Chapter 8: Cinderella Weekend in a Small Town

Friday arrived, along with all the excitement it held. I could hardly concentrate in class that day since nerves were abundant. I had a plan which had set my mind at ease (or so I thought). I asked a sweet friend (previously carhop buddies) if she would be able to drop me off that evening at some location still to be determined; and I would ask Mike to be there so we could have our date from there. Looking back I have to smile as I can’t help but wonder what my thinking process was…..but anyway Laura agreed and got to witness my nerves first hand 🙂
Mike arrived around 6:30 and called me from his hotel room to ask for directions to my house so he could come pick me up. I quickly thought of some lame excuse why it would be easier for me to just get dropped off where he was. I couldn’t bring myself to reveal my address to him and have him drive in past the big sign announcing I lived in government housing. (I know it was so silly, I mean where did I think he thought I would live? Haha)
He hesitated but then agreed and before I knew it, we were on our way. Fall was well under way, so it was dark but a beautiful crisp night. There was a little chill in the air, but I hardly noticed.
We pulled into the parking lot, and right away I spotted him standing by his car waiting for me to arrive. I felt my heart rate go up a little with excitement. He looked so handsome, he was waiting for me and I could hardly contain my enthusiasm.
He greeted me with a big hug, a warm smile, and opened the car door for me to get in. I felt as light as a feather, not a care in the world; and once again as was always the case with him, I felt like the most beautiful girl in the world. I felt like a young 26 year old should feel, not burdened down with sadness and sorrow; instead I felt weightless, like I couldn’t even remember what it felt like to be sad.
As we drove down the different streets in town to get to the theater, I could just hear in my mind the conversations of those we passed…..”Who’s that I wonder?” “That’s an Oklahoma license plate, someone new in town I guess”. Being new in town and getting attention wasn’t hard, but It helped that he drove an awesome looking sports car. Regardless, that’s just how a “small town everyone knows everyone”- kind of place works. Unknown to Mike, he was the main attraction, and unknown to all the observant public, Quita was IN that car. I’m sure the second Mike walked around and opened my door in the parking lot of the theater and I exited the vehicle, word spread like wildfire through the town. Quita finally has a date AND he’s from out of state! How mysterious 🙂
Mike was probably not prepared for all the curious stares he would receive once we arrived inside the theater. I soaked them in, however; because for once, they were stares based on curiosity and intrigue rather than sympathy and pity. I had a secret everyone wanted details on, and since he was a stranger in town (unlike a local who everyone would have known and had an opinion of), there were no details. No one knew who he was or how we had met, and that must have made for some interesting rumors. He took my hand and never let it go as if to say, “You’re with me now, and I want everyone to know.” I’m sure I must have been radiating pure joy.
After the movie was over , which was the newly released “Ghost,” we headed back out in his car and drove around listening to music and talking (and giving plenty more people a reason to see and speculate, I’m sure). I said, “Let’s stop by Sonic” pretending to really want a cherry coke; but of course that was a cover up for showing him off to all my carhop and Sonic friends 🙂 🙂
I could see inside the windows of Sonic, the big smiles, the chit chat that ensued, and perhaps a competition for who got to bring out our cherry cokes and meet him face to face. These were the same friends that had seen many tears and much sadness from me at times in the past when I could hardly speak because of the heartache I faced. Now, months later, they could share in a moment of such excitement and fun. I have rarely felt as free to be happy as I did at that moment; I think my face may have ached from smiling 🙂
It was late, not a ton of things to do in small town Mena but drive up and down Main Street (if you’ve never experienced that in a small town you don’t know what you’re missing haha; it’s a highlight)
So then the moment I hadn’t prepared for….”I was planning on taking you home, if that’s ok?” I suddenly couldn’t remember any of the pre-prepared excuses and alternate plans I had put together, and instead found myself feeling comfortable enough to say “Sure, that’s fine” then immediately thought,”What am I saying?”
I started praying silently in my heart (but seriously) that God would make the little bugs that liked to come out at night stay hidden if he asked to come inside . Then the next five minutes I spent getting myself psyched up that it had to happen and that he would either accept it or not. I couldn’t hide who I was, and where I lived was a very Important part of my life. It was the honest to goodness reality; I couldn’t hide from it.
I found my self getting quieter by the moment but Mike seemed un-phased as we passed the big sign on the side of the main building staring us down announcing that we were entering government subsidized housing . This was the moment of truth.
As we drove down Rodgers Avenue, I thought, “People either think we are in a stolen vehicle or Mikes a drug dealer.” (haha) His nice red sports car somehow didn’t fit in with the other vehicles in the neighborhood.
Of course my house was at the very end of the street, so he got the whole picture. Finally we pulled up in front of mine. He asked to walk me in and I said yes. As we walked up to the door, I could feel my little elderly neighbors peeking through their blinds and curtains trying to get a glimpse of this guy that had swept me off my feet, curious about the man that had brought the smile and laughter back to their lonely neighbor and friend. I could picture in my mind them cheering. They had looked forward to the day I would have someone special; in fact, most of them had prayed for that as well.
I unlocked the front door, and as we stepped inside I said “Well, this is it, this is my home.” He smiled and said “I like it,” and I saw the honesty in his eyes. I knew he was saying, I’m impressed you’ve been able to make this a home, and I could tell he was not taken aback in the least. We talked for a few minutes in my tiny living room and made plans for him to pick me up the next morning so we could spend the day together. The fall colors were brilliant in October in the national forest and mountain areas around Mena. The warm days that tend to linger in October would make for the perfect Saturday to go up on “Rich Mountain” and have a picnic, so our plan was made.
I was relieved when we stepped back outside a few minutes later to say our goodbyes, that no one had stolen his car 🙂 As he pulled away, I went back inside and sat there by myself for several minutes. I was alone, just reflecting on the date and Mike, trying to remember the last time I had cried, trying to remember when I had ever felt like all was so right in the world, in my world. The ache was gone from my heart, disappointment was now replaced by hope. I was thankful, grateful…I was happy!
As I got into bed I realized another answer to prayer……the bugs had stayed in hiding while he had been there. That thought brought another smile to my face. Love had still not been mentioned, but there was something going on between our hearts. I could not have imagined that the very next day Mike would realize he had fallen in love with me. In fact, those thoughts were already being tossed around in his mind; I just didn’t know yet. This special weekend would seal the deal in his heart that I had in fact been the one he had prayed for. I wouldn’t find out that weekend, however! I would know that I was falling in love with him. It was scary, seemed a bit far fetched, but so simple and real; yet the edges of my heart were still scorched with the rejection and insecurities that come with that. My hope was fighting against my fear to love again. I had constructed the walls of protection ever so tight and secure around myself; could I ever be vulnerable again? “You’ll have to help me God,” I said and then drifted off to sleep.

Psalm 147:3
He heals the broken-hearted
and bandages their wounds.