Over the Edge
Sue wanted to shout into the phone, “Thanks for nothing Bucko!” then slam it down, but she knew she couldn’t. not at work. She wasn’t even supposed to have personal calls. Summoning all the ability she possessed, Sue clenched her jaw, shoving the scalding tears back inside as she hung up the phone.
As she tried to impose self-control and focus on her work, her mind ratcheted back to what her ex-husband, Terry, had said. He wasn’t picking up the kids this weekend, and he wouldn’t be bringing the monthly support check she relied on. Sue questioned her reasons for marrying Terry. Had she been so over-whelmed by his good looks and charm, or his huge income? Had she been blinded to his self-centered attitude and tumbled blindly over the edge, believing she was in love?
She wondered why they didn’t make any more men like Dave, a middle aged man, taking customer service phone calls in the next workstation, She’d sure like to find one, but her search during the past few years had been fruitless. She’d given up finding a companion again at bars or on the Internet, even at church. She wanted to discover a younger, single version of Dave. She knew if that happened, deep inside the part of her that she didn’t share with anyone, she would probably fall over the edge into the passion of true love. This time it would be about character, not looks, and certainly not about how much money he made.
“Hey Susan, you dreaming?” Deirdre, Dave’s niece and one of her co-workers, intruded on her thoughts.
“Yeah!” Sue scowled as she looked up and brushed her blond hair back. “I just got a call from my ex. I’m so… so angry I could spit poison!”
Deirdre raised her eyebrows, “…and?”
“For starters, he’s not picking up the kids,” Sue hissed. The exasperation that had knotted her insides flooded out. “It’s just that… that he doesn’t ever seem to care. He can be such a royal flaming jerk! Sometimes I think I’ll explode.”
Deirdre ventured, “Hey, maybe a girl to girl talk would help. How about lunch?” Her voice was inviting, soft as warm honey. “My treat.”
“I don’t know…” Sue hesitated, beginning to like the idea.
“Come on! Is it a date?”
Sue smiled her assent.
After they ordered food and drinks, Deirdre said gently, “Now, can you tell me the whole story?”
“Well…” Sue hesitated. She knew Terry’s phone call was only what had triggered her anxiety. She hadn’t shared her real fears about her love life, or lack of it for that matter, with anyone. Just the thought caused a hard knot of bile to boil up in her throat again.
Deirdre ventured into the sudden silence, “Am I wrong Susan, or is there more to it than your ex being a royal jerk?”
Sue nodded and hung her head. “Yeah... I guess… it just seems like all the men I meet, or at least the ones I date, are that way.”
“It’s just so discouraging.” The mumbled words, more to herself and at the table, than to Deirdre. “I’m not searching for Mr. Perfect. I don’t care if he’s good looking or how much he earns… I guess you’re lucky… but in case you haven’t noticed, your husband’s one in a million. He’s like your uncle, Dave… he’s kind. He cares!” She raised her head and brightened. “I’d love to meet someone like that but I’m convinced they don’t exist. You got the last one!” Sue hung her head down. This time she allowed the searing flood of tears to burst.
Silence draped between them for what seemed an eternity as Sue toyed with her pizza, until Deirdre broke the stillness with a gentle invitation. “Hey! Come on…” and reached across the table placing her warm hand on Sue’s arm
Sue looked up, her blue eyes wide and bewildered. “What?”
“If you give up Susan, you’ve lost. Good men are out there. And yes, you deserve one. You have to keep looking… you can’t quit.” Deirdre paused a minute, the wheels whirring behind her eyes. “In fact, I think I might be able to introduce you to one… that is if you’ll let me.”
Sue brightened, “You’re kidding, right?”
Deirdre began hesitantly, “Well… I know… my uncle Dave has a friend whose wife died a few years ago…”
“No! Now wait a minute!” Sue was adamant. “I don’t need a father. I need a man!”
“Trust me,” Deirdre persisted, “this guy, Ken, is a little younger than my uncle. I really think you ought to meet him. He’s kind, gentle, and I know he cares deeply about other people. Come on, what have you got to lose? One evening and a free dinner. You can bring your kids over to my place – no charge.”
Sue envisioned graying hair but couldn’t resist Deirdre’s challenge. “Well, when you put it that way, I suppose …”
“Good!” An easy smile played at the corners of her mouth. “Let me try to arrange it for Saturday night.”
When Ken called Sue he agreed to meet her at a restaurant apologizing that he couldn’t pick her up. Sue wondered if he even owned a car or was driving some old thing that he was ashamed of, but he did sound sweet and kind, and not too old. She remembered Deirdre’s words that at least it was a free meal… and it was a popular steak house.
When Sue arrived and gave her name, the host sat her at an empty table. As she toyed with her water glass, a tall devastatingly handsome and decidedly young man approached, his blue eyes glistening.
Sue looked up, and nodded.
His cheeks creased into dimples. “I’m Ken, and I’m very pleased you agreed to have dinner with me.”
Sue finally stammered, “Yes… I’m a … glad to meet you.” She could not hide her astonishment.
“I’m guessing,” Ken chuckled as he sat across from Sue, “You might have been expecting someone older? Deirdre said you were afraid I was close to Dave’s age – actually I lived next door to Dave when I was in college. I agreed to go along with her little surprise.” Ken smiled again as mischief gleamed in his azure eyes, then turned serious. “I’m afraid I haven’t asked your forgiveness for being late, but I had a patient at the hospital that took a little more time than I planned. I’m truly sorry.”
Deirdre’s description of Ken flashed in Sue’s mind. “You’re a…”
“Yes, I’m a doctor. My patients are very important to me. And… I’ve been hesitant to date much since Karen died about two years ago. The women I’ve met seem to only be concerned with how much I earn. That just turns me off! I can’t seem to find anyone who cares about people instead of things.”
As their conversation continued though the meal it seemed like she was looking through a window at Ken’s character. Sue couldn’t believe what she heard and saw. Here was a man who had deep concern for others, as well as being handsome and kind. As she learned more of him and they both began to share some of their dreams, the realization of what could happen began to be overwhelming. With their meal almost over, Ken reached across the table and touched her hand as he smiled. “I’ve had a wonderful evening Susan, if you’d consider it, I’d like to repeat the experience… soon!”
As the meal ended Susan planned to thank Deride when she picked up her children for introducing her to Ken. Yes, she thought, this just might be the beginning of a long sought journey. Susan knew when she tumbled over the edge this time, it would be with clear vision and wide open eyes.