Thursday, November 28, 2019

Chapter 14_Popping the Question




(As always if you are new to the book here are links to the earlier chapters, Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3 Chapter 4Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9 and Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13).

The wedding was only two weeks away, and time had done a lousy job of making things better. Ms. Whitaker was still well on her way to becoming Mrs. Goodman and was reminding Byron daily of it. “You better not come up with some excuse why you and Julie can’t be there at the last minute. It’s only going to be the perfect wedding with you there.”

“No. I’ll be there.” Byron promised.


He had repeated it so often that to make up something now would be impossible. He had left himself with no alternative, and with the day approaching he had decided that today was the day. He had blocked off an hour before lunch to make the phone call but he was already 15 minutes in and all he had done was stare at her contact information on his phone.


It was over 2 years since they had spoken. What would she think when he called?

He wasn’t really sure what he was afraid of. What was the worst thing that could happen? The unknown was never easy for him to face and the more unknown the unknown was, the scarier it felt. But he was afraid for more reasons than that. He was afraid in part because he cared. He cared about Julie. And because he cared, not talking, not contacting, not knowing if she cared was better than reaching out and potentially removing all doubt.

While he wouldn’t care to describe he knew he was about to call and ask a girl on a date. True it was his wife, which, under most circumstances, would increase the likelihood of receiving a positive response, but in his case, he wasn’t so sure. As he stared down at the phone, the modern little rectangular box that did so much more than simply make phone calls turned in his memory to an old fashioned telephone receiver, tan and attached to a box on the wall with a long, curly, tan cord. He held the receiver in his hand and was staring at a scrap of paper with similar information, a name and a phone number, Jennifer Wriggly, 343-5645.

Jennifer Wriggly had shared a freshman English class with him. Despite her obvious lack of ability in the subject, Byron had found himself favorably impressed by her. Jennifer definitely had it covered in the looks department. A tall blonde with long wavy hair, blue eyes and very favorable shape, not that he would admit to noticing the last. But while she looked great what really drew Byron in was her confidence. I could never be so stupid and so happy with myself, he would think. But she was, and as a consequence had no trouble drawing in friends. Whatever self confidence you may lack, she could make up for. This was before graduate school, with its presentations and papers and all the academic praise. Silently sitting at the back of classes reaping in high grades was his strength, and he was happy doing it. So quietly he would sit, secretly, definitely not openly, not even in his own mind, envying her confidence.

Since leaving high school, coming to a new town and having school to occupy his mind he hadn’t thought much of dating. However, with the prom approaching, his roommates couldn’t seem to think of anything else. Day in and day out they pushed Byron to ask someone. “I’m too busy, and besides I have no one to ask,” was always his response. At first he said it and meant it, but the more they spoke about it, the more he thought about it and the more he thought about it, the more he realized there was someone, one girl that he would love to go to the dance with.

The truth of the matter was by the time he realized that he would love to go with Jennifer it was way too late. There was only a week left until the dance and the chances that Jennifer had not been asked were so astronomical, actually by making some assumptions he had calculated it to be 1:149,000. So, he decided to drop the idea, at least for that dance. The next dance would be a much better opportunity.


The whole dance idea had left his mind until one day at the end of English class. Hoping to get some ideas on the next paper he had stayed after to speak with the professor. While discussing the use of asides, or over use, in his mind, in Shakespeare he realized there was a book in the basket underneath Jennifer's seat. Suddenly asides were just that. He wrapped up his conversation with the professor and went to the desk and opened the book. It was manna from heaven, not only was the book Jennifer's she had left full contact information in the front of the book and was requesting whoever might find it to go ahead and contact her. Jennifer was asking him to call her. Byron quickly wrote down the number, several times, on a scrap of paper with her name on it and placed the book in his backpack.

“Was that book left by a student?” the teacher broke his concentration.

“Yes”

“I can take it and bring it next time, if that would be easier for you.”

“Oh, um, yea, I guess that would be best.”

The teacher had robbed his chance of calling Jennifer to return the book. He did have her number though, a prize he would hold onto for several months until the next dance when roommates again began to prod. Over those months Byron debated over and over again if he should ask her to the dance, after all, even if he asked her before anyone else, she would probably say no.

After preparing for weeks the day he had promised himself he would call arrived. It had to be early enough to ask before she was asked by anyone else, yet late enough that he didn’t look as crazy as he was beginning to think he was. So, there he was, receiver in his hand staring down at the scrap of paper. Dialing was never such a difficult task. He started, stopped, started over but eventually the phone rang on the other side.

“Hello”

“Jennifer this is Byron and I have something to ask you, see in four weeks, the school will be putting on a dance and all of my roommates will be going to the dance, and since they are all going I thought, at least what I mean is.” He paused to breathe.

“Actually this is Brittany, Jennifer's roommate, I can go get her.”

“Oh...yea, that would be great.” Byron was glad this was a phone call so no one witnessed how much he was able to blush.
Jennifer came on and Byron ran the speech again without pauses.
“Who is this?” She questioned
“I’m Byron, I’m in your English class.”
“Well, um, Byron, I haven't even thought about the dance. I mean, I might be visiting home that weekend. I really don't know.”

“Oh, yeah, of course, I shouldn't have asked so soon. I'm sorry about that.” There followed a long pause.

“That's okay. I'll see you in English class, okay?”

“Yeah! I'll see you then.”

He never followed up to find out if she was going home. She was in English class the Friday before, and he assumed she avoided any eye contact with him, but he couldn't be sure because he worked so hard to avoid it with her. Somehow, he felt if they made eye contact, she would have to officially turn him down. Since he never talked to Jennifer again and avoided all the talk of the dance, his eyes would even avoid any hallways lined with pictures from the dance. He would never find out if she went to the dance with someone else or not, and he wanted it that way.

After this, he would avoid his roommates for a few weeks before each dance, engrossing himself in his school. His freshman year was the only year he even had roommates and therefore Jennifer was the last time asking a girl out had been a serious thought.

Now here he was standing again, looking at the phone. Who would have figured that when his crushed ego hung up the phone, it would take him 15 years to pick it up again. He sat up in his desk pulling himself out of his flashback and went back to business. At least the dialing part sure had gotten easier over the years.

“Hello, Clark County Credit Union.” The voice on the other line said brightly.
“Oh, excuse me. I thought this was Julie... must be a wrong number.” He went to hang up the phone when he realized the “b” in the contact information he had saved, probably stood for bank. That way he would be able to get her new contact information for money transfer without having to speak with her. He quickly picked up the phone, “Are you still there?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, I need the phone number for Julie Smith.”

“Sir, this is a credit union.”

“Yes, I know. She has an account with you.”

“I'm sorry sir, we can't give out personal information.”

“No, you can. I mean, I'm on the account.”

“Who am I speaking with?”

“This is Byron Lewis”

“And your relationship to Julie?”

“She's my wife.”

“Your wife?”...and you need her phone number?” He was beginning to realize how ridiculous this sounded. When he originally put her bank number instead of her own he never thought of what an awkward position it would put him in. He couldn't think of a good excuse; and the truth was the worst of them, so he went for the straight forward approach.

“Yes, I need her phone number.”

“Just a minute sir.” The pause became belated enough he was beginning to think she wasn't getting the phone number.

“Hello sir, this is the manager. What is it you need?”

“I need my wife's phone number.”

“Sir, it is difficult to believe that being her husband you would need to acquire her phone number from us, therefore we will need to verify your identity.” Next followed a lengthy conversation involving a social security number, birth date, mother's maiden name, first family pet, and the name of his first elementary school. All these he passed with flying colors, but then came the final question: “What day were you married?”

“Married?”

“Yes. Your anniversary.”

“Right. well, I know my anniversary,” he slowly stated, as he started scrolling through his calendar hoping he had his marriage written on there. “Well, it was two years ago... and it's currently 2008,” he continued his slow speech.

The banker helped with the math, “So, it was 2006, sir. What day?”

“Oh... yeah... the day. Here it is! I mean... June 5th. That's it, June 5th 2006.”

“That's correct. You probably should have called us for her number a week ago.” Byron looked at the calendar and realized it was June 9th, but was growing tired of the banker's commentary. He knew asking a girl out wouldn't be easy, but this was worse than he had imagined. After the dreary inquisition, he was given the number. It was now a half hour later and he was no closer to having a date. His patience was wearing thin.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Anytime you need your wife's number, just give us a call.”

Despite how much Byron hated the banker having a joke at his expense, the sarcastic comment did ensure that the first thing Byron did was save the new number and note the first as belonging to the bank. He again picked up the phone, praying the banker had given him the correct number. If he went through anything else he would spend his time coming up with an excuse for why his wife was yet again absent.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Julie?”

“Yes, who is this?”

“This is Byron.”

“Who?” This was starting to sound a lot like his call with Jennifer.

“Byron Lewis. I'm your husband.” The other end went silent and he heard muffled whispering.

“Oh, sorry, I couldn't hear you at first, we must have a bad connection. How are you doing honey?” Wow, he hadn't expected such a warm welcome.

“Good,” he cautiously responded.

“How has your day been?” she asked enthusiastically.

“My day? Well, it's been a good day. How was yours?”

“Oh, it was so good. You know, spending time shopping with Becky. I didn't expect you to call while you were in Alaska.”

“Alaska?! What made you think I was in Alaska? I've never been to Alaska.”

“So you're enjoying your trip, then?”

“I'm not on a trip! I'm in town.”

“Well honey, I have to run, but I'll give you a call back when I get home around 5.”

“Five?... um, do you have my number.”

“If it's easier for me to call you in your hotel room instead of on your cell phone that's fine.”

“No, you can use my cell. But, do you have it?”

“Is it the number you called me on?”

“No, that's my office. But that would be fine too. But five really isn't going to...”

“Okay, I'll call you then and there. Love you! Bye.” Before Byron could answer, the line went dead. That had to be the strangest phone call he had ever participated in. Had she heard him? He sensed she had, but could make no sense of her responses. He was beginning to wonder if asking her was even worth it, a whole night of a conversation like that. Had she gone crazy in just two years. But he really needed to show up with her at an event. So he better at least take her 5:00 phone call. He pushed for his secretary.

“Miss Whitacker, do I have an appointment at five?”

“Yes sir, you have a meeting with the Greshems?”

“Could you see if they are able to reschedule? I would like that hour free.”

“I will let you know.”

As he predicted the Greshems were happy to reschedule. There meetings were beginning to be quite routine. “Do you remember what we discussed last week?” he would ask.

“Yes”

“Well, how did it go?”

Mrs. Greshem would look down and say, “Well I would have tried it but Randy…..” Everything came down to Randy. And he believed Mrs. Greshem was growing as tired of coming up with what her husband had done to stop her from doing any thing as he was of hearing it.

Five o’ clock came and Byron sat ready at his desk. At about 5:10 he wondered if she was really going to call, By 5:15 his patience was wearing thin. ‘Why couldn’t she talk to me when I called earlier?’ he thought. After twenty minutes staring at the phone and debating in his mind if she was actually going to call he thought he better occupy his mind with something else. He had several books he had started and hoped to get a chance to finish. He walked over to his book shelf and picked one up. “How to manage time, and be on time while having a wife.” A book by his old professor. He laughed when her first read the title, but as the clients with such issues began to stock pile he decided he had better read it. Just as he opened to where he was in the book the phone rang.

“Hello, this is Doctor Lewis,” he replied.
“Hi Doctor, this is Julie.” The voice on the other side sounded much less peppy and happy to speak with him then it had earlier today.

“Yes, Hello Julie, I thought you were going to call at five.”

“I said about five…. Anyways why did you call. Is there something wrong?”

“No, I actually was wondering… well before I ask, what was the deal with Alaska?”

“Oh um… I was with somebody and I had told her… well it doesn't matter. Basically I didn’t expect you to call and I was not in a good position to talk. If you had called at a better time, I wouldn’t have had to say what I said,” She said rather defensively.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know there was a specific time I was supposed to call.” He said in a somewhat irritated fashion.

“Anyways, why did you call?”

“Oh yes, the reason I called was that I was hoping you would be able to... well, let me explain first.” He paused for acceptance but none came, so he started to think of how he would explain. Nothing came to mind, so he simply stated, “See my secretary is getting married in a few weeks and I was wondering if you could come?” there was a long pause.

“Why?”

“She has been planning this for months and she really wants you, I mean us, to be there.”

“As long as you’re there why does she care if I’m there?” she said.

“It would be nice, it’s getting hard to come up with excuses as to why you’re not at these events.”

“You think it’s easy for me? Where do you think Alaska came from?”

“I understand, but this is really big. It would be very nice if you could attend. I realize you have no obligation to attend as it is not part of our contract but I would appreciate it.” He had really hoped to avoid begging but it was looking like that exactly where this was headed.

“My company threw a big five year anniversary that fell on our anniversary last week, do you think it was easy to explain why my husband was, once again, not at the company party, and couldn’t be with me... ON OUR ANNIVERSARY? Did I call and beg you to come? No. I had to make up the story about Alaska.”

“This is really important.”

“Oh, my life's not? just yours.”

“I didn’t say that,” he said, more aggressively than he meant to.
“Don’t get angry. You the one who called and wanted to talk.”

“Your right, I’m sure we can work something out.” He paused for a moment to formulate his thoughts. “You come to my event I will go to one of yours.” Secretly he didn’t really see this as fair but now wasn’t the time to vocalize this.

“I’m not really sure I want you to come.”

“I thought you were sick of making excuses?” her grasp of logic seemed to be slipping.

“I am sick of making excuses but I didn’t say it was worth going to your events.” There was a pause as he wondered what else he could possibly say. But before he made the huge mistake of offering her money, she said, “I’m kidding I can come as long as you realize you owe me.” You owe me was a little strong in his mind so he made sure to clarify.

“You mean I will go with you to ONE of your events.”

“Yes, that’s what I mean. Why is everything a contract with you? Well, when is this big day of yours.”

“It’s next Friday night at 7:00.” He said quite relieved to have the asking part out of the way.

“Friday will work for me.”

“Good, well I will talk to you later then.”

“Wait, where is it?”

Byron was so focused on getting her to say, ‘yes’, he had completely forgotten about such details. “Sorry, of course you need the address, it is going to be at Lake Las Vegas, you know the main hotel there. The party will be in their outdoor greenhouse. Do you need directions.”

“No, I can work google as good as the next girl.”

“Okay I will see you there then.” He said, again trying to wrap up the call.

“Are we just going to meet there?” he heard as he began to hang up the phone.

He picked the phone back up, “Yea, I thought that would be most convenient.”

“So, you want your secretary to see that you do have a wife?’

“Yes?” he paused because of from his mind this question made no sense, hadn’t they already established why she was attending, a recap of the call seemed unnecessary in his mind.

“And you want your secretary to think we are happily married?”

“Yes” once again he didn’t see the relevance the question had.

“And we are going to come and go in separate cars?”

The line of questioning became crystal clear. “Good point” he hated to admit the questions that seemed so stupid led to something so smart. “We could meet in a nearby parking lot and then go from there.”

“You know, it would be easier for me if you just picked me up.”

“At your house?”

“Yes, at my house.”

“Yea, that’s where you live.” Wow he realized this phone call better end soon, it was not making him look to bright. “Yea, I can pick you up. Where do you live?”

“I still have your email, I can email you my address.”

“Perfect, I will see you then.” He breathed a sigh of relief as he went to hang up the phone.

“Wait,” he heard from the distant receiver.

“Yes, is there something else?”

“What time?”

“Didn’t I say it was at seven?”

“No, what time are you going to pick me up?”

“Oh, yea.. well how far do you live from Lake Las Vegas?”

“About fifteen minutes.”

“Okay I will pick you up at 6:30 then.”

“Sounds good, I will see you then.”

He paused to make sure she hung up first. He had imagined all he had to do was get her to say yes, little did he know you had to plan every detail before you called. With all that went into a date he was beginning to be happy that it was a part of his life he was able to skip.


Here is the link to Chapter 15

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