Day 6 is labeled as Love Interest. The directions for the challenge were specifically to leave each day up to the interpretation of the one doing the challenge. Since I adore my husband, I’m going to interpret today as talking about my love interest: him.

Dan and I met under less-than-normal circumstances.

Well, that’s not entirely true. We met in a normal way, I suppose, but our journey was less-than-normal.

Dan was my first husband’s (Tony) manager. We met because the guys from Tony’s work would get together every Wednesday at a local sports bar to play trivia. They invited Tony, of course, and extended the invitation to me. Two of the guys also got together on Saturday nights a couple of times a week at a different bar for music trivia. We were invited to those, as well. We played together for a couple of years, until tragedy struck and Tony was killed in a car accident on his way to pick me up to go to trivia.

After Tony died, I was kind of a recluse. But Dan wouldn’t let me withdraw completely. He insisted I get out of the house at least once a week. At first, it was a way to honor and remember Tony, and then it became an excuse for me to leave the house, and then I found I really looked forward to it. In the months after Tony’s death, the Wednesday night trivia group started to dissolve; one of the guys started a serious relationship and gave up his evenings to spend the time with his lovely girlfriend (whom he later married), two had kids (one of whom had a serious heart condition at birth—hypoplastic left heart syndrome) and they stopped coming due to familial obligations, one got married, and I’m not really sure what happened to the other. Eventually, it was just Dan and I.

Throughout this time, I was navigating the new world of facing single parenthood alone as I learned a little while after Tony’s death that I was pregnant. Dan was there for me through all of that; a close and careful friend. He went shopping with me, came to my baby shower, and everything. We even started playing an online game (EverQuest) together, and as silly as it was, our characters got married. 😂

Over time, we realized that what we shared together was blossoming into more than just a friendship—we were falling in love. He was hesitant because it was just over a year since Tony’s passing when we realized it, and he was afraid it was too soon. I was hesitant for similar reasons, but also because I had a new baby and I didn’t think he wanted a ready-made family.

For Thanksgiving that year, I was invited out to Chicago to spend the holiday with my lovely friend, his wife, and their baby (born just 6 weeks before mine). I went and while I was out there, I hopped onto EverQuest to chat with Dan. He’d been drinking a bit, but he was glad to talk with me.

And then he typed the words that changed the course of our relationship. He said, “I love you. Come home safely.”

I admit, I was caught a bit off-guard. Did he only say that because he was drunk/had been drinking? Did he mean it? Would he even remember saying it? Did he mean it the way it came out, or was I misinterpreting it? Was I just way over-analyzing everything?

When I saw him a week later, everything was normal, though I felt on edge. I finally blurted out, “Did you really mean what you said online?” He took my hand, looked deep into my eyes, and said, “Absolutely.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Eight months later, my daughter and I moved in with him, and a year after that, we were married.

We’ve been married for nearly fifteen years. I love him more than words can ever adequately express. He’s my rock, my foundation. He’s my biggest cheerleader and my strongest shoulder. I jokingly call him my pack mule, too, because he’s always offering to carry things for me. It’s become a bit of an inside joke.

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without him. I wouldn’t be the parent I am today without him. I wouldn’t be a published author without him.

My debut novel, A Year and a Day, is a fictionalized autobiography. Ryan is a fictional version of Dan. No, Dan isn’t a rock star (well, he’s my rock star, but in the proverbial sense), but he was there to pick up the pieces after Tony’s (Johnny in the book) death. Tony wasn’t a lumberjackish construction foreman, either. Far from it, actually. But that’s why fiction is fiction. There are parts of the book that are truly autobiographical. I won’t tell you which parts; I’ll let you see if you can figure it out.

Suffice it to say, I’ve had many love interests in my life, but only two have made indelible marks on my heart, and without the one, I never would have had the other.

It’s funny how life and the cosmos works out, isn’t it?