the gawky stranger


When Berry and Ray met for the very first time, they looked right into each other’s eyes. They were standing in two different corners of the cafeteria and though the place was crowded it was easy for them to look right at each other because both of them were tall. Unusually tall. When Berry saw him, she thought, ‘wow. a guy as gawky as me.’ And when Ray saw her, he thought ‘hmm.. a tall enough girl.’ Then when they both realized that the other person was looking at them a strange thing happened- a single thought occurred to both of them. ‘He/She might be the one!’ It was like all the other people bustling around the cafeteria became tiny ants and they could see nothing else but the gawky stranger in front of them. Then for the first time in her life, Berry smiled at a guy. It was the easiest and most natural smile she had ever given. And then the bell rang. Suddenly they both could see and hear everyone else around them and they felt very stupid.

***

That evening when Ray got on the bus he saw the girl again. Though she didn’t see him, her presence made him smile. A week later he mustered up the courage to talk to her.

***

A month later when Berry stepped into the restaurant for her first date with Ray, she realized that the place was very crowded. And when she looked up and saw her date across the room her eyes lit up and she smiled- something which she had been doing quite often now.

***

The day they filled out their college applications Ray picked up the phone and called his girlfriend and asked her, “Hey. You’re not changing your mind are you? We are applying to the same college right?” He smiled when he heard her say “Of course. Why would I change my mind?? “

***

Berry frantically walked up and down the hall. She kept looking at the phone. Ray’s call was due. His job interview should have been over by now. Her parents wouldn’t let her move in with him until he had a good job. Though she understood that they just wanted to protect her she also thought that it was quite silly of them to ask him to get a job first. It’s not like they were getting married tomorrow.

***

Ray slammed the door and stormed out. He stood outside for a minute but when he heard her cry he left the building. Not today. He needed some time to think. Some time to be alone. They had fought in the past. All through the 7 years that they had been together- they had fought like any other couple. But this time it was different. This time there was a possibility of the whole thing ending. He sat down on an empty park bench and considered the option. Things had not been going well lately. But after a moment or two he realized that the 7 weeks that were strained were nothing compared to the 7 years of bliss they had had. No. No, he could not let her go. They had been through half of high school, the whole of college and the beginning of their first jobs together. Why would he want to give up all that on a few strained weeks??? No way. What had he been thinking? This was Berry!! The girl he loved! He could never let her go. And definitely not over some silly argument.!! He ran back to their apartment.

***

Ray fidgeted with his hands as they walked through the park. He thought of the first time he had seen her. Across that cafeteria a million years ago. An odd thought had struck him, that this would be the girl he would end up with. How stupid had it sounded back then. But today as he ran his fingers over the ring in his coat pocket, it didn’t seem so stupid. When he popped the question, her eyes welled up with tears and she hugged him tight. He wanted to laugh loudly and scream and sing and thank the universe and its creator at the same time. He didn’t know which one to do, so he just hugged her tightly and began crying before she could. He knew that all his life he would be made fun of, for laughing before the bride to be. But he didn’t care. As long as he could have a family with her and tell their kids and grandkids about this day, he didn’t care if they would all laugh when they heard that he had been the first one to cry.

***

As she looked into the eyes of the man in front of her, she could see the reflection of her white gown in his deep, black eyes. She thought of all the moments they had shared-laughing, crying, studying,cooking,yelling,snuggling, relaxing, hugging and she couldnt think of a single person she would rather spend the rest of her life with.

She focused her thoughts on the priest and smiled as he began to say the most important words of her life.

“Do you take Rayner Evans to be your lawfully wedded husband, to share your life openly, standing with him, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, in hardship and in ease, to cherish and to love, so long as you both shall live?”

“I do.”

“Do you take Bernadette Mitchell to be your lawfully wedded wife, to share your life openly, standing with her, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, in hardship and in ease, to cherish and to love, so long as you both shall live?”

“I do.”

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