Widow

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Chapter 36

On Friday morning, it began to snow. There were just a few flakes at first. By noon it was a full-blown storm. The snow began to accumulate. By the late afternoon, at least 6 inches of snow blanketed the area. There is nothing more beautiful than the first snowfall of the season. The ground is washed in sparkling white and the tree branches bend gracefully under the weight of their new blanket.

In spite of the weather, Homer Tarrance appeared on time for his dinner date with Margo. She greeted him with a warm smile. She had dressed in a lovely light blue wool sweater with a contrasting dark blue skirt. The new hairstyle softly framed her face. Her eyes shone as she looked at Homer while they shared a drink in front of a cheery fire. For dinner she fed him her famous veal parmesan.

“I eat out so much, Margo; you can’t imagine how good this home cooked meal tastes to me. It’s especially nice not to have to go out to a restaurant in the middle of a blizzard. The fire in your hearth and your smile makes everything so comfortable.”

After dinner, they played rummy. Then, like the old friends they were, they simply talked.

“The University President has a tea a few days before Christmas. Would you like to join me?” invited Homer.

“Sounds like fun; I’ll be honored to go with you, Homer.”

“Well, I wouldn’t classify it as fun. More of a social obligation. Everyone, especially the faculty, seems to enjoy getting all gussied up right before Christmas. You’ll enjoy seeing the inside of the President’s home. It’s lovely.”

“I’m delighted you’ve asked me.”

“Well, time for me to go.”

As they rose from their seats, Homer hesitated. Finally, he asked, “Margo, if I asked to kiss you, what would be your reaction?”

With a twinkle in her eyes, Margo responded, “Do you realize you just asked a teacher a hypothetical question? A hypothetical question deserves a hypothetical answer. So my answer is, you might be rejected, or you might be kissed back.”

“I didn’t learn much from that,” muttered Homer.

“If you truly want to know the answer to your question, you’ll have to take a risk. The risk is, you could be rejected.” After a pause, with a gentle smile on her face, she added, “You’re a businessperson, Homer. Afraid to take a risk?”

“Ok, I will rephrase. May I kiss you goodbye, Margo?” As he asked, he reached out for her.

She smiled into his eyes exclaiming, “You certainly may.”

Gently, their lips came together. Softly at first, then each put more into the kiss. Margo softened. It had been a long time since she’d been kissed by a man. It felt wonderful. As they pulled apart, they were both smiling.

“I’ll call you,” promised Homer as he put on his coat and hat.

After he shut the door, Margo opened it and called out to him, “After a kiss like that, Homer, you’d better call me!”

“Count on it!”

They both laughed. Homer got into his car, driving off into the snowy night.

Margo went back inside. She went to the window and watched the car as it vanished onto the snowy street. He took a small risk. Surely, the kiss rewarded him. I know it did me. I wonder if he’ll be willing to take a larger risk?


The beautiful Friday snowfall gave Ken the opening he needed. It was the perfect night for a walk.

Around 2000 hours that night he pounded on Peggy and Ned’s front door. The snow was still falling, although it had slowed a little. I’m sure Peggy will wonder what crazy person could be out in this weather?

Together they opened the door. There Ken stood, eyes on fire with excitement. “Come on, get your boots; it’s a perfect night for a walk.”

Ned and Peggy looked out. In one glance, they could tell why Ken was excited. The snow had landed soft and fluffy. The street was empty of people or cars. It would be a fun time to walk in the snow.

Clad in boots, mittens and warm jackets, the three went walking in the deep quiet which only occurs after a snowfall. The night became magical. Peggy looked adorable with her hat and her pug nose covered with snowflakes.

A snowball fight occurred, which got everyone laughing. Ken suggested a game of ‘cut the pie’. Ned had never played the game.

They went to the back yard, which appeared ‘pristine’ – not a footprint on it. Ken tramped out a large circle. Then he ‘cut the pie’ into six pieces by making straight paths across the circle. He explained the game was simply tag but all the players have to remain on the paths. If you step out of the path, you’re ‘it.’ The game began.

Ken was ‘it.’ He ran after Peggy who kept slipping off the paths. He tagged her, so she chased Ned. After Peggy caught Ned, he tried to get Ken but he couldn’t. He had to tag his mother.

After a few minutes, laughing like crazy, they all trooped into the house. Peggy made cocoa while Ned and Ken built a fire in the fireplace. Ned went up to get out of his wet clothes and change into his pajamas. As the fire started, Ken sat on the couch, which was located directly opposite the fireplace. Except for the night he had held Peggy on the couch in the dark, this was the first time he’d actually spent time in Peggy’s home. He examined the room, observing several minute details.

Over the fireplace was a painting of a winter scene in a forest with a blue river running through snow-white banks. Ken was drawn to its simple beauty.

Peggy’s beige colored drapes contrasted well with the dark brown wall-to-wall carpet.

Next to the fireplace was an area to store wood, then some shelving, which Peggy had filled with books and pictures. As Ken examined the pictures, he made a thorough examination of a picture of Peter. It was easy to see that Peter was a kind loving person.

He could hear Peggy singing in the kitchen, as she made cocoa. He did his best to soak up the atmosphere. Soon the peaceful room filled with love as all three of them gathered by the fire to enjoy their cocoa.

As Ned’s bedtime arrived, he turned to his mom. “Can Coach tuck me in bed tonight?”

Peggy’s chin fell about to her knees. Profoundly surprised, she exclaimed, “Of course.” Her eyes shown as the two men headed upstairs. Ned rode on Ken’s back pretending he was The Lone Ranger riding on Silver.

As Ken was about to turn off the light he noticed Ned’s eyes were bright with excitement. “Are you gonna to ask her tonight?” he whispered.

“Yes.”

“Will you wake me up if she says yes?” Ned pleaded.

“You bet we will.”

As he returned to the living room, he realized Peggy had turned off all the lights, built up the fire and lit a few candles. The reflection of the fire in the windows created a glowing atmosphere in the entire room.

Peggy smiled radiantly as she looked at him. “I can’t believe he wanted you to tuck him in. I’m so pleased.”

Ken sat beside her on the couch, “You know Peggy, you’ve never answered my second question.”

She replied, “you mean the ’who’s your best friend question?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I need a ruling first. Do relatives count? If they count, Ned and Mom would be my best friends.”

“Relatives don’t count.”

Peggy’s eyes twinkled. “Well, Henry Johnson just gave me a terrific promotion and a big raise, so he would certainly be high on the list.”

She continued, “When I was a kid we owned a dog named Clancy. I always thought Clancy was my best friend.”

Finally, she turned to Ken. “As I recall, your question was ‘at this point in your life, who’s your best friend?’ Since that is the actual question, and since relatives are exempt, my answer is…… my best friend is sitting right next to me on this couch.”

Ken looked into her eyes. With all the love he could convey, he whispered, “I hoped you’d say that, Peggy. Because…. . you see…. everyone says the best marriage occurs if you marry your best friend. And right now, Best Friend, I’m asking you to marry me.”

She caught her breath, but she remained silent. Ken continued, “Peggy you know I’m totally in love with you. I want to be with you all the time. The only way we can be together all the time is to be married. Please say yes.”

Tears moistened Peggy’s eyes. “Oh Ken, do you think we could make it?”

“I know we could make it.”

“You know I can’t answer you until I talk to Ned.”

“Maybe so, maybe not,” Ken replied as he reached into his pocket, handing Peggy the envelope.

She looked at the handwriting. Scrawled on the envelope in Ned’s handwriting appeared the word ‘Mom’.

“Do you know what this says?”

“I haven’t read it, but I’ve a hunch regarding the contents.”

Peggy opened the note:

Dear Mom,

When Ken asks you to marry him, I hope you say yes.

I think the 3 of us could have lots of fun together.

I love you Mom. I want you happy.

Love,

Ned.

PS. If we move to Coach’s house I want the corner bedroom.

With just a tad of resentment in her voice she remarked, “You asked him before you asked me?”

“Yes I did. Now don’t be upset. . …. There are some very good reasons why I did. Please let me explain.” He stood up, turning his back to the fire as he looked directly into her eyes.

“Do you remember what happened last Saturday night?”

“Truth be told, Ken, I’ve been remembering Saturday night almost constantly.” As she admitted it, she blushed slightly. A loving glance radiated from her eyes.

“To me Saturday night was incredibly magical. As a consequence, I became a tad optimistic that when I asked you to marry me you’d accept. Then I remembered the Ned factor. It took me back to our first ten-minute date when you told me you were ‘complicated.’ You definitely were ‘complicated’ Peggy.

“But, we’ve been able to work through every one of your complications.

“Ralph is now on a garbage truck. You’re close to obtaining your MBA. Perhaps the biggest complication was, for want of a better term, ‘Peter’s ghost’. That, in many ways, was the toughest complication. But, you’ve been exceptionally strong. Although Peter will always be part of our lives, I feel you’ve managed to work through your grief and are now ready to go forward.

“Last, was Ned’s objection to another man in your life. We got incredibly lucky there. I like to think that perhaps the good Lord had something to do with it.

“The big question for me was this. Would my friendship with Ned allow him to get over his resentment of another man in the house?

“Peggy, when I asked you to marry me I wanted you to be free of your complications. I wanted you to be free to either say yes, no, or maybe, from just the feelings just in your own heart. The only way I could accomplish that was to find out where Ned stood before I asked you.”

Peggy started to say something, but Ken held up his hand so he could continue. “Last Monday, I picked up your Mother and Ned right after school. I took them out to my house, fed them ice cream, and asked Ned the question. The result is the note.”

“So, Peggy, you are now, at long last, totally free of complications. Please answer from your own heart my question. Will you marry me?”

Peggy stood up. “You’re right, Ken, my complications are gone.” She walked over to the fire…… “Thank you for pointing it out and, for all you did to get me here.”

An exceptionally long silence followed…… She walked over to the window studying the snowfall. Finally she turned, “Ken, you must know how badly I want to say yes. But I just don’t feel right answering you until Ned and I have talked. The note is great, and I’m sure he feels good about you and me. But I made some promises to him I really need to keep. I simply can’t answer until we’ve talked. Please understand.”

“That seems fair. Why don’t you go up and ask him?”

“He’s asleep. He gets grumpy if he is wakened right after he goes to sleep. And I don’t want him grumpy when we have this discussion. It’s too important.”

“I’ll bet you a cookie Ned’s wide awake.”

“You don’t know my son. When his head hits the pillow he’s out for the night.”

“Why don’t you go upstairs, open his door a crack and see if he’s asleep.”

“Well, just to make you happy I will. But I know he’s asleep.”

Even though Peggy knew it was an exercise in futility, she went up the stairs to prove to Ken that Ned was sound asleep.

When she cracked open his door, she got a major shock. There was Ned jumping up and down on the mattress as if it were a trampoline!

“Did he ask you, Mom? Did you say yes? Did you? Did you?”

Peggy walked in, sitting down on the bed. “You rascal. He did ask me and I did read your note. But, I made you a promise that if I ever became serious you would be involved. So I came up here to see if maybe you were awake.”

Ned’s eyes glowed. “Well, I’m awake!”

Peggy took a deep breath. “What do you think, Ned? Do you want me to marry Ken?”

To her surprise, Ned became very thoughtful. “Are you in love with him?”

“That’s a very important question, Ned. I’ve been mulling it over in my mind for some time now. I think I can explain it this way.”

She took a moment to carefully phrase her words. “I still love your father. That will never change. My love for Ken is different, because Ken is different. Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s any less real. I’ll never stop loving Peter, ever. But just because what Peter and I had was special, doesn’t’ mean I can’t have something special with Ken, too.

“When your Dad died, I didn’t think I could ever fall in love again. I felt if I did I’d be disloyal. But Ken is right. Love is infinite. I can love him and still love your Dad. And I am certain I’ve fallen in love with Ken. Does that make sense to you, Ned?

“Yeah it does, Mom. I vote we accept his proposal!”

“Let’s go down so we can tell him together!”

Taking Ned’s hand, they walked down the stairs stopping in front of Ken with their backs to the fire.

Together they exclaimed, “We accept your proposal, Coach. We want to marry you!”

Ken leapt off the couch encompassing both of them in a three way hug.

Ken reached into his pocket. He took out a small box wrapped in his usual wrapping paper. He handed it to Peggy who looked back with shining eyes that were slowly moistening with tears. Peggy handed the box to Ned. He tore off the paper, returning the box to his mother, unopened. Peggy handed the unopened box back to Ken.

“Please put the contents of this box on my finger,” she commanded, closing her eyes. She turned, facing the fire as she opened her eyes to could get a good look at her new ring.

“Oh Ken it’s stunning!” It certainly looked beautiful glowing in the firelight along with the tears on her cheeks. “Your banker is going to be very unhappy with you for spending all that money. But, your fiancé is thrilled to death!”

They looked at each other. Tenderly he took her into his arms kissing her gently.

Peggy thought Ned would say ‘ug’ or something. He didn’t. He just beamed at them.

Ned asked to see the ring up close. He examined it carefully. Then he looked at Ken, “We did good, didn’t we Coach?”

“How about another three way hug?” Ken asked. As they did so, Ned noticed his mother’s tears.

“I don’t get it Mom, are those more tears of joy?”

“They certainly are, Ned. I’m looking at the two men in my life I love most of all and they are loving each other. It makes me so happy I just have to cry.”

Suddenly she looked at her son. “Young man, how did you know Ken was going to ask me tonight?”

“Aw, Mom, I’ve known ever since Monday, haven’t I Coach?”

“Come on,” Ken suggested, “Let’s sit down by the fire so we can plan a wedding.”

When they were all assembled by the fire, Ken started talking.

“As I see it, Peggy, and please stop me if I’m wrong, we only need a small wedding. You’ve already experienced your white dress fancy wedding with Peter. This one can be with just a few friends.”

Peggy nodded as she looked again at her new ring in the firelight. Ken added, “So I thought we could gather in your Mother’s living room a week from tomorrow and be married.”

Peggy jumped off the couch as if she’s had been shot. “A week from tomorrow, my mother’s living room, are you crazy?..…Ken Lister just how much planning have you done without me?”

“Well, your mom and I have discussed using her living room. She thought it would be fine if there was time to get someone in to wash the walls. Everything else is yours to plan Peggy.”

Ken continued, “I only have one thing to request. I want to get married quickly. If not next Saturday, surely we can do it by the following week, can’t we? I don’t want to be without you another day.”

Peggy replied, “Ken, I’m so excited and so in love with you I simply can’t think straight right now. What I want to do is sit by the fire and enjoy what’s left of this wonderful evening with my new fiancé.

“Why don’t you come over tomorrow? I promise to start planning the wedding then.”

For the rest of the evening, they sat by the fire, watching the snow flicker against the windows as it fell. Eventually, Ned fell asleep. Ken carried him back up to bed.

As Ken returned to the living room, Peggy took his hands. “Can we pretend Ned is not involved for a minute? I want you to hear what my answer to your proposal would have been if only the two of us were involved.”

She felt her eyes moisten as she whispered, “Ken Lister, my heart tells me I love you. My body tells me I love you. My brain tells me I love you. My answer is yes, I’ll marry you. I want to marry you more than anything!”

For a long time before the fire they hugged each other quietly and tenderly.

Ken then told her of the baseball coaching job offer he received from Billy Riley’s Father. “How fabulous, Ken, isn’t this the kind of a job you always dreamed of having?”

“Yes it really is. I’d have accepted the job right on the spot, but I wanted to discuss it with my fiancé first. You were not my fiancé yet. I think major decisions like this one should be discussed by married couples.”

Peggy exclaimed, “I’m going to be married to the high school baseball coach! This means there’ll always be young people in our lives. Oh Ken, I’m so thrilled for you! In fact I’m excited for both of us.”

After a while, there were no more words. They simply snuggled together on the coach. She smiled at him sleepily as she laid her head on his shoulder. The spirit of their happiness filled the entire room. ……


Saturday morning Peggy’s phone rang early.

“He asked me to the University President’s Christmas Tea! What do I wear to a Christmas tea?” her mother cried excitedly.

“Mom, wow! You’ll get to hob nob with all the faculty wives. I’m so happy for you. Did he like your veal parmesan?”

“Ate three helpings. We really enjoyed each other. When can we go shopping?”

“Well it seems, Mother dear, we will have to work our shopping around a wedding. I understand it’s to be at your house.”

“Oh Peggy, did he ask you last night? Did you accept? I’m so thrilled for you. Tell me, tell me everything!”

“Well, I think you and Ned knew everything before I did. Tell you what, come over for lunch. Ken’s coming and we’re supposed to plan the wedding.”

“In this snow and cold? You young people should show more respect to your elders. Please come here. I’d rather make lunch than go out in the cold.”

’OK, after Ken arrives, we’ll come over.”


The weather the next day was cold and clear. Yesterday’s snowfall measured 8 inches. However, the city street cleaners had done a masterful job. Ken had no trouble running the errand he planned. He arrived at Peggy’s house at 1000 hours.

Smiles, hugs and kisses greeted him. Peggy’s kiss was only slightly short of sensational.

“It is too snowy for Mother to come here to plan the wedding, so we are invited to her house for lunch,” Peggy announced.

“OK, but before we go I’ve an engagement present for Ned. I figured your diamond was your engagement present. But, Ned has been a major part of my conspiracy to marry you. Therefore, he deserves a present. Now you just sit there, Ned with your eyes shut until I get your gift from the car.”

“I wonder what present he has for me?” Ned was ecstatic in his excitement. Ken had an engagement present for him! How cool was that!

It was a brand new baseball glove. Ned was thrilled!

“Ken, you sure know how to make a boy happy,” smiled Peggy.

Then she added, “You do pretty well making a mother happy too.”

Buzz jumped up asking, “Coach, wanta play chess?”

“Oh, I’d love to play.”

As Buzz got out the set, Peggy murmured in a low voice, “Ken, I better warn you. Ned’s in the school chess club. He beats me regularly.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Just wait.”

They played on the floor. After about 15 moves Ned traded queens with Ken. Then Ned moved his rook into Ken’s king row calling ‘check.’ Ken was forced to move his king. Ned played rook takes rook. Ken was left with no rooks and Ned had two. The Coach tipped over his King in surrender.

As Ned put away the chessboard, with a wink at Peggy, Ken suggested, “Maybe I ought to rethink this wedding idea. If both of you beat me in chess, it may be a bad idea.”

Ned turned, threw his arms around his Coach holding on tight. “No way you’re backing out, Coach. We’ve got you now and we’re keeping you, aren’t we Mom!”

“We certainly are!” echoed Peggy.

A few minutes later Ken gathered Ned, Peggy and the dog together for what he called a serious meeting. Ned sat on the floor stroking Snug affectionately.

“Ned,” he began, “when a man gets married, he usually asks his best friend to stand up next to him. The best friend’s job is to hand over the wedding ring at the proper moment. In a wedding party, the person with that job is called The Best Man.

“Ned, will you be my Best Man at our wedding?”

A huge smile spread over Ned’s face. But, his only response was, “Cool.” Then he added, “Look Coach, Mom’s crying again!”

Ken looked.

The look on Peggy’s face stunned Ken. A radiant smile made her entire face glow with the joy she felt in her heart. Soft tears eased their way slowly down her cheeks.

Peggy looked up. Her loving eyes locked with Ken’s. They both knew; this was a moment they would remember forever.

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