14. Chain of Love

14. Chain of Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

Chain of Love

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.

~Emily Brontë

Ron’s eyes brightened when I walked into the restaurant. Always attentive, he took my coat and pulled out my chair. I avoided his eyes and wondered how to start.

We had dated for two years before getting engaged a week earlier. During that time we had decided to avoid physical intimacy. We wanted to remain objective about the relationship and thought this would help. And we were true to our agreement even though it became increasingly difficult as we fell more deeply in love. Now that we were engaged, it seemed silly to continue our abstinence.

Yet I wanted to do just that.

How would Ron react when I told him? Would he think I was hiding something? Would he think I was afraid of intimacy? Worst of all, would he think I didn’t love him?

Setting down my glass of water, I reached for his hand across the table.

“Ron, you know how much I love you,” I began. “And I think our ‘agreement’ has both tested and strengthened our relationship.”

I faltered. Ron sat, silent. Waiting. My eyes focused on our clasped hands, then rose to meet his.

“I... I want to continue this way.” I took a deep breath. “I want to wait until our wedding night.”

Ron was grave as he pondered my request. I shredded the corners of my paper napkin — and waited. After a long pause, he looked up and met my anxious gaze.

“Agreed.”

“Really?” I gasped.

“Really.”

My heart filled with new respect and appreciation for the man I was going to marry. Yet, as we left the restaurant, Ron seemed distracted. In the parking lot, I suggested dessert at the local ice cream parlor.

“I have something important I need to see to,” he declined. He had already started driving away when I realized he had forgotten his coat. I tried to flag him down but he didn’t even see me.

Why was my attentive fiancé suddenly so absent-minded? I returned home uncertain where we stood, not sure I had really gotten what I wanted.

Later that night, the phone rang.

“I need to see you. I need to come over.” There was urgency in his voice.

“Why? What’s wrong? Ron?” He had already hung up.

Fifteen minutes later, Ron arrived carrying a large cardboard box. My heart sank. Was he returning all the gifts I had given him? I twisted the week-old diamond ring on my finger. I started to slide it off.

Ron held out the box. “Open it.”

I swallowed hard and lifted the lid. Inside the box was a paper chain.

I pulled out length after length after length. On each link was a date, beginning with the current day and numbering into the future.

I knew my face mirrored the questions churning inside me. I looked at Ron.

He smiled at my puzzlement but quickly grew serious.

“I thought about your decision,” he said. “And I plan to honor it — although it will be a great sacrifice.” He nodded at the chain draping from my hands. “The chain represents that sacrifice.”

Ron asked me to hang it in my bedroom and tear off a link every night. As our wedding neared, the chain would shrink and so would the sacrifice.

“With each torn link, pray for me to have the strength to be true to this commitment.” Ron gazed into my eyes. “Will you do this for me?”

Tearfully, I accepted the chain and the commitment. All the love I felt poured forth when I kissed him like never before. Ron pulled away.

“If you want me to keep my promise, you had better stop giving such wonderful kisses,” he teased. I laughed... and blushed... and showed him to the door. With my heart still racing, I suddenly recognized this would be a sacrifice for me too.

The chain circled my bedroom three times. I delighted in the evening ritual as I tore a link, thought about Ron’s — our — sacrifice, and said a prayer just as he’d asked.

Soon only seven links remained. Then three. And, finally, the day before our wedding, only one. I didn’t tear the last circle; I packed it in my suitcase.

On our wedding night, I showed Ron the final link of the chain. Smiling, we each took one side... and pulled. Then, together, we offered a prayer that our love — rooted in mutual sacrifice — would blossom and flourish.

 

~Kathleen Happ
Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul

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