Despite Tom's longing for a wife, he wasn't seriously looking for one. He'd been turned down too many times and just didn't want to risk it anymore. A lot of people looking on resented Mr. Bill's intrusion on our private lives. They said it wasn't his business, but I believe the hand of God was in this. Neither one of us would have done a thing to get this romance going without Mr. Bill nudging us along. So the conspiracy began.
Mr. Bill began talking to Tom about my virtues, but Tom was a bit hesitant. He knew I was much younger, and really didn't think I'd go for him. On that work day at the camp, he was looking me over in a wistful, I'll-never-get-her sort of way, and I was looking him over in a wistful, he'll-never-be-interested-in-me sort of way. Mr. Bill and his wife were looking at us both and plotting ways to get us together. Here are some of the ways they did that:
**They took me to see Tom's bookstore in Ohio. I got the grand tour, including the basement apartment Tom used to live in, and the upstairs apartment where he lived at that time. Mr. Bill's wife remarked that she had never seen the apartment so clean before. I thought the place was terribly dusty, and that the man needed a wife. Tom watched me work a little puzzle he'd been working on for months--one of those puzzles where you have to arrange small objects that are enclosed in a clear plastic box, by moving the box around to slide the objects into place. I solved it in a matter of minutes, put the thing down, and moved on. He was stunned.
**They took me to Tom's church, where he was to teach the adult Sunday school class for one Sunday morning. But first, they took us both to the store to buy Tom's first tie. He'd always worn jeans and flannel shirts to church before, but they told him he'd need a dress shirt and tie to teach the class. He didn't have one, so Mr. Bill's wife and I picked one out for him. After church that day, we went to dinner at the pastor's house. I was sitting out on the porch talking to the pastor's two kids when Tom came out and sat down on the other side of the door from me. In a few minutes, both kids sort of disappeared, leaving Tom and me alone. I am convinced their parents somehow had a part in this, since they were just as eager as Mr. Bill and his wife to see us get together. We found out later that while we were awkwardly trying to make conversation, the four of them were inside discussing us.
**They took us to dinner at a steak house restaurant. They also arranged the seating so that Tom and I sat next to each other. When Tom shook the steak sauce bottle before using it, the lid flew off and he shook steak sauce all over me! Poor Tom was badly embarrassed, but I just laughed it off. Of course, Mr. Bill and his family thought it was hilarious.
Through these and other similar outings, Mr. Bill helped us get to know each other. But he couldn't keep nudging us forever! So he says to me, "If Tom asked you out, would you go with him?" I answered that I would, but that Tom would have to do the asking. I was not going to initiate things myself. So then the following phone conversation took place between Mr. Bill and Tom:
"Why don't you ask Cathy out?"
"I don't think she'd go with me."
"I think she would. Just ask her."
"Oh, I don't know."
"You're going to have to ask her yourself, though. She's an old-fashioned kind of girl, and isn't going to ask you herself."
"Well, maybe I will. I'll think about it."
"Do you have her phone number?"
"Probably. I'll see."
"Here it is. Write it down."
So Tom wrote it down. But it took him a few days to get his courage up.
to be continued. . .