The first time he saw her, it was on Monday. She was walking down the street. In her hand was a red school satchel. She looked at him as she walked past. He was sitting on the rail outside of the building where he worked. It was during his afternoon break which he usually took a half hour earlier. He was looking in the opposite direction but he could feel that someone was staring at him and he turned his head. Their eyes met and held.
She couldn’t have been more than eighteen although she looked younger. She was wearing a yellow shirt tucked into a knee length denim skirt and a pair of black low heel sandals. Her thick hair framed her face. She was a very pretty girl. He couldn’t help staring at her. He knew that there was a high school a couple of blocks away. Perhaps she was on her way home because it was past three thirty.
He started going for his break at three thirty when he knew that he would see her. And when she walked by, he smiled and said hello. He found himself looking forward to seeing her. Many times, he thought to himself, This is crazy. I’m twenty-nine years old and here I am, attracted to a high school girl. Yes, I must be losing my mind. Yet the thought didn’t prevent him from wanting to see her and get to know her. He made up his mind that before the week ended, he was going to talk to her.
That Friday, he got his chance. Since it was the last Friday of the month, he was dressed casually. As he waited for her, he thought about what he was going to say to her. He was nervous and excited at the same time. When, he saw her coming towards him, his heart began to beat fast. He rubbed his hands nervously together and tried to look calm.
As she got closer, he stood up. His eyes traveled eagerly over her small frame in the tee shirt and jeans. “Hello.”
To his surprise, she stopped and said, “Hello.” Then, she handed him a flyer which he readily took from her.
He looked at it. It was an invitation to a benefit concert at a church two weeks away. “Thank you,” he said as he folded it and put it in his pants pocket. “What’s your name?”
“Mine is Aaron.” He held out my hand and she put hers in it. It was so soft and tiny.
“Do you work here?” she asked, glancing over her shoulder.
He nodded. “Yes. I’ve been working here since I left university several years ago. Are you on your way home from school?”
“Yes. My school is a couple of blocks from here.”
“Do you live close by?”
She shook her head. “No. I have to take the bus to get home. The bus stop is just around the next corner.” She glanced at her watch. “I should go.”
“Don’t go, Staci. Stay and talk with me for a while.”
“All right.” She set her satchel down on the pavement and leaned against the rail next to me. He turned so that he was facing her. She looked shyly up at him before she looked away.
“Are you a junior?”
“No, I’m a senior. I’m graduating in June.”
“Do you have a major as yet?”
“Yes. Computer Science.”
He was impressed. “Good for you. You’ll be the first person I know in a field which needs more women.”
“My father always encouraged me to work hard and to believe that I can do anything I set my mind to. He believed in gender equality.”
“So do I. Your father sounds like a remarkable man.”
“He was. It has been eight years since he died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Do you have any brothers and sisters?”
She shook her head. “No. I’m an only child.”
“What about other family?”
“They’re in Grenada.”
“So, now it’s just your mother and you living here in London then?”
“Yes, but she isn’t well. She has Multiple Sclerosis.”
He looked alarmed. “How are you managing her illness while going to school?”
“We have a home care provider who takes care of her. I take care of cleaning the apartment, the laundry, the grocery shopping and the cooking.”
“How old are you?”
“You’re pretty young to have so much responsibility.”
“I don’t mind. My mother can’t do those things anymore.”
“You don’t have much of a social life. Don’t you miss hanging out with your friends?”
“Do you know how to roller-blade?”
“Great. How about you and me rollerblading this Sunday?”
She looked hesitant. “I’m not sure…”
“Come on. It will be fun. And I’m sure your mother wouldn’t mind.”
She smiled. “All right.”
They talked for a while longer and then she had to go home and he had to return to his job. They arranged to meet at a park. “I’m looking forward to seeing you on Sunday,” he said as he gazed down into her upturned face.
“Me too,” she said shyly. Then, she picked up her satchel, waved at him and hurried off. He stood there watching her until she disappeared from his view before he went into the air conditioned office building. He couldn’t wait to see her again.
Sunday came and they went rollerblading and then grabbed something to eat afterwards. He gave her a lift home. They saw each other every afternoon during the week and went different places on Sunday. He didn’t see her sunset Friday to sunset Saturday because it was her Sabbath. She was a Seventh-day Adventist. He went to the concert she invited him to and he really enjoyed it. The following Saturday, he went to church and sat next to her.
Afterwards, she invited him home for lunch. He met her mother and Maureen, the woman who was taking care of her. Mrs. Brown’s was confined to a wheelchair. Looking at her, he could tell that she was once a very beautiful woman. Her speech was slurred and her voice was so low at times that he had trouble hearing her. Seeing her hit home how hard it must be for Staci to see her like that. It was after seven when he left.
He and Staci continued to see each other and he soon realized that he was falling in love with her which just blew his mind. In two months he was going to be thirty years old. If his family and friends knew about her, they would strongly object and not only because of the age difference. He wanted to invite her over to his place but he knew that she probably wouldn’t think that it was a good idea. They couldn’t be alone. There would have to be a chaperone present. So, when they weren’t out on the road, they were at her home.
Then, one day, he had just taken a shower after going to the gym and had barely gotten dressed when his doorbell rang. He peered through the keyhole and was surprised to see Staci. When he opened the door, he saw that she had been crying. He quickly drew her into his flat and after locking the door, he turned to face her, alarmed. “What’s the matter, Staci?” he asked.
Tears welled in her eyes. “My mother’s dead,” she managed to say before she broke down.
“Oh, Honey, I’m so sorry for your loss.” He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly as she buried her face in shirt, her body shaking with the sobs.
They stood there like that for several minutes. When her sobs subsided, she raised her head. He released her to cup her face between his hands. He wiped away her tears with his thumbs. He wanted so badly to kiss her but now wasn’t the right time.
She stared at him, feeling guilty because she was wondering what it would be like to kiss him. “I’d better go.”
“Let me take you home.”
She didn’t answer but let him take her to his car. In the car, he held her hand. When they got to the apartment, she invited him in. Maureen, her mother’s former caretaker informed her that the funeral home came and took the body away. “Do you have someone you can stay with?” she asked.
Staci shook her head.
“You shouldn’t be here by yourself, at least not for a while.” Maureen said.
“Well, if you need anything, call me.”
“I will.” They hugged and then, Maureen left.
When they were alone, Aaron said to her, “She’s right. You shouldn’t be here on your own. Why don’t you come and stay with me?”
Staci shook her head. “I can’t. It isn’t right for a single man and woman to be living under the same roof especially when…”
“Especially when they are attracted to each other. I understand. Still, I’m not comfortable with you being here by yourself.”
“I’ll be fine. Besides, people from the church will be dropping by to make sure that I’m all right.”
“Okay, but I too will come by every single day to make sure that you’re all right.”
He stayed with her until late that night. He and some members of the church helped her with the funeral arrangements. Her aunt and cousins flew in Grenada the day before the funeral. They stayed at a hotel because they didn’t want to sleep in the apartment because that was where her mother died. They stayed for a week and then left. Staci stayed in the apartment and continued to pay the rent until it was time for her to go to university in September. She told Aaron that she had decided that she was going to live on campus or nearby where there was affordable student housing until she graduated. They were sitting on a park bench facing the pond.
He reached for her hands. “Marry me, Staci” he said urgently.
She gulped. “Marry you?”
“Why do you want to marry me?”
“I want to because I love you, Staci.”
“I–I love you too, Aaron.” Her heart was pounding wildly. “But, are you sure you want me, a high school senior to be your wife?”
“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life. Marry me.”
He leaned over and kissed her. When he drew back, they were both breathing heavily. “We’ll get married and then, you’ll move into my place. It isn’t far from the university campus.”
“I want you to know that while you concentrate on your studies I can take care of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and ironing.”
She shook her head at once. “No, Aaron. As your wife, I want to take care of you and our home. So, on the weekends, I will cook for the week, clean, do the laundry and ironing. All you have to do is to pick up the groceries.”
“All right but if at anytime you need me to step in and take over, please let me know.”
“I will,” she promised.
“And it’s totally up to you when you want us to start a family. We can wait until you have finished university and have settled into your career. We can wait up to ten years if you like.”
She reached up and kissed him on the lips and then, slipping her hand in his, she said, “I prayed that one day I would meet, fall in love and marry a good man and here you are. God answered my prayer.”
He gently squeezed her hand. “I always believed that there was a special someone out there for me. And then, one afternoon you walked into my life. I believe that some people are meant to be together.”
“And I believe that God brought us together at the perfect time. I had my mother all of my life and now I will have you for the rest of it.”
“Yes, you will,” he murmured huskily before he kissed her again.
They went for pre-marital counseling with her pastor who initially was concerned about the age difference but his concerns were allayed when he saw how much they in love and compatible they were. Aaron began Bible Studies with him and was baptized shortly after.
After Staci graduated from high school, Aaron and she got married. Her cousins, school friends and his co-workers as well as most of the church members were present. Not surprisingly, his family wasn’t there. It stung of course, but he didn’t allow it to spoil the wedding or their ten day honeymoon in breathtakingly beautiful Bali.