He was my blind date but was he that special man?
Dateline: March 1988
Allyson had been bugging me to run an ad in the personal column in the newspaper for weeks, and I finally agreed, mostly to get her off my case. She was delightfully ditzy, a concerned, loving friend whom I valued highly. She was very pregnant, exuding a radiance and euphoria that made me happy for her and miserable for me.
We were both twenty-eight, she a stay-at-home homemaker, struggling to make ends meet on her husband’s paltry paycheck; I was an administrative assistant for a large publishing house, where I’d worked since graduating high school. It was hard for me to believe I was heading for ten years with that firm. I’d moved up steadily, receiving several promotions. I had my own tastefully decorated one-bedroom apartment and plenty of casual dates, but none of those relationships had even come close to the altar. There were all kinds of surveys claiming that women over thirty who hadn’t hooked a mate were destined for permanent singleness, so I knew I didn’t have much time left and had subconsciously resigned myself to being single forever. The idea had a martyristic appeal for me; I saw myself as a brave single woman in life’s jungle, a Jane without a Tarzan.
Allyson had worked as a secretary for my company. She was blond, petite, and perky—a Marilyn Monroe look-alike who attracted every male within a ten-block radius. Amused, I used to watch men of every conceivable age hovering around her desk, making up ridiculous excuses for coming over to speak with her. She was hired the year after I was, and married one of our junior editors a year after that. Her husband, Julius, was a stolid, average-looking man, and considering all the prospective suitors Allyson had fended off, it surprised everyone when she accepted his proposal. Julius’s sparkless personality seemed at odds with Allyson’s quirky charm, and I eventually came to the conclusion that it was a marriage of opposites. I was maid of honor at her wedding, and because I was only twenty years old at the time, felt no particular jealousy, believing my shot at marriage would come in time. I entered eagerly into the festivities, giving Allyson a huge wedding shower.
Allyson continued working for several years, then decided she wanted a baby. Month after month, nothing happened. And she once confided to me that nothing took the pleasure out of lovemaking more than attempted procreation. She and Julius saw doctors, had tests, and were assured everything was fine—relax, enjoy, and stop fretting so much, they were ordered.
Their sixth anniversary had passed when Allyson finally conceived, and she was so ecstatic, she danced around the office in a daze, humming and being joyful. Julius, too, walked around with an idiotic grin on his face, thrilled at the prospect of finally becoming a father. By then, still single, I couldn’t help the ugly twinges of jealousy that assailed me, and I found it hard to deal with Allyson and her childlike ecstasy. Then, in her third month of pregnancy, she miscarried, and her depression over losing the baby was so intense, she had to seek psychological counseling. Part of me felt unaccountably glad, the rest of me guilty and furious over the uncharitable feelings.
I felt badly for Allyson and Julius, and when I saw how attentive and loving he was, giving her flowers every day, taking her to intimate lunches and dinners, occasionally holding her hand and whispering a word of comfort as she sat listlessly at her typewriter, I finally understood the simple reason she had married him—he was a genuinely terrific man. I experienced a few new flashes of envy, which I firmly squelched.
Allyson conceived again, and immediately quit the firm. Even though her obstetrician had assured her that the job hadn’t been responsible for her miscarriage, she became ferociously protective of this new life, determined to shield the child from any possible harm.
I sat with Allyson after a hard workday in her spring-sunny kitchen, sipping a cup of coffee while she downed glasses of milk like an alcoholic on a binge. Allyson spoke fanatically about her baby having strong bones and teeth, chattering excitedly. She smiled at me over the rim of her glass, talking about the crib they had bought, the adorable baby clothes, and how excited the prospective grandparents were about the impending birth. I sighed a little, tired of hearing the same stories over and over again, but she was my friend, so I resolutely listened and nodded, stifling a yawn.
“Cheryl,” she said, “I just know if you run an ad in the personals column, you’ll find a terrific guy! Try it—who knows, you may be walking down the aisle before my baby’s born!”
I smiled ruefully at her. “Allyson, the world needs people like you—wide-eyed Pollyannas who see everything through rose-tinted lenses.”
“Don’t be such a downer, Cheryl!” she chided. “I’ve never been happier! Now it’s your turn. The doctor says the baby is disgustingly healthy . . . did I tell you I went for a sonogram last week?”
I nodded tiredly. “Yes, Al, you told me—three times.”
“Oh, sorry, kid, I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, it’s just that I’m so excited, and you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I want to share my joy with you.” She glanced sharply at my face and said, “Oh, honey, I’m such an idiot! I rattle on about how happy I am, and here you are, still alone . . . oops,that wasn’t a very tactful thing to say, was it? I’m sorry. Listen! My big brother’s coming to town. Would you like to meet—”
Exasperated, I interrupted her and said, “Allyson, stop apologizing for everything, will you? I’m happy being single. I won’t die if I never get married and have children. I’ll just be Aunt Cheryl to your baby. And please, Al, no more blind dates! I’ve had enough! If I met your brother and didn’t like him, it would be very awkward. I don’t want to spoil our friendship that way. Okay?”
I was trying to keep my tone light, but I felt chilled at the death-knell sound of the word “alone.” Hearing it lately had dredged up feelings I’d long since banished to the back of my mind. Who was I kidding? I wanted to get married, to have a man in my life who loved me, and who I could love in return. I just didn’t think I had a chance. Men in my age group had their pick of twenty-year-olds with slim, tight bodies and flowing hair. I was attractive enough, with a creamy complexion, large brown eyes and thick, chestnut brown hair.
Before I went home that night, I picked up the evening newspaper and flipped to the personals column. There they were—a whole bunch of sensitive, well-heeled men, almost all claiming to be ideal husband material. I shook my head. If there were really that many wonderful men out there, I certainly hadn’t ever run across any of them! I had tried singles bars, adult education, blind dates arranged through friends—all with no success.
Allyson insisted I was too intimidating, with my high salary and glamorous-sounding job, and suggested I “tone myself down,” but I steadfastly refused to play the helpless female so many of these men seemed to want.
What did I have to lose, putting an ad in myself? Nothing. And what had I to gain? A lifelong companion, perhaps. Put that way, the decision was taken deftly out of my hands. I took a sheet of paper and carefully composed my ad.
The following evening, Allyson read it over carefully, one hand gently caressing her protruding belly. “Attractive career woman, twenty-eight, no religious affiliation, looking for intelligent single man, between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-five to go to dinner, plays, rock and classical concerts. Serious suitors only, please.”
Allyson looked up at me, making a face. “Cheryl, it’s kind of stiff, don’t you think? You’re the editorial genius, can’t you punch it up a little?”
I laughed at the comic mask of displeasure on her face. “Allyson, I want a nice, dignified man with interests similar to my own. I’m also looking for a possible marriage partner, and that ad sounds—well, like me! I think my ad spells it out perfectly.”
“Sure,” Allyson said, “but it doesn’t make you sound much fun. ‘Serious suitors only, please.’ Why don’t you change that to ‘I wanna get married!’ ”
I laughed uproariously and hugged her hard. “Please, Allyson, let me do this my way, okay? Let me see what kind of responses I get. If no one interesting answers, I can always run another ad . . . one with a little more punch, as you suggested. I’m not expecting love at first sight or a white knight to sweep me off my feet. I’m a practical gal!”
“Keep the sarcasm to yourself, Cheryl. I’m glad you’re finally taking a positive step for your future. Being married is terrific!”
“Sure, sure, you’ve told me that for almost eight years. All it’s gotten you is a basketball belly,” I teased.
“You’re just jealous,” Allyson sniffed, her china blue eyes twinkling. “I bet when you get married, you’re going to get pregnant on your wedding night!”
“Please!” I said in mock modesty, “don’t you think we should talk a little first, Allyson?”
“Well, a few words,” she agreed, giggling.
I opened a post-office box and sent in my ad, feeling optimistic and upbeat—and young—for the first time in years. Allyson’s enthusiasm was infectious. Even if I didn’t meet my “lifelong companion,” perhaps I’d have some enjoyable times. It had been a long while since I’d been out on a stimulating date.
My first couple of responses were disheartening. I expected intelligent, well-written letters, and the first two I slipped hopefully from my post-office box were disappointing. Both men sounded illiterate, and I immediately tossed those two prospects into the circular file!
The third letter started off with a couplet, which was so unexpected, I chuckled, drawing stares from other people who had come to the post office for their mail. “Is your ad as prim as you? Let’s get together for a drink or two!” He went on to say that he was thirty, had just moved into town to take “a job writing a newspaper column, loved theatre, movies, and classical music, and wanted to take me out to dinner the following Saturday night. His grammar and spelling were impeccable , which might have been expected from a writer, but I knew from my own job that many writers had only a nodding acquaintance with grammar. I was thoroughly and happily impressed! He signed the letter, “Looking forward to meeting you. Robert.” I said the name aloud; it sounded masculine and appealed to me very much.
I wrote a short, carefully constructed response, giving Robert my phone number, saying Saturday sounded fine to me. A mischievous thought, most unlike me, came into my head, and before sealing the envelope, I added a P.S. to the note: “I may be prim, but I’m also prime; I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful time!”
Robert called a few days later. His voice was deep and resonant, instantly arresting, and we spoke pleasantly for a few moments. He certainly sounded nice enough, but I found myself suddenly trembling, questioning my judgment. I’d gone on blind dates before, but this guy was an utter stranger! What if he was a rapist-murderer, wanted by the police?
I was so attracted by his warm voice and outgoing manner, though, I made a compromise with myself.
“Robert . . . I know you wanted us to spend the evening alone together, but—would you mind if we double-dated with some friends of mine?”
“Cheryl, that sounds fine to me,” he assured me heartily. “After all, supposing you’re a distant relative of Lizzie Borden’s? A man can’t take any chances in this day and age, can he?”
He made me feel a little foolish, but I called Allyson and asked if she and Julius wanted to join us for dinner and a quick trip at a local carnival. When I described Robert, her voice became shrill with delight. “Cheryl, he sounds perfect! He’s a writer—you work for a publishing company! It’s destiny! Of course we’ll go with you, but my due date was yesterday, so we may end the evening at the hospital! Oh, Cheryl, I just know this is it! I can hardly wait to meet him!”
While her excitement was infectious, it also gave me a headache, and I told her we would discuss it further after the big date.
Robert picked me up promptly at 4:00. He was about six-feet tall, muscular, with a familiar-looking smile. When I first opened the door, I was sure I had seen him before, but the sensation, like a camera’s flash, was quickly gone. We grinned at each other. I was wearing a white dress, and had studiously dieted and lost five pounds, so I felt reasonably svelte and pretty. I could see the appreciation on his face as he surreptitiously looked me over, and we laughed as we caught each other’s gaze. I offered him a glass of red wine, took one for myself, we clinked glasses and sat down together at the table. I spent the day making the table as romantic-looking as possible. We discussed his new job, and he asked intelligent questions about mine. Even though we hadn’t yet exchanged last names, we were instantly at ease in each other’s company.
Robert had a sharp wit and probing mind, two qualities lacking in most of the dates I’d had in the past. The possibility of a serious romance with this man made me feel as if my blood was running more rapidly through my veins, a heady sensation of anticipation. It was a lot more than just mutual attraction; I felt Robert could be a good friend as well.
We left to pick up Allyson and Julius, then drove to the carnival. I introduced Robert to Allyson and Julius, who greeted him cordially. Allyson kept giggling uncontrollably, and I found myself feeling irritated with her. We roamed the carnival grounds, looking out of place, but having a great time. Robert won an adorable stuffed koala bear for me, and I squealed like a little girl. Julius and Allyson trailed after us, elbowing each other like school children, and I began wondering if I hadn’t made a mistake in asking them to chaperon Robert and me.
Allyson was afraid to go on the Ferris wheel because of her condition, so Robert took me up alone. The view from the top was magnificent, thousands of twinkling lights winking at Robert and me from below, as if approving the budding relationship. He traced a gentle finger over my chin, and when I turned to face him, pressed his lips warmly over mine. It was a sweet kiss, and I responded eagerly, wrapping my arms around his neck and returning the kiss with fervor. He held me close and we laughed together, an exciting sound of pure pleasure. Robert smiled at me and we kissed again, parting with reluctance as the ferris wheel slowed to a stop. I felt a little dizzy as we climbed down, and it wasn’t only the ride. Was the cliché really happening to me? Were Robert and I the delirious victims of love at first sight?
We climbed off the ferris wheel holding hands, and strode slowly to the bench where Julius and Allyson sat waiting for us. We saw immediately that Allyson was doubled over and ran the rest of the way, stopping short in a cloud of dust.
“She’s in labor,” Julius said unnecessarily, his face looking pale and scared.
“Well,” I said heartily, covering my nervousness with humor, “Allyson said she might have the baby tonight—she always was late! I guess we’d better go to the hospital right away.”
“Sure,” said Robert quickly, his hand shaking in mine. “I’ll drive.”
We escorted the parents-to-be to the parking lot and settled them into the backseat, where Allyson took deep breaths and Julius timed her contractions with the second hand on his wristwatch. Robert drove expertly, tossing reassuring comments to the frightened pair. He periodically squeezed and caressed my hand while I carefully studied his handsome profile. Why did he look so familiar to me? I’d have remembered meeting someone this good looking, I was sure of that!
Allyson’s deep breathing had given way to sporadic moans; apparently the pain of her labor had changed, deepened. I smiled comfortingly at her, receiving only a strained grimace in response.
The ride to the hospital wasn’t long, but it seemed interminable, and by the time we finally got Allyson there and through the admissions process, motherhood appeared imminent. Julius and Allyson disappeared into a labor room while Robert and I settled down in plastic chairs to await the big news. I was surprised at the depth of his nervousness and concern; after all, he’d only just met Allyson and Julius. After considering it for a few moments, I decided I really wasn’t surprised; Robert was obviously a caring, empathetic man. I felt very happy being there with him.
“Cheryl, I keep thinking you’re a beautiful spirit who’s going to fade from my sight,” Robert said suddenly.
I was astonished; I’d been thinking exactly the same thoughts about him! I said earnestly, “I know what you mean, Robert . . . I’ve been dating for more than ten years, and I’ve had special feelings for a couple of guys, but today, meeting you . . . I hope you don’t mind if I come right out and say this, but—I think I’m in love with you!” I stared at him, hoping I hadn’t ruined everything with my impulsiveness. He was bringing out qualities in me I didn’t know I had! Good ones, apparently, because the delight on his face shone like a beacon. We clasped hands and didn’t speak for a few moments.
“Cheryl, I feel the same way you do. You know, I’ve been out with a lot of so-called women—little girls barely out of their teens, who have no idea of what an adult relationship is all about. All they want is my body!” I laughed and snuggled close to him. He continued, “Sure, laugh—women think they’re the only ones with that kind of problem, but they’re not. I feel as if I’ve found my ‘Ms. Right’ in you, Cheryl, but I’ve never been this impulsive.”
“Neither have I!” I assured him. “There is one strange thing, though—have we ever met before? I could swear—”
At that moment, a nurse popped out and asked brightly, “Are you two with the McCorkindales?”
Robert leaped anxiously to his feet and blurted, “Yes! I’m Mrs. McCorkindale’s brother . . . how is she? Is the baby all right?”
I was rocked! Allyson’s brother! No wonder he looked so familiar—he was practically her twin! I opened my mouth to speak, then clamped it shut again. It wasn’t the right time to pursue the matter. Apparently a little hoax had been played on me.
“Mrs. McCorkindale had a seven-pound, nine-ounce boy, squalling and healthy,” the nurse said, beaming. “Would you like to see him?”
We followed the nurse to the huge window overlooking the nursery and watched as she held up a screaming, purple-faced morsel of humanity. He was so tiny! We gazed at him together for a few moments, entranced by his miniature arms, legs, and head—not to mention amazing lung power. I held up the koala bear that Robert had won for me and said, “This is my first present to you, little one. Welcome to the world!”
Robert pulled me into his arms and kissed me hard, right in front of all the innocent babies in the window. I stared into his exquisite eyes, so like Allyson’s, and said, with mock anger, “I don’t know if I should forgive you for deceiving me . . . I believe honesty is very important in a relationship.”
“Oh, I agree,” Robert said softly, kissing my face, eyes and neck. “It was all Allyson’s idea that I answer your ad.”
“I know,” I said breathlessly, holding him tightly.
“Mrs. McCorkindale would like you two to come see her for a few moments in her room,” interrupted the nurse, a little embarrassed. “We’re bringing the baby in, so you’ll both have to wear masks and gowns.” We donned the baggy yellow gowns and, laughing, slipped masks over our mouths and noses according to the nurse’s instructions. We entered Allyson’s brightly painted room. It was a heartwarming picture—Julius, his arm around Allyson’s neck, sat on the bed; their precious son was clasped in her arms. Holding hands, we approached them, and their happiness was so palpable, we could almost feel it reach out to touch us.
Allyson’s eyes were dancing above her mask. She looked exhausted, but her voice still held its customary perkiness as she asked, “So, when are you two getting married?”
“Tomorrow,” Robert said instantly.
“Whoa! That’s a little too impulsive, isn’t it?” I protested weakly.
“From now on, impulsiveness is going to run my life,” Robert said, and laughed. He ran a questing finger over the baby’s cheek and stared longingly at me.
“Robert, we’ll make it three weeks from tomorrow and not a second sooner. Let’s let Allyson recover from giving birth, okay?” I said, grinning.
The wedding was simple and lovely. Allyson and Julius stood up for us, and baby Julius cooed with pleasure throughout the ceremony. Nine months to the day later, I gave birth to my own son, a handsome nine-pounder with his father’s—and aunt’s—incredible eyes.
Looking back I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to find Robert. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted. I’m glad I waited for the right man to come along.
Copyright © 1988, 2012 by BroadLit