Part II of our love saga. Part I is here if you missed it!
So there we were, at the wedding…
Thankfully, probably due mostly to the grace of God, I was completely focused on the beautiful bride and her groom on the wedding day and my thoughts weren’t straying to speculation about Tom. I only allowed myself to look once into the congregation for a Tom sighting, but didn’t see him and thought they either didn’t make it or were late. Once all the bridesmaids had arrived at the reception, Tom and his two escorts, Les and Jackie, arrived, well before most other guests. To my surprise, Tom wheeled right up to me and struck up a conversation, as though we had just seen each other the other day. I told him how happy I was to see him out and about, and he informed me that he was really ready to break it down on the dance floor, wheelchair style. I kept a discreet eye on him once or twice through dinner, but I was honestly having so much fun with my closest friends that I thankfully didn’t get too weird about it. Then, they opened up the dance floor and we all commenced to have a blast. It was one of the most fun playlists at a wedding and I was so happy to be relaxing finally, after months of almost constant hard work and stress. I passed Tom once or twice, and we did some interesting wheel-leg hybrid dancing. He was actually just quite fun to watch as he did some crazy tricks in his chair.
I very consciously told myself to basically forget he was there, and just be myself, and only go near him if it happened naturally (i.e. he happened to wheel near me or be in my direct path to another location). That was a good decision. It allowed me to really enjoy myself and my friends, but it also allowed something else to happen.
Now, just to rewind slightly in the day, something happened to Tom at the very beginning of the wedding ceremony. He was stationed in the back at the end of an aisle in his chair. The bridesmaids began their march down the aisle, and there I went, joyous for Meghan on her most important day. Tom saw me, and suddenly wondered why he hadn’t noticed me more before this. Maybe it was because I was a little more spruced up than usual, but who knows. God opened his eyes, for real. He thought to himself that I was quite pretty and wondered if there might be a chance for him. He then thought immediately that there wasn’t; after all, who would date a guy bound to a wheelchair, for at least the next little while? He mentioned something of this to Leslie after the wedding, and she sagely answered, “Nicole’s a special ed teacher. It’ll be perfect.” (A sentiment oft repeated by Tom’s loving family!)
So, back at the reception there was Tom, trying to talk to me and dance with me as much as he could, and there was I. What was I doing again? Oh yes, avoiding Tom with all my might so that a) I wouldn’t attract anyone’s attention and make it obvious that I was interested in him and b) I wouldn’t be self-conscious and end up making attempts to impress him. Tom felt that I was a little inscrutable but he also had a unique vantage point, at three feet high in his chair. He could much more easily see me in all my petite-ness on the dance floor. As I mentioned, I had really let loose and was enjoying the party. He apparently enjoyed watching me in my element, not at all self-conscious (for once) and really enjoying myself. It confirmed in his mind that this was a girl he should at least think about pursuing. I was, of course, blessedly oblivious to all this. I danced on.
The last song came on, and something told me to find Tom, because I really, really just wanted to dance that last dance with him. At the same moment, Tom had the identical thought. He saw me walking onto the floor and started wheeling toward me. My back was to him, and as he was about to ask me for the dance, my friend Tommy swooped in. I was disappointed but didn’t want to be impolite; Tom wheeled away (and I never saw him, he only told me all this later), no doubt cursing his temporary midget status. After the wedding, Tom initiated another conversation and mentioned that a group was going to a concert the next day and asked if I could make it. I couldn’t, I had so many commitments, and I really thought he was merely being polite and inclusive. He was miffed; this girl was doing everything. How could the guy in the wheelchair compete?
Fortunately, just three or four days after the wedding, I had an evening off from almost constant rehearsal for the musical I was assistant-directing. Tom orchestrated a get-together at his place, and I went, almost ecstatically happy to be included and finally able to attend a more intimate hang-out with him. It was genuinely fun, and I knew I was still quite attracted to Tom– his sense of humor, especially about himself and his ankles, his hospitality, and a new aspect that came to light that night: the boy could sing! It turned out he was in a capella groups in college like I was, and we knew a few of the same songs so we had a blast going through some together. I was almost annoyed that I was still discovering so many things about him that were clearly what I had been searching for in a man. I didn’t notice that he paid me any special attention that night, but I did leave last of everyone there, and we ended up talking for a while and he said he’d love to see the musical if he could get a ride.
If possible, the next week of my life was even crazier than ever, as it was “Hell Week” of the musical, the week we dress rehearse and then put on the show, and during the days I was working at a kids’ Broadway camp as a voice teacher. On my drive home between the end of camp and before I had to head back for the show that night, my phone rang. Something in my head said, “Um, I think that is Tom calling.” I laughed to myself at the silliness, but I looked down, and…it was. I simultaneously got chills and a pounding heart from excitement. Tom asked how everything was going, acknowledged my crazy week, and asked if he could order tickets for the Friday performance. I was more than a little surprised. I’d thought he was being nice and polite when he offered to see the show. Apparently, he’d already worked out a ride situation and fixed it so we could also go out with the group of friends after the show. I told him I’d reserve the tickets, and warned him that they’d need to leave pretty early to mitigate the effects of the gridlock known as rush hour from D.C. to Manassas. I still couldn’t believe he was making such an effort. I concluded he was bored convalescing at home alone and just needed to get out. Just knowing he was coming really helped get my exhausted self through the week, and brought a little smile to my face whenever I thought of it.
Friday came, and I was paranoid that they would not make it, due to leaving late, the traffic, or whatever. I took extra care in getting ready that night, and all the people I was working on the show with noticed…I just said I wanted to dress up because it was Friday (??). Tom called me about 10 minutes before the show and asked where they should park. He was really here! I grabbed their tickets from will-call and paid for them so they could skip the line. Nothing would get in the way of me seeing him! I was unreasonably happy to see him down in the audience and talked to him during the whole 15 minute intermission and we planned the after-party. After the show, we were divying people up between the cars, and Jackie, who was in on the scheme, enthusiastically told Tom to keep me company in my car. That was easy! I was hoping I’d somehow get him there, but I didn’t have to do anything. We arrived at the restaurant about 10 minutes later, and then I thought I’d lost my phone. We (though I tried to tell him he didn’t need to come with me) immediately turned around and went back to the church to look, but it was nowhere to be seen. Back to the restaurant, on the way to which he casually informed me that he had tickets to see Peter Pan at Wolf Trap, though he didn’t actually offer to take me. Once at the restaurant, he sat across from me and we continued to chat, and I noticed that more than once he asked me when I was going on vacation with my family, exactly. I thought it was odd, but told him the dates. A few seconds later, literally right after something totally unrelated, Tom looked at me and blurted out, “So I really want to ask you out on a date, but I can’t drive anywhere because I’m broken. Do you want to go on a double-date with Stephen and Les to a berry-picking orchard?”
Part III/The End will follow! 🙂