I was sitting on the couch watching a ball game when I knew something was up. My twin thirteen year old daughters came in the room smiling and each sat beside me.
‘Ok girls, what are you two up to now?’
Kerry and Sherry were the loves of my life. When I talk to them they often talk at the same time and even finish each others sentences. They have double teamed me for years knowing I would do anything for them.
Kerry spoke first but Sherry kept interjecting. ‘Dad, don’t get mad but we have a surprise for you.’ I knew this was something different when I heard the word surprise. Their surprises always got me involved in something that I would have preferred not to do.
They seem to volunteer me for everything. I’ve been a softball coach in the summer, an assistant girl scout leader for the past three years and God know what else they’ve involved me in. You might ask why am I so vulnerable for them?
They lost their mother when they were nine, four years ago. She was way to young to die but she got the dreaded cancer and after two years of fighting it she succumbed to it. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I had two of the sweetest little girls who no longer had a mother.
One of the saddest things was they were worried about me. I remember them telling me that they would always be there to take care of me, and they were. I have to say it was rough at first but until we learned to cook we ate out a lot. They were always happy to go see my mom who always cooked for us when we visited, which was a couple of times a week.
Whenever there were volunteers needed at school or church my sweet darling daughters put my name down on the list. It was funny when they put our name down for a bake sale. We made three cakes together that didn’t turn out to bad. At least someone might have felt sorry for the cakes and bought them. I know it always brought me and the girls closer.
A number of times they tried to get me dates but I told them that it was something I would need to do on my own when I was ready. It didn’t stop them from talking about different women at church or whenever we went out for dinner.
The women in their life was my mom and sister. Thank God for them when it came to the girl stuff. It was things I wasn’t sure how to deal with. I did make a rule that they weren’t allowed to date till they were at least fifteen. I remember them asking why I didn’t trust them and I told them I did trust them but not the boys. I was a boy at one time and I knew how boys think.
‘So, what is this big surprise that I’m not to get mad about?’
Sherry spoke, ‘First, we want you to tell us why you don’t care much for Valentine’s Day. Then we’ll tell you what the surprise is.’
‘Oh no! What did you girls do now?’
They were both smiling. ‘Tell us why you don’t care much for Valentine’s day first. Aunt Kathy told us it had to do with an old girlfriend,’ Kerry replied.
I turned off the TV and talked with my two daughters who were all ears. ‘When I was in grade school I was a chubby little kid. To be fair to all the kids our teacher had us give Valentine cards to everyone if we wanted to participate in the exchange. In art class we decorated our shoe boxes with hearts and flowers or in my case, Star Wars stickers.
‘Sally Ann was the cutest girl in our class and every boy gave her the nicest card. Brad a bully in our class laughed at me when I put my nicest card in Sally Ann’s box. He said she didn’t want a card from a chubby little boy.’
‘So what happened Dad?’ asked Sherry.
‘Julie happened. She was my best friend, not my girlfriend or anything like that; she was my pal and next door neighbor. She pushed Brad down and told him if he ever pushed me again she’d kick his butt. I know I should have been glad but I was embarrassed because I had a girl fighting for me.’
‘So what happened next Dad?’
‘I knew I never had a chance with Sally Ann but it was embarrassing having Julie fighting my battles, which she did a few times. I got over it after a couple of days. Julie and I did everything together. We went to the movies most every weekend. We liked going to the zoo and different amusement parks. Mom used to say we were stuck together like Siamese Twins. I went on vacation with her family and she often came with me on ours.
‘tI remember when I turned eleven mom told me to leave my bedroom door open when Julie and I did our homework. I must have been really sheltered because I didn’t know why, Julie and I were just pals.’
My girls started laughing. My sister must have talked to them already about boys.
‘As we got older I got bigger and started exercising. Needless to say I noticed Julie was turning into a good looking girl. The first time I kissed her was when we were fifteen and it was under the mistletoe at a New Years Eve party at her house.
‘All of a sudden I thought I was in love and then came Valentine’s Day and Julie gave me a goodbye Valentine’s card. She said her dad got transferred to another State and she was moving in a week.’
My girls looked sad. ‘Did you ever see her again Dad?’
‘No, I guess she was my first girlfriend and I didn’t even know it till it was too late. I didn’t date much so after Julie moved Valentine’s Day didn’t mean much to me. I met your mom when I started college. We got married and you girls were born. Then I would buy your mom, but mostly you girls, something for Valentine’s day.’
‘Dad, we know mom got pregnant before you two got married. We also know you quit college and got a job at the warehouse to support us and went back to college part time. You should have worn a condom, Dad,’ said Kerry. Sherry was shaking her head in agreement.
I had to laugh. My teenage daughters are telling me what I should have done. I told them that I loved their mother and yes, I should have worn protection but then I wouldn’t have had the two sweetest girls ever.
I told them that Valentine’s Day isn’t quite the same without a partner. I loved having it for my girls and every year I got them a card, candy and a stuffed animal. I didn’t expect this year would be any different.
‘It might be, Dad. We bought you a date for Valentine’s Day.’
‘You did what!’ I asked. ‘Why would you do such a thing?’
‘The school is having a Valentine’s Day dinner for the parents and or couples that wanted to come. Our club got together and made the plans to help raise money for our school project. Tickets are twenty-five dollars a couple and it includes dinner and a dance afterwards. Sherry and I are both servers so we will be there for you.’
‘This is one of the craziest things you girls have done. Where did you girls get the money and who is my supposed date?’
‘We’re going to use our allowance but we were hoping you would give it back to us,’ smiled Sherry when she said it.
‘So who’s my date if I choose to go through with this?’
‘Mrs. Pelfry, she is one of our new teachers at the school. She is our club leader and came up with the idea of the Valentine’s Day dinner. We found out she was divorced last year and transferred to our school district.’
‘Are you saying she agreed to go on a blind date with me?’
‘Sort of,’ replied Kerry. ‘Since she was in charge and it was her idea we asked her if she would go to the dinner with our dad if he bought tickets. She seemed lost for words but we told her our mother died a few years ago and you like to attend all our functions but didn’t have a girlfriend to attend the dinner with.’
‘So you bribed her to go with your poor dad. You do realize this makes me look pretty pathetic.’
‘Dad, she’s beautiful and smart and we like her a lot. She actually smiled when we asked her. She said she would go for the good of the club as long as you agreed to it.’
Of course this is where they kept saying please, please and hugged me and told me what a wonderful dad I was. ‘Look, you girls shouldn’t have done this.’
‘But Dad, we want you to be happy. It’s just dinner with a beautiful and smart woman that we both like. That’s a good thing, right?’ asked Sherry.
‘Ok, I’ll go but please ask me first if this ever happens again.’ I knew it went in one ear and out the other.
‘Thank you daddy, you’re going to love her; she’s so nice. We’ll tell her tomorrow.’ They hugged me and went back in their room to make more plans for me.
Before the week was over I had to have a hair cut and the girls wanted to go shopping and since they didn’t drive I had to take them. I couldn’t believe they had me trying on a sports jacket, shirt and even a tie. I actually felt like I was being groomed. I ended up buying the clothes; as I said, I would do most anything for my girls.
The day of the dinner my girls were dressed like waitresses and I put on my new sports coat. I asked them if we were going to pick up their teacher and they told me she said she would meet us over at the school. I asked what her first name was and they said they didn’t know. She put her name on the board as Mrs. JP Pelfry. They always were to call her Mrs. Pelfry.
We went to the school and I waited in the lobby while my daughters went back to finish help setting up the cafeteria and gym. They were gone most of the morning helping decorate the gym. They just had the finishing touches to do now. There were dozens of people waiting to go in. Most everyone was dressed up. I was glad the girls were smarter about these things than I was.
I saw a lot of couples that I knew. Most of them knew I was a widower, in fact a few of the women that I saw I had gone out on a date or two with. They were with their new dates. I kind of had to smile because my daughters had mentioned that some of these women weren’t right for me and here I was out on a date that they set up.
Sherry came out to see me and said Kerry would be out shortly with Mrs. Pelfry. I know this sounds crazy but I was nervous. I didn’t want my girls’ teacher to not like me. They had me buy a box of chocolates and a nice card to give to my date. These girls didn’t forget anything. Sherry whispered to me, ‘Dad, I need the money for the tickets. I reserved them for you.’
I had to laugh as I reach in my wallet and gave Sherry the money. She went up to the guest table, gave them my money and retrieved my tickets so I didn’t have to stand in line.
I heard Kerry come up and say, ‘Dad, this is Mrs. Pelfry.’
I turned around and my mouth about dropped open. In turn my date went from a nice smile to a look of surprise. ‘Oh my God! Julie, is it really you?’ I couldn’t believe that after all these years that I would be able to recognize Julie so easy. Damn, she was beautiful.
‘David, David Miller, I never thought about your last name when I met Sherry and Kerry in my classes. After all Miller is a rather popular name. If this isn’t fate, I don’t know what is.’
‘Dad, is Mrs. Pelfry the same Julie you told us about the other night. The one you said was your first girlfriend that you really liked?’ ask Kerry.
‘Kerry, I think you’ve said enough.’ Julie was smiling. ‘Yes she is the Julie I spoke about, in private, to my daughters. Don’t you two have work to do?’
‘You girls better go help and start serving. Your dad and I will be sitting at our table near the front. Remember to smile and act friendly to all the guests.’
‘Yes, Mrs. Pelfry,’ said my girls. ‘Have a nice time Dad,’ they said as they left smiling. I handed her the box of candy and the card.
‘How thoughtful, thank you,’ replied Julie.
I didn’t know whether to tell her it was the girls idea or just let it go. I let it go.
We were led to our table and sat down. A lot of people watched us, I guess because Julie was a teacher and those that knew me knew I was a widower. Julie did have a wedding ring on her finger. She told me she wears it when she goes out so she gets hit on a lot less.
I had to smile because I could see that happening. We started our conversation with me telling her about my past. She told me how much she liked my daughters who, I might say, kept stopping by our table asking us if we needed anything.
I told Julie I never dated much and about starting college and my girlfriend getting pregnant and we got married. After the twins were born I went back to college part time to improve my future for my family. I was now the manager of the warehouse I started at.
I explained that I loved my wife and how she found out she had cancer and it overtook her after two years. She passed away four years ago and left me with my two wonderful daughters. They were my life now. I probably had tears in my eyes because Julie took my hand and held it.
She gave me a short synopsis of her life. After they moved away she finished high school, went to college and became a teacher. She said she was young and dumb and married a guy that a lot of the women liked. She said it was the biggest mistake of her life.
He cheated on her numerous times and she finally called it quits. She moved out of the city and got a teaching position at this school. I remember her saying she loved the small town atmosphere over the large cities.
We changed the subject and talked about happier times when the two of us were best friends and did everything together. I reminded her of when she beat Brad up for pushing me down. That really made her laugh. She reminded me that she was taller than me at the time but I caught up quickly.
Julie had to get up and give a speech. I sat there and just gazed at her. I knew in my heart that my childhood feeling for her were still there. I looked over at my daughters working and they kept smiling at me. God, I loved my girls.
When Julie got up to give her little welcome speech I noticed she put something in her purse. It wasn’t till she was on stage that I noticed she took off her wedding ring.
After we ate, the girls were cleaning off the tables and they made room on the floor for dancing. They dimmed the light and played slow romantic music. Julie asked me to dance even though I told her I wasn’t much of a dancer.
I held her and it just felt right. She smelled good and we even looked good on the dance floor. The night went by much to quickly. Before I knew it the party was over. ‘There is no way that was three hours’ I told myself. It was the nicest time I’ve had in years and it was ending.
My daughters came out and were ready to go home. They thanked Julie for being brave enough to accept the dinner invitation with their father. She thanked them and said she had a wonderful time. She did ask the girls if they were coming by in the morning to help clean up and put the tables away.
I told her I would come and help too. It got a big smile from my daughters and Julie. I squeezed her hands and we left. I actually wanted to kiss her so bad but the timing just wasn’t there.
On the way home my daughters drilled me on everything we talked about and if I was going to see her again. ‘I’m going to help you clean up tomorrow. I’m sure she’ll be there.’
‘Dad! You know what we mean. Are you going to ask her out on your own or do we have to do everything for you? Dad we’re girls, we know she likes you and there is no doubt you like her.’
Sleep came hard that night. All I could think about was Julie but then I would think about my wife passing and being with my girls. Was it to early to get involve with another women? Damn, it’s been four years. Then there was Julie. Did she feel the same about me or was it just seeing an old friend that you felt comfortable with?
‘Morning Dad,’ my daughters said to me when they got up. I asked them if they wanted breakfast before we go to clean the gym but they told me everyone was going out for breakfast when we got finished cleaning. I poured my coffee in a to go cup and we headed out.
There were at least twenty people there to help clean up. They were mostly students and a few parents. Needless to say Julie was there. She even looked good in tight jeans. Sherry told me to stop staring at Julie’s butt and started laughing. Did she know I was actually doing it?
Julie and I said hi and everyone went in the gym and we had it cleaned up in no time. I didn’t talk hardly at all to Julie. There didn’t seem to be a loving connection like I thought we had the night before. Maybe I just thought there was. There were reservations made at a local restaurant and everyone was going to meet there for breakfast.
As everyone was getting in their car Julie asked me if I would help her close the heavy gate and the girls said they would meet me in the car.
Julie and I went back inside and she looked at me. ‘David, maybe I’m reading this wrong. Please let me know so I don’t feel like a fool. There was something we forgot last night.’ With that said she leaned forward and kissed me and said, ‘Happy Valentines Day.’
She smiled at me and I closed the gate which wasn’t heavy at all. We locked the doors and I walked her to her car and then got in mine. I was smiling and Kerry asked me if there was anything that they should know.
I asked, point blank if they would have a problem with me dating Julie.
They said, ‘Heck no!’ in unison. ‘Dad we really like her and haven’t seen you so happy in a long time. We know you loved mom and took care of her but you need to get on with your life and if Mrs. Pelfry makes you happy, it makes us happy. Go for it Dad!’
I knew I had tears in my eyes. My girls seemed so smart beyond their years. I knew I wanted to spend more time with Julie before making any kind of long term commitments. Unfortunately there wasn’t room at the table she was sitting at during breakfast, but I was able to see her constantly smile at me. I did tell her I would call her. I called her the next morning and asked her if she wanted to join the girls and I at my mother’s house for dinner.
When she accepted I called my mom and told her to set an extra plate for dinner. She asked me who it was and I said it was a surprise. When we showed up she looked at Julie and said, ‘Julie Jacobs, is it really you? It’s been so long since we’ve seen you.’
They hugged and Julie said her last name was Pelfry now. She did say she was recently divorced and moved to our area and took a job as a teacher. It so happened that it was the school where Kerry and Sherry attended.
It seemed so much like old times having her there. She talked with my girls and told them all kind of stories about me and her growing up. She seemed happy and was so good with them.
The following week she met my sister again. My sister Joyce had always said she thought we belonged together. She was happy that fate brought us back together. Joyce asked her if she had any kids and she said she didn’t.
Julie told us that she wanted kids and so did her husband. Her husband must have been a real asshole. She said that the reason he said he cheated on her was because she couldn’t have kids and he was going to find a woman that could. That was when she divorced him.
She did tell us that she did go to the fertility clinic to see what her problem was and if it could be fixed. After her checkup the doctors at the clinic said she didn’t have any fertility problems. It must be her husband who had the problems.
We talked to each other most every day and had dinner together at least three times a week. Whenever my daughters and I were going to any type of program, sporting event, movie or play they always asked Julie to come with us.
It was three months before we even made love. It was after we went to the movies with the girls and I dropped them off at our house and took Julie home. She asked me in and asked me if I loved her. When I told her I did she told me to prove it to her. It was then that we made love for the first time and it felt like it was meant to be. After I got home my daughters said it took me long enough to get home and I detected a smile from them.