“This is a chance of a life time,” I declared to my friend Stacy as I locked the door of my office and left the restaurant I managed. “It’s every twenty-seven-year-old woman’s dream to live in New York City, and in a few months I’ll know if I get the transfer.”
I watched the moonlight glisten on the waters of Laguna Beach. “I’ll miss it here, but living in the Big Apple is everything I’ve ever wanted – a dream comes true.”
We met a group of our friends at a local cafe, and I jabbered on about the possibility of my move. Laughter erupted from a nearby table. I watched as a handsome man captured the attention of his friends with his engaging story. His broad, warm smile and air of confidence held me in a trance. Stacy nudged me. “You’re staring,
Michelle, and about to drool.” “Wow,” I whispered. I watched the gorgeous guy push up the sleeves of his bulky sweater. Everyone at his table had their eyes fixed on him. “That’s the man I want to marry.” “Yeah, right,” Stacy droned. “Tell us more about where you’d like to live in New York, because we all plan to visit you there when you land this job. ” As I spoke my gaze drifted back to the debonair man.
Three months later my friends and I gathered at the same restaurant. “To life in the Big Apple!” they cheered as we tapped our glasses together. “My chance of a lifetime!” We talked for hours. I told them of my plan to save money by moving out of my beach cottage and renting a room for the few remaining months. Our friend offered, “I have a fellow South African friend who is considering renting one of the four bedrooms in his house. His name is Barry. A great guy.” He scribbled on a napkin. “This is his number. He’s a forty-two-year-old confirmed bachelor. Says he’s much too busy being a single dad to be a husband.”
I made an appointment to see the room the same day. I approached the entrance of the spacious house, and the door opened. “You must be Michelle,” he said. He pushed up the sleeves of his bulky sweater and flashed his handsome smile. It was the man from the restaurant months before — the man I wanted to marry.
I stood staring, my mouth gaping, hoping I wasn’t drooling.
“You are Michelle, aren’t you? ” he said, coaxing me out of my trance.” Would you like to see the room?”
I followed him through a tour of the house, then accepted when he offered me a cup of tea. Barry had a sophisticated kindness about him and listened attentively as I chattered nervously about myself. His silver-rimmed glasses accented a few gray streaks in his dark hair. Soon, his warm, inviting smile put me at ease, and we spent the next two hours talking casually. Ultimately, I decided not to take the room and reluctantly bade him good-bye.
The months went by quickly while I busied myself with preparation for the move. I thought of Bany often, but couldn’t consider calling him.
“I’m moving to New York in three weeks, “I said to Stacy as we walked out of my office and into the dining area. “As much as I’d like to see him again, it would only complicate my life.
“Well, brace yourself for complications,” Stacy muttered, then nodded toward the door. Barry, with his big blue eyes and engaging smile, walked into my restaurant.
“Hello,” he said softly. “Do you have time to join me for a cup of coffee?” “Of course.” I tried not to gasp.
We slid into a booth and our conversation picked up where it left off before. He, too, was making a career change and was moving back to South Africa. His departure date was one week before mine. Now I knew I had to calm my pounding heart. We obviously had no future together. He took my phone number and invited me to dinner sometime. I accepted, suppressing my sadness, knowing I would be leaving in two short weeks and the date would probably never happen.
But it did. He picked me up a few days later for a movie and dinner. We talked for hours about our lives, our hopes, our separate dreams— mine in New York, his in South Africa. Never had I spoken so freely, so comfortably, with a man. He reached across the table and took my hand. I thought I saw in his eyes the same love l felt swelling in my hear. He said, “I’m just sorry I met you only one week before l leave.”
“We still have seven days, ” I said meekly.
“Then let’s make the most of it.” He helped me on with my sweater. Hand in hand, we strolled to the car and made plans for the next day and the next and the next. As he drove me home, Tracy Chapman sang, “Give me one reason to stay, and I’ll turn right back around.” Was his heart singing along like mine?
We spent part of every day together for the next week. I knew I was falling in love, but dared not speak it. I couldn’t upset our chances for a lifetime.
” And I know he loves me, too,” l moaned to Stacy over a cup of coffee in my near-empty restaurant. “We’ve even talked about trying to get together over holidays. He’s meeting me here soon to bring me a gift to remember him by.”
Just then, Bary strolled in. I stood to welcome his arms around me. We sat, sipping our coffee. “I will miss you so much, “he said softly. “But I know you’ll think of me whenever you hear this. “He placed a Tracy Chapman CD on the table in front of me. Then he pointed to the song title, Just Give Me One Reason. “We can listen to the same music and remember each other.”
“Oh, and one more thing to remember me by.” He set a small box on top of the CD. The same awe I felt at our first meeting paralyzed me now. The love I saw in his eyes as we gazed across the table was gift enough for a lifetime. Finally I reached for the box and opened it slowly. A diamond ring!
“Michelle, I have loved you from the first moment I saw you. On our first date, even before we had coffee, l knew you were the woman I was going to marry. I woke up this morning, desperate, thinking, it’s May 3! In three days I’ll lose my angel. Sure, my career in South Africa is a chance in a lifetime, but you, Michelle, are my dream come true. Please marry me.”
“Yes, Barry, yes, “I cried. ”
I know what moving to New York means to you, but will you come with me to South Africa? I believe with all my heart, Michelle, that we were brought together on purpose. Nothing in my life is going as I planned it, but l know it’s all a part of a bigger plan.” Barry chuckled. “God has a great sense of humor, but a poor sense of timing.”
Exactly one year later, on May 3, we were married under an African sky. Our dream come true. Our chance of a lifetime.