"You know I had almost given up at that point," I told her as we walked under the brilliant luster of the full moon walking out of Fenway Park into the crowded streets of Boston, and normally I don't go near cities, but tonight was a special occasion; of course to me a baseball game is always a special occasion, but tonight was more than just a baseball game, although I didn't know it yet.
"You?" She asked. "Of all people you'd be the last one I would expect to give up."
"Like I said, I had almost given up," I reassured her, stressing the almost in the sentence, as we walked hand in hand.
"What do you think was so different about us?" she asked. "I mean, what do you think the key was to us as opposed to other girls you had been with?"
"To tell you the truth I had never been in a relationship like this before you," I admitted to her. After three years in a relationship and plus six more months of knowing each other you think that I would have told her about that by now.
"That doesn't mean I never tried previously of course."
"A girl would reject a sweet guy like you?" she asked surprised. "I never would have thought…"
"First of all as much as I appreciate the flattering I must ask you to stop because your opinion is entirely biased," I interrupted. "Second of all yes, I faced rejection four times before I ever met you."
"I honestly would have never thought that you would never have been with anyone. What do you think was different about us then?" she asked.
"That's a good question," I said as my mind drifted back into the past.
It wasn't an ordinary day. It was the year 2017, and I was about to gain my masters degree and teachers license in a couple of days. I had just gotten a collection of poems and short stories published. The news spread all over my whole home town in Massachusetts. It wouldn't take long before I got a phone call from the Boston Bruins to have me sing the Star Spangled Banner, and Oh Canada for the home game in Boston of the playoffs. Naturally I obliged to the offer. What the Bruins didn't know was that I was a Montreal Canadiens fan; of course I wasn't about to tell them.
I wouldn't put on my Canadiens Jersey until just before they called me out in order to secure my spot. Then I heard the loud speaker announce, "Ladies and Gentlemen please rise for Oh Canada, and the Star Spangled Banner sung by the newly published Massachusetts native Walter Williamson." As the spotlight turned to me in my Canadiens Jersey I heard the crowd's negative reaction. The crowd booed loudly as I began to sing Oh Canada first. As I sang the Star Spangled Banner the crowd continued their booing, which filled the rink. It distracted me from singing it in the right key for me. I started too high and as a result choked on two notes. Undaunted, I left the ice and headed towards my seat when I was stopped by two security guards. One was a tall girl with long black hair and a very pale face. The other was a middle sized man with large biceps, and hiding other muscular features.
"Excuse me sir, but we had to move your seat, Instead of near the Bruins bench we put you next to the Canadien bench," the man said.
"Oh thank you kindly," I rejoiced.
"You'll probably need a couple of escorts buddy," he added.
"Yeah probably," I smiled.
"If I wouldn't get fired I would belt ya in the mouth right about now," the girl said.
"I guessed that one too," I said smiling as they escorted me to my seat right by the rink next to the Canadien bench. As I walked down the steps I heard each row boo as they saw my face. I just shrugged it off. The Canadiens get it from this crowd all the time why shouldn't I.
As I sat down in my seat, all the players on the ice made their way to their respective benches in order for the game to begin; leaving only the starting players. As they went by my seat I got thumbs up from the whole entire team, which made me laugh.
"You're a bold one aren't you?" a high pitched voice to my right asked. I turned to see a rather short woman with long black hair and deep blue eyes, the latter staring into mines, and the former being straight and smooth. She had a pale face, and was also wearing a Canadiens jersey.
I was about to say something when somebody behind me in a familiar deep voice replied, "Walter is probably the boldest guy I know."
"Since when?" asked another familiar voice as I was turning around. This one was a female voice.
When I had turned around, I saw my old roommate, Marcus, from the last four years. Now he had graduated with a degree in psychology, and a contract to play baseball with the New York Yankees as part of their forty man roster. He was the first round draft pick in 2016 for the Yankees, and tenth overall. The other was one of my friends from high school. I had not seen her in a long time. She was rather tall – still shorter than me – with long brown hair, and brown eyes to match. I recognized her as Samantha Cameron. They were both wearing Bruins shirts – how dreaded.
"Obviously you haven't seen him in a while," Marcus retorted back at her laughing.
I put my pointer finger up to the girl on my right to signify that I would acknowledge her in due time. She nodded in comprehension of my gesture. "What are you guys doing here?" I asked embracing them both in a hug – although it was rather awkward hugging both a person who I had asked out before, and a Yankees minor league baseball star, seeing as I am a Red Sox fan; add the fact that I pretty much figured they were dating and the awkward level becomes really high, although I didn't show it.
"I won tickets to this game on the radio, and I decided to bring Marc along – I never knew you'd be here," Samantha rejoiced.
"So did you two boo me as well?" I asked laughing.
"Don't take this the wrong way Walter," Marc began, "but we had to."
"Not as much as the others though," Samantha added.
At that moment I leaned over to Marc and whispered to him, "I told you that you would like her didn't I?"
"You never knew how right you were," he whispered back.
"It's nice seeing you guys here," I laughed. "Never in a million years did I ever expect to see you guys here."
"How do you think we felt hot shot?" Marcus asked. "All of a sudden you come out to sing the National Anthems of both countries here in Boston wearing a Canadiens Jersey with your name and of course number five on the back."
"What can I say?" I started. "Five is my favorite number."
"Hey why are you talking to the traitor?" a random Bruins fan called out to Marcus. "You should be trash talking him if anything."
It was my perfect opportunity for revenge. "He's a traitor too," I hollered. "He's moving up the ranks in the minor leagues for the Yankees. You probably know the name Marcus Cutler."
The small section of the rink burst out in boos. "Thanks Walt," Marcus said sarcastically.
"Any time," I winked and laughed. I turned to the girl on my right to finally acknowledge her after the commotion.
"Sorry about that," I started. "What's your name?"
"My name is Valerie Croy," she replied. "I already know your name of course."
"Pleasure to meet you," I replied shaking her hand feeling a little compelled there was more to her significance in this meeting than just this, but I tried to keep that thought out of my head.
"Where are you from?" I asked.
She looked at me and laughed, "St. Martin, it's in Quebec."
"No kidding," I began. "I used to have family up there. It's a small area, I like it a lot."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah the reason I am a Canadiens fan is because my grandparents grew up in Quebec, and I took a lot after my grandpa. I take it French is your primary language.
"Oui Monsieur," she said, which means yes sir.
"Trés bien mon amie," (Very good my friend) I replied.
"How can you sound so Canadian being an American?" she asked.
"The same way you can sound American when you talk even though you are Canadian I suppose," I replied.
All of a sudden the boards and the glass in front of us made a loud crashing noise. Valarie shrieked and out of instinct – I suppose – threw her arms around me trembling in fear. I saw a Bruins player get up from off the ice. He must have been checked into the boards by a Canadiens player. I turned my head to the right to see Valerie cringing in fear. "You know every thing's okay now," I said rather uncomfortably.
"Oh mon dieu, I'm so sorry," she replied releasing me from her arms blushing. "I didn't mean to do that."
"It's okay it's okay relax," I said. Of course the truth was that embrace surprised me more than the loud crash did. "Some Bruins player just got what he had coming to him," I reassured her with a wink. "What the hell was that?" I asked myself in my head. "What the hell was the wink for you idiot? I've never made myself look more ridiculous in my life."
"Right," she sighed. "I just kind of didn't expect that. I think I'm going to go get a drink. Do you want anything?" she asked as if we had known each other for at least a year.
"No thanks," I replied trying to hide the confusion in my voice.
"I'll be back," she said getting up from her seat.
All of a sudden I felt a punch on my back; "Making quick moves hot shot," Marcus snickered.
"What are you jealous?" I joked back.
"No, she is," Marcus passed the buck on over to Samantha.
"How the hell did I get into this?" she asked jokingly. "You think I'm jealous of him hitting on a girl?"
"I don't know," Marcus replied. "I was just joking."
"Could you two shut up right about now?" I threatened them knowing I was blushing at this point. "You know everyone in here is looking for dirt on me coming out in a Canadiens uniform. Anyone in this crowd could just decide to try and ruin my night."
"Nah you've got this one in the bag," Marcus replied.
"I've heard that one before," I replied.
"I suppose," he replied.
Soon enough Valerie came back. "Did I miss anything?" she asked.
"We have forty seconds left on a power play," I said.
"Speak for yourself," Marcus hollered at me.
"I am speaking for myself," I retorted.
At that moment a Canadiens player scored a goal with a wrist shot between two Bruins players who were blocking the goalie's view. The crowd erupted in boos while Valerie and I stood up and cheered at the siren's sound. We sat down again smiling at the early triumph. Turning to her I asked, "What are you doing down here anyways?"
"My uncle lives down here and won a ticket to the game. He couldn't go and I am down here to visit family so he gave me the ticket."
"I see," I replied. What is your occupation?" I asked out of desperation for a question.
"I'm a student," she replied. "I'm double majoring in English and music."
"So then you know that I started the Star Spangled Banner in a key that was way too high for me when I opened the game," I said slightly embarrassed.
"Yes but you sang Oh Canada beautifully," she reassured me. "It is normally done in a higher key when sung solo though."
"I transposed it to the key of D when I was sixteen," I told her. "At that point singing it in the key of F was impossible even on the days of my best vocal ranges."
"Impressive, I take it that it took you a while," she assumed.
"It did, I wasn't very talented when it came to reading notes," I admitted. "I used everything I learned in my chorus class and applied it to whatever I could."
"It isn't difficult for me to figure that you are English major," she assumed once again. "After all I have read some of your collection. I bought it just the other day. Not many people have an appreciation for poems and short stories anymore, especially short stories. I happen to like them, and yours are no exception. They are very well written, and the word choice is very formal. I never really expected to meet you the next day, and I really never expected you to talk so familiarly."
"He used to be very formal in his speech," Samantha said. "It was very annoying sometimes. We had to carry dictionary when he spoke sometimes."
"Yeah I remember our first year as roommates," Marcus recollected. "He would talk and I wouldn't understand much. He finally was able to start speaking familiarly after the first semester, but it seemed like a long time."
"Are you two done yet?" I glared at them half embarrassed, half trying to hold back from losing my cool.
Valerie laughed, "Really? I bet those were interesting days."
"If that's what you'd like to call them," Samantha replied.
Abruptly the sound of the siren signaled the end of the first period. The rest of the game went by smoothly. Montreal would win five to one, and I would continue conversing with Valerie. In fact we even made plans for Dinner at the
Hard Rock Café. Afterwards I decided I would take her back to her hotel. To get there we had to go through the city park. I turned to her as we were walking "It was a good night wasn't it?"
"Was?" she asked. "It still is isn't it?"
Trying to back up my statement I checked my watch, "10:45, I suppose there is still some night left."
"Were you trying to get technical with me Mr. Williamson?" she asked in a threatening tone trying to hold back a laugh.
"What can I say?" I asked. "I stand corrected." All of a sudden I tripped over the leg of a bench dropping to my right knee. "Or kneel corrected," I joked.
"Pardon me saying this, but don't you think it's a little early to be proposing," she laughed.
"Hey I take this matter very seriously," I began to joke back. "Laughing at me makes it that much harder."
She was laughing very hard at this point. "Come on let me help you up," she offered as she extended her hand to me.
I took her hand and blushed just a little bit. Of course she couldn't see it with only the stars lighting the night sky as the moon was new. "Thank you," I muttered defeated. "This is slightly embarrassing."
"How do you think I felt when I hugged you after the Bruins player got checked into the boards and I reached for your support?" she asked. "At least you're not doing this in front of forty thousand people. That's worse."
"I suppose," I replied. "Let me rephrase this as…"
"Put it any way you want it, but when it comes down to it my experience was just a little more of whatever it is," she joked.
I just smiled and chuckled. "Alright I'll give you that."
"You know you're kind of cute when you laugh," she said. "I'm just pointing that out."
"And you're cute when you're modest, but you never heard me point that out," I joked.
"Well that's because pointing something out is a visual effect and not an audio effect," she retorted laughing.
I finally got her back to the hotel and even went as far as to escort her to her hotel room. "Do you think we will have the chance to meet again?" I asked.
"I do wish it to be," she whispered. "Here why don't we exchange some information?"
We swapped phone numbers, e-mails, and addresses. "I'll be sure to contact you when I get home," she whispered. "You'll probably be a hero in Quebec. I'll make everyone jealous when I tell them I know you."
"Alright until then I guess this is goodnight," I said.
"Yes indeed it is dreaded," she replied. She looked into my eyes as I looked into hers. I knew that the spark I felt would have to wait for another day. She embraced me in a hug and softly whispered, "Goodnight Walter."
"Goodnight Valarie," I whispered back as she released her embrace and stared back at me as she closed the door behind her.
I arrived back at my dorm at about 1:00 that morning. I didn't have to worry about waking my roommate because he was always at his house for the weekend. It took me until I got in my bed to realize something, "Did she call me cute
at one point?" I remembered what she said in the park. Most people wouldn't consider this a big deal, but never in my life has a girl chosen cute as an adjective to describe me. Maybe I did have a chance. When I awoke around seven o'clock I noticed there was a message on my cell phone. I must have missed it the night before so I listened to it.
The call was from the owner of the Montreal Canadiens. He called to ask if I would be interested in opening game 5 of the playoffs against the Bruins if it was necessary making a shrewd remark on the Bruins inability to play hockey. I would call him back and oblige to the offer because I only had classes on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday during the week there was no problem in attending a game on Monday. In return I received a pair of tickets to the game, and I knew just who to bring along with me.
She would send me an e-mail on Friday telling me that she was safe back at her college in Montreal. I replied to the e-mail and asked her if she would like to go see game five of the Canadiens and Bruins. There would definitely be a
game five at this point in the series. The Bruins one game two of the round, but Montreal was up two games to one. She felt compelled to accompany me and I would meet her on Monday at her dorm to pick her up.
I knocked on the door silently once. There was no response, which worried me. Of course, I didn't really knock that loud so I knocked again with the same force, which produced as little sound as the previous attempt. I knew I was nervous, but this really wasn't a big deal. I was just picking a friend up to bring to a hockey game. The facts that I was attracted to her, and found her quite beautiful were minor details compared to the expectations either of us had for that night. So I attempted one more time at knocking on the door with more confidence than the previous attempts. I knew that if anybody was in there they would hear it.
"Comment s'appelle tu?" a voice asked from behind the door. The voice wasn't Valerie's so I assumed that the person was her roommate. She asked me what my name was so I suppose it was a fair question.
"Je m'appelle Walter Williamson," I replied. "Je cherche pour Valérie." (I am looking for Valerie.)
"Valérie," the voice called. "Un garçon est à la porte !" (A boy is at the door.)
"Merci Julienne!" (Thank you Julienne.) Valerie's voice called back.
The door opened abruptly and Valarie stepped out wearing a Montréal Canadiens tee shirt, and blue jeans. She had her hair in a ponytail and I could smell her perfume. It was vanilla with some kind of berry, but I couldn't tell what.
"I see you're ready," I said unable to think of anything else.
"Yes, and I see that it is the same for you as well," she replied.
I just nodded, which was probably stupid, but I was at a loss for words. Maybe I should have thought of something to say beforehand, but I hadn't and I couldn't do anything about it now.
"Are you excited?" she asked as we were getting into my car. "I mean this time the reaction will probably be opposite of what it was in Boston."
"And opposite of what I received when I went back to my student teaching assignment at the school I was assigned to," I added.
"Oh the kids must have been livid," she laughed.
"The teacher provoked them," I informed her. "Of course all I had to do was rub in who won the game. Then they rubbed in how I kind of fell flat on the Star Spangled Banner just to make me feel bad."
"Tonight you know to start in a lower key," she smiled.
"For sure," I assured her.
"Plus you will have bragging rights when we take the series tonight," she added.
"I have to wait until Friday, but yes that is true," I agreed.
"They have part of the week off?" she asked.
"Yeah there is a staff development day tomorrow, and there is a town wide vote the next day and the school serves as the host for the poles. So they have school dismissed, and Thursday I have class when they have my class so I have to wait until Friday."
"It'll be worth it," she assured me.
When we arrived at the stadium we got to go meet all the Canadiens players in the locker room. They were excited for the game, and morale seemed to be at a high. I never knew that my presence in game one lifted their morale so much as to dominate the Bruins who were ranked second in the bracket, and Montréal was ranked seventh. Valerie was excited to meet the players. She never broke off from me though either as if she felt safer around me than being with the guys with the jacked up muscles and the high pain immunity. It made me feel more confident in myself and that this was where I needed to be.
She would leave to go to our seats while I stayed in the locker room. I needed to stay because I would be exiting from the locker rooms to enter the ice. All of a sudden I felt a big glove on my head pulling me backwards. It was the Canadiens starting goalie. "Hey kid, I don't mean to eavesdrop, but do you like that girl?" he smirked.
"Well what is it to you?" I asked rather confused.
"Just a little advice," he started. "Slow and steady wins the race."
"Thank you," I nodded half laughing half concerned that I displayed my emotions too easily. What if she could notice it too? Did she mind? Or was she the same way? I couldn't tell for the life of me if I was doing everything right or not.
The teams got called out and eventually so did I. As I walked out a thunderous applause greeted me. I was announced as a hero for what I did in Boston, and the applause I received matched the expectations of what a hero would receive. I wasn't really that deserving of it but I took it anyways. I saw Valerie on her feet as well going along with the crowd, but with more passion than anyone else in the room. This time I did both anthems perfectly fine. The applause after Oh Canada was enormous. I made my way to my assigned seat once again next to the Canadien bench.
As I got to my seat Valerie turned to the guy on her right and demanded, "Look I don't care what you say, just leave me alone!"
He was a large man with biceps made to kill. He had short black hair and mean red eyes. You could tell he worked out because he had plenty of muscle. "Oh come one cutie…" he started.
"Hey you heard the lady," I warned. "Let me put it in more aggressive terms: leave her alone, or get out!"
"Oh this here is a tough guy," he laughed. "Just because you wrote a measly little collection of cute poems, and literary rich short stories doesn't make you king of the world."
"I don't need to be anything to keep morons from grating my friends," I pointed out sternly.
"Oh well excuse me then," he said rolling his eyes.
I took my seat and the man got up to go get something I presumed. He came back with two beers in hand. "Here this drink is on me cutie," he said smoothly handing her one cup.
"You make me sick," Valerie sighed. "Just because you've got muscle and a body that most girls would kill for doesn't make me love you. In fact let me show you what I think of you." She dumped the beer all over him. His shirt and pants were soaked and his pale face went immediately red.
"You bitch!" He yelled. "I ought to smack you."
"Don't take your anger out on a girl because you wet yourself," I said maintaining a straight face. "It isn't the first time somebody's done something like that in public."
"You think this is funny?" he asked.
"Actually I think this is hilarious," I smirked.
He stood up with rage in his eyes, and adrenaline filling up his muscles for the fight or flight reaction. He raised his fist. I stood up and quickly and blocked his punch. Security handled everything from that point. After the commotion ceased I sat down again next to Valerie. "I don't think he will be bothering you anymore," I smirked.
"You're so brave," she said throwing her arms around me.
"Or foolish," I added. "I prefer the brave though; it sounds better.
The rest of the game went by without any problems at all. Montréal won the game three to nothing and took round one of the playoffs. We went out for dinner again that night. We went to a café to celebrate the victory. Of course I had to run into somebody I knew because that is just the way it worked with me. I could be in Zimbabwe and I'd run into somebody. There was a woman with short wheat field hair, and a pale face sitting alone at a table next to us. She was wearing a woman's suit coat over a white blouse with black dress pants. I knew the moment I saw her that she was Darlene; the first heartbreak, but a really good friend.
"Do you know that girl over there?" Valerie asked.
"I do," I said. "Why can't we ever have a day just to ourselves for each other?"
"I don't know," she said. "You should introduce me though, after all your friends are my friends now; I trust you to have good ones."
"Alright," I agreed knowing that conversation with Darlene was inevitable anyways. I got up rather nervous. This was the first physical contact we had made with each other since graduation. We had stayed in touch, but it had been a
long time since we had made face to face conversation. I knew that I would always love her and the other heartbreaks from before, but it seems with time the emotions get easier to control. I didn't feel the pain as much, and I was with someone new that love was growing with so it wasn't as awkward as it might have been a couple years ago, but I could tell that everything was still there. I approached her walking casually as if this was just a normal run in.
"Hello Darlene," I said.
She immediately looked up and for the first time in nearly five years her emerald eyes met my grey eyes. She looked at me long and hard. I could tell that she knew who I was, but she was examining how much I had changed. Five years is a long time for two friends not to see each other. "Walter?" she laughed. "Is that really you? My how you've changed. It feels like it has been forever."
"Or longer," I added. "What are you doing up here?"
"I am the secretary to the American ambassador to Canada," she spat. "Needles to say it is a thankless job. I won't be in this position much longer though. I found more for me out there than this. I know why you were here though and I must say that you did a fabulous job tonight singing. I must ask however, who this is with you?"
"Darlene this is my friend Valerie," I began. "I met her at game one of the series when I was a traitor to Boston. Valerie this is my friend Darlene. I met her my freshman year in High School when I was an outcast to my hometown."
They both extended hands and shook each others. "It is a pleasure to meet you," Darlene began. "I must say that I found you quite hysterical watching the game."
"What do you mean?" Valerie asked concerned.
"The shot of you spilling the beer on that guy was priceless. It was my highlight of the game. You should have seen Walter's face when you did that. I was about ready to die laughing."
"That was on camera?" Valerie asked.
"Oh the reporters are having a field day with it. The broadcasters were laughing their heads off. They were saying how you don't mess with Walter's girl."
"Well that just made the day a little awkward," I sighed. "I take it they also caught the dispute between us."
"And don't forget the hug," Darlene added.
My face went a bright scarlet. I was hoping there wasn't enough illumination to make my face noticeable. Of course even if there wasn't my face probably was glowing in the dark at that point. "Why don't I go inside get us all a couple of drinks," I said trying to avoid further embarrassment. "What does everybody want? It is all on me.
"I'll take some water," Darlene said.
"Same here," Valerie added.
"I'll be right back," I sighed. I walked into the café and ordered the drinks. As I came back out with the three waters Valerie and Darlene were both laughing.
"It didn't take long for you guys to bond," I observed.
"Yeah so watch out," Valerie warned. "I can learn just about anything about you now."
"Oh dear," I sank pretending to cringe in fear.
"Be careful not to spill the waters," Darlene snapped.
I then immediately got back up and placed the waters carefully on the table. "Two against one is hardly fair," I proclaimed.
"That's your problem," Darl laughed.
"I see there is no sympathy for you," Valerie observed.
"I'm used to it," I shot at Darl jokingly.
"I'm not that mean," she protested. "You know I would never hurt you… intentionally of course."
"Of course," I smirked.
"I'm going to use the ladies room," Valerie announced. "I'll be back momentarily."
I nodded in confirmation that I comprehended what she said. She left and I was left with Darlene alone for a period of time.
"So is she the one?" Darlene asked.
"It is much too early to tell," I answered. "I do like her though. She's something special. I don't know though, I mean it isn't like I haven't been in this situation before. The only thing that's been wrong in the past is that the person I've
loved has never loved me back the same."
"Well I think that she certainly shows interest in you," she observed.
"I've heard that one before," I informed her.
"I think she feels just the same for you as you for her, just take it from my perspective," she reassured me.
"I will because it has a more positive outlook," I agreed.
"No," she protested. "Do it because I am right."
"Consider it done then," I said putting trust in her. I don't know why, but I did. "What about you? Have you found the one yet?"
"I believe I have," she admitted. "I've wanted to tell you this for a long time; I don't know why, but I was too scared to. There's a reason that there was no man as good as you. You show empathy and read emotions better than any man I have ever met. Those qualities are often associated with feminine characteristics. Now I am not calling you feminine because you are far from it despite having those qualities. I knew if I couldn't fall in love you there would be no man who would be able to make me fall in love with them. I am attracted to those feminine qualities. I know you wouldn't have seen me any differently if I had told you this before. This is why I was so scared about finding love all those years ago. That day on the staircase at school I was crying because I never thought I could find love because I am lesbian. I never lied to you when I said you gave me confidence that someone could fall in love with me. I found the woman with the same empathy and the same emotional reading ability as you. I could never find the man half as good as you, but I found the woman just as good."
"I'm happy for you," I cheered. "This is wonderful. You've grown so much since I last saw you. I could never be upset at you for who you are. I do wish to meet this person though."
"And she wishes to meet you as I have told her much about you," she smirked. "Her name is Dianna. She's an amazing person."
"I wouldn't expect that you'd get anything less," I grinned.
"If I were you I wouldn't be waiting too long to get that girl," she started changing the conversation. "She's very beautiful and it will not take long for somebody to notice like tonight."
"I'll do my best," I replied.
"I hope your best is quicker than before," she whispered.
"What's that supposed to mean?" I snapped.
"What's what supposed to mean?" Valerie said from behind me.
"She's just making fun of the slow pace at which I work at," I faked a sneer.
"I trust she knows you best," Valerie laughed.
"Of course you girls always stick together don't you?" I muttered.
"Of course," Darlene scoffed. "Blame it on us."
"Is that supposed to make me believe you are innocent?" I asked.
"We are always innocent," Valerie replied.
"Well I do hate to part ways with you two, but I must turn in my resignation to the embassy before midnight otherwise I must work one more day and I'd most certainly dread that," Darlene mentioned.
"Alright then," I said. "I guess this is farewell for now then."
"Most dreadfully yes," she replied. "May it not be this long a wait ever again."
"I concur," I admitted.
Darlene embraced Valerie first in a hug, "It was a pleasure to meet you," Darlene said.
"As it was the same from me to you," Valerie responded.
Darlene let go and turned to me. "Hopefully we see each other again soon," she said as she embraced me as well.
"Until then I will I bid ye farewell," I said.
"Must you always get one formal comment into a casual conversation?" she asked releasing the embrace.
"Oh Darl, do you not know me well enough by now to presume that what I said was inevitably coming?" I asked.
"I suppose I should by now," she said. "I wish you both the best of luck. Have a safe journey; oh and Valerie take care of him will you?"
"I shall," she said winking at Darlene.
"Alright then, so long," Darlene sighed as she walked out of sight.
"She was nice, I really liked her," Valerie said.
"So did I," I admitted.
"I know," she said. "She told me a lot."
"Would you care to mention anything else she said?" I asked.
"You'll find out in due time," she smirked.
The rest of the evening went by smoothly. We talked all throughout dinner and I brought her back to her dorm. We took the stairs as to have more time with each other than taking the elevator. The conversations were casual; first loves, first heartbreaks, best day, worst day, most embarrassing moments. We walked down the hallway and reached the door that would lead to her dorm room. "It was a great night," I smirked looking into her deep blue eyes. I wanted to act on an impulse to reach for her hand, but I held back for the sake of not acting too fast.
"It still is," she said looking back into my eyes.
I checked my watch, which read, 11:59:42. "Oh come on give me some credit here there is only fifteen seconds left," I protested softly.
"Then I'd regret myself if I didn't act on this impulse before the night was over," she whispered throwing her arms around me again. I put my arms around her and held on for what seemed too short. We released each other looking back into each other's eyes again. "Mark that down as 11:59:53 to 12:00:27," she said.
"What if I don't?" I asked sarcastically.
"Then I'll make you," she retorted.
"Goodnight Valerie," I whispered.
"Goodnight Walter," she replied. "Keep in touch," she smiled.
"I will," I smiled back.
She opened the door to her room and took one last look at me as I did her before she slowly and silently shut the door. I remained in the hall staring at the door for a period of time then made my way out of the building.
We kept in touch through any means possible after that day. It was nothing like seeing each other, but it was all we had. I received my Masters Degree in English and my Teacher's license. I got a job back in my hometown teaching High School English Language Arts courses. I moved just outside of town to a smaller area about 20 minutes away. I bought a house with a large backyard that led into a forest with a majority of evergreen plants and a front yard that ended with a dirt road. My neighbors were sincere people, one of them even recognized me as the author I was and asked me to autograph their copy of my book. The other one recognized me as the scumbag who appeared for the Bruins in a Canadiens jersey, but I guess I grew on him. His house went up for sale though. He got a high paying job in New York and wanted to move closer. The house sold and I helped him with the moving process. I also helped my new neighbors move in. The couple was in their seventies and moved from Canada. Their last name was Wells. They came from Toronto to Massachusetts because of the open space in this part of the state and because the living was cheaper. The woman had short curly hair and green eyes while the man was bald with brown eyes. Both of them never stopped smiling, which made them nice to be around.
One warm spring day I was working in their garden because they couldn't really tend a garden anymore. I was mulching the soil when a car pulled into the driveway. They never told me to expect any guests, and if I had known I would have saved the project for another day. Now I looked foolish in dirty blue jeans and an old beat up sky blue short-sleeve tee shirt (it didn't have any holes in it, but I still felt kind of foolish). Then I realized it's not me who the person is looking for – I shouldn't even be worrying – for all I know they think I'm their gardener and nothing more. I resumed mulching when I heard the car door open and a beautiful woman stepped out. She was wearing a flower print orange sundress with high heels. She dressed modestly with a thin white silk top that covered her arms and her upper body. The dress went halfway down her calves. Her straight black hair and deep blue eyes along with her pale face were easily recognizable even after almost a year of no physical contact; it was Valerie. I pretended not to notice her and do my work like I was supposed to be doing. I was almost done anyways then maybe I could say hello.
Of course the garden was right by the steps of the house that led to the doorway. Even though I wasn't looking at her I could tell how close she was getting. Of course nothing could have prepared me for what would happen next.
"Boo!" she whispered in my ear. Although it was soft it was still sneaky nonetheless and caught me way off guard causing me to spring too my feet and back into the tall cactus plant behind me.
"Oh that hurts," I grimaced.
She immediately clasped her hands over her mouth. "Oh my goodness I'm so sorry," she panicked. "Are you okay? Let me help you."
"No I'm fine," I insisted knowing I had needles stuck in my back.
"Turn around," she demanded.
I did as I was told. I don't mess with people stronger than me – well usually that is.
"Oh my," she panicked. "There's got to be a hundred needles at the least. I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, please forgive me Walter."
"That already happened about when I saw your face," I muttered in pain.
At that moment the door to the house opened. The old man walked out onto the steps. "What's wrong over here?" he asked.
"Oh nothing I just backed into your cactus," I said casually.
"Valerie get him inside we'll have him lay on the couch so we can get those needles out," he ordered.
"Yes grandpa right away," she replied.
"I'd hate to get your couch dirty Mr. Wells," I insisted.
"Oh get in here before I have Valerie smack you in the head," he ordered.
So they laid me on the couch and the three of them spent twenty minutes getting the needles out of me. "I know where I've seen you before," Mrs. Wells said. "You were the one on T.V. with Valerie at that game last year. Yes that is most certainly it. Seeing you two together again makes me certain."
"That would be me," I admitted.
"I was so proud of Valerie that night," Mr. Wells shouted. "I may be a Maple Leafs fan, but when I heard she made friends with that guy who Boston hates I was proud."
"Well I hope they don't hate me I'm still a Red Sox fan," I mentioned.
"Oh you fool," he protested. "We all know Blue Jays are going all the way."
"Don't get distracted from what we're doing grandpa. We are trying to take these needles out."
"Right sorry sweetie," he said.
When they finally got all the needles out of me I was able to sit up. "I'll go and finish spreading the mulch," I said.
"Alright careful," Mrs. Wells warned.
"I will be," I assured her.
After I finished I went to my house to get myself dressed a little more appropriately for this special occasion. I put on long khaki pants and a short sleeve navy blue polo shirt. I then went back to the Well's house to meet up with them.
"We were just talking about you Walter," Mr. Wells said.
"About what specifically?" I asked.
"About how we've been with each other twice and both times I forgot to ask for your autograph," Valerie said quickly.
"Well if you have the book I'd be glad to autograph it," I said.
"Later," Valerie replied.
"Well you're certainly dressed nicely," Mr. Wells observed.
"Well I felt that I should look respectable in front of your company," I replied.
"Why don't you show Valerie around here," Mrs. Wells insisted. "She got a job here at the High School and she should learn her way around town."
"That's a splendid idea," Mr. Wells agreed. "What do you say boy?"
"I say that I'd be honored," I replied smiling at Valerie.
"Why thank you," Valerie smiled back.
"Any time," I said. "We might as well get going then."
"Yes indeed," Valerie replied.
We drove around the town and I showed her places I thought she would need to know. I showed her the cheapest gas station, a grocery store, a pharmacy, all the schools, the police station, and the fire house. When we went to the
High School I parked in the parking lot and shut the car off. "This is where you'll be working?" I asked.
"Yes it is," Valerie replied.
"You'll probably here some students trash talking the school I work at," I said. "When it comes to sports our schools are very competitive."
"Do you coach any sports?" she asked.
"No, but I direct the school plays," I said proudly.
"Well aren't you a big shot?" she laughed.
"I like to think so," I said.
"It's been a while since we've been in this kind of contact with each other," she mentioned.
"I do believe you're right," I agreed.
"But I guess we'll be seeing more of each other now," she assumed.
"Most definitely," I assured her.
There was silence for a long time. We just stared at each other wondering what to say. I knew now was the perfect time to profess my love for her, but I was having difficulties. All four previous occurrences I professed my love via hand written signed letters. I had never been as bold as to say so in an actual face to face conversation. I could feel myself trembling as my forehead began to perspire. I finally found something in me to say something, "Look, I think there's something I'm trying to say and you can probably guess what it is based off of pure speculation, I'm just having trouble with this."
"If what you're trying to say consists of the three words "I" and "love" and "you" then I am correct," she replied.
"Well yes," I admitted. "I love you."
"I'm just going to say I've waited four hundred twelve days for you to say that," she began. "I love you as well. Now was that so hard?"
"You could have said it first you know?" I sighed.
She leaned in over the shift stick and pressed her lips on mine. When she slowly drew back she whispered, "It was worth the wait."
"I'm sorry did I die a moment ago?" I asked.
"No why?" she asked.
"It feels like heaven to me," I replied.
"Stop it," she laughed. "You're too much."
That was the first day of the rest of my life. I was reborn through love.
"Walter," a voice called.
"What?" I asked.
"You still haven't answered my question," Valerie reminded me.
"Right," I began. "Well to be honest I don't know, but whatever it is it sure is great." I put my arm on her shoulder as we walked the same park we had walked all those nights ago the day we first met.
She put her head on my shoulder and asked, "What were you thinking about?"
"Just about the past: the day we first met, the day I came to Canada to see you, the way we contacted each other, and of course the day we professed our love for each other."
"Those were great days," she admitted.
"They still are," I said.
She smiled and looked up at me with her deep blue eyes looking so softly into my eyes. "Well then I stand corrected," she said. And almost as if fate should bear down its ironic sense of humor she took my place in stumbling down on to one knee tripping over the very same bench I tripped over our first night together.
"Or kneel corrected," I responded laughing hard. I looked down on her and reached out my hand to help her up, but something caught my eye. She had both her hands fully extended clutching a small black box which she slowly opened to reveal a ring. It was gold wedding band fit for a man's finger, but not just any man, but rather me.
"You know it has been one thousand three hundred ninety-two days since we first met," she began. "It has been nine hundred eighty days since our first kiss, and a woman tends to usually be criticized for being waited on, but you are in fact slower. Now I understand what Darl meant when she told me about you. I'm tired of waiting although the wait will have been well worth it with one word. So now I must ask you, Walter Wilson Williamson, will you marry me?"
I was astounded. I had bought her a ring too, but I never had the courage to propose yet and now Valerie had been waiting all this time counting the days, the hours, maybe even the seconds, and I was blind enough not to see what she had been waiting for all this time. I know she only asked for one word, but I just couldn't limit myself to one; there was more to be said in this circumstance. "Yes Valerie Katherine Croy I love you and will forever be yours through the bond of marriage because I love you."
She leapt into my arms and we embraced in a hug. I swung her around and held on tight as I ever had. In the background I could hear the applause of strangers who just happened to be around and felt the power of the moment. The love that we shared was bigger than us. Just like a particle from space the size of a grain of sand can make a long bright streak in the beautiful night sky bigger than it by millions of folds, so is this love that is bigger than two small people by millions of folds.
"I love you Walter," she said as I put her down.
"I love you too Valerie," I replied.
"Walter? Did we just die a moment ago?" she asked.
"I don't know," I replied. "It sure feels like heaven to me."