I saw her at a family-friendly activity, a ways off, interacting with a group of children. I was intrigued. Who was the slender, pretty blonde? It soon become apparent that several of the children were hers. My heart sank a little. All the desirable ones have been through at least one round it seems.

Another church picnic activity, another sighting of the pretty blonde – except now her hair appears to have a grey/silver tinge. It makes her look quite old, and yet, she still looks decently attractive. I surmise that she's probably somewhere close to my age. It appears she has three children. Seems to be a bit of a theme in my life for some reason. She may have glanced my way a time or two, but no communication is initiated. She seems like an interesting woman. I wish there was a way to get her attention without it looking like I'm trying to get her attention.

A private BBQ. I'm talking to a rather interesting and rather angry little brunette. My curiosity walks by, now blonde again, lugging a rather fabulous looking folding chair. Our eyes meet for a brief, fleeting moment. We both quickly look away. I figure she must be a friend of the host. I turn my attention back to the angry little brunette. She loses my interest with her attitude. I wander the rest of the gathering. That darn blonde that keeps popping up stands off to the side and takes in the group of people chatting on the lawn around us. I approach and hover close by. I notice a tiny bug walking on the top of her head. I use this as my opening. "Excuse me," I whisper, "but there's a tiny little bug walking down your hair". I'm about to offer to pluck the little sucker from her locks, but before I can, she vigorously begins combing through her hair with her fingers. A buddy needs help moving the BBQ. We leave with the angry little brunette and drop her off at the place she was staying.

Facebook stalking occurs. I think I'm able to locate the blonde's profile. It's not a very flattering profile pic. She looks much nicer in person.

Another private fire and marshmallow roasting activity. Here comes that lovely blonde again, lugging that fabulous folding chair. She's aggressive in her approach to our fire pit. This woman gets things done. Marshmallows and wieners are roasted. Someone comments that they should have brought water. I'm suddenly thirsty, so I go for my water bottle. The blonde speaks. "Matt's prepared," or "Matt has water"… something like that. I mostly just remember that she spoke my name. Did she FB stalk me as well? We chat a tiny bit. The evening continues. We play some Frisbee games. She's terrible, but looks so cute as she flails around.

The evening ends and it is suggested that we go to one of the attendees homes to watch something. I offer to carry the blonde's folding chair in exchange for a ride to the after party. She's surprised. I don't actually remember if she let me or not. She's very independent – but she does give me a ride. During the trip, we discover that she's only a few years younger than me. She's extremely pleased to not be the oldest one in the group. I ask her if she misses being married. She's caught off guard by the question – I can't decide if I did that on purpose or not. She flat out says NO. She's interesting to talk to. The ride goes by too quickly.

I sit beside her on the couch. The group decides to watch old Seinfeld episodes. The blonde has never seen Seinfeld. We watch a few episodes. She's not impressed. My heart sinks a little. Seems we don't have similar tastes in television. The night ends and I catch a ride home with one of the guys. I really wish I was catching a ride with her instead.

Somehow, we end up as FB friends.

I'm given a bunch of vegetables at church. I have no idea what to do with them. I figure I might as well go for it and use this as an opportunity. I message her and ask if she'd be interested in helping me figure out what to cook with all the food I was suddenly given. She responds that she doesn't do one-on-one activates with men. I immediately sense that she's suffered some sort of emotional trauma. I'm intrigued.

She says she'll give me a ride to another BBQ that my latest ex-girlfriend happened to be putting on - if I need it. I say I'll gladly take her up on her offer. I feel so strange showing up to my ex's place with her. It's a little uncomfortable. I get tired of the endless prattle taking place around the fire pit and lie down inside. I would find out later that the blonde wondered if she should come check on me. She drops me off at home and I want to express appreciation to her. I haven't gotten a strong physical desire vibe from her, so I don't go for the hug. I gently pat her on the shoulder and exit.

She messages me later and politely informs me that she didn't appreciate the physical contact. My heart sinks as I apologize. To my surprise however, she keeps the conversation going. I sense a small degree of interest on her part.

We continue to chat over the coming days – often late into the night. She's delightfully technical, but struggles with understanding men's behaviors. Little by little I begin to unravel her painful backstory. I listen and do what I do best for women that interest me; I help her process her feelings.

I send her a picture of me during one of our late night conversations to prove that she in indeed talking to a real live man. She suffers a mild panic attack as things in her past manifest in her mind. I feel horrible for pushing her out of her comfort zone.

She beings to ask me questions, and I sense that I've successfully hooked her. She presses for some private information. I dangle answers in exchange for her coming for a visit. She says she'll consider it. A shameful tactic on my part, but I really wanted to spend a little more time with her - so sue me.

A day or two later, she messages that she's in the area and wonders if I'd like some company. I message back that I'm just off to the nearby Walmart. I walk into the Walmart 15 minutes later – I see her standing with her back to me and looking around. I feel a tinge of discomfort. I'm not sure why. She's just come from temple worship and looks pretty, but I confess her outfit didn't do much for me.

We sit in my dimly lit basement and speak about the darkest parts of our lives. It's a very uncomfortable conversation and I regret having it afterward. We play card games into the wee hours of the morning. I'm extremely bored. I'm very tired. I really want to cuddle the lovely woman sitting across from me. She finally leaves without so much as a handshake. I feel completely ripped off.

We chat some more. Thanks to our many, many talks, she feels like she might be ready to start spending more time with me in person. She thinks she might be ready to let me hold her in my arms. I'm excited by the idea, but fear that it might send her into another panic attack. She assures me that she's worked through her pain enough to handle it.

We set a date that was most certainly NOT A DATE. I hug her and pick her up off the ground when she enters my place. She manages not to have a panic attack, and, in fact, actually seems genuinely excited to be spending time with me. I feel the same way toward her. We eat at Denny's and go for a walk. We continue to talk about our pasts and the things we have endured. I start to worry that we're going to have nothing to talk about after we finish resolving all the concerns we've brought to the table.

We attempt to go for a walk at Nosehill Park. A nasty, freezing wind begins to blow. We share a large blanket and do our best to brave the elements. I have my hand on the small of her back the entire time. She doesn't mind. We attempt to take a few crummy pictures as the wind howls all around us. I'm having an amazing time. We stop by a friend's house briefly to wind down the evening. We listen to other friends drone on and on about nothing in particular. We leave after about 35 min. They didn't even seem to notice.

I meet her again the next day after she's finished volunteering at the church distribution center. She takes my breath away as she meets me at the door. All women are made more beautiful when in the service of our Heavenly Father, and she's no exception. She asks if we're basically together now. Fearing that she'll have a nervous breakdown, I respond that I don't see any reason to change our relationship from that of friendship. If I'm being honest, part of that also stemmed from the fact that I really don't have much interest in dating someone with a bunch of kids. Accepting that realization, I wonder how long I'll be able to enjoy spending time with her until it eventually ends.

I start seeing a counselor to see if I can overcome some of the hang-ups I have regarding relationships. I wish she would see a counselor too. Two things had really stuck-out from our late night conversations. First was the time when she said that she really wanted me to like her. That made my heart sing. She didn't even realize that she had said it until the words came out of her mouth, so I knew it was genuine. The second being that on a couple different occasions, she had said that she felt like I was her councilor. That statement strokes my ego like crazy, even though I know that my guidance pales in comparison to what a trained professional can provide.

We see each other the following two days as well. I've never spent so much time with a woman that I wasn't in a confirmed relationship with. Heck, even the women that I had dated in the past - I'd never spent four days in a row with them either! The strangest thing happened – I didn't mind. For the first time in as long as I can ever remember, I didn't mind spending the better part of four days with the same person. I express this to her. She reaffirms that she is not ready for a relationship. I think that odd considering her statement on day two about us basically being together, but I don't say anything. I feel confused. I've begun to think that maybe I could date another woman with children after all, but it seems I wasn't being given the chance.

We continue to spend a large amount of time together. Since I wasn't working at the time, and she often worked from home anyway, there were days where she would come over in the morning and not leave until the wee hours of the next morning. I absolutely loved having her around and hearing her thoughts. She finally become comfortable enough with me that our non-committed relationship took on a physical component. We went star watching in a nearby field one night after she had expressed an interest in adding kissing to our snuggle time.

I kissed her as we huddled together in the chilly night air. Sometimes it takes a while for a couple's kissing styles to match up. This was one of those times. As the weeks would pass, however, I would come to enjoy it more and more.

Sadly, her almost constant presence eventually took its toll on me and I asked for some space. I'm an introvert. I can't help it. She said she understood, but I know it hurt her and left her feeling rejected. I hurried to get over myself and invited her back several days later.

We delivered flyers and bags for the upcoming food drive. She brought her children along to help. I had never met them before. They ignored me for the most part, except for her youngest which seemed to take a shine to me. It was raining when we started, but the Lord blessed us and it soon stopped. I watched my blonde friend struggled to wrangle her little children as they tugged at her and hung off of her hands and arms. A feeling came over me that this little family could be mine if I wanted it bad enough. That both excited and completely unnerved me.

The weeks continue to pass. Sometimes we go for walks. Sometimes we watch Netflix. Sometimes we just cuddle and kiss. At times, she would ebb away, needing some space of her own. At other times, I would move in that direction as well. She continues to express concerns about us not being compatible enough to be officially together. I tell her not to worry and tell her whatever happens is what is meant to happen.

She asks me to help her set up an online dating profile. I do so to make her happy and to make it seem like I'm not pushing for anything. This one action would prove to be the cause of much pain and sorrow down the road.

We attend a dance in Lethbridge where she meets up with some of the men she met online. I smile to myself as I watch every guy in the place look at her with interest in their eyes. No matter what these other poor fools try, she was going home with me. I feel very lucky to have won the interest of such a desirable woman.

She surprises me with tickets to a monster truck rally. I have always wondered what It would be like to attend one – I'm so happy I'm attending it with her. As it turns out, it gets kind of dull after a while and it's way, way too loud. I'm still happy to have had the experience though. An old friend of hers reaches out to her as we take the train back to my place. She asks me to kiss her and she sends of photo of the moment to her friend. I'm flattered, but that little voice in the back of my mind that asks "just how long this can all possibly last for?" has never stopped whispering.

My birthday comes and she takes me zip-lining, to my favorite restaurant, to the end of a hot air balloon show, and then to a couples dance. We're still not officially together, but it certainly feels like it to me. We get stuck in traffic for at least 30 minutes trying to leave the hot air balloon show. Strangely, I didn't mind at all. I was just so happy to be spending time with her. All in all, it's the best birthday I can remember in recent memory.

She starts saying how she's enjoying talking to some of the guys she's meeting online. I don't think much of it. She's 100% into me and nothing can possibly change that. In the end, it always seems to be my ego that shoots me in the foot.

I start to ponder about taking things to the next level with her. I find her kids tolerable enough – they're both bright and a little socially awkward, just like their mother. She only has them part time, so I'm sure I can find a way to make it work. On the other hand though, I find some of her non-religious friends to be angry and distasteful. I'm pretty sure they don't really care for me either, but I'm not overly concerned about it.

She wrote me a letter for my birthday, but a few days later I can't find it anymore. I ask her about it and she tells me she had been embarrassed by what she had written and taken it back. This is the only time she ever managed to upset me when we were together. She didn't think it was a big deal and didn't see why I was upset. I wondered what else she would simply take away one day because she felt like it. I was often a little disappointed in how she treated service people – she never smiled or really acknowledged waiters or cashiers. It was like they didn't exist or something. Now it seemed that I wasn't immune to that failing.

We continue to chat about possible relationship expectations. She says she doesn't mind if I hang out with other women, but my lips belong to her and her alone. I'm perfectly fine with that. I'm tortured with simultaneous thoughts about things ending and things never ending. All I really know is that I'm completely hooked on this wonderful woman.

Her birthday comes around and I take her to her favorite restaurant after the first day of my new job. I find the food to be subpar and the bill to be ridiculously excessive, but the meal makes her happy, so I decide it's money well spent. I was going to send her to get a manny/peddy as well, but decided I could only afford the meal. We spend the evening together doing our regular activities, but something feels a little off. Over the next few days I note a distinct behavior shift.

She's uncommonly distant in the brief messages we send back and forth. She starts calling me 'Matty' and saying how I'll always be her buddy. I sense something is up. Since she's having so much fun with her online friends, I decide to go for a burger with my ex. It's an ok visit, but I can't help but think how I would rather be with my blonde 'friend' instead.

It's a lovely Thursday evening. I'm watching some superhero tv show – don't remember if it's the flash or arrow. She messages me. I can tell something is off. I do some digging and finally she says she's going to start pursuing a possible relationship with a guy down in Lethbridge. My ego crumbles. I feel the bond that I thought I had with her burst into a thousand little pieces. It's the second time in my life that I've felt that happen. I can't think of anything to say except that I'll miss her. I feel stupid. I was the one that helped her get online in the first place. I was the one that encouraged her to look around so she wouldn't feel so scared about possibly being my official girlfriend one day. So much for my brilliant plans. I'm such an idiot.

I go to a dance alone the next day. Stupid move. Everyone notices the storm cloud following me around.

I try to be big about the whole thing. I wonder if this new thing with Mr. Wonderful will last – given the level of twitterpation she is displaying for this new guy, I think it's entirely possible that it will burn bright and then fizzle.

A few days later she messages. A few texts in, I can discern that she has something she's struggling with. She's blown away by my ability to read her. For me, it's like reading a book. She might as well pin a note to her sleeve with all of her feelings scribbled on it. I wonder why she struggles so much with understanding people. Maybe she really is just an insensitive person and simply can't comprehend these things

?

I convince her to call me. She's very upset and has difficulty speaking through her tears. I'm pretty sure things haven't gone very well with her guy down south and I feel hopeful that we can rekindle what we had. I talk her down in short order and she soon feels better. I'm seriously good at what I do.

She suggests we hang out the next day. We do dinner at a new place – which we swear we'll never go back to again. Horrible food and service. We work on a blind date activity that I decided to put on for the single church members in our area later in the week. We watch tv for a while. She snuggles me toward the end of the evening.

It doesn't feel like it usually does. She's not totally into it. I can only guess that she's thinking about her other guy as she's holding me.

My heart whispers that I've lost her and she's not coming back to me - that much is clear to me now. I don't have anything to say as I watch her leave shortly thereafter. She had a couple items at my place; a toothbrush and a hairbrush. I should have told her to take them with her.

I text her the next day – things seem normal enough. Maybe I had it all wrong!

I text her that night. No response. I wonder if something has happened. I text some more. Nothing. She finally responds late that night to say that she's busy.

I didn't have it all wrong.

I wonder if she'll explain the next day. Radio silence. I wonder if maybe she'll come over and talk to me after she goes to her regular Thursday temple worship session. That hope is not realized. No communication comes at all. I feel very, very alone.

I finally text her Friday afternoon to find out where I stand in all this now. She's brief and efficient in her responses. No real concern for me or my feelings is detected. It feels like she's bothered by the fact that she has to communicate with me at all. All her energy and attention has switched to her new man now. I feel like I've been left out in the cold.

Later I would discover that she had become 'Facebook Official' with him that day. That smashed the already broken pieces of my heart into a fine powder. Four months with me, and she's still uncomfortable with the idea of being my exclusive girlfriend. Two weeks long distance with Mr. Wonderful, and she's FB official.

I can't really fault her. He's a handsome guy with a kind face that runs marathons, has a bunch of kids, and works as a paramedic saving people's lives. Hell, if I wasn't so straight, I'd want to date him too. He's got a pic of them together as his FB wallpaper – they look disgustingly good together. I've never seen her look so radiant. I certainly don't remember her looking that happy with me. It reminds me a lot of when my last ex started dating her next guy.

Now I'm left to try and work through my feelings alone. I'm sure I'll be alright in the end... I always am. I'm usually the one to call things off (or manipulate things so that eventually the woman calls it off - terrible, I know), but this is the first time I've ever really been dumped by someone that I wanted to stay. And she basically did it twice in two weeks!

This is the second year in a row that my Christmas plans have been ruined by a breakup. I'm sure she would argue that we were never officially together, so it's impossible to characterize this as a breakup. I don't care. I'm adding her to my growing list of failed relationships and I don't think I can go on like this much longer.

I had shared things with her that I had never shared with anyone else – now I'm left to wonder what it was all for. She can lay claim to a couple of firsts for me, actually. Most notably, she was the first woman that I had ever begun to think of having a future with.

It wasn't perfect, but I was happy. I thought she was happy.

In the end, however, I was simply a stranger to the truth.