Cass and Kathleen Winthrop were having scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and an argument for breakfast.
"Well, I think Derek and Stacey make a very cute couple," Kathleen said as she buttered her toast.
"Cute, maybe," Cass conceded, "but suitable, no. I have nothing personal against Derek, but I think he'd be better off with Frankie."
"You mean you think your sister would be better off without Derek," Kathleen retorted.
"Well, you have to admit that we know very little about him," Cass pointed out.
"We know that he is very good friends with Felicia. She thinks the world of him, and he thinks
the world of her. Shouldn't that," Kathleen asked, "be enough for you?"
"And meanwhile, Derek has been seeing both Stacey and Frankie. That," Cass said, "is the
real trouble with Derek. He isn't ready to make a commitment and settle down."
"This," Kathleen said, almost doubling over with laughter, "from the man they used to call Casanova Winthrop."
Derek had a date with Frankie that evening. They went to The Jasmine Garden, a Chinese restaurant that
served both vegetarian and meat dishes. Recordings of Chinese music played softly in the background.
Frankie ordered vegetable fried rice, broccoli and snow peas, and vegetable egg foo young. Derek ordered pork fried
rice, orange chicken, and barbecued spareribs. They both planned to take home their leftovers.
"Did you notice those crystals in the window?" Frankie asked.
"Yes," Derek said. "They look really nice, like the crystals you have at your place."
"You know I don't use crystals just for decoration," Frankie gently reminded Derek.
"I know," Derek said.
"What do you, yourself, think about crystals?"
Derek paused. He knew what he thought, but it was difficult for him to put what he considered to be religious thoughts into words.
After a moment he said quietly, "I think that crystals are a beautiful reminder of the wonders of God's creation."
"Yes, that's one of the ways I look at them," Frankie said. She thought, "So either way, if Derek
and I ever do get married, we won't have to argue about whether or not to have crystals in
Two evenings later, Derek and Stacey went to an art gallery that had recently opened in Bay City. They walked around, stopping now and then to admire some of the paintings.
"Look at this painting of apples and goldfish," Derek said. "You can tell that the artist has been influenced by the works of Matisse."
"I love Matisse," Stacey said.
"Lots of people do," Derek answered "and I don't blame them. In "My Name is Asher Lev," by Chaim Potok, Asher's mentor,
Jacob Kahn, goes to London to see a retrospective of an old friend's works. When he returns, Asher asks him if he
enjoyed the retrospective, and he replies, "I did not go to enjoy it. His art is not enjoyable. He is not Matisse."
"I'm going to have to read that book," Stacey said.
"I have a copy that I can lend to you," Derek answered.
"Thanks, Derek," said Stacey. She thought, "If Derek and I ever do get married, we'll need a house with a lot of bookshelves,
and space for good paintings and sculptures."
Several weeks went by. Derek continued to go out with both Frankie and Stacey, without seeming ready to make a commitment
to either one of them.
Finally, one Saturday, Frankie had enough. She called Stacey and arranged to meet her at the duck pond in Foster Park.
Twenty minutes later, Stacey arrived at the duck pond. Frankie was already there, sitting on a bench and watching the ducks.
"I think I know what you want to talk about," Stacey said as she sat next to Frankie, "and I'm pretty sure it isn't those ducks."
"No. It's Derek."
"Yes." Stacey nodded her head. "Things can't go on the way they have been."
"I love Derek," Frankie said.
"So do I," said Stacey. "So what do we do about it?"
Frankie smiled and said, A duel is definitely not an option. Besides, I don't want to fight with you."
"Nor I with you," Stacey agreed. "So what do we do about it?"
"I have an idea," Frankie answered, "but we'll need to talk to Derek, and I mean both of us, together,
will need to talk to him."
"I don't want to give him an ultimatum. I don't think that would work."
"Don't worry," Frankie assured Stacey. "That isn't what I have in mind."
"Have you heard the latest?" Cass asked Kathleen at supper that night, as he ladled gravy over the meat loaf and mashed potatoes.
"Stacey, Frankie, and Derek are going bowling on Tuesday night, the three of them, together."
"That might actually be a good idea," Kathleen said thoughtfully.
"It might be at that," Cass conceded. "Seeing Stacey and Frankie together may be just the thing to get
Derek to make up his mind."
"Then again," Kathleen said, "it could be a bit awkward, the three of them going out together."
"That's also very possible. I wonder," Cass said, and then paused.
"Would you care to go bowling Tuesday night?"
"Do you," Kathleen retorted, "want Stacey to commit fratricide?"
Derek, Frankie, and Stacey had agreed that they would not refer to their night of bowling as a date. It was
just three friends going out for a night of fun. Nothing more.
"After all," Frankie said, "it's not as if we were characters on a soap opera."
And it did turn out to be a night of fun. If there just happened to be an elephant in the bowling alley, Frankie,
Derek, and Stacey ignored it. They bowled, laughed, and snacked. Derek bowled a perfect game, with Frankie
a close second. As for Stacey's score... never mind!
"If I practiced law the way I bowl," she said as they left the bowling alley, "I wouldn't have very many clients."
"Everyone has a bad night of bowling now and then," Derek said. "I know I have."
"So have I," Frankie added.
"That's just it," said Stacey. "That was a good score... for me."
But the elephant had followed them, and one of them heard it trumpeting for attention: Derek. He understood why
Frankie and Stacey had wanted to go bowling with him... together. And he couldn't be angry with them. Rather, he
liked them... both of them... more than ever for trying to settle things once and for all in a civilized manner. Yes, the
elephant trumpeted, trumpeted a song from the 60s by The Lovin' Spoonful: "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?"
Derek knew that there was one person... only one... he could turn to for advice, only one person who could help him.
"And that's it in a nutshell," Derek said the next day to his oldest and dearest friend, Felicia Gallant, as they
sat together on the sofa in her living room. "Frankie and I could be so happy, but then again, so could Stacey and I.
And no matter which one I decide is the right one for me, somebody is going to get hurt. And I don't want to hurt
either one of them, Fanny!"
"I know you don't," Felicia said, "but sometimes hurts are inevitable."
"So what should I do, Fanny?"
"It seems to me," Felicia said thoughtfully, "that you have been trying to decide this with your head." She looked into
his eyes and added gently, "Follow your heart, Derek, and choose the one you love best of all."
And then, as the old saying goes, the light dawned. Derek had what is called a aha! moment. He knew, now
that he loved both Frankie and Stacey, both Stacey and Frankie, but he loved neither one of them best of all.
No. There was someone else, someone Derek, without realizing it, had been in love with for years.
Derek and Felicia were married three months later.