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Chapter 9

Ken felt he needed to do something to make this particular 10 minute date date extra special. So, on his way to the employee’s parking lot behind the Bank, he stopped and bought a seasonal bouquet of flowers at the local florist. He arrived fifteen minutes ahead of time. That was OK. He didn’t want to be late and have Peggy think he stood her up.

As soon as Peggy stepped out of the bank, she spotted Ken sitting in his car smiling. “Follow me to Rosie’s Ice Cream Parlor,” she announced, “it’s only a couple of blocks.”

There were two empty angle-parking slots in front of Rosie’s. Peggy pulled her car into one slot; Ken took the other. He hurried out of his car so he could be standing right in front of her when she closed her car door.

“Please close your eyes; I’ve a surprise for you!”

“What did you say?”

“Please just stand there with your eyes closed for a minute I’ve a surprise for you.”

Peggy rested a hand on the car to keep her balance. Obediently she closed her eyes. Ken was sure Peggy was thinking this guy must be crazy. He opened his car trunk, removed the flowers, then closed it.

“OK, open your eyes.”

He handed her the bouquet. An astonished Peggy inhaled their marvelous fragrance.

In a sincere tone, Ken announced, “Thank you for agreeing to have a 10- minute date with me.”

Staring at the beautiful flowers, Peggy could do nothing except look up at Ken and give him her biggest smile.

Ken suggested, “You probably don’t want to take these flowers inside the ice cream shop. I brought them in a paper cup filled with water. We can put them back in the cup and leave them in your car.”

By the time they had done that, a shocked Peggy found her voice.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have the flowers, Ken. However, by the time our 10-minute date is over, I’m afraid you’ll be sorry you spent the money. Regardless, I thank you sincerely.”

They went into the ice cream shop finding a booth near the back. Peggy selected a strawberry parfait. Ken ordered a chocolate malt. After their order was served, Ken pushed some buttons on his watch, which started his timer.

Ken opened the conversation. “Since you already have my loan application, you know a lot about me. Why don’t you start by telling me the story of your life…… in 10 minutes?”

“Well, it’s complicated,” Peggy began……… “Extremely complicated.”

“Complicated? Does that mean you’re married or going through a divorce? I made sure your left hand was devoid of a ring before I asked for this date.”

She looked right into his sincere brown eyes. “No it’s nothing like that. She paused a minute……. Finally, she admitted in a low voice, “I am…….. a widow. My husband Peter died in an auto accident two years ago. Consequently, I’m emotionally not ready to date anyone, even someone who brings me flowers.”

“I’m so sorry, Peggy. I had no idea.”

“I’m sure you didn’t. In fact, I just took my wedding ring off my third left and moved it to my other hand last week.” (Oh God, why did I tell him that!)

After thinking a minute Ken responded, “You know, Peggy, I’ve some idea how you feel. I lost my Mother two months ago. There is a big hole in my life right now. Losing a parent is bad, losing a spouse must be incredibly awful.”

“Awful doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s been far worse than awful…..When you were in Iraq or Afghanistan did you get frightened?

“All the time.”

“Did you get a hollow feeling in your stomach like someone put a 5 pound steel ball down there?”

“That’s a pretty good description.”

“Well, every morning when I wake up, I feel I have a 5 pound steel ball in my stomach.”

“If that’s what’s going on two years later, I can understand why you say ‘way worse than awful.’ How long were you married?”

“We were married 10 years.”

“You loved him very much, I’ll bet.”

Something in his voice tone created the realization in her mind that Ken was exceptionally sensitive.

“I still do.”

Peggy kept explaining, “It’s even more complicated. I have a 10 year old son. The other day I sent out a trial balloon. I asked him what he would think if I started a relationship with a man. He was aggressively negative. I think he needs a male figure in his life. However, the idea of someone taking his father’s place is just plain abhorrent to him. He seems to feel that his job is to protect his mother from all males.

“Now I’m on a roll, so let me finish. When Peter died, there… well I needed to get a job. I’d been a homemaker ever since our son was born. For some reason, I didn’t feel up to teaching which was my college major. Instead, I took a job as a bank teller.

“Last winter Mr. Johnson, who owns the bank, asked me to get an MBA. He wants to promote me. He likes my work. Apparently I’m required to have an MBA to move up in the bank hierarchy. The bank’s paying for my advanced schooling. I’ve one year to go before I complete my studies. Now I think maybe you will understand. Between studying, working, being mother and trying to be father, I’ve virtually no time for anything else.”

She continued, “Unfortunately, there’s one more thing. I hate to even mention this but right now it’s part of the equation. My immediate boss at the bank is after me to have a date with him. He’s a real creep, in my opinion, but this is a small town. Which means everyone knows everyone else’s business. If I start to date someone, without a doubt, I would be in some kind of trouble at work because of that creep.”

Ken looked at his stopwatch. “Our 10 minute date is over. Under the 10-minute date rules we can vote for one extension of 10 minutes. May we have an extension so I can tell you my side of the story?”

“Of course, I certainly owe you another ten minutes. What’s your side?”

He began, “I understand your problems, Peggy. I have empathy for all the various pressures you mentioned. My side is rather simple. Someone suggested to me to select the place I want to live and then find a job. Most people do it the other way around. As a consequence, they live someplace they don’t really care about all their lives.

“I never knew my father; he split way before I was old enough to know him. Mom raised me. We both worked to make ends meet. I went into the Army for nine years. I came to Hamilton U on the GI Bill. After what I’d been through in the service, I sort of found a home in the atmosphere of this little town. In college, after nine years in the Army, the girls all seemed too young to me. As a consequence, I’ve never been involved in a serious relationship.

“I graduated last June. A week later, my mom died from cancer. After a lot of serious thinking, I decided to start my life away from big Chicago. For some reason, living in a small town held great appeal. I sold the house in Chicago and returned to Hamilton to look for a job.

“Mrs. Hennessey at the college offered me a job in the admissions office starting September 1st. Once I had a job, I used some of the money from the sale of Mom’s home for the down payment on the house out in North Side Heights.

“Now I walk into your bank all alone, a stranger in a strange town. I see this stunningly cute woman. I just had to try and get to know you better.

“One thing good about a 10 minute date is there isn’t enough time to ‘play verbal games.’ The participants get down to the real important stuff right away.”

“The important stuff for me is to always be honest with one another. You can only have a serious relationship with someone you trust. The way to build trust is to be completely honest at all times. Honesty is the core of my philosophy in dealing with people. I wanted you to know my feelings on that score, Peggy.”

Peggy gulped. Can this guy be real?

He continued, “Now, in spite of all your ‘complications’ I still want your phone number.”

Peggy countered, “Ken, you claim you want honesty. Therefore, I’ll be honest. I’ve no time for a relationship”.

“We could just have some fun together, couldn’t we?”

Peggy responded, “I’m also older than you.”

“You’re a whole lot cuter too.”

Peggy could do nothing except laugh!

Ken continued, “I feel we’ve enjoyed an especially sincere conversation on our first date. In all honestly, Peggy, I’m very attracted to you. Here’s a paper with my cell number on it. Please tell me I can call you.”

She smiled at him. “You’re impossible. You’re also kind and gentle. My phone is 312 959 8652.”

After Ken entered her number in his cell phone, he stood up, shaking her hand. “Thanks.”

She smiled. Eyes twinkling she told him, “Thank you for the flowers, the ice cream and for being so understanding.”

Driving home in her old Ford, she thought, he’s a really nice guy. I tried to discourage him as best as I could. It’d be a shame to mislead someone as sincere and honest as Ken.

I wonder if he’ll call?

Oh Goodness…..If he calls……. what am I going to say?????

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