I am not old, nor am I young. I am not calculating, nor am I a sentimental fool. I like to think that I am a woman of my time. Yet, as my father lay dying, surrounded by machines, tended by nurses, visited by doctors, I learned a lesson in love that is timeless.
My father had been ill for a very long while. He bore his illness with great dignity, thanking those who cared for him and often caused him pain. He never gave up hope that he would get well, he never abandoned his faith that God would watch out for him. Through the months and years of his sickness, my mother nursed him. She wore herself to a frazzle yet never complained. I saw her exhaust herself as she moved him from bed to wheelchair and back again. She slept on a couch near the hospital bed in their living room for more days than I can count. I thought she was crazy. I thought she would die before him and for what?
When I found the answer to that question, I was humbled beyond words.
In his last days, my father was barely lucid. He was in pain. He was medicated. He was dying. Yet, everyday my mother was there by his side. She held his hand. She brought his favorite aftershave. She combed his hair and spoke to him kindly and gently as she had for over fifty years of their marriage.
I came to visit when I could and one evening I walked in to the intensive care unit to find my father had taken a turn for the worse. The nurses were sticking tubes in him. My mother stood quietly in the corner of the room watching, her face expressionless. Suddenly a nurse called to my father, trying to determine if he could hear her.
“Can you hear me?” She hollered. My father’s eyes fluttered.
“Do you know who that is?” The nurse hollered again and this time she indicated my mother.
My father’s eyes flickered. They rested on my mother’s face. Without hesitation, with the greatest affection, with the voice of a young man, he gently answered.
“That’s my girlfriend.”
I had to look away or I would have cried. Now I knew why my mother cared for my father so diligently. I knew why he cared for her all the years before that. Because she was his girlfriend. Because he loved her and she loved him and in all the world there is nothing more precious than that. When he died he left that love behind so I know that, while my mother may be lonely, she is never alone.
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By Paris Taylor
I had no intention of going out that night. I never did when I came home for the summer break. Who would remember me and much less, I could hardly recognize the people I grew up with anymore. Iâ€™d left this town behind when I was seventeen. In my opinion, there never was anything here for me.
So why I had a change of heart, Iâ€™ll never know but as my brother headed out the door I heard myself saying. â€œMind if I come, too?â€
For the next few hours I stood in a smoky bar wondering what on earth had provoked me to be here when instead I could have been curled up in bed with a good romance. I was totally bored and totally right about my decision to move away.
He doesnâ€™t look like heâ€™s from here, I thought as I watched three men walk in. There was just something about the way he carried himself that caught my eye. Thatâ€™s the only way I can explain why an evening that was moving in painful slow motion, suddenly wasnâ€™t nearly long enough. Through the smoke, and the people jammed together like herring in a net, I wondered, would I get to meet him?
Our eyes touched for just an instant. It was a start. With a little squirming through the crowd, just maybe. He was speaking to my brotherâ€™s friend the next time our eyes connected. I had found my opportunity. The band was blasting. Far too loud for such a small bar. Our conversation was reduced to snippets. Brief sound bites that left me wishing I had one of those fresh breath strips.
(From here, really?!) â€œYears ago.â€
â€œDentist. Stop by. Need some marketing.â€
What often seems like a great plan the night before, just isnâ€™t in the morning. To do or not to do. That is the question. Drive by. Have a look. And keeping driving. Go for a skate on your blades and just kind of show up. Tussled and casual.
â€œThereâ€™s a hole in my schedule, it hardly ever happens but I have a few minutes. Come on.â€
Ohmigod. He wears shirts and ties and the way those pants drape. Was that a giggle? Are those girls laughing at me? Heâ€™s done this before. Iâ€™m such a bimbo.
â€œWhat do you think?â€ He passed me a photo of a case.
(Does it matter?) â€œLovely. Great smile.â€ My fingers brushed his as I passed it back.
I floated out, my baggy shorts drooping behind me. He had said he was going to the Salmon Dinner, hadnâ€™t he? I had tickets and time. Time to clean up, do my hair, apply my make-up and go with my family to the dinner. My family? What could I be thinking? Theyâ€™d watch my every move. Impossible!
Try eating over-cooked salmon when your throat is dry and your heart is pounding like a jack-hammer and there are seven hundred people eating with you, none of whom the one youâ€™re looking for. Until youâ€™re on the way out the door and you see him.
A meeting of the eyes.
â€œHow was dinner?â€
â€œLong. The speeches, I mean.â€ Such a nice, warm laugh.
â€œI didnâ€™t think you were here.â€
â€œMe, either. You, I mean. I knew I was here. I didnâ€™t think you were.â€ Oh boy.
â€œWeâ€™re going across the street, thereâ€™s a band. See you there?â€
Maybe it was the way he held my hand that night. Maybe it was the way his warm, brown eyes sent tremors of anticipation through my body. And just maybe it was because I had red-hair and he had a soft spot for red-heads.
Itâ€™s really hard to say.
But one thing I do know. There are times in your life when moving home is the right thing to do. The only thing to do.
â€œWhat are you doing, hon?â€
â€œReading my horoscope,â€ I said.
â€œWhat? You believe that stuff?â€ He took my hand and gently brushed his fingers over the platinum band accenting my lightly tanned skin.
â€œNah. If I believed that stuff, Iâ€™d be incredibly wealthy and living on an exotic island by now.â€
â€œCome here.â€ He laughed again, deep and rumbly, and held me in his arms.
â€œHow stupid is that?â€ I said as I tossed the book into the trash.
Paris Taylor currently lives in Grand Falls-Windsor, on the exotic island of Newfoundland, Canada, where she manages a busy, dental office by day and writes romance by night. She considers herself terribly fortunate to have such a bountiful life. http://www.paristaylor.ca/index.php
By Lori Pyne
My husband, Chris, had no idea how challenging it would be for a romantic and creative soul to be involved with a logical and practical gal. I can still remember his expression of horror as I sat there with a calendar before me and discussed the dates that would work for our wedding. I explained that I had checked the schedules of our parents and siblings and had narrowed our choices down to three dates. I then told him why I liked a date a year and a half in the future. I asked what he thought.
He stated that we could not discuss a wedding date since he had not proposed yet.
Worried that I had read the situation wrong, I was relieved to confirm that he did want to get married. I did not understand what the problem was. He had a year and a half to propose.
He protested that I had eliminated any suspense or surprise. Everyone would be waiting. He could not just take me out to a nice dinner and propose. He would have to do something unexpected.
I shrugged, said do your best, and turned my mind to wedding planning.
My husband’s best turned out to be incredible. He spent months plotting and planning. Long after our discussion, he had everything in place.
As a surprise for his mother while she was visiting, Chris arranged for a magician friend to procure a number of tickets for the Magic Castle, a private magician’s club in Hollywood. He then had all of my girlfriends call me and ask what I was doing Friday evening. Each then gushed that she had always wanted to go to the Magic Castle. I knew we had extra tickets so I kept inviting friends to join us.
His mother’s face was priceless when we pulled up to the Magic Castle. She had wanted to go since hearing about it from our friend. After enjoying a few smaller shows and performances, our group of fifteen decided to see the show in the largest room. I was disappointed when the room filled before we got in the door. Everyone decided to wait for the next performance.
Our group filled the first two rows of the next performance. I whispered to my husband that this magician was known for taking assistants from the audience and that we would have to make sure that the magician tapped Chris’ mother. The girlfriends, who overheard my comment, agreed with my idea and we chatted about how to draw the magician’s attention. I never noticed that my normally gregarious guy was mute.
Throughout the performance, the magician picked many of our group to assist in his magic. I was very disappointed when he finished his act and had not pulled Chris’ mother on stage.
As the clapping slowed, the magician announced that he had one last bit of magic to perform and needed a special lady to help him. I squealed and pointed to my future mother-in-law. Even as he stood in front of me with his hand extended, I kept pointing to her. I was shoved on stage by my friends. Once there, I fell into the role. I pointed, examined and marveled as the magician took an ordinary sheet of paper and cut it with ordinary scissors into a row of connected heart. I gasped when the hearts burst into flames revealing a slender chain on which an object dangled.
The magician revealed that the object was a ring, turned to me and asked me to marry him. I stood on the stage with my jaw agape as he explained to the audience that he was not proposing for himself but for the gentleman in the front row.
To thundering applause, my future husband leapt onto the stage and bowed. The magician clasped him on the back and handed him the ring. Chris then pulled me to his chest and gave me a fierce hug.
I pulled myself from his arms and pointed to the ground. Before the roomful of people, he knelt in front of me and asked me to be his wife.
I burst into tears.
I do not remember leaving the stage. The next thing I remember was being congratulated by friends as we all stood in hallway. After minutes of hugs and tears, the magician stood beside me and said that as I had not said yes to either of them, he figured he was still in the running.
I spun towards Chris and said, “Yes.”
I explained to the grinning magician that I had to go with the guy who knew how to create real magic.
OCC/RWA Book Buyers Best Contest Coordinator
By Sara Black
Whenever I see Pride and Prejudice I find myself sighing in my seat and thinking how I wish life were more like the movies. While watching the latest adaptation, for the second time, the perverse realization of what that would actually entail came over me.
So, in the interest of assisting Tech Support towards being the most romantic boyfriend he can, I am creating a useful list for him.
Don’t tell me you love me.
Of course you’ve already told me you love me and that spoils it a bit, but we’re just going to have to backtrack a bit. Please stop telling me you love me this instant.
Instead I would prefer that you direct very intense stares at my neck at every possible moment. Extra points if I am doing something graceful or requiring particular skill and you stand behind me with admiration warming your cool eyes. Of course I must be unaware of these stares, except for a few moments where our eyes meet and then quickly part again. Should I catch you at it too often however, the illusion will be ruined. Above all, I must not actually know you desire me.
Don’t be too obvious in your affection. This of course goes with the above. You should not pay too much obvious attention to me. Furthermore, when you do pay attention be sure to be as confusing as possible. Engage me in excellent conversation, make me laugh, and then the next time we meet be as cold and reserved as possible. Do not encourage me at all towards a romantic attachment. If anything, deter me from one with veiled hints, or even send some friends to crush my spirits. Bonus points if I end up sobbing in confusion.
Make things as difficult as possible. If men just declared their love the instant they felt it and offered to marry the object of their admirations the world would be a far poorer place. Leave the city I am in for a fabulous weekend in Italy or just move away entirely. Declare you love me in such terms that I feel it is an insult; try to denigrate my mother while you are at it.
Have several others vying for your affection. How romantic is it if I should win your heart when there is no other competition? Make sure the other party is nasty and underhanded. And also rich.
If possible, orchestrate some sort of terrible family tragedy that threatens to destroy all my happiness. Only when I have sunk to the deepest despair can I truly realize how much I love you. Of course, the fact that you may not love me will only deepen my suffering.
And if you successfully achieve all that, I might finally consider you the romantic boyfriend worthy of all my love and affections.
by Sara Black
(Sara is Gina Black’s daughter)
December 1, 1988. Iâ€™d bolted upright in my bed before the alarm shrieked and knew, just knew, that on December 1st my life was going to change. I had no reason to assume that day would be any different than the rest. And I canâ€™t explain how Iâ€™d come to this conclusion. I just did.
Giddiness carried me through the school day.
Everywhere I turned–in the halls, in the quad, in the gym, by the lockers–I hoped to discover who, or even what, would rock my world enough to waken me before my bedside alarm startled me to consciousness. Believe me, not just anything or anyone could accomplish such a feat. Seriously.
But I tucked myself into bed that night, confused and defeated. Nothing had changed.
Closing my eyes, I decided to forget the whole thing. Iâ€™d been acting ridiculous and merely chocked it up to an over-active imagination. Life was the same as ever. And I just wanted to make it through my senior year, relatively unscathed.
So, I did just that.
The following year, Iâ€™d just taken a retail job at a mall. My second day on the job, in walks this guy about six feet tall and around twenty-years-old. His hair: dark and spiky. His eyes: hazel. His fingers: long and slender. He wore all black and carried a portfolio. An artist.
Oh, man. An artist. I was hooked.
As I stood behind the cash-wrap, staring at him, he flicked a glance at me and smiled.
All I could do was pray I was returning his smile.
Without stopping, he proceeded through the store and into the back room. A co-worker. Woo-Hoo!
Each time we spoke over the next few days, we became closer. Soon, I found I looked forward to going to work at the mall–even the day after Thanksgiving!–just so I could get to know him better.
He was different than any other guy Iâ€™d met. He made me laugh.
About a week and a half later, I woke up before dawn and resolved that was the day to make my move. Our storeâ€™s holiday party would be coming up soon and I wanted to go with him, but I had to act quickly because two other girls from work made it perfectly clear they wanted to go out with him, too. And I was the newcomer.
Definitely a monumental decision for me, as Iâ€™d never had the courage or confidence to ask a guy on a date–shyness had nearly crippled me in high school.
That evening, I was at the register, and even through the crush of holiday shoppers, I knew the moment he entered the store.
He came straight over to me and waited while I finished helping a customer.
Then he stepped up to the glass counter, and said, â€œHere. I have something for you.â€
A cassette. He was giving me something? I didnâ€™t know what to say, except, â€œThanks.â€
â€œItâ€™s a mix of songs I like. Thought you would, too.â€
A mixed tape meant a guy really liked you, right? A familiar giddiness built inside me as I studied the cassette. For Michele was scrawled across the top. Even spelled my name right.
I swallowed back my excitement, and this time, I didnâ€™t even need to summon the courage to lean in closer to him. â€œDo you want to go to the Christmas party with me?â€
He flashed me a smile. â€œYeah, I do.â€
Just then, a customer barreled toward us and dumped her purchases next to the register. She pulled open her checkbook and asked, â€œDo you know the date?â€
â€œItâ€™s December 1st,â€ I answered, too happy to care that sheâ€™d interrupted such an important moment.
And that was when it hit me. December 1st. The day my life was going to change.
As I rang up the womanâ€™s purchase, I sent him a sidelong glance.
He stood off to the side and waited for me.
And this time, I know I smiled.
Okay, so my life-changing moment happened a year later. I just needed to be patient.
This past December 1st, he walked into our house after work, concealing something behind his back.
â€œHere. I have something for you,â€ he said.
When I held out my hand, he presented me with an iPod. â€œI filled it with your favorite songs.â€
Reminding me all over again why I love him.
So when friends ask me whether my husband and I still feel the romance, even after thirteen years of marriage, I grin.
â€œOh, yeah,â€ I tell them. â€œThe proof is in my iPod.â€
Happy Valentineâ€™s Day!
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