Voice of Innocence
We’ve all heard the saying: you never forget your first love. For some, however, perhaps the better terminology is haunted—haunted with the memories, the connections, and the life-changing relationship.
So begins the tale of Emma Ranstein and Corbin Jones, two typical teenagers who travel the road of first love together, hearts sealed by a seemingly impenetrable bond. When Corbin Jones is convicted of murder and faces years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, though, their love is put to the test. As Emma and Corbin await his release from prison decades later, both reflect on the power of a relationship neither has gotten over.
Their unique story speaks to a universal heartstring within all of us: how do we move on past a first love if we aren’t meant to do so? More importantly, it reminds us that there is hope if the heart leads the way.
Release Date: February 26, 2015
White Satin Romance
~ Emma ~
You never forget your first love.
We’ve all heard that saying, probably more times than we care to. Whether he’s the jock on the football team, the lead singer in the town’s less-than-famous and less-than-talented heavy metal band, or the artsy “life is what it is” guy, the girl who falls for him is granted the eternal memories of him. For some, however, perhaps the better terminology is doomed—doomed with the memories, the connections, and the life-changing relationship.
Perhaps I seem bitter. Perhaps I am. I, Emma Ranstein, am the girl who lives in every small town. Maybe you even know a girl like me, at least to some extent. While debating between healthy and sugary cereals at the local food market, ladies in their World’s Best Grandma sweatshirts whisper a bit too loudly, “Oh, there’s that poor Emma. Sweet girl. I remember when she was going places. If only...” or “Life has dealt her such a bad hand.” Perhaps, in many ways, they are right. However, I am not only that girl you know in town that everybody pities. The reasons behind my sorrow are probably not experienced by many, which is fortunate.
At forty-seven years old, I suppose I haven’t done too badly for myself, at least from an external look. I’ve got the proverbial “American Dream”—sort of. Rosebushes swirl around a rustic picket fence, peeling and weathered, in front of my gleaming house. Its two stories and wraparound porch scream Americana. I’ve got a gorgeous husband named John, blonde-haired and blue-eyed. He’s a doctor by day, and a wonderful companion by night, when he’s not on an emergency call. Our life together is easy enough. We live comfortably, contentedly even. We don’t have any children, but our one-hundred-and-thirty-pound yellow lab Hank helps fill this void with his oversized paws and heart. Every summer, we plop ourselves into two lounge chairs on the sands of the Outer Banks for a week. I go to my exercise class twice a week after work to sweat out my frustrations and attempt to fit into my skinny jeans, and I have a few friends I go out with on Friday nights to throw back a few Long Island’s with. So, to an outsider, my life seems normal, maybe even good. Those who know me best, though, look at my life with a sense of loss, even though they won’t admit it to my face.
You might be thinking that John, my husband, was my first love. Typical romance story, right? We met in college, perhaps an Ivy League. He swept me off my feet, we got married, he went to medical school, and here we are. A wipe-your-hands-off, neat and clean, predictable story, nothing exciting here to tell—might as well stop reading. Except this isn’t how it happened, not even close.
First of all, we didn’t meet in college. I never went to college. I know that in today’s world where most high school graduates go on to higher education, you may be thinking I must have been a bad student. Maybe I was an aspiring actress or artist. Maybe my family was poor, or maybe I married right out of high school. I wish any of these alternatives were viable. They definitely beat the truth, at least in my eyes.
I had dreams of college, dreams of becoming a teacher. In the great scheme of things, this does not seem like such a grand aspiration to most people. After all, we know that a teacher’s salary is not the six figures of a CEO or a famous singer. In a world where money rules all, why would one fantasize about such a career? I cannot answer this clearly or concisely. All I know is that in some deep part of me, I always felt that it was my purpose. School caressed me into my best self. Even with my less-than-supermodel-ish figure, my mousey-brown hair, the teasing glares of my popular peers and troubles at home, I didn’t feel inferior in that desk. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a total nerd. I had friends. I went to school dances and football games. Like every other teenage girl, I cried about the insurmountable inequities of the world, such as why I had to be a brunette when all of the guys wanted blondes. Still, my schoolwork kept me grounded in reality. Every A made me feel unstoppable, every answer made me crave more. Looking back, it seems like a no-brainer that I would choose a career in education. I never wanted to leave school. Moreover, I wanted to ignite the fire for education in others that was once sparked in me.
Why, then, am I going to a tiny cubicle, day in and day out? Why have I been typing letters and alphabetizing files in a dingy office for several decades instead of influencing our country’s youngest minds? This is a story too complicated for the time being. It is my second biggest regret. I promise that I will get to the reason. Now is the time for other confessions and reflections. It is my first biggest regret that plagues my mind, and I cannot seem to get past the memory.
So, John and I didn’t meet in college. The truth is, John and I met when I was forty-two. He crashed into my life when I had given up on everything, including love. He opened my eyes to new possibilities. I will always be grateful for that, no matter how my life’s story plays out. I will always have love for him in my heart. However, he wasn’t my first love or, if I’m being honest, my strongest love.
As I said earlier, everyone knows what first love entails—secret kisses, hearts palpitating with new emotions, and the floating dreams of what lie ahead. We all think our first love will be the “one and only,” the person we grow old with.
Such is rarely the case.
Instead, we suffer the agonizing breakup. Our friends tell us, “You’ll find someone new,” or “He wasn’t right for you,” or, “Single is better.” We try to believe these truths and for some of us, they eventually do ring true. Time, the great eraser of emotion, passes. We feel passive about the situation. Maybe we find someone new, or maybe we play the field for a while. No matter what we do, no matter how much time passes, we never forget. Yes, we forgive. Yes, emotions may not be so intense. Maybe we even convince ourselves that he truly wasn’t the one; that we didn’t know ourselves enough then to know what love was. But we never forget those fleeting moments of innocence, promise, and, in short, pure love.
Such is my curse.
Like most girls, I thought my first love was my soul mate. He understood me in ways no one could. All through high school we were an exclusive couple. We talked of marriage, houses, kids, and dogs. We talked about hopes, fears, dreams, and desires. He made me a more exuberant person, and I seemed to keep him on the straight path. Not that he was a bad kid, maybe a little rebellious. Detention halls, a few senseless pranks, and a bit of an aversion to homework flooded his character. Nothing I couldn’t tame. Nonetheless, he came from an average family and had strong morals. He had a huge heart and would help anyone who asked, even if it meant giving his last bit of lunch money to a kid who came from a destitute family. Our love was strong, unwavering, and unbreakable...or so we thought.
It’s been thirty-two years since I first laid eyes on him, the man who would change my life forever. He is also the man who plagues my life. For I cannot forget my first love. Even though our relationship has dissipated, the feelings live on. I know that our time has passed and that way too much has happened for any sort of rekindling. Today, however, on one of the most momentous days of his life, I cannot help but trace our past together. I cannot help but ponder what might have been if things had just been a little different, or if I had just believed. No, my first love is not like many others. It is an intricate, winding tale that doesn’t necessarily end with our final good-bye twenty-eight years ago. It is a story that most girls cannot lay claim to, nor would they want to.
My first love was convicted of murder at the age of nineteen years old, during the prime of our lives.
My first love went to jail for twenty-eight years.
My first love told me he didn’t do it and begged me to believe him.
And, most importantly, my first love didn’t do it.