© 2010 David's Harp and Pen
It was the thirteenth anniversary of my last relationship. Things didn’t end well, and I sort of liken it to the anniversary of the destruction of the Hindenburg blimp. He seemed like such a great guy. He went to church with me and we prayed together all the time. Next thing I knew, he dumped me for the local woman of ill-repute and was arrested for selling marijuana out of the trunk of his car. I’d be lying if I said the whole thing didn’t scar me a bit.
So how, one might ask, does a girl in our relationship-crazed culture avoid romantic entanglements for so long? Chocolate! Inordinate amounts of it. In fact, when I entertain my monthly visitor, my refrigerator is filled with nothing but peanut butter cups. Not for my benefit, keep in mind, but to appease my wrath so I don’t try to kill every man in sight. Another way of averting potentially harmful entanglements is having an extremely overactive imagination. I still say, until now, my best boyfriends have been the imaginary ones.
When I went to church that night for worship team practice, I had pretty much resigned myself to think that there were worse fates than to die a virgin and childless, such as to be buried alive in a box, or eaten by worms, or, like in my recurring dream, to be forced to repeat my senior year of high school forever simply because I could never remember to attend gym class. Then everything changed.
I walked into the practice room, as I always did, and sat next to Shane. Shane is part one of my power trio of male friends. Shane is too gorgeous for his own good, and women glom onto him in the same way zits glom onto my face every time I need to get a new driver’s license photo. Now before anyone asks, no, there was nothing between Shane and me. He’s a recovering gigolo and has dedicated his life to God, prayer, and finding the perfect hair gel, one with the perfect balance of movement and secure hold. He’s basically a Guido without the Italian heritage or New Jersey accent. He’s also quite charming and gregarious, two more reasons the women can’t stay away from him.
“Hey, Mags,” he said. “So, how did you spend your anniversary?”
“Lying on the floor clothed in sackcloth and ashes, mourning the loss of my youth,” I replied.
“Good. Good. So, did you hear there’s going to be a cattle call audition for the new Mel Gibson movie they’re going to film here? My agent says my chances are really good.” And that’s how my conversations with Shane usually went. We’d talk about me for about 30 seconds, and then promptly move on to him. It was okay, though. I’d gotten used to it.
“Oh, by the way, we’re on babysitting duty tonight,” Shane said. “There’s some guy in town who’s shadowing the worship arts intern program. We’re supposed to hold his hand and answer all his questions.”
“Wow! This is the third person in two weeks. Have you met him?”
“Yeah. Oh, here he comes now. Don’t tell him about being in mourning. Grief is unbecoming to a woman of your advanced years.” Shane and I stood up, and I turned around to lay eyes for the first time on our charge for the evening.
“Ryan O’Loughlin. Margaret Sims. Margaret Sims. Ryan O’Loughlin,” Shane said as I looked at the stranger in front of me. Now, I know some other things were said at that moment, but I don’t remember what they were, because I all of a sudden had a weird sensation like Keanu Reeves did right after he swallowed the red pill. All grips on reality were lost as I stared at the vision of loveliness in front of me. Ryan was well over six feet tall, with jet-black hair and slate blue eyes, the kind of eyes that, if I stared into them too deeply, would bore holes right through me. Luckily, I had Shane there to snap me back to reality before those eyes turned me into Swiss cheese.
“Is she alright?” Ryan asked with what had to be the most heavenly accent I’d ever heard.
“I don’t know,” Shane replied as he snapped his fingers in front of my eyes. “I’ve never seen her like this before.”
“I’m sorry. I…” I tried to talk, but Ryan was way too distracting. “I was…eh…I was…I’m sorry. What did you say?”
“I said, ‘Ryan is going to be a missionary,’” Shane replied, perplexed.
“Oh,” I said, turning back to Ryan. “That’s great, because I need saving.”
“Oh, crap,” I thought. “I didn’t just say that.”
“Mags!” Shane exclaimed, horrified.
“Double crap!” I said to myself. “I DID just say that!”
“I mean, the world needs saving, and you look like just the man to do it,” I said, trying to cover my tracks and failing miserably. Ryan raised his eyebrows at me.
“Yes. So, Ryan is here from Ireland,” Shane said, trying to change the subject and, no doubt, protect me from further embarrassment.
“Ireland,” I giggled nervously. “I loved ‘Braveheart.’” Ryan cocked his head to one side and his eyes got really big.
Shane leaned over towards me and whispered, “’Braveheart’ was Scotland.”
I said, “Well, I know it took place in Scotland, but that crazy guy that was Mel Gibson’s body guard and who thought God was his best friend was Irish. In fact, he said he owned Ireland. And then there were those soldiers Longshanks hired to…”
Shane put his hand over my mouth and said, “And stop talking now.”
“Eh, where do I go for a slash?” Ryan asked. That didn’t sound good.
“I mean, where are the toilets?” He asked again.
“Through the double doors, then make your first right,” Shane, answered. Ryan then walked off, and I couldn’t help but watch. Next thing I knew, Shane was squeezing my arm and throwing me into a chair.
“So!” Shane asked with annoyance in his voice. “Did someone just have a stroke?”
“Mmm,” I mumbled.
“Okay. So, yes or no?”
“Alrighty then. I’ll see if I can find you some peanut butter cups.” Shane walked away and left me to my imagination again. Oh, Ryan was devastatingly handsome! I hadn’t felt anything like that since I’d watched “Superman,” when he took Lois Lane for that flight around the Statue of Liberty. Maybe Shane was right. Maybe I was having a stroke.
The rest of worship team practice went off without a hitch, which should have been my first indication that something was about to go horribly wrong. I walked off the platform to get my purse, and Shane skipped over to me.
“Ooh! I am famished. So, who’s paying us to eat out tonight, Mags?” Shane asked.
I was about to answer, when I felt “the presence” behind me. It was Ryan.
“You get paid to eat out?” he asked.
“When Margaret’s with us, we do. She’s the coupon queen,” Shane replied.
“How does that happen?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, but until someone can prove it, we shall eat, drink, and be merry.”
“Well, I’ll go to my car and see what I’ve got,” I said, excusing myself before I had the chance to say anything stupid. It seemed like the smart thing to do at the time. I headed towards the front door of the church and reached to open it, when someone opened it for me. I turned around. Again, it was Ryan.
“I hope you don’t mind me walking you to your car, but where I come from, we don’t let a lady out in a parking lot at night unescorted,” he said.
“Mmm,” I muttered, certain I was about to have another stroke. “And where is it that you come from again?”
“Ireland,” Ryan replied, with a slightly confused look on his face.
“What do you have to do to get restaurants to pay you to eat their food?”
“Oh. Coupons. I clip all the coupons in the Sunday paper, download some from the Internet. Then, I just combine them the right way so that our food’s free, or nearly free.”
“Hmm. I never heard of such a thing.”
“Don’t you have coupons in Ireland?”
“Not magic ones, like yours.”
“No wonder you left.” We both laughed as we reached my car. I unlocked the driver’s side front door and Ryan held it open for me.
“I’m not here permanently. I’ll be going back in eight weeks,” Ryan said.
“Oh, good!” I thought. “I don’t think I have any blood vessels in my head left to burst.”
I found my coupon box, got out of the car, and put my hand on the door, not realizing Ryan’s right hand was in the door way.
“This is my magic coupon box.” I said gleefully as I slammed the door shut…right on his hand.
“Omigosh, omigosh, omigosh,” he screamed in pain. I pulled the door back open and Ryan pulled his hand out. It looked a little mangled and turned all sorts of different colors.
“Oh no!” I screamed, dropping my keys and my coupon box on the pavement. “I am so sorry!” I bent down to get my things. Ryan, who I was discovering was the consummate gentleman, even in the face of great adversity, reached down at the same time to pick up my keys and my coupons, the result of which was our heads colliding, only adding to his pain and my humiliation.
“Arghh!!!!” I yelled. “I’ll go get help.” I ran back into the church. Actually, a stroke would have been really nice right about then.