Last time I had seen her, she was in middle school. Her sister and I were high school friends (same graduating class). As kids we had all gone to church and played together (I have especially fond memories of putting on puppet shows with a portable stage) but, as life has a way of sending people different directions, we hadn’t seen each other or spoken in about fifteen years.
In hindsight, it seems inevitable that when we met for the second time, it would be at the library. The library in my hometown is about the size of an average McDonalds. Although the town itself has grown considerably over the past 20 years, the library has remained in the same building it’s always occupied. Since I was there about once a week, it was inevitable that the librarians would know me. They make it a habit to greet their frequent fliers by name. It’s a bit like Cheers that way.
I was hanging out at my parents’ house for the summer vacation (one of the few real perks of being a teacher), looking for a new job, hoping for a change. Jonesing for a comic book, I swung by the library. I hadn’t been there in about a year (since I’d been living an another town), and was surprised to see this beautiful young lady– a woman I had known as a girl long ago, standing behind the counter.
Last time I had seen her, she’d been a skinny kid in a baggy rock-and-roll tee shirt. Now she was grown up, working as a librarian, and… well… cute. After a hug and the initial “long time no see” banter, I asked her what she was up to these days.
“I’m finishing up my master’s degree right now. I’m studying theology and creative writing.”
“That’s cool,” I said, trying to sound casual. “What kind of stuff do you like to write?”
She smiled. “Mostly science fiction.”
Be still, my heart.
We exchanged information, me awkwardly telling her that if she ever wanted to get together and *ahem* talk about writing some time, I’d be happy to hang out.
Then I took my books and left. That, I figured, was that. She was pretty, but what of it? Lots of girls are pretty. After all, I would not likely be in town long.The new school year was rapidly approaching, and I still had no idea where I would be teaching.
Little did I know our paths would cross again a few nights later. I was over at a friend’s home for supper and board games when she walked in. I’d had no idea she would be there. That evening, as we sat around eating Mexican food and playing Takinoko, I was more and more impressed– she was smart and funny and full of life.
As there were others who were interested in writing, we planned to meet that Sunday evening for a writers’ group. We did. It was nice, but fairly uneventful.
Later that week I was offered a job near my grandparents in South Florida. The school year was about to begin, so, without even time for a proper goodbye, I dropped a ninja smoke bomb in North Carolina and raced down to prepare my classroom and curriculum.
And that, I figured, was that.
…Which just goes to show how little I knew. That fall, I was beginning to gather stories for Silent Screams, and she was interested in contributing one. We spoke on the phone several times, then on Skype, initially to brainstorm and swap ideas but more and more just to talk. Our conversations would extend for hours.
When I was home for Christmas break, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t take the chance to ask her out. That first date, on a cold, gray day, we sat and talked over sushi and frozen yogurt for about five hours. My family made fun of me when I got home, but I didn’t care. There weren’t a lot of fireworks, no flashes of heady passion (those would come later). It was just nice to be with her, to hear her thoughts, to enjoy her company.
When I returned to Florida, we kept up contact over email and Skype; very soon we were speaking almost every night. It didn’t take long before I was head over heels in love. When I was about to go home for spring break, my grandmother jokingly asked if I planned to propose.
“Don’t be silly,” I told her. “We’ve only been dating for about three months. That’s not going to happen. That’s too fast. Normal, sane people don’t do that.”
…Which just goes to show how little I knew.
Seeing her again was better than wonderful. Where there weren’t fireworks before, this time I had enough to fill Crazy Ed’s Roadside Bargain Warehouse.
Halfway through the week, we had a conversation that began with “How do you think all this is going?” and ended with “I guess we should get married, then.” I was completely unprepared; I hadn’t even purchased a ring. I kissed her. I had no idea it was possible to be so happy.
Three months later, only about one year after that initial encounter at the library, we said our vows at the front of a full church. She wore white. I wore a suit. There was music and laughter and cake.
She is asleep in the other room as I type this.
At the risk of being redundant, I had no idea it was possible to be so happy.