“I’m taking a customer out for dinner and I’d love for you to join us.” He asks the simple question with such enthusiasm, as always.
I smile and confirm availability.
This is the first memory of Nancy that dances into my mind
Had that been over 2 years already?
Back to reality.
I watch those two little girls. All dressed up, climbing a pole outside the wedding reception hall… with giggles…a much different story than 2 years ago
That dinner changed so many things.
Another little ripple in this thing we call life.
My mind flashes back again
“My dad paid for Nancy and her daughter Meghan to stay at the waterpark hotel.” Innocence from his daughter as I help her get ready in her bedroom.
My look is puzzled to be sure.
“You girls ready to go?” he enters the room
“Of course we’re ready daddy.” Her simple reply
I smile and nod
We are first to arrive at the restaurant, being prompt is a trait he possesses, and one that I’d forever be working on if he hadn’t patiently learned how to overcompensate on my behalf.
This is dating. For me. For him. For us. Two years ago.
I had no expectations meeting Nancy.
Just another customer.
He the VP of a prominent business, entertained a lot, always including me when possible. Another memory I appreciate.
Blonde hair, dyed. Tan. Trendy cute dress. Floral with lace. Sparkling costume jewelry.
Nails done. Fresh makeup and lipstick.
A cheerful disposition.
The first 3 seconds have passed.
What are your thoughts?
“Mom, who is that little girl?” her daughter Meghan is dressed adorably, the apple and the tree.
“Meghan, this is my daughter Anna. Anna this is Meghan. You girls are only a year apart, I’m sure you’ll have a great time talking about girl stuff.” Meghan flashes a toothy grin to Anna who has always been a bit hesitant at meeting new people. I laugh a little to myself, we’re all so very different in beautiful ways.
“Nancy, so great to see you again. This is my girlfriend Mikayla. Mikayla this is Nancy. Nancy owns a great store and does an amazing job of promoting it in their small town”
He’s so good at introductions, and making everyone feel comfortable.
I drift back into real time.
“Oh look, Nancy and Mark are here, I didn’t know they were coming.” I hear his excited words, catching a quick glance as we exit the church.
I’m here today as his guest.
I had initially debated but truly wanted to be part of this day….his older daughters’ wedding. I enjoyed watching their relationship grow over the past few years….those kinds of things make me smile.
My stomach does a little flip seeing Nancy.
What is wrong with me?
“Would you care to join me in the reception line? We’ll be thanking all the guests for coming.” We stand outside the entrance to the church…the wedding party is lining up.
He really is so good at including me, even now.
How long has it been since we’d stopped dating?…. over 6 months now I suppose.
I decline his offer gracefully and begin the journey to my car as a light mist begins falling. Grabbing my umbrella, I venture to an intimate structure close to the church. It has silently been calling to me since I arrived this afternoon; I can no longer ignore its’ beauty.
Covered in a variety of precious stones and containing quaint little twists and turns as catholic hymns drift into your ears. The cozy little rock tunnels feel so comforting yet eerie as the rain increases with intensity….the other guests scramble to hide inside some of them.
I venture onward to the top with my red and white plaid umbrella.
From this place I can see the church, the people.
It is pouring.
3 years of dating has left me so empty. So full.
I am alone here. Among couples.
Why did I come?
I venture back down making my way to the church.
A small group remains.
I smile and say my hellos. Initiate conversation.
And I want to say hi to her, but the words don’t come out.
Not from my mouth, nor from hers.
Another flashback plays…
“So your daughter said you are paying for Nancy’s stay.”
“Well, the company is. I’m not personally paying for it.”
He adds a few scolding words to his daughter for repeating information he had told her were confidential.
The gears in my mind grind away at something that even I cannot explain.
I force myself to snap back to the present.
“Are you going to the reception or were you planning to leave?” we are alone. He is driving us to the reception.
“I plan on staying to support you for the entire day, that plan hasn’t changed” I smile gently. Whole heartedly. His face brightens.
We arrive and find the section of tables housing his family.
I feel warmth from a different memory.
While dating, we would work a crowd of people like no other… starting on opposite ends and reconnecting to share our bottomless notes from our love of networking. We make people feel comfortable.
“I’m starving, you hungry? Something to drink?” his thoughtfulness for others is one of the things I probably miss the most.
“Yes, I’m starving. Need caffeine, I’m going downhill” a sinus infection has held me down for 2 weeks and the recovery time seems very slow. He disappears to find the requested items.
His best friend and wife find our table. They sit down.
Conversation resumes. It is pleasant, we play catch up on life.
Famished and tired, I down both the snack mix and the caffeine quickly.
Additional chairs are pulled up as we all squeeze in a bit….
In dances Nancy…. .
Another opportunity to speak.
One that continues to elude both me…. and Nancy.
I think I’m trying?
At one point my feet decide to remove me from the table and place me at another. This one filled with only his family.
My vocal chords return.
I listen, catch up on so much that I had not been a part of over the past 6-9 months. My insides smiling happily, people are just the best things ever. I hug a few, their journeys have not all been easy ones lately.
A little later he finds me once again. We exchange smiles as he asks if I have any immediate needs, I assure him all is good.
We are handed complimentary drink tickets and venture to the bar to review offerings.
Reconnect with the best friend and wife at a high top close by.
Normal conversation transpires….
Nancy dances back into view.
I go mute.
Like I’m here but really a million miles away.
At some point I find myself alone with her at the table.
I can do this.
“The girls are sure having a great time. So different from when they first met.” The words come out and even I do not know how they sound.
“Yeah, they’ve really become good friends.” Her simple, short reply
“Did he tell you that I was in the area 3 weeks ago? We had dinner.” She states and smiles happily at me.
My brain sorts through files, did I know this information? Somehow I feel the answer is yes.
“ummm…no, I don’t think I did know that.” I feel like a teenager trying to somehow fit in….times ten.
“We had a great time. He’s such a great guy and dad.” Is that syrup I’m smelling? Where is it coming from? The bar?
“Oh wait, yeah. I think he did mention you were going out to eat. Sorry, I kinda forgot about it.” I’m struggling here.
Forgot about it?
No. I had blocked it out.
I think those were the words I’d been looking for here.
Wait, did I say those?
I sure hope not.
“I’ve visited a couple times this summer. He’s such a great friend. I make sure to let him know when I’m going to be in town.” Yep. I smell syrup….but I detect a hint of something sweet burning at the same time.
Do old friends have these kinds of conversations?
She’s a married woman.
Why is this all adding up to wrong?
The others return to our table.
I am relieved.
My sinus infection throws me into an unexpected coughing fit that sends me almost choking to the bar for water.
“I’m ready to go.” I sputter the words to him through gulps of water.
He looks at me concerned.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
I nod my head.
“I’ll just say a few quick goodbyes. Stay here, I’ll be right back for you.”
He has zero knowledge of the conversation that transpired.
I’m just not sure what’s wrong with me.
Somehow I wish I knew.
I make the long drive back to my hometown.
In total silence.
All except for that one little song that is playing on repeat
The one inside my head…
“Turn turn we almost become dizzy
Falling out of a world of lies
Could I have been a dancing Nancy…..a dancing Nancy
Could I have been anyone other than me?”