Jack Canfield is a sought-after national speaker and author and the co-creator of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
Mark Victor Hansen is a sought-after national speaker and author and the co-creator of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
Peter Vegso has co-authored several Chicken Soup books, most recently Chicken Soup for the Beach Lover's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul.
Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary.
'I can't believe you're making me do this,' I yelled downstairs to my mom as I hopped on one foot from my bedroom to the bathroom, trying to fasten a sandal.
'Just go and have fun,' my mom called back. 'It's not like you have to marry him.'
Two weeks before, my mom had been in contact with a long-lost family friend. Our families had been neighbors until I was in the fifth grade. Coincidentally, they had a son who was one year older than I was.
In the course of catching up on the past ten years, my mom and his mom had arranged a date between the boy and me. (Although, at the age of twenty-one, he could hardly be called a 'boy' anymore, but that's the way I remembered him.)
I hurriedly dressed and brushed my hair (a little haphazardly, with low enthusiasm for my date), and I thought about the boy I used to know.
I remembered being told that when he was only one year old, he brought a baby gift to my mom the day I was born. I thought of an old photograph in my scrapbook, his arm around me as we waited to go inside church for Easter service. As an awkward ten-year-old, I hid behind my mom when he tried to talk to me.
I remembered him as a self-conscious twelve-year-old, with buckteeth and a round belly. We went to the same elementary school, and when we passed in the hall, I would lower my head and avoid eye contact, trying desperately not to be noticed. But he always spotted me and managed to embarrass himself with an awkward 'hello.'
What have I gotten myself into? I thought as I quickly coated my lashes with mascara and gave one final glance at myself in the mirror.
The doorbell rang. I heard my mom walk to the front door. I stood silent, listening.
'Well, hello!' My mom was full of hospitality and enthusiasm. 'It is so great to see you after all this time.'
He answered back with an uncomfortable and embarrassed voice. I rolled my eyes.
This is going to be loads of fun, I thought sarcastically.
The phone rang. It was my best friend calling to see if I had met 'my date' yet.
'No,' I said, 'but I hear him talking to my mom downstairs, and he sounds really dorky.'
Then I had an idea: 'Hey, why don't you meet us tonight? That way, if things don't go well, I'll have an excuse to leave and end the date.'
My friend was game, more out of curiosity than a willingness to help me, so we arranged to meet at a restaurant downtown.
I walked down the stairs, trying to plan a last-minute escape. Could I feign illness? Fall and break my leg? Run out the front door and hide until he finally left?
I followed my mom's voice coming from the kitchen and reluctantly walked toward the noise, dragging my feet as if I wore cement shoes.
As I turned the corner and entered the kitchen, I saw him immediately.
Has there been some mistake? I thought. He didn't look like the boy I remembered.
He was sitting at the kitchen table, across from my mom. He had impeccable posture, with broad, muscular shoulders. His face was tanned. His hair was dark and perfectly trimmed. His deep brown eyes glistened as he smiled at me. And his teeth—his glorious teeth—were perfectly straight (years of braces, I thought) and brilliantly white.
'Hi,' he said. 'It's nice to see you again.'
His face was beaming. A strange, unexpected electricity filled the air.
He stood to shake my hand. He was tall and fit, and well-dressed, too. He was confident and poised—so different from the shy boy I was expecting.
I was speechless. I stuttered and stammered a feeble 'hello' before shaking his strong hand.
Nervously I said, 'Uh, I think I forgot something.' I ran back up the stairs and shut myself in the bathroom.
My heart was racing. That was no boy in the kitchen—certainly not the awkward boy I remembered. He was a man—a very handsome, polite man.
Adrenaline filled my ears and made them burn. My hands were shaking. I threw open drawers and began redoing my makeup—this time with care and precision. I brushed my hair and straightened my dress.
Should I change clothes? I wondered. No, that would be too obvious, too weird.
I walked back downstairs, giddy with nerves and excitement. We said good-bye to my mom, and he put his hand at the small of my back to lead me to his car. I was shaking.
As we sat side by side in the car, I discovered his charm went far beyond the handsome smile and strong physique. Our conversation became effortless, with no stops or awkward gaps. We told stories from our childhood and laughed about the times we had been so nervous around each other. We learned we had a great deal in common, that our connection was deeper than the history we shared.
My friend met us at the restaurant, ready to save me from my blind date. But she wasn't needed.
'You can go home,' I told her. 'Things are great; I'm having fun.'
'Are you sure?' she asked. 'You hardly know this guy.'
'Actually, I've known him all my life,' I said. 'And I think I'm going to marry him one day.'
Two years later, I did marry him. And one year after that, we had our own little boy.
In our den, next to wedding photos and a picture of our son's first birthday, a photograph of two children—one three years old and the other four—hangs above the couch in an antique brass frame. The boy has his arm around the girl. They are sitting outside a church—he in his Easter suit and she in her new dress and bonnet. The girl is shy and looking at the ground. The boy has a twinkle in his eye. He is smiling at the camera, smiling at me as I walk past the picture on the wall.
Could it be, I often wonder, that the boy knew all along?
©2007. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Soul Love Stories by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Peter Vegso. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.