“You totally scare the shit out of me,” Mr. Etiquette said tonight, grabbing my hand as we walked under the light of the almost full moon. “And that’s a really good thing.”
“It is a good thing,” I agreed as we made our way along the curving stone pathway leading to the abandoned pavilion. “Unless it scares you so much that you run to the hills.”
“Which is a possibility,” Mr. Etiquette conceded.
I tried to swallow the fear in my throat. “I know.” I squeezed his hand. “I know what I signed up for.”
I know I am seeing a man still cautious as old wounds are only beginning to scar over. A man who finds it hard to trust that the good things in his life will not just disappear. A man who wonders how he was so lucky to find me, a woman who fits him perfectly in so many of the most important ways. This naturally petrifies him because it’s too soon. For many reasons, he is a man living in fear, and I respect and understand this about him.`
Lightning flashed against the clouds. In the South, we always called this colorful display following a day of unbearable humidity, “heat lightning.” There was definitely still heat in the air later as my still moist, bare legs brushed together under my flimsy skirt.
“You might just have to meet the kids when they come out in August,” Mr. Etiquette said after we had gotten back into the car. He tilted his head toward me, giving me a shy grin.
“Uh-oh, I know, scary,” I said, shrugging my shoulders in defeat.
“Last year they met Sarah, and they liked her. They had fun with her,” Mr. E said of the colleague who had previously captured his heart after the divorce but did the disappearing act constantly and would never follow through on her commitments.
“They may not like me then,” I said, twisting the fabric of my skirt in my fingers.
“They know she hurts Papa. Or that she hurt me,” he clarified. “I talk to them about things. Maybe I shouldn’t, but even my 10-year-old said, ‘We never can count on if she’s really coming or isn’t she, can we, Papa?’ during their last visit here. They don’t want me to be with someone who hurts me.” Mr. E looked at me with fondness and more confidence than sometimes sweep across his expressive face when he’s pondering big steps. “So they might have to meet you.”
i knew not to say anything. I just smiled. I didn’t want to act too excited or hopeful, though I was feeling both.
“It’s something to think about,” Mr. E said. I nodded.
Normally this uncertainty would be driving me wild. The fear of potentially getting hurt in the future might make me cut my losses now and run. When the need arises, I share my concerns and tell him my trepidations. Yet somehow, when he needs his time and space, I find myself patient and accepting. He keeps coming back on his own and letting me further in. There is more satisfaction in this than the alternative: pushing or nagging. He’s worth waiting for, no matter where the path ends.