This story is by Paula Young and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Everyone deserves a second chance, don’t they? The trouble is in a small town at age 40-ish there are not many eligible males. All the blind dates, singles events, visits to the bookstore (no, I couldn’t do singles bars), and nothing. I did make one discovery. Men my age that are divorced have a good reason for being that way! So how does one connect with one’s soul mate? Is it even still possible at my age?
I certainly thought I had married my soul mate twenty years ago. People change and grow apart. Lesson learned—never let your husband near someone newly divorced! Now my social life involves my daughter and her friends. I am dying for some intelligent adult conversation.
The one thing I haven’t tried is the computer. My mother would never have approved, but do I dare? This is too crazy to share even with my best friend. I have discovered that my internet provider has a “personals” area. That isn’t as bad as a dating service that serves the entire internet, is it? Would Jack-the-Ripper have used the Internet? This one at least feels a little safer.
As I read over the various entries several catch my eye, but most I would not dare answer! “Works for a fortune 500 company…” He doesn’t mention the company’s name—is that Wal-Mart? Next…”Has 3 young children.” He’s younger than I am. Is he looking for a mother replacement? “Likes all kinds of women…” Is he a womanizer? The two main themes that emerge are loneliness and sex. What am I looking for?
At my age Prince Charming is probably out of the question. Someone with whom I have something in common would be nice. I love walking in the woods. I consider myself somewhat intellectual (my daughter calls me a nerd), so a man with a science-related career would be nice. I am a military brat, and love travel and the ocean. Hmmmm….Am I actually writing my own post? Oh, let’s try it.
Likes long walks in the woods, sand between my toes, and the latest best-seller. Looking for a lasting relationship.
That sums it up. Here goes……
The next morning, as I scan the responses, one sounds quite interesting: Sam. He describes a perfect date—going for a drive in the country, stopping at a winery. He sounds well educated. What touches me is:
My sons have boomeranged back home, temporarily. I like to help.
If he’s kind to his kids, maybe he’ll be kind to my daughter, Ashley, as well. Oh no. He’s a smoker. I’m not. I don’t think I could live with one. As I get ready for work, there is this song on the radio ….
“…. a kiss from a rose on the grey…”
I finish getting ready, and walk to my car. The first warm, humid, summer air hits my face as I open the door. I notice my roses are in perfect bloom, and I cut one to put on my desk at work. When I start my car, the same song is in the same place as in my head. That’s odd! Roses…roses…roses. Is the universe trying to tell me something? Every rose has its thorns, and goodness knows I have mine! I will reply to that interesting post on my computer when I get home. Smoker or not.
Each day I learn something wonderful about this man. His family lives an hour away from my family. We‘ve driven up and down the same highway to see our parents dozens of times. We must have stopped at the same gas station or restaurant at some point. Did we ever walk past each other? He is also a military brat; we have lived in some of the same places! It’s like we are two vines growing on opposite sides of the same tree.
The next step is actually meeting Sam, my mystery man. He lives 3 hours away, and will be passing through my town soon. There is the first nip of fall in the air. I change clothes three times. I go to pick him up at his motel. I think I am crazy! I say a prayer that he is the same person as in his emails. I drive past the lobby, and see him waiting. He looks a little like Harrison Ford. And look at those blue eyes! Maybe I have found my prince. I take a deep breath, park, and walk in.
We drive around looking at landmarks. He loves my car. It is a bit of an unusual mini-van. He likes the design of its sliding doors on each side. Yes, he’s an engineer! We have dinner, and talk up a blue streak. He is the man I’ve been dreaming of! We go to a karaoke country western bar—not the best choice, but not much to choose from. We talk some more and then we dance. He looks at me with an intensity I have never seen before. I know I’m in love!
Our next date is walking in the woods. We are blessed with a gorgeous fall day. We go to a state park with high bluffs and easy walking trails. The leaves are changing, the sun is shining, and the temperature is just right for a hike. I’ve never enjoyed anything more! We wind down a hill and stop under a bluff overhang. There is a clearing with thick moss on the ground and trees. It is unexpectedly cool. The trees rain multi-colored leaves. He takes my hand and kisses me so tenderly that it leaves me wanting more.
My big concern is what Ashley will think. I guess it’s time to invite Sam to dinner. Sam talks to Ashley about the pets, school, and food. They both like grits! Not bad for a first meeting.
Now it’s my turn to be scrutinized. Sam has invited me to meet his children. They are grown and one is married. The sons are gentlemen and seem very accepting. The daughter-in-law is my biggest hurdle. She is a bit wary of my affections for her father-in-law, but I think I can win her over in time. I begin to breathe normally, and actually enjoy the evening.
The next months are filled with jaunts to a winery, hiking in the snow on Halloween, and attending Ashley’s events. She is in the band and we watch her march in a parade, cheer at football games, and go to her concerts. We have a movie night together. Ashley seems to like Sam, OK. At her early teen age it’s difficult to tell. She is more involved in her own interests.
Then Christmas is here. We exchange presents and Sam gives me lovely earrings and a grits pot! Yes, he has a sense of humor. The best gift is the one Sam brought to Ashley: the most advertised perfume for teens. She is in heaven.
The weeks and months fly by. One morning I awaken in a cold sweat. I have had a restless night’s sleep. Am I doing the right thing? Is this man really the one I want to grow old with? Is he what is best for Ashley? Where is all of this coming from? I read in one of my many self-help books that this is a normal step in a relationship. Maybe it is our long distance relationship. Maybe I’m just second-guessing. Maybe, maybe, maybe! Is there ever any certainty in love? Having been burned once may be fueling my misgivings.
Sam comes down for the weekend, and announces he has quit smoking! One kiss and all doubts fly away.
Ashley plops down on the couch next to me. “We need to talk. You and Sam seem serious. Will we have to move if…? I don’t want to leave my friends.” My heart sinks. If Sam and I do end up together, we probably will move. His city would be best. There’s nothing for kids to do here, and his location offers more opportunities. As Shakespeare says, “The course of true love never did run smooth!” I guess Sam and I can work on this issue together if the time comes.
I go outside one morning, and pick the last rose of the season. Sam will be here soon. I sweep away some yellow and orange leaves from my sidewalk. The next day Sam and I are looking at the weekend paper. My current job is going nowhere. I see an ad for a better prospect in a neighboring town. I mention to him that perhaps I should dust off my resume. Sam says, “Maybe I can help. Will you marry me?” Just like that! We are sitting on my couch in our jeans. No fancy dinner. No kneeling on the ground. Not even a ring! Not at all how I pictured this moment. I hear myself say, “Of course I will marry you!”
I’d better tell Ashley.