Chapter One: At the risk of this being awkward…
Tonight was the night…but only he knew it. Bob Hartley had never been this nervous in his life and his heart raced with a mixture of fear and expectation. He wanted to do this, but at the same time he thought it was going to make him sick. He could only describe the feeling as being kind of like a combination of your first day of college and going to the dentist to have a cavity filled. Bob noted, as the elevator carried its self to the bottom floor of his office building, that his palms were drenched in sweat. How embarrassing! He wiped them on the sides of his pants, hoping no one would notice.
He didn't know if he really wanted to do this…he had second, third and fourth thoughts with each hurried step he took towards his train. If he decided not to, his nerves would ease up and he could go to dinner in peace…but on the same note he was practically desperate to do it, and part of him just thought he'd die inside or something if he didn't or at the very least regret it for as long as he lived…why else would he have ever bought the ring? It took him a week alone to get up the courage to buy the ring…and it was perfect.
"Emily I know we've only been together for a year..." He mumbled quietly to himself as he boarded the train. "No, no that's no good."
He shut up when a woman next to him in the crowd shot him an angry look. Apparently she'd heard him…he hoped her name wasn't Emily too, because that would be awkward.
Bob shut his mouth and quietly contemplated exactly what he was going to say. He was so nervous he hadn't told anyone he was going to ask her, not even Jerry, just for fear that he'd be turned down…he didn't know what he'd do if she turned him down. Bob could feel his heart leaping almost back up into his throat as he walked the two blocks from his train to Emily's school to pick her up.
Even at five o'clock, the playground was jam packed with kids. He wasn't much for kids, or schools, but he was crazy enough about Emily Harrison to endure the fact that she taught the third grade. The simple fact was that Bob's feelings for Emily lacked all semblance of rationality. First off, she wasn't his type. He'd usually dated blondes before Emily, but there was something about her dark hair he found very alluring. She was also one of the few perhaps the only long term girlfriend he'd had who he had not been intimate with…Emily was not that kind of girl.
Bob decided marriage was his solution when he realized that he couldn't even think about her eyes without butterflies attacking his stomach, and that some times, he spaced out when Mr. Carlin was blabbing about his dull problems and found himself writing Emily Harrison all over his notes…and then there was the idea of not being with her in twenty years, of letting anyone else be the mother of his children (if they ever came along), of ever having a romantic relationship with anyone but her, of not growing old with her…he couldn't stomach any of those thoughts. And so that's how the ever reluctant Bob Hartley, a man who hated and resisted most forms of change, decided to ask Emily Harrison to be his wife.
"Hi Bob!" She exclaimed cheerfully when she saw him come in her classroom. She dropped her papers on her desk, not really caring where exactly they fell and made her way into her boyfriend's embrace.
Bob and Emily enjoyed a long, sweet kiss that he figured might not be what you would call appropriate for an elementary school setting but he relished it anyhow.
"How was your day sweetheart?" Emily questioned.
"Oh, good, good how…how about yours?"
"Okay." She giggled, taking note that he stuttered a little more than usual that evening. She wondered what was going through his head. Emily smiled, as she went back to her desk and began to put her papers back in her bag. "I'll be ready in just a second. Where are we going anyway?" She asked. He watched her shoulder length brown hair curled in a flip, bounce gently on her shoulders. He even thought her hair was beautiful and just wanted to reach out and touch it.
"Oh uh, that little Italian place you like, near the lake."
"That sounds wonderful." She smiled, turning him and allowing him to take her arm in his own. He hoped she wouldn't notice his palms and the fact that he was clearly a little more nervous than he probably needed to be.
If Bob…the psychologist…had gotten a little more out of his own head, he would've noticed that Emily was equally enamored with him and had written Bob Hartley with a heart around it on her own desk scratch paper.
Emily sighed. She loved this restaurant. The warm candlelight illuminated her face and the mood and the music were just right. Above all, she was crazy about the company. Bob hadn't said that much that night, just smiled back at her, gleefully and somewhat nervously. She could tell he had something to say and she sure hoped it wasn't good-bye.
"Dearest Emily we've been together for almost a year now…" He began. Oh no, here it went…and after that kiss, and the restaurant…it was such a romantic atmosphere too romantic to be dumped in! "And I'm very fond of you," he was! "and I want us to spend the rest of our lives together, will you be my wife?"
"Yes!" She exclaimed.
"Of course!" She said, leaning across the table to give him an even bigger kiss than the one they'd shared earlier.
"I'm so glad you said yes. Here." He said, slipping the ring he'd chosen onto her finger.
"Bob it's beautiful!" She gushed. While she knew he wasn't cheap, he also knew he wasn't all that flashy and she could tell he'd spent money on it. "Oh honey, I love it." Her smile warmed his heart.
"It's not as pretty as you." He complimented. She blushed. What a corny line…but how sweet was he!
"So, uh…when are we going to do this?" She asked.
"Do what?" He questioned, not sure what she was referring to exactly.
It was a wedding, there were going to be more things to do than he'd cared to know about…and plus the soup was getting cold and now that the butterflies in his stomach had dissipated he would admit to you that he was actually kind of hungry.
"The wedding Bob." She asked, fluttering her eyelashes.
"Oh yeah, the wedding. June is nice Emily. You'll be out of school, I…"
"Actually. Can we do it next week?" She inquired as she watched him sip his wine.
"Next week?" He asked. He almost choked.
"Yeah I…I just can't wait to be Mrs. Emily Hartley." She giggled a little seductively as she leaned in closer to him. He laughed a little nervously too. Little did he know, she'd also been writing Mrs. Emily Hartley on her notes and keeping them in her desk.
"That sounds fair enough." He teased. "But what about school?"
"I can take some time off, and plus it's the week of Spring break. So lets get married Monday after next, April 15th."
"Okay." He said, barely believing they were setting a date, and neglecting to recall that the 15th was tax day and a horrible day to get married. "April 15th it is." He agreed, leaning across the table to kiss her again.
It was then that Bob noticed a new type of nervousness begin to overwhelm his senses and he wondered if it would plague him every step of the way throughout his life with this woman. She smiled at him brightly and looked up at him with hopeful dreamy eyes that were adoring, seemed to dream only of their future and melted his heart as soon as their gaze met his own…that thing, which he called love for her, was enough to calm him and keep him committed to the promise he'd just made…at least the awkwardness of asking had ended in the best of all possible outcomes and for the moment, that fact put him at complete ease.