“I shouldn’t have agreed to have dinner with Tim,” said Felicity to her image in the hallway mirror. “It’s been donkey’s years since I last saw him. He went to China with his Missionary parents, and I was left behind with a broken heart. He was seventeen, I was thirteen. What did I expect? It wasn’t as if he had admitted he had feelings for me. It was all in my head, the stupidity of a teenage crush for an older boy. Now he’s in Toronto and wants to have dinner. Why now? Why after all these years? How did he find me? What does he look like? Why did I agree to this madness? Do I want a broken heart again?” The more Felicity rambled, the more she wanted to cancel the appointment, but Tim had not left his phone number.
“The thing is,” she continued, “if I hadn’t stumbled on that Scripture verse last night, I wouldn’t have even thought about Tim and the lost years.” She recalled the words: Until now you haven’t asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. “And that was what I did. I asked to see Tim again. But I did it for a joke. I didn’t really expect it to happen. Then, out of the blue, he phones this morning. Coincidence, it must be.” She brushed an invisible spec off her cornflower blue, double-breasted pants-suit. She sniffed the air. “Mothballs! And it’s coming from my suit. Nothing I can do about that now.”
At 70 Felicity did not feel as attractive as when she was thirteen, though her bob-cut was the same, only gray. Her short-term memory was questionable, but with little effort she could pull up memories from the past. She blushed at the memories of Tim. He was spontaneous; she was reserved. He was worldly; she was shy. He was handsome, lean, athletic, and always immaculately dressed. She was chubby-faced, petite, and old fashioned in her ways.
Felicity refocused on her reflection. The only thing missing in her attire was her pinafore. Her corset was a little tight, but it should hold. She had reinforced the two snaps at the waist with extra nylon thread. She was Felicity Fletcher—retired English Professor, a spinster, and a born-again Christian. She had not done anything this bold since she walked off the platform, dripping wet, after being dipped like sheep in the baptismal pool at her local church.
Felicity gripped the steering wheel to steady her shaking hands. She was glad the Sunday evening traffic on Yonge Street was light. As she neared the Italian restaurant, she glanced sideways at the three men standing in front of the double doors, just below the streetlight. Tim said he would be wearing a black suit, blue shirt, and no tie. He would have a red rose in his lapel.
He wasn’t there!
He did say tonight, didn’t he? Felicity wondered. Maybe he changed his mind!
Felicity breathed a sigh of relief. She would hang a right at the next lights and go home. Perhaps there was a call waiting. But just as she edged past the entrance of the restaurant, a tall, elegant, silver-haired man stepped through the open doorway. The streetlight briefly illuminated the red rose on his lapel and the white preacher’s collar around his neck.
“That’s him! A priest?” Felicity sucked in her breath so hard, she almost blacked out. The steering wheel jerked out of her hand, but she managed not to lose control of the car. Her heart pounded a wild rhythm in her chest. Her feelings for Tim rushed back. For a brief moment, she was thirteen again and in love. “Silly woman,” she said under her breath. “Acting like a teenager is not becoming at your age, besides, he’s a priest now.” She felt confused and disappointed.
Felicity found a spare parking space five car-lengths from the restaurant. Thankfully, the meter was free after six; otherwise her trembling hands would have dropped her handbag when searching for the appropriate coins.
She took several short breaths to calm the butterflies in her tummy. Through the rear-view mirror she could see Tim combing the sidewalk and peering into passing cars.
“Perhaps I should just drive off,” she whispered. “I’m sure he wouldn’t recognize me if I walked right under his nose, anyway.”
But some unknown force compelled her left hand to lift the door handle. As if in a dream, she saw herself leave the car. The night air was crisp, but she felt warm in her turtle-neck sweater. At the back of her mind she could hear her mother’s voice say, “Shoulders back, sternum out, and for heaven sakes, Felicity, tuck your behind in.” She felt five-foot seven again.
Felicity seemed to float, covering the short distance to the restaurant as if she were a model on a Paris catwalk.
Tim spotted her that instant.
“Ah, Felicity, still beautiful as the day I last saw you,” he said aloud, quickening his pace towards her. “I could never forget that captivating smile and gait.”
“Why, Tim…” Felicity blushed. The pounding in her heart obstructed her hearing. She swallowed to clear the blockage.
Tim drew her to him in a tight embrace, almost knocking her breathless. When he planted a wet kiss on both cheeks, a faint odor of his shaving lotion wafted up her nose. Felicity’s heartbeat spiked. She felt strangely comfortable, as if she had finally found the missing piece to the puzzle of her life. She quickly dismissed the feeling, asking God to forgive her brazenness. When Tim reached for her hand and led her into the restaurant, she didn’t resist. It was what priests did for old women.
There was much to talk about, but Reverend Tim Timmins was content to sit and stare at the woman across the table. His eyes twinkled and his smile seemed permanent. Felicity felt uneasy now, wishing he would say something, not just stare. It was impolite, but maybe it was what priests did—offer silent absolution. Maybe he had read her earlier thoughts!
When their meal arrived, Felicity felt better. At least she could listen to the sound of clanking cutlery and slurping drinks.
Suddenly Tim’s melodious voice pierced her eardrums. “Unforgettable, that’s what you are . . . unforgettable . . .” He sang softly at first and then the crescendo filled the small dining room.
A man of the cloth singing a worldly song… my song? Felicity bowed her head, clasping her hands in silent prayer: Make him stop, Lord, do make him stop. She couldn’t believe those feelings, which she had long since buried when Tim left for China, were still very much alive in her heart. She blushed. She must pull herself together and not make a public spectacle of herself. She must show more respect for the priest, even if he’s not acting like one.
Felicity’s eyes darted from one corner of the dim restaurant to the other. “Do stop, Tim,” she clicked, wishing she had taken the trouble to obtain new dentures, or at least a tube of Polydent from the drugstore to secure her plates.
“…I’ve found you at last …” continued Tim, wishing he could remember the words of the Nat King Cole song he knew she loved so much. What he has to do, he must do now, he thought.
He picked up his spoon and, using it as a microphone, dropped on one knee beside Felicity’s chair. “Like the toupee that clings to my head, how the thought of you does things to me … Never before has anyone been so….marry me dear Felicity. I’ve waited all these years.”
Felicity’s jaw dropped open; she propped her elbow on the table to jam it shut. A dead silence permeated the room. No one dared to breathe. The patrons seemed to wait for Felicity’s answer.
The wild pounding of her heart threatened to block Felicity’s ears again! She would have jiggled them, but her arms felt like cement. Suddenly she was aware of her ample chest heaving like a bellows gone mad. The corset seemed to be strangling her. She reached for her water-glass with trembling fingers, but only managed to knock it over. Next she plunged her elbow into her plate of spaghetti, simultaneously dropping her fork on the floor. She was sweating as if in the throes of a hot-flush. She never liked spontaneity. Now she knew why!
Around her a chant developed: “Say yes, Felicity, the Padre wants to marry you. Do say yes, Felicity…it’s been years, Felicity.”
Heat poured out of Felicity like a furnace. Beads of sweat settled across her brow and top lip. She had never been this embarrassed before. The chant around her grew louder and louder. She had to make them stop; there was only one way to make that happen.
“I can’t marry you, Tim,” she said, searching her mind for reasons.
Dead silence gripped the stunned patrons, but only for a moment.
“Why not, Felicity, why can’t you marry Tim?” they chanted, standing now wine glass in hand, ready to offer a toast.
“Yes, my dear, do tell,” encouraged Tim, hoping his knee wouldn’t lock in the kneeling position. He didn’t expect Felicity to take so long to respond.
“Because, I . . . because I have one glass eye, a wooden leg, and my back goes out more than I do. That’s why,” replied Felicity.
“But that’s a lie…” said Tim, reaching for Felicity’s hand.
“That’s a lie, that’s a lie, that’s a lie, Felicity,” chorused the patrons.
“But even if it were true ,” said Tim, “I still want to marry you. Don’t you see, my dear? It’s destiny. Need I say more? Don’t fight it, my love, say yes.”
“But you’re a priest,” whispered Felicity, struggling to breathe.
“I became a priest, because of you. I remained single, because of you. Now I’m retired. I need a wife. I need you, my dear. In my heart I knew one day God would reunite us.”
Yes, perhaps it was destiny. How else would he have found me? thought Felicity. Deep down, it was what I secretly hoped for all these years! God would have known that, too. Defeated, Felicity smiled. “Then … yes…I’ll marry you, Tim, but I do wear dentures…and a corset.”
And in support, her dentures clicked and two snaps on her corset popped.
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete,” whispered Tim. “Thank you, my dear, and thank You, precious Jesus. Nothing happens before its time.”
Goose bumps prickled Felicity’s skin! Tim’s knee creaked when he stood up.
“Three cheers!” sang the patrons. “The padre himself can perform the ritual!”