"Cindy, I know you're hiding behind that door. Get a life, already. We don't need a shadow," said Ted.
"Ted, don't give her such a hard time. She just looks up to you and admires her big brother.
"Dan, I just wish she'd admire me from her own room."
"Should I or shouldn't I?" questioned Cindy. She mulled the question in her head as long as possible, but time was running out. It was now or never. "Here goes nothing (or everything)," she heard echoing in her brain. Picking up her cell phone, she dialed. "Hi Dan. You probably don't remember me, but this is Cindy Moore ... Ted's kid sister?" she added cautiously.
"I remember you, Cindy."
"Oh ... I guess I was quite the pest back then."
"No, Cindy, not at all. Let me share something with you. My dog constantly maintains a watchful eye over me, yet I couldn't love her more."
Cindy wasn't quite sure what to make of this comment, so she decided to just present her request. "Dan, I'd like to ask you something. Don't feel obligated to say yes."
"Cindy, I never do anything I don't want to do."
"OK," she said hesitantly. Strengthening herself inside, she continued, "Dan, I am to be presented an award by my company. Traditionally, the CEO hands the award to the recipient's spouse or significant other, and then that person places it around his or her neck. I don't have a spouse or significant other to turn to, but then I thought of you. You always came across as caring and considerate. I'm hoping you might be willing to do this one favor for me. It's not like this is a date or anything. You'd get to eat a nice meal, and nothing would be expected of you other than to fasten the award around my neck during the ceremony."
Cutting her off, Dan said, "I'd love to, Cindy."
Caught off guard by his response, Cindy stammered, "Thank you, Dan. I truly appreciate your willingness to do this. The function is this Saturday night, at the local Hilton. I hope you are free for the evening."
"I'll clear my schedule for you."
"No, Dan, it's all right. Don't clear your schedule for me. I'll find someone else," Cindy disappointedly said.
"Cindy, all I was planning was to continue working on the cabinet I'm building in my woodshop. I can do that any time. What time would you like me to pick you up?"
"5:30 would allow us to get there unrushed. Thank you, Dan. My address is 409 Maple Street #104. You have no idea how much I appreciate this. I'll see you then," Cindy quickly finished and hung up the phone. Her legs were shaking, and she didn't think she could hold herself together much longer.
While continuing to hold the phone in his hand, Dan thought in his mind, "I believe I have a very good idea, little Cindy."
Saturday evening went smoother than Cindy expected. She even found her legs stopped shaking, as Dan helped the evening's conversation flow. Eventually, it was time for the award ceremony. As she stood before the crowd, Cindy realized Dan's presence, next to her, helped her feel stronger. She knew it was silly to feel that from someone who was just doing her a favor, but she felt it anyway. She felt proud, as she held onto his arm, and her anticipated stage fright melted away. The CEO handed the award to Dan, after sharing with everyone what Cindy had done to deserve the honor. He mentioned her being 25 made her the youngest recipient of this honor in the 100-year history of the company. Dan moved close to Cindy, so he could fasten the ribbon's clasp behind her neck. The closer he got, the more intoxicated she felt by his manly scent. After fastening the clasp, he put his strong hands on her shoulders, looked deeply into her eyes, and then proceeded to plant the tenderest kiss she could imagine on her lips. "Wait!!" her mind screamed, "this wasn't part of the agreement." A hurricane blew through her head and body. Words couldn't come from her mouth. All she could do was smile. She was unable to say much, the rest of the evening.
When Dan dropped her off at her apartment, he said, "Cindy, thank you for allowing me the honor of accompanying you, this evening. I was very impressed to hear the CEO talk of your accomplishments. You've turned out to be a pretty amazing woman."
Cindy didn't know what to say, or even if words would come out of her mouth, but she did squeeze out a quiet "Thank you, Dan." She attempted to turn and retreat into her apartment, but Dan's arm somehow appeared behind her waist, and she found herself being drawn close to his body. She shyly looked down; as she felt his strong muscles surround her. She felt his fingers gently touch her chin, and her eyes rose to meet his. Their lips touched, again. Cindy pulled away and disappeared into her apartment, tears streaming down her face.
Sunday, Cindy spent all day in bed. That was the only place she felt totally secure, fearful she would fall apart if she left the warmth of her cocoon of blankets. Upon returning to work, everyone asked her about the handsome man who accompanied her to the company dinner. When she shared he was just a friend, the typical response she heard was, "That's some friend, care to fix me up?"
By Wednesday, she could no longer live in denial. She called Dan. "Dan, I'm sorry I failed to more graciously thank you for accompanying me to our company's dinner. I truly appreciated everything..." After thinking for a moment, "Yes, everything."
"And I truly enjoyed being with you, Cindy."
"Dan, you're a well-educated and respected man, but what do you know about me?"
"Cindy, on Saturday, I learned you are a dedicated, creative, caring and respected employee."
"No, Dan. What do you know about me?"
"Do you really want to hear it?"
"Yes, Dan. I need to know the truth ... the whole truth."
"OK, Cindy. I first met you when you were 5-years-old and I was 10. I met your brother in my class, and we became best friends. Ted and I did everything together. Whenever I spent time at your home, I would always notice you shyly watching from behind some large object. You thought it hid you from anyone's sight, but I knew you were there. Ted would attempt to chase you away, but I didn't mind you being there. I could tell you had a crush on me, and I thought you were adorable. When I had the opportunity to divide up a treat for everyone, I always did my best to give you the larger piece, or the one that had a bonus attached. When I did reach out, in any way, you shyly looked away or ran to another room. I thought the feelings you felt would fade, as you got older, but I realized they didn't. I never saw signs of or heard you were interested in any guy. Your family just thought you were too shy to have a relationship. I remember one time I cut myself, when you were about 11. Without hesitating, you slid your slip off and wrapped it around my bleeding arm. I started to thank you, but you just ran into your house. I still have that slip, and it's something I've always treasured"
"I didn't realize I was that obvious. But, Dan, if you truly knew, what's the reason you never reached out to me?"
"Cindy, I understood your shyness, as I've battled my own shyness issues. I believed you just weren't ready for anything more than what you were already doing, and I respected that. Something deep inside me told me, when the time was right, and you were truly ready, you'd reach out and make contact with me. I didn't want to take any chance of chasing you off by showing interest before you were ready."
"What will let you know I'm ready?"
"Cindy, you just let me know ... by asking for the whole truth. I don't believe you would have asked before you were ready to hear it, and being ready to hear it I interpret as being ready to face your fears and desires."
"Dan, thank you for being so patient and kind. I've wanted to be ready, for years. Maybe I used the company dinner as an excuse, but I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't want you to notice me. Your unexpected kiss sent a flood of emotions rushing through me. This isn't just about me, though. Could someone like you truly want to be with someone like me?"
"Cindy, I can't answer for these hypothetical someones, but I know I would be honored to be with you. I'd love to take you on a real date, though. How about this Saturday."
"Yes, Dan. I don't even care what we do. I just want to openly acknowledge my feelings for the first time in my life."
"And I've looked forward to that, also. I've always wondered what lies behind that cute face."
"Do you really think I'm cute?"
"Actually, you used to be just cute. Now, you've blossomed into a truly beautiful woman, though I happily notice you haven't lost the cute overtones." Cindy was happy they were talking on the phone, so he couldn't see her blushing.
"Just tell me how to dress, and I'll look forward to Saturday." She blushed again, as she pictured Dan telling her there was no need to dress. Luckily, or hopefully, he couldn't read her mind.
"Let's do casual and enjoy a picnic," offered Dan.
"Only if you allow me to provide the meal," said Cindy, eagerly.
"That sounds fine with me, unless you'd prefer my specialty of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."
"Let me do it. It's the least I can do, since you've been so considerate of me."
"I'm sure it will be as delicious to my taste buds as you are to my eyes." Red again. Cindy vowed to herself she would find a way to stop blushing before Saturday. "I'll pick you up at noon."
"Thanks, Dan. I really mean it. You're one of a kind, and I think you realize I've always liked what I saw."
.... There is more of this story ...