He was rather proud of himself. Yes Sir, Isaac Dakota was indeed a changed man and about time too. He had been quite pathetic when she left, but no more. Several years it took, this changing, but changed he was now and for the better.
He finally got over that old song of theirs. He could hear it now without tearing up. He didn’t even bother to change the station on the dial anymore. Stevie Nicks and Don Henley’s could sing “Leather And Lace” til the cows came home. It had ceased to be a source of pain. It was just another likable tune.
Isaac could spot little red sports cars now and not check the license plate for *999-DAS*. He had gotten himself into a bit of trouble when he almost caused a three car pile up chasing a speeding flash of red down the interstate. But no more of that.
He had stopped driving by her house too. Her mother had been this close to calling the police and getting a restraining order on him, but she wasn’t there anymore anyway. He wasn’t doing that either. He was a different guy now.
He had gotten around to their old haunts. All those restaurants and Honky-Tonks were no longer taboo. He recalled they had had such fun dancing and hanging with friends, but those memories caused nothing, not even a twinge of regret. He could go out with friends and laugh. Felt so good to dance again.
He didn’t even look around anymore when he caught a sniff of her perfume. It meant nothing to him now. He could walk right by her picture in a magazine and feel nothing but happy for her. She had gotten her wish and was now a semi-famous model. No, none of that bothered him.
“Zach went out with her,” Kenny said casually.
“Really?” Penny said, incredulous.
“She grew up here, went to school with all of us. She and Zach were sweethearts since they were, like, ten or something,” Kenny replied. “Tell her, Zach.”
“What?” Isaac muttered, confused. He hadn’t been listening.
“You really went out with Dina Shaw the model, Zach?” Penny said.
Dina--Isaac’s heart stopped, his brain went blank. This happened every time he heard her name. Dina--like a knife to the chest. Dina--like a punch in the gut. Dina--like a brick in the face. Her name hit him and he was lost.
“Beer... anybody want one?” he mumbled. He got up and went to the bar before getting an answer from his friends.
His hands shaking, he grabbed the beer and upended it, pouring it down his throat as if dying of thirst. Get a grip, he admonished himself. She’s gone, it’s over and there’s nothing to be done about it. Besides, he had someone special in his life now. Kara was a great girl. Everyone thought she’d make an amazing wife. Isaac’s dad thought she might be the one because she kind of reminds him of Isaac’s mother when she was young.
Isaac knew it was way too soon to be talking about rings though. Neither of them wanted to rush into anything. Kara was getting over someone too, somewhat like himself. She spoke of him every once in a while and he would listen, nod his head and smile. He knew what it was like. He knew exactly what she was going through because he’d been there too.
When the conversation inevitably turned to Dina he would get caught in the “you were the only one for me” thought and her eyes would be all he saw. He knew he couldn’t go back and still he would go back. And there they were parked down by the riverside in each others arms making love for the first time. Dina.
Every time he heard her name that's all it took and he would be back in that place. It was torture, pure and simple, he knew. But he would start thinking of all the words he left unsaid, all the promises made and broken. He couldn’t help thinking of how to change that which could not be changed. She had her life, the life that didn’t include him.
In his heart he knew she was gone, gone forever, but his head was a different matter. There was no telling his head. He had his life, a life without the woman of his dreams, his first love, but hopefully not his only love. He just had to work harder.
Maybe he wasn’t exactly the changed man he thought he was. Changing takes time. Isaac would keep going, keep at it and one day he would no longer blank out at the sound of her name. One day, hearing Dina wouldn’t cause his world to flip over. It would take time. Changing took time. Changing, after all, wasn’t so easy.