Love Stories
She loves me. She loves me not. She loves me

Starting over

Why marry the same person twice? With all those promises broken, all those vows traduced, why try it all again with the same person in a world swarming with other candidates?

The second time, they used the home of Robert’s brother. “It’s taken a lot to get this far,” says Patricia.
[Family photo]
No doubt some couples who do it are bumbling optimists running on blind faith in second chances. Others arrive at the bitter truth that no one else will have them. Still others do it for the children.

The Whorleys aren't a couple you'll find on the analyst's couch. They don't pick apart their relationship to see why it ticks. They don't find much profit in putting love in a petri dish.

To hear them tell it, what prompted their second marriage to each other in March 1996 was simply the cold, hard-won certainty that they couldn't live without each other.

But it took time, growing into that knowledge. And it took a catalyst: Their daughter, who was then 2.

The first time Robert visited Shelbi, he stayed only a few minutes. The time away had made him a stranger. "She wasn't really acting right," he says. "She didn't really know who I was."

But Robert and Patricia lived in the same Tampa neighborhood, and both fumbled for openings back to each other. Each would drive by the other's house. She would call and hang up, so she could hear his voice. They found themselves thinking about each other as more than just their daughter's parents. They were still the Whorleys -- she had never given up his last name -- and might still make a unit, a couple.

"No matter who you're with, it didn't make you happy," Robert says. "You were always hurtin', till you were finally back together with that person."

The second wedding, held at the house of Robert's brother, was smaller than the first. A handful of family and friends came. For the honeymoon, they rented a hotel in Clearwater. They walked the beach.

The scene of the kiss

Eleven years after the motorcycle ride, they're here again, back at the site of their improbable start, the residential street where the police cuffed him and she kissed him. They've brought Shelbi, 7, and Coby, 3, and the third child growing inside her.

They've come here not in a speedster, but in a 1988 Chevy Astro minivan -- happy emblem of suburban squareness, and a measure of the distance they've traveled together.

She shows how the kiss went, and for a moment he looks as happily surprised as he must have back then.

These days, Patricia speaks of the people who told her to leave Robert as nattering little devils, appealing to the weakness of a scared girl who didn't know what "for better or worse" meant. She wishes she'd waited.

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They still avoid some subjects, like the man who came between them. Robert can't stand the sound of his name.

"It's like a thorn to both of us," she says. "It just fills him up with sickness, hatefulness."

Prison, they agree, might be what has kept them together. It grew them both up, and taught patience.

"Say the man in shining armor came to get me," Patricia says. "I could never love him the way I love Rob."

Age hasn't killed Robert's wildness, but he puts it in different places -- racing dirt bikes, fishing and hunting wild hogs with his pit bull, Roadblock. Last arrested almost six years ago, on a vehicle theft charge for which he was acquitted, he says he has turned in his bad habits for good ones. He doesn't want to lose his family again.

"I think I'm out of the trouble state," Robert says. "When you get a family, you know it's time to be right. There's no more do-overs."

The first time Patricia and Robert Whorley kissed, she was 14 years old and he was in handcuffs, on his way to jail. “Everything’s good now, because we’ve been through hell and back,” Patricia says. Here, they re-enact the kiss on the street in Tampa where it all began 10 years ago.
[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]

She loves me. She loves me not.
She loves me: Part 1
Long Lost Love
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