The Bandbox Hat
Previously: Sarah returned to the coffee shop for what she thinks is a meeting with a pollster or survey taker. She’s mortified to realize that there was an open casting call at the coffee shop for a reality dating show called Date My Son! and she was mistaken for a contestant. She and the assistant laugh about it and she gets up to leave but he tells her he really does want her to be on the show.
I drove home and it was only God’s grace that I made it safely. I kept turning over Liam’s assurance that I’d do well on his show.
Of course I’d heard of Date My Son but I’d never watched it. All those contrived dating shows seemed too stupid to me. If falling in love and making it last was as simple as starting with a large pool of possible and then winnowing it down to a few, then why didn’t more of these primetime couples make it?
Liam had given me a couple DVDs of the last season. I’d promised to watch and to think about my answer. I’d also be praying more than a little.
Once locked into my apartment, I started the first episode.
The bachelor Noah had dark close-cut hair and was great looking. He seemed to care about his mom’s opinions and thoughts and he listened to her take on all the girls with intent nods.
His mom Kathryn seemed like perfect mother-in-law material. She encouraged the girls to talk about themselves and their hopes and dreams for love and marriage and the future.
It took the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday, but I watched the whole season until Kathryn proposed on Noah’s behalf to the red-headed Brooke. I howled with laughter at the cheesy set-up: Brooke in a flowing evening gown on the beach, Noah in a tux and down on one knee. All I could think was I hope that’s a rental because it’s ruined now with the dirt and the salt water. Kathryn did the talking, telling Brooke how she’d dreamed of her future daughter-in-law and the Sunday suppers they would have all together and the grandchildren in her future and how she knew Brooke and Noah were made for each other and would Brooke do them both the honor of becoming a part of the family.
My giggles subsided though and in another moment I wiped tears from my cheeks. Brooke accepted and Noah slid a diamond solitaire on her finger. They kissed and the whole dopey scene and Kathryn faded away and all I could see was Noah looking into Brooke’s eyes and the – yeah, I’m gonna say it – the love there was clear.
I watched the credits scroll by. Liam’s name was there so this was legit. The show had gone to Belize and Prague and Edinburgh. All places I’d love to see in person someday.
Longing and regret knotted in my stomach. I pulled a fresh tissue from the box on my side table and dabbed my eyes. A yearning to travel was no reason to consider going on a reality show and embarrassing myself and my family and my faith and my hometown. Because that’s all I could foresee: embarrassment and ridicule with a dash of horror if I were to go on this show.
The other girls were all long-legged drop-dead gorgeous model types. I was a grammar school teacher who wore skirts below her knees and had never owned a pair of short shorts or platform flip-flops. Platform anythings.
I picked up my phone to find Liam’s number. I’d thank him for the opportunity but decline.
Before I started to dial, the phone rang in my hand. It was such a reflex to answer the phone with a perky voice that I accepted the call without thinking.
My heart dropped into my stomach. “Anna.”
“April misses you.”
I gave a little hiccuppy sigh. “I miss her, too.”
“When can I tell her you’ll be home?”
“I don’t know, Anna. I have a long-term substituting job. I’ve just been offered another opportunity that will take my whole summer if I do it.”
Anna breezed on as if I hadn’t spoken. “Look, we know you’re grieving, but don’t you think the best place for that is with your family who loves you and offer you comfort? You’re down there all by yourself. You must be lonely. What do you do in the evenings? Watch the paint dry? I know you’re not going out to clubs.”
Irritation rose in my chest. “What if I was, Anna? Would it be so terrible to go out and make a new friend and maybe dance? Or even travel?”
“You’ve already gone to LA. Where else is there?”
Visions of Brooke and Noah and Kathryn rose before me and I spoke without thinking. “Belize. I could go to Belize. Or Prague.”
Anna’s piercing shriek of laughter made me pull the phone away from my ear and put her on speaker. “You. In Belize. Do you even know where Belize is? Or Prague for that matter?”
“I teach second grade. I know my world geography. Probably better than you do, Anna.”
“Sure. That’s the reason I don’t travel—I don’t know where the countries are. Come on, Sarah Jane. Your place is here. Come home. Your brothers miss you. Mrs. Enns said this morning at church that Josiah asked where you were. He’s always had a crush on you.”
“I don’t need you to be a matchmaker for me.”
“Sure you do. Who else is going to find someone to put up with you?”
My jaw dropped with disbelief. “Are you seriously telling me that you think I can’t find a husband because I’m so difficult to get along with?”
She back-pedaled. “That’s not what I meant.”
I grew tired of the game. “I have to go, Anna. Bye.” I disconnected but instead of throwing the phone into the couch pillow as I wanted, I forced myself to stay calm and look for Liam’s number on the contract he’d given me.
I signed with a flourish and then stabbed in his number.
“Liam, it’s Sarah Richter. If you still want me, I’m interested.”