“Reed, I’ve had a long day, and I’m exhausted. I don’t have time for this.”
“Great. I’ll save us both the trouble. I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 8:00.”
“I will be at your doorstep promptly at 8 p.m.” he said slowly.
“But, I didn’t–“
“Goodnight, Mary Jones. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He didn’t used to be so pushy! Having his heart broken made him so bold and persistent. What on earth was she to do? He probably wouldn’t let her cancel and began to wrap her head around the thought of going out with Reed. Not just a casual meeting for drinks, but an actual date. Thinking about it, she realized she had never been on a proper date before. Her relationship with Reed always existed. They were getting married whether they wanted to or not, but luckily they wanted to. Then John happened. All those thoughts overwhelmed her, and she hurried down the street to call on Asia.
Kaleb was outside, so she plastered on The Mary™ and greeted him. “Good evening! My, look how big you’ve gotten!”
“Hi, Miss Jones.”
“Please tell me your mother is at home. I need her urgently.”
“She’s in the living room.”
“Thank you, Kaleb.”
She hurried into the house and found Asia getting up from the couch. “Good heavens, Mary! You look like someone just told you Father Winter isn’t real.”
“I’m going on a date tomorrow!” The words spilled out of her mouth like vomit; she couldn’t stop them. “He’s been calling me all week asking me out, and I keep turning him down until today he calls to TELL me he’s picking me up at 8:00!”
“Oh! Ok…slow down. Take a deep breath, and start from the beginning.”
Mary was so glad Asia didn’t gush about her date. She didn’t need that at all.
“He’s the guy!” Her voice sounded whiny just like Phoenix’s.
“The guy! Remember I told you I was supposed to marry someone else? He’s the someone else!”
Asia gasped. “Good heavens! What a plot twist!”
“Asia, please! I need you not to run away with this!”
“Ok. What do you want me to do? Tell you not to go?”
Mary’s shoulder’s deflated. “No.”
“Tell me, Mary, what are you worked up about the most? Are you afraid?”
“Yes!” She didn’t expect to answer so quickly and passionately.
“What are you afraid of?”
Mary opened her mouth several times to answer, but no words came out. “I don’t know. What should I do?”
“Get a dress, and have a good time!”
“I beg your pardon?”
Asia stood and smiled. “Get a dress! Have a good time!” She headed for the stairs.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m sorry. I have to get ready for work now. I’ll be back in a second.”
She disappeared, and Mary’s thoughts rolled again. What was she afraid of? No one in Willow Creek knew what she did except Asia, so it wouldn’t be taboo. Two of her children knew she was involved with someone before John, but they had no details and probably wouldn’t think much of it. Apart from fear of opening closed doors, she had no real reason to not give Reed a shot. Maybe she was simply afraid. After all, dating was a new experience for her; sneaking around with John didn’t count as dating in her mind.
Asia returned and prepared to leave. Jared came to see her off. He kissed her on the cheek and said, “Have a good night, baby.” Asia smiled and told him that she loved him. Watching the tenderness, Mary thought of two fears she probably had: the fear of wanting love so bad and the fear of messing up another relationship.
“Mary, remember what I said. Tell me all about it on Saturday!”
Where did one even shop for dresses in that town? What kind of dress did she need? Why wouldn’t any of her dresses do? Knowing Asia had to work, she was still mad at her for leaving her unsettled. After she said goodnight to the Pruetts, she went across the street to see Leah. She was on the porch when Mary arrived and looked no better than she did.
“What’s wrong, Mary?”
“I’m going out tomorrow…with a man,” she whispered, looking around to see if Eliza was near. “Asia told me I needed a dress but she left me and I don’t know what to do!”
Leah’s disposition improved. “Well! Let’s go get you that dress!”
“I had a horrible day too. I could use some shop therapy. I’ll help you find a dress.”
Mary was looking for more sympathy but thanked Leah for taking her under her wing.
“Are you sure this is the right shop for me?”
“Trust me, Mary. I would never lead you wrong.”