General Fiction posted July 24, 2023 Chapters:  ...20 21 -22- 23... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Tom finds time for a love that will test their youth

A chapter in the book Angels Unaware

A Christmas Proposal

by forestport12

Tom grew up in a fractured family, At an early age he wants to find a life worth living. He seeks acceptance in the military and then the ministry. Then he gets a second chance at his one true love.
At the end of the first semester of school winter took a bite out of northern Texas. My Mary from San Antonio warmed my heart. There was heat between us on the phone. We spent hours hardly saying anything important. When I think back, sometimes just knowing we could hear one another breathing on the other end was enough to keep us glued to the receiver.

A few days before Christmas I was ready to make the run south to northern San Antonio. I had my 66 Cadillac convertible up and running. But with winter weather digging deep, I didn't care to drive down south on I35 with the top down.

With a broken speedometer, I made to my girlfriend in record time and surprised everyone. As far as Mary's parents were concerned, it was just more proof I was in love with their daughter.

This time things were different. When I got out of the caddy and breathed in the crisp winter air, I asked Mary to step outside so I could talk to her in the fading light. She was in her blue jeans but pulled her jacket on so we could be alone on the porch. I looked at her with those warm, wide blue eyes. And then I popped the question. Well, almost.

Once again I failed at etiquette. I had no one to blame. I should have read more about how to ask a girl to marry me in that once in a lifetime moment. Instead, without a ring or dropping to my knee, I said, not asked, "I think we should get married."

She should have gasped and slapped me. Once again, I was proving to be a man wired differently than some. And in this case I was hotwired to turn the key on love.

She could have said like in the movie, Jerry Maguire, "You had me at hello. You've always had me." But I think she said, "Are you for real? You really want to get married?"

"I do. I think we were meant for each other. And despite all the hurt in your life, God has given me a second chance with you."

She kissed and hugged me. "I've always loved you. I never stopped. I tried, but you've always had piece of my heart. Of course, I will marry you. I would have married you when I was sixteen."

"Then let's get married after Christmas. How about New Years Eve?"

"But we don't have rings."

"Let's go pick out our rings Christmas weekend."

She pulled her fur-lined collar up until it hugged her neck and her golden hair curled around it. "We best break the news to my parents."

We went inside and sat down on the sofa. I hadn't asked Mr. Blakely for his daughters hand in marriage. I spoke up and asked. "If you don't mind I want to get married to your daughter."

He smiled and almost laughed. "What took you so long son? Mrs. Blakely was holding Mary's baby. "It looks like you will be getting a wife and a daughter.

Once again, Mary's parents trusted me to be the best match for their daughter and believed I would protect her and little Malissa. They were far from a perfect family. But they loved me and believed in me when I didn't deserve it.

We sat down together in the parlor making plans while her daughter slept. We shared memories too. She pulled out her high school yearbook to show me the few pictures she had of me salted away. Then an old withered yellow rose petal fell from her yearbook. I watched it swim in the air and drop to the floor.

Mary snatched it up and placed it back in the book. "Do you remember when you once told me when you gave me the yellow rose, that if it dies, our love was never meant to be? I kept it alive as long as I could, then I kept it with pictures of you where my husband couldn't find it."

Tears stung my eyes. I hugged her and promised I would never be so cruel and immature again. I had learned my lesson.

I didn't know how to love someone. And if I wrote an exchange of words on paper during wedding vows it would have simply been, "I never knew how to love someone. You taught me how to love."

The next day we left the humble trailer with additions built by Mary's carpenter father. We took his small Ford pickup to go select rings. Even for San Antonio, the weather turned cold enough to smell snow in the air, even if it hadn't delivered lasting flakes on the ground. We warmed up the truck and left for the mall.

The city celebrated the colors of Christmas. There was a festive feel in the air besides the cold. I had grown up where a white Christmas was common. Somehow that didn't matter. We wouldn't have much time to prepare ourselves to be married by New Year's Eve if we didn't get busy.

If Mary didn't like the way I handled my proposal, she never showed it. I learned something about her when it came to picking out our wedding rings at the mall. She'd been concerned about the cost. She knew how to pinch pennies and squeeze dollars into turnips. But my love trumped our frugality. I protested and told her not to pick out the cheapest set they had.

With Ma and Pa watching Mary's baby, we had precious time to ourselves. I was thrilled with her every happy expression, and how I could give her and the baby a brand-new start-maybe help them forget their past abuse.

We dove into a movie in the mall. I don't remember the movie or the title because we spent time kissing each other and hardly paid attention to the movie. I couldn't tell you if others noticed our necking. For once in my life, I hadn't cared what others thought. Love can make you care less about your surroundings.

Before the evening was over, we purchased Christmas gifts for Malissa. The family never had more than two nickels to rub together. I was happy to have extra money and thrilled that I could buy my first gifts for a little girls love I wanted to win over.

After Christmas it was time to pack up and take Mary and Malissa back to Arlington, Texas. We needed to scout for an apartment and work out our plans for living together. I wasn't afraid I couldn't support my new family, but Mary and I talked about her wanting to cut hair for extra income.

We loaded up the caddy with everything Mary and Malissa owned which was in a couple suitcases and headed north. Around Arlington the weather turned colder, and there were snowflakes in the air. I had called a college friend and asked if my future wife and daughter could spend the week at his apartment while he was away in Florida.

He told me where to find a key, and it wasn't long before we had Mary and the baby's stuff inside. It was an open apartment with kitchen and living area combined. Rick had one bedroom with a mattress on the floor.

I'm not sure what we made for dinner that evening, or if I got takeout for us. Mother and daughter settled in. I would always make sure to hug and kiss that little girl of hers. I patiently waited for the day she would accept me into her life. I think for the most part she seemed to have this sense that she was safe with us. And that was the most important thing I wanted her to know.

At some point in the evening, I grabbed my coat and kissed my future wife. I would go back to the dorm because I didn't want anyone to get the wrong impression before we got married.

As the cold took a bite out of me and ice pellets fell from the Texas sky, I hopped into my car and turned the key. It wouldn't start!

I didn't have many choices. There was no one left at the dorm I could call who I knew. That's when I made the decision to spend the night in the apartment and wait it out until morning. I hopped back inside the apartment. "Car won't start. I could sleep on the couch."

Malissa slept on a makeshift bed. Mary stood in her nightgown. We looked at each other, struggling for words. I made myself a place on the couch with a blanket she found for me. We told each other, "Goodnight."

I couldn't sleep, as I listened to the howling of the storm outside and ice pellets hitting the roof. I should have prayed for strength, maybe quoted a few scriptures. But all I could think about was the desire to go into the other room and hold Mary in my arms.

I stumbled in the darkness from the couch, tapped on the door to the bedroom, and asked if I could lay next to her. She looked up at me standing in the doorway and softly said, "Okay."

I quietly slipped under the covers and held her. I told her, "I'm a virgin, I've never made love to any woman. I promise you will be the first and last."

Tom is in school for the ministry.
Mary was divorced from an abusive husband
Malissa is a little girl about to get a new dad.

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