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L.A. Affairs: We were talking about marriage. Then life for us changed in a dramatic way

(Flora Bai / For The Times)

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The thought of the approaching holidays and having to attend the firm’s end-of-year party without a plus-one made me gasp. That’s why I turned my attention to my dating app. Thankfully a blue-highlighted super like from a tall, dark and handsome fellow woke me up more than my latte did.

He was 80 miles from L.A. Could that even work? As I inspected his shirtless photographs and travel stories on my phone, a message popped up in my inbox. A quick “How are you doing today?” from him progressed into all-day back-and-forth messaging that led to a “Text me on my cell instead.”

From good morning texts to exchanging a plethora of pictures for several days — finally! — the “Let’s meet and greet” offer arrived. He did all the right things: He picked me up from my house, opened the car door, walked on the outside on the sidewalk and held my hand. He knew what was expected of a gentleman, and that gave me hope.

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What felt like an hourlong chat ended up being a 6?-hour extended date that took us well into closing time at Angel City Brewery.

My broken engagement crushed my hope. Could a solo birthday pilgrimage to the Mt. Wilson Observatory be the adventure I needed to restore my wounded heart?

Jan. 5, 2024

He paid the tab, held my hand to get up from the barstool and put his hand out to allow me to walk in front of him. Was he checking out the goods? I felt a warmth on my waist as he put his arm around me and walked beside me toward the car. The ride home was too short, and as I suspected, he walked me to my front door.

He smiled at me, pulled my hair behind my ear and reached for a soft kiss on the lips. That sweet and perfect kiss made my heart rise and my stomach fuzzy. I told him to be safe on the long way back to Camp Pendleton and I waved goodbye. Before I could reach my bedroom door, I heard the chime on my phone. It was him: “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and I cannot wait to see you again.”

It was music to my ears.

After years of searching, could it be possible that I had finally found my soulmate?

After six months of dating with our weekend getaways and surprise flowers sent to the firm, I felt like I was on top of the world.

There was never an awkward moment of silence, and we shared every dream, fear and personal thought. I met all his friends, even those close to his heart, from his first unit in Iraq. He met my son and daughter, and from that point forward, my daughter became his daughter. He taught her how to swim, how to play the guitar and how to karaoke. Good morning texts also included “Say hello to baby girl.” Music to my ears.

We had our fun together in Los Angeles. But I had started to reach my breaking point. I needed to figure out how to exit this relationship.

Dec. 29, 2023

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I will never forget our evening at Del Mar beach; our usual sunset run on the sand was epic. He stopped me and said, “You are the baddest single mom and the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you as I have never loved anyone. And I am going to marry you one day, as long as you say yes.”

He wasn’t the get-on-one-knee guy, but I did not care. He was everything I’d ever dreamed of: my best friend, lover, fighter, giver. He was responsible, hard-working, funny and kind. I did not need anyone else. To me, he was the most attractive man in the world. We discussed where we would live after he retired from the military, our travel plans and the kind of home we would purchase together. Nothing was going to come between us.

For our six-month anniversary , I planned a romantic getaway by the beach. Bags were packed, and wine and a charcuterie board set the mood.

I was three glasses in, and he had barely sipped from his. He was reticent and serious, which was not like him. I wanted to improve his mood, so I asked him to dance. As we danced around the hotel suite, I stopped in the middle of the song and directed him toward the wet bar, which I had covered with the tickets to Hawaii for the following summer.

I had goals for the next part of my life. I planned to scale back on consulting, freeze my eggs and live in Antarctica for a year before starting my family alone.

Dec. 22, 2023

His face went from serious to concerned as he began pacing around the room. His fists were closed. I did not know what was happening.

He grabbed my hand and directed me toward the foot of the bed. There was a long pause, and I could feel my heart rising. He began, “I did not know how I would tell you tonight, but here it goes. You deserve the truth. My ex-girlfriend dropped the bomb that she thinks her newborn baby is mine. I took a DNA test, and he is mine.

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“I need to do the right thing and marry her,” he said. “I owe a duty to my country as an honorable man. It’s what the Marine Corps has taught me, and I also owe a duty to this little man who needs a full-time father, not a seasonal military father. I must do the right thing.”

I felt as if the blood rushed from my stomach to my face. Once again, I felt as if I was floating in thin air. I could not see anything but the tears in his eyes and I felt his palms sweat over the back of my hand.

We were on the same kickball team. He was handsome, muscular and smart, but he later told me: ‘I looked like you once. Then I started working out.’

Dec. 8, 2023

At some point, I was able to make out images from the elaborate wallpaper of the hotel room. My stomach was filled with pain, my chest felt heavy, and my eyes did not blink until the warm tears filled my neck. His last words to me were: “I will let you stay in the room and give you some space. That is the least I can do.” As he shut the door behind him, I felt like my soul escaped my body. I didn’t see him again.

The author is a paralegal in Los Angeles and works on everything from briefs to love essays. She is on Instagram: @karen_kss05

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.

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