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.


Chapter 9: Falling In Love

I woke up early and packed our picnic lunch. Before I knew it, Mike was at the door to pick me up.
We visited for awhile and then headed out around 10:30 am. We stopped at Sonic for our drinks to take with us and then headed up Rich Mountain Drive. The fall colors were spectacular, such a beautiful background to such a special weekend. I had been on that drive so many times, but this time it seemed to be at the peak of its beauty. It was a rather warm October day even when we arrived on top of Rich Mountain at the state park for our picnic. We laughed and talked and learned more and more about each other. I talked about Charley and Caleb a lot (I always did). He had numerous questions about them and mentioned that he would love to meet these other guys in my life that were so important to me.
We took a hike down Lovers Leap and back, soaking in each and every moment together.
The more I found out, the more I was drawn to him; I wanted to know more. He was the best listener I had ever met, and I found myself talking comfortably about my life and some of the experiences I had been through. I had his undivided attention, and of course he had mine as well. Interesting how many things we talked about but never ran out of topics. There were also moments of silence, but not the awkward kind; for some reason even the quiet moments felt so comfortable.
Later we would return to Mena and go into Walmart to look around for something he had forgotten. I don’t recall that forgotten item, but I do remember we ended up buying a Lionel Richie “Truly” cassette tape 🙂 To this day if I hear one of those songs I’m immediately there again in my mind, and I get that same warm feeling. We also received a TON of stares from people, haha. I was constantly seeing someone I knew and introducing him. He was really intrigued by that part of a small town.
We drove out to the lake and parked the car while Lionel Richie sang to us :)…as we sat on the hood of his car. We spent the rest of the afternoon there until time for dinner, talking about dreams and plans we both had, and more about my boys. We laughed a lot but also had some serious moments, but not too intense. I felt like we had always known each other.
I would eventually find out that during these moments together by the lake, Mike realized he had fallen in love with me, even though he never mentioned a word of it to me. I also felt our hearts connect in a different way; for me it was a bit frightening. I was feeling vulnerable, part of me screaming, “Yeah,” and the other part screaming, “RUN!” Just went I would feel the unsettling thoughts, he would slip his arm around me and pull me close, almost like he was reading my mind.
We decided to go out to the Fishnet for dinner with, of course, more people to meet there as well.
A funny memory I have of that day is Mike asking me where an ATM was in town. I had no idea what that was and apparently I wasn’t alone in that because we drove by every bank in town (I think there were just two banks back then 🙂 and soon found out there was no such thing in Mena. Mike was so amazed at that….I can’t remember what we did for cash but we brainstormed something. I think he felt like he had stepped back in time a few years. Ha
Most places in Mena didn’t even take credit cards at that time much to his shock as well. We had some good laughs about it. Growing up in California, he had already been imprinted with the notion that people from Arkansas and Oklahoma, too, for that matter, were all missing teeth and wore overalls.
Dinner was over and we were back in his car, too early to part ways; so I suggested we go up to one of the lookouts on the Rich Mountain Scenic Drive, spots where you could pull over and park. Now I know what you locals are thinking, 🙂 but Mike didn’t know the town secret so he didn’t think anything (or expect anything ); he was always so respectful of me. We pulled onto the lookout area and rolled the windows down and sat outside of the car again while Lionel Richie played in the car. Typical of warm October days, as soon as the sun dipped behind the last mountain and darkness fell there was a definite chill in the air. He kept his arm around me and I couldn’t help but think how it felt like a perfect fit. He told me how it bothered him that I had gone through such a hard time, and that he was impressed how I had made the most of it. He told me later that he noticed I didn’t have negative things to say or dwell on, and he said it was obvious to him I was not bitter, which stood out to him. Of course I wouldn’t know that for sometime.
He told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever known; and he said, “The more I find out about you, the more I want to know.” He asked a lot about Charley and Caleb. I told him all about my little men, how precious they were and how important they were to me.
Before we knew it, it was very late (around 11 I think) and it was VERY chilly at this point up on the mountain; so we started talking about heading back down when Lionel Richie suddenly quit playing in the car. We both looked at each other with the same look as it dawned on us what had just happened. We had the windows down and the music playing softly that whole time on battery mode. We laughed and tried to think of what to do….of course no cell phones back then. By now we were pretty cold and we couldn’t even roll the windows up (electric). I was thinking what a very long walk back down the mountain that would be, but we could do it. I was about to mention it to Mike when he interrupted my thoughts by saying,”Hey, there’s a truck over there on the far end of the lookout; maybe they have some jumper cables? I’ll go ask them”. I started laughing so hard and he just looked at me like, “What”? “Well, I need to tell you something about the mountain and it’s reputation, haha.”
He said he figured that was probably the case but we needed to get the battery jumped so off he headed toward the truck. The closer he got, he could hear music blaring inside of it; and of course the lights had been off the whole time they had been there. He said he was prepared for most anything when he knocked on the window, but much to his surprise when the window was rolled down an elderly man with an obvious hearing loss (by the way his country music was blasting) looked at him and said, “What can I do for ya?” Of course he had jumper cables and gave us a jump start. We laughed all the way home about how glad Mike was to see that guy. 🙂
We headed back now as it was really late, and we were going to church together in the morning. He walked me in for a few minutes. A couple kisses and hugs later, he was headed out.
My heart was full…..I was falling in love. I knew I was, and little did I know Mike was thinking the same thing as he headed to his hotel. The weekend was passing by too fast. I wanted to freeze time and make it last forever. These were beautiful moments I would cherish the rest of my life, that we would both cherish.
We didn’t know yet….but we were God’s perfect plan 🙂

Isaiah 55:8-11
“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.