CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Stuckeyville - the home of Carol Vessey

December 21, 2000

6:30 AM

Carol Vessey finished her make-up and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She sighed ... disapprovingly.

"I must be insane," she said.

She'd showered and dressed hours earlier. She'd even packed her suitcase and taken it downstairs. She'd told herself it was because she didn't want to miss her flight to New York. But, it was really because she was too nervous to sleep. There where so many unknowns in what she was about to do - running back to New York to find Ed and tell him that she loved him. And she was scared.

She noticed her hand was trembling as she packed the last of her cosmetics back into the make-up case.

She was risking so much, she'd told herself. What if he doesn't love the real her? What if his feelings for her were just the remnants of an adolescent schoolboy's crush? Or worse! What if his feelings for her *were* real and her running back home a day early and without an explanation ruined any chance she might have had with him? What if Miranda took the opportunity to ...

NO! She wasn't going to think about *that* woman and Ed. Yes, she knew that Miranda was attracted to Ed - and why shouldn't she be? Ed was cute, funny and adorable. But, Mike was sure that Ed didn't have feelings for Miranda. She had to trust that. The pain of Ed never having feelings for the real her was bad enough. Learning that she'd squandered her chance to be with him because she was too terrified, that was... That was unbearable!

Of course, she could have just called Ed and told him all this on the phone. She must have picked up the phone a dozen times last night. But something kept stopping her. Maybe it was her fear. If Ed was going to tell her that it was over between them, she didn't want to hear it so soon. She wanted to keep hoping that she hadn't hurt him by running away - that she hadn't ruined her chance to be with him.

No, she had to tell him how she felt about him in person. She couldn't do it over the phone. That was just too 'practical', too 'safe'. And Carol Vessey was tired of being 'practical' and playing it 'safe'. All that had gotten her was relationships with guys like Nick and Troy. Safe, practical relationships where she risked nothing and thus from which she got NOTHING.

This was different. ED was different. She loved him. It wasn't like Nick. She didn't have to convince herself that she loved him - she KNEW it. She felt it, in every ounce of her being. When she was with him. When he held her. It was like magic. No, it wasn't LIKE magic.

It *was* magic.

She closed her make-up case and started walking back towards her bedroom. The house was so quiet and peaceful. It had snowed all that night - which had caused Carol some concern that her flight would be cancelled. But a call to the airport at 5:00 am had confirmed that the weather was not going to be a problem. She was about midway down the hall when she heard something.

[thunk!]

She stopped and listened for a moment. When she didn't hear it again, she decided that her insanity over Ed had reached the point where she was starting to hear things. That is, until she heard it again.

[thunk!]

Carol stopped in the hallway. She wasn't imagining the noise. She looked around and tried to figure out where the sound was coming from. She stood still for a moment, just listening.

[*thunk*!]

It sounded louder. Like it was coming from her bedroom. She walked down the hallway and stood in her bedroom doorway.

[*Thunk*!]

'Definitely louder and more towards this side of the room,' Carol thought.

[**Thunk**!]

'The window?!' she thought.

She walked over to the window and parted the curtains. As she did, something struck the window with a loud 'THUNK!!' Startled, she jumped back, almost tipping over backwards. But, she caught herself and looked out the window, just in time to see something round and yellowish sail towards the window and land on roof of her porch.

'Waffles?!' The roof of her front porch was littered with frozen breakfast waffles. There must have been about fifty or sixty of them.

'Who would ...?', she started to ask, then looked down and saw HIM, standing there in the snow.

He was just about to throw another waffle at her window.

"ED!!" Carol tried to open her window, but because it was so cold it was frozen shut. She quickly gave up and raced out of the bedroom and down the stairs. She threw open the door and tore down the walkway, falling into his arms. Ed caught her slim form easily.

Carol just held onto him for awhile, absorbing the feel of his body close to hers. After a few moments, she pulled away and looked at him. He was in jeans and a sweatshirt - and he had never looked better to her eyes. She laughed as she realized that there were quite a lot of waffles by his feet.

Ed followed her eyes and chuckled. He said, "Yeah, I suspect there's going to be a mysterious shortage of waffles in Stuckeyville this Christmas!"

Carol laughed and hugged him tightly again. She looked up into his blue eyes, letting herself fall into them all over again. Ed continued to smile.

"Ed..." she said dreamily.

"Yes?" Ed replied, still smiling.

"Pinch me," Carol couldn't imagine a more perfect moment than this. HE was here. She was in HIS arms. She had to be sure it wasn't all an illusion.

"You want me to pinch you?"

"Yes, so I know that I'm not dreaming."

Ed smiled wickedly, "If you insist ..." and then pinched her behind.

Carol's eyes flew open as she let out a yelp and jumped back from Ed. "ED! I didn't mean THERE!"

"You asked me to pinch you. You did not specify where you wanted to be pinched..." Ed defended, his voice all sweetness and innocence.

"Well... Yes I know I did ... technically! But why did you have to pinch me THERE?" Carol tried to sound angry.

"It was the first place that came to mind..." Ed said, as he pulled her in close for a kiss, but Carol stopped him.

"Ed...?"

"Yes."

"We need to talk."

"About me pinching you 'there'? Look Carol, I'm sorry I was just ..."

"No that's not it. I think we need to talk ..."

"To talk?"

"About ... us."

"Oh."

"Come inside?" Carol asked, her eyes filled with more than a little hope. Ed just smiled and put his arm around here and let her lead him up the porch steps and into the house. She closed the door behind them. Ed took his coat off. Carol took it and threw it over a chair. Then she motioned for Ed to take a seat on the couch.

"Ed, about the letter...?

"The letter you left on my desk. The letter in which you said it would be best if I didn't follow you ... that it wouldn't work out between us."

"Yes, *that* letter."

"Never read it."

"What do you mean you never read it...? Of course you read it. How do you know what the letter I left said if you didn't read it?"

"Because I didn't believe that *YOU* wrote it. Oh sure it was signed by someone named 'Carol'. But that wasn't you. Not the real you."

"I don't understand ..." Carol said, but in truth she did understand. She wasn't herself when she wrote that letter. No, that was a lie. She was being herself when she wrote that stupid letter. It was just another example of her 'playing it safe'.

Carol began pacing, "No, Ed. You're wrong. That was me. The REAL me. I'm not the girl you think I am. I'm not the girl you fell in love with in high school."

"The girl I fell in love with in high school? How did ... Who?"

Carol stopped, "Nancy told me." Then began pacing again.

"Oh. Okay."

"Ed, didn't you hear me? I said I'm not the girl you fell in love with high school."

Ed started to say something but Carol interrupted him, "Every relationship I have ever had has ended ... BADLY. That's why I ran away. I didn't want you to give up your career for me. I didn't think I was good enough for you."

"Can I ...?" Ed began.

"And do you know why that is? Because I always play it safe. Because I'm afraid to risk getting my heart broken. Because I ..."

"CAROL!"

"Huh?"

"Can I ask a question?"

"What? Oh. Yes."

"I know that you're not the girl I had a crush on in high school, that's not important. I need to know something else."

Carol bit her lower lip in hesitation, "And that is...?"

"Are you the girl I taught to ice skate at Rockefeller Center?"

"Yes," Carol said, her voice still full of hesitation and uncertainty.

"Are you the girl who ate chocolate chip cookies and drank hot chocolate with me in New York?"

"Yes," Carol said, a little less hesitantly.

"Were you the girl with the runny mascara who opened the door to her hotel room? Were you the girl who panicked on the observation deck of the Empire State Building?"

"Yes. Yes," Carol said, realizing what Ed was trying to tell her and starting to cry.

Ed looked deeply into Carol's eyes. He seemed to be on the verge of tears himself. "I have only one last question. Were you the girl who looked at the pendant in Macy's department store and cried because it was just like the one your mother once had?"

Carol matched Ed's gaze. Then she reached up and slowly withdrew the pendant on its chain from inside her sweater and let it rest on her chest.

"Yes," she whispered.

"Good," Ed replied. He stepped in closer and lifted her chin with his hand so that he could look down into her eyes and whispered, "because *THAT'S* the girl I fell in love with." Then he kissed her gently.

***

They were kissing for quite a while when a sudden thought struck Carol. She broke away, looked at Ed and asked, "How did you get to Stuckeyville? When I called the airlines last night, they said all of the flights into and OUT OF New York City were booked solid!"

Ed grinned sheepishly and said, "I called in a favor."

"A favor?" Carol asked.

Ed nodded and said. "You know that big deal I was working on?"

"Yeah," Carol said. "Henderson, wasn't it?"

"Yep," Ed said and nodded again. "Well, I, uh, called Mr. Henderson up. He told me the other day that if I needed anything - anything at all - to call him. Well, I did and he had me flown out here on the corporate jet."

"You're kidding?!" Carol asked shocked. Ed grinned hugely and nodded. "He just let you borrow a plane?"

"Didn't bat an eye, just told me where to go and said he'd make a call. And anyway," Ed said, "it wasn't like I flew it myself.although I did ask if I could take the controls. The pilot didn't seem to think it was funny."

Carol chuckled, then said, "What.what exactly did you tell Mr. Henderson?"

"Oh, nothing much," Ed said then grinned, "just that I needed to get back to Stuckeyville last night.to get the love of my life."

"The love of your life?" Carol asked quietly. Ed just looked into her eyes and she could see that he meant it.

There wasn't much Carol could say to that, so she just leaned in and kissed Ed again.

Their kiss was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. Ed and Carol could hear voices on the porch. As they went to open the door, they clearly heard Mike say, "What's up with all these waffles?"

They both laughed as Ed opened the door to the surprised faces of his friends.

***

Stuckeyville - StuckeyBowl

April 20, 2001

12:00 PM

Carol walked from her car towards StuckeyBowl, a picnic basket held in one hand. She passed a group of five women in the parking lot who had apparently just finished bowling and were chatting before they got into their cars and left.

She noted with amusement that the local teenagers had stolen - again! - the 'T' from the StuckeyBowl sign, leaving it to read 'SuckeyBowl.' She chuckled slightly. She knew that on some level, Ed himself found it humorous, but as the new owner of StuckeyBowl was becoming increasingly frustrated by the repeated thefts.

She walked inside and took a look around. Ed hadn't changed the inside much, just fixed it up a little. She looked over at his office - converted from the pro shop into his new law office. Several groups were bowling on the lanes, Shirley was at the lunch counter, and Phil and Kenny were at the shoe counter.

She walked towards the shoe counter. Phil was spraying the rental shoes when Carol walked up. She only heard the last bit of his conversation with Kenny, "I can't believe Bosco just shot down my idea."

"It was a good idea," Kenny offered.

When Phil noticed Carol, his face lit up. "Maybe blondie here can help us."

"Help you with what?" Carol asked - then immediately regretted it.

"Ed asked us for suggestions on how we can get more people to come to the bowling alley..."

"Oh," Carol said.

"And I said we should bring in some whores. And before you say anything, I'm not suggesting anything sleazy. I'm talking about nice, friendly, singing kind of whores. Like in that Dolly Parton movie ... Wholesome, Disney-looking whores. Now doesn't that sound like fun for the whole family?"

Carol blanched, "Uh... I'm not so sure that's a good idea."

"I think he may have something there. If there were two bowling alleys, exactly alike, but one of them had wall-to-wall whores, I'd patronize the one with the whores," Kenny offered.

"Thanks man," Phil replied.

Carol just rolled her eyes. She knew that Ed would never go along with that kind of suggestion and shook her head. "What is it exactly that you want me to do?"

Phil looked at her, "Well since you're his girlfriend, I was wondering if you could use your feminine wiles to convince Ed that it's a good idea."

"My 'feminine wiles'?"

"Yeah, you know ... your charms." He raised his eyebrows several times suggestively.

Carol was momentarily taken aback, but then relaxed. She had had enough dealings with Phil by this point to realize that he was harmless - incredibly annoying at times - but harmless.

"I'll see what I can do," Carol feigned. "Is Ed around?"

"Actually, I haven't seen Bosco in awhile," Phil replied.

"Are you sure he's still here? Maybe he changed his mind about your idea and is interviewing whores," Kenny suggested.

"That was going to be my job!" Phil protested.

"Well, no," Carol said, "but it is a big place. And his Explorer is out front."

Phil breathed a sigh of relief, and then said "Well, you're his old ball and chain - don't you have some secret way of locating him?"

"Secret way of locating him?"

"Yeah, like some kind of girlfriend-radar?"

Carol looked over at Kenny for help, but he didn't seem interested in correcting Phil. "Phil there's no such thing as girlfriend radar."

"Oh..." He winked at Carol, "RIIIIGHT. Absolutely. Can't let that secret out can we."

"Uh, sure." Carol said, "Look I need to find Ed. Thanks anyway, I think." Then walked over to Shirley at the lunch counter.

"Don't forget to mention the whores!" Phil called out as she walked away.

Carol sighed, "Hey, Shirley. Have you seen Ed?"

Shirley stopped in the process of cleaning the counter, looked startled and then noticed Carol. "Hello, Ms. Vessey," she said.

"Shirley," Carol said, "it's Carol. Just Carol."

"Okay," Shirley said. "So what may I do for you Carol-just-Carol?"

Carol opened her mouth about to correct Shirley, but decided she didn't have that much time. Instead, she repeated her question, "Do you have any idea where Ed is?"

Shirley cocked her head to one side and said, "I think he said something about climbing to new heights in his career."

"Climbing to new heights?" Carol asked surprised.

"Yes," Shirley said. "He was walking around muttering something about tea. I thought he was much more of a coffee drinker, myself. He certainly seems to be more of like a coffee drinker. I've even committed his preference to memory - 'Coffee with five sugars'. This is very important as one of the goals I have set for myself as Ed's legal assistant is to make sure that when he is drinking coffee, and he finishes his coffee, his cup is refilled with more coffee. Now I guess I will have to order tea."

Carol sort of stood there, trying to understand Shirley's rather tortured train of thought when she figured out where Ed was.

***

Ed was on the roof of StuckeyBowl, installing a new 'T'. As he tightened another bolt, he chuckled in amazement at the thought that he owned StuckeyBowl!

Behind him, the quintet of women in the parking lot were watching him work, a fact that Ed was not aware of. He was dressed in jeans and a white cotton undershirt. He had left his shirt, a blue short-sleeve shirt with the number 18 on the left breast, inside while he worked in the warm spring day. The woman were giggling and chatting.

"I hear he's the new owner," one woman said.

"Who cares, he's cute!" a second woman said.

"I heard he's also a lawyer," another woman said.

"Who cares, he's cute!" the second woman said.

"I heard he's divorced," a fourth woman said.

"Who cares, he's cute!" the second woman said.

"Well, I heard he just moved back here from New York City," the fifth woman said.

There was a pause, and they all said, "Who cares, he's cute!" and started giggling.

"Sorry, girls! He's taken!" Carol said as she walked by them.

The five women watched as Carol walked closer to where Ed was working and called out, "My, that's a very large... 'T' you've got there, big fella!"

Ed turned around and grinned at Carol. One of the five women waved at Ed. Seeing her wave, he waved back. Carol mock glared at him, wagged her finger at him and said, "Ah, ah!" She smiled to show she wasn't really worried.

Ed walked over to the edge of the roof and squatted, "Hey Carol!" He smiled, "What's up?"

"Well," Carol said and raised the picnic basket, "How would you like to have lunch with the most beautiful teacher at Stuckeyville High School?"

Ed smiled slyly "Sounds great. I'll get dressed, we can call Molly and ..."

"Ed! I meant *me*!" She glared at him in fake anger.

"You? Oh you're much too young and attractive to be a teacher in high school. Nope. Sorry." He extended his leg, "Pull the other one, missy!"

Carol laughed and said, "Ed! I'm serious. How about a nice lunch at the duck pond. I've got the food if you can provide the blanket."

"You're on!" Ed said, smiling. "Just give me a minute!" He collected his tools and climbed off the roof. He went inside and stored his tools, while Carol waited outside. The women were standing around, obviously trying to get another glimpse of Ed. 'Smile all you want girls, he's still all MINE!' Carol thought.

Inside, Ed grabbed his shirt and slipped it back on after cleaning his hands. He checked himself really quick in the mirror and, finding himself presentable, headed towards the door.

He looked around and then called, "Phil! Get your keister out here!"

Phil popped up from the main counter, startling Ed, and said, "How may my ass be of service, Bosco?"

"I'm going to lunch with Carol," Ed said. "I will be back later, don't blow up the place."

Ed was almost out the door when he stopped. He looked thoughtful for a moment and then ran back into his office. He rummaged through his backpack - 'I'm so glad I got rid of that blasted briefcase!' Ed thought.

He smiled as he walked out of StuckeyBowl and over to drape his arm around Carol's shoulders. He directed them over to his Explorer, where he pulled a blanket out of the back. "I keep this here for picnic-related emergencies" he explained to Carol.

"Always prepared, huh?" Carol asked.

"Ms. Vessey you have no idea," Ed replied, smiling.

As Ed and Carol strolled to the duck pond, holding hands and smiling at one another, they passed the five women. Carol heard the women (mostly the second women) sigh loudly, finally acknowledging Carol's claim on the hot new prospect in town. As they walked she noted that Ed never once looked at the other women, his eyes were fixed on her.

She sighed and thought, 'We've been together for almost four months, and we still act like a couple of high school kids on their first date. Well, except in certain circumstances.' She flushed.

Once at the duck pond, Ed quickly laid out the blanket and they sat down to enjoy their lunch. Carol unpacked the fried chicken, potato salad, and a small vegetable crudités. Ed pulled out the plates and utensils and a small bottle of wine and some wine glasses.

They each piled a plate with food and sat eating, talking and looking at one another with great affection.

Ed said, "I can't believe that I actually own StuckeyBowl! And I have my own practice!"

"Hah," Carol said. "You're now the world's first bowling alley lawyer!"

"I'm a lawyer, and I own a bowling alley." Ed said. "Two separate things."

Carol laughed and said, "You keep telling people that."

While they ate, Ed thought back over the last several months. The time he had spent with Carol over the holidays had been incredible! He was so much in love with her and he loved being with her. Carol had gotten her inspiration to write back - she said she now knew what gave that inspiration, or rather *who* gave her that inspiration.

He remembered spending Christmas morning at Carol's. She had handed him a manila envelope. He had looked at her curiously but opened the envelope. Inside was a document, bound - a clear plastic cover and a GBC binder from the Kinko's on Sherman - and entitled, 'A Murderous Affair' by Carol P. Vessey. Ed had grinned from ear to ear and promised to read it that day. "To the exclusion of everything else," he'd said. When Carol raised an eyebrow, he smiled sheepishly and said, "Well, not *everything* else!"

Carol had included a dedication that made Ed's eyes tear up:

'To Ed -'

'The man who was inspired me to live and to love. We have love, everything else will follow.'

'Love, Carol'

He remembered his lunch meeting with Robert Farmer and Roy Sheehan. The managing partners HAD offered him a partnership in the firm. Despite the rumors he had heard, Ed was still surprised. Farmer and Sheehan had said that after all the exemplary work he'd done, he had earned it.

Ed had told them that he honestly needed to think about it. At the time he was not sure what he wanted to do. He really loved Carol and wanted to be with her and it was clear that Stuckeyville was where she belonged. Ed found that he also enjoyed being back in Stuckeyville with his best friend, Mike, as well as Nancy and Molly. They were a great group of friends.

So for a few weeks he had commuted back and forth to New York City. During the weeks he had stayed at his apartment in New York and on the weekends he had stayed with Carol. He had helped Molly out with her grandfather's estate on the weekends. Now he rented her grandfather's house from her.

Finally, on Valentine's Day, Ed made his decision. He had spoken to Farmer and Sheehan the next day and explained to them that he was resigning. He would give them the rest of the month to transfer any existing accounts to other lawyers at the firm or to complete the ones he reasonably could. The managing partners were disappointed of course, and they even made a half- hearted attempt to talk him out of it, but they didn't get where they were by not being able to read the writing on the wall - they both remembered Ed's speech to Miranda at Christmas and had assumed it was just a matter of time.

Ed smiled, remembering how his former bosses had insisted that it not be a complete break. Ed's blossoming law practice in Stuckeyville was helped along by his association with Farmer & Sheehan and some work that he did for them under contract. The money had certainly come in handy when he bought StuckeyBowl.

Ed had tried to help out Big Rudy with StuckeyBowl, but in the end the only way to save it from becoming the Stuckeyville Roller Disco was to buy it. Carol had at first balked at the idea. But she had seen how much Ed loved the place and how much he actually enjoyed renovating it, and had withdrawn any objections (using some of Ed's legal jargon on him).

Ed had helped Carol line up a new publishing agent. It had turned out that Mr. Henderson's wife was a writer and had talked to her publishing agent after Ed had spoken with Henderson. Carol's book - A Murderous Affair - was in the final stages of being published!

Ed remembered the look of relief on Carol's face that she hadn't signed the contract with Knight Publishing when Ed had outlined their plan. Ed smiled, remembering the article in the paper the other day about an investigation into Knight Publishing's contract practices. A couple of other authors that had almost signed with Knight were spreading the word and it looked like Knight Publishing was in for some unwelcome attention.

Since Ed had returned to Stuckeyville, he had divided his time between his new law practice, getting StuckeyBowl back in shape, and spending every possible moment with Carol.

Carol noted the far away look in Ed's eyes and asked quietly, "What's on your mind?"

Ed started, embarrassed at his wool gathering, and said, "Oh, just reminiscing."

Carol still felt uncertain at times, afraid that Ed might not be as happy here in Stuckeyville as he let on and said, "About New York?"

"What?" Ed asked in surprise. "No. Well, not exactly. I was just remembering the last few months - since you and I met." Ed smiled to emphasize his point.

Carol relaxed and said, "Nice thoughts, I hope."

"The best," Ed said and looked at her in that special way that always drove all doubts from her mind, not to mention sent her heart racing.

"Quite a warm day it turned out to be," Carol said, fanning herself. Ed just grinned.

"So," Carol said, "how's work - the law side of things?"

"Good," Ed said. "I met the new assistant District Attorney the other day."

"Oh," Carol said, "what's he like?"

"He's a she, actually," Ed said matter-of-factly.

"What?" Carol said, surprised.

"The new ADA is a woman," Ed said tentatively. "Bonnie Hane."

"Okay, Ed," Carol said. "I know that tone of voice. What is it?"

"Nothing," Ed said, holding up his hands.

"Its not nothing, Ed," Carol said and just looked at him.

Ed sighed and said, "She asked me out for a drink."

"Asked you out for drink?" Carol repeated.

"Yes," Ed said.

"And.??" Carol prompted.

"And I told her that I couldn't," Ed said.

"See," Carol said with a smile, "that wasn't so bad was it?"

Ed continued, almost as if he hadn't heard her, "But she misunderstood me and thought that I meant that I couldn't THAT night. So she asked me if I wanted to go out tonight."

Carol eyebrows rose and she prompted again, "And.??"

"And," Ed said, "I told her that I didn't think that my girlfriend would really like it too much."

"Well," Carol said with a sniff, "I hope that got through to her."

"Yep," Ed said, then grinned mischievously. "Although she was kind of cute..."

Carol, who had just been finishing a drumstick, shook it at him and said, "Watch yourself, mister!"

Ed grinned and, after a moment, Carol grinned back.

"You know," Carol said as she looked at Ed, "I never did properly thank you for helping me save Mrs. Gennacarro's job."

"It was my pleasure," Ed said.

"Yes, it will be," Carol said thoughtfully.

"What?" Ed asked.

"Well," Carol said sexily, "I know just how to thank you properly, so I was thinking that tonight ..." she leaned in suggestively.

"Tonight...?" Ed replied.

Carol whispered, ".... We could see each others 'skivvies'" then kissed Ed sweetly. Ed just accepted the kiss - and the promise it entailed - with contentment.

After a few minutes of kissing, Ed and Carol broke away, reluctantly, as a family walked by. The mother and father, in their mid thirties, just smiled at Carol and Ed while the kids made little gagging faces at their kissing. Ed and Carol laughed and made faces back at them.

When Carol turned back to Ed, she found him looking at her intently with a serious look on his face.

"Ed? Is something wrong," she asked.

Ed stood up and held his hand out for her as he said, "No. I just want to talk to you ... to ask you something."

Something in the way Ed spoke sent icicles running down Carol's spine. She took his hand and let him help her to a standing position. She said, "About... about what?"

Ed walked over to the side of the pond. He bent down and picked up a couple of pebbles. He drew a deep breath, looked away at the pond, and then released the breath after a few seconds. He turned back to her.

"The first time I ever laid eyes on you was in ninth grade," Ed said quietly. "Mr. Roarke's biology class. I looked across the room and you were pouring water into a test tube."

Ed threw a pebble into the water. Carol smiled slightly but stared at Ed intently.

"You were wearing a blue shirt with white criss-cross strings right down the sides," Ed said, using his hands to indicate where the strings were.

Carol closed her eyes, smiled, and gave a small laugh. 'Oh my God! I remember that shirt. I can't believe that Ed does, too?!'

Ed threw another pebble into the water. "And the moment I saw you." Ed trailed off.

Carol looked up into Ed's eyes.

Ed continued, "I just went." and then gasped.

Carol looked down again, slightly embarrassed.

"Carol," Ed said, "I fell in love with that girl in the blue shirt with the white criss-cross strings down the sides in high school."

Carol stared intently into his blue eyes.

"And," Ed continued, "I fell in love with you all over again when you walked into my office in New York a few months ago. I fall in love with you every time I see you after we're separated."

Carol's smile widened slightly. She didn't know where he was going with this, but he was turning her into a puddle with the whole thing.

Ed walked closer to her, standing about two feet away.

"Carol, I love you! I love every part of you. And we have to be together!"

Carol nodded and thought, 'This is EXACTLY how I feel, Ed! But why the big production about it?'

Ed reached into his pocket and dropped onto his right knee. As he held out the ring to Carol he said, "Carol Phyllis Vessey, will you marry me?"

Carol was shocked for a moment, but only a moment. She said clearly, "Yes!" then leapt forward to kiss Ed. However, neither of them was balanced very well - Ed on one knee, Carol leaning forward to kiss Ed - and they tipped over onto the ground.

Neither cared.