One Saturday afternoon in June I was sitting in a beautiful, big church witnessing Denise’s wedding. I didn’t take a date for a number of reasons. First, neither Linda nor Julia from my recent college juggling act lived nearby. Secondly, I wasn’t going out with anyone back home yet that summer—a condition that would change soon. My parents had their own invitation-- we went together. It was really a lovely service. I have no idea to this day who the groom was. He wasn’t from our town and the only time in my life I ever spoke to him was after the ceremony when I shook his hand and congratulated him before giving Denise a big hug and wishing her well.
I had expected to have some feeling of “I had her before you did, pal” but that never really crossed my mind. The main thing I thought about was that we were too young for such adult goings-on and that she looked absolutely great. I didn’t want to go to the reception. That might have been too much and, anyway, the few old friends from town that would be there were more her friends than mine. I spoke to her parents, brother, and sister at the church after the service and that was enough. Duty done.
That hug and exchange of good wishes was the last I heard from or about Denise for two and a half years.
Shall we take a short trip in the time machine again? I say, “Yes!”
Let’s travel to the week between Christmas and New Year’s in the year I graduated from college. Right after graduation I traveled in Europe for a couple of months. (We’ll get to that stuff some day I suppose.) Then, I came back to town and worked while I waited for an opening in my chosen field-- broadcasting. That came soon enough, but it meant moving out West to the wilds of The Mountain Time Zone. More about that at some future date, dear reader(s). That's not a promise, it's a threat.
I would be driving out to the Rockies in about a week, right after January 1. I had everything ready to go so I was spending my days hanging at my folks’ house and my nights running with my buddies shooting pool, drinking beer, and eyeing the local beauties. One night right after Christmas I was with my best pal uptown when some folks we graduated with from high school 4 and a half years earlier came into the warm tavern.
Andi was in the group and when she saw me she came rushing over like we were old friends. Actually she was very good friends in high school with Denise, but I never felt she cared that much for me. She gave me a big hug, asked me what was going on, and I told her about my big move the next week. She asked if I had talked to Denise recently and I told her not since her wedding.
“You’re kidding!” she said, “You know they split up, right?”
“Yeah! In fact I was trying to get her to come out with us tonight but she's busy with Penny (her sister) and the baby."
"Baby?" I asked.
"Penny had another baby. Jeez, Wil, try to keep up! Anyway she’s staying at her parents' house this week. You should call her, Wil!” Andi said.
I considered the suggestion without making a commitment.
After Andi flitted back to her group my buddy looked at me, raised one eyebrow, and said, “Divorced?”
“Beats me. Andi said ‘split up’. That could mean all sorts of things. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’m leaving town.”
“Right. But you’re not leaving for almost a week.”
The next afternoon I was sitting in the kitchen when the phone rang. It was Denise. We had a nice, friendly conversation without talking about her marital status—she knew I knew she was staying at her parents’ house. Obviously Andi told her she had seen me.
After we talked for a while Denise said, “Wil, how would you like to go out to dinner with Andi and Jim tonight?”
“I don’t know, Denise, I’d feel kinda funny. Like a third wheel, ya know, without a date.”
She laughed. “Well, you could ask me to go along.”
“OK. Sure. When should we go, Denise?”
“Well, we’ll meet them at seven at the restaurant but why don’t you come over here at five or so-- we can talk before we’re out with those guys?” she said.
“I’ll be there at 5:30.”
“Great! This will be so much fun!”
We hung up.
"If you say so, Denise... I'm not completely sure... but I'll take the risk..."