Harry Sharp sat in his car trying to pluck up courage to get out and head to the door of the small cottage two doors down from where he was parked. He’d deliberately parked this far away from his intended destination because he didn’t want Brenda to see him before he’d made up his mind to make contact with her again. She’d seen him loading provisions into this car at the time of his recent trip to the supermarket so knew the car belonged to him. He’d imagined she gave a faint smile as he came to her attention and his heart raced at the memory.
Brenda, she’d been a fixture in his life from elementary school days together in this rural town. They attended high school together and as they were close Neighbours hung out together all through those years. The two mothers were like sisters. Looking back over those years Harry realized they’d been like brother and sister during those school years too in and out of each other’s homes after school and during weekends.
So, when Jacob Cunningham happened to first break the news of his plans to send Brenda to boarding college after her high school graduation this came as a shock to Harry. It would be like losing a right arm as they’d been friends for such a long time. The boarding college was in the suburbs of a city a hundred miles from where they lived in this rural town. Harry planned to work in the family store where they sold and serviced all kind of electrical products and attend trade school in the evenings to hone his skills in the electrical trade leading to professional certification after high school.
Harry was a quiet young man and Brenda was the outgoing one of the two who encouraged him in the wide range of activities they enjoyed together. He had little interest in continuing those pursuits if Brenda wouldn’t be there. Harry’s parents Pat and Barry Sharp were surprised at their son’s distress when they heard the news from their neighbour friend Jacob Cunningham. Pat smiled knowingly. While the two families had operated almost as relatives over the long years of their friendship the fact was, they were not, and their son was unwittingly smitten by Brenda Cunningham it seemed.
But he would get over it when he adjusted to the fact Brenda was on another trajectory with her plan to be a teacher. Teachers could be transferred anywhere, and Harry had obviously chosen to stay in this town and work with his family in their business. Relationships had their crossroads to negotiate while others developed, and he’d eventually meet someone nice who shared his commitment to live and work in this town and the infatuation would pass in time.
Tears were shed by all as the day finally arrived and Brenda got into the family car to be escorted to her new home at the boarding college and registration as a trainee for her chosen educational career. Brenda would return for vacations in initial study years, but as her studies progressed, she visited home less frequently. Harry would be overjoyed to see her on these visits but as Brenda established a wide circle of friends during her studies it seemed the pull toward home began to dim.
In her final year the Cunningham’s reported Brenda was in a relationship. This was a great discouragement to Harry, and he busied himself with his own studies and work to dull the now permanent loss of his friend. When Brenda arrived with her chosen man to introduce him to her parents and the Sharps who she looked on as close family she was disappointed to learn Harry had chosen to vacation at a nearby seaside resort while they were in town. Brenda was distressed. She’d wanted to share her joy with her long-term friend Harry and made a trip to visit with Pat Sharp. It was then Brenda learned for the first time of Harry’s love for her not as a brother but as someone who’d wanted a more permanent relationship with her. Pat assured Brenda they’d nurture their son through his disappointment and Brenda would always be considered as a daughter to them. Pat and Barry wished the couple well as they celebrated a future marriage together.
Brenda had been married for two years when Pat and Barry decided to talk with their son about establishing a home of his own. Now that he had his trade qualifications and was in line to eventually take over the department store from his parents when they retired, he in turn should be thinking of a family and passing the store onto his own children. Harry listened but resisted when Pat suggested names of young women around town from good families who were at an age to consider marriage. He’d gone to school with most of them and was on friendly terms but didn’t see any of them as a soul mate.
It was about that time when Harry was considering moving into a bachelor pad to avoid his mother’s urgings word came to the Cunningham’s their daughter and her husband had been involved in a car accident. They fled broken to the Sharp’s to pour out their grief and all cried together before the Cunningham’s drove to the town where their daughter and her husband had been working to offer support. Fortunately, there were no children involved but the husband Ron was in critical condition and died after the parents arrived. Brenda would survive, but it would be weeks before she could be released from hospital and would require rehab for months after release. Jacob had to return home for work, but he left his wife Anna to supervise her recovery and on release from hospital it was decided she’d need to be replaced in her teaching role due to the expected long recovery. Ron and Brenda’s rental home was vacated, and furniture transported to the Cunningham’s town for storage while they supervised Brenda’s long recovery.
Harry was quick to go to the Cunningham’s on learning of Brenda’s arrival back in town and expressed his sincere sympathies. Over the months of her frequent rehab at the local hospital Brenda made rapid strides in her recovery despite her grief over the loss of her husband. Harry took turns with his parents and the Cunningham’s taking Brenda for rehab fulfilling as he thought a brother’s obligation. He never let his feelings about her show, but both set of parents watched his dedication to her recovery with interest. Harry had no idea his mother had revealed his love for Brenda during that visit when she introduced her intended husband. Brenda knowing this secret felt wretched each time Harry was scheduled to help her out but over time realizing he was not making any moves on her she relaxed and luxuriated in his company again.
When she was sufficiently recovered Brenda applied to fill a vacancy in the local school and was accepted. She threw herself into teaching to try and forget her loss and informed her parents she would like to live independently now so there would be more room for her. She’d like to move furniture out of storage to save costs and establish her library and an office in a new home.
Jacob Cunningham found a suitable place in a quiet suburb near the school and paid a deposit on the home from his retirement savings. It would be better to invest in a home rather than rent. Brenda would earn sufficient to cover loan payments and they could help her if necessary. He moved her furniture out of storage and settled her into her new home. The Sharp’s visited her and upgraded some of her electrical household equipment for free.
Now there was no reason to take a turn with transporting Brenda for her rehab work at the hospital Harry didn’t know what to do. It would probably be misunderstood if he visited a grieving widow in her own home. It had been explainable when she was living with her parents. So, he retreated into himself and threw his energies into work again. Months passed and he learned from his parents and the Cunningham’s of Brenda’s progress at school and her beginning recovery from grief. Hints were given that he should visit and encourage her as she re-established in town. He wanted to but didn’t want Brenda to feel uncomfortable with his visits. But the parents persisted in their suggestions, and he began to wonder if Brenda would welcome a reconnection. Perhaps her smile in the supermarket parking lot was encouraging?
As he sat contemplating whether he should get out of the car and pay Brenda a visit there was a tap on the window, and he looked around in surprise. It was Brenda and she was dressed in her exercise clothes. He pressed the button to open the window.
“I don’t want you stalking my neighbours Harry, open the passenger door and take me home. I can see the neighbours need protection so I’m taking you away from temptation.” She laughed at her joke.
Harry jumped out of the car and ran around to the passenger side to open the door. But Brenda slid into the vacant driver seat and told him to get in. He sat down and looked at Brenda inquiringly. She hit the starter button and pulled out accelerating fast while he gaped at her. Soon they reached the familiar track that led down to the river swimming spot frequented by kids after school. Brenda eased to a halt and nodded at the river where kids were swimming.
She turned to Harry. “Remember how we used to come down here after school and have such a good time with the other kids?” Harry smiled at the pleasant recollection.
Brenda continued staring at him. “Why have you shut me out since I moved from home and what were you doing watching my home, Harry? I don’t understand what has gotten into you these past few months when I needed a friend in my grief.”
Harry stammered his response. “Brenda it was hard for me to stay away but I thought you may be embarrassed having me around when everyone knows you are still grieving for your lost husband. I was only trying to protect you.”
Brenda turned to watch the kids swimming as she processed what had been said.
“Harry your mom told me when I came to present my future husband to you for approval the reason you took a vacation rather than meet him was because you loved me and couldn’t bear to see me with someone else. If you had given me any hint of your love for me as I vacationed at home during college, I’d have not looked for someone else to be my life companion as I loved you but respected your wishes when you didn’t seem to show that love in return. It appeared to me you were a lost cause, so I found someone very much like you at college understanding that seeming reality. You would have liked him because he has the same personality as you.”
Tears flowed from Harry’s eyes while Brenda continued her story and Brenda put her hand on his shoulder in sympathy. This was a very complicated young man but her love for him revived as she saw his reaction. She started the car and moved back along the track and onto the road driving in silence as she returned to her home and parked in the driveway.
“Come inside,” she murmured gently, and Harry exited the car to follow her inside. She gave him a tour of the house pausing to show the items Harry’s parents had donated. Then she sat him at the lounge appearing soon with treats and a drink for both. She sat facing him.
“See it was not too frightening to come inside was it, Harry? I suppose I had to twist your arm but now you know you’re welcome here anytime I expect to have more regular visits from you. I appreciated you fussing over me during my rehab and was hurt when you suddenly cut me off. I talked with your mom about it, and she said I probably had to break the ice. Now I want to hear what you have to say about that.”
“I’ve been such a fool but thought I was doing the honorable thing Brenda.”
“Well now you know you blew it badly Harry and I expect you’d want to make that right now?”
A feeling of joy swept over Harry as he processed what they’d discussed together. “Brenda, I know you’re grieving your husband as you should, but I’ve always loved you and when you think you could deal with it, I’d like to be with you as my soul partner for life. I know I could never replace Ron fully, but you can be assured I’d be faithful and loving and someone you could always rely on.”
Brenda smiled and came to sit beside Harry. “I know you are a quiet person and not prone to sharing your feelings, so I take that as a proposal and accept it anyway. It would be well to hold off a marriage for another year perhaps, but I’d expect to see you every day while we wait for that happy celebration. I know both of our parents would be overjoyed to learn we plan to get married but let’s keep that as a secret for the time being, shall we? Are you happy I tapped on your window this afternoon?”
“Brenda, you don’t know how happy you’ve made me. I know you have a lot of school class obligations even into the evenings but if you let me know when I can come to see you, I’ll promise to be there. I can hardly wait to tell my parents but will keep it our secret until you say it’s OK.”
Brenda smiled. “Well now what are you going to do?”
“What do you mean Brenda?”
“Well, any normal man after proposing to a woman would want to give her a kiss if she said yes.”
Harry reached over and gave Brenda a long kiss. “I’ve dreamed about doing this for a long time Brenda and none of the women Mom suggested as a possible soul mate could ever have intruded into those dreams.”
Brenda put on a mock show of anger. “None of those women better give you a glance Harry or I’ll deal with them very effectively. Now off with you as I have class work to mark for my students. Give me your cell phone number because I’ll be phoning you after that work is complete to talk some more and I expect regular phone calls from you from now on.”
Harry was on cloud nine as he drove home anticipating his first nightly phone call. It would be hard to keep his joy in Brenda’s reconnection from his eagle-eyed Mom, but he’d promised so had to try.
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