A True Love Story

This is a love story.

It’s not a fast read. Takes about 10-15 minutes. It’s the longest post I’ve ever put on my blog. Hate long post? Me too. Don’t have time? Bookmark it for later. I’m biased, but I think it’s worth it-if you like love stories.

rings
This is a love story.

Names have been changed. Protecting those who deserve it, and unavoidably shielding villains too. This is my own true love story, but I’m writing it Fairy Tale Style for fun. I’ve always thought of it that way in my head anyway, and hey, this is my POV not a character’s. It’s not perfect, you may find a few errors. That’s okay. This isn’t something I’d ever be able to look at with my Super-Critical Eye anyway. I’m writing it partly to remember, but also because it is a story of hope. God taking pity on our Hero was the only thing that could possibly have led to her Happily Ever After.

Warning:

If you do not wish to root for Hero (I call her Hero in tribute to Wm. Shakesphere, but also because she IS the hero of the story), dislike a good HEA, or refuse to do any wistful sighing?  Stop. Just stop right now. Read no further. Oh, you like that mushy stuff? Then read on.

The Cast of Characters….
This story has all the usual suspects. A girl. A boy. A few evil doers and a few do-gooders. A dirty, evil, horrible situation, and, of course, a curse that has plagued Hero since she reached puberty. Despite all the harsh conditions, two people will fall in love.

TrueA hardworking boy. Smart, Brilliant really, and introverted. Not really looking for love, but somehow pressured by well-meaning friends into going on a blind date.
Hero
-A hardworking girl. Like many you know. Or at least she was like that girl.
Mama-Hero’s mother, The Strongest Woman Who Ever Lived
Evil Boss (EB)-Just as advertised.
Big Boss (BB)-Ditto.
Fixy & Upper-Hero’s distant relatives, also a couple of matchmakers.

A little about our character Hero….
So. Hero. She’s Every Girl. You know the one. There’s nothing wrong with her. She’s attractive, witty, educated and fun to be around. There’s just one thing not right about her. She’s single. Everyone who meets her immediately thinks to themselves “who can I fix her up with?” This is also known as Who Can I Fix This Nice Girl Up With Curse.
By the time I (oops, I mean Hero) was thirty she had a string of outrageous blind date stories that she still believes she could write up and get published as humor. Those boys got nicknames, a sure sign that they were never going to see her again. The Switch-thrower is Hero’s favorite. That guy tried to impress her by extolling the virtues of capital punishment (obviously not realizing she was a pacifist). He bragged he was on a list to throw the switch for the State’s electric chair. Seriously? Who tries to impress a girl that way? That one got Hero’s friends forever banned from fixing her up again.

Hero was that girl. Then, after she quit actively looking, following a debacle where a date ended up being ‘unofficially’ engaged to another woman, she found love in an unexpected way. When love happened? It was mind-blowingly easy. But I get ahead of myself. To truly believe this story, you need backstory.

Backstory….
Long ago, in a land far away from where she lives now, Hero, a database manager for a major non-profit organization, had just finished working her way through college. She had a career long before she had her degree. She didn’t graduate until she was over thirty. That meant that most days involved going to work, where she had serious responsibilities. Every evening, Mondays thru Thursdays, she stressed over whether she could leave in time to make it to night classes. To make it harder? Hero’s Evil Boss (EB) never planned to pay her more money. Human Resources mandated that a college degree would change Hero’s pay category, so EB stands in her way every chance she gets. (Travel, work-load, etc.) Paranoid, you say? Nope. EB was horribly disorganized. While looking through EB’s desk, handling something that EB was too lazy to do, Hero finds the little piece of paper on the desk where EB calculated to the penny how much she had to pay Hero to put her on salary, and thus avoid paying her overtime. (The result of all that unnecessary travel, but EB forgot Hero was an hourly employee).
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Hero had no time for love. She never met anybody because she was always working. At school. Studying. It was a very lonely way to live, and she when she let herself think about the situation, she was a little depressed at her inability to change it. At least in the near future.

Our Story Begins…..
Stage Left: Enter Hero’s mother (aka The Strongest Woman On Earth, but we’ll just call her Mama)
Mama decides to do some genealogy research, and unknowingly changes Hero’s life forever. Mama is the mother girls everywhere dream of. She believed in Hero, no matter what she does (although usually warning her doom lies straight ahead). She supports Hero, and teaches Hero to never settle for less than she deserves.
(Hero credits Mama for the fact that she became such an independent woman in the first place. One who would work hard to put herself through school, despite the fact she was raised below the poverty line, had no tangible reason to expect success. That’s another post, and one that doesn’t really belong on this blog.)
Anyway, Mama was made of material that would make diamonds look squishy. She’d had to be, having raised herself and ultimately living her life as a single mother after a divorce. That isolation made Mama want to know more about her own family. One day, just before retirement age, Mama started doing a lot of web research on her family tree. In the course of looking for her own family, she found a blog post by someone researching her ex-husbands family (Hero’s father). The post was general, the poster was looking for descendants of Hero’s Grandfather’s brother. Mama replied, and emails were exchanged. Result?

Stage Center: Enter Fixy & Upper

Hero is introduced to a distant cousin. Hero and Fixy hit it off, and Hero spends much time at Fixy and her husband Upper’s home. This time spent with Hero triggers the dreaded Who Can I Fix This Nice Girl Up With Curse.
Fixy and Upper are the Best Matchmakers in the Kingdom, and have done so many times, with much lauded success. They optimistically turn their attention to Hero’s plight. Twice they introduced Hero to nice men who were completely wrong for her. Very successful, but too old for her (This was later discovered to be mostly Upper’s doing, as he wanted Hero to be ‘well taken care of’). After two attempts, Hero tries to break the curse the only way she knows how. No more blind dates. (Thanks for playing, but no more.)

Meanwhile….back at work.

Hero has been removed from EB’s clutches and now reports to the Big Boss (BB) the leader of her organization. BB is much nicer, but even more demanding, and if she is being honest, she must admit BB is also a little insane. Thankfully, BB truly appreciated what it had taken for Hero to earn her degree. What BB didn’t believe? Employees who chose to live far away and commute to work had an excuse for not showing up in bad weather. Hero had a key role in BB’s organization, so that especially meant her.
(Hand to God, Hero is not making this up).

First Week of February, 14 years ago….
There came a terrible ice storm. Hero, lived in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. In order to get to work, she had to traverse a deep, ice covered valley between two mountains. She felt compelled to do this because of BB. It was a very scary trip, over ice sheeted roads. After sliding into one treacherous curve, Hero swears by all that is Holy, she will never risk her life again for a stupid job.
(There’s no carrot, but there was a lot of hand waving a-la Scarlett O’Hara’s “As God is my witness….)

Still First-ish Week of February, 14 years ago….
A second, terrible ice storm was predicted three days later. The Kingdom’s weather-guessers warned everyone how dangerous it would be to travel, especially since the sheets of the previous ice remained. Hero, knowing BB wouldn’t be reasonable, prepares for the worst. She arranges to stay in town at the home of Fixy and Upper, who were glad to help. (This was around February 9th or 10th. I’ll get to why dates matter in a second.)
Sitting in their living room the night of that second storm, Fixy turns to Upper and says “You know who we ought to fix Hero up with? “True Love?” Upper replies as if reading Fixy’s mind. (This leads Hero to wonder if this were truly the first time this came up, or being staged for her benefit. Hero wasn’t that gullible after two bad blind dates.)
Hero mentally crings, having survived two previous attempts without hurting Fix and Upper’s feelings, can she do it again? It was hard for Hero to say no. She wanted what every other person in the land had found easily in their mid-twenties. Fixy, unbeknownst to Upper, corners Hero at bed time and convinces her that the two previous guys were Upper’s doing. Fixy has picked True Love out herself. He’s young. Smart. Employed (He’s a programmer) and has his own castle. Concerns are expressed. Assurances made. Sighing….Hero gives in. Willing to give Fixy & Upper one final chance, but not expecting success.
(Hero believes she is truly not matchable)

Second Week of February, 14 years ago….
On February 12th (Hero does remember this date exactly) Fixy and Upper and a gang of friends including Hero and True meet up at a local restaurant. True walks in the door, in jeans that were painted on and a blue plaid shirt. (True’s jeans are indecent, but did showcase what Hero will insist to this day is the finest backside she’s ever seen. Seriously, art students would study it.) Hero was sitting shyly in the chair next to the wall. Upper shoves True into the chair right beside Hero, believing this will promote chemistry and ensure success. Hero and True cannot really talk because their shoulders are touching, the situation is not conducive to getting to know each other. Hero is good and trapped. She also cannot look at True without being nose to nose. Hero thinks True has the most beautiful blue eyes she’s ever seen, but wonders why there are deep dark purple circles under them. (She will later discover he works insane hours. A real life dragon.) Like Hero, it had been a while since True dated anyone due to his insane schedule. Hero doesn’t remember a single word of their encounter. She does remember being acutely aware of everyone watching them like a spectator sport.

Afterwards…
As Hero gets in her car, Fixy will ask her, “So, what do you think?” Hero, because she is good and pure, will speak truth. She tells Fixy she doesn’t know. Couldn’t really get a feel for the guy, attraction, or anything else. Thanks to Upper, the situation hadn’t been conducive to figuring out if she wanted True to ask Hero out. (Despite his obvious assets)

Upper gives True Hero’s work email. (Hero later suspects that Upper has also given him quite a lot of unsubstantiated encouragement.) Emails are exchanged. Hero and True agree to have their first date on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. They both agree they will not treat it like a Valentine’s Day date. No expectations. They will go ahead, have the date, and report back to eager friends on whether it was a go or no-go situation. Get it over with.

First Date….
True takes Hero to a local Thai Restaurant. Hero, who is not a fan of any type of rice except Jasmine or Wild, lets True eat all of it. (This is a big mistake. True loves rice. To this day True believes he should eat Hero’s food. Calls it a ‘food tax’. Had Hero known, she’d have taken some just to set a different expectation). Hero, due to a quirk in her personality, accidentally punned the whole time. True, a lover of puns (he will deny it) thought Hero excessively clever, that she was doing it on purpose. He gave her far more credit for wit than she merited.
Afterwards, it was screaming cold outside, so they sat in his Mazda Protégé while it warmed up.
True turns on the heat(er).
True surprises Hero with a kiss.
Hero’s lips tingled. (She thinks this must be how the Prince woke Sleeping Beauty up. Hero kids you not. If she hadn’t been there, she wouldn’t believe it either.)
This was definitely a go situation. They were at the very least going to have a second date.

Second Date….
True takes her to a ball where all the nobles gave money to support the Kings Museum of Art. True picks a clutch of daffodils out of his Castle’s yard, presenting them them to her when he picks her up in his carriage. Hero falls even further under his spell.

March (1 Month Later), 14 years ago….
Constant dates, and other areas of compatibility confirmed, Hero and True are falling in love. Hero stays in True’s castle almost all the time. (with quick trips home for supplies). One day, Hero tells True she has to go to a house viewing appointment, her Realtor has found a good property for her. True tells her “You shouldn’t do that. I want you to move in with me.” (Yup. Crazy. Crazy fast. Totally insane.)
What does Hero do? She swears True to secrecy, fearing every single soul she knows will think she’s lost her marbles. Also, any sliver of good judgement she may/may not have been credited with. (Nobody, but nobody, moves into the castle of a man she’s known a month. That’s just crazy.) She wants to do this more than anything, so knowing how fleeting happiness can be, she says yes and goes for it.

May, 14 years ago….
They confess the truth to friends, who have been suspicious and poking their noses into their affair. Just as well. It was getting hard to maintain the secret anyway.

June, 14 years ago….
The happy couple takes a trip to introduce True to Hero’s Grammy. Immediately upon arrival, Hero hugs her Grammy, introduces True Love. True immediately scopes the farm out, then drags Hero beneath the Muscadine Arbor. True drops to one knee and pops the question. (True insist he did this in self-defense. Hero was making him a nervous wreck, rummaging around in the glove box and car’s console, and was worried she would find the engagement right and ruin his surprise. FYI-She had found it while True was pumping gas on the trip, but due to its unique appearance, didn’t realize it wasn’t just a nice gift, but a very important piece of jewelry.)

This is where some of Hero & True’s memories differ a bit.
True insist Hero cried forever, making him worry she was going to say no, before finally putting an end to the suspense, saying yes.
Hero insist she said yes, then cried. Hero is certain of her memory. She doesn’t cry a lot, preferring laughter. True’s memories are usually suspect anyway, he mis-remembers things a lot.

January, 13 years ago….
Just after the New Year, some friends who became engaged after Hero and True get married. (In your thirties you do these things faster.) True says to Hero, “Let’s get married on Valentine’s Day.”
Hero scoffs.
True’s face is the picture of disappointment. She cannot bear it, so she changes her answer. She agrees to his naive plan, believing that it will all fall apart when they try to pull a wedding off in a month, and on the most popular wedding day of the year. Meanwhile, Hero tries to educate True. She tells him that Valentine’s Day wedding venues book up years in advance. Undaunted, True persist. (Wanting as he says “to seal the deal” so that Hero can’t change her mind.)
Hero decides it’s much better to let someone else tell him it can’t be done (Hero is squishy on the inside, and hates to deny True anything).
“Sure.” She says.
Thinking ahead, Hero swears him to secrecy. Again. This time it’s because she doesn’t want to start up a circus, only to have to inform every single person she knows that the wedding is cancelled. Today, thirteen years later, Hero confesses she may have been a bit lazy too. She wasn’t in a hurry now that she’d found her One True Love. What did it matter exactly when they got married? She makes her list of things to do, smug in her conviction that it’s never going to happen. At least not this year.  Little did she know, every single obstacle to their union would crumble before her.

Location? Their first choice was booked. Hero is not shocked at all. She smiles at the nice man, and in her head she is planning how to break the news to True. Perhaps over a nice dinner (counting on this being the end of this crazy idea). Ah, but fate has a surprise for her. As she’s thanking the nice owner and stands to leave, he says the words that will seal her fate. “Hey, I’ve got this other house I just bought….I don’t have anything scheduled yet, so I’ll let you do it there. I’ll only charge you $100.”(The first choice was five figures).
Officiator? Hero asks for a list of approved officiators (once again, expecting they will all have previous commitments). The owner picks up a portrait from behind his desk and holds it aloft. It is a very important looking man with dark robes and a bright sash. (We’ll call him Robes)
“Will Robes do?”
“Sure.” Hero agrees. She is unaware that Robes is the Chancellor of a Divinity School. (Funny story, after the ceremony, Robes leans down and whispers to Hero “You got him now!” True refuses to believe Robes said this. He didn’t hear it. It’s a running joke. )
Dress? Hero finds some discounted white satin and brings it to a humble seamstress with a picture of a sheath dress. The seamstress makes it in less than two weeks (true magic). It looks like something out of Vogue Magazine.
Photographer? Hero, after listening Fixy brag about her daughter’s wedding and how the Kingdom’s best photographer (Photog) has been hired. Hero contacts him. Because she’s still keeping a lid on her plans, she swears the photographer to secrecy when she request the meeting, unknowingly intriguing the man’s romantic heart (It was only a secret, because he knew Fixy). Despite Photog’s busy schedule, he agrees to meet with her.
Hero tells him her story.
Explains the silly request for secrecy.
Photog is enchanted.
He tells her his fee.
Hero deflates, realizing she has wasted his time.
He is so enamored by Hero & True’s story, he agrees to do it for what she can pay. (plus she owns negatives. See fabulous pic.)
Ring? Custom made in month by the King’s Jeweler.
Bouquet? Hero pays Fanciest Flowers In Town for a tiny bouquet with five or six roses, and is surprised on the day of the wedding with a much larger arrangement including white hydrangeas.

Bippity-Bobbity-Boo, her wedding forms right before her eyes. (True reminds her of this EVERY anniversary.)

They never did tell anyone they were getting married. Why? True begged her to elope, sparing him Kingdom’s standard fanfare and big crowds. Never able to deny him, she kept quiet. She just hit the ‘play’ button herself on the boom box with Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, descending a staircase to marry the most wonderful man in the world with no one in the Kingdom being the wiser.

After they swear their undying love….

Before taking a romantic weekend away, Hero and True hit ‘send’ on a mass email announcement, attaching a few grainy pictures taken with her digital camera (Photog’s wouldn’t be ready for a while). They hit the road. Their cell phones start ringing. Kept on ringing for the two hours they are on the road.

The Kingdom is stunned speechless!

Hero and True Love were not the type of people anyone ever expected to do something so impulsive. Too level headed. Too responsible. Too unlikely to cast their fate among the stars, heedless of where it scattered. What no one knew? Hero and True were secretly the hearts and flowers types, eager for a HEA.

Romantic? Hell, yes.

For years afterwards, whenever Hero tells this story to another woman, much wistful sighing ensues.

The End

Well, not really….

Fourteen years later, I’m still working my day job (GIS Consultant just like Kitty James) and writing about murder, hoping to someday get paid for my writing (Kitty is more successful than me). My family, the ones who know I write (I still like my secrets, don’t I?), think I’m a little warped. Am I jaded? Negative? See only the seedier side of life? Maybe, but I’m also a born romantic, unable to give up her ideas that love will conquer all. It leaves me conflicted more often than not, while I strive to achieve balance. William Shakespeare included humor in some of his tragedies specifically to give the audience some emotional relief from the tension he created. He knew they needed it, no one is able to stay on the edge indefinitely. It wears you out, and then you put the story down to get that break if the author didn’t give you one. I use humor the same way. Giving you a emotional break before we move on with the serious story.

I don’t just write cozy mysteries. I write Romantic Suspense, and I’m working on a Fantasy, Romantic Suspense. Love and humor are techniques I use to keep from exhausting my reader, but that’s not the whole truth.

The whole truth is I love romance, will take it any way I can get it. Will never get enough of it. After reading my true love story, can you blame me? Love is always there, in the ugliness of life too. It doesn’t need perfect conditions to happen.

This Valentine’s Day, Hero and True will celebrate fourteen years together. We’ve survived job changes, unemployment, family deaths, disease (including Breast Cancer), and we have been completely subjugated by two cats.

You know what? True is still Hero’s One True Love.

God blesses us when we least expect it, and Hero believes God reached down, plucking True away from his books, games and other interest, placing him directly in front of her so she wouldn’t miss him. Changing her story’s outcome in a way she would never have imagined. Could hardly believe at the time, and for which she will forever be grateful.
Which is why in every evil, horrible story I write, there is always another story arc for love.

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