Then one day my brother-in-law came home from the country hospital where he worked as the chef and told me, “I’ve found the perfect guy for you. He’s the new accountant. He’s twenty-two years old and a Christian, just like you. You couldn’t find anyone yourself so I’ve done it for you.”
Although I didn’t quite trust my brother-in-law to discover my soul mate, I had a look at the hospital’s staff photo which had just been taken.
“Does he look okay?” Kevin asked.
“Sort of cute, I suppose.”
“Well, his name is Andrew. I’m going to invite him to my place next Saturday for a game of chess. We’ll plan it so you’ll be here accidentally, visiting Julie and the baby. He’ll see that you’re a nice, motherly type of girl and sparks will fly from there.”
Although I wasn’t letting my hopes soar too high, I decided I was willing to take the risk. During the week I found out that Andrew knew all about Kevin’s set-up too. My brother-in-law was not the sort who could keep a secret.
“I told him my young sister-in-law will be here and offered him the chance to turn up under the pretext of having a game of chess to check you out. Don’t worry, he’s looking forward to it.”
So there I’d be, pretending I didn’t know it was all arranged and now had no doubt that Andrew would be doing the same thing. Even then I decided to go ahead with the plan. I was in too deep to pike out without looking awkward. When the day came, I arrived in plenty of time. As Andrew walked up their path, my sister placed her six-month-old son, Jarrad, on my lap to add to a good first impression. It turned out that Andrew was easy to talk to and we had quite a lot in common. After the men had played chess and we’d had a nice tea, we all said a casual good-bye and went our separate ways.
I had no idea if Andrew would choose to pursue our new friendship. During the week, as I didn’t hear from him, I found myself growing really sad. I’d put myself in a vulnerable position. Knowing the strings that were pulled behind the scenes, it was obvious that if he never followed up, it would mean he wasn’t interested. About five days later, he phoned, asking me if I’d like to go and see a movie with him. Maybe the end of all the ‘will he or won’t he?’ suspense helped me decide quickly.
This May, we will celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary with three great children. It seemed to be one of those serendipitous stories of destiny. Our thirteen-year-old daughter looks at that staff photo from way back in early 1991 and says, “How could you have said yes? Dad looked like such a geek!”
Thanks Paula: Author of six other contemporary novels set in Australia, Paula Vince has won the prestigious CALEB Prize 2011 for her latest novel BEST FORGOTTEN. In it, she has woven elements of secrecy and suspense with her trademark compassion.