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Excerpt from Love is a Promise Kept
“Where is your coat?”
She wrapped her arms around her shoulders. “Mom told me to wear one, but my dress was so pretty I thought a coat would only wrinkle it.”
Gregory slipped his jacket off and draped it around her shoulders. The woodsy scent of his cologne and his warmth surrounded her.
She began to slip out of the jacket, but he pulled it back onto her shoulders and held it in place. “At least keep it on until your father gets here. My long sleeves will be enough to keep me warm while we wait. Your dress is very pretty, but it doesn’t look as if it will block the cold wind.”
She couldn’t help but notice the way he looked approvingly at her short hem and bare legs. The next shiver had nothing to with the cold.
Gregory pulled a cell phone from a pocket of the jacket she was wearing. He offered it to her and then waited until after she finished with her call before calling a cab for himself. They stood at the gym entrance for a moment before finally sitting on the top step of the gym landing. They sat on opposite sides of the railing.
After a moment of silence, Gregory grinned through the railing. “Well, here we are. It isn’t exactly how I thought our first meeting would go.”
A fluttering in her chest made it hard to breathe, but she somehow managed to smile in return. “How did you think it would go?”
He leaned backward until both elbows rested on the cold, concrete flooring. “I thought I would ask about your life and then I would tell you about mine.” He shifted his weight. “I wanted to ask about your future plans.” He leaned over slightly and grinned. “What are your plans for after graduation?”
The way he studied her mouth made it difficult to concentrate. “I want to open my own floral shop, but my parents want me go to the university to study business. They think I should understand business first before I rush into ownership of a shop.”
He gave the tips of his shoes some serious consideration before finally nodding. “That sounds like wise advice.”
A comfortable silence surrounded them. Mary Elizabeth leaned on the railing and finally broke the silence. “Why are you really here?”
He sat up, leaned forward, and wrapped both arms around his knees. “I needed to know if you still wanted me to wait for you.” He briefly glanced over before looking back down at the steps again. “You were very young when you asked.”
She wanted to touch his hair, but resisted the urge. “Why did you keep your promise? My parents said you wouldn’t.”
His expression was intense when he locked eyes with her. “But someone did expect me to. You did and I did. Did anyone else matter?”
She reached over then to touch the sleeve of his shirt. “There’s more. Isn’t there?”
He completely covered her hand with his own. “I wanted you to know I believed you that day. It never mattered to me that no one else believed that you were serious. I did.” He gave a shy grin. “I want you to enjoy this time in high school and at the university. Don’t give up living just because you know where our journey ends.” He increased the pressure on her hand. “You have to promise me that you will, okay?”
Only then did he finally release her hand. After a moment of studying her face, he stood. She stood as well.
He smiled. “When I return, I don’t want there to be any doubts about whether or not we belong together. You need this time to see for yourself if this is what you really want for your life, and if I’m the person you really want in your life.”
Before any more could be said, the cab arrived behind her father’s car.
Gregory passed Mary Elizabeth at the bottom of the steps. She slipped his jacket off and handed it to him. When he reached over for it, his fingers lingered on the top of her hand in one final caress. The touch was so brief, Mary Elizabeth would have thought she had imagined it, but he paused in mid-step and smiled before continuing toward the cab.
They both stopped and looked at each other before opening their respective car doors.
She wanted to tell him that she would wait for him forever if he would wait for her too.
While the words weren’t spoken, Gregory appeared to sense her thoughts. “I made you a promise. It is still just as good today as it was the day it was made. Enjoy your time here at school. Go study your business classes and then open your floral shop. I’ll be back soon.”
There were a million things she wanted to say.
“Is that a promise?”
“Yes, but this time, you have to make me a promise too. You have to promise to live and enjoy this time of your life.”
“How do I do that?”
“You take each day as it comes. You live each day as if it were your last day on earth.”
She could feel her father staring from inside the car, but the only person who mattered at that moment was Gregory. “I’ll try.”
He laughed. “You have to promise.”
His smile made her laugh as well.
“I will. I promise.”