They saw each other a few times a week, then every day, then every day and every evening, then every day and evening and most nights, at her place and at his, because each had a mattress that the other liked. They agreed on political issues, movie choices, and that latex foam is a great idea for a mattress but makes a less than ideal pillow. They talked on the phone a couple of times a day. He met all her cousins and aunts and uncles. She met his dad and Skyped with his sister, who lived in distant farmland outside of Lansing, Michigan, and was a professor of animal husbandry at the state university.
"I grow my own veggies, I make my own pickles, I keep chickens and Shetland ponies," said his sister. "Please don't judge me."
"I hardly cook," she said to the sister, "and went through a long stretch where I killed every plant that came into my home. I finally solved that problem."
"Stopped overwatering? Remembered to water them?" asked his sister.
"Stopped buying them. I can't kill what I don't infect," she said, adding, "Please don't judge me."
If she and Mike quarreled it was either because he never ever let her pay or because she alleged a trip to the restroom and found the waitperson and paid the bill. She liked to treat but he thrived on it and they eventually fell into what she termed "the rhythm of Mike's generosity." He noticed her admiring a Tiffany necklace and the next week he gave her the necklace as a gift. She bought him a book and would have been embarrassed that it was just a book but Mike was very excited to read a book she thought was right for him.
What made him happiest is the one phrase she told him and meant most sincerely.
"I was very lucky to have met you, Mike."
He would say he was the lucky one and they would smile but she knew it was true that she was luckier. She was who she was but Mike was the complete package -- smart and clean with a good sense of humor, a man who was romantically generous. If she thought too much about how lucky she was, her head would reel.
Her job was sorting itself out. After she met Mike, she started training someone as her backup, just in case, you never know, maybe she'd fall ill or find another job or have an extended vacation. Right after that, a job opened working for the vice president of new accounts. This VP had a strict policy of getting out on time, of working hard, of having a life with your family and friends. She was pretty certain he wouldn't even give her an interview but he did want to talk to her -- for two hours, in fact.
A week went by, then two, then three and she was fairly certain he'd gone with someone else. She was summoned to the office of Human Resources and the VP was in there. She closed the door and she was offered the job. There was more money. There were fewer hours. She'd need to start as soon as a new person was trained. Was anyone trained? Yes, and would be able to take over the next week as soon as the personnel files were transferred.
"Let's celebrate by doing something different," said Mike. "I've hired someone to cook dinner for us at my place. Italian. She's supposed to be very good. Will you come over?"
She arrived at his place at the appointed time and the chef was already in the kitchen preparing their meal. There was a young woman who was the server wearing a modest black cocktail dress and mid-level heels. She served them champagne -- her favorite nonvintage. There were appetizers in the living room, a salad followed by the main course still in the dining room, then back to the living room for dessert and coffee. The chef was a genius -- every mouthful was a surprise and a delight.
"You need to bring over clothing and leave it here," said Mike. "Not just your pillow."
"I'll bring over some underwear next time," she said.
"I think this place isn't big enough for the two of us," said Mike.
"Oh," she said, thinking she'd misunderstood. "I won't bring over the undies. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding."
"I said that badly," said Mike. "I think we need to merge our households. I think we need to shop for a new place. I think we need to live together."
She burst out crying.
"Oh, no," said Mike. "Too soon?"
She kept crying.
"I'm sorry. It just seemed the logical next step," he said, holding her left hand in his own right, patting it with his left.
She nodded and cried. And sobbed when she tried to talk.
"Please, please tell me what I did wrong. I don't want to hurt you," he said.
She took a few deep breaths and blurted it out.
"I'm so lucky," she said. Then started crying again.
"I'm the lucky one, but okay," he said and she kissed him tenderly.