Nathan parked in front of Marie’s house that evening and checked his hair in the rearview mirror. He’d tried not to read too much into his earlier conversation with her, but he had to admit he was hoping for the best.
He went to the front door, rang the bell, and was soon greeted by Marie’s father.
“Hello, Brother Shaw,” Nathan said.
“Hi, Nathan, and please just call me Aaron. That was a great talk today, by the way.”
Aaron led Nathan into the kitchen, where Carol and Marie were checking on two pies that had just come out of the oven.
“It smells wonderful in here,” Nathan said.
“We have pumpkin and apple,” Marie said. “I couldn’t remember which kind you liked.”
Nathan shrugged. “How about some of both?”
Marie laughed, and soon they were seated at the kitchen table enjoying the pies and some vanilla ice cream.
“The ward hasn’t changed too much while I was gone,” Nathan said. “There were some younger couples I didn’t recognize, but otherwise it looked like the same people.”
“You’re right, we’ve been pretty stable,” Aaron said. “It sure was good to see your dad there, though. I talked to him for a minute before the meeting. You probably don’t remember, but I worked with him in the Young Men presidency when you were little.”
“I didn’t know that! Yes, it was a relief when Dad told me he’d had a good experience today, and so did my stepmom and sister.”
“Those two are beautiful,” Carol said. “I’ve actually seen them once in a while in Wal-Mart, but I didn’t know who they were.”
“So are you going to live with your dad?” Marie asked.
“Yeah, it looks that way. My mom’s sister Susan was going to let me live with her in Salt Lake, but Dad has welcomed me with open arms. It’s been a little strange, to be honest, but so far it’s been great. He’s already helped me get a job and a car, so I can’t complain.”
“Where are you working?” Carol asked.
Nathan rolled his eyes. “I’m restocking shelves at Toys-R-Us each night after the store closes. It’s fine, but I’m having a little trouble adjusting to the late hours. Brother Shaw—um, Aaron—are you still working at Novell?”
“Actually, I’m now at the National Security Agency’s Data Center up near Camp Williams,” Aaron said. “It’s a longer drive, but the pay is much better. I’m enjoying it.”
“That’s good,” Nathan told him. “Let me know if they need a daytime janitor!”
Aaron smiled. “I’ll keep you in mind.”
After a few more minutes of conversation, Carol and Aaron suddenly excused themselves, leaving Marie and Nathan alone at the table.
“I think they’re hoping we’ll get better acquainted,” Marie said. “I’m nearly an old maid, you know! It seems like half of the people we graduated with are married already.”
“I’m afraid it’s going to be a while for me,” Nathan said. “As you remember, I wasn’t exactly a dating machine.”
Marie shook her head. “You’ll get back to UVU and have girls drooling over you.”
Nathan laughed, then tried to change the subject by asking Marie about several of the kids they had grown up with. She finally grabbed their senior yearbook and sat next to him at the table. She knew what most of their peers were doing, and they talked for several more minutes before she added, “Of course, I’m kind of the black sheep of the group.”
“What do you mean?” Nathan asked.
Marie rolled her eyes and said softly, “Mom thinks I’ve gone apostate or something because I haven’t been going to church much. I admit I’ve slacked off, but none of my roommates are religious, and it’s been easy to just sleep in on Sunday. Then I’ve been too busy to attend any Singles Ward activities.”
Nathan was surprised, but he kept the conversation upbeat. “Hmm. So you’re saying that the shining beacon of my teenage years has faded and is now an inactive spinster?”
Marie’s jaw dropped, then she gave him a playful punch in the arm. “I knew you’d take Mom’s side!”
Nathan grabbed her fist as she took another swing and twisted it a little. “Don’t worry. I know how amazing you are.”
Marie was genuinely touched by his words. “Thank you, Nathan. I’ve really missed your friendship.”
“Well, you know where to find me. I’ll be at Toys-R-Us each night starting at nine o’clock!”
His comment made her look at the clock. “Oh, I need to get back to my apartment tonight and print off a research paper. Sorry to cut this short.”
“No problem at all. Please tell your parents how much I enjoyed the pies and ice cream.”
Marie grabbed a paper from off the counter and wrote down her cell phone number. “Give me a call sometime. Maybe you could come up to Salt Lake and we could do lunch.”
Nathan smiled. “That would be great.”