Our Love Story

This is a love story, one not generally discussed in public. But if there's one thing that I do know about myself it's that I know I hate secrets, secrets mean shame, and that I am not now, nor will I ever be, ashamed that I am a woman who has loved someone, and that someone has loved me. And even though people have asked me if I have lost my mind, if I am lonely or desperate. Even though so many people have wondered if I was having a crisis, or determined that I was just going through a phase. I will continue loving the man I am loving. I will love him even though he's got an ugly past, skeletons and sorrow. Even though he doesn't have a great job, or position or power, and even though he has is a prisoner at a correctional facility, which my husband Tom is, I will continue loving him. And this is our love story.

Another Thursday night had me waitressing at my father's restaurant. Tom walked in with his grandmother, sitting at table three and ordered ice tea. His eye were piercing blue as he ordered his dinner. I worked as he ate, curious of who he was, his name and where he was from. When he was finally done with his dinner, I bid him fair well, telling myself just to at least ask his name. After leaving he came back about 20 minutes later for dessert, but will later find out to get my phone number, which he was too chicken to ask for. I dished up the pieces of cake and watched him walk out for the second time. I never got his name, I was left with his cologne lingering in the restaurant.

We wouldn't see one another for at least a week, when we met for dinner at a local pub. We sat in the corner with one another the lights were dim and Tom and I shared who were were, or at least who we thought we were at that time in our lives. We parted ways later that night and wouldn't see each other until the night he cooked dinner for me. I went to his house where prepared a meal and we shared the couch watching movies, and learning more about one another, where we shared our first kiss. "How about a birthday kiss," Tom said with only about an hour before midnight which would be his 30th birthday. I opted out an said, "It's not your birthday yet." I was nervous as can be, yet I wanted to feel his lips to mine so bad.

He finally got his wish, our lips locked and it was everything I wanted, everything I expected. We would call ourselves a "couple" the following night, January 15, 2011, his 30th birthday. Celebrating his birthday we were sitting on barstools, when he took my phone and wrote, "celebrating my man's birthday," his way of asking me out. And from that night on, were with one another everyday.

One night Tom and I were sitting on my couch when he told me he needed to share something with me, he told me somewhat of his past, and the situation he was in. He told that soon enough, not sure when, but in the future he would probably be arrested and taken back to New jersey for a parole violation. What Tom was doing was setting up a foundation of honesty and trust. I see this now, but then I was not ready, and I did not understand. I was not prepared for Tom, the man I was beginning to love, the man I was beginning to enjoy loving to evaporate, in his place no one be there. From that moment on, everything was on the table, open forth coming and more and we tried to enjoy every single day, like it could be our last.

That "one day" came March 23, the day I went home sick from work, I gave his a kiss goodbye, "I'll be back soon, it won't take long," he said, "I love you," and he never came back. It wasn't soon enough. I found myself sitting at the kitchen table with two US Marshals, I felt like it was a dream, I kept it together, I didn't cry until I went downstairs to grab my shoes. I fell apart in his mom's arms. I felt like it was a joke, a nightmare. But soon enough he called from the local jail, "I'm sorry babe," were the first words out of his mouth. Sorry? I couldn't expect him to be sorry, for we both knew the situation, by loving him, by continuing in this relationship, I took on the responsibilities of this. Sorry, wasn't called for. From this night on, my life changed.

That night began my first letter to Tom, "We both knew this time would come, I guess i wish it was tomorrow and not today, ya know. First thing is first, you have nothing to be sorry for. You have been nothing but honest with me, and with that I agreed to this deal. I'm not mad, I just wish I have hugged you, kissed you or at least lock eyes with you. I would be lying to you if I said I am fine. I am lost. I am lost without you....."

The first time I was able to go visit him which was a day later I was scared. I didn't know what to expect, what I would see, if I would cry or what. I signed the sheet Annette Ungaretti to see Thomas Lewis, I walked into the room where three backless stools were. I picked the first one where Tom was on the other side of the glass, black and white stripes. He didn't look different, like I almost expected him too. I just wanted to touch him, feel that he was okay. Freedom and having the perfect love beside me again, I knew these things never seemed impossible or distant. Rather they were a tease, only barely out of my reach. If only I was granted one inch were could be touching again, hand in hand or at least fingertip to fingertip.

This continued everyday, I was lucky enough to see him six days a week and continued to write him every single night. I always expressed all my love for him. What most people don't realize is how real our love is, it isn't a corny card or a hug our love is completing one another. As Tom puts it in his letters, "you are all the things that I'm not." Tom and I are the combination of love and hate, beauty and ugly - we both pasts and we both have futures. I never missed a visitation and I adopted a habit of dropping a letter at the post office every single day. My first letter arrived March 29. It was a combination of him professing his love, sharing his hurt and in the long run how scared he was to go to New Jersey and me not being able to handle it.

The word marriage surfaced in a letter I received April 4, "Babe, being in here has just made me realize how much I love you and need! I feed as though you are my perfect match. You are everything that I'm not which mean you complete me. I love you with all my heart baby! I can't imagine myself with anyone else but you! You have stuck with me through this all and I couldn't be happier. I was afraid you wouldn't be able to handle this, but again you surprise me about how strong you have been through it all. That is why I would be the happiest person on earth if you are true about getting married. I would be happy to take your hand and start a life together, and have kids and start a family together."

I wrote to Tom, " . . . Marriage, I honestly have never been happier. It blows my mind how in love I am with you, how happy you make me. To take your hand in marriage makes me the luckiest woman. We compliment one another, and fit perfectly . . . " dated April 5.

Two days later I drove to the courthouse, no flowers, no special dress. Tom's mom, sister, niece and my friend Tessina were all there to witness as Tom and I became Mr. and Mrs. Lewis. He was escorted in, yes he was wearing stripes. Tom and I stood there looking into one another's eyes, resiting our vows, promising eachother our loves forever, and holding hands. "First day as a married woman, Annette Lewis. Yesterday we said I do, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, you took my hand looked me in the eyes and in that moment I knew I made the right decision. Standing next to you saying I do is the best day of my life. You are good for me just as much as I'm good for you. While how it happened is nothing compared to how we want to get married, we both know that it will happen, besides the love is all that matters," I wrote in letter dated April 8 to Tom.

April 11 was the last day I saw Tom, the visitation seemed so short. I kept it together, we had a strict no crying policy, but I looked back just to see him one more time. As I drove away I watched the courthouse in my mirror, hoping, maybe thinking he could just be there waving for me to turn around. I got a call around 5 p.m. that day from another inmate, he just said, "they came and got Tom today," at that very moment I pulled over and starting crying. Forget the policy, my husband, the love of my life was taken after just four days of being "official" and the worst part is I didn't know the next time I would hear his voice or even see him. Luckily, he was taken to Missoula where he would catch an early flight to New Jersey the next morning, he warned me that we may not be able to talk for 30 days but he would try and write.

Tom arrived in New Jersey, staying at Central Reception and Assignment Facility until he is transfered until a state prison. He is lock down 22 hours a day, sees outside every other day, now has no privacy. Our marriage consists of pressing 3 to accept his calls, letters read and scrutinized. I try not to even read Tom's letters until hours later, when it is dark and into the night. I want to be sure I wouldn't be interrupted and to read every single line for what it's worth. When Tom calls, I try to picture him in front of him, telling me all these things, good and bad. I try and see him smile, see the laugh and feel that touch I so miss. His letters are sometimes sporadic, but getting more frequent, while he receives one everyday. I look forward to the ring of his mother's phone and 3 p.m. just to open the mailbox.

I will travel to New Jersey to meet my husband at the gates on the day he will be released, it will be late summer and I know I will have butterflies in my stomach and my heart will be racing. To bring my husband home is going to be the best feeling in the world and to know my husband, Tom Lewis is taking care of his past to begin our future is the best gift I could ever get. I love him, with my entire heart, through my soul, every ounce of me.

I feel in love with a man who wanted to become his own more perfect creation, a man committed to the transformation of himself, of the world. And the world he imagined was like the world I imagined. I feel in love with man that I could really explain, all I could say is he loves me, and I love him. I fell in love with a felon, I married a man while in jail yet I married the most genuine man, I fell in love with someone who makes me happy, I fell in love with a man that I am proud to call my husband.

We were never meant to be together (Idaho to New Jersey, good girl, bad boy) yet we were always meant to save each other and that's exactly what we have done. He says I complete him, that I have made him better but in reality Tom completes me and has made me better.

Our love story is not typical but its typical for us. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis are happy, happily in love even under the circumstances.

Strong and Never Broken.

Update: Tom was released April 26 on a pre-trial release. Just about four months later Tom had sentencing when he received time served and three years probation. No need for more time! 

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