He was engaged.
Rudy Tadeas still couldn't believe it, although he and his fiancée, Falina Davis, had just announced it to their church congregation.
He glanced over at Falina in the passenger's seat of his car. She hadn't spoken much tonight, since he picked her up for the Wednesday prayer meeting.
Last night, he and Falina tested the announcement out on his friend Frank, who'd done everything short of dropping dead of shock. Rudy had slept little, after Frank drove Falina home, wondering if they'd done the right thing getting engaged. Falina look exhausted herself.
At the church, she'd been pale, her expression pinched with fear, as everyone at the church congratulated them. They were taking a huge step, setting a barely-time-to-back-out wedding date for Christmas day--only three weeks away.
Her parents had been thrilled. His family responded exactly the way he expected. They'd taken him aside and demanded "What about Jayme?"
Jayme Conrad--the girl he'd always wanted to marry. The love of his life. The one off pursuing her career. At twenty-five, Rudy needed more than Jayme's no-commitment phone calls. He needed someone who could be a friend, a lover and someone who could share a family with him. Jayme wasn't ready for those things. Falina was.
Maybe marrying for love wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Maybe marrying someone you actually had something in common with was better. He'd fall in love with Falina someday--more than friendship love--and maybe he'd even forget Jayme.
For now, he and Falina wanted the same things in life. At one time, he and Jayme had all the same aspirations. Now the only things he had were unrequited emotions that ate at him like acid burning whenever he let them come to the fore . . .and he had the chance to start a new life with Falina.
Rudy glanced across the seat again.
"Are we doing the right thing?" Falina asked quietly, with her hands tightly clasped on her lap. "Do we have what a marriage takes?"
He didn't begrudge Falina her doubts. The announcement had forced them both to evaluate the realities of what they were doing.
What had convinced him he was doing the right thing was the thought No more phone calls, no more waiting and wanting. In the flesh, wanting and having now.
"I'm sure of this," he told Falina exactly what he'd told his family.
When he took her hand, she gave him a brave smile.
Come Christmas day, he'd make Falina Davis his wife. Time for him to move on and start the life he'd always wanted.
"Mom, Rudy Tadeas is not getting married."
Jayme Conrad even laughed slightly, but she wasn't calm enough to do it without a catch. Rudy couldn't get married. He couldn't. That was that.
"I talked to him. . .two. . .two months ago. He wasn't even dating!"
But you really don't know that, do you? Especially in light of what he'd said during that short conversation.
Jayme turned to get her cranberry juice with a hand that hadn't shook before her mother's call. Instead of cupping it, she misjudged her aim and sent the glass flying. "Oh no!"
"Honey, are you all right?" her mother demanded anxiously. Her first words into this conversation had been, "I wish I didn't have to tell you this, darling. . ." Jayme now understood why. Apparently her mother thought she'd cried out over the announcement, not over spilled juice.
"Mom, I'm fine. I. . . Ew! I knocked over a glass of cranberry juice." She retrieved the delicate wine glass, not at all sure what to do to clean up the rest. "I don't think the hotel will be happy. This is a really nice carpet. Really, really nice. A person could sleep on--"
"Jayme, did you hear me? Rudy is engaged to another girl. They're getting married on Christmas Day. We met his fiancée--Falina Davis--tonight at the prayer service. I know you always imagined that the two of you would--"
Jayme kneeled on the carpet with the phone held between ear and shoulder. She pressed a napkin on the biggest puddle. When she saw the burgundy colored juice bleed into the beautiful white napkin that came with her dinner, she mumbled "Uh-oh" softly.
Her mother still talked. "Mom. Mom? Listen, I have to go now, but I'm coming home."
Her mother's pause came riddled with silent shock. Jayme heard it in her voice when she finally asked "Coming home? When?"
"Tomorrow, of course." Jayme sat back on her knees. "Rudy isn't himself, Mom. He needs his best friend, he needs me to help him figure things out." She had no time to waste either, since his wedding was only a few weeks away.
"He sounded so. . .sure."
"You don't know him the way I do," Jayme insisted. "I'll call you tomorrow with my flight itinerary."
If mothers were put on this earth to worry, hers could win an award for it. Jayme heard the uncertainty in her mother's voice as she said "Well, all right, dear. Good night. I love you."
"I love you too, Mom. Tell Daddy the same. See you soon."
Before the nerve impulse to hang up reached her brain, Jayme looked at the mess in front of her again. "Mom! Mom!" she tried to catch her before she disconnected.
Jayme pursed her lips for an instant. "How do you get cranberry juice out of a plush white carpet. . .and, uh, a linen napkin?"