Their first date was really their fifth. Or maybe it was the sixth. It was hard to say really. They had talked so much online and on the phone before he set foot into the Ruby Tap that night, he felt so comfortable with her. So it was perplexing why he had all the jitters and nerves of someone walking into a blind date. He spotted her across the room, feet dangling from the high stool, fidgeting with her purse. Could it be that she was nervous too? She was far prettier than her profile picture had let on. This really threw him. He had already thought she was beautiful, but now the level to which reality confronted him on this subject only added to his nerves. As the evening wore on, the conversation flowed as easily as the wine. He poured the last of a bottle of Spanish red into their glasses. She raised hers to drink and he stopped her. “A toast” he offered. “to….” and his mind stalled. “…to Friendship!” he blurted out and tried to save it with a winning smile. She looked at him, quizzically, then after a pause offered her glass in agreement. Clink. What followed in the years to come was most assuredly more than friendship, despite his bungled toast. Or maybe thanks to it.
She took her keys out of the door. The house was completely silent. “Babe?….” she called out, questioning the emptiness. “I’m in the bathroom.” he answered, a bit loudly. She turned around to shut the door, and take off the day. “Hey, can you go get the mail?” he called out from behind the closed door. She replied okay, and put her shoes back on. Moments later she was reaching into the mailbox, her head filled with a review of the last meeting of her day, composing emails as she went about this menial task. Her fingers brushed against something not flat and envelope like. She dipped her head low to peek into the mailbox. It was blue. Tiffany blue. And small. She gasped, and her hand flew to her mouth. She grabbed it, and the handful of envelopes and ran back into the house. “Matt?!? There was a box….” she said as she opened the door, but lost her sentence as he emerged from the bathroom…dressed in his best suit and a big smile on his face. “Oh, so you found your engagement ring!” he exclaimed, the smile growing ever wider.
She had known him for years. She had known all of them for years. The benefit and drawback of a small Catholic high school is you know everyone. She had figured that choosing a large University would mean a whole new pond. She anticipated she would really be challenged to meet new people. So here she was, celebrating high school graduation and chatting about where everyone was headed in the fall. “Marquette” she heard from across the room. Her head spun around and she saw Stephen smiling. She didn’t know him well, but the smile she had always found endearing. “Roomies!” his friend yelled out and the two slapped hands in victory. That one she had known since Kindergarten. She walked over to them. “Marquette for me too.” she offered. She smiled. He smiled. All new was an exciting prospect, but she was secretly happy she would know someone. “Well then, you can be my secret girlfriend. So we don’t get lonely.” he offered. His tone was so genuine, it caught her off guard. She laughed a bit nervously, thinking this was a bit of a dorky suggestion. He smiled again, and she caught a glint of knowing in his eye. Six months later, halfway thru their first semester of college, it was a secret no more.