Timing is Everything

Timing is Everythingwedding-flowers

I

Monday morning Tom and Linda left the train station and walked to work in a constant sprinkle of rain. Walking together, Tom juggled an umbrella and their usual conversation.

“I’m not joking.” Tom was holding Linda’s hand when he snapped at her.

“I don’t think you are. I just think that we should wait, that’s all.” Linda countered.

“We are going to get married next July. Why don’t we just move in together? We can save some money for the wedding.”

“I want to be with you, Tom, but I think we should wait.”

“I love you Linda, don’t you know that?”

“Sure, I do.”

“Then, what’s the problem? Why are we waiting?”

“I want to make sure it’s real, that’s all,” Linda said.

“Huh? This is the real thing, isn’t it?” Tom asked.

“It’s becoming more real as we go on, Tom,” Linda explained, “but something tells me to wait till our wedding day.”

“You love me, don’t you?” Tom queried.

“Of course I do.” Linda replied, “My heart and my mind are telling me to wait and my . . . my…,” Linda leaned into Tom and whispered, “my body wants to go ahead.” Then with a smile she said, “It’s a two to one decision. Anyway, I want to be secure in our love and not just in the thought that we are living together. This engagement time will help us get to know each other better. It’s a good thing.”

Tom and Linda came up to the Dunkin Donuts and went in. They ordered two coffees: a small for Linda and a large for Tom. Linda added a small drop of cream to her cup, put a lid snuggly on top and then sat down and waited for Tom to finish fixing his coffee. Tom poured a large dose of cream into his coffee and then he grabbed five packets of sugar from the holder. He took one packet by the edge and started to shake it and then smack it against his left hand. After half a minute of settling the sugar he tore open the packet and poured the sugar into the coffee. He did the same with the other four packets. Linda waited. When the sugar packets had been poured into his coffee, Tom grabbed a stir stick and began stirring his coffee while staring at the floor. He wasn’t aware that three people were waiting behind him, waiting for the cream and sugar.

“Tom, hurry up. People are waiting.” Linda prodded from her chair.

Tom looked up to see the line of people, he said, “Sorry”, and hurriedly put a lid on his cup. He gathered up his backpack and walked over to the table where Linda was sitting, looked at his watch and said, “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

Linda smiled in response and then gathered up her bag and her coffee. They headed out the door and down the street to work. Tom, a business consultant and an investment counselor for real estate investment trusts, worked with several clients creating the investment trust contracts. Linda was an information technology support person in an engineering firm. They both worked in the same building in downtown Chicago. Tom had a small office on the 16th floor and Linda’s cube was on the 23rd floor. They rode the elevator together each morning.

Heading into the elevator that morning Linda moved to fill a space made by two others on the elevator. Tom came in as the door was closing and turned to face the front of the car. As he did this his backpack hit the coffee cup in the hand of a short woman standing behind Tom. Tom didn’t notice but Linda couldn’t help notice. She received some of the hot coffee on her new linen skirt.

“Tom, be careful. Look what happened.”

Again, Tom swirled around in the elevator and nearly hit another cup off coffee out of someone’s hand.

“Tom, that backpack is a nuisance in this elevator. Please be careful.”

“Sorry.” With those words, Tom left the elevator on the 16th floor and said again, “Sorry I’ll see you at lunch.”

“Bye Tom, call me.”

Tom reached his office, unlocked the door and turned on the overhead light. He noticed his wall plaque; the mounted gold crow bar glinting yellow under the fluorescent light. Inscribed beneath the crowbar in the plaque’s mahogany wood were the words, “Leverage Everything”. He set his umbrella down and took off his wet top coat and laid it on the credenza. He could see his phone blinking a red eye at him. He sat down behind his oak desk and took his phone messages.

His office space, an eight by twelve foot room, was cozy with one window. The view was of the elevated train and a partially hidden neon sign which offered “Cheap Eats at Murphy’s Bar and Grill” in emerald green light. His client’s waiting chairs were in the main hallway with a small end table holding a dog-eared copy of Fisherman’s World magazine. Painted on the sand blown glass pane door was “TOM LANDSURE, REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS, A name you can trust in real estate.” Through the glass Tom could see the form of a waiting client. Tom put the phone back on the receiver and went to the door and let him in.

“Hi, Mike.” Tom welcomed him.

“Hi, Tom, Did you get my e-mail?”

“Yeah, sure did.”

“Well what do you think?”

“I think you should act on that property immediately, get the most you can out of it. You can always walk away if it doesn’t pan out – sell your share of it. The downside is losing a little time and a little money. You can always flip it for another property. If you can handle that you’ll be fine. Do you have the people lined up? You need at least one hundred investors to make a go of it.”

“Yeah, I do and you’re right. Down the road I could have great returns on this investment. If it goes south, I’ll just ditch it. No harm, no foul.”

“Sure, I’ve seen this kind of thing a dozen times before. You will do fine either way.”

“I think so. I just wanted to talk to you face to face before I made the decision to act on the property. I’m gonna go ahead and make some calls right now, get my foot in the door. Can I use your phone?

“Sure, I’m going to visit the rest room. I’ll be right back.”

One of the phone messages waiting for him when he came back to the office was from Linda. She wanted to know where they were going to eat for lunch. Before returning her call Tom talked with Mike about his new real estate investment, again encouraging him to buy while it was cheap. The deal sounded too good to pass up. They shook hands and agreed to meet again in a week to review the investment contract. Mike left and Tom reached for the phone to return Linda’s call.

“Hi, Lin, how about the usual for lunch?”

“Murphey’s? Again?”

“How about Sam’s Deli, then?

“That sounds better, let’s go there. See ya downstairs. Bye.” Linda hung up and Mike returned to his pile of contracts waiting for his review. At 11:30 am he left his office, locked the door behind him and took the elevator to the ground floor. He waited for Linda near the building reception desk. A moment later, Linda appeared.

“Tom, I’ve got a half hour today for lunch. We have to hurry.”

They half ran to Sam’s Deli a couple of blocks away. In line were a dozen or so people with numbers. Standing in line Tom happened to notice a young woman sitting alone eating her sandwich. He stared at her while standing behind Linda. After a few moments, the young woman looked up and noticed his stare. She looked over at Linda and then scrunched her face, looking back at Tom. Tom, now flush with embarrassment, tried to start a conversation with Linda in order to pretend that he wasn’t looking at the young woman.

“You know, I like the corned beef sandwich here. It is real kosher corned beef.”

“Tom, I saw you. Keep your eyes on the lunch menu up there. Linda grabbed Tom’s arm, pulled him next to her and then pointed to the menu sign hung above the grill.

“Sorry ‘bout that.” Tom whispered.

With their sandwiches they headed over to a quiet tree-lined garden outside of the art institute. They ate lunch silently looking at each other, letting the city and their thoughts do the talking.

II

Linda’s mother called Linda on Tuesday afternoon.

“Hi mom.”

“Linda, how’s work going?”

“Good mom. I received a good review this year so I’ll be getting a raise soon and I have already told my boss about next July. I will get two weeks off for the wedding and the honeymoon.”

“That sounds great. Things are coming together it looks like. How’s Tom holding out? Anything new with him?”

“He’s doing okay. He’s written more contracts so far this year than last year at this time so he’s at a good pace. His business looks promising.”

“I mean about not moving in together before the wedding?”

“Oh! Ah, he talks about it almost daily. He is pushing hard for it but I am telling him I want to wait till we are married.”

“That conversation must be hard for you.”

“It is. I want things to move forward and yet I feel like I need to stand back and get my bearings. Things are moving too fast right now.”

“I think you are dong the best thing, Linda, though it isn’t easy. Hah, I just remembered reading something out Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park last night. I’ll go get the book. Hold on for a second, Linda.”

Linda could hear her mother set the phone down on the counter, leave the kitchen and then walk down the hall. She heard her return and pick up the phone.”

“Are you there?”

“Yeah, go ahead, mom.”

“Here’s Jane: “Oh, Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” ”

III

“What do you want, Tom?”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“What is it that can’t wait until our wedding day?”

“Ummm. . . I guess I’m just anxious to be with you, you know.”

“Good things come to those who wait, Tom. Isn’t that what they say?”

“Yeah, I guess so, but I’ve been waiting all my life for someone like you. Isn’t that long enough?”

“Then, time is on your side, Tom.”

‘You are full of quaint sayings today, aren’t you?” Tom answered.

“Well, I want our lives together to be special, that’s all. All of this is special to me. Your mother told that when you were a kid you wanted Christmas to happen right away, as soon as you saw the presents – you wanted to open the presents days or weeks before the actual day. “

“I was so excited and I wasn’t sure what I was getting. I couldn’t stand to wait and find out.” Tom responded.

“Well, you seemed to have survived that ordeal.” Linda quipped.

“Just barely, but it was cruel and unusual punishment.” With these words, Tom evoked a smile on Linda’s face.

“You’re a good guy Tom. You can still wait for your presents. And, we’ll have many Christmases together unwrapping gifts.” Linda winked at Tom.

“Yeah, just as long as they are not wrapped in flannel.” Tom winked back with a Cheshire cat smile.”

“You can be sure of that, my Tom cat,” Linda assured Tom.

“Scratch you later.” Tom kissed Linda with a smile and headed back to his office.

IV

The week of the wedding finally came. On Friday night, Tom and Linda met at the church for their wedding rehearsal. Linda’s father walked Linda down the church aisle on their musical cue. Linda was wearing the heels she would wear in the wedding. Her father kept Linda stable as she walked slowly forward. All eyes followed Linda to her place next to Tom. She hugged her father and then she took Tom’s hand in hers. The rehearsal passed like a dream sequence. Linda was only aware of the red flush of her cheeks and how hot she felt that July evening.

Afterward, Linda packed her car with some early wedding gifts and the left-over food. Tom helped her carry the trays out to the car. Linda turned to say goodnight to Tom. She cuddled up to him and looked him in the eyes. “Tomorrow I become Mrs. Linda Landsure. Now that’s an investment!”

“I have already received a great return on this investment and we haven’t even signed the contract yet.” Tom laughed.

They hugged and kissed each other. “I’m so glad that we waited,” Tom whispered in Linda’s ear, “Wow, I thought tomorrow would never come.”

“Well its midnight and its tomorrow. We’re both tired.” Linda said, “We better get home and get our beauty sleep. I don’t want bags under our eyes for the wedding pictures.”

Tom smiled in agreement. He helped Linda get into the car and he closed the door. He gave her one last kiss through the open window and then Linda drove off saying, “Don’t forget your tux shoes tomorrow.”

Tom got in his car and drove towards home, an hour away. It was midnight and he was exhausted. He found the expressway and headed west. He thought about the Linda walking down the aisle in her blue jeans and heels, her dad gently holding Linda’s hand, her nervous smile and her watery eyes. He thought about waiting for this day and how hard he had pushed her to move in with her. He was glad that she made them wait. He wanted her more and more each day. He imagined her tomorrow night in his arms, the day’s events behind them and they would finally be alone. He imagined falling asleep next to her…

At 2:30 am Linda was awakened by a phone call. The state police were on the phone. They said that a car had careened into an overpass and the driver had been killed. Every word now began pulling her heart down. They had found a wedding invitation in the car and Linda’s phone number was listed in Tom’s cell phone. They said that Tom appeared to have fallen asleep and had driven into the cement wall of the overpass at 55 mph: “I am sorry. He died instantly from a broken neck. There was a necklace in a box on the floor of the car.” Linda did not answer. “The necklace has two hearts hanging from the chain, one gold heart and one silver heart. It looks very expensive. I will bring it to you, tomorrow.”

Linda hung up the phone and stepped backward. Overcome with grief, she cried out into the morning darkness, “Tom…Tom…Tom…” She sank down to her knees and wept. When daylight came the sun’s rays began to wash her swollen red face with amber light. Linda raised her head and stood up.  She turned to leave the room. In a whisper she heard the voice of Tom:

“I have prepared a place for you.”

Sally Paradise ã 2009

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