Love overcomes a disability.
FACING FEAR TOGETHER
"Are you nuts, man?"
"No, I feel perfectly sane. Why do you have a problem with me asking Sue Ann out anyway?" Glenn asked.
"I've heard things," Ron replied.
"Well, Ricky Andreychuk went out with her. Took her to a movie. He said that right in the middle of the show, she just stood up and demanded to go home. He said she was acting weird."
"Maybe she wasn't feeling well."
"No, man," Ron said. "He said she sat real still and wouldn't talk to him. And she had this frozen look on her face. Said it creeped him out. As soon as he pulled into her driveway, she bailed and never said a word."
"I'm going to ask her out. My mind's made up."
Glenn entered the small candle shop. His nostrils were assaulted by the mingling of heady fragrances. He made his way down a narrow aisle pretending to shop while he tried to still the butterflies doing flip-flops in his belly. The shelves were crowded with candles of every color, scent and size imaginable. There was a small fountain in the back corner, the water gently cascading over a tiny set of chimes. He felt like he had stepped into another world.
Rounding the end of the aisle, he noticed her. The young woman busying herself with a display at the counter took his breath away. Her back was to him, so he stood there drinking her in. Sue Ann was dainty in size with porcelain skin that gave her the look of a delicate doll. Her lovely skin was emphasized by her hair, dark as a raven's wing, and her sea-green eyes. A cream colored dress with pale pink roses scattered over the fabric was draped over her frame, hugging her in all the right places.
Glenn gazed at her, still working on his nerve, when she turned around.
"May I help you?" she asked in a breathy voice.
"Uh, my name is Glenn," he sputtered.
Her eyes crinkled as she smiled, lighting up her entire face.
"I know. We had English together in high school."
Glenn was taken aback by her remark. She noticed me in school?
She was studying him with an amused look. He was mostly as she remembered him. Tall and broad-shouldered. His wheat-blond hair still hung in his grey eyes. He seems nervous. He kept sticking his hands in his back jeans pockets and taking them out again as he shuffled his booted feet.
"Well, Glenn. It's been nice to see you again," she said, starting to turn away.
"Wait," he almost shouted. "I came here to ask you out."
"You want to go out with me? Why?"
"I've wanted to ask you for a long time. I just...I haven't...," he stammered.
That's why he's so edgy.
"What do you have in mind?" she asked.
"I don't know. What do you like to do?"
"I like to watch the sun set and the moon rise," she replied. "No one has ever asked me what I like to do."
"Then I'll find out when the next clear evening with a moonrise is and call you. Would that be okay?"
"Saturday," she said.
"This Saturday the moon will be full. Cooper's Cove is the best place to watch it."
"Saturday it is, then."
"Pick me up around six. I'd like to watch the sunset too."
"I'll be there," he replied.
Saturday, Glenn parked his pickup in the drive of Sue Ann's house. Before he could knock on the door, it swung open to reveal a small girl of perhaps seven looking up at him.
"Are you Sue Ann's boyfriend?" she demanded.
Trying hard not to laugh, Glenn answered, "Well, I'm a boy and I'm her friend."
The girl looked Glenn up and down. She looked like Sue Ann in miniature with the exception of her strawberry blond hair.
"Are ya'll gonna kiss?"
Before Glenn could come up with an acceptable answer, Sue Ann came to his rescue.
"Bethy! Stop asking nosy questions. Now go inside. Tell Mama that I'll be home by eleven."
Bethy took one final look at Glenn and then ran down the hall shouting, "Sue Ann's got a boyfriend! Sue Ann's got a boyfriend!"
When they reached Cooper's Cove, it was deserted. Glenn picked what he thought would be the best view of the sunset and swung his truck around with the back to it. Sue Ann looked at him suspiciously.
"The sun sets behind us, Glenn."
"I know," he responded. "I just thought since it's such a nice evening out, that we could drop the tailgate and watch from outside the truck like nature intended."
Sue Ann eyed him in surprise and relaxed. How nice that he put some thought into this!
She started to get out of the truck, but Glenn would have none of it. He insisted that he come around and open the door for her. He took her dainty hand and helped her out.
The evening was gorgeous, not too cool but not too warm. A soft breeze rustled through the trees and played in Sue Ann's hair. The lapping of waves from Eagle Lake provided calming background noise behind them. Glenn helped her up onto the tailgate and took his place near her, being careful to give her some room.
"Would you like something to drink?" he asked.
"Like what?" caution back in her voice.
"Well let's see here," he said, sliding a Styrofoam cooler nearer. "I've got cream soda, orange, strawberry and, if you like your drink strong, I've got root beer."
"You have cream soda? I love cream soda! It's my favorite!"
He fished a can out of the icy water, opened it with a flourish and presented it to her.
"You are quite welcome M'lady."
The sun had begun to set, bringing with it golds and oranges that set the sky on fire. They sat mesmerized in an easy silence soaking in the moment. Once the colors faded, Glenn hopped off the tailgate and told Sue Ann to stay put. He jumped into the pickup and slowly turned it so that the rear faced the east, over the lake.
Looking at Sue Ann made his heart leap. She had the look of a woman at complete peace. Her raven hair was rustling lightly around her alabaster face. She was gazing at the water frolicking along the shoreline, a slight smile playing at her lips.
He took his seat next to her. She looked up at him with dancing eyes.
"Thank you, Glenn" she said quietly.
"For asking me what I wanted to do. For not pitching a fit when I wanted to come here."
"Sue Ann, I love the outdoors myself, so I was more than happy to share this with you. As for asking what you would like to do, I wanted you to be happy."
She smiled at this, but remained quiet. While waiting for the moon to show itself, they began talking. They talked about everything and nothing. Conversation flowed smooth and easy like the bubbles in their cream sodas. As the moon rose, they continued to talk while they watched the silver orb start its trek across the night sky.
During a lull in conversation, Sue Ann glanced at her watch and gasped, "Oh no! It's nearly eleven! I promised Mama I would be home by then!"
"No problem," Glenn said. He hopped off the tailgate and helped her down. Once he had her safely in the passenger's seat, he sprinted around and bolted into the driver's side.
Turning to her, he said, "I'm not going to drive like an idiot. You are too precious a cargo to lose. If your Mom has a problem with that, then I'll be happy to speak to her."
They arrived at Sue Ann's at five past eleven. Glenn walked her to the door and offered to come in with her and talk to her mother but she turned him down. He gave her a gentle hug.
"It's your decision. By the way, do you mind if I call on you again?"
"You would go out with me again?" she asked in surprise.
"Of course I would. I really enjoyed your company tonight. Same deal though, whatever you want to do. So be thinking about it."
The next six weeks seemed to be suspended in time. Both Sue Ann and Glenn eagerly anticipated their Saturday night dates at Cooper's Cove. The sunsets seemed magic and the moon and stars seemed to smile on them. They were growing more comfortable in one another's company.
On the seventh week, the sky had been overcast all morning. By afternoon, the heavy clouds released their pent-up rain.
Glenn dropped by the candle shop, now as familiar as an elderly aunt with its strong, perfume-y smells.
"Hey Sue Ann," he greeted her, kissing her cheek lightly.
"Hi yourself," she answered, blushing.
"I came by to see what else you might have in mind for this evening. It's supposed to come a frog-strangler."
She grinned at his choice of words and looked at him thoughtfully.
"Hmmmm...wanna go to the Soda Shack? I hear they make a special cream soda float."
"Sounds intriguing, M'lady. I'll pick you up at seven. We'll get a better table if we get there a little early."
"It's a date," she smiled.
Sue Ann was a nervous wreck for the rest of the day. What if it happens while we're there? What will he think of me then?
Glenn was true to his word and knocked on the door at precisely seven. Sue Ann made sure to get to it before Bethy. She was anxious enough as it was.
Glenn ushered her to his pickup and whisked her to the Soda Shack. There were already several vehicles in the parking lot. The red neon lights shining off chrome and freshly waxed paint made even the newest models appear to be from a bygone era. Once inside, the black, white, red and chrome decor gave the place a hip Fifties ambiance.
They slid into a black-upholstered booth with chrome accents and a red tabletop. When the waitress came to take their order, Glenn looked over at Sue Ann with a raised eyebrow. She smiled and nodded and two cream soda floats were ordered.
The Shack started filling up. It was a favorite hangout and with the torrential rain, it seemed that everyone in town was there. Glenn felt proud to be able to show off that Sue Ann was with him. He had fallen hard for her on their first date, but wanted to take things slow. He was sure she liked him, but he was worried about just how deep her feelings ran.
Sue Ann, on the other hand, although happy to be with Glenn, was getting more claustrophobic and nervous by the minute. She was sure that others were whispering about her. Whenever she made eye contact with someone, they would quickly look away. The noise and heat were growing and she felt she couldn't breathe. Her chest felt tight, and her throat felt like it was closing off. She wanted to scream.
When the waitress arrived with the floats, Sue Ann had reached the point of no return. She jumped up suddenly knocking the floats into the air. They appeared to fall in slow motion, splashing over the three of them.
"Watch what you're doing, girl!" hissed the angry waitress.
That straw broke the camel's back. Sue Ann, in a tunnel-visioned daze, ran from the crowded building into the rain.
She stood there shaking, trying to get her breath. The cool air helped some but the rain was smothering. She began crying. A hand gently touched her shoulder. She looked through her tears into Glenn's concerned eyes.
"Sue Ann," he said in a quiet, comforting tone. "You're all right. It's all right."
"No it's not. I'm not!" she sobbed.
"Yes you are. Just listen to my voice and concentrate on your breathing. Try to slow it down."
She listened to his soothing voice, losing herself in it. She found her breathing becoming less shallow. Her heartbeat slowed to a normal rhythm.
"Is it okay if I put my arm around you?" he asked.
She turned to him and sank her face into his chest, sobbing. Her held her gently, whispering words of comfort in her ear. They stood in the downpour holding each other for a long while.
Finally, she stepped back from him. They were soaked to the bone. The rain had washed away the cream soda floats they wore earlier.
"Aren't you going to take me home?"
"Do you want to go home, M'lady?"
"But after what just happened...," she began.
"It was a panic attack. No big deal," he said.
She looked at him in shock. No one knew. I never told a soul about them.
He read her eyes. "My mother has them. She's had them since I was a baby."
"Oh," was all she could muster.
"Sue Ann, it doesn't matter to me. I knew you had panic attacks before I ever asked you out."
"How? I never said a word to anyone."
"I've heard the stories that people told about you. I put it all together and just knew. I've lived with my mother's attacks my whole life. I knew the signs. Sue Ann, don't you know I love you? The panic attacks won't scare me away. They are something we will get through...together."
Sue Ann couldn't find her voice. She had been afraid to even dream that Glenn could ever love her, especially once he found out her secret.
Glenn smiled, "Sue Ann, when we both feel the time is right...what I'm trying to say...."
"Tell me," she whispered.
"I want to share all my sunsets and moonrises with you."
Emotion shone in her eyes. This man wants to marry me!
"The answer is yes, Glenn. I love you too."
She stepped into his embrace again. He held her close as they allowed the rain to wash away any remaining doubts.