Her trainer was Joan Norton. Joan was friendly, patient and a good instructor. Within a few days Peggy was on her own as a bank teller.
After properly serving a couple of customers, she decided to try being more of an ‘up’ person. The next customer who came to her window was a middle aged lady who asked, “How are you today?”
“Fantastic, and I expect to be better!” Peggy replied.
The lady smiled broadly. “What a nice thing to say! You’ve even made me feel better!”
After that Peggy began using upbeat expressions as much as she could. It was easy to feel that they made a positive impression on customers. It also helped Peggy get over the ‘mopes.’
At the conclusion of the first morning without her trainer looking over her shoulder, Peggy began to feel comfortable in the new job. At lunch, she noticed a man in the employee’s break room watching her closely. She nudged Joan whispering, “Who’s he?”
Joan whispered back, “Ralph Tarrance, the ogler! He likes to ogle all the female employees. You know the type, peek down your blouse, watch your butt when you bend over, study your legs as you walk.”
“He gives me the creeps.”
“He gives everyone the creeps. Not to worry though, he’s harmless….. I think.”
Mr. Johnson stopped by after lunch. He told Peggy, “Joan tells me you picked it up faster than any teller she’s ever trained. Because she’s trained every teller we’ve hired in the past eight years, you should feel complimented.”
Peggy’s heart soared. She vowed to spend all of her first paycheck on Ned’s Christmas. Maybe the day wouldn’t be so lonely after all.
On Christmas, the presents helped a little, but not much. Everyone kept remembering Peter’s twinkling eyes as he decorated the tree and his enthusiasm as he handed out each present. Last year Ned found a new larger model two wheel bike under the tree. Peter had gone outside with him and made sure he could stay upright on the bigger model. Peggy and Ned sat on the couch remembering together.
“It’s just not the same, Mom,” admitted Ned.
They’re eyes met, and then the tears they were each holding back began to flow. They sat hugging on the couch in front of the tree for a long time. It was a really good cry.
When Margo arrived for Christmas dinner, she tried to cheer everyone up. It was useless. Their gloom simply overwhelmed Christmas.
Finally, around 4:00 in the afternoon, it began to snow. By 5:00, they all bundled up and went for a walk. The walk in the new fallen snow proved to be the highlight of Christmas. Ned threw snow balls for Snug to catch. Snug managed to get everyone to laugh as he caught the snowballs and crushed them in his mouth!
New Year’s Eve, thank goodness, didn’t become an emotional time for Ned. It was a huge problem for Peggy. She kept remembering past New Year’s with Peter. Ned went to bed at 10:00. Peggy followed him a few minutes later. The big bed never felt as lonely as it did that New Year’s Eve night. Her tears soaked the pillow. She recollected singing Auld Lang Syne in Peter’s arms. What a mistake! Mother keeps telling me not to remember to block it out. Is she kidding?...... It was after 1:00 when sleep finally came to a very sad young widow.
January proved to be a godsend. Peggy’s new job became her lifeline. She began to look forward to work every morning. She enjoyed talking to the customers. Slowly, her thoughts turned outward toward others. Bit by bit, she spent less time feeling sorry for herself. Her former enthusiasm began to emerge.
The other bank employees were all friendly too. Except for the creep, Ralph Tarrance.
In early February, Mr. Johnson called Peggy into his office. He congratulated her on her progress and awarded her a five percent pay increase.
Peggy told him, “I enjoy banking. I plan to go for my MBA.”
“If you do, Peggy, we will pay your tuition.”
Her heart stopped. “Are you serious?”
“Yes I am. The bank is planning to expand. Hamilton is growing. Our policy is to promote from within. You are an intelligent, well-educated woman. Your attitude and your work are excellent. There’ll be a place for you here as the year’s progress. When you get the tuition bill, Peggy, bring it to me.”
Peggy jumped up hugging an astonished Mr. Johnson. He turned red, then he smiled.
“Wait till I tell my wife I got a hug from a pretty young woman today. She’ll be very jealous.”
As Peggy returned to her teller window, she reflected on Mr. Johnson’s comment. I am a young widow…..Young widows are known as home wreckers. Mr. Johnson is at least twenty-five years my senior, so I’m not a threat to him. I bet some of my friends might view me as a threat, though. I’m going to have to be cautious.
That afternoon, Peggy took a bathroom break. As she walked back toward her teller window, she almost bumped into Ralph Tarrance in the narrow hallway. She offered a tiny smile, then walked past him. She felt herself shudder because she felt certain he was ogling her backside.
Mother and Peggy joined forces to make Ned’s ninth birthday a fun day. They went to Ned’s favorite restaurant and to a Disney movie. As she tucked Ned in that night he admitted, “I really missed Daddy today.” Peggy’s heart lurched.
“I missed him too, sweetheart. But you know your dad wouldn’t want us to be sad. We need to find the fun in each moment. Let’s make a pack, ok? When we feel sad, we look for a way to turn things happy. We need to find a way to make the people around us smile.”
After a long pause Ned said, “Ok Mom, I’ll try.”
“I need to try too.”
The next day she skipped lunch so she could go up to the University to seek information regarding MBA classes. The registrar obtained her college transcript in a few minutes. After reviewing her records, he delivered some bad news.
“There is one problem. In order to get into the MBA program, you need an undergraduate course in economics as a prerequisite.”
“My B.A. degree is not enough?”
“Yes and No. We require a B.A. degree. In addition we require at least 3 undergraduate hours in micro economics. You also need 3 hours in accounting. Fortunately, you took accounting when you were in school.”
“How can I take an economics course?”
“We have a night class in economics starting in March. I can enroll you in the class. If you pass, you can begin your MBA program in September. Because you’re working full time, I recommend you plan to complete your MBA studies over a two year interval.”
Peggy checked into the cost and signed up. Back to school, here I come. Assuming of course that Mr. Johnson will keep his promise to pay the tuition.
The Economics department at the college was located in a new, very modern classroom building located right on the campus quadrangle. Not knowing exactly where she was going, Peggy left the house early so she wouldn’t be late for the 7:00 o’clock class. To her surprise, she found the classroom easily. She sat down and watched as her new classmates entered one by one. They were all so young! Peggy felt ancient.
As an undergrad, Peggy always sat in the first row in class. Sitting up front let the professor know she was a serious student. It also helped her focus on the subject and avoid any distractions from classmates.
She was unaware that a pleasant surprise awaited her.
At precisely seven o’clock, Professor Myron Keyes, entered the classroom. He was outrageously handsome.
Almost six feet tall, dark hair neatly combed, with penetrating eyes. He probably weighed about 190. Peggy guessed his age at less than forty. For some reason she could not understand, she looked at his ring finger. Empty. If he’d been female, I’d know he wasn’t married. With a male, one can never be sure. Some men don’t wear wedding rings.
Peggy Waldren, shame on you. You’ve been a widow for less than a year. I just can’t help it. He’s truly a knockout!
The next thing she knew, he put on some horn-rimmed glasses. That did it. He’s the perfect professor. Distinguished, handsome and polished. My dad was a college professor. Is it a sign? Hummmm…….
He greeted the class with a strong resonant voice. “Good evening. Today we will discuss the law of Supply and Demand.”
As a professor, he was all business. He knew how to communicate his subject. Peggy could follow his lectures easily. Concentrating on his face made it pleasant to listen to him. Peggy had felt no sexual urgings since Peter died. That night, Myron Keyes was on her mind as she slipped into sleep.
During the third class, he mentioned something about being a bachelor. As he said this, he made eye contact with Peggy. She didn’t think anything of it at the time. Later, she realized he made eye contact with her constantly. Does he know I am a widow? She still wore her wedding ring. She wasn’t prepared to remove it. She decided, handsome as he was, to ignore him.
One spring day, Mother questioned her daughter. “You’re still very young, Peggy. You’re an attractive person. Ned needs a father figure. I think you should start looking.”
“Mother! What an awful thing to say! I’m Peter’s wife. I don’t need male companionship.”
“Maybe not right now, but will you still feel that way in five or ten years?”
“I don’t want to talk about this.”
“OK, we won’t talk about it. But before we drop the subject, I urge you to at least think about it, Peggy. Ned needs a father. Furthermore, it’s getting to be almost a year since Peter died. You need to remove your wedding ring. No decent man will look twice at a married woman, and you need someone to make a pass at you.”
“Mother!” Peggy exclaimed. “Shame on you.” She got up, leaving the room. Several minutes passed before they resumed a rather strained, banal conversation.
As the end of the semester approached, Peggy felt quite sure she would get an ‘A’ in Economics. Her test scores were all 90 or higher. After the final class ended, Professor Keyes asked Peggy to remain after class. She had no idea what he wanted. She remained in her seat as the rest of the class filed out.
The Professor approached Peggy’s desk, “I have two things to discuss with you Mrs. Waldren. One is, I plan to give you an ‘A’. You are head and shoulders above the rest of the class in your knowledge, dedication and work effort.”
Peggy felt her face warm as she murmured, “Thank you.”
“The other thing on my mind is to ask if you will have dinner with me Saturday evening. I’ve wanted to get to know you on a personal basis for some time; however, dating one’s student is not permitted by campus rules. Now that you are no longer my student, I’m free to invite you out.”
The invitation stunned her. Or, did it? Did she secretly suspect all along that he had an interest? She decided to be cautious.
“Professor,” it was all she got out before he interjected, “Please call me Myron.”
“Ah, Myron,…… I’ve only been a widow for a year. It’s simply too soon.”
“May I call you Peggy?”
“Peggy, I’m not asking to go to bed with you, only to have dinner. Surely dinner with your former professor is harmless enough?”
“I suppose you’re correct. All right, Myron, I accept your invitation. Do you know where I live?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. I’ll pick you up Saturday at half after six.”
“Thank you, Myron. It will be enjoyable to get to know you outside of the classroom.”