In the summer of 2000, I packed up everything I owned and moved to Pennsylvania to start my dream teaching job. I had spent two years living and working in Miami and though it was great to be near so many family and friends there, my teaching job was much less than ideal. So, on the advice of a good friend I started looking at jobs in the Philadelphia suburbs and miraculously (and I mean that) I was able to get a wonderful job. Because I felt so blessed to have the job, and my heart was still somewhat healing from a previous relationship, I poured myself into my work. I also committed to myself that I wouldn't date anyone for awhile so that I could be sure that when I did I was able to really be myself and know what I wanted.
I did just that for over a year. In the Spring of 2002, a "nice young man" mustered up the nerve to ask me out. I accepted and the rest is history.
Just kidding! That nice young man was not Mark, but he was a stepping stone to him (more on that later).
It was Thursday, the 19th of September. About a month before, I had broken up with the "nice, young man" and was back to pouring myself into work. Because school had started only a couple weeks before, I had plenty to do. In case I didn't mention it, I loved my job and found tremendous joy in making my classroom a fun, happy learning environment. On that particular afternoon I was busy writing lessons for the upcoming week, creating fun, engaging learning activities for the kids to do when they finished their assignments early, and of course grading papers. Time flew by and before I knew it, I looked at the clock and it was after 5. I was starting to get a little hungry, but still had some things to get done. I decided to eat the small amount of leftovers that I had from a Chinese take-out lunch that day. I walked down to the teacher's lounge, heated up the food and retreated back to my classroom to finish up my tasks. Finally, around 6:30 I packed up and headed home.
It was about that time that Mark was heading back from a business meeting down in Washington D.C. Because he was going to be getting home after the normal dinner hour, his company would allow him to expense the cost of dinner. He decided that dinner alone wasn't any fun and began making phone calls to find someone to go with him.
Now, if it was me, I would call one of my girlfriends in such a situation, but apparently that is against the guy code. You can't call up one of your boys and say, "Hey, you want to go grab some dinner with me. Don't worry about the expense. It's on me, or I should say, my company." Apparently, that is WAY too much like a date. So, he needed to find a female to take to dinner. He started making phone calls. The first female could not be reached after several attempts. The second female was not available that evening because of a previous commitment. As he thought about who else to call he started heading in the direction of the third female's house because he was sure she would be available. She was a nanny and though she worked a little later than most people, she was almost always available and up for something like that. He called and got her voicemail, but figured she was on her way home so he just continued toward her apartment. As he got within 10 or 15 minutes of her house, she called him back. Bad news! The family she worked for had an evening commitment and she had to work late. He explained his situation and she said, "Why don't you call Susan? She lives just down the street from me."
Mark said, "Do you think that is a good idea?"
"Sure. You guys know each other," said the third female.
"Yeah, but there is the issue of the "nice, young lady" who has had a tremendous crush on me and her friendship with her," said Mark.
"It is just dinner. Don't worry about it," she said.
I walked into my apartment, laid my stuff down and started to thumb through my mail. There was nothing of interest so I grabbed the remote, turned on the TV and sat down to unwind from the day. It was about that time that my phone rang. I groaned and then lifted myself to go pick it up. I glanced at the caller ID before answering, but didn't recognize the number. I figured it was probably the wrong number because I didn't get a lot of calls on my land line.
"Hello," I said.
"Hey Susan, it's Mark." (I thought to myself, "What is he doing calling me?") "Have you eaten? Because, I am on my way back from a business trip in D.C. and am on business expenses for dinner. I have called three other people and no one else could go. Your friend down the road suggested that I call you since I was already headed in this general direction," he said.
I paused thinking, "Well, I did eat a little bit of something earlier, but nothing I would consider dinner. However, there is the issue of my "nice, young lady" friend whose heart you recently 'broke' by telling her that her feelings for you would never be returned." As I contemplated those things, I decided it was just dinner and what could it hurt. After all, I was obviously his last resort. He had called three other people and if I couldn't go he was just going to scrap the idea and head home.
"No, I didn't eat yet," I said. And was surprised by the excited flutter in my stomach.
"Great! How soon can you be ready to go?" he asked.
"Pretty soon. Where are you?" I asked.
"In your driveway," he responded.
Now, if I didn't already know him to an extent, that would have creeped me out and I would have had to sneak out the back door, hide out for the night and then move away so that Mark the stalker could never again find me. But, I did know him well enough to not be alarmed.
I quickly took a look in the mirror, slapped on a little bit of fresh make-up, ran my hand through my hair and then put on a new outfit. I headed out the door and hopped into the passenger seat of his car.
"Glad you could make it," he said.
"Well, there is nothing more flattering than being a guy's last resort, so how could I say no," I sarcastically remarked.
As we drove away, I suppressed the butterflies in my stomach and reminded myself that it was "just dinner."
to be continued