touch, how often we should see each other, that kind of thing. No real template exists for this kind of relationship, you know? We had no Robert's Rules of Order to follow, no Miss Manners to consult. So we muscled through, and though there were times that I was frustrated with her—and I'm sure vice versa—we managed. :-)
Now... are you ready for another twist to the story? A few months after Danielle and I had "reconnected," I started to notice a pattern. Yes, Danielle moved a lot, as I had mentioned before. But she also rarely lived alone. Most of the time that I had known her, she'd had a roommate—and not the same roommate, but a series of them. Honestly, this had never struck me as odd, that two single women might just want to share an apartment; but shortly after that first time she came to see me as my birth mom, she introduced me to her new roommate. Let's call her Pam.
The very first time that I met Pam, I knew. They weren't just roommates. And THAT is really when I started to think about the fact that Danielle had lived with several women in the years that I had known her. Now that doesn't mean that every one of them was a girlfriend, but looking back I'm pretty sure that Pam wasn't the first one.
Still, I was only 19 and honestly had never known anyone who was gay, so I asked my parents if they thought that she was. They weren't sure either, but weren't ruling it out. I decided that at that particular point in time, Danielle and I had enough to deal with, and I was going to leave well enough alone. It didn't take long for me to be certain, though. I could just tell every time I was around the two of them. Sometimes I could tell by the way they talked and laughed together, other times by the way that they fought; but each time they interacted, it wasn't just as women who shared an apartment to cut rent in half. Oh, and then there were the matching gold and diamond rings that they wore on their left hands. That too.
I could tell that Danielle thought I didn't know, and I could tell she preferred it that way, so I still just chose to leave it alone. Still, it raised a lot of questions for me… I mean, obviously at some point she wasn't gay, so when did this happen? Why? How long ago? And yes (please remember, this is my story and you don't have to agree), I believe that homosexuality is a sin… So what did this mean for her salvation (as she was—and is—a professing Christian)? And how would it affect our relationship?
These are, by the way, questions I still ask myself. To this day I don't know all the answers.
In the meantime, my own personal life was getting back on track. After my big heartbreak the same summer I learned about Danielle, I had a few more rough months… but then God really got ahold of my heart, and fortunately He's never let go. Things turned around dramatically sometime around Christmas of my sophomore year. I realized that I was weary of being so darn stubborn, and I just needed rest in His arms and His love—as hard as life as a Christian can be, it's so much easier to let God lead than to attempt to do it on your own.
Fortunately, this also seriously changed the type of guy I was looking for. Whew! (That was me breathing a sigh of relief for myself.) I had one semi-serious relationship with an old friend from Bible quizzing, but honestly that was over long before we broke it off. Still he was a decent, intelligent, nice, respectful guy—nothing like anyone I had dated for the two years prior.
And then while I was home for Christmas break in my junior year, I got a phone call from my aunt. Her youngest daughter—3 or 4 younger than me—was making some bad decisions in the boy arena, and my aunt asked if I would try to talk to her. Ha, like I had been a great role model. At least I could speak from experience! So I called and asked if I could take her out to lunch. She asked me if I would pick her up from work to go.
Lynn was still in high school, but was also working… hmmm, now that I think about it, I can't quite figure out how that worked. Maybe she worked after school and during breaks or something, I don't remember. Anyway, her boss was a man named Jon. She had gotten the job because her sister was married to one of Jon's best friends, and her family had gotten to know Jon over the years… And by "her family" I mean both her immediate and her extended family. As in me. I had met Jon when I was only 12 (he was 17), and I had a HUGE crush on him. For YEARS. All through junior high and high school. The last time I'd seen him was when my cousin and his friend had gotten married—we were both in the wedding. I had a boyfriend at the time, and I cried the whole way home from the wedding, because I still had such a crush on Jon! My poor boyfriend had no idea what was going on. Poor kid.
No wait. I had seen him one time after that. Yikes, this is even worse. He was the owner of a teen club, and I went to it with Lynn… just to see him. YEAH, like the fact that I was still young enough to be admitted to the teen club that he owned would be real impressive……. (By the way, he does not remember that night. Just as well. Not one of my shining moments.)
Anyway, that had been two or three years ago. Since the wedding, I had graduated from high school (valedictorian of my class), gone to college (with a huge scholarship!), excelled in all of my classes (the only girl in my particular field of study!), and was doing just fine, thankyouverymuch. I was not nervous in the least to see this guy I had drooled over for a good six years of my life, and I of course had no interest in him now. That, by the way, was my pep talk to myself on the way to Lynn's office, where I was quite likely to run into Jon again.
I went in, anxious both about seeing him again and trying to have this serious talk with my cousin, who I was quite certain didn't even want my advice. I didn't need to worry about the second one. She had known what was coming and decided to avoid it by playing off of my first anxiety… she invited Jon to come to lunch with us.